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.

Should Your Child Return to School While Covid19 is Raging? by Joe Morice

Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, Va

To our fellow FCPS families, this is it gang, 5 days until the 2 days in school vs. 100% virtual decision. Let’s talk it out, in my traditional mammoth TL/DR form.

Like all of you, I’ve seen my feed become a flood of anxiety and faux expertise. You’ll get no presumption of expertise here. This is how I am looking at and considering this issue and the positions people have taken in my feed and in the hundred or so FCPS discussion groups that have popped up. The lead comments in quotes are taken directly from my feed and those boards. Sometimes I try to rationalize them. Sometimes I’m just punching back at the void.

Full disclosure, we initially chose the 2 days option and are now having serious reservations. As I consider the positions and arguments I see in my feed, these are where my mind goes. Of note, when I started working on this piece at 12:19 PM today the COVID death tally in the United States stood at 133,420.

“My kids want to go back to school.”

I challenge that position. I believe what the kids desire is more abstract. I believe what they want is a return to normalcy. They want their idea of yesterday. And yesterday isn’t on the menu.

“I want my child in school so they can socialize.”

This was the principle reason for our 2 days decision. As I think more on it though, what do we think ‘social’ will look like? There aren’t going to be any lunch table groups, any lockers, any recess games, any study halls, any sitting next to friends, any talking to people in the hallway, any dances. All of that is off the menu. So, when we say that we want the kids to benefit from the social experience, what are we deluding ourselves into thinking in-building socialization will actually look like in the Fall?

“My kid is going to be left behind.”

Left behind who? The entire country is grappling with the same issue, leaving all children in the same quagmire. Who exactly would they be behind? I believe the rhetorical answer to that is “They’ll be behind where they should be,” to which I’ll counter that “where they should be” is a fictional goal post that we as a society have taken as gospel because it maps to standardized tests which are used to grade schools and counties as they chase funding.

“Classrooms are safe.”

At the current distancing guidelines from FCPS middle and high schools would have no more than 12 people (teachers + students) in a classroom (I acknowledge this number may change as FCPS considers the Commonwealth’s 3 ft with a mask vs. 6 ft position, noting that FCPS is all mask regardless of the distance). For the purpose of this discussion we’ll say classes run 45 minutes.

I posed the following question to 40 people today, representing professional and management roles in corporations, government agencies, and military commands: “Would your company or command have a 12 person, 45 minute meeting in a conference room?”

100% of them said no, they would not. These are some of their answers:

“No. Until further notice we are on Zoom.”
“(Our company) doesn’t allow us in (company space).”
“Oh hell no.”
“No absolutely not.”
“Is there a percentage lower than zero?”
“Something of that size would be virtual.”

We do not even consider putting our office employees into the same situation we are contemplating putting our children into. And let’s drive this point home: there are instances here when commanding officers will not put soldiers, ACTUAL SOLDIERS, into the kind of indoor environment we’re contemplating for our children. For me this is as close to a ‘kill shot’ argument as there is in this entire debate. How do we work from home because buildings with recycled air are not safe, because we don’t trust other people to not spread the virus, and then with the same breath send our children into buildings?

“Children only die .0016 of the time.”

First, conceding we’re an increasingly morally bankrupt society, but when did we start talking about children’s lives, or anyone’s lives, like this? This how the villain in movies talks about mortality, usually 10-15 minutes before the good guy kills him.

If you’re in this camp, and I acknowledge that many, many people are, I’m asking you to consider that number from a slightly different angle.

FCPS has 189,000 children. .0016 of that is 302. 302 dead children are the Calvary Hill you’re erecting your argument on. So, let’s agree to do this: stop presenting this as a data point. If this is your argument, I challenge you to have courage equal to your conviction. Go ahead, plant a flag on the internet and say, “Only 302 children will die.” No one will. That’s the kind action on social media that gets you fired from your job. And I trust our social media enclave isn’t so careless and irresponsible with life that it would even, for even a millisecond, enter any of your minds to make such an argument.

Considered another way: You’re presented with a bag with 189,000 $1 bills. You’re told that in the bag are 302 random bills, they look and feel just like all the others, but each one of those bills will kill you. Do you take the money out of the bag?

Same argument, applied to the 12,487 teachers in FCPS (per Wikipedia), using the ‘children’s multiplier’ of .0016 (all of us understanding the adult mortality rate is higher). That’s 20 teachers. That’s the number you’re talking about. It’s very easy to sit behind a keyboard and diminish and dismiss the risk you’re advocating other people assume. Take a breath and think about that.

If you want to advocate for 2 days a week, look, I’m looking for someone to convince me. But please, for the love of God, drop things like this from your argument. Because the people I know who’ve said things like this, I know they’re better people than this. They’re good people under incredible stress who let things slip out as their frustration boils over. So, please do the right thing and move on from this, because one potential outcome is that one day, you’re going to have to stand in front of St. Peter and answer for this, and that’s not going to be conversation you enjoy.

“Hardly any kids get COVID.”

(Deep sigh) Yes, that is statistically true as of this writing. But it is a cherry-picked argument because you’re leaving out an important piece.

One can reasonably argue that, due to the school closures in March, children have had the least EXPOSURE to COVID. In other words, closing schools was the one pandemic mitigation action we took that worked. There can be no discussion of the rate of diagnosis within children without also acknowledging they were among our fastest and most quarantined people. Put another way, you cannot cite the effect without acknowledging the cause.

“The flu kills more people every year.”

(Deep sigh). First of all, no, it doesn’t. Per the CDC, United States flu deaths average 20,000 annually. COVID, when I start writing here today, has killed 133,420 in six months.

And when you mention the flu, do you mean the disease that, if you’re suspected of having it, everyone, literally everyone in the country tells you stay the f- away from other people? You mean the one where parents are pretty sure their kids have it but send them to school anyway because they have a meeting that day, the one that every year causes massive f-ing outbreaks in schools because schools are petri dishes and it causes kids to miss weeks of school and leaves them out of sports and band for a month? That one? Because you’re right – the flu kills people every year. It does, but you’re ignoring the why. It’s because there are people who are a–holes who don’t care about infecting other people. In that regard it’s a perfect comparison to COVID.

“Almost everyone recovers.”

You’re confusing “release from the hospital” and “no longer infected” with “recovered.” I’m fortunate to only know two people who have had COVID. One my age and one my dad’s age. The one my age described it as “absolute hell” and although no longer infected cannot breathe right. The one my dad’s age was in the hospital for 13 weeks, had to have a trach ring put in because she could no longer be on a ventilator, and upon finally getting home and being faced with incalculable time in rehab told my mother, “I wish I had died.”

While I’m making every effort to reach objectivity, on this particular point, you don’t know what the f- you’re talking about.

“If people get sick, they get sick.”

First, you mistyped. What you intended to say was “If OTHER people get sick, they get sick.” And shame on you.

“I’m not going to live my life in fear.”

You already live your life in fear. For your health, your family’s health, your job, your retirement, terrorists, extremists, one political party or the other being in power, the new neighbors, an unexpected home repair, the next sunrise. What you meant to say was, “I’m not prepared to add ANOTHER fear,” and I’ve got news for you: that ship has sailed. It’s too late. There are two kinds of people, and only two: those that admit they’re afraid, and those that are lying to themselves about it.

As to the fear argument, fear is the reason you wait up when your kids stay out late, it’s the reason you tell your kids not to dive in the shallow water, to look both ways before crossing the road. Fear is the respect for the wide world that we teach our children. Except in this instance, for reasons no one has been able to explain to me yet.

“FCPS leadership sucks.”

I will summarize my view of the School Board thusly: if the 12 of you aren’t getting into a room together because it represents a risk, don’t tell me it’s OK for our kids. I understand your arguments, that we need the 2 days option for parents who can’t work from home, kids who don’t have internet or computer access, kids who needs meals from the school system, kids who need extra support to learn, and most tragically for kids who are at greater risk of abuse by being home. All very serious, all very real issues, all heartbreaking. No argument.

But you must first lead by example. Because you’re failing when it comes to optics. All your meetings are online. What our children see is all of you on a Zoom telling them it’s OK for them to be exactly where you aren’t. I understand you’re not PR people, but you really should think about hiring some.

“I talked it over with my kids.”

Let’s put aside for a moment the concept of adults effectively deferring this decision to children, the same children who will continue to stuff things into a full trash can rather than change it out. Yes, those hygienic children.

Listen, my 15 year old daughter wants a sport car, which she’s not getting next year because it would be dangerous to her and to others. Those kinds of decisions are our job. We step in and decide as parents, we don’t let them expose themselves to risks because their still developing and screen addicted brains narrow their understanding of cause and effect.

We as parents and adults serve to make difficult decisions. Sometimes those are in the form of lessons, where we try to steer kids towards the right answer and are willing to let them make a mistake in the hopes of teaching better decision making the next time around. This is not one of those moments. The stakes are too high for that. This is a “the adults are talking” moment. Kids are not mature enough for this moment. That is not an attack on your child. It is a broad statement about all children. It is true of your children and it was true when we were children. We need to be doing that thinking here, and “Johnny wants to see Bobby at school” cannot be the prevailing element in the equation.

“The teachers need to do their job.”


How is it that the same society which abruptly shifted to virtual students only three months ago, and offered glowing endorsements of teachers stating, “we finally understand how difficult your job is,” has now shifted to “screw you, do your job.” There are myriad problems with that position but for the purposes of this piece let’s simply go with, “You’re not looking for a teacher, you’re looking for the babysitter you feel your property tax payment entitles you to.”

“Teachers have a greater chance to being killed by a car than they do of dying from COVID.”

(Eye roll) Per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the U.S. see approximately 36,000 auto fatalities a year. Again, there have been 133,420 COVID deaths in the United States through 12:09 July 10, 2020. So no, they do not have a great chance of being killed in a car accident.

And, if you want to take the actual environment into consideration, the odds of a teacher being killed in a car accident in their classroom, you know, the environment we’re actually talking about, that’s right around 0%.

“If the grocery store workers can be onsite what are the teachers afraid of?”

(Deep breath) A grocery store worker, who absolutely risks exposure, has either six feet of space or a plexiglass shield between them and individual adult customers who can grasp their own mortality whose transactions can be completed in moments, in a 40,000 SF space.

A teacher is with 11 ‘customers’ who have not an inkling what mortality is, for 45 minutes, in a 675 SF space, six times a day.

Just stop.

“Teachers are choosing remote because they don’t want to work.”

(Deep breaths) Many teachers are opting to be remote. That is not a vacation. They’re requesting to do their job at a safer site. Just like many, many people who work in buildings with recycled air have done. And likely the building you’re not going into has a newer and better serviced air system than our schools.

Of greater interest to me is the number of teachers choosing the 100% virtual option for their children. The people who spend the most time in the buildings are the same ones electing not to send their children into those buildings. That’s something I pay attention to.

“I wasn’t prepared to be a parent 24/7” and “I just need a break.”

I truly, deeply respect that honesty. Truth be told, both arguments have crossed my mind. Pre COVID, I routinely worked from home 1 – 2 days a week. The solace was nice. When I was in the office, I had an actual office, a room with a door I could close, where I could focus. During the quarantine that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve been frustrated, I’ve been short, I’ve gone to just take a drive and get the hell away for a moment and been disgusted when one of the kids sees me and asks me to come for a ride, robbing me of those minutes of silence. You want to hear silence. I get it. I really, really do.

Here’s another version of that, admittedly extreme. What if one of our kids becomes one of the 302? What’s that silence going to sound like? What if you have one of those matted frames where you add the kid’s school picture every year? What if you don’t get to finish the pictures?

“What does your gut tell you to do?”

Shawn and I have talked ad infinitum about all of these and other points. Two days ago, at mid-discussion I said, “Stop, right now, gut answer, what is it,” and we both said, “virtual.”

A lot of the arguments I hear people making for the 2 days sound like we’re trying to talk ourselves into ignoring our instincts, they are almost exclusively, “We’re doing 2 days, but…”. There’s a fantastic book by Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear, which I’ll minimize for you thusly: your gut instinct is a hardwired part of your brain and you should listen to it. In the introduction he talks about elevators, and how, of all living things, humans are the only ones that would voluntarily get into a soundproof steel box with a potential predator just so they could skip a flight of stairs.

I keep thinking that the 2 days option is the soundproof steel box. I welcome, damn, beg, anyone to convince me otherwise.

At the time I started writing at 12:09 PM, 133,420 Americans had died from COVID. Upon completing this draft at 7:04 PM, that number rose to 133,940.

520 Americans died of COVID while I was working on this. In seven hours.

The length of a school day!

Joe Morice

Memorial Day 2020… Stay Safe…Honor the Fallen…

Stay safe while remembering the fallen and all who serve and served America during the COVID19 pandemic.

Oregon Veterans Memorials Directory…  Click on highlighted text for more…

This is a red granite memorial tablet mounted behind on a gray granite slab with an electric flame on a pedestal in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse.

Flame of Freedom…Newport, Oregon  Click highlighted text for more…

Several  years ago while walking around our City Park in Depoe Bay, Oregon, I stopped to look closely at our town’s VFW Veterans Memorial.  When I looked closer, the name Ronald Allen Slane, Sp5, US Army 1967-68 was engraved on the plaque as an example to honor veterans of all wars.  Ron was a medic who died during an ambush in Vietnam while trying to save another soldier…he didn’t even have a weapon to defend himself.  “Ron Slane, Lincoln City, Oregon, volunteered to go to war as an army medic.  He was a conscientious objector, but believed he had a duty to serve in some way.”

VFW Memorial Depoe Bay, Oregon

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For me, and millions of kids born before and after WWII, Memorial Day is very personal.  Now, in retirement, I devote much of my spare time honoring veterans of all wars, and military families who serve too…  I also honor my fellow veterans who served during the Vietnam War, and all the wars since then.  We can never thank our veterans and their families enough for serving America while protecting the freedoms we enjoy each and every day of our lives.  This is a debt that can never be paid back…

And during this terrible COVID19 pandemic, we remember and honor those who left us while serving on the front lines even though the risk of infection was was far greater than anything experienced before. These are the front line heroes of the COVID19 generation and the families who serve too…

So, on this Memorial Day when so many of us avoid crowds, check out the veterans memorials on-line and give thanks to all those who have served, who serve now, and will serve in the future, including first responders who keep us safe on the home front.  Thank the families and loved ones who serve too, and who become the care givers to our heroes who return home with moral and physical injuries that often require a lifetime of healing. 

Escape for a moment to calm the soul…
Steve Sparks, Author, Mental Wellness Advocate, Community Building Consultant. click here for Steve’s author page…

Mindfulness Meditation Moments from Little Whale Cove, Oregon…

Escape for a moment to calm the soul…

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Warm wishes and good health from the Central Oregon Coast near Depoe Bay, “The Smallest Harbor in The World” to be sure…

Judy and I have deep empathy and compassion for our dear friends and loved ones during this COVID19 pandemic.  All of us have had to take a deep breath, reflect on our values, our dreams, and hopefully reset, finding more ways to live in the moment, and love each other more.  Paying more attention to each other without the interruptions of ‘Before COVID’ (BC) has brought us closer, but not without more than a few moments of healthy combat as we settled into a much simpler life and more resourceful life style.

We are ’70 somethings’ healthy seniors in our mind, but not without the butt kicking challenges of aging. We think young but the aches and pains and mental health challenges remind us that we aren’t young anymore. We both feel grateful and priviledged to be alive and as citizens of the USA!  I’m most proud of my service to America as a young man serving in the US Navy, as did my father during all of WWII and during the Korean War. Not to mention my brothers who served too.

Even after 36 years of marriage, Judy and I remain a team, partners in life, living life to the fullest even during the many uncertain times of the past, especially right now. But this time it is different fightling an enemy we can’t see. We have to fight this enemy together or lose. Fighting with each other doesn’t matter to the Covid19 virus.

We will all get throught this together. We believe that in our heart and soul…

Speaking of  ‘mindfulness mediation’ Judy and I are happy to share the joy of our stunning coastal community by way of short 30 second YouTube clips. There are over 100 clips from Little Whale Cove on my YouTube channel. Start by clicking my YouTube channel above.

Escape for a moment to calm the soul… Please let me know what you think and how you are doing… Stay safe while we reopen our communities…in time for Memorial Day.

Steve and Judy Sparks, Mental Health Advocacy, Community Building, Children and Families

click here for Steve’s author page…