Polio 1948! How do we look back and compare with Coronavirus?

Steve Sparks, age 2, struck with Polio shortly after this photo was taken on his 2nd birthday.

Polio 1948! Click here…

“The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman declared in a speech broadcast from the White House. “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”

I can only imagine what it was like for the Sparks family in 1948 when their 2 year old child was struck with Polio. There was no vaccine in 1948! It was a pile on for the American people and the world right after WWII.

I only know from first hand accounts from my parents and big brother. I do know because there were severe physical damages to my upper left side and face that left me with muscle weakness in my left arm, and facial damage and jaw function from being paralized.

Imagine

I can only imagine as a 2 year old having my jaw supported with a clamp of sorts to keep my mouth open to eat and drink. I can only imagine what 1000s of kids just like me were going through, and all their families too. I can only imagine how it felt not being home with my family for 6 weeks. I can only imagine what it was like for my family to help me recover.

My big brother always mentioned that the worst thing for him was 24/7 crying. Even though this is me as a toddler, I can’t even get close to imagining how much pain was going on in my little brain. I feel shivers up my back and a big hole in my heart.

My family was not prepared or equipped to deal with my recovery. I was lucky, indeed, to survive and thrive. It was trial and error for everyone at the time. I treasure life at age 74 and feel privileged to be alive.

Life with polio…

As I got older, my family joked about it. They made fun of my crooked smile and buck teeth. I pushed my buck teeth back with my thumb for years to build a smile I could be good with. The weakness in my left arm and muscle atrophy made me self conscious for most of my life. My left side of my chest was not developed as a kid.

So, I found ways to cover up my left chest with a towel or my right hand when exposed at the beach or pool. I learned to do push ups with one arm. I was able to get through Navy boot camp in 1963 this way. My right arm did all the work. I learned to swim and surf with a very strong right arm. I learned to defend myself too with a kick ass right arm. I felt ugly most of the time as a kid. The good news, I survived and thrived! I made it, still here at age 74. Hooray!

Polio was a thing that no one wanted to talk about. To my parents credit , they wanted me to think I was normal and healthy just like other kids. I was clearly not normal and suffered delays in my early development as a child. The chronic after effects of polio persist for a life time, especially in later years.

End of WWII

“During the peak of the polio epidemic in the U.S., some hospital wards even had large, room-like iron lungs where multiple children lived. ” Imagine how these kids suffered physically and mentally, just like me… Mental illness was not close to being in the conversation back then…

As an added tragedy for our family, my father just returned from 4 years of hard combat in WWII. He suffered from severe PTSD and depression without adequate treatment and recovery. Dad was in bad shape.

My mother would say to me that Dad cried for weeks. He carried me to the hospital where I stayed for 6 weeks before returning home. What my parents didn’t know then is how Polio affected mental health in children. The physical damage was horrific for so many at that time. In comparison, I was lucky.

Empathy

Polio has given me great empathy and compassion for what families are going through with Covid19. Never in my long life have I experienced a public health crisis as a ‘political event.’ It is unconscionable to think that America is divided when it is a life and death matter. I’m shocked to see now that we as a people aren’t coming together to fight Covid 19 like we did Polio in the 40s and 50s, and through the 70s. Every child in America was given the Polio vaccine once it was safe in the 50s. It was a global emergency we fought as one people united just like WWII. America was mobilized!

National and global leadership…quote from the above website reference…

“Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio 12 years before he became president. Roosevelt concealed the extent to which he suffered from polio, but he acknowledged having it. His presidency put polio front and center on the national stage. In 1938, Roosevelt founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and spearheaded the March of Dimes for polio research. In 1946, President Harry Truman declared polio a threat to the United States and called on Americans to do everything possible to combat it.”

And quoting again…

“The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman declared in a speech broadcast from the White House. “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”

Covid19 fast forward…2020

Fighting unknown viral and bacterial disease as a threat to humanity is obviously not new. What is new is a divided America, misinformation and politics taking hold to fight a life/death public health crisis. Deaths of loved ones continue to soar and cases rise around the globe.

I ask why? Why is America’s behavior so outrageously and inhumanly this way now? How can politics even be in the conversation? Why? What happened to empathy and compassion? Where is humanity and humility as a people? What the hell are we doing, really?

I ask why?

Steve Sparks, Mental Health Advocate, Author, Blogger

Click here for Steve’s author page…

Mocha…Born to be Free! Part 2, Dogs Surely Go to Heaven…

Mocha the river dog… Nov 1996, Tacoma, Wa – May 2009 Depoe Bay, Oregon

Sarah and Mocha, Christmas 1996

After Sadie, our first family pet, left us to cross the Rainbow Bridge, Sarah begged for another puppy. She didn’t give in or give up then, nor does she ever give up now. Even as a little girl, Sarah knew how to make a case. She was very deterimined to convince us to get a puppy by Christmas. She didn’t want anything else from Santa. We finally decided it was a good thing. We were sold!

Mocha came home with us in January 1997. Sarah was so happy and excited. And she was a handful right away. As a pup she couldn’t sit still. We worried that Mocha had a few issues we would have to watch out for. We were right!

Poop and pee pee house training duty…

Sarah agreed to take Mocha out in the cold every day that winter to teach her where to go potty. It’s very cold in Icicle Valley during Janurary. Feels like Fairbanks, Alaska in the dead of winter to me. Sarah did a good job. Judy and I were happy and proud. I wondered, though, why she was never gone very long with the pup. We had tons of snow that winter of 1996-97. When the snow started falling off the metal roof of our log cabin we could only get out one way to the side. We were proud of Sarah taking responsiblity for Mocha. I didn’t want to do it unless it was an emergency.

When all the snow melted that spring of ’97, I started to see right away where Mocha pooped all winter long. The little puppy poops, a huge mound of the stinky stuff, started to appear under the snow.

Sarah was really pissed when I made her clean up the huge pile of poop. “Please daddy, please don’t make me clean it up, please!” she cried. Sarah was 9 years old then. She accepted responsiblity early as a child. She looked up at me often then and would say, “I can do it Daddy!” To this day Sarah looks at me with the same determination and enthusiam, “I can do it!” We still laugh about this fun memory and lots of other things too.

Mocha, Steve, Judy and Sarah. Wenatchee River, Tumwater Canyon, near Leavenworth, Wa c1998 or click here.

Growing up in the mountains…

Mocha loved water! It didn’t matter where, she was nuts about creeks and rivers, and the ocean too.

Mocha was the happiest on or near the water. She chased birds with great enthusiasm. She could jump 6 ft easily. Mocha loved to go fishing with me. I never caught a fish with Mocha in the river with me. But she almost caught one, but mostly chased the trout away. I left Mocha in the truck after that or tied her gently to a tree on the bank with snacks to keep her company. We loved Mocha!

There were no red lines for Mocha in playing with other furry and feathered friends in the forest and in rivers. Once upon a time she chased a skunk down while we were hiking with friends up Icicle Valley one day. Me and my friends, Larry and Chris, could not contain ourselves. I watched with horror as she pounced on a skunk without hesitation.. Guess you can imagine what happened next. It was an awful two weeks of treatment for Mocha. We bathed her with tomato juice once a day for 2 weeks until the terrible smell of skunk works did its thing. Mocha never again chased a skunk. Oh duh, right?

The Rainbow Bridge

Central Oregon Coast 2006 near Depoe Bay…

It was another beautiful day in Little Whale Cove in May 2009. Mocha knew we were going to her very favorite beach, Big Whale Cove. She was at the front door grabbing her leash with excitement . She couldn’t wait , jumping at the door, looking and smiling at Judy and me.

We can’t go to Big Whale Cove easily these days since the stunning cove became a marine reserve a few years back. We could hike there from Little Whale Cove , making our way south for about a block or so up the hill overlooking this magical and stunning beauty of the cove and sandy protected beach.

Escape for a moment to experience the stunning beauty of Whale Cove, truly a mindfulness meditation gift from God.

Whale Cove Marine Reserve… Truly a gift to be treasured for a lifetime.

Mocha didn’t need the rope to descend to the beach about 75 ft below. She raced as usual and jumped down to the driftwood bridge that crossed over to the beach. The driftwood piled up over centuries of huge waves from 75-100 mph winds during the winter months. We couldn’t get to the beach as much during the winter. It was not safe, period. Don’t even think about it!

Judy and I followed Mocha down, but didn’t see her anywhere. We begin to worry. What happened to our pup. She was the joy of our life. Never a dull moment with Mocha. She was born to be free.

Mocha and me hiking the Icicle Gorge Trail in 2004 near Leavenworth, Wa where she grew up with the beauty of the mountains , rivers, and the things labradors love the most. Water, water, water…
Mocha, as a pup winter 1997 waiting for me at the door of our log home in Icicle Valley in Leavenworth, Wa. Right from the beginning she wanted freedom.

We got really worried because Mocha was usually running back and forth on the beach. She loved to chase sea birds and swim out near the native harbor seals that made their home in Whale Cove.

There are a couple of hundred of these wonderfully kind and curious mammals. They always hung out about 25 ft from shore., keeping their watchful big beautiful eyes on us all the while we played on the beach. They bobbed their heads up a little from the water trying to be unnoticed. It was a beautiful site. I could sit on the beach and watch the seals for a long time, taking me away from the world outside. We walked the small beach and played with Mocha, and sat in our chairs. Sometimes a couple of friends would show up with a furry friend for Mocha to play with.

Finally we found Mocha, breathing hard and laying on a large piece of driftwood near where we climbed down. Mocha couldn’t get up and was in great pain and scared. And we were scared. We tried to get her up the steep climb but she could not lift herself up and climb with us. Judy and I were frantic and very sad, crying while trying to help Mocha.

We called our neighbors, Deb and Neil, who came immediately to help us rescue Mocha. Neil was younger and stronger than me. He was able to help me carry Mocha while we struggled together getting her up the steep path above the cove. We are forever grateful to Neil and Deb coming to Mocha’s rescue. Our furry friends are loving family members whose love and companionship makes us kinder and gentler humans with empathy and compassion.

We took Mocha to the vet right away. We prayed that she would recover and get back to Whale Cove again. But this would be her last last time at the beach to run and play. Mocha loved to be free…

The vet comforted both of us while Mocha lay on the table while the doc looked her over. It was then we were told that if Mocha could get back up in a day or so, she would never get up and have the quality of life she was accustomed to. We couldn’t let Mocha suffer. So many fury loved ones go this way. It wouild be cruel and selfish to let your fury loved one suffer.

We knew the next day was Mocha’s last day. She couldn’t get up and was crying all night. We both took turns sleeping with her to show our love by hugging and kissing her. until the next morning.

The next day was difficult while we took Mocha back to the vet. She passed over the Rainbow Bridge peacefully. We were grief stricken. We mourned the loss of our furry loved one the same as any loving member of our family and friends.

Mocha was a blessing in our lives. We will never forget her, and often revisit the years of hiking the mountain trails and swimming in rivers and the ocean. Mocha was so loyal and loving. Mocha was born to be free.

Mocha, summer 2005, Leavenworth, Wa just before we moved to the Central Oregon Coast…
Sarah, Judy, and Steve. Sparks. We will always miss Mocha with love in our hearts. We have so many fun stories to share…

As an added blessing, Judy and I took Mocha’s ashes back to Leavenworth, Wa. We spent several hours hanging out at our favorite spot, Leavenworth Fish Hatchery. Mocha’s ashes were set free in the Icicle Creek ar the Fish Hatchery dam.

‘Get Stupid’ at Home Safely and Stay Grounded… Silliness is food for the soul…

I didn’t know getting stupid or being outrageously silly, was a way to relieve stress back in the day. But I sought out others who wanted to get stupid on their own time like me. You know, kindred spirits.

At times we were so stupid and laughed so hard at stupid stuff it made us exhausted after these joyful, on and on, rediculous laughing rants. We loved to laugh…no kidding!

A couple of shots of tequila and a Corona really did the number on me and my battle buddies. We used four letter words like ‘fuck’ in every other word along with ‘shit .’ I can’t remember anything we ever talked about. All I remember is laughing my ass off with the fools in my company.

Even though I haven’t had alcohol in 18 years, I still laugh just the same.

We laughed until we couldn’t laugh anymore. It provided us with great relief from all the the intense stress in our lives as IT sales people.

I always got up early the next morning, Running 5 miles helped revive my fuzzy brain and work off the alcohol from night before. I believe we were alot happier and had more fun doing what we loved…selling black boxes.

It wasn’t until a few years ago I started understanding mindfulness meditation practices as a therapy. I was able to work with a therapist initially to get my brain tuned into living in the moment.

Now, I ‘get stupid’ as a happy practice at home more than once a day. Of course, I’m retired and get away with it.

Reading this great post…Centered Silliness
BY MADISYN TAYLOR, reinforced everything I have felt and experienced while laughing my ass off for 7 decades. Clearly, I picked the best of the best of “get stupid” pals who I trusted without question. I can count my special friends on one hand. I dearly miss the loving souls and special friends who left us too early.

So, laugh your ass off and get stupid for stupid’s sake! Silliness is good for the soul…

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocates

From the DailyOM…

Centered Silliness
BY MADISYN TAYLORWhen we laugh, we give ourselves over to the immediacy of the present moment.Many people might be surprised to think of laughter as a form of meditation. Yet not only is laughing meditation one of the simplest forms of meditation, but also it is a very powerful one. The physical act of laughing is one of the few actions involving the body, emotions, and the soul. When we laugh, we give ourselves over to the immediacy of the present moment. We also are able to momentarily transcend minor physical and mental stresses. Practiced in the morning, laughing meditation can lend a joyful quality to the entire day. Practiced in the evening, laughing meditation is a potent relaxant that has been known to inspire pleasant dreams. Laughter also can help open our eyes to previously unnoticed absurdities that can make life seem less serious.

There are three stages to mindful laughter. Each stage can last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. The first stage involves stretching your body like a cat and breathing deeply. Your stretch should start at the hands and feet before you move through the rest of your body. Stretch out the muscles in your face by yawning and making silly faces. The second stage of the meditation is pure laughter. Imagine a humorous situation, remember funny jokes, or think about how odd it is to be laughing by yourself. When the giggles start to rise, let them. Let the laughter ripple through your belly and down into the soles of your feet. Let the laughter lead to physical movement. Roll on the floor, if you have to, and keep on laughing until you stop. The final stage of the meditation is one of silence. Sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breath.

Laughter brings with it a host of positive effects that operate on both the physical and mental levels. It is also fun, expressive, and a way to release tension. Learn to laugh in the present moment, and you’ll find that joy is always there.
Silliness is good for the soul!

“I Didn’t Know Love Until You Showed Me.” Happy 70th Birthday My Love!

Sarah, Judy and Steve

Happy 70th to “the eyes that stopped a 1000 soldiers!” The smile that won my heart!

I didn’t know love until you showed me…

I didn’t know empathy until you showed me…

I didn’t know compassion until you showed me…

I didn’t know myself until you showed me…

I didn’t know my soul until you showed me…

I didn’t know how to live or love until you showed me…


I live with love now because you showed me…

Happy 70th my love!

Steve and Judy at Stehikan, Wa 2018… “Eskimo Kisses ” a Sparks family tradition…

Mindfulness Mediation Practices Help Calm The Soul…

Little Whale Cove at Sunset! Credits Steve Sparks
Mindfulness Mediation Creations from Little Whale Cove, Oregon click here

Visit ‘Mindfulness Meditation Moments’ to ease stress… Newport News Times click here.

Visit my new Mindfulness Meditation Moments page. Escape for a moment to calm the soul… click here

About a month ago, I was sitting with my wife and best buddy, Judy, enjoying the peace of mind that envelopes us in harmony with nature at this stunning beach called Little Whale Cove. I believe we are at the center of a vortex of nature and the spirit world. Native Americans lived in this corner of heaven many decades ago. We feel a closeness to God on this ancient coast of volcanic rock and rain forests.

Big Whale Cove, is a short walk to the south of us, click here. We can’t go there anymore after it was designated as a Marine Reserve several years ago. Learn more about Whale Cove, click here

It was then, at that moment, I was inspired by a piece of driftwood bark half way buried. The shape of every piece of old bark is unique just like all the tiny shells, agates and rocks.

This little treasure from the sea made we wonder where the bark came from and how long it was drifting into beaches and coves along the coast from where the mother tree first fell into the ocean long ago. Maybe for many years if not decades. Bark, after all, is very rugged, water proof, with a tough thick skin. Huge coastal trees eventually fall into the ocean from places up and down the coast.

Like anything floating in the ocean, the separated moved with the tide and winds, floating on the surface like a lost boat at sea. “Where did it come from?” I asked Judy. We both became deeply curious and talked about it for awhile.

Then, I thought of a creative idea that could bring life to driftwood bark. On our unique Little Whale Cove Beach are billions of tiny shells and rocks that accumilate from winter storms that dump sea treasures on the beach while huge waves crash into the cove all winter long. The small rocks and shells represent our beach. There is no sand, just teenie tiny treasures from the sea.

Then it came to me! I could randomly place these beautiful little shells, agates and rocks on the bark as a platform. Each piece of selected bark looked in need of a little sanding and cleaning. Not something to use for my beach art until bringing out the sheer beauty underneath the sea worn surface.

This is what a sea carved piece of bark looks like before and after the finishing process. These are two separate pieces of bark that look very similar. The ocean seems to provide a template for my new beach art hobby.

Before and After… Be sure and zoom in…

As we get more experienced and creative, here is a couple of my latest master pieces. I found a very old piece of drift wood to serve as a platform. I speculated, with some imagination, that it must have come from a ship, or maybe from the Japanese tsunami some years ago. The one that took out a couple of docks in Depoe Bay. I then placed the finished bark sculpture on top of it along with another small piece of contrasting drift wood. This little gem has dark thin lines equally spaced. Think of how long these treasures have been in production at sea before they came to us, somehow spiritually connected to Little Whale Cove. Think of it…

Latest masterpiece (top) named “Sail.” The beautifully finished piece (bottom) makes me feel like keeping it like it is. The character is so striking and special, we don’t want to disturb its natural look. ‘Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke’ is my take…

Judy and I hope you all will stay with us while we explore our beaces on the Oregon coast. I also wish everyone a mindful, healthy and blessed life… Judy and I try everyday to live in the moment. It takes practice…

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocates

Steve’s Author Page, click here.

Should Your Child Return to School While Covid19 is Raging? by Joe Morice

Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, Va

To our fellow FCPS families, this is it gang, 5 days until the 2 days in school vs. 100% virtual decision. Let’s talk it out, in my traditional mammoth TL/DR form.

Like all of you, I’ve seen my feed become a flood of anxiety and faux expertise. You’ll get no presumption of expertise here. This is how I am looking at and considering this issue and the positions people have taken in my feed and in the hundred or so FCPS discussion groups that have popped up. The lead comments in quotes are taken directly from my feed and those boards. Sometimes I try to rationalize them. Sometimes I’m just punching back at the void.

Full disclosure, we initially chose the 2 days option and are now having serious reservations. As I consider the positions and arguments I see in my feed, these are where my mind goes. Of note, when I started working on this piece at 12:19 PM today the COVID death tally in the United States stood at 133,420.

“My kids want to go back to school.”

I challenge that position. I believe what the kids desire is more abstract. I believe what they want is a return to normalcy. They want their idea of yesterday. And yesterday isn’t on the menu.

“I want my child in school so they can socialize.”

This was the principle reason for our 2 days decision. As I think more on it though, what do we think ‘social’ will look like? There aren’t going to be any lunch table groups, any lockers, any recess games, any study halls, any sitting next to friends, any talking to people in the hallway, any dances. All of that is off the menu. So, when we say that we want the kids to benefit from the social experience, what are we deluding ourselves into thinking in-building socialization will actually look like in the Fall?

“My kid is going to be left behind.”

Left behind who? The entire country is grappling with the same issue, leaving all children in the same quagmire. Who exactly would they be behind? I believe the rhetorical answer to that is “They’ll be behind where they should be,” to which I’ll counter that “where they should be” is a fictional goal post that we as a society have taken as gospel because it maps to standardized tests which are used to grade schools and counties as they chase funding.

“Classrooms are safe.”

At the current distancing guidelines from FCPS middle and high schools would have no more than 12 people (teachers + students) in a classroom (I acknowledge this number may change as FCPS considers the Commonwealth’s 3 ft with a mask vs. 6 ft position, noting that FCPS is all mask regardless of the distance). For the purpose of this discussion we’ll say classes run 45 minutes.

I posed the following question to 40 people today, representing professional and management roles in corporations, government agencies, and military commands: “Would your company or command have a 12 person, 45 minute meeting in a conference room?”

100% of them said no, they would not. These are some of their answers:

“No. Until further notice we are on Zoom.”
“(Our company) doesn’t allow us in (company space).”
“Oh hell no.”
“No absolutely not.”
“Is there a percentage lower than zero?”
“Something of that size would be virtual.”

We do not even consider putting our office employees into the same situation we are contemplating putting our children into. And let’s drive this point home: there are instances here when commanding officers will not put soldiers, ACTUAL SOLDIERS, into the kind of indoor environment we’re contemplating for our children. For me this is as close to a ‘kill shot’ argument as there is in this entire debate. How do we work from home because buildings with recycled air are not safe, because we don’t trust other people to not spread the virus, and then with the same breath send our children into buildings?

“Children only die .0016 of the time.”

First, conceding we’re an increasingly morally bankrupt society, but when did we start talking about children’s lives, or anyone’s lives, like this? This how the villain in movies talks about mortality, usually 10-15 minutes before the good guy kills him.

If you’re in this camp, and I acknowledge that many, many people are, I’m asking you to consider that number from a slightly different angle.

FCPS has 189,000 children. .0016 of that is 302. 302 dead children are the Calvary Hill you’re erecting your argument on. So, let’s agree to do this: stop presenting this as a data point. If this is your argument, I challenge you to have courage equal to your conviction. Go ahead, plant a flag on the internet and say, “Only 302 children will die.” No one will. That’s the kind action on social media that gets you fired from your job. And I trust our social media enclave isn’t so careless and irresponsible with life that it would even, for even a millisecond, enter any of your minds to make such an argument.

Considered another way: You’re presented with a bag with 189,000 $1 bills. You’re told that in the bag are 302 random bills, they look and feel just like all the others, but each one of those bills will kill you. Do you take the money out of the bag?

Same argument, applied to the 12,487 teachers in FCPS (per Wikipedia), using the ‘children’s multiplier’ of .0016 (all of us understanding the adult mortality rate is higher). That’s 20 teachers. That’s the number you’re talking about. It’s very easy to sit behind a keyboard and diminish and dismiss the risk you’re advocating other people assume. Take a breath and think about that.

If you want to advocate for 2 days a week, look, I’m looking for someone to convince me. But please, for the love of God, drop things like this from your argument. Because the people I know who’ve said things like this, I know they’re better people than this. They’re good people under incredible stress who let things slip out as their frustration boils over. So, please do the right thing and move on from this, because one potential outcome is that one day, you’re going to have to stand in front of St. Peter and answer for this, and that’s not going to be conversation you enjoy.

“Hardly any kids get COVID.”

(Deep sigh) Yes, that is statistically true as of this writing. But it is a cherry-picked argument because you’re leaving out an important piece.

One can reasonably argue that, due to the school closures in March, children have had the least EXPOSURE to COVID. In other words, closing schools was the one pandemic mitigation action we took that worked. There can be no discussion of the rate of diagnosis within children without also acknowledging they were among our fastest and most quarantined people. Put another way, you cannot cite the effect without acknowledging the cause.

“The flu kills more people every year.”

(Deep sigh). First of all, no, it doesn’t. Per the CDC, United States flu deaths average 20,000 annually. COVID, when I start writing here today, has killed 133,420 in six months.

And when you mention the flu, do you mean the disease that, if you’re suspected of having it, everyone, literally everyone in the country tells you stay the f- away from other people? You mean the one where parents are pretty sure their kids have it but send them to school anyway because they have a meeting that day, the one that every year causes massive f-ing outbreaks in schools because schools are petri dishes and it causes kids to miss weeks of school and leaves them out of sports and band for a month? That one? Because you’re right – the flu kills people every year. It does, but you’re ignoring the why. It’s because there are people who are a–holes who don’t care about infecting other people. In that regard it’s a perfect comparison to COVID.

“Almost everyone recovers.”

You’re confusing “release from the hospital” and “no longer infected” with “recovered.” I’m fortunate to only know two people who have had COVID. One my age and one my dad’s age. The one my age described it as “absolute hell” and although no longer infected cannot breathe right. The one my dad’s age was in the hospital for 13 weeks, had to have a trach ring put in because she could no longer be on a ventilator, and upon finally getting home and being faced with incalculable time in rehab told my mother, “I wish I had died.”

While I’m making every effort to reach objectivity, on this particular point, you don’t know what the f- you’re talking about.

“If people get sick, they get sick.”

First, you mistyped. What you intended to say was “If OTHER people get sick, they get sick.” And shame on you.

“I’m not going to live my life in fear.”

You already live your life in fear. For your health, your family’s health, your job, your retirement, terrorists, extremists, one political party or the other being in power, the new neighbors, an unexpected home repair, the next sunrise. What you meant to say was, “I’m not prepared to add ANOTHER fear,” and I’ve got news for you: that ship has sailed. It’s too late. There are two kinds of people, and only two: those that admit they’re afraid, and those that are lying to themselves about it.

As to the fear argument, fear is the reason you wait up when your kids stay out late, it’s the reason you tell your kids not to dive in the shallow water, to look both ways before crossing the road. Fear is the respect for the wide world that we teach our children. Except in this instance, for reasons no one has been able to explain to me yet.

“FCPS leadership sucks.”

I will summarize my view of the School Board thusly: if the 12 of you aren’t getting into a room together because it represents a risk, don’t tell me it’s OK for our kids. I understand your arguments, that we need the 2 days option for parents who can’t work from home, kids who don’t have internet or computer access, kids who needs meals from the school system, kids who need extra support to learn, and most tragically for kids who are at greater risk of abuse by being home. All very serious, all very real issues, all heartbreaking. No argument.

But you must first lead by example. Because you’re failing when it comes to optics. All your meetings are online. What our children see is all of you on a Zoom telling them it’s OK for them to be exactly where you aren’t. I understand you’re not PR people, but you really should think about hiring some.

“I talked it over with my kids.”

Let’s put aside for a moment the concept of adults effectively deferring this decision to children, the same children who will continue to stuff things into a full trash can rather than change it out. Yes, those hygienic children.

Listen, my 15 year old daughter wants a sport car, which she’s not getting next year because it would be dangerous to her and to others. Those kinds of decisions are our job. We step in and decide as parents, we don’t let them expose themselves to risks because their still developing and screen addicted brains narrow their understanding of cause and effect.

We as parents and adults serve to make difficult decisions. Sometimes those are in the form of lessons, where we try to steer kids towards the right answer and are willing to let them make a mistake in the hopes of teaching better decision making the next time around. This is not one of those moments. The stakes are too high for that. This is a “the adults are talking” moment. Kids are not mature enough for this moment. That is not an attack on your child. It is a broad statement about all children. It is true of your children and it was true when we were children. We need to be doing that thinking here, and “Johnny wants to see Bobby at school” cannot be the prevailing element in the equation.

“The teachers need to do their job.”


How is it that the same society which abruptly shifted to virtual students only three months ago, and offered glowing endorsements of teachers stating, “we finally understand how difficult your job is,” has now shifted to “screw you, do your job.” There are myriad problems with that position but for the purposes of this piece let’s simply go with, “You’re not looking for a teacher, you’re looking for the babysitter you feel your property tax payment entitles you to.”

“Teachers have a greater chance to being killed by a car than they do of dying from COVID.”

(Eye roll) Per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the U.S. see approximately 36,000 auto fatalities a year. Again, there have been 133,420 COVID deaths in the United States through 12:09 July 10, 2020. So no, they do not have a great chance of being killed in a car accident.

And, if you want to take the actual environment into consideration, the odds of a teacher being killed in a car accident in their classroom, you know, the environment we’re actually talking about, that’s right around 0%.

“If the grocery store workers can be onsite what are the teachers afraid of?”

(Deep breath) A grocery store worker, who absolutely risks exposure, has either six feet of space or a plexiglass shield between them and individual adult customers who can grasp their own mortality whose transactions can be completed in moments, in a 40,000 SF space.

A teacher is with 11 ‘customers’ who have not an inkling what mortality is, for 45 minutes, in a 675 SF space, six times a day.

Just stop.

“Teachers are choosing remote because they don’t want to work.”

(Deep breaths) Many teachers are opting to be remote. That is not a vacation. They’re requesting to do their job at a safer site. Just like many, many people who work in buildings with recycled air have done. And likely the building you’re not going into has a newer and better serviced air system than our schools.

Of greater interest to me is the number of teachers choosing the 100% virtual option for their children. The people who spend the most time in the buildings are the same ones electing not to send their children into those buildings. That’s something I pay attention to.

“I wasn’t prepared to be a parent 24/7” and “I just need a break.”

I truly, deeply respect that honesty. Truth be told, both arguments have crossed my mind. Pre COVID, I routinely worked from home 1 – 2 days a week. The solace was nice. When I was in the office, I had an actual office, a room with a door I could close, where I could focus. During the quarantine that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve been frustrated, I’ve been short, I’ve gone to just take a drive and get the hell away for a moment and been disgusted when one of the kids sees me and asks me to come for a ride, robbing me of those minutes of silence. You want to hear silence. I get it. I really, really do.

Here’s another version of that, admittedly extreme. What if one of our kids becomes one of the 302? What’s that silence going to sound like? What if you have one of those matted frames where you add the kid’s school picture every year? What if you don’t get to finish the pictures?

“What does your gut tell you to do?”

Shawn and I have talked ad infinitum about all of these and other points. Two days ago, at mid-discussion I said, “Stop, right now, gut answer, what is it,” and we both said, “virtual.”

A lot of the arguments I hear people making for the 2 days sound like we’re trying to talk ourselves into ignoring our instincts, they are almost exclusively, “We’re doing 2 days, but…”. There’s a fantastic book by Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear, which I’ll minimize for you thusly: your gut instinct is a hardwired part of your brain and you should listen to it. In the introduction he talks about elevators, and how, of all living things, humans are the only ones that would voluntarily get into a soundproof steel box with a potential predator just so they could skip a flight of stairs.

I keep thinking that the 2 days option is the soundproof steel box. I welcome, damn, beg, anyone to convince me otherwise.

At the time I started writing at 12:09 PM, 133,420 Americans had died from COVID. Upon completing this draft at 7:04 PM, that number rose to 133,940.

520 Americans died of COVID while I was working on this. In seven hours.

The length of a school day!

Joe Morice

Dogs Surely Go To Heaven… Part 1: “Skai, The Beach Dog!”

Our beautiful fury friends, Skai, Mocha and Sadie, touched our hearts and healed our souls for over three decades. All three kept our family grounded in love. And reminded us everyday of the meaning of empathy, compassion, unconditional love and loyalty.

My neighbor, Scott, told me that his wish was that his fury pal, Chip, would live just a little bit longer. He was sad to think of outliving his beloved friend. I understood without hesitation. And, I believe you couldn’t find a person on the planet who wouldn’t say the same thing, more than once in life about a beloved pet.

Loving memories of fury friends who touched our lives…

Join me in sharing treasured memories of each… Starting with Skai Boy, I tell the story of our beloved family pets in three separate posts… Let’s start with Skai, the beach dog…

Skai at the beach June 27, 2009, around 14 months old…
Skai Christmas 2009
Skai Christmas 2019, age 12…

Skai, so loved the beach as a pup and until the last day of his life. Sarah took Skai to the beach while he was very weak. But, with strong meds to help with the pain from the cancer taking his life…

Once arriving at the beach near Seattle, Skai knew they were getting close, smiling and excited even when down. Sarah had to help him get to the beach from the parking area, but Skai showed his true love for his beach time, struggled to get there one step and one wobble, and a tail wag at a time.

Skai’s last happy dance at the beach he so loved…

Once on the beach, Skai dug a well practiced and precisely measured hole in the sand, very slowly, but with sheer determination. He knew a race up and down the beach wasn’t in the cards this time. Then, with all the strength and passion he could muster, he rolled over in slow motion for a final back rub he so loved and cherished.

It would be the last time in the sand for Skai Boy, but not the last time for our hearts and souls to treasure always. Sarah shared that Skai was so happy to be on the sand. And felt this private time on the beach together better prepared both for the painful transiton the next day. This is a very healing mindset from my experience. We can celebrate Skai’s life as a significant marker in our lives…a proundly special friendship.

A loyal friend…indeed!

Skaiboy was very loyal to Sarah and clearly the best soulmate ever. So, on Saturday June 27th 2020 at 130pm Skai walked ever so gingerly over the “Rainbow Bridge’ a happy camper. Yes, we all grieve in deeply soulful and heartfelt ways when we lose a loved one. Skai gave us, especially Sarah, more love and loyalty than a single human being could ever do.

Our beloved grand dog “SkaiBoy” gave our family so much joy and love… Skai loved the beach and understood the word. As soon as we said, “beach” he would race to the door and dance with excitement and joy. Skai couldn’t wait to get his paws on the sand and race as fast as he could north to Yaquina Lighthouse, then, turn around, like he knew how far he could go, and race even faster south back to us. In the above photo, Skai was around 14 months old on June 27th 2009. He will be in our hearts forever…

Here’s one more story about Skai. Are you ready?

Sarah came to live with us on the coast in Depoe Bay early 2008 so that she could attend the University of Oregon in Eugene. It was a transitional time for Sarah. She was missing Mocha our last family pet after Sadie and before Skai. Sarah loved animals, especially her dear dogs. We were able to have horses in Leavenworth, Washington on our 1.5 acre lot. There was plenty of room to build a lean-to shelter for two horses. and fence off a half acre of property. Indeed, Sarah was a country girl. The 4H club was a passion. And so, continuing the story of Skai Boy.

Sarah Sparks Fitch

Judy and I planned a trip to Snow Bird in Utah in the summer of 2008. We were looking forward to hiking and exploring as we did often in earlier years. The hikes are shorter now. We also love Blue Grass concerts in the mountains. Snow Bird was having a big Blue Grass blow out when we got there.

It was a super fun week in Snow Bird. So, we started heading west for Depoe Bay, Oregon on the central coast. We so loved living close to the ocean and looked forward to seeing Sarah when we got back home.

Love at first sight…

When we hit the salt flats near Salt Lake, Sarah called us and was on the speaker. She screamed out with joy that she got Skai and loved him, and for only $50. “I even got a crate for him,” she said. She proudly announced that she rescued Skai, a gray and gold brindle pitt bull in the photos. It was love at first sight for both Sarah and Skai.

Ask for forgiveness, not permission…

Sarah’s Skai as a pup in 2008. Look at that face!

Although Judy and I did not want to get another dog since we lost Mocha. I was adament about this and became angry. Then, Sarah reminded me that I taught her years ago that “asking for forgiveness is often better than asking for permission.” I got ya, Dad! she said, with respectful excitement on her face… She looked straight into my eyes, intent on making her point. I’m very proud of Sarah for her make it happen style, and free spirit.

So long, dearest Skai

I could go on and on about Skai. “Skai, Mocha, and Sadie” is a chapter in my next memoir, “Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley.” Click for excerpt…

See you on the other side, Skai! You are a good boy, always…and forever…

Judy & Steve Sparks, Children and Families Advocacy

click here for Steve’s author page…

The Wrath of Stigma!

“The Wrath of Stigma!” is the first chapter of my book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2..

Following is a excerpt… This book was written especially for parents, teachers, and caregivers.

“Stigma is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” they say…  Consider as a resource all the research and writing on the subject of PTSD and post trauma growth. I can’t believe there are over 1000 articles and posts. Included is a ton of information about my own life experience. During these many years I have collected 100s of relevant references and resources with the goal to help others.

The human condition of STIGMA leaves me stone cold and in a quandary.  It is clear that we should all seek treatment immediately following a moral injury. Living with the awful symptoms of depression and anxiety, including panic attacks is torture. But it w ould be dishonest for me to suggest to anyone who fears losing opportunities and dreams of career success, especially loving relationships and spiritual growth in life, to ever admit a mental health challenge.

My latest book is dedicated to the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII.

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocacy

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

Too Late To Empty The Trash? Truama informed therapies can be a gift to many who suffer for a lifetime…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate

A Lifetime of Emotional Pain

Healing came very late to me. Like so many of my peers from the post WWII generation, we were born to trauma from our fathers who served during WWII and Korean War. As a result, too many of us left home early with scars from profoundly dysfunctional homes.

So, we marched head on into the Vietnam era in the 60s early 70s, already morally injured living with chaos as children of warriors. Sadly, for too many young souls, there was no escape from the compounded tragedy of trauma as veterans ourselves.

Vietnam warriors came home with with the embedded scars of child abuse and the horror of hard combat. A perfect storm of PTSD, major depression, including physical injuries that plagued our heroes for a lifetime.

All too often we lived a lifetime with mental illness without awareness of the horrific and painful symptoms without help or treatment. Consequently, too many lives and families have been destroyed without any idea of the roots of the 24/7 heart breaking pain. Broken hearts and damaged souls can be deadly if not provided love and support.

Finding Your Lost Soul

So what can old dudes like me do about taking back your lost soul and achieving some modest measure of peace of mind during the golden years. This assumes those who struggle with symptoms survived long enough to earn the privilege of old age and is open to the gift of healing. It is a tragedy to know that unhealthy habits resulting from substance abuse and alcohol addiction often end lives too early.

I was shocked to be told by my doctor at age 55 that I would risk early death in my 60s if I didn’t stop abusing alcohol. So, without hesitation, I stopped drinking alcohol on August 11, 2002. This moment of a rude awakeing was a true blessing and gift that turned my life around. I’m so grateful and believe my life was saved in that fateful moment.

Is there even hope for some relief from the demons that haunt us for a life time? For me, it felt like my injured soul was hijacked and held hostage. I didn’t know calm or peace of mind ever until later in life. Is healing even possible later in life when denial holds on like the jaws of a hungry shark? Imagine… the 24/7 lifelong emotional torment and treachery. It’s a very strong ‘locked and loaded’ emotional rollercoaster to most who live with persistent emotional pain. The worst of it is you can’t talk about it. No one would understand or listen anyway.

Love and Hope

Even with the the seemingly overwhelming challenges there is hope. But it’s hard work, even harder when you become open and hungry for peace of mind in these later years. In my more recent experience ‘trauma informed care’ has proven to be a healthy “whole patient” strategy to rescue your soul, keeping the demons at a safe distance. Peace of mind is a blessing to the aging population.

This has been a spiritual journey for me, and one that has opened my mind to God again as a critical step in healing. People who suffer from moral injury tend to feel unworthy of God, including going to church. My father was this way for his entire life. All of this leaves a hole in the heart and soul of those who suffer from serious trauma.

Once passing the readiness test and getting past the nagging denial phase, trauma informed care appears the best chance for long term treatment and recovery, no matter your age. Make sure you have a primary care physician, preferably a DO, to help facilitate the exceedingly challenging process of mending your soul.

Healing is a Journey of Love

It takes a team, a loving community, and most importantly for me, a loving spouse to keep me grounded. It is a tough assignment for loved ones at home, who all too often are affected by the symptoms of secondary PTSD and depression. Your life partner is a beautiful gift in healing, truly a life saving soul in my life. Pets are also a loving part of healing and are so loyal. Seek out everything that makes you feel alive. Avoid stressful and triggering activities as much as possible.

Start with finding a trauma informed psychiatrist to make the appropriate diagnosis and provide non narcotic medication options to help stabilize and stay calm. Calm is truly a gift from heaven for lifelong sufferers.

Next, with guidance from your primary care physician and psychiatrist, conduct a search for a trauma informed clinical therapist who is highly experienced and skilled at peeling back the onion of a lifetime of emotional baggage, and repressed memories. This is when you start to “empty the trash.” Treatment and recovery for post trauma stress requires expert guidance from a highly skilled compassionate therapist.

It is most important in long term mitigation of trauma events to have the loving support of your partner or spouse. Without consistent loving support at home in a safe environment, repairing your soul is too steep a mountain to climb alone without lots of love, empathy and compassion in your circle of caring friends and family.

Take the first step with the help and support from loved ones. It takes courage that comes with resilience from a lifetime of surviving one day at a time, and all the love you can muster each day. Because it is one day at a time…

All the best in healing with love… It takes a village.

Steve and Judy Sparks



“Locked and Loaded!” What is it like to live your life in fight/flight 24/7?

Steve Sparks, Mental Health Advocate, Author, Blogger…

https://www.verywellmind.com/ptsd-and-depression-2797533

Research has found that half of all people with PTSD also have a co-occurring major depressive disorder.”

I remember many scary traumatic events in my life as a child, and young adult, including being injured while serving in the US Navy. And the story of trauma continues for a life time…

I don’t remember some events because of repressed memory, an inherant defensive rewire of the brain, creating a flight/fight response. This chronic hyper vigilant and hyper arousal behavior can be annoying to others at a personal level or an asset in your professional life, as was the case for me.

These excruciating painful events occupy my brain 24/7. The horrific experiences as a child and adult do not go away, never ever. It is very easy to give up and complete suicide for too many souls at any age. Aging men, like me, who suffer a life time without treatment can reach a point where the pain is unbearable, and the only escape is to complete suicide.

I’m grateful at age 74 on July 6th to have loving support at home. It’s not easy for spouses, partners, loved ones, and dear friends to be with a person who suffers from serious mental health problems. Without a circle of support and robust behaviorial health treatment, I would be added to the list of aging men and women who live with unbearable emotional pain, and at risk of self injury or worse. It takes a village of kind and loving folks to help those who suffer a life time. These are the people in my life who help me stay grounded and positive. I’m so grateful for my spouse and close friends in our community of Lincoln County Oregon who are so supportive and caring… Thank you all!

Because it is challenging for others, some relationships, especially family, do not survive easily with the secondary emotional pain. Having a consistent loving connection with someone who is seriously challenged with PTSD and major depression is a tough assignment. Love is the only answer to healing as a family. Worse yet, the symptoms can be more troublesome with age and require a daily practice and discipline of mindfulness meditation practices, psychiatric supervision of medications, and trauma informed clinical therapy. I feel lucky to have found the right mix of treatment strategies. I now have hope for better days ahead. Click below…escape for a moment to calm the soul…

The hardest part of mental illness is the stigma that separates those of us who suffer from friends and loved ones more often than not, even for good when the going gets really tough. Worse yet is finding an effective “trauma informed” treatment and recovery support system is very complicated. It has taken me more than five decades to get to a place where feeling safe is possible. Folks with my long list of painful stuff over a life time feel “locked and loaded 24/7” without hardly a moment of peace. You learn to live this way and all too often don’t even realize the roots of the post trauma crises that persists over time.

I would suggest to anyone asking me about my experience and journey of healing that awareness is the first step in finding a better place in your life in managing emotional pain. Baby steps and daily actions that lead to some sense of calmness and stability can open the door to long term mitigation of symptoms that torture the mind and body. It is a work in progress. But it requires commitment, freedom from denial, acknowledgement of the symptoms, robust truama informed treatment, and most importantly, loving support from loved ones and dear friends who are caring.

Get started with your own plan to develop a high level of awareness on mental health. Talking to others and opening up is the first action step. You will easily see and feel the souls of others in your circle of friends and family who have empathy and compassion, and desire to make a difference with a loving and caring response. And, yes, it is hard, very hard at times. Look to each new day with hope and love. It is possible to heal and get better. It is possible to achieve peace of mind in your life. Lost souls do return home with strong faith in a higher power and spiritual growth in your own way. There is no black and white formula for healing.

Best wishes to all for a life of peace and happiness… It’s up to you!

Steve Sparks

click here for my author page…