Monthly Archives: August 2014

“The Homecoming” The music of veterans who are coming home…

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Breakaway Patriot…”The Homecoming”

Breakaway Patriot…Click for music video clip…

Breakaway Patriot- “The Homecoming” Click highlighted text for video clip documentary…interviews with warriors…

Short Summary…  Quoted from website…

“2 million men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. When these men and women come home, they’re integrated into society with broken lenses. The average age of today’s veteran is 22 years young. Most of these men and women were fighting in a war before they were even allowed to drink a beer in their own country. Our video will feature actual veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. They will be displaying customized messages straight from their hearts throughout the video.”

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The combat veteran’s homecoming can be highly painful, and mostly invisible to others.  Veterans often suffer in silence.  Warriors, including family members, do not always understand or are in denial of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).  Many veterans do not share their pain or admit to being diagnosed with PTSD for fear that the stigma of a mental health issue will keep them from getting a job or they are simply proud veterans and do not want to show weakness.  As a US Navy veteran from the Vietnam era, I was diagnosed with a non-combat related mental health disability resulting from growing up in a toxic home as a post WWII military child.  Children and families of warriors can suffer right along with a returning soldier struggling with readjustment and PTSD, and take on the same symptoms referred to as secondary PTSD or complex PTSD.  The compounded symptomatic conditions of life after trauma on family members has created a epidemic of post war trauma sufferers and survivors in America and around the globe.  It is critical for combat veterans and their loved loves to be aware on the consequences of not seeking treatment or being in denial.

Alternative treatment strategies such as mindfulness or meditation techniques vs.  prescription drugs and alcohol, are proving to be highly effective when treatment becomes a way of life and a journey of healing.  Healing from PTSD is often a work in progress that can last a lifetime…  On-going treatment strategies for the family as a whole can be very beneficial and offer relief and peace of mind from the horrors of war and the post war trauma connected with PTSD as it affects the entire family.

The included music production and video documentary of veteran interviews is a way to offer trauma victims more awareness and encourages treatment sooner than later.  Listen to the music and hear from selected warriors in the documentary to help you and your family find your own path of healing from the challenges in life after war and readjustment.

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

 

The Music of Healing and Relaxation…from our environment!

 

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Buy Album from Amazon…see sidebar

Amazing & Healing Environment Music!  click on music clip sample and buy album from my sidebar…Amazon Banner… “Environment.” ##### This amazing music, using our environment as the backdrop, is new for me.  The sounds take you immediately to some far off and spiritual happy place…  Take a listen and buy the album from my side bar at Amazon… Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… 

Spiritual and Human Connectedness…The Healing Music of Native Americans…

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Mesmeric Moon

 

Native American Flute & Guitar…  Click highlighted text for music video clip…

Sit back for a moment, relax, breathe deeply, and listen…while on your journey of healing…

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…

“Be A Kid’s Hero Daily” by Ginger Kadlec… What is child maltreatment?

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Steve Sparks, age 10 in 1956, was a victim of “child maltreatment” during his early child and young adult life…

Child Maltreatment is Real!  Quote from Ginger Kadlec’s “Be a Child’s Hero Daily” website…

“Child “maltreatment” is defined as “violent or cruel treatment” and encompasses a variety of abuses including physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.  Researchers reviewed nearly 5.7 million confirmed cases of maltreatment that were registered in the The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). This study found that approximately 80% of the child maltreatment cases involved neglect.”

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Child advocate, blogger and children’s author “wanna-be” working to improve the world one child at a time. Join Ginger’s efforts via her website at www.gingerkadlec.com.

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Be a Kid’s Hero…click for larger view…

Be a Kid’s Hero Daily…  Click on this website and subscribe to updates…  Quote from Ginger Kadlec…

“With an estimated 1 in 8 children victimized by maltreatment in the United States, child abuse is a problem of pandemic proportion. While it can be a difficult subject to discuss, we must address the issue of child abuse head-on to ensure the safety of little ones who entrust their very lives to the big people around them.”

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Ginger Kadlec is one of my favorite heroes!  She is by any measure an example of “Be a Kid’s Hero Daily.”  Ginger and I became friends a couple of years ago and collaborated on an article, The War Within: PTSD, (click highlighted text) that remains very popular to this day…  Ginger and I stay in touch on a regular basis.  She gave me great encouragement and helped me on my own journey of healing following the publication of Reconciliation: A Son’s Story in November 2011.

I refer to my life as a child as the “too terrible to remember 1950’s and early 1960’s.  It took me most of my adult life to forgive my parents and the toxic life we lived while growing up.  Forgiveness was absolutely critical to healing from child abuse and emotional neglect during my early years as a kid and young adult.  My father suffered terribly as a victim of severe trauma from hard combat during all of WWII and deployment during the Korean War as well.  My mother developed severe symptoms of secondary PTSD from her own Depression Era childhood, and as a military spouse and mother from the “Greatest Generation.”  Dad passed away in 1998 and lived a relatively peaceful life during his last years following a regimen of mental health treatments.  Mother is turning 96 this September and still has flashbacks from those post WWII years as a caregiver for my father.  We siblings carried the emotional baggage of PTSD forward as well, which we now know as the intergenerational effect and impact of living in a toxic home where love and kindness is almost non-existent.  PTSD hangs on like bad genes if not treated effectively or if the trauma victim is in denial….

I enjoy peace of mind these days as a senior citizen.  No longer are the bad dreams, the constant anxiety, depression, and ache in my heart, including physical pain.  No child should have to live with toxic circumstances at home, at play, or in school…never!  I spend my life in retirement making a difference for kids in my work with Neighbors for Kids in Depoe Bay, Oregon.  My life now is a blessing and a journey of healing, but still a work in progress.  Kids or adults who suffer from severe trauma often live with PTSD symptoms for a lifetime…the pain never leaves your heart and mind…but alternative treatment strategies keep my feet on the ground.  I am also blessed with an amazing spouse, family members, and great friends who help keep me focused on the love and kindness I so desperately needed as a kid, and didn’t discover until later in life…

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…

 

“I feel nothing, or I am just angry!” Soledad O’Brien: “For veterans, the war comes home…”

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Moving new CNN Special Presentation Explores Hope for Vets Struggling with Post Traumatic Stress…

A Soledad O’Brien Report… 

 

 

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Garrett Combs, left, and Delon Beckett this month at a screening of “The War Comes Home.”  Click for larger view…

The outer shell of him came back. But everything on the inside was dead. 
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The War Comes Home…A CNN Special Report… Click for story and video clip…a must see!  Quote from the story…

Clark said many of the men and women in his program have tried to commit suicide and had frightening near misses. Attempted suicide by cop, attempted hangings, car crashes, some even tried to kill themselves at home in the company of family or friends. Clark was there himself, no job and struggling in recovery. His experience and those of his friends are what prompted him to scrape up the money to try developing a program.”

“The meditation keeps me sober,” Beckett said of the central technique in the program. “It was only 5½ days but I learned things for my whole life.” One of the things he learned was that there is power in sharing your problem with other warriors.

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The combat veteran who suffered from trauma as a child is considered a much higher risk for compounded post trauma symptoms and PTSD.  As a US Navy military child growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s living with a father who braved all of WWII in hard combat and a tour of duty during the Korean War…I was already affected with the symptoms of PTSD when joining the US Navy in 1963…but didn’t have a clue.  I didn’t even experience combat but was diagnosed with symptoms of severe depression and anxiety while serving in the Navy anyway.  I am a strong believer in alternative treatment strategies that include the entire family.  Otherwise, it is very difficult if not impossible to stop the intergenerational cycle of pain connected with trauma survivors.

The treatment strategies outlined in this documentary are designed to treat the combat veteran trauma survivor as well as family members. While visiting the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, NMex  (click highlighted text for more) in May the clinical psychologists and psychiatrists present during my talk, shared that they think about the need for including the entire family in treatment, but sadly, only have the resources to treat veterans individually, excluding the family as whole.

Don’t let your veteran go it alone once on the journey of “coming home.”  Coming home can never be a reality until the trauma survivor finally feels peace of mind, self worth, and a productive member of society who can love and be loved again.  Rebuilding trust is the true test of finally coming home permanently…

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…

Screening Kids to Prevent Childhood Trauma… Ask not what is wrong with your child, ask what happened!

 

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CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) Click highlighted text for more…

 

 

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Tabitha Lawson and her two happy children

Parents and Teachers Help Prevent Childhood Trauma (ACES)  Quote from this website article from ACES too High News…

“When parents bring their four-month-olds to a well-baby checkup at the Children’s Clinic in Portland, OR, Drs. Teri Petersen, R.J. Gillespie and their 15 other partners ask the parents about their adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

When parents bring a child who’s bouncing off the walls and having nightmares to the Bayview Child Health Center in San Francisco, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris doesn’t ask: “What’s wrong with this child?” Instead, she asks, “What happened to this child?” and calculates the child’s ACE score.”

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When I was growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s the conversation at home and in school was “what is wrong with your child rather than what happened to this child.”  Childhood trauma is not new.  We still have toxic homes and neighborhoods, but parents and teachers know more in the 21st Century thanks to the CDC ACES study and testing.  “The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States.”

As a child advocate and vice chair of Neighbors for Kids, a popular after-school program in Depoe Bay, Oregon, we often have to address all types of special needs of kids, including the effects of trauma.  The more we know from collaboration with public school teachers and parents, we are able to pay particular attention to traumatized children and help them effectively.  I know from my own traumatic childhood experience that growing up feeling alone, scared, and asking myself “what is wrong with me” or hearing “what is wrong with you” had long term damaging consequences on my ability to build self confidence and feel connected with other kids and my adult mentors.  Eventually joining the US Navy at age 17 as a young adult saved the day.  No child should suffer from emotional neglect and abuse and believe there is something wrong with them…early recognition and special attention is critical!

When you observe a child bouncing off the walls, or looking scared and lonely, please show love and compassion.  As a teacher, mentor, and parent you are in a great position to help children heal from a traumatic experience by seeking more information about life at home by asking “what happened” and providing the loving care and attention all children deserve…sooner than later…

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

A Powerful Staged Reading of “Riva Beside Me” a novel by Carla Perry… A story of hope and healing…

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“Riva Beside Me” cast members are, KE Edmisten, left, as “The Mother,” Sarah Gayle as “Riva,” Hovey Grosvenor as “Richard,” and Wayne Plourde as “The Narrator.” (Photo by Carla Perry)  Click photo for larger view…

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CARLA PERRY is the founder of the monthly Nye Beach Writers’ Series and Writers On The Edge, a nonprofit organization dedicated to literary arts on the Central Oregon Coast. She received the Stewart Holbrook Special Oregon Book Award for her outstanding contributions to Oregon’s literary community, and the Oregon Governor’s Art Award for the longevity and quality of Writers on The Edge.

Staged Reading of Riva Beside Me, by Carla Perry…  Quote from this website Lincoln County Dispatch… The novel, “Riva Beside Me: New York City 1963-1966,” is based on real life, growing up in Manhattan in a dysfunctional family. But the story is one of transition and hope, where humor and love prevail. Perry says the story makes it obvious that angels walk among us.”

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My wife, Judy, pulled me away from a lazy day at home, and gave me a wonderful and heartwarming surprise… the staged reading of Riva Beside Me by Carla Perry (order book on my sidebar from Amazon.) at Café Mundo, Newport, Oregon.  Carla is a close friend of ours so the performance was even more special.  Judy read her book as well, and loved it!  No more procrastination on my part now… I have to find out about the ending since the staged reading performance included excerpts from about 60% of the book.

The performance by the cast, especially the character of “the mother” by KE Edmisten, triggered painful memories of my own toxic childhood growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  I was moved and visibly shaken until my empathy and compassion kicked in for the dysfunctional circumstances surrounding Carla’s childhood.  I could see my own family in a reality show on stage during the performance…it was both cathartic and healing…

Before researching and writing my own non-fiction story, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, there was hate in my heart for decades from experiencing child abuse and emotional neglect.  The hate is now gone, and my journey of healing has taken over completely.  Once we let go of the anger and hate connected with a traumatic experience or event, we are able to forgive and move on.  Carla Perry and I are both survivors and battle buddies in life after trauma.  Thank you, Carla Perry, for your friendship and for helping others find their own path of healing.  You and the cast of the staged reading of your novel, Riva Beside Me, is now included on my bucket list of most grateful and treasured memories in life.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…

 

Sir Patrick Stewart’s Story Inspires Trauma Survivors to Make a Difference…

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Sir Patrick Stewart…photo by — Nino Munoz

Finding a Light in the Darkness… Sir Patrick Stewart “banished his demons by fighting for battered women and veterans…by Meg Grant…

“Far from the heroic, self-assured characters he’s played — and the joyful person he is today — Stewart was for decades a man plagued by fear and stifled by rage. The roots of his struggle go back to a difficult childhood, marked by poverty and abuse that took him years to understand. Having only recently opened up about the trauma of his early years, he now behaves as a person liberated, and eager, finally, to step out and join the party.”

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When self-talk of being too old or who cares enters my mind at the prime age of 68, mentors like Sir Patrick Stewart, 73, come to my rescue.  I have written about Patrick Stewart in the past.  Patrick’s childhood was toxic (click highlighted text) in a post WWII culture of silence, secrecy, and pain.  He grew up in a home suffering from the symptoms of PTSD created by the trauma of his father’s WWII combat experience.

Patrick Stewart’s father  (click on highlighted text for video clip) was angry following WWII and was violent toward his mother…but did not abuse his children…  It was quite the opposite in my father’s case following WWII.  We siblings took the brunt of Dad’s anger for many years, especially during the “too terrible to remember 1950’s.”  My mother lived in fear of course, and the constant toxic conditions at home caused her to suffer terribly with secondary PTSD.  Mother still has flashbacks at age 96. 

Like many trauma survivors following WWII, years of silence, ignorance, and stigma attached to mental health issues caused the emotional pain to linger on for many years and even a lifetime.  Those survivors like Patrick Stewart discovered a career passion that kept the pain at a safe distance.  Eventually, once becoming aware of the roots of PTSD and alternative treatment strategies, thousands of trauma survivors like me, including Patrick Stewart, have been able to start our own path of healing by reaching out and making a difference for others.

Although a work in progress, it is possible for trauma survivors to achieve peace of mind and a joyful life even after many decades of emotional pain from the symptoms of PTSD.  I now feel blessed to have been able to confront my own demons in very healthy ways…  Please take a look at my archives and find a topic that gets your attention… To learn more about alternative treatment strategies click “Letting go of what you can’t change,” a recent post.

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

 

How to treat “Silo Disorder” as a Detriment to Rural Community Building and Vitality…

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Strategic Philanthropy  Click highlighted text for more…

 

 

NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT

Collective Impact

“Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.”

“Collective Impact!”  Quote from this article from Stanford Social Innovation Review…

“Against these daunting odds, a remarkable exception seems to be emerging in Cincinnati. Strive, a nonprofit subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, has brought together local leaders to tackle the student achievement crisis and improve education throughout greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. In the four years since the group was launched, Strive partners have improved student success in dozens of key areas across three large public school districts. Despite the recession and budget cuts, 34 of the 53 success indicators that Strive tracks have shown positive trends, including high school graduation rates, fourth-grade reading and math scores, and the number of preschool children prepared for kindergarten.”

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Ralls, Texas Grain Silos 2010

I was asked again yesterday, what is meant by my reference to a rural community sickness coined by me as “Silo Disorder.”  For starters click on the highlighted text link that defines a “silo” mostly connected with a farming community where grain is stored in tall cylinder structures close to rail transportation.  My work over the past 25 years in rural community building projects reveals that the greatest challenge and obstacle to overcome at the beginning of any project for the “greater good” is to get our neighbors and community leaders to talk to each other, build relationships, discover teamwork, and find common ground…  We often refer to this process as leadership, but I don’t believe defining leadership initially helps…it is too subjective.  Leadership means different things to folks and the dots are rarely connected unless there is a reference to something tangible and attention getting like “silo disorder.”  If we all stay in our tiny sheltered world of self interests only, we never see the light of day or the bigger picture of what we should be talking about to build community vitality where new opportunities are discovered…where innovation happens…where we begin to find new social investment capital never before realized by creating public private partnerships (PPP)… click for graphic images…

Communities everywhere dream about economic development and improving the community as a popular destination point for vacationers and travelers, including building a much better quality of life for citizens, but can’t seem to make it happen until tearing down the silo mentality and start talking and trusting each other.  We residents and community leaders often find ourselves stuck in the mud for decades because we spend our time picking on each other about the small stuff, and never get to the part where a strategic plan for the greater good comes into clear view.

We have to stop all the silliness and ignorance right now where ever we live and get down to the basics of building a community culture that thrives.  Get all these individual self interest groups, including local government, business, non-profits, schools, colleges, chambers of commerce, home owner associations, young adults, adults, seniors, moms, dads, parents, and grand parents, including the kids to hold hands and start talking… amazing stuff will happen in your community!  Go for it and stop whining, complaining, and blaming.  It takes a village, a team, and strong leadership to build a thriving community.  We have to do this work for the greater good together with common goals and strategic plans…  Start talking and trusting your friends and neighbors and get to work!

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

and…

Vice Chair, www.neighborsforkids.org, Depoe Bay, Oregon

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Neighbors for Kids, Depoe Bay, Oregon…A public private partnership (PPP)…click for larger view…

“Letting Go of What You Can’t Change…” Thinking of a “glass half full” vs. “half empty” is a good mindfulness exercise to help see the positive side…

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“Glass Half Full…”

Letting go…  Quote from this website article…click on the highlighted text to learn more…

Letting Go of What You Cannot Change

Turn what you cannot change into peace and contentment with this very moment.

“Glass-half-full/glass-half-empty is an idiom used to describe how people think of their lives. People who see their lives as a glass that’s half-full are thought to have an optimistic and joyful outlook on life—they’re looking at what’s in the glass. By contrast, those who see their lives as a glass that’s half-empty are thought to have a pessimistic and negative outlook on life—they’re looking at what’s missing from the glass.”

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I grew up in a home where the “glass was half empty” forever…  My parents had a hard time finding anything positive about most things.  In this negative culture everything seemed to be wrong most of the time.  The entire family was affected by an attitude of self talk and conversation of whining, complaining, and blaming everyone and everything on most every day.  It was a challenge growing up with this kind of attitude constantly present at home.  I instinctively felt something was not right with the almost daily negative conversation toward each other, everybody and everything else in life…always the dark side…  This kind of “glass half empty” world at home is not easy to fight back and will often stick around unless you are showed another more positive model of behavior.

Once leaving home to join the US Navy in 1963, I started hearing more of the positive and encouraging talk from adult mentors who built me up as a young man.  The Navy boot camp experience was tough, but most of the young men in training were always thinking about graduating, moving on to a vocational training school, the first duty station, and going back home for a visit…there was lots of hope and promise about what was in front of us.  We talked up the positive and the competition to succeed was highly motivating.

It took years for me to finally let go of all the self doubt and negative talk that life at home as a kid and young adult directed my attention.  At first there was a consistent need for outward affirmation from others of positive individual behavior and in the value of team success.  It was much later in life that the idea of using mindfulness techniques and exercises like the “glass is half full” helped me during the times when it was important for me to remind myself when others were not present.  I had to learn how to create a positive thought process and personal discipline of staying on top of my game.  It became clear that no one else but me was responsible for maintaining a positive outlook in life…and that it is a work in progress for most everyone.

The referenced link and article, Letting Go, What You Can’t Change is a good way to revisit the importance of using mindfulness techniques and meditation that help maintain a positive frame of mind.  We are often alone or not in a place to get direct positive feedback from colleagues, friends, and family members.  When the negative thoughts start to creep back in think about the “glass half full.”  It really works.  Try it right now…

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