Monthly Archives: October 2015

Neighbors for Kids and Kids Zone Presents “BeatlesFest” at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, Lincoln City Oregon, Saturday Nov7th…Doors Open 630pm…

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Neighbors for Kids 3rd Annual Music and Fund Raising Event “BeatlesFest” at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, Lincoln City, Oregon Saturday November 7th

Neighbors for Kids, “BeatlesFest” at the Lincoln City Cultural Center  Quote from this link…

Take some great songs and make them better at the Kids Zone BeatlesFest

 

Story & photos by Patrick Alexander

Oregon Coast TODAY

Let it be known that the sounds of the Beatles will fill the auditorium of the Lincoln City Cultural Center on Saturday, Nov. 7, as Neighbors for Kids holds a fund-raising music festival honoring the Fab Four.

All you need is love in your heart, a spring in your step and $15 in your pocket to enjoy BeatlesFest, an evening packed with classic hits, great food and gourmet whisky tasting.

All proceeds go toward the group’s Kids Zone education enrichment program in Depoe Bay, where dedicated staff put in a hard day’s night eight days a week, providing supplemental art, music, math and science activities for kids of all income levels.

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I could not be more proud of the work of Neighbors for Kids and our signature “Kids Zone” after-school program.  My 6 years serving on the NFK Board has been a heartfelt and personally rewarding experience to watch us grow and make a huge difference for the children and families of greater Depoe Bay and Lincoln County Oregon.

For a non-profit business enterprise, we must become great at fund raising along with value added program development.  Otherwise, we would be unable to sustain the operations expenses connected with providing excellent programming by retaining professional staff and the many volunteers who help us each and every day of the year.  The diversified funding from grant makers, individual donations, and fund raising events, like the upcoming BeatlesFest, including the tireless work of board members, staff, and volunteers is the “magic sauce” of our continued success.  We are kindred spirits with a common goal and passion to provide children in our community the very best in education, mentoring, and a healthy life style.

Thank you for your continued support!  Join us on November 7th at the Lincoln City Cultural Center for a fun evening for a great cause, Kids Zone…  Order your tickets to BeatlesFest from our website highlighted below, or just show up for the event.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, and Child Advocate…

Vice Chair, Neighbors for Kids, Depoe Bay, Oregon

Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

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Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

 

Teaching Kids Early in School to be Mindful of Stress is a Huge Step in Mitigating the Onset of Long Term Depression and Anxiety!

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Students practicing mindfulness…with the aid of a teacher…

Schools are now teaching kids…and parents…how to deal with stress…  Quote from this link…

 October 7

On a recent Tuesday morning at Lafayette Elementary School in Northwest Washington, Sofia Parodi took a coveted seat at the head of the classroom and asked a fellow fourth-grader to switch off the lights.

“Close your eyes and take three deep breaths,” she instructed her classmates, who fell into a familiar rhythm of silently counting their breaths, then sharing their experience with their classmates.

Sofia was the day’s mindfulness helper, a temporary apprentice to Linda Ryden. Ryden is Lafayette’s peace teacher (yes, that’s her title), who leads about 500 of the school’s students in weekly courses on mindfulness — a practice aimed at enhancing self-awareness and reducing stress by focusing, without judgment, on the present moment.

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I have been writing about teaching kids and parents how to be mindful of stressful circumstances both at home, in school, and at play for 5 years now in this blog and through my books.  Just the other day during a stressful meeting as a board member of Neighbors for Kids in Depoe Bay, Oregon, we paused to be mindful as adults of the challenges facing us as community leaders.  Our teachers and mentors practice the same mindfulness exercises with our students each and every day.  We do this to help all of us recognize that we are not alone in feeling the stressful aspects of life and the day to day challenges we all face together.  The practice of “mindfulness stress reduction” (click this link) really works and is catching on more and more in schools everywhere.

During my early life in school, we were silent about stress most of the time…  It was an exhausting and lonely time for many post WWII and Korean War kids who lived in often toxic and violent circumstances at home.  Once in awhile there would be a teacher or mentor who paid special attention to those of us struggling with stress, and tried to help.  For the most part we tried to keep a safe distance from the emotional pain because it was not generally understood during the Post WWII era.  Consequently, and sadly, we moved on to adult life with all this bottled up emotional baggage that had to come out sooner or later…and it did in often tragic ways.

The good news…it is never to late to confront the baggage connected with post trauma circumstances, even after many years of denial or avoidance.  It took me until age 64 to find my way to a path of healing by writing my first non-fiction memoir.  There are many alternative strategies to practice mindfulness stress reduction.  Writing and speaking about the subject has been a gift of peace of mind for me for the first time in my life.  Be kind to yourself and others and learn more about ways to reduce stress through the practice of mindfulness.  I admit it is a work in progress, but has been very effective for so many who stick with it, especially children.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1&2…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, and Child Advocate

Patrick J. Kennedy’s Memoir is Cathartic and Healing…”A Common Struggle” indeed…

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Ted Kennedy and son Patrick…

Patrick Kennedy opens up about toxic family life and PTSD…

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Click the book cover to order…

“At the forefront is his father, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, whom Patrick now believes suffered not only from a serious “drinking problem” but also from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder following the assassinations of brother and President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and brother Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. 

Patrick goes on to paint a raw and unsettling portrait of his father, a man he says suffered “in silent desperation for much of his life, self-medicating and unwittingly passing his unprocessed trauma onto my sister, brother and me.”

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I know something about a common struggle of “untreated post-traumatic stress!”  Patrick Kennedy does too…  Children growing up in a family affected by severe traumatic experiences, often take on the same mental health symptoms and behaviors as parents who struggle.  Untreated PTSD is mostly hidden behind closed doors with family members getting the direct hit of the symptoms of self medication, anger, depression, panic attacks, including emotional and physical abuse.  The toxic behaviors are mostly invisible outside of the home where parents who suffer can keep a safe distance from the pain of the past while becoming workaholics who self medicate with a good whiskey to keep calm.  The false cover of calmness by day turns into a nightmare for family members during evening hours and on weekends as the trauma sufferer releases all the pent up anger connected with bottled up pain from the past and the sickness from a never ending hang over…

When I wrote my book many years after Dad passed away in 1998, my family members helped me with stories that were difficult to remember and to share with the world.  But it was a most cathartic and healing experience that gave me and others who read my story a path to recovery, including peace of mind.  When my book was published; however, family members became agitated and anxious, distancing themselves from me and our painful family story.  There has never been any denial of the events described in my book since my siblings and mother helped me reconcile the stories and experiences showing a violent and toxic family life that drove us all away.  We carried the emotional baggage with us and were consistently challenged in confronting something we did not understand until later in life.  We acted out in our own ways to each other and our own family members with behaviors that added up to all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, that all of us know much more about in the 21st century.  Even though we know so much more, there is still denial and stigma keeping sufferers from seeking treatment and find the lasting peace of mind we all deserve.

I attempt to write in my latest book, My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, about how critical it is to seek treatment, if for no other reason than to save your children from suffering the same fate, and their children as well.  PTSD is an inter-generational national mental health crisis that will take decades of awareness and treatment to cure from society.  We have been a nation at war since the Civil War with families becoming embroiled in the symptoms of post trauma as a fact of life.  It doesn’t have to be like bad genes that carry forward forever.  I am encouraged and confident that someday, following my life-time, that PTSD will be in the history books and cut off at the pass eventually.  We will become strong enough as compassionate human beings to address mental health needs effectively, starting with kids at an early age, without the stigma that holds us back today.  I know we can do it, and the books written and on-going awareness efforts by those who have survived and thrived like Patrick J. Kennedy will help society heal in time.  We must talk and write freely about mental health to each other and in public places so that it is as comfortable as talking about a cure for a common cold.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page…

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, and Child Advocate

Mental Health and the “Trauma Informed Care” Solution…How does it work?

 

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Mental Health: Redirecting from Law Enforcement to Social Programs… A Trauma Informed Response that saves lives…  Quote from this link…

“CAHOOTS was formed in 1989 as a collaborative project of White Bird Clinic and the city of Eugene public safety system to help address the needs of marginalized and alienated populations, specifically the homeless and those suffering from addiction or severe and persistent mental illness. Each team consists of a certified medic and a trained mental health crisis worker.”

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The 90th Annual League of Oregon Cities Conference in Bend, Oregon

I was honored to represent the City of Depoe Bay at the 90th Annual League of Oregon Cities Conference in Bend, Oregon.  This was one of the most robust learning opportunities for me since being elected City Councilor, Depoe Bay, Oregon.  The focus of the conference was to show elected and non-elected officials from city government how to use resources effectively to build a 21st Century sustainable community.  I write about the entire conference in in separate report in a pdf format with rich hyperlink references, which can be requested from www.cityofdepoebay.org or contact info@cityofdepoebay.org.

Much of the discussion during the Mental Health concurrent session referenced in this link, was about the need for “Trauma Informed Care” and different levels of response so that we are NOT sending citizens with mental health challenges directly to jail, and potentially making matters much worse.  We are learning that there are essentially three levels of care evolving, and these include:  1.  Education and Mental Health 1st Aid.  2.  The “Cahoots” model in Eugene, Oregon, to help address the needs of marginalized and alienated populations.  3.  Finally, the 911 Public Safety Emergency response, where it is apparent that lives are in danger.  The three levels work collaboratively and successfully in many communities right now.

Check out this excellent reference link with a powerful video clip…What is “Trauma Informed Care?”

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Trauma Informed Schools–An Essential for Student & Staff Success

“In my experience, plus the 30 years my colleagues have worked in public schools, we have learned that student misbehavior and “acting out” are often indicators of trauma. Poverty, sexual abuse, domestic violence, parental drug use, incarceration, or mental illness are just some of the issues that contribute to traumatic experiences that have a profound impact on a child’s developing brain and body. Through our team’s professional experiences, and research supports our findings, we have found that children living in poor neighborhoods are more likely to suffer traumatic incidents, such as witnessing or being the victims of violence. They also struggle with pernicious daily stressors, including food or housing insecurity, living in overcrowded households with overworked or underemployed, and stressed-out parents.”

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From my own experience as a trauma survivor, non-fiction author and blogger related to post trauma recovery, it is the early life of children during the years up to age 6, when we can have the most impact in helping the fabric of our society heal and mitigate the painful symptoms and damage of the effects of severe trauma, including life long mental health implications.  But we must stop the stigma of mental health…“Mental Health and Stigma” by Graham C. L. Davey, PhD.  The consequences of long term stigma and lack of awareness in our culture is life threatening and terribly dangerous as we have observed too many times over the years, including last week in Roseburg, Oregon when 9 innocent students and educators were killed at Umpqua Community College.  Many others sustained severe injuries, and will no doubt suffer from post traumatic stress and need extended treatment to recover.

As a society we continue to be at risk at 1000’s of soft targets, including schools, movie theaters, open spaces, and in toxic homes, where mentally challenged and potentially dangerous citizens will hurt or kill innocent people.  We can change this pattern going forward and some progress is apparent; but we must be more vigilant, compassionate, and empathetic as a society.  We must talk about mental health in our schools, institutions of learning, and public places.  We must be aggressive in teaching others mental health 1st aid, and trauma informed care.  If we don’t become more serious and have the will to mitigate and treat the symptoms of mental health behaviors early, we stand by and wait for the next mass shooting or tragedy.  Mental Health: “Can’t we do better?”  I know we can!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1&2.  click the highlighted text for my author page…