How can a person hate Christmas?  Quote from this website…

“People with PTSD may experience symptoms of emotional numbing. As the name implies, people with PTSD may have difficulties experiencing certain emotions, especially positive emotions. A person with PTSD may know that an event is enjoyable, but simply be unable to experience joy and happiness associated with that event.

Given this, if you notice that a family member with PTSD does not seem to be enjoying the holidays, try not to take it personally. It is very possible that the family member’s PTSD may be preventing him or her from connecting with positive emotions.”

I am now learning how to love the Holiday Season!  It is still a challenge at times, but knowing why I “hated Christmas” for most of my adult life has been very healing and constructive for me and my loved ones.  Each and every year at Christmas time, my wife, Judy, dreaded my annual announcement, “I hate Christmas!”  The joyous season was no joy for me starting around Thanksgiving, and it was a feeling never understood until researching and writing my book.   I usually did a pretty good job making others at home miserable during the Holiday Season.  I even avoided contact with my kids who lived elsewhere during this time because it was so difficult to feel the joy that came so easily for others, so it seemed. 

Not knowing why one has certain negative feelings that affect those close to you is not good anytime of the year.  But with increased awareness of the symptoms of PTSD and the pain of moral injury, it is entirely possible to experience the joy of the Holiday Season.  This will be the second year in a row that Judy nor others will hear, “I hate Christmas.”  I feel more joy now than ever, and very blessed.  The journey of healing is well in hand for me and others in my family.  My heart is more open to the spiritual meaning of Christmas as a Christian.  My only regret is not knowing and learning much earlier in life about moral injury and the symptoms of PTSD.  Living and coping with the pain is terrible for the person affected, but even worse for those you love, who have to live with this negative behavior.   This time of the year is special and it is when we should all have forgiveness in our hearts, lots of love to share, and a desire to make a difference for others.  When you engage in making others happy, you are much happier!

I love Christmas!  And the New Year looks like a winner too! 

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

The Harry S. Truman, “Little White House” Key West Florida…Recognizing first year of Post WWII “Boomer” Generation…1946

Little White House  Quote from this website…

“In November 1946, President Harry S Truman had finished 19 months in office, but was physically exhausted. His doctor, Wallace Graham, ordered a warm vacation. Truman arrived in November, 1946. As he was leaving he promised to return whenever he felt the need for rest. His second vacation came in March 1947. This set the pattern for additional visits every November–December and every February–March. Changing technology allowed the President to communicate with multiple political or world leaders at one time and he could summon staff to Key West for a meeting in three hours flight from Washington. Most importantly, Truman realized that where the President was, the White House was. Documents issued from the Little White House read, The White House, US Naval Station, Key West, Florida. Truman spent 175 days of his presidency at the Little White House in Key West, FL. In 1947, James Forrestal met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to hammer out the creation of the Department of Defense. This was called the Key West Agreement.”

As a proud member of the “boomers” born in 1946, it was a thrill for me to be reminded of this historical site.  President Truman showed us for the first time that the White House is wherever the President of the United States is at anytime…  These days the White House is often on Air Force One… 

Honestly, my memories of the “Little White House” are vague at best.  But as we toured the grounds and the museum, the memories came back.  I was just a baby in November 1946 when President Truman first visited Key West, and made it a working remote White House primarily during the months of November and December; and February through March.  Since then Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton occupied the Little White House at times.
“In 1991, the house opened as a state historic site & museum. Former President Jimmy Carter and family had a reunion here in 1996. In April, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell opened a week of OSCE peace talks, led by Minsk Group Co-Chairman Carey Cavanaugh between President Robert Kocharyan of Armenia and Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan.[3]  The first President to visit the site was William Howard Taft in December 1912.[2] He arrived by Flagler’s Overseas Railroad and sailed to Panama to inspect the canal then under construction. During World War I, Thomas Edison resided in the house while donating his service to the war effort.[2] He .perfected 41 weapons during his six month stay.[2] The house remained command headquarters through World War II.”

We Boomers have become so busy in our lives since WWII, it would not be surprising to me that a high percentage of my peers do not remember the “Little White House.”  I have discovered while on our own journey the past few months that revisiting history is an honor and privilege.   It is personally moving and heartfelt to be reminded of how proud we can be as Americans; and to appreciate the sacrifices of so many citizens in our past who protected our freedoms…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory – Mesmerizing and Magical…Nature’s “Special Effects.”

Butterfly Perched

Butterfly Feeding on Fruit

Steve & Judy at Conservatory Entrance

Inside Conservatory
“The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory has been voted by The People’s Choice Awards the #1 Attraction in Key West for the past four years in a row. It is home to hundreds of butterflies and exotic colorful birds from around the world. The Conservatory is truly a magical experience filled with lush tropical vegetation and cascading waterfalls, all under a climate-controlled, glass-enclosed habitat. A short educational 15-minute film detailing the fascinating world of butterflies sets the stage in the Learning Center. Also be sure to browse through the extensive Gift Shop and Gallery which offer a wide variety of unique and one-of-a-kind nature related gifts.”
If Heaven is like this, I can’t wait to get there with Judy at my side…  I would choose coming back as a butterfly in this special nature conservatory, if there was reincarnation…
When we walked into the conservatory with butterflies and birds flying all around us and perched in the trees, time stood still…  We even stopped in our tracks to take it all in… We couldn’t get enough of this utterly beautiful and peaceful place of Mother Nature at her best.  The feeling was similar to the attention getting special effects we often experience in 3D pictures with the latest computer technology, but 10 times better because it is real, very real…
Learning more than we ever knew about butterflies was special.  Butterflies are farmed, raised and observed in this special nature conservatory as a way to conserve and protect the butterfly globally.  The Monarch Butterfly even gets a “patch” these days to track its migration.  The tiny high tech ID patch is placed on the wing of the butterfly and retrieved when reaching its destination to study its migration path.  The Monarch can live for months depending on its migration path, from North to South America.
I strongly recommend visiting the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory as a once in a lifetime experience!  You will not be disappointed…
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Key West, Florida – Where “going south” really means something…

Florida Keys “Southernmost” Sunset

Southernmost Public Beach – Key West

Southernmost House
Casa Cayo Hueso – The Southernmost House in the Continental United States – Key West (June 4, 2008)

Located on the ocean, The Southernmost House was built in 1896 for a cost of $250,000 (approximately $6 million today) by Judge J. Vining Harris, who married into the prominent Curry family. In 1939, the Ramos family purchased the property, which had been converted into a Cuban nightclub called Café Cayo Hueso (Bone Island Café), for $49,000.

In 1954, it was converted back into a residence and remained so until 1996 when a $3 million restoration began to turn it into a 13-room hotel, with a museum on the first floor.

Exterior paint colors are authentic, as are elegant crown moldings, ceiling medallions, ornamental woodwork and friezes, which were originally painted white, but have been redone in splashy shades reminiscent of its days as a Cuban nightclub.  Quote from this website…

“Going South”

Where did it come from? My guess is that it’s based on graphical images. Think of sales charts that show worse results as a line going downwards (even at times figuratively “through the floor”), using the convention that regards height as good and depth as bad. Then combine that with maps, which by convention have north at the top. So a firm that was failing had its sales going figuratively in a southerly direction.”

Judy and I have reached the end of the road!  We are talking “going south” as a true definition.  It has nothing to do with sales charts showing bad results or failing to meet targets.  My entire life to this point had “going south” in a bad light.  Not so, the real definition of this milestone is finally arriving to a beautiful tropical paradise in the southernmost geographical location in America, Key West, Florida.  Unless you have a boat, this is it!  We now get to turn-around and start our journey home on Wednesday.  We have traveled 3514 miles to get to the southernmost point in the USA.  A real milestone for a couple of “60 somethings.”  Would you agree?

We have climbed mountains we never climbed before, been on hikes we thought we could not finish, and found ourselves lost more than a few times.  We have been exhausted at times, and have had an argument or two, even debates about lots of stuff. .  And there have been a couple of challenges and disappointments along the way.  But all in all, our journey has been amazing so far, and seems to get even more exciting as we think about our return home. 

The best part of this “60 something” celebration of freedom journey, is doing it with my lifetime partner, and the love of my life, my dear wife and best friend, Judy…  We have loved, learned, and discovered ourselves and each other in new ways on this journey.  And to think we are just at the halfway point!  New beginnings and discoveries to follow… Stay with us until we get safely home…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Depoe Bay, Oregon to Key West, Florida
3514 Miles!


Young Life – Spiritual and personal growth for young adults… Meet my grandson Joey pictured in the photo above to the right of me with my four grand children…  Read more from this website…

Young Life Camp

Swimming campers at Young Life’s Wildhorse Canyon camp (now Washington Family Ranch).

“Young Life maintains camps in 14 American states as well as three camps in British Columbia, Canada and camps in the Dominican Republic and South America.[1] Referred to as “The Best Week of Your Life,” these camps are well attended and incorporate Christian messages based on the grace of God into an environment stressing fun and safety, with many secular activities mixed in to include non-Christians. Although the camps vary in activity type and location, many camps include a waterfront or lake, hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, ropes courses and many other activities. These camps are attended by students from around the world, and are staffed by a mix of full-time Young Life employees and student, young adult and adult volunteer, with the average camper to staff ratio being about 5:1. Young Life camps introduce and reinforce the essential beliefs of Christianity to Christians and non-Christians alike with the aid of comedy and pop culture.”

I am so pleased and proud to introduce my dear Grandson, Joey, who is pictured above on the far right with me and all four beautiful grand kids.  Joey is just beginning his life journey as an adult on his own pursuing studies as a sophomore at St. Cloud State University, St Cloud, Mn.  He is also very active in the Young Life non-profit mission as an area leader to mentor teens in their search for spiritual connectedness and personal growth.  Young Life is described in the link above and has been in existence since 1941.  Young Life is one of the largest and most successful faith based organizations in America.  The mission is to mentor young adults in achieving a happy, healthy, and productive life rooted in spiritual connectedness and in making a difference for others.

I am so proud of Joey and all my grand children!  They remind me each day of the importance of ensuring that all children have every opportunity to grow up with spiritual values, healthy bodies, and strong minds… 

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Visit to Everglades National Park…Thanksgiving gratitude…And honoring early American warriors…during the “Second Seminole War…


Osceola  Seminole Chief (1804–1838)  Quote from this site…

“The Second Seminole War, also known as the Florida War, was a conflict from 1835 to 1842 in Florida between various groups of Native Americans collectively known as Seminoles and the United States, part of a series of conflicts called the Seminole Wars. The Second Seminole War, often referred to as the Seminole War, was the most expensive Indian War fought by the United States.”

After the war

“Peace had come to Florida for a while. The Indians were mostly staying on the reservation, but there were minor clashes. The Florida authorities continued to press for removal of all Indians from Florida. The Indians for their part tried to limit their contacts with whites as much as possible. As time went on there were more serious incidents. The government resolved once more to remove all Indians from Florida, and applied increasing pressure on the Seminoles until they struck back, starting theThird Seminole War of 1855-1858.[78]  Quote from this website…

From the National Museum of the American Indian (part of the Smithsonian), a “workbook” online called “Coming Home: Strength through Culture.”
From a segment entitled, “Healing after the War”
“According to American Indian traditional beliefs, war affects a soldier’s well being, and makes it difficult for him to live in the everyday world. For American Indians, returning home means returning to a place — a land, a community, a family, and a culture — that you are part of, a place that you have a special relationship with. Participating in war interferes with your ability to be part of this place. It upsets the balance of life. This is why American Indian cultures have special ceremonies to help bring the soldier’s life back into balance — to make it possible for the soldier to once again live in peace and to be physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally healthy.”
A bird of southern swamps, the Anhinga is known as the Water-Turkey for its swimming habits and broad tail, and also as the Snake-Bird for its habit of swimming with just its long head and neck sticking out of the water.

Florida Bay at Flamingo, “End of the Road.”

Judy at the entrance of the park



Driving further south to the Everglades is a surreal experience, especially the massive swamp lands covering thousands of square miles.  Southern Florida is referred to as the “river of grass” and Florida Bay, the southern most tip of Everglades National Park, is called the “bay of 10,000 islands.  Some even call southern Florida the “land with 10,000 lakes” I thought Minnesota was the only USA State given this honor.  The facts, however, show Florida with almost 8,000 lakes and 10,000 miles of streams and rivers.

The history of this land includes the Seminole Warrior and the wars with early Americans who were fighting for the land.  Everywhere we travel it seems there is history of early American veterans, including American Indians who struggled and died protecting the spiritual lands they loved.  The 2nd Seminole War referred to above is an example of one of a series of wars fighting for the swamp lands, water rights, fishing grounds, and agricultural bonanza represented in southern Florida.  The road to Homestead, Florida shows the abundance of agriculture and nursery farms that grow tropical fruits, trees and plants sent around the world.

My travels have helped me become highly aware of the challenges of life after war for these early American warriors who showed the same symptoms of moral injury and PTSD.  Early Native Americans are considered model examples of how to help warriors return to a healthy homecoming following war.   Reference the above quote from “Healing After War,” from the workbook, “Coming Home: Strength through Culture.”

While we focus on the present and past wars of America since the Civil War, and the struggles of life after war, it is wise to honor and learn from Native Americans the value of “healing the soul.”

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Dania Beach Florida…Hanging out with gratitude…

Judy at Dania Beach Pier
Steve, hanging out at Dania Beach,_Florida Quote from this site…

“Dania Beach is a city in Broward County, Florida, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city’s population was 29,639. It is part of the South Florida metropolitan area, which was home to 5,564,635 people at the 2010 census. Dania Beach is the location of one of the largest jai alai frontons in the United States, Dania Jai-Alai.[3] It is also the location for an amusement center named Boomers! (formerly Grand Prix Race-O-Rama), was home to the Pirate’s World amusement park and home to the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum.”

We can’t get enough of the beaches and weather in southern Florida…  It is with much gratitude on this Thanksgiving 2012 to experience this beautiful area of America.  Wishing all our family and friends a very happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Steve & Judy Sparks

Breaking down the stigma through awareness…Case in point…

Click the above book cover and download or purchase a copy!
Patrick Kennedy
By Mark Roth / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy told a national psychiatric nurses convention Downtown on Wednesday that if the nation could focus on the brain injuries and post-traumatic stress afflicting returning military veterans, it might finally break down the stigma that has hobbled mental health treatment for decades.”

Read more:

Once denial and stigma sets in on a person and society as a whole, it is a most difficult challenge to break it down…  But we must try!

As a case in point,  I was age 64 when there was suddenly a breakthrough!  It was a journey and process of awareness for so many years until researching and writing, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  I grew up in a home with a mental health disorder epidemic…  My father’s emotional struggles from severe combat exposure during all of WWII and the Korean War took its toll on him and our family.  We had no idea why we were so dysfunctional as a family.  It was never clear to me until recently.  All the years of wondering, the pain of a knot in my gut, the anger, persisted while trying to cope as a trial and error process.  Maturity certainly helped, and learning how to control the triggers, including getting my arms around the use of prescription medications and alcohol helped a great deal.  But the shock of finally learning the truth at age 64 was the key to healing my soul…

Read my book and experience what one family lived with for 70 years before we really understood moral injury and PTSD.  The journey of healing continues for my family, but peace of mind knowing the root causes is a gift.  Making a difference by helping others with self discovery and soul feeding helps me each and every day to keep my feet on the ground…

Happy Thanksgiving!  I feel much gratitude for the support and love from my family and friends…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Listen to President Bill Clinton & CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta! Don’t, DO NOT pop pills while drinking alcohol!

Clinton:  “America popping too many pills!”  Quote from this website…

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, President Bill Clinton Discuss No. 1 Accidental Killer

Deadly Dose: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports debuts Sunday, Nov. 18, 8:00pm ET & PT
“Every 19 minutes, someone dies of a drug overdose in America. That U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistic refers to legal and illegal drug use, but most of those overdose deaths are due to legal prescription drugs.”
I feel blessed and lucky to be alive when waking up to a new day…  At age 66 looking back at my ignorance while drinking alcohol and popping pills hits me like a baseball bat.  It was just stupid, really stupid.  I am a successfully retired IT executive, college graduate, and now author,  dedicating my time to charity causes.  At a painful time in my past, however, like countless others in the world, I took pain killers, sleeping pills, anti depressants and drank alcohol to self medicate and/or treat symptoms of depression and anxiety.  I remember one time accepting a “pill” from my older brother to help me sleep after a night of too much drinking.  It was a terrible night, and clearly not a good choice.  Taking another pill did not help me prepare for a big day with customers the following morning.  I could have stopped breathing!
Of course, now the subject of “brain chemistry” and the consequences of mixing alcohol with prescription drugs is a big part of my story of healing.  It is simple, DO NOT do it!  You could kill yourself!
Even worse, if you don’t kill yourself, you often behave like a maniac with this dangerous cocktail of prescription drugs and alcohol.  My marriage came very close to going right down the tube some 12 years ago.  Relationships with family members and loved ones was far more challenging and destructive at the time.  It was a struggle to maintain my balance and focus while working.  It was clearly a path of self destruction!
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Veterans have a sense of urgency as business leaders… Getting results requires “hyper vigilance.”

Iraq veterans Alan Nudo (left) and Marco Concepcion are training as carpenters. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

Read more:  Quote from this website…

Veterans are good for business


Michael Bleckerea

Updated 4:07 p.m., Friday, November 9, 2012

Read more:

“Employers are hesitant to hire veterans for reasons both real and perceived. Yes, many of today’s veterans have done multiple combat tours and carry trauma with them beyond the battlefield. But veterans are by no means the only population dealing with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The truth?
— 26 percent of veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD or other mental health conditions, according to the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.
— 26 percent of Americans have a diagnosable mental health condition, including anxiety, mood disorder, impulse control or substance abuse disorder, according to the National Comorbidity Survey.”

Employers who hesitate to hire veterans who served in combat should take note!   I spent many years as a business leader in the information technology sector.  My own success is attributed in a major way for having “hyper vigilance” and a sense of urgency about getting results.  The laser like focus was a gift, but also a result of the symptoms of PTSD.  I channeled the energy that comes from being “on edge” all the time to motivating employees and building strong relationships with customers.

Don’t hesitate and don’t wait to hire a veteran…  The percentages are not in the employers favor since around 26% of veterans have been diagnosed with the gift of “hyper vigilance.”  Be alert and proactive in searching for the best candidates to fill positions that require a sense of urgency.
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story