Author Archives: stevesparks

About stevesparks

Depoe Bay, Oregon, United States A retired information technology sales and marketing executive following over 35 years beginning with the US Navy as a radioman in 1963. Graduated with a BA in Management from St. Mary's College, Moraga, California. Married to my soulmate Judy and living on the Oregon coast, I have 3 grown daughters and 4 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. My current passion and life work is mentoring and improving the education of K-12 kids, including helping the responsible nonprofit agency www.neighborsforkids.org achieve sustainability.

Memorial Day 2017…Remembering Military Children and Families Who Served America Too!

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

“Saving your children, family and loved ones from intergenerational Post Trauma Stress (PTS)…”

“Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhoods.” ~Pam Leo

Following is an excerpt from my new book released for the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII…

Chapters

  1. The Wrath of Stigma
  2. Local Community, Partnerships, and Responsibility
  3. Parents, Teachers, and Mentors
  4. Teaching Kids Empathy & Compassion…The dangers of emotional numbness & denial…
  5. How Does Moral Injury Damage Human Spirituality and the Soul?
  6. Museum of the American Military Family…Albuquerque, New Mexico
  7. Romance and Adventure with my Soulmate

Introduction

It has been almost 5 years since publishing my first non-fiction book, Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, November 2011.   My personal path of healing and mitigation of the “chain and ball” of life-long symptoms of anxiety and depression, takes me back to children living and growing up in a toxic home.   The ideal time to save kids from the emotional baggage carried forward as a result of child abuse and maltreatment connected with toxic parenting is from the very beginning.  When parents become abundantly aware of how their parenting behaviors affect children and the detrimental life-long damage of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they often become highly motivated to get help for themselves to save the kids if for nothing else.

Healing is about making a difference for others.  In the case of denial and ignorance on the part of parents who suffer from PTS, outrageous behaviors and angry outbursts, including physical abuse toward family members and loved ones, especially children, is common.  It’s too easy to pick on the loved ones in your life as a way to vent, but it is not always clear how much emotional damage is being done.  If parents knew the consequences of intergenerational PTS by inflicting emotional and physical pain onto children and family members, they would march down to the nearest alternative treatment center immediately and learn how to mitigate the symptoms effectively and begin the journey of healing.  In my experience and view, there would be no hesitation on the part of parents and adults if they had a high level of awareness.  We could eventually break the intergenerational cycle of pain in a couple of decades if we started with our own kids very early.  It is proven that even babies will pick up on toxic circumstances and behaviors and show symptoms of PTS as they become older.

The goal of My Journey of Healing, Part 2 is to specifically help parents with stress triggers to save their kids from becoming emotionally damaged during these critical years from birth to age 18.  Most of the content comes from my own research, resources, references, and experience as a survivor of child abuse and maltreatment.  Since publishing my first book, I have kept up writing consistently on my blog and website www.survivethriveptsd.com.  I will use my blog as the primary reference point since it focuses almost completely on children and families in life after trauma.  I have been writing on this subject for a long time.  It is now the right time to consolidate and integrate all the postings into a single reference book designed as a guide for parents who are survivors of traumatic life events, including hard combat as a warrior, sole survivors of an accident, and victims of assault and rape.  The painful symptoms of PTS can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively.  More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.  Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.

Steve Sparks, Age 10, 1956, Navy Brat…click here for my author page…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1… Click highlighted text for my author page.

Military Kids Exposed to the War at Home… How to help children cope and gain strength…

Teachers and mentors can help military kids and others who suffer from stressed out family circumstances at home…sometimes leading to child abuse and maltreatment.

Stressed out Military Families Need Peer Support…  Helping Children Cope…

“Deployments can be challenging for the entire military family. Even with the best preparation children may experience stress when one or both parents deploy. The at-home parent or caregiver may also experience stress as they adjust to new family roles and responsibilities. Although deployment may be challenging, military families often make adjustments that lead to new sources of strength and support.”

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It’s a new day! We didn’t have any awareness growing up as military kids from the boomer generation.  A toxic home life and scary circumstances connected to our family culture persisted without relief until it was time to leave home at age 17 to join the US Navy.  Following are my reflections of home life as a military child…

I have many vivid memories of violence in our home during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My father was self medicated and angry most of the time and we never understood any of it…we were just scared all the time.  My mother was stressed out and never understood his outbursts and panic attacks either.  We woke up in the middle of the night to Dad’s nightmares reliving his combat experiences in the South Pacific while serving in the US Navy.   My parents would fight well into the evening hours making it difficult to go to sleep.  Mom did all she could do to just get through each day.  We siblings became a secondary priority and mostly neglected, except we always had food on the table.  The local public school was one of the only escapes during the day.  We felt isolated and ashamed like we were always doing something bad or looked stupid to others.  There was little or no encouragement or support at home for our school work because of the challenges of our parents in dealing with their own issues.  We didn’t talk about our experiences at home to other kids for fear of the consequences of our parents finding out.  We lied to teachers and coaches when they asked questions concerning our own sad and angry behaviors.  We moved often so were unable to make lasting friendships that made a difference.  We were hesitant to bring friends home for fear of unexpected angry outbursts and toxic behaviors in our home.  It was a blessing to spend time at the home of friends and their families where we could see love and kindness, and wished it for our home.

The pattern of child abuse is the same today, but we do have far more awareness and treatment strategies, including criminal action in the worse cases, to mitigate the sad circumstances of a toxic home.  The health of children can be affected for a lifetime from early child abuse and maltreatment.  Awareness is clearly the path to healing for survivors of trauma.  Education is the best solution to help parents become aware of how children are damaged and carry the emotional baggage into adulthood.

My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, was written specifically for parents, mentors, and teachers to help kids who suffer from trauma. Following is an excerpt from the book by way of introduction…

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

Click for larger view…

Introduction: It has been almost 6 years since publishing my first nonfiction book, Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, November 2011.   My personal path of healing and mitigation of the “ball and chain” of life-long symptoms of anxiety and depression, takes me back to children living and growing up in a toxic home.   The ideal time to save kids from the emotional baggage carried forward as a result of child abuse and maltreatment connected with toxic parenting is from the very beginning.  When parents become abundantly aware of how their parenting behaviors affect children and the detrimental life-long damage of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they often become highly motivated to get help for themselves to save the kids if for nothing else.

Healing is about making a difference for others.  In the case of denial and ignorance on the part of parents who suffer from PTS, outrageous behaviors and angry outbursts, including physical abuse toward family members and loved ones, especially children, is common.  It’s too easy to pick on the loved ones in your life as a way to vent, but it is not always clear how much emotional damage is being done.  If parents knew the consequences of intergenerational PTS by inflicting emotional and physical pain onto children and family members, they would march down to the nearest alternative treatment center immediately and learn how to mitigate the symptoms effectively and begin the journey of healing.  In my experience and view, there would be no hesitation on the part of parents and adults if they had a higher level of awareness.  We could eventually break the intergenerational cycle of pain in a couple of decades if we started with our own kids very early.  Extensive research has shown babies will pick up on toxic circumstances and behaviors and demonstrate post trauma stress symptoms as they become older.The goal of My Journey of Healing, Part 2 is to specifically help parents with stress triggers to save their kids from becoming emotionally damaged during these critical years from birth to age 18.  Most of the content comes from my own research, resources, references, and experience as a survivor of child abuse and maltreatment.  Since publishing my first book, I have kept up writing consistently on my blog and website www.survivethriveptsd.com.  I will use the compilation of short essays on my blog as the primary reference point since it focuses almost completely on children and families in life after trauma.  I have been writing on this subject for a long time.  It is now the right time to consolidate and integrate all the postings into a single reference book designed as a guide for parents who are survivors of traumatic life events, including hard combat as a warrior, sole survivors of an accident, and victims of assault and rape.  The painful symptoms of PTS can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively.  More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.  Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.Understanding Child Traumatic Stress from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is a painful read but highly useful in becoming more aware of how children respond to trauma.  The good news…more often than not child survivors of abuse, maltreatment, and neglect grow up with a high level of compassion, a motivation to succeed, and a desire to make a difference in the world.  This does not take away from the critical need to do all you can to love and care for your children as if your own life is at stake.  I feel blessed about my life at this point, but do envy the families who are free of post traumatic stress in their lives.  I worry most about the children who can suffer for a life-time from growing up in a violent home culture…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

 

Remembering The Greatest Generation of Mom’s…Happy Mothers Day!

Vernon and Marcella Sparks, c1940, Long Beach, California

The Military Wife and Mom click highlighted text for this excellent reference…

“I waited.

And waited.

And then…I waited some more.”

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During the worst of WWII starting with Pearl Harbor, my mom didn’t know if her husband, Vernon, was dead or alive for many weeks.  She first learned from the news about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  She also knew that Dad was aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) at the moment the first torpedoes struck his ship.  I can only imagine what was going through her mind at the time as a new mom holding my older brother Jerry in her arms… just 3 months old at the time.  For weeks it must have been a heart wrenching emotional roller coaster until she learned that Dad survived and that he would soon come home…she prayed and prayed.  Mother always had great faith in God and was raised as a Catholic in St. Paul, Minnesota.

But Mother waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Dad joined the Harbor Patrol right after his ship, USS West Virginia (BB48), was sunk in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day.  Mother had no idea when or how he would come home since in those years it was very difficult to communicate with loved ones who were fighting for our freedoms around the globe.  Then, Dad showed up one day many weeks after the start of WWII, but only for a short time to see his first born son.  Mother said good bye again a few days later not knowing whether her husband, Vernon, would return again.  I can only imagine how mother felt at the time.  I know she prayed constantly that he would return home safely.

I think of the strength and faith needed for military spouses and moms of that time to endure the emotional turmoil connected with the war.  Military wives like my mom had to keep the home fires burning and hold on dearly to faith that loved ones would return home safe.  They also knew that caring for the young children born before the war and during the war was of paramount importance to winning the war itself.  Military families serve too!

So, it was during this terrible period of American history, that Mother spent the next 4 years as a single mom waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more.  Finally, Dad returned home from the war in June 1945.  She was so happy and grateful that God spared her husband’s life when so many of her friends spouses were killed in action during that time.  But then, she soon discovered that the war came home with Vernon, starting with an extended post war “readjustment” period of mental health treatment at the US Naval Hospital in Shoemaker, Ca., near Oakland.  We didn’t know much about post trauma stress at the time.  It was called “battle fatique” but never discussed in any great detail nor did families know of the life long consequences of experiencing severe trauma in combat as we learned decades later following the Vietnam War.

On this Mothers Day, I honor and remember my mother’s service to America and all the military mom’s and spouses who served too!  For it is my belief that without the enduring love and faith of families everywhere, especially spouses and mothers, America would not be free today.

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms who love us unconditionally! Pray for the mothers who are no longer with us…they live in our hearts and souls forever…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) click here for my author page…

Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center… Call for stories for a new anthology…”War Child”

Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, ND, Executive Director of the American Military Family & Learning Center in Tijeras New Mexico,, is an Army wife of twenty years and mother to an Army Veteran.. She taught in the overseas Department of Defense Schools in Europe and the Caribbean and currently works forthe federal government. In 2016she and fellow Munich alum, Alexander George compiled the stories of University of Maryland, Munich, Germany alumni, resulting in a the third of a trilogy of books documenting the history of that campus’ 40-year history. She coedited the Museum’s first anthology, From the Frontlines to the Home Front: New Mexicans Reflect on War. She has been featured in the Army Times and has been quoted in scholarly books about growing up on military bases overseas.

Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center click here for more.

Celebrating Almost 400 Years of American Military Family History…

Dear Friends of Military Families…

I’m writing to you because our museum (Museum of the American Military Family) has put out a call for stories for a new anthology. It’s called “War Child: Lessons Learned From Growing Up in War”and it will be focusing on stories of war from a child’s/teens perspective.

I’m inviting you to consider a short memory piece from your perspective ( recalling your past) and ending it with a reflection on lessons learned, or the impact war has had on your life–either living through war time, serving in a combat zone as a teen, or in dealing with your family’s aftermath-PTSD, injury, etc. If you know someone who might be interested in contributing a story, please feel free to pass this on. 

All proceeds of this book would go to fund educational programming at our museum– there would be no payment to you, but all contributors will be given a book and the opportunity to participate in various book-related activities. Our last book was supported by the NM Humanities Council and was used in multiple discussion groups…

This will become an important work as it will discuss what war does to children– through the voices of those children, and it will show how those lessons have shaped you as an adult–we hope to have this be part of a larger humanities project as well. 

Stories can be of pre-deployment, deployment, post-deployment and legacy & aftermath.

We hope to get stories from many perspectives and age groups…I’d really appreciate your participation!

Submissions will be ongoing till June 30, 2017 and we are aiming for a October 2017 publishing date…

Please send stories to: mamfwriter@gmail.com

More information about this project and others can be found here:

https://mamfflatstanleyproject.wordpress.com/our-books/

We appreciate it! Thank you for helping us tell the story of America’s military families…

Circe

Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, Director

Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center


546 B State Hwy 333 (Historic Route 66) Tijeras, NM 87059

Open SAT -SUN 12:30-6:00 PM;

FRI workshops & by appointment


Mail to:

PO Box 5085

Albuquerque, NM 87185

(505) 504-6830

Our Mission:

The Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center brings together people with shared experiences showcasing and honoring those who also served–America’s Military Families.

 

April…Month of the Military Child… Honor military families who serve America too…

Honor our military kids and the families who serve too! Click here

Steve Sparks, Age 10, in 1956…US Navy Brat

“April is the Month of the Military Child. This awareness month was established to underscore the important role children play in the Armed Forces community. There are approximately 2 million military children, ranging in ages from newborn to 18 years old; 1.3 million military children are school-aged. Care of military children sustains our fighting force, and strengthens the health, security, and safety of our nation’s families and communities. The Network offers special thanks to all the NCTSN sites that provide care and support for our military children and families. To find out more about military children and families click here.”

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Anonymous said…

“I just came across this site.. I’m only 16 but my mom has suffered from PTSD my entire life. I had to “be the parent” at 7, and am constantly switching roles between the child and the adult. There should be more sites like this that offer support, but I can”t seem to find any.”

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In this link, Military Kids with PTSD, I wrote about my own observations and experience as a military child growing up with parents who suffered severely from the symptoms of PTSD.  As a military parent please take extra time to focus on your children.  Use not only this month of April…US Department of Defense News Article, but take your awareness forward and help your kids understand how war affects families of combat veterans, especially children.  Use the resources to educate your kids with love and kindness.  Do not allow them to grow up feeling isolated and alone with the memories that are often painful and misunderstood.  As a parent or teacher you can make a huge difference in the lives of your kids on this critical issue.  We owe it to our children to give them the opportunity to grow up to live a healthy, happy, and productive life…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) Click here for my author page…

Finding Forgiveness and Peace of Mind… Maya Angelou…”There is no greater agony than bearing the untold story inside of you.”

Oprah-Maya-Angelou

Maya Angelou… “There is no greater agony than bearing the untold story inside of you.”

Clice here for video clip…

Peace of mind in life after trauma…  Quote from this website article…

THOUGHTS AND ATTITUDES: A healthy outlook on life makes full recovery more achievable:

  1. Challenge negative beliefs. Replace such thoughts as, “I always have bad luck…nothing will better from now on…everything is going wrong,” with, “Is there any real reason to think that…maybe things will change for the better.”

  2. Adjust self-talk. Convert negative messages into positive ones, for example, replace “I’ll never get through this,” with “I can do this, but it’s okay to feel scared.”

  3. Use previous ordeals that have been successfully overcome as a “power base.”

  4. Consider alternative outcomes for worst-case scenarios, for example, “I can still see my friends, I can enjoy the little things in life.”

  5. Imagine how this event will be viewed in the future, remembering how things do change over time.

*****
I used to hate the thought of calling my Dad on most days, especially on his birthday.  I really didn’t see the point of saying “Happy Birthday” to someone who was perceived as an SOB.  I would rather celebrate his birthday by feeling the gift of freedom from his sphere of control and the chains of bondage…  Let’s all face it, my father’s behaviors were unacceptable and abusive toward loved ones, both emotionally and physically.  None of us really understood PTSD during our childhood and most of our adult life for that matter.  I spent my time trying to distance myself from Dad as a child and adult proving to him that I would not fail as his son; rather I would succeed beyond anybody’s dreams.  Although I was able to prove this to Dad before he passed away, it really didn’t feel very good.  It seemed like a no-win accomplishment.  We still had a rocky relationship and didn’t like each other, but know we loved each other still.  I do believe there was a kinship of sorts tucked away somewhere that needed to be released.  That didn’t happen until years after Dad passed away in 1998.  My anger was so deep I did not attend his memorial service.

It’s a new day!  I have a better relationship with Dad now than when he was alive.  I talk to him everyday through my work as an author, blogger, and speaker.  I am completely free of anger toward my parents in general.  The painful knot in my gut has been gone for over 6 years now since writing my book, starting this blog, and speaking at book signing events and participating in forums…keeping the PTSD awareness conversation going.  If I had known what I know today about Dad’s severe emotional suffering from combat stress during WWII and the Korean War, we would have had a different relationship.  I know our life together would have been different but not easy.  The difference would have been understanding the roots of his behavior and how the invisible wounds of war damaged his heart and soul.

I can’t go back and change anything.  I can go forward with my own journey of healing and help others heal along the way.  I am a survivor of traumatic life events, but now thrive with a sense of forgiveness, healing, and peace of mind never achieved until later in life.  My relationship with Dad also thrives, and now it is with honor to acknowledge his birthday each year. I do wish he were here though.  Our conversations would be far different today than they were before he left us in 1998.  But I have the feeling that he sees what is happening in my life and is very proud of his son taking up the cause of PTSD awareness to help others who are challenged each day with the painful symptoms of moral injury and PTSD…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC).  Click here for my author page.

 

Mental Illness Crisis in America’s Jails…Stepping Up Initiative… A long anticipated solution in Lincoln County Oregon…

Mental Illness Crisis in America’s Jails.  Find out more about the solution, Stepping Up Initiative in Lincoln County Oregon USA Click the highlighted text for more…

Steve Sparks…Click here to listen in… Lincoln County Connections with Casey Miller, KNPC Radio, January 16, 2017

Also take a listen to this video clip from a recent talk at the Oregon Coast Learning Institute (OCLI), Salashan, Oregon…