Monthly Archives: December 2015

Merry Christmas Mom! Wish we could be there with you!

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Marcella C. Sparks and Son, Steve… July 2015…

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Mother’s 95th Birthday…  Click on this link for more…

I tried to call Mom today, Christmas Eve.  Mom was not talking very well back in July when we visited last, but we had a fun time with her.  Lately, she hasn’t been able to talk on the phone.  Even though mom is near the end of her life, and is not doing that well, we think about her every day and know she is in the loving care of her care-givers at Regent Care Center in Reno, Nevada.

Later in the day Judy and I finally reached Mom via Skype!  We sent Mom lots of hugs and kisses over video…  She couldn’t say much, but we were all together…even sang Jingle Bells!  We’ll try again Christmas morning to see how mom is doing.

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Brenda Williams-Humphreys, Mom’s Dear Friend at Regent Care Center, Reno, Nevada

We are very grateful to Brenda for her friendship and the loving care she provides to Mom.  It would not be possible for us to coordinate on-site visits and phone conversations, including Skype, without Brenda.  Brenda keeps us in the loop just like a family member or loved one.  She is always kind, helpful, and joyful.  It is always comforting to know Mom is in a place where she is loved and receiving the very best care….  It is snowing in Reno!

With love and warm wishes; and a Happy New Year

Steve & Judy Sparks, December 24, 2015

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

Post-Trauma Stress (PTS) Experts & Survivors Podcast Interviews from Friend & Colleague Michele Rosenthal.

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Changing Direction Radio Full podcasts of all our expert and survivor interviews by Michele Rosenthal…

“In an effort to bring you even more ideas for how to reduce and manage PTSD stress, depression, mood swings, nightmares, insomnia, sadness, anger, grief and pain, plus redefine who you are and reclaim how you live every week for four years Michele Rosenthal invited professionals and/or survivors to discuss a topic specific to your life after trauma. On this program Michele and her guests covered a wide spectrum of topics designed to help you turn yourself around and get headed for healing in the right direction.

With guests from backgrounds that include self-help, mental health, trauma, motivation and inspiration, HealMyPTSD.com founder, Michele Rosenthal, interviewed experts and everyday people about what it takes to heal trauma and move forward with your life. Guests include civilian and military survivors and professionals sharing their unique perspectives on how to quell the chaos and take positive steps toward change, plus leaders in the fields of self-help, inspiration, motivation, science, trauma, recovery, and personal development.”

My favorite…How to Live A Joyful Life After Trauma with Angela Shelton

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Michele Rosenthal has been a friend and colleague during my own journey of healing since publishing my first book in 2011.  Her recent book review of my latest e-book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2 has made a huge difference in giving my story more attention, including the stories of other trauma survivors.  Thank you, Michele Rosenthal, for all your support during my journey!  And thank you, Angela Shelton, for sharing your story of healing…with joy!

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

Angela Shelton

AngelaSheltonAngela Shelton is an American screenwriter, actress, and documentary film producer, best known for the film Tumbleweeds and the documentary Searching for Angela Shelton, which she wrote, directed, and edited. She has also just released her book, Finding Angela Shelton: The True Story of One Woman’s Triumph over Sexual Abuse.  Also, Be Your Own Hero… Warrior Workbook…

Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS)…I Worry Most About Kids from Birth to Age 6…

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Dakotah, Age 4…a foster child who experienced early child trauma…

Post-Traumatic Stress in Children Age 6 and Under… quote from Anxiety and Depression Association of America… Click highlighted link for more on this topic…

Two or more of the following symptoms can emerge in young children who experience traumatic and toxic circumstances.

  • irritable, angry, or aggressive behavior, including extreme temper tantrums
  • hypervigilance
  • exaggerated startle response
  • problems with concentration
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

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I’m asked often why I worry about babies and younger children the most when thinking, talking and writing about post-traumatic stress (PTS) and the toxic circumstances that often go with a family who suffers from PTS.  These are typically families with parents who served in hard combat as warriors and come home with the nagging symptoms of anxiety, depression, and anger that affects the entire family, especially kids.  I have taken the opportunity in this blog post to help answer this most important question with the goal to educate parents, teachers, mentors, and loved ones to be particularly sensitive to young children age 6 and under.  These are the little ones impacted the most.  This is the time of a child’s life when parents, teachers and loved ones who care for children can make a big difference in mitigating the potential long term emotional damage caused by PTS.

I started an exercise on a blank piece of paper keeping in mind the question, “why I worry about kids in toxic circumstances.”  I took a break after writing down about 35 “trigger” words that came to me from my own life experience.  These are words that needed to be transformed from fear to constructive healing over the years…redefining myself in a more positive context.  Then, I found the above link connected to trauma affected children age 6 and under.  These are the little ones I worry about the most…they are completely at the mercy of the grown ups in a toxic world that is often not even remembered…I have significant memory loss from my childhood, but the feelings of fear of this time remain with me. I do have vague but painful memories of kindergarten and 1st grade.  My memory then fades until around age 10.  Most all the “trigger” words can be organized and connected to the narrative in this link.  The bottom line in my journey of healing that pushes me forward with joy each day is forgiveness of self and others.

I worry the most about the babies, toddlers, preschoolers and K-1 kids who are damaged emotionally and must then face the real world for the first time with limited socialization. They are scared, very scared of themselves, others, and everything else they encounter.  Kids like this (me during my early childhood) are on alert for danger and behave defensively.  They are isolated, emotional, and often act out.  The ability to focus and concentrate is difficult at best.  There is little or no trust in adults.  While other typical  kids are laughing and playing and learning, trauma affected kids shy away and hide,  minds wondering without self regulation or a positive structure… These kids most often feel detached and out of place with peers.

The “trigger” words caused me to drift back in time and remember how it felt as a kid…So I now worry about children in this way, especially if it is clear they are troubled little souls.  I ask not what is wrong with these children, I ask what happened to them?  There is much sadness in my heart when thinking of children who must endure and survive a toxic home culture.

My goal as a trauma survivor who has done significant research and writing on the topic of PTS, is to produce a trauma informed work book to serve as a lay persons reference guide for parents, teachers, and mentors.  The process of developing a work book is at the beginning stage.   I anticipate a hardcopy publication to be completed by the end of 1st quarter 2016.  We adults must become trauma informed to be better equipped to help young children who have suffered from traumatic experiences.  Our children represent the best hope for the future.  It is during the younger years of a child when we have the best chance to mitigate the longer term emotional damage caused by exposure to traumatic circumstances.

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

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

Remember Pearl Harbor…Honoring my Father and Shipmates who Served Aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) on December 7, 1941…

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USS West Virginia (BB48) Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941… It was when this photo was taken, my Dad, Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Coxswain, was swimming to Ford Island following the call by Capt. Bennion to “Abandon Ship!”

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Vernon H. Sparks, Boatswains Mate Chief, USS Belle Grove (LSD2) 1943-45 Serving in the Pacific War…

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Vernon and Marcella Sparks c1940…

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7, 1941…My Father’s Memories…

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The well recognized photo of the USS West Virginia (BB48) is very personal to me.  I know my father, Vernon, was swimming to Ford Island at the time the photo was taken of his ship sinking in Pearl Harbor.  The heartfelt feelings are healing and provide a special spiritual connection to my father.  When asked, Dad talked of his experience on that fateful day so long ago… I could tell it was hard for Dad to speak of the events because the memories were so vivid and painful for him.  He lost his best friend and shipmate Roy Powers on that day, and could never get past the memory of seeing his battle buddy falling back headless from looking out the porthole of the ship during the bombing.  Dad rarely spoke of the rest of WWII and the many months he spent in hard combat in the South Pacific.  He finally came home in June of 1945 just before WWII ended.  I tell my family’s post WWII story of forgiveness and healing in the books listed below.

My cousin, Dawn, in Minneapolis, Mn., sent me Dad’s written account of his experience aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) before he finally abandoned ship as ordered.  Dad wrote his account for the US Park Service on the 50th Anniversary (1991) of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.(click on this powerful ABC video clip)!  This was the first time he returned to Pearl Harbor following WWII to receive the Pearl Harbor Survivors Medal.  The unexplained part of this story, is that my father never shared the US Park Service document with his immediate family.  He mailed it to his sister, Dolly, for safe keeping.  My guess  is that it was too painful for him to share the tragic details with us by revisiting the experience over and over again…

In honor of all those who served, and the families who waited for weeks to learn of the fate of loved ones, following is my father Vernon’s transcribed first person account of those minutes following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941…

Vernon H. Sparks Handwritten Account

Following is a transcription from the National Park Service…

National Park Service

Survivor Questionnaire – Persons Present December 7, 1941, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii

Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Battleship USS West Virginia, Coxswain

Hometown: St. Paul, Mn

Brief Account of What Happened to You Before, During, & After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

I was on the 3rd deck heading for the anchor windless room when the first torpedo hit the USS West Virginia. From there, more bombing and torpedoes-when all hell broke loose.Men in the brig were screaming for help. I could not respond, there was no time…to check where the Marine guard was with the keys to the cells. Evidently, he had already been hit.The men in the brig were engulfed in water and perished.I worked my way up to the2nd deck with water up to my waist.By this time, I came to a hatch with the manhole still open leading to the main deck.I barely made it out of the escape hatch and was ordered by Lt. Stark to close that hatch.The men were still down there but it was too late for them.That was the first time I heard that the Japs were attacking our fleet…and the whole island. I watched one of my best shipmates get himself killed-Roy Powers.He stuck his head out the port side close to the ship-fitters shop; and about that time another torpedo hit and the concussion blew his head off.His body fell back on deck headless.  After that it was a matter of surviving.  There was no defense, the ship was already listing to port at about 35 degrees angle.I worked myself up further on the deck and observed the Commanding Officer, Mervyn S. Bennion heading for the bridge.The strafing and bombing was still on.When I arrived on the main deck going forward to the number one turret…strafing still going on…I dived under the overhang of the turret.Communications was out, so by word of mouth heard the order, “all hands abandon ship.”Note: Capt. Bennion was lying on the wing of the bridge mortally wounded…He asked the doc, “What kind of chance he had?”And was told, “Not much Captain.”Then, Captain Bennion said, “Leave me on the bridge and this is my last order, ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!”He died right after that order… After that order I jumped over the side to starboard and swam to Ford Island…Us guys that made it were standing on the beach watching the USS Arizona blow up sky high…what a helpless feeling.  I had torn my white uniform up to use as emergency treatment bandages for the wounded. Anyway, to make a long story short, we dashed across the field under strafing conditions to shelter. In the BOQ, we were able shower in there and salvage clothes from the lockers, and helped organize the Harbor Patrol. And was with that duty for a few months – then assigned to new construction with the 5th Amphibious Force hitting the beaches of the South Pacific, all the way, then finally Iwo Jima, & Okinawa until the Peace Treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri in Toyko, Japan.  People like myself could go on & on…but that would take a book…

Vernon H. Sparks, December 7, 1941, Battleship USS West Virginia

From Ship’s Crew Muster

Sparks, Vernon H.328-41-29Cox.13Jan.3610/12/39

“Remember Pearl Harbor!”

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…Click on highlighted text for my author page…and to download e-books or paperback.

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

You can also purchase the Pearl Harbor 50th Anniversary Edition…by clicking the highlighted text or on my sidebar…

Teaching and Mentoring Kids from Toxic Homes & Circumstances… The children who come to school scared…

Jayla studies on a computer at the shelter where she lives in Los Angeles, California February 9, 2011. School on Wheels uses volunteers to tutor homeless children in shelters, parks, motels, and two centers. There has been a surge in the number of homeless children in Los Angeles in the last five years, due to persistent unemployment and mounting foreclosures. Picture taken February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY EDUCATION) - RTR2JZUO

Jayla studies on a computer at the shelter where she lives in Los Angeles, California February 9, 2011. School on Wheels uses volunteers to tutor homeless children in shelters, parks, motels, and two centers. There has been a surge in the number of homeless children in Los Angeles in the last five years, due to persistent unemployment and mounting foreclosures. Picture taken February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SOCIETY EDUCATION) – RTR2JZUO

Teaching Kids from Toxic Homes…The Atlantic

The Limitations of Teaching ‘Grit’ in the Classroom

“We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them.” by

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Saving your children, family, and loved ones from inter-generation Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)… A non-fiction guide written by a trauma survivor for parents, teachers, and mentors…click the highlighted text for my author page…

This article from the Atlantic comes at a time when there appears to be more knowledge and awareness in the educational sector of how children from toxic circumstances, including homelessness, need additional help in the classroom.  How can you teach kids who are scared, hungry, and distracted by an often traumatic life style during out-of-school time at home, in a shelter, or at play?  As a survivor from a severely dysfunctional and traumatic childhood, I didn’t know until starting my own research 5 years ago, including becoming acutely aware of “trauma informed teaching” reference from http://edsource.org.  My latest e-book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2, was written to show parents and teachers how trauma circumstances at home cause children to take on the same post trauma stress symptoms as experienced in the home environment, where most of the day and night, including weekends hours are spent observing toxic behaviors by adults.  Kids in these home circumstances are scared, lonely, often silent, and sometimes angry and defensive…in other words, they “act-out!”  When teachers understand clearly the roots of the challenging behaviors, they discover loving ways and skills to help distracted students become more effectively engaged in the mindful and positive culture of school away from home.

So manly books and references are clinical in nature that it becomes difficult for a lay person to relate to the world of a trauma victim, especially children, who are mostly silent and have no voice that can be heard.  You have to take them gently and lovingly by the hand and show kindness and caring…  Help these non-typical kids to trust and show them that the world is a better place…there is love and hope.  Check out my book by clicking the highlighted text below for my author page…read the excerpt from the following book review published by Michele Rosenthal, Heal My PTSD…

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

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate & Vice Chair, www.neighborsforkids.org

 

Recovering Lost Memory from Traumatic Experiences? Is this a good thing?

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The world of identity theory is thorny. Based on independent philosophical questions about what makes an individual a person (versus what makes a human a conscious living thing), there’s no simple consensus about just what, exactly, defines personal identity.

Creating False Memories…October 27, 2015 by Michele Rosenthal  A Quote from this article…click highlighted link to read more…

“Part of how we grow and self-define (and the way we learn how to let go and find inner peace) comes from those experiences that create memories of how we ourselves (not a biochemical solution and a laser) generate experiences that bring change. We learn and integrate ourselves precisely because we are active in the memory formation process. Instead, creating false memories reduces us to a passive role, one that provides little in the way of choice, action, reaction, ownership and self-created experiential learning.

Taken to the extreme this scientific advance could lead to a psychological retreat. Better to allow individuals to purposefully create new experiences in the present than tinker with what (did not) happen in the past.”

Click here to get inspired by Rose’s easy steps to positively change your mind

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I have pondered memory recovery for many years.  My lost memory challenges are from early childhood to about age  8 or 9…after that most of my memory is pretty intact…  I also suffered memory loss from a traumatic experience while aboard ship serving in the US Navy in early 1965.  I have contemplated hypnosis as a treatment to bring back these memories with the idea it may help my own recovery journey in mitigating post traumatic stress symptoms.

Following my own personal research, input from mental health professionals, and in reading the article written by Michele Rosenthal, Creating False Memories,  I would say for me, leave well enough alone…  Sounds dangerous to attempt, through hypnosis and other mind manipulation treatments, memory recovery when there is a risk connected with this psychological procedure.  All this sounds too complicated to me anyway….  I feel pretty good with my own journey of healing these days, and wouldn’t want to “fix it if it ain’t broke.”  Check out these additional references to learn more about this topic…False Memory Syndrome, Wikipedia and Creating False Memories, Scientific American…

Thank you Michele Rosenthal for bringing this topic to our attention.  Although it is sort of complicated, it is important for trauma survivors like me with memory loss to have a high level of awareness.  I could have easily made an emotional decision to seek hypnosis a few years ago at great risk.  I have become very happy with the work in progress alternative treatment strategies that have worked well so far.  HealMyPTSD.com with Michele Rosenthal continues to be an excellent resource for me to stay on track and further my education.

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 to order or download books.

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate…