Monthly Archives: February 2020

“Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley” …chapter 1, excerpt#4

Leavenworth, Wa. Looking back 30 years ago, the beginning of the Sparks Family spiritual journey… tap pic or highlighted text.

“Imagine a monster puzzle in life that you worked 5 decades putting together without any life skills to start with, a survival mindset. I felt like that “Naked and Afraid” reality show, but on my own, no company, too scared to ask for help, and no moral compass. Think of the wonder of finding that last piece of the puzzel and how profoundly impactful it can be in the later years of one’s life, or anytime for that matter. I never felt this until now. I always wondered why Judy loved puzzles. I love watching her, the patience, focus, and mindfulness attention. I could never do that. Now I know why. My mind was wired for fear from a sickness I never knew about until 30 years later from this moment. Icicle Valley was God’s fork in the road for the Sparks family. Yes! I see this now, and feel it too…”

It gives me huuge joy to share the above excerpt from my new memoir, a work in progress. I just finished a draft of Chapter I! The spirits and my creative juices are flowing and my soul is hungry for spiritual growth. All the angels in my life have gathered and encouraged me to write, and do it now. The words flow from my heart and the deepest places of my soul. I will share excerpts from each new chapter in the coming weeks and months.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, & Mental Health Advocate. Tap my photo click here for Steve’s author page. c1990 Icicle Valley near Leavenworth, Wa click. We found home at last!

I want to engage my friends and colleagues while writing this profoundly touching journey of love and healing for my family. I published my first memoir, Reconciliation, a Son’s Story in 2011 and launched my website Children and Families in Life After Trauma at the same time.

Please forward your comments of support and feedback to me… stevesparks.associates@survivethriveptsd.org

I will not pretend to be a subject matter expert in psychiatry, science, or medicine. I’m proud and privileged to be a survivor of childhood and young adult trauma, abuse and maltreatment. I suffer from a life long mental illness, ‘acute agitated depressive disorder’. As a lay person I help others as a peer, friend and colleague. My work is about community building and healing as a broader collaboration of stakeholders, partners and consumers with a common mission.

My healing journey has indeed entered a spiritual phase now that I feel truly safe. A gift of the spirit life at this time of my life draws me closer to God. I never felt peace of mind until now. It’s a deep feeling in my soul that moves me to a more peaceful place.

My soul is speaking to me. Think it’s a ‘coming home’ feeling in this 30th year of my journey to reconnect my lost soul. You get this, I know.”

Why Do So Many Americans Love The Obama Family?

Steve & Judy Sparks in Stehekin, “Eskimo Kisses”

 

Why do millions of aging white males like me love the Obama family? Because we feel their soul, the goodness shines through.

A beautiful family, that’s why! This is a POTUS I admire and miss like millions of people like me. Why do so many of us, including aging white males like me who served America proudly with honor and duty during the Vietnam era love the Obama family? My father served too WWII for all of us to protect our freedoms. Why then would I, like millions of Americans of every age, no matter skin color love this family? Why do I love the Obama family? Because they are decent moral and God loving people.

Obama was a leader who loved all of us, not just some of us. Who out there is going to tell us who we are to love? I could go on. I’m so tired of the hateful rhetoric and the trollers who only look for hate…

We love Barack Obama because we feel his soul and trusted him. He was certainly not perfect. I felt his soul… I want to feel the love…

Laughing is Healing… Do it often without hesitation…

Thanks to MyHealthPlan.samhealth.org February 2020 Advantage/Medicare Newsletter for this awesome photo of seniors laughing about the the moment. I can’t stop looking at it! This couple experienced an hilarious moment and shared it with all of us. Thank you!
Frum MyHealthPlan.SamHealth.org February 2020 Newsletter Health Tips…

Laughter is more than good for your health.

Judy and I really loved getting our SamHealthPlan Newsletter this month. The laughter and happiness shown with the couple in the above photo, made us feel warm and fuzzy, a happy place, hope for the future, fun, romance and adventure!

Cheers to all for a week full of laughter and peace of mind…

Judy and Steve Sparks, SparksAssociates of Depoe Bay, Oregon



“Depoe Bay’s Miracle for Kids” by Steve Sparks 2010

Neighbors for Kids (Based on true events)

Our Mission

“Neighbors For Kids is an Oregon nonprofit 501(c)3 dedicated to supporting families in Lincoln County during out-of-school-time hours by providing quality after school and summer programs to pre-school and school-aged children in a safe, affordable, fun learning environment”

June, 2010

steve sparks
Steve Sparks, Board Director and Officer 2010-2016

As written by Steve Sparks, NFK Board member, including contributions from NFK Board members, staff, students and other stakeholders. The community of Depoe Bay and surrounding areas will be forever grateful for the special contributions of NFK’s original Board and team: Dr. and Mrs. Jack and Maggie Brown and Loretta Hoagland.

Loretta Hoagland

The history of Neighbors for Kids and the Kids Zone After-School Program begins on a beautiful afternoon along the Oregon coast while Loretta Hoagland was sitting on her porch overlooking Depoe Bay, the “smallest harbor in the world.” Loretta observed several young teens walking by her home and up the hill.  They looked like good kids, dressed nicely, full of enthusiasm, and handsome, probably just got out of school.  They were approaching another home up the hill. No doubt they were going to have a fun gathering of friends after school. Loretta always worried about kids not having any place to go or anything to do in this little town 12 miles away from Lincoln City to the north and Newport to the south.   But while she watched, something happened as the kids walked to the steps of the home they were approaching. To her dismay, Loretta observed the kids completing a “drug buy!” She was shocked and angry. “This can’t happen in my town!” she wanted to shout.  As the true events of this story unfold, it becomes clear that love, faith, big dreams, passion and the determination of ordinary people resulted in what many perceive as a “miracle.”

What happened next is compelling and heartwarming. That moment in time ten years ago changed Loretta Hoagland’s life forever.  Loretta couldn’t sit back and allow the town she loved and its future to be turned over to drugs. She was moved so much that she immediately called a meeting at her home with neighbors. That evening almost 20 of her neighbors showed up and demanded to know what the emergency was all about.  Neighbors Against Drugs and Alcohol, later known as Neighbors for Kids (NFK) and Kids Zone, was born that evening when residents got together with Loretta and angrily and passionately decided to make a stand against the increasing use of drugs and alcohol by the youth in their town of Depoe Bay.  Almost single-handedly, Loretta was on the way to inspiring the entire town of 1200 citizens on the central Oregon coast.

Jack and Maggie Brown

Jack and Maggie Brown always loved the Oregon coast, especially Depoe Bay. This little town with a beautiful small harbor to moor their boat was perfect to start their retirement years. Jack and Maggie had lived in Richland, Washington for 30 years while Jack pursued his career as a nuclear scientist with Battelle Labs. After moving to Depoe Bay, Jack started a rowing club in the harbor offering kids free classes. Both Jack and Maggie heard about the new community action group, Neighbors for Kids, and were instantly drawn to the cause of fighting drugs and alcohol with the idea of giving kids something to do after school.

Our First Location

Although it started with the rowing club, soon the group was offering tutoring along with other activities, and curious kids began to show up after school to find out more. As its popularity grew and news of the after-school program spread, the group of dedicated volunteers was offered the use of part of a small building owned by the City of Depoe Bay.  Soon a small nonprofit community service organization was in the making, attracting more kids and supportive parents along with many community volunteers. Eventually the entire 700 square foot building on Highway 101 was turned over to Neighbors for Kids as a gift from the City of Depoe Bay.

Volunteer carpenters and other contractors came in to help remodel the building to make it more suited to serving the needs of an after-school program, including a kitchen area to serve meals. The NFK Board of Directors decided to call the after-school program “Kids Zone.”  The program continued to grow, and there was never enough space. Eventually, the Depoe Bay Fire Department had to inform the NFK Board that the fire code would limit the number of occupants in the building. With a growing waiting list and no more space for expansion, “What will we do now?” became the big question for the NFK Board to answer.

The Dream of a New Facility

This is when the scientist in Jack Brown turned a dream of building a big new facility for Kids Zone on the same site as the tiny cinderblock facility into a reality. Jack’s dream was a building that would not only have plenty of space for the after school program but that would also offer the community as a whole the potential for much more. A strategy and plan emerged, and Jack and Maggie Brown led the charge, getting the support of federal, state, county, and local government. Jack Brown’s role on the Depoe Bay City Council was a huge help in getting access to the right people and resources. Dr. Brown describes the NFK vision and evolution in the following way:

NFK began with a dream to give local kids a safe place to go after school and be with adults that deeply care for them. This devotion to kids by adults outside their blood family fulfills one of the key assets identified by the Search Foundation as critical to any child’s development. NFK has grown primarily due to the leadership of several professional directors and the tireless volunteering of local adults that give over 4,000 hours of volunteering each year. This success story motivated Oregon’s congressional delegation, many of the premier grant foundations, state, county, and local governments and private citizens to provide funding in support of NFK’s new building. This new facility combined with our tremendous professional staff and cadre of dedicated volunteers stand proud to serve the children of mid-Lincoln County.

The new facility became a symbol of community vision for the future of NFK. All the memories and successes, especially the stories of kids who benefited, transferred to the new building and served as a foundation upon which the future organization was built. The old building was taken down soon after the new facility opened its doors, but its role in bringing an after-school program to Depoe Bay will not be forgotten. It will always represent the blood, sweat, and tears of many volunteers and donors, including a significant historical event in the community of Depoe Bay and surrounding areas.

Steve Scopelleti

NFK’s former Vice-Chair, Steve Scopelleti, was the real hero behind getting the new building completed, and his story of giving back to the community follows.  Steve became involved with Neighbors for Kids in the spring of 2008. As it turned out, his background in construction and project management was perfectly suited for NFK’s next big challenge. Steve had experience with a similar project some years previously in St. Louis, Missouri. The welcomed award of significant federal funding through Housing & Urban Development (HUD) meant that NFK now needed to complete the construction of a new 7,000 square foot building for the expanded needs of Kids Zone and to build a foundation for the future of NFK’s larger vision to serve the broader community’s educational needs. Steve believed strongly that this would become his best work, and motivation came directly from his heart and a belief that anything is possible with the right timing, chemistry, and team to pull it off.

The Dream Becomes a Reality

Steve Scopelleti, along with the NFK Building Committee that included Jack Brown as chair, Maggie Brown, Toby Winn, Dee Dee Howard, and Bruce Silver, set about to launch this daunting construction project. The NFK Building Committee knew immediately that finding the right architect to assist with the design of a special building with unique requirements was critical. Steve was appointed Vice-Chair of NFK and project manager for the new building. This new official role gave him the responsibility and authority to move efficiently and quickly to get the project underway.  Scott/Edwards of Portland was selected and immediately agreed to provide the design at a 50% discount! Scott/Edwards was also chosen, because they had extensive experience designing buildings for schools with stringent code requirements and special needs to allow for long term occupancy and safety features for children.

The project was broken down into three phases; Phase 1: building the shell; Phase 2: completing the first floor; Phase 3: completing the second floor and parking lot. The plan was to get the building completed for Kids Zone first, move-in, strengthen and expand the after school program, then begin planning for the building’s optimum use in the future, which would require additional funding dictated by the programs that might be offered, such as information technology and science programs. The building was also designed to include a half-court basketball gym and hoops to support basketball and other sports programs as well as providing a large area for group activities, conferences and fund raising events.

The New Facility Opens

The NFK Board and the community as a whole were very proud when the new building was opened to the public in April 2010 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Some 200 community members and leaders came to the grand opening and many spoke of a dream fulfilled, even a miracle for this small town on the central coast of Oregon.  Ordinary people with a passion for helping our kids grow into responsible and caring adults made it happen. Steve Scopelleti believed this was his best work and one on which he could be most proud to have had the opportunity to contribute and make a difference in the community. Doing something good for others and from the heart has no boundaries for personal satisfaction and reward.

Finding the NFK Program Director

Most educators would agree that finding a teacher with empathy, one who has lived through a challenging childhood, and one who has leadership qualities, is a blessing to have on your team.  Toby Winn was, and continues to be, our “blessing” as Program Director of Neighbors for Kids.

Toby Winn, an educator from the San Diego area, moved to the Oregon coast 18 years ago while still in high school, when his mother decided it was time for a change. Toby was still living with his mother at the time and felt the change would be good for him too, and he wanted to be supportive.  He grew up as a disadvantaged youth who struggled through a life of poverty in a neighborhood challenged with substance abuse and gang activity. Toby was resilient and found the hope and support he needed in a local Boys and Girls Club program and from the coaches of his soccer teams.  These formative years helped Toby decide that what he wanted in life was to use his past experiences to become a career youth educator.

After graduating from the University of Oregon with honors, Toby dedicated his life to serving at-risk youth and families in the very programs which had helped to save him and inspire him to succeed. While living in Eugene, Oregon, working for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Emerald Valley, Toby grew into an effective leader, touching the lives of hundreds of children in Lane County. Then, while browsing through the local paper one day, Toby noticed an employment ad seeking a program director for a small after-school program on the central Oregon coast. Toby felt that this job, Neighbors for Kids, “Kids Zone” in Depoe Bay had his name written all over it, so he applied.  And Toby got the job!  As with Loretta, Jack, Maggie and Steve, this career move would change Toby’s life forever as well.

Toby immediately became a transformative leader for NFK.  His leadership and skills in mentoring kids were evident from the start. His energy and enthusiasm was quickly recognized by the NFK Board and the community.  NFK at that time didn’t have a whole lot of money, but they were able to carve out a budget to make it work for Toby and a small but dedicated part-time staff that included Ernestina Brady, Amberdawn Howe, Travis Harris and Vivian Arends.   But money is never the prime motivator for anyone with a passion for the work they do.

Toby loved his work and adopted the Oregon coast as home for the long term.  He and the staff introduced new ideas and improved existing programs.  He went to work creating relationships in the community to help build support for Kids Zone. The result was that more kids and parents wanted to be a part of Kids Zone. And more volunteers came forward offering their time and skills. As a result of Toby Winn’s leadership, the talents of Kids Zone’s outstanding staff and the support provided by a visionary NFK Board of Directors, NFK became a well-recognized after-school program in the region.

Strong Community Partnerships

It is our belief that strong community public and private partnerships like Neighbors for Kids are the way of the future. We cannot possibly meet all the challenging community needs relying solely on federal and state government.  NFK‘s goal is to join hands with other community members and leaders, including private and public entities, to achieve the long-term goal of building a stronger society by focusing on our most valuable resource, our children.  

Communities must take a more proactive role in improving the educational opportunities and personal growth of its next generation of adults.   Our future depends on what we do to make a difference for our kids in our respective communities.  We know that public schools can’t do it all, especially with ever-increasing financial challenges.

There is a critical three-hour time slot after school for most children. Research and experience suggests this three-hour period can be the most dangerous and unproductive time of the day for children who cannot participate in after school sports or other structured programs. After-school programs can be tailored to local needs and have proven to be a complementary adjunct to the public school learning experience.

We know our kids do better all the way around when after-school programs are offered.   And with additional community support and funding, the building and facilities for after-school activities can be used more effectively by offering educational and recreational programs for all ages for the entire day, including evenings and weekends.

The miracle of this story is all about ordinary people coming together to create a better environment for kids.  All it took was the courage, passion, and perseverance of one citizen like Loretta Hoagland, who took ownership of a potentially serious problem in this small town of Depoe Bay where kids bus 12 miles to public school.  If it can happen in Depoe Bay, it can happen anywhere in the country.

Northwest Gourmet, and the Espresso Craze… Leavenworth Wa early c1990s…Chapter 3 draft… “Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley” a memoir by Steve Sparks

Sarah Sparks, June 1991… Our house on Shore Street with a yard! God helped us find Icicle Valley…

Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce tap

Steve Sparks, Co-owner, with Judy Sparks, Northwest Gourmet, May 3, 1995, Leavenworth Echo..tap We were one of the very first espresso shops in town at that time.

Judy and I started talking up fulling our dream to buy and own our own retail business in a rural community. Leavenwoth was the perfectly suited magical spot on the planet to get a business going on Front St., or close to it. This adventure was actually on my bucket list of dreams for a long time. I know, it didn’t seem nuts at the time. Looking back on it, one has to be a little off to jump into something and learn it from the ground up. But I did everything that way and still do. I wanted to be inside of a small community on the rise as a hot tourist town, a Bavarian Village like non other. This was Leavenworth Wa in all its beauty and charm that made dreams come true. Our dreams as a family came true in Icicle Valley.

The Sparks family changed forever when we fell in love with this wonderful community of loving folks who celebrated life everyday of the week and many times over the weekends. And the best of the best was a blow out starting with the Autum Leaf Festival in the fall, and the famous Christmas Lighting during the holiday season. It was magical, indeed, in every respect. We were living in heaven and I didn’t know it at the time. But Judy and Sarah did… Icicle Valley was home now for the Sparks Family. It was our spiritual journey during the earlier years… We would soon find out how much so.

We were so proud after, Pam, a dear friend and local graphic artist, helped make our very first logo and ad for the Leavenworth, Echo. We didn’t have social media then, but I knew it was coming from my IT career, Nortel Networks.

Life in Icicle Valley was beautiful and challenging in so many ways that helped our family heal and grow together away from the chaos that made us feel trapped in a world gone mad.

The magical Bavarian Village of Leavenworth is a celebration of love year around…

To be continued…

“Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley, Chapter 1, excerpt 3…

“But I couldn’t take living in the moment, and didn’t know how. I was sick and didn’t know it then. Most troubling is I never knew why. I only knew flight/flight 24/7 alert and wanted to run after something that was never out there. More stuff to prove that I could show my father and the whole world that a ‘kid kicked to the curb’ could make it in the world if I took ownership of the universe, I alone could do it, I alone. I already showed the world this…why would I want to go right back out there and do it over and over again?”

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, & Mental Health Advocate. Tap my photo click here for Steve’s author page. c1990 Icicle Valley near Leavewnworth, Wa click. We found home at last!

It gives me huuge joy to share the following excerpt from my new memoir, a work in progress. I just finished a draft of Chapter I! The spirits and my creative juices are flowing and my soul is hungry for spiritual growth. All the angels in my life have gathered and encouraged me to write, and do it now. The words flow from my heart and the deepest places of my soul. I will share excerpts from each new chapter in the coming weeks and months.

I want to engage my friends and colleagues while writing this profoundly touching journey of love and healing for my family. I published my first memoir, Reconciliation, a Son’s Story in 2011 and launched my website Children and Families in Life After Trauma at the same time.

Please forward your comments of support and feedback to me… stevesparks.associates@survivethriveptsd.org

I will not pretend to be a subject matter expert in psychiatry, science, or medicine. I’m proud and privileged to be a survivor of childhood and young adult trauma, abuse and maltreatment. I suffer from a life long mental illness, ‘acute agitated depressive disorder’. As a lay person I help others as a peer, friend and colleague. My work is about community building and healing as a broader collaboration of stakeholders, partners and consumers with a common mission.

My healing journey has indeed entered a spiritual phase now that I feel truly safe. A gift of the spirit life at this time of my life draws me closer to God. I never felt peace of mind until now. It’s a deep feeling in my soul that moves me to a more peaceful place.

My soul is speaking to me. Think it’s a ‘coming home’ feeling in this 30th year of my journey to reconnect my lost soul. You get this, I know.”

Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley…A Prologue

Introduction

My heart is so full of joy! Finding a way to create a word.doc of an old historical document from college way back in 1987 was a most profound ‘back to the future” spiritual moment I could have ever imagined. This story captures the early beginning of my transformation as a human being at age 41 when graduating from St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, Ca. Going back in a time machine like the old movie with Michael J. Fox.

Revisiting my past with such clarity of the consequential nature of this time has mind blowing spiritual meaning to me now. I know the angels were speaking to me then, and Judy was so supportive as my wife and best pal. It was a time full of gifts that propelled our lives as a family and took us to places we didn’t know about yet, a spiritual journey of a lifetime…

So many things were going on then. We were given the gift of adoption, a very special moment when youngest daughter Sarah came into our lives. Judy’s mother came to live near us after she survived a serious stroke. Sarah could have a grandma. Sarah was baptized 10 months after she came home with us at the St. Catherine of Siena in Martinez, September 1988.

My career was taking off like a vortex feels, a tornado…crazy time. I was finally graduating from college after 20 years, a huuge accomplishment personally and professionally. It gave me confidence to come out and be my own person. I was starting to question my life then, how and where my family could find a permanent home in a rural community to raise Sarah. We purchased a 1.5 acre lot in the middle of Icicle Valley near Leavenworth, Wa. that same year. I believe God started speaking to me then, and I didn’t know it yet…

Please Join me on my personal “back to the future” time machine for the ride of your life! Let’s do it…together.

Happy trails…click here for Will Hobbs, “You Can Depend on Me”

Steve

St. Mary’s College of California… BA Executive Management 1989

“It’s Up To You” 

An Autobiography by Steve Sparks… November 2, 1987 

 

As I look back on my life up to this point, at the prime age of 41, I have always been driven by a strong desire to succeed and be the best. Even under the worst circumstances I seem to pull myself up, learn from experiences and go on to greater milestones. I also have a high level of self confidence and believe that I can do what ever I want to do. I believe life is too short to procrastinate. I pursue personal and professional goals vigorously. I also have a reasonably strong faith in God. Through all of my life experiences I have had lots of fun and have maintained a strong sense of humor. 

I grew up in a strict Catholic family environment with a younger and older brother. My younger brother and I are close in age and are still good buddies. When I was eight my parents gave us a sister and years later yet another brother too. My father was a career Navy man and mother was a homemaker with the Catholic influence. Dad didn’t go to church but mother did and we had to march off with her each Sunday. The Catholic church in those days was mostly a negative and counterproductive experience in my view. I always felt like if I died I would go straight to hell! My father was not home very much when we were young. He was at sea for months at a time. We dreaded his return home because my mother would immediately run through the list of awful things we did in his absence. I remember mostly being punished by Dad and not having much fun when he was around. 

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I felt insecure often because we moved frequently. It was difficult to adjust to new locations and make friends. But in retrospect I learned alot and in some ways probably matured more quickly than others. The first few days and weeks in a new neighborhood and school was always a scary experience. Although I can’t remember, I was stricken with polio at age two. I was lucky because I ended up with just a weakened left arm, buck teeth and a crooked smile. I had good therapy and could do just about anything athletic except lift weights. My teeth became somewhat straight over time by using my thumb as makeshift braces. My smile may be crooked but it is one that has gotten rave reviews over the years. I loved sports but hated to study. I played basketball, football, ran cross country, surfed and got lousy grades. My mom and dad had mostly a work ethic and no real motivation for the academic life and we suffered for it.

My school sports activities came to a quick halt by the time I was fourteen because my father felt that working was more important and my family needed financial help. So I got up early every morning seven days a week to deliver papers, went to school, delivered papers at night and got lousy grades. I made $20.00 a week selling papers on my hospital paper route. I was proud of my success at selling papers but hated to give Dad most of the money. I loved to sell and felt at an early age that a sales career might be the thing to pursue. It was the interaction with people that appealed to me the most. 

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My father retired from the Navy in the late 1950’s and went to work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. His career move made life tougher on us as teenagers because he always felt that if we got a jaywalking ticket he would lose his job. I had a hard time getting to do the fun things other kids did because Dad was paranoid about my getting into trouble. My younger brother and I were pretty clever at times and usually got away with sneaking around. Actually it was my brother who planned most of our capers. 

It was too soon for me to go into the Navy at 17 years old. Dad felt because I wasn’t doing well in school that I needed the Navy to whip me into shape. He was half right and half wrong. The Navy gave me an opportunity to learn a trade I really enjoyed. After boot camp, I went to Radioman A School and believe it or not, got excellent marks and graduated at the top of the class. Boot camp was easy since I was reared by a drill master. 

Following radio school, I was lucky enough to be stationed in Hawaii. I took my surfboard along and had a great time riding the waves, chasing girls, growing up and learning about the world of defense telecommunications. Since I quit high school to join the Navy I also started taking correspondence courses from Carson High School in Carson, California. 

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Generally, my experience in the Navy was rich with education, on-the-job training, a realization of my individuality and potential as a person. I grew up quickly but not without pains of loneliness and insecurity. I really had no choice but to make it in the world on my own because I felt it was my responsibility and no one elses. Consequently, no excuses, no one to blame and it was all up to me. In retrospect, taking ownership for one’s destiny is a good lesson to learn early in life. To this day I have the same attitude about self responsibility and I consider it one of my best assets. 

When I got out of the Navy there seemed to be no time to spare. I wanted to get to work and get back to school and that’s what I did. I also wanted to live in Hermosa Beach, my favorite place to hang out, surf and feel my freedom as a young man. Living at home with my parents was not considered even though I was just 19 years old. It is interesting how differently young people today feel about living at home well into their twenties. My parents were a threat to me at the time and offered no support. I think my dad thought I was supposed to stay in the Navy the rest of my life. 

In the fall of 1965 I started working for Western Union and enrolled at Harbor Junior College in Los Angeles. The telecommunications skills I learned in the Navy put me in an excellent position to run teletype machines for Western Union. I also loved the work in radio communications, electronics and computers, better known as the high technology business today. 

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It was fun working for Western Union. I made good money at the time, lived and surfed in Hermosa Beach. I felt good about myself, established career goals and considered college as an important part of my growth. I certainly needed to sharpen my communication skills if I ever expected to move into sales. Selling was what I really wanted to do for Western Union. 

I got my chance in 1967 to sell for Western Union. I applied for a position of sales representative in Los Angeles and got the job. While being totally excited I was scared half to death at the thought of having to go out and convince customers to buy Western Union products. I was ready for the job because I loved working for the company and believed in our products. In sales it is extremely important to not only be confident about yourself but also your company and its products in selling. I was turned on about Western Union, had a desire to succeed; but had alot of challenge ahead of me in getting started in my first sales position. Deregulation of the telephone and data communications ‘utility’ business was on the way. It was all on the drawing table then, but I didn’t get it until later.

In the meantime, I was serious about a young lady, Lillian, and in early 1968 we were married. Sometimes I get tired thinking about how I managed to go to college, pursue a professional career and get married all at once. Most people including myself today would believe that I had enough to be concerned about. Not a chance, because we had our first child, Deanna, in that same year we were married in 1968.

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Selling for Western Union was getting approximately one week of training from a senior sales professional and you were on the street. I was given a bag of brochures and was sent out on a few sales calls with a couple of experienced Western Union representatives. I hated the idea of making my first sales call on my own. I will never forget the first sales call. 

In all these years and a tremendous sense of professionalism and ease with customer contacts, I remember vividly my first sales presentation. What was important is that the kind lady listening to me knew I was new and not only respected my first experience but coached me. The best thing I did was telling her that this was my first sales call. From that point on I knew that customers were emotional people just like me. To this day I rely heavily on my feelings toward people and empathy. 

I believe strongly that success in selling is very much a successful human interactive experience that made me feel positive and energized. It was like an addiction.

I loved selling. From 1967 to 1970 it was a real joy to promote Western Union products, get contracts, establish myself as a professional in Los Angeles and make many and lasting friends. My first bosses, Dean Woods and Gene Rice, had a lasting impression on me. Both reinforced the need for strong writing and speaking skills. Customers with whom I made friends got me excited about the telecommunications business and helped me reinforce career goals. 

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I also got a great deal of self satisfaction along the way. Interestingly enough I wasn’t motivated by money until later in my career. I believe building self confidence and gaining personal satisfaction rank high on the priority list for a young person between age 20 and 28

My whole program was disrupted in the fall of 1970 when I was asked to consider a promotion as city sales manager for Western Union in the city of Detroit, Michigan. What a tough decision. I would have to give up the southern California life I was accustomed to for a strange city that had no appeal at all. The move would also disrupt my family life and educational goals, not to mention my love for surfing. My wife was close to giving birth to our second child, Bianca, and we considered the trade-offs consistent with goals and solicited family support. We consequently decided to go-for-it with alot of enthusiasm. The move to Detroit was a real turning point in my life that would bring some high points professionally but also alot of adjustments and turmoil personally. 

I knew the challenge of city sales manager in Detroit would test my capabilities but I was not expecting to walk into a disaster. The entire sales organization was without a leader for some time. Most of the sales group was new and lacked any sense of urgency about the job and there was really no “atmosphere for success” or as I call it AFs. The idea of AFS will become clear as I explain how the situation developed. 

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First it was obvious that the sales team needed leadership. Sales is much like playing sports; it requires coaching and a competitive spirit. The sales manager is the coach and there is a high expectation from the sales team for that kind of strong leadership. I managed to pull together our team and focused on goals, objectives and strategies consistent with the region. It was amazing to me that we had almost immediate success since I really didn’t understand in an academic way what I was doing. 

I believe it is entirely possible to rely on gut feel, experience with people and maybe a little luck. I also had enough exposure to appropriate college courses and Western Union training to reinforce my direction. In any case, it was important to move quickly and get positive results. 

I spent two years in Detroit with the first year in the previously described position and the second year as a staff support manager for the region. The experience was fabulous. I matured professionally and had lots of success. Unfortunately, my family life suffered along the way. My wife and I grew apart. I didn’t spend enough time at home because there were late evenings at the office or travel commitments. Sadly, my family really came second at the time. However, when we grow individually we often grow apart from our spouses, especially during younger years. 

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In the fall of 1972 I was promoted to area sales manager for Western Union in Seattle, Washington. This was a key position reporting to the region vice president and I would be the youngest area sales manager in the country. What a privilege and super opportunity. I felt a strong ego and had somewhat of an arrogant attitude. However, I managed to stick to basics and focus on the job to get results and build a strong team. 

The Seattle area was a beautiful place to live. I really felt that my life would blossom here. I loved the mountains, Puget Sound, and the ocean beaches. Fishing for salmon in the Sound and steelhead in the rivers became a favorite pastime. I could really relax and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors. 

My mother and dad also lived in Tacoma, a city about twenty miles south of Seattle. My dad was transferred to the area in 1966 to work at McNeil Island Federal Prison. This was an opportunity to get to know my parents again and satisfy a longing desire for a friendship at an adult level. I was most delighted getting to know them better, especially my dad. To this day we have a special relationship and are really good friends. 

Closely following my move to Seattle, my first marriage fell apart. This is probably no surprise to the reader. Getting into a new job responsibility, thinking about returning to college and not being happy with my personal life was awful to say the least. 

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Although it was tough at the time, I survived the experience of separation and divorce. The major problem was the feeling of loss, especially for my children. It was difficult to be separated from them and to become a “distant” dad. 

In 1973 I met and married my second wife Susan, probably too fast I know, but it happened anyway. This marriage had all the signs of being ideal because we had mutual professional goals, did fun things together and I felt secure with a person who seemed to have her act together. 

I went on to succeed at my goal with Western Union and returned to college. Susan understood business and supported my ambitions. This was a good match and I was comfortable at was the time.

It was a surprise to me in 1974 to find out about the reality of politics in business. I spent nine years with Western Union concentrating on getting results but learned about politics later. I was too young to understand the dynamics of interaction at the executive level. In fact I was not ready for the position I held at age 24 and wondered at times about what Western Union was thinking about. In my defense I probably had alot of talent, but I would today look more closely at someone my age and manage the decision differently. It is important to give young professionals a chance to develop. 

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In retrospect the best thing that happened to me in 1974 was getting fired from Western Union. However, at the time it was extremely painful. I couldn’t understand how one could get canned for doing a good job. I was naive and didn’t realize that most competent managers get fired for political reasons in a high percentage of cases. The challenge of survival is maintaining good chemistry in a dynamic and changing business environment. Often when organizations are restructured, managers change and the politics seem foreign and consequently a particular executive may no longer fit. The new coach wants his own team; that’s the realty of business. 

I was absolutely fearful transitioning out of the perceived ‘security blanket’ of Western Union after nine years with the company. It was tough for me to suddenly have to worry about a resume and to convince potential employers that I was great and should be hired without an inquisition. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I would have to use my strong sales abilities to find a new job and accepted the challenge. 

With fresh new resume in had, a well practiced pitch about me and good references, I landed a job at Weyerhaeuser Company in was Tacoma, Washington. My new job was to manage telecommunications as an end user rather than selling. It was a chance to expand my knowledge of the business as a user and to strengthen my professional credentials. 

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In the meantime, I continued to pursue my college goals. I also got involved heavily in building a local professional association of telecommunications users. The idea was to have large customers in Seattle organize to exchange information about our business experience, have a strong voice in the telecommunications industry and to offer educational programs. We called ourselves the Telecommunications Association (TCA) Northwest. We tried to pattern ourselves after a similar association in California. 

In addition to enjoying my new career with Weyerhaeuser Company, I became very active in leading the TCA. Building the association into a strong and highly visible organization was an exciting challenge. I eventually became President of TCA and was responsible for helping our association become accepted as a chapter of TCA in California. The new friendships and professional satisfaction of the TCA experience helped me gain confidence in myself and my future following the years with Western Union. 

My professional career as a telecommunications manager transitioned to the University of Washington. The UW was great not only for the experience but also the convenience of going to school. I went to work for the University of Washington around the same time I entered my junior year of college after graduating from Seattle Community College. The timing was great for working and going to school at the UW. Page 6-13 

My life in the Northwest was very comfortable during those years from 1974 to 1977. I felt settled and mostly content with what I was doing. I progressed nicely toward completing college goals and enjoyed working at the UW. My second marriage was going well for the most part. I even had a great relationship with my folks. My children visited Susan and I during the summer months and it was a good feeling to share my new life with them. My travels took me to Southern California frequently enough so that I had time with my kids but too infrequently between the summer months. 

Children grow up too fast especially if parents are separated. I never really felt like I contributed enough to rearing my children, and to this day feel guilty. As much as I supported them financially and visited as much as possible, I was not there with them consistently as they went through their growing experiences. 

This dad was not around when the two little girls needed me the most. In my opinion, divorce is a tragedy for children because kids ideally need lots of love from both parents and the stability of a strong family situation. Unfortunately, children do not make a marriage work or not work. Often the family arrangement is cosmetic because parents tend to stay together for the children. 

In early 1977 I left the University of Washington to take a job with Alaska Airlines as Corporate Communications Manager. I was getting restless for something more exciting. 

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The UW life was okay but I wanted to make more money and working for Alaska Airlines had a romantic appeal. Alaska needed badly someone who could develop a telecommunications program. The airline was growing rapidly and didn’t understand future needs for telecommunications systems and the people involved needed leadership. I was able to provide the leadership needed and had fun exploring Alaska. The one thing I didn’t get to do was fish for salmon and halibut in Juneau, was Alaska. I plan to go back someday. 

In January of 1978, Susan and I moved to San Francisco. I accepted an offer to join a company called Action Communications as a Network Design Manager. Susan got a job with RCA Americom. The move to the Bay Area was exciting for both of us. A new adventure was about to unfold and I was ready to get back into the sales business. Susan seemed to like the idea of moving away from home. 

If the truth be known I was ready to explore again and Susan was going along not knowing exactly what to expect. 

The experience in San Franciscogave me a ‘Born Again’ feeling. I was so happy to get back into a sales environment I was beside myself. Susan and I got a real kick out of being in the Bay Area and enjoyed our new life. I realized at this point that a constant professional challenge and an adventurous an personal life was highly stimulating. It is either an advantage or disadvantage getting bored easily; but for me change, challenge and excitement keep me going. 

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In 1980 we moved back to Seattle. Both personal and professional reasons dictated the change. Susan had mixed emotions about not being near her parents. I felt insecure with my company’s pending re-organization in San Francisco and believed I would be better off on my own back in Seattle. 

It was fun returning home. We moved back into our home in Federal Way and were reunited with friends and family. At this point, however, Susan and I seemed to be developing many differences in our interests and were growing apart. I was tired of working and not having enough fun. Fun by definition for me was exploring the country, fishing more, skiing and doing things other than going to dinner at Susan’s mom and dad’s house on Saturday and my mom and dad’s on Sunday. I also felt a need for more companionship or intimacy with my spouse rather than an existence measured by economics and family ties. 

While getting back into the Seattle community, renewing friendships and building a new business for my company, I realized that I wanted to do exactly as I pleased without asking for permission from anybody, including my wife Susan. Suddenly, I became very selfish and independent and didn’t want to be a “nine year old” kid on restriction. Believe it or not I “acted out” at age 36 but responsibly. It is obviously better to act out at 36 than at 15. Maybe my reaction to the times was a well deserved and earned delayed reaction. After all, I never really got to be a kid when I was a kid. 

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Susan and I separated in 1982 after a real struggle with our differences. The fundamental problem in the experience was the inability to compromise and resolve issues together. We had so many open action items that it would have required a federal mediator months and maybe years to work out our differences. 

Judy Young was an old dear friend of mine. I got to know  Judy around 1976 when she worked for Washington Mutual Savings Bank in Seattle and I was at the University of Washington. Judy helped with getting the TCA going and was very interested in learning about the telecommunications business. She was also a very sweet and nice person who was always a pleasure to be with. Judy was divorced from her husband at the time of my separation in 1982 and quite by accident we decided to hang around together more on a personal basis. Judy was absolutely the best accident I ever had. 

Judy and I had much in common. We were good friends first and became great buddies while getting to know each other better in a closer relationship. We both loved the outdoors. She loved fishing with me, we went skiing, ran together and backpacking/hiking into the mountains was special. Over time we both found the friendship and intimacy in our relationship that we longed for and enjoy the same today but much stronger. 

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My professional career with the Action Division of Honeywell in the northwest was one of the best experiences I ever had. I was responsible for over seven million dollars in business in less than two years and was honored as sales professional of the year in 1982. I will never forget the feeling of having the entire manufacturing capacity of our facility in Dallas, Texas full with equipment from my sale to the State of Washington. 

Selling successfully in a multimillion dollar high technology market is extremely exciting. It requires an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to orchestrate resources effectively. The sales professional is absolutely responsible for “making it happen” and is highly respected for his/her selling and managerial skills. Often more than 50% of getting the job done is getting your company behind the project. Leadership is a key ingredient to success. A sales professional must lead the customer and his/her company to be successful. 

Following my success at Honeywell in 1983, Judy and I decided to take two months off. At this point in my life I was ready for a break. I believe when a person reaches a point when financially, personally and professionally high goals are achieved it is mandatory to reward yourself. I did exactly that with my best friend and partner Judy. We toured Canada and did all the things we love to do. We entered the U.s. in the state of Maine after visiting Quebec City.  

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After a week with Judy’s family we drove down the east coast, spent time in New York City, proceeded to Washington DC for a visit, parked our camper at the airport and flew off to Guadeloupe for two weeks. Guadeloupe was a wonderful cultural experience. The natives were great but the French left alot to be desired. We explored the entire Island including a hike in the jungle. We felt totally free as individuals without the pressures of the busy and cosmetic world we would eventually return to. 

Following our return to the mainland, we drove across country. Once we got through the plains states and into the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming, we developed an anxious (at least I did) feeling about getting home. The country along the way and times we shared were beautiful. After almost two months of being together 24 hours a day and 7 says a week, Judy and I were having a great time and became very close. 

When we returned from our extended vacation in September 1983, I reported to my new job with Northern Telecom and Judy returned to her job at the State of Washington. Actually, I had accepted an offer to join Northern in June with the agreement to take a leave for two months during July and August. 

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I still believe that was one of the best employment agreements I ever negotiated. To this day I respect Northern Telecom for permitting me to follow through with a personal goal while having the confidence that I would return and perform up to their expectations. I did just that by closing a major contract for $1.5 million shortly after my return. I was ready to get back into my career. 

Judy and I were married on April 21, 1984. My life was fresh with a wonderful new loving relationship, a positive career move and a great feeling about the future. Judy and I seem to grow together very nicely and have a consistantly compatible relationship. We certainly have our differences but we always work through the issues and strengthen our relationship with compromises. I wouldn’t know what to do without our occasional and healthy conflicts. 

The Northwest is an ideal place to live forever. However, if one is not ready for retirement and desires career advancement, Seattle is mostly a deadend. We loved our life in the Northwest but decided to relocate to southern California in 1985 as a result of an “offer I couldn’t refuse” with Northern Telecom. (Before Microsoft boom)

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We settled in Laguna Niguel which is south of Los Angeles near Dana Point and Laguna Beach, California. The important thing is that we lived near the ocean and Dana Point Marina where our sailboat was to be located. When I was a teenager, Dana Point was a great surf spot. It was most nostalgic to revisit this area and enjoy all of its beauty in my later life. It was interesting for me to recall that I had fantasized about living in Dana Point many years ago and by some coincidence this actually happened. 

Judy was transferred with the Federal Government to a new an job in San Diego. What an awful commute at 145 miles round trip. Fortunately, she wasn’t required to drive to San Diego everyday. It was still alot of pressure and I felt guilty alot about imposing this situation on Judy. My safe harbor was “misery loves company” because my commute was no piece of cake but not as bad as Judy’s. 

I thought moving to Los Angeles was an opportunity to get closer to my children, Deanna and Bianca. Not a chance, since my daughters accused us of living too far away (20 miles) and rarely did they visit and even show an interest in getting together. Many times I felt we had better contact when we were in Seattle. In my opinion, it was “too little too late” because the girls were into their own lives and distance between all of us was not a factor. Ten miles or 1,000 miles cause made no difference in our relationship. 

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What really counts is children and parents growing together. I didn’t have the opportunity to build the foundation under the circumstances of family separation. It is a real challenge, if not impossible, to establish family unity without family unity. 

Although my new job with Northern Telecom didn’t have the challenge I wanted, it was a fun and a successful experience. However, I knew my first assignment in Southern California required my total commitment and would position me for the job I really wanted. However, It was not immediately apparent to me that I accepted the near impossible task of convincing Hughes Aircraft Company to do new business with Northern Telecom. Hughes had gotten to a low point in its relationship with Northern Telecom and alot of TLC was required. My experience and abilities as a sales professional and manager paid off in rebuilding a relationship with Hughes. It was possible to turn this customer around. Hughes Aircraft once again became a happy and valued Northern Telecom account and I loved every minute of the experience. Making good out of a bad situation has always been particularly challenging to me. 

Judy and I enjoyed the southern California life. The fair weather sailing was pleasant and the few passages to Catalina were especially memorable. We also learned how to scuba dive. I took the course before Judy and she got hooked watching me, so completed the course herself. Dreams come true if you believe in yourself.

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The ocean is a beautiful place to explore, especially under water. The ideal vacation goal for us is to go bareboating (chartering a sailboat) and scuba diving in the US Virgin Islands. 

In the fall of 1986 the opportunity I had been waiting for came my way. Northern Telecom offered me a promotion to Director and a transfer to our Walnut Creek, California office. My new job was to manage NTI’s major distributor, Pactel InfoSystems. PacТel purchased approximately $40 million annually in wholesale PBX equipment for resale to the business community. I have a staff of ten professionals who support Pactel’s sales marketing and technology needs. My job provided me the challenge I seem to need, it is exciting and also gives me tremendous personal satisfaction. 

This promotion represented a significant move up in the company and positions me nicely for Vice President with Northern Telecom or a comparable growth opportunity with another company if I elected to make a change. Actually, I am very happy with Northern and plan to stay with the company as long as possible. At this point in my career it was important to establish myself and make a long term commitment with one company. 

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Thanks to Northern Telecom’s culture, I have had the freedom to build my organization into a highly effective team. We are structured around Pactel’s needs for support in the areas of marketing, sales and technology. A strong and lasting partnership with Pactel depends on our ability to continually demonstrate a high level of interest in Pactel as a major distributor and sustain a big investment in Northern Telecom resources to assist PacТel in maintaining a leading edge. 

Judy and I loved northern California. Living in the East Bay next to Briones Regional Park on the Martinez/Lafayette border above Concord gives us a country setting with a view of the city and Mount Diablo Valley. We love to run and hike in the park and enjoy all the horses. We have good access to The City (San Francisco) as well as an easier drive to the mountains for winter and summer sports. Our sailboat is at Marina Village in Alameda which is 30 minutes away. 

The Bay Area offers a wonderful city experience when we want it, gives us room to breathe where we live and an escape to the mountains without a traffic jam. We must be getting smarter in our young later years. In any case, my priorities include fun personal things with my best friend and spouse Judy and family members, including our dog Sadie. Sadie is a yellow Labrador about 4 years old who loves hanging out with us doing whatever we do. 

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I believe the rest of my life will be very exciting and fulfilling. My experience so far suggests that turning 40 really does represent “getting older is getting better.” I have learned much but expect to continue growing and learning much more. My goals include completing my education to maximize my personal and career potential, to become financially secure by age fifty and move to the mountains at the earliest possible convenience. 

Judy and I are also working on having a family together. We tried all the natural and scientific means of conceiving without success and have been pursuing the adoption alternative. We believe we have alot to give to a child and are better prepared now than ever to rear children. I know I am and even though Judy has not had children she is not only ready to be a mother but can devote all the attention needed to give children the love and care that they deserve. This will be Judy’s first experience with child rearing but a second chance I will treasure. 

My feeling after writing about my life is that I have been lucky, feel fortunate and appreciate what life offers. Most importantly, I have found that “it’s up to you” for the most part to control your own destiny. This is rule number one and continues to guide me through life, along with a strong faith in God and the sharing and strength I receive from my personal life.

Children Abused by Religion.

“Lambert defines spiritual abuse as “a type of psychological predomination that could be rightly termed—religious enslavement.”[47] He further identifies “religious enslavement” as being a product of what is termed in the Bible “witchcraft,” or “sorcery.”[48]

Click here for more…

Religious abuse will surely hijack the soul of a child. I left home on my 17th birthday in 1963. But sadly and tragically didn’t have my soul in my backpack. I was also mad as hell at Jesus! A relationship with Jesus Christ was a scary proposition for me then and still is. I was programmed to fear God. The thought of this evil stuff is horrific to live with and damages a young soul forever. This is what happened to me and my family growing up in the 50s. And I didn’t acknowledge it until now…

Religious cult behavior, especially in a profoundly dysfunctional family dynamic, literally kills young souls, like me. This is a family in a perpetual cycle of emotional pain and persistent mental illness, including religous and alcohol abuse. No kidding, this is very serious stuff to have conversations about so that we can help each other.

The baggage follows young adults who suffered at the hands of abusive parents who were sick themselves. Probably, in my life time the most insanely agredious religious cult tragedy was the ‘Jim Jones’ mass suicide long ago. I remember living and working in the Bay Area when it was front page news. It is still sickening, disgusting and disturbing all at once. This is how common folks get a divorce from Jesus and never recover. This kind of trauma is a moral injury, at the evil end of the spectrum.

This side bar research is helping me fill in the blanks and close the door on a traumatic childhood, including adding religious abuse to the tool kit. Kids who leave home without a soul, a moral compass so to speak, make bad choices and too often die too early. We must get smarter on the ‘religous abuse’ implications of our most vulnerable citizens especially kids. The initial interaction with a person suffering from religious abuse, like me, is to feel shivers up the spine, and look for the nearest fire exit when someone in the crowd cries out, “Jesus loves you!” The fear of Jesus Christ is outrageous and causes too much emotional damage to kids of all ages and adults alike. We have to start talking about this…

In my view, the awareness created with Mental Health 1st Aid USA training is a great start. But I see an opportunity add a section dealing with the symptoms of religious abuse.

I have been in denial about religious abuse for most of my life until now, age 73. I can’t say why it took so long to revisit this very important life changing factor in my religious upbringing. I feel the freedom of the challenges of my spirit life now. It is never too late to find renewed faith. It’s hard work, especially when there is so much trash to empty…

My own extensive research, including first book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story (2011) and in a professional capacity, serves as evidence of my personal journey. In addition, open and honest conversations with family members revealed a consistent pattern of religious abuse making us feel extreme shame over many years. It is akin to brain washing, so you have to go through an extended ‘brain-failure-recovery (BFR1.0)’ process to feel love, trust and faith again. I didn’t know love until much later in life. Religious abuse in my mind is as close to evil I can imagine, if not evil itself.

No child should ever be subjected to this kind of horrific injury to the core of one’s soul. It might take a life time of ‘soul search and rescue’ to find peace of mind, if we are so lucky. As a “Recovering Catholic” I try to look back at my roots to understand that this behavior is not part of the church, it is part of the “tool kit of abuse and maltreatment” in a profoundly dysfunctional home…click here for more…on how the Catholic Church explains…

Thank you for coming with me on my personal healing and spiritual journey…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate click here for my author page.

"Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley" Chapter 2, excerpt… Conquering fear of God…

Eskimo Kisses in Stehekin, celebrating 30 years of our spiritual journey as a family… Steve & Judy Sparks 2018

Religous Abuse as a reference, click here… “Child Protection and Cults”

“I have been in denial about religous abuse for most of my life until now, age 73. I can’t say why it took do long to revisit this very important life changing factor in my religious upbringing. I feel the freedom of the challenges of my spirit life now. It is never too late to find renewed faith. It’s hard work, especially when there is so much trash to empty…”

It gives me huuge joy to share the above excerpt from my new memoir, a work in progress. I just finished a draft of Chapter I! The spirits and my creative juices are flowing and my soul is hungry for spiritual growth. All the angels in my life have gathered and encouraged me to write, and do it now. The words flow from my heart and the deepest places of my soul. I will share excerpts from each new chapter in the coming weeks and months.

I want to engage my friends and colleagues while writing this profoundly touching journey of love and healing for my family. I published my first memoir, Reconciliation, a Son’s Story in 2011 and launched my website Children and Families in Life After Trauma at the same time.

Please forward your comments of support and feedback to me… stevesparks.associates@survivethriveptsd.org

My healing journey has indeed entered a spiritual phase now that I feel truly safe. A gift of the spirit life at this time of my life draws me closer to God. I never felt peace of mind until now. It’s a deep feeling in my soul that moves me to a more peaceful place.

My soul is speaking to me. Think it’s a ‘coming home’ feeling in this 30th year of my journey to reconnect my lost soul. You get this, I know.”

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate click here for my author page

Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley Chapter I excerpt2

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, & Mental Health Advocate. Tap my photo

It gives me huuge joy to share the following excerpt from my new memoir, a work in progress. I just finished a draft of Chapter I! The spirits and my creative juices are flowing and my soul is hungry for spiritual growth. All the angels in my life have gathered and encouraged me to write, and do it now. The words flow from my heart and the deepest places of my soul. I will share excerpts from each new chapter in the coming weeks and months.

I want to engage my friends and colleagues while writing this profoundly touching journey of love and healing for my family. I published my first memoir, Reconciliation, a Son’s Story in 2011 and launched my website Children and Families in Life After Trauma at the same time.

Please forward your comments of support and feedback to me… stevesparks.associates@survivethriveptsd.org

I will not pretend to be a subject matter expert in psychiatry, science, or medicine. I’m proud and privileged to be a survivor of childhood and young adult trauma, abuse and maltreatment. I suffer from a life long mental illness, ‘acute agitated depressive disorder’. As a lay person I help others as a peer, friend and colleague. My work is about community building and healing as a broader collaboration of stakeholders, partners and consumers with a common mission.

My healing journey has indeed entered a spiritual phase now that I feel truly safe. A gift of the spirit life at this time of my life draws me closer to God. I never felt peace of mind until now. It’s a deep feeling in my soul that moves me to a more peaceful place.

My soul is speaking to me. Think it’s a ‘coming home’ feeling in this 30th year of my journey to reconnect my lost soul. You get this, I know.”

From Chapter I…

“It was never enough. It’s exhausting to have a 24/7 racing mind and negative self talk. I never stopped thinking about the next move. It was sick, and obsessive behavior as I think back to that time. I behaved as a ‘self serving’ bully at times when anything got in my way. I didn’t know yet that I was sick, and didn’t want to.”

Leavenworth, Wa