Polio 1948! How do we look back and compare with Coronavirus?

Steve Sparks, age 2, struck with Polio shortly after this photo was taken on his 2nd birthday.

Polio 1948! Click here…

“The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman declared in a speech broadcast from the White House. “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”

I can only imagine what it was like for the Sparks family in 1948 when their 2 year old child was struck with Polio. There was no vaccine in 1948! It was a pile on for the American people and the world right after WWII.

I only know from first hand accounts from my parents and big brother. I do know because there were severe physical damages to my upper left side and face that left me with muscle weakness in my left arm, and facial damage and jaw function from being paralized.

Imagine

I can only imagine as a 2 year old having my jaw supported with a clamp of sorts to keep my mouth open to eat and drink. I can only imagine what 1000s of kids just like me were going through, and all their families too. I can only imagine how it felt not being home with my family for 6 weeks. I can only imagine what it was like for my family to help me recover.

My big brother always mentioned that the worst thing for him was 24/7 crying. Even though this is me as a toddler, I can’t even get close to imagining how much pain was going on in my little brain. I feel shivers up my back and a big hole in my heart.

My family was not prepared or equipped to deal with my recovery. I was lucky, indeed, to survive and thrive. It was trial and error for everyone at the time. I treasure life at age 74 and feel privileged to be alive.

Life with polio…

As I got older, my family joked about it. They made fun of my crooked smile and buck teeth. I pushed my buck teeth back with my thumb for years to build a smile I could be good with. The weakness in my left arm and muscle atrophy made me self conscious for most of my life. My left side of my chest was not developed as a kid.

So, I found ways to cover up my left chest with a towel or my right hand when exposed at the beach or pool. I learned to do push ups with one arm. I was able to get through Navy boot camp in 1963 this way. My right arm did all the work. I learned to swim and surf with a very strong right arm. I learned to defend myself too with a kick ass right arm. I felt ugly most of the time as a kid. The good news, I survived and thrived! I made it, still here at age 74. Hooray!

Polio was a thing that no one wanted to talk about. To my parents credit , they wanted me to think I was normal and healthy just like other kids. I was clearly not normal and suffered delays in my early development as a child. The chronic after effects of polio persist for a life time, especially in later years.

End of WWII

“During the peak of the polio epidemic in the U.S., some hospital wards even had large, room-like iron lungs where multiple children lived. ” Imagine how these kids suffered physically and mentally, just like me… Mental illness was not close to being in the conversation back then…

As an added tragedy for our family, my father just returned from 4 years of hard combat in WWII. He suffered from severe PTSD and depression without adequate treatment and recovery. Dad was in bad shape.

My mother would say to me that Dad cried for weeks. He carried me to the hospital where I stayed for 6 weeks before returning home. What my parents didn’t know then is how Polio affected mental health in children. The physical damage was horrific for so many at that time. In comparison, I was lucky.

Empathy

Polio has given me great empathy and compassion for what families are going through with Covid19. Never in my long life have I experienced a public health crisis as a ‘political event.’ It is unconscionable to think that America is divided when it is a life and death matter. I’m shocked to see now that we as a people aren’t coming together to fight Covid 19 like we did Polio in the 40s and 50s, and through the 70s. Every child in America was given the Polio vaccine once it was safe in the 50s. It was a global emergency we fought as one people united just like WWII. America was mobilized!

National and global leadership…quote from the above website reference…

“Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio 12 years before he became president. Roosevelt concealed the extent to which he suffered from polio, but he acknowledged having it. His presidency put polio front and center on the national stage. In 1938, Roosevelt founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and spearheaded the March of Dimes for polio research. In 1946, President Harry Truman declared polio a threat to the United States and called on Americans to do everything possible to combat it.”

And quoting again…

“The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman declared in a speech broadcast from the White House. “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”

Covid19 fast forward…2020

Fighting unknown viral and bacterial disease as a threat to humanity is obviously not new. What is new is a divided America, misinformation and politics taking hold to fight a life/death public health crisis. Deaths of loved ones continue to soar and cases rise around the globe.

I ask why? Why is America’s behavior so outrageously and inhumanly this way now? How can politics even be in the conversation? Why? What happened to empathy and compassion? Where is humanity and humility as a people? What the hell are we doing, really?

I ask why?

Steve Sparks, Mental Health Advocate, Author, Blogger

Click here for Steve’s author page…

Mocha…Born to be Free! Part 2, Dogs Surely Go to Heaven…

Mocha the river dog… Nov 1996, Tacoma, Wa – May 2009 Depoe Bay, Oregon

Sarah and Mocha, Christmas 1996

After Sadie, our first family pet, left us to cross the Rainbow Bridge, Sarah begged for another puppy. She didn’t give in or give up then, nor does she ever give up now. Even as a little girl, Sarah knew how to make a case. She was very deterimined to convince us to get a puppy by Christmas. She didn’t want anything else from Santa. We finally decided it was a good thing. We were sold!

Mocha came home with us in January 1997. Sarah was so happy and excited. And she was a handful right away. As a pup she couldn’t sit still. We worried that Mocha had a few issues we would have to watch out for. We were right!

Poop and pee pee house training duty…

Sarah agreed to take Mocha out in the cold every day that winter to teach her where to go potty. It’s very cold in Icicle Valley during Janurary. Feels like Fairbanks, Alaska in the dead of winter to me. Sarah did a good job. Judy and I were happy and proud. I wondered, though, why she was never gone very long with the pup. We had tons of snow that winter of 1996-97. When the snow started falling off the metal roof of our log cabin we could only get out one way to the side. We were proud of Sarah taking responsiblity for Mocha. I didn’t want to do it unless it was an emergency.

When all the snow melted that spring of ’97, I started to see right away where Mocha pooped all winter long. The little puppy poops, a huge mound of the stinky stuff, started to appear under the snow.

Sarah was really pissed when I made her clean up the huge pile of poop. “Please daddy, please don’t make me clean it up, please!” she cried. Sarah was 9 years old then. She accepted responsiblity early as a child. She looked up at me often then and would say, “I can do it Daddy!” To this day Sarah looks at me with the same determination and enthusiam, “I can do it!” We still laugh about this fun memory and lots of other things too.

Mocha, Steve, Judy and Sarah. Wenatchee River, Tumwater Canyon, near Leavenworth, Wa c1998 or click here.

Growing up in the mountains…

Mocha loved water! It didn’t matter where, she was nuts about creeks and rivers, and the ocean too.

Mocha was the happiest on or near the water. She chased birds with great enthusiasm. She could jump 6 ft easily. Mocha loved to go fishing with me. I never caught a fish with Mocha in the river with me. But she almost caught one, but mostly chased the trout away. I left Mocha in the truck after that or tied her gently to a tree on the bank with snacks to keep her company. We loved Mocha!

There were no red lines for Mocha in playing with other furry and feathered friends in the forest and in rivers. Once upon a time she chased a skunk down while we were hiking with friends up Icicle Valley one day. Me and my friends, Larry and Chris, could not contain ourselves. I watched with horror as she pounced on a skunk without hesitation.. Guess you can imagine what happened next. It was an awful two weeks of treatment for Mocha. We bathed her with tomato juice once a day for 2 weeks until the terrible smell of skunk works did its thing. Mocha never again chased a skunk. Oh duh, right?

The Rainbow Bridge

Central Oregon Coast 2006 near Depoe Bay…

It was another beautiful day in Little Whale Cove in May 2009. Mocha knew we were going to her very favorite beach, Big Whale Cove. She was at the front door grabbing her leash with excitement . She couldn’t wait , jumping at the door, looking and smiling at Judy and me.

We can’t go to Big Whale Cove easily these days since the stunning cove became a marine reserve a few years back. We could hike there from Little Whale Cove , making our way south for about a block or so up the hill overlooking this magical and stunning beauty of the cove and sandy protected beach.

Escape for a moment to experience the stunning beauty of Whale Cove, truly a mindfulness meditation gift from God.

Whale Cove Marine Reserve… Truly a gift to be treasured for a lifetime.

Mocha didn’t need the rope to descend to the beach about 75 ft below. She raced as usual and jumped down to the driftwood bridge that crossed over to the beach. The driftwood piled up over centuries of huge waves from 75-100 mph winds during the winter months. We couldn’t get to the beach as much during the winter. It was not safe, period. Don’t even think about it!

Judy and I followed Mocha down, but didn’t see her anywhere. We begin to worry. What happened to our pup. She was the joy of our life. Never a dull moment with Mocha. She was born to be free.

Mocha and me hiking the Icicle Gorge Trail in 2004 near Leavenworth, Wa where she grew up with the beauty of the mountains , rivers, and the things labradors love the most. Water, water, water…
Mocha, as a pup winter 1997 waiting for me at the door of our log home in Icicle Valley in Leavenworth, Wa. Right from the beginning she wanted freedom.

We got really worried because Mocha was usually running back and forth on the beach. She loved to chase sea birds and swim out near the native harbor seals that made their home in Whale Cove.

There are a couple of hundred of these wonderfully kind and curious mammals. They always hung out about 25 ft from shore., keeping their watchful big beautiful eyes on us all the while we played on the beach. They bobbed their heads up a little from the water trying to be unnoticed. It was a beautiful site. I could sit on the beach and watch the seals for a long time, taking me away from the world outside. We walked the small beach and played with Mocha, and sat in our chairs. Sometimes a couple of friends would show up with a furry friend for Mocha to play with.

Finally we found Mocha, breathing hard and laying on a large piece of driftwood near where we climbed down. Mocha couldn’t get up and was in great pain and scared. And we were scared. We tried to get her up the steep climb but she could not lift herself up and climb with us. Judy and I were frantic and very sad, crying while trying to help Mocha.

We called our neighbors, Deb and Neil, who came immediately to help us rescue Mocha. Neil was younger and stronger than me. He was able to help me carry Mocha while we struggled together getting her up the steep path above the cove. We are forever grateful to Neil and Deb coming to Mocha’s rescue. Our furry friends are loving family members whose love and companionship makes us kinder and gentler humans with empathy and compassion.

We took Mocha to the vet right away. We prayed that she would recover and get back to Whale Cove again. But this would be her last last time at the beach to run and play. Mocha loved to be free…

The vet comforted both of us while Mocha lay on the table while the doc looked her over. It was then we were told that if Mocha could get back up in a day or so, she would never get up and have the quality of life she was accustomed to. We couldn’t let Mocha suffer. So many fury loved ones go this way. It wouild be cruel and selfish to let your fury loved one suffer.

We knew the next day was Mocha’s last day. She couldn’t get up and was crying all night. We both took turns sleeping with her to show our love by hugging and kissing her. until the next morning.

The next day was difficult while we took Mocha back to the vet. She passed over the Rainbow Bridge peacefully. We were grief stricken. We mourned the loss of our furry loved one the same as any loving member of our family and friends.

Mocha was a blessing in our lives. We will never forget her, and often revisit the years of hiking the mountain trails and swimming in rivers and the ocean. Mocha was so loyal and loving. Mocha was born to be free.

Mocha, summer 2005, Leavenworth, Wa just before we moved to the Central Oregon Coast…
Sarah, Judy, and Steve. Sparks. We will always miss Mocha with love in our hearts. We have so many fun stories to share…

As an added blessing, Judy and I took Mocha’s ashes back to Leavenworth, Wa. We spent several hours hanging out at our favorite spot, Leavenworth Fish Hatchery. Mocha’s ashes were set free in the Icicle Creek ar the Fish Hatchery dam.

‘Get Stupid’ at Home Safely and Stay Grounded… Silliness is food for the soul…

I didn’t know getting stupid or being outrageously silly, was a way to relieve stress back in the day. But I sought out others who wanted to get stupid on their own time like me. You know, kindred spirits.

At times we were so stupid and laughed so hard at stupid stuff it made us exhausted after these joyful, on and on, rediculous laughing rants. We loved to laugh…no kidding!

A couple of shots of tequila and a Corona really did the number on me and my battle buddies. We used four letter words like ‘fuck’ in every other word along with ‘shit .’ I can’t remember anything we ever talked about. All I remember is laughing my ass off with the fools in my company.

Even though I haven’t had alcohol in 18 years, I still laugh just the same.

We laughed until we couldn’t laugh anymore. It provided us with great relief from all the the intense stress in our lives as IT sales people.

I always got up early the next morning, Running 5 miles helped revive my fuzzy brain and work off the alcohol from night before. I believe we were alot happier and had more fun doing what we loved…selling black boxes.

It wasn’t until a few years ago I started understanding mindfulness meditation practices as a therapy. I was able to work with a therapist initially to get my brain tuned into living in the moment.

Now, I ‘get stupid’ as a happy practice at home more than once a day. Of course, I’m retired and get away with it.

Reading this great post…Centered Silliness
BY MADISYN TAYLOR, reinforced everything I have felt and experienced while laughing my ass off for 7 decades. Clearly, I picked the best of the best of “get stupid” pals who I trusted without question. I can count my special friends on one hand. I dearly miss the loving souls and special friends who left us too early.

So, laugh your ass off and get stupid for stupid’s sake! Silliness is good for the soul…

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocates

From the DailyOM…

Centered Silliness
BY MADISYN TAYLORWhen we laugh, we give ourselves over to the immediacy of the present moment.Many people might be surprised to think of laughter as a form of meditation. Yet not only is laughing meditation one of the simplest forms of meditation, but also it is a very powerful one. The physical act of laughing is one of the few actions involving the body, emotions, and the soul. When we laugh, we give ourselves over to the immediacy of the present moment. We also are able to momentarily transcend minor physical and mental stresses. Practiced in the morning, laughing meditation can lend a joyful quality to the entire day. Practiced in the evening, laughing meditation is a potent relaxant that has been known to inspire pleasant dreams. Laughter also can help open our eyes to previously unnoticed absurdities that can make life seem less serious.

There are three stages to mindful laughter. Each stage can last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. The first stage involves stretching your body like a cat and breathing deeply. Your stretch should start at the hands and feet before you move through the rest of your body. Stretch out the muscles in your face by yawning and making silly faces. The second stage of the meditation is pure laughter. Imagine a humorous situation, remember funny jokes, or think about how odd it is to be laughing by yourself. When the giggles start to rise, let them. Let the laughter ripple through your belly and down into the soles of your feet. Let the laughter lead to physical movement. Roll on the floor, if you have to, and keep on laughing until you stop. The final stage of the meditation is one of silence. Sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breath.

Laughter brings with it a host of positive effects that operate on both the physical and mental levels. It is also fun, expressive, and a way to release tension. Learn to laugh in the present moment, and you’ll find that joy is always there.
Silliness is good for the soul!

“I Didn’t Know Love Until You Showed Me.” Happy 70th Birthday My Love!

Sarah, Judy and Steve

Happy 70th to “the eyes that stopped a 1000 soldiers!” The smile that won my heart!

I didn’t know love until you showed me…

I didn’t know empathy until you showed me…

I didn’t know compassion until you showed me…

I didn’t know myself until you showed me…

I didn’t know my soul until you showed me…

I didn’t know how to live or love until you showed me…


I live with love now because you showed me…

Happy 70th my love!

Steve and Judy at Stehikan, Wa 2018… “Eskimo Kisses ” a Sparks family tradition…

Mindfulness Mediation Practices Help Calm The Soul…

Little Whale Cove at Sunset! Credits Steve Sparks
Mindfulness Mediation Creations from Little Whale Cove, Oregon click here

Visit ‘Mindfulness Meditation Moments’ to ease stress… Newport News Times click here.

Visit my new Mindfulness Meditation Moments page. Escape for a moment to calm the soul… click here

About a month ago, I was sitting with my wife and best buddy, Judy, enjoying the peace of mind that envelopes us in harmony with nature at this stunning beach called Little Whale Cove. I believe we are at the center of a vortex of nature and the spirit world. Native Americans lived in this corner of heaven many decades ago. We feel a closeness to God on this ancient coast of volcanic rock and rain forests.

Big Whale Cove, is a short walk to the south of us, click here. We can’t go there anymore after it was designated as a Marine Reserve several years ago. Learn more about Whale Cove, click here

It was then, at that moment, I was inspired by a piece of driftwood bark half way buried. The shape of every piece of old bark is unique just like all the tiny shells, agates and rocks.

This little treasure from the sea made we wonder where the bark came from and how long it was drifting into beaches and coves along the coast from where the mother tree first fell into the ocean long ago. Maybe for many years if not decades. Bark, after all, is very rugged, water proof, with a tough thick skin. Huge coastal trees eventually fall into the ocean from places up and down the coast.

Like anything floating in the ocean, the separated moved with the tide and winds, floating on the surface like a lost boat at sea. “Where did it come from?” I asked Judy. We both became deeply curious and talked about it for awhile.

Then, I thought of a creative idea that could bring life to driftwood bark. On our unique Little Whale Cove Beach are billions of tiny shells and rocks that accumilate from winter storms that dump sea treasures on the beach while huge waves crash into the cove all winter long. The small rocks and shells represent our beach. There is no sand, just teenie tiny treasures from the sea.

Then it came to me! I could randomly place these beautiful little shells, agates and rocks on the bark as a platform. Each piece of selected bark looked in need of a little sanding and cleaning. Not something to use for my beach art until bringing out the sheer beauty underneath the sea worn surface.

This is what a sea carved piece of bark looks like before and after the finishing process. These are two separate pieces of bark that look very similar. The ocean seems to provide a template for my new beach art hobby.

Before and After… Be sure and zoom in…

As we get more experienced and creative, here is a couple of my latest master pieces. I found a very old piece of drift wood to serve as a platform. I speculated, with some imagination, that it must have come from a ship, or maybe from the Japanese tsunami some years ago. The one that took out a couple of docks in Depoe Bay. I then placed the finished bark sculpture on top of it along with another small piece of contrasting drift wood. This little gem has dark thin lines equally spaced. Think of how long these treasures have been in production at sea before they came to us, somehow spiritually connected to Little Whale Cove. Think of it…

Latest masterpiece (top) named “Sail.” The beautifully finished piece (bottom) makes me feel like keeping it like it is. The character is so striking and special, we don’t want to disturb its natural look. ‘Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke’ is my take…

Judy and I hope you all will stay with us while we explore our beaces on the Oregon coast. I also wish everyone a mindful, healthy and blessed life… Judy and I try everyday to live in the moment. It takes practice…

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocates

Steve’s Author Page, click here.