Little Steps, Big Steps

I do this thing where I buy and sell penny stocks. It’s more like a hobby. I started trading stocks back in the mid-90’s, using a traditional broker. I made some money, I lost some money, I made a bunch of money (to me it was a bunch), then I lost it all. Now I do everything online in smaller dollar values, but with a greater number of shares per transaction. I like watching the stocks move. And with penny stocks, it’s anybody’s guess what they will do next. Never a dull moment.

So far, year to date, I’ve completed (bought and then sold) nine trades. I know that’s not a lot, but I don’t trade every day. I’ll go a month or two just watching, then make a couple trades in a week. Of the nine trades, seven have been profitable. That includes the fees to buy and sell. That’s a pretty good winning percentage, but don’t get too excited for me yet. Some of the trades were only minimally profitable. For example, I’ve made as little as $9.13 on a stock before. I’ve also made over $100 on a stock. Then turned around and lost almost all of that profit on the same stock. I’ve averaged a profit of about $53 for each positive trade I’ve made. Not great, but not horrible. This hobby won’t make me rich, but I’m taking a whole bunch of little steps in the right direction and I’m up for the year, even if only a small amount.

It occurred to me recently that I’m doing that in my life as well. A bunch of little, sometimes unnoticeable, steps in the right direction. Here’s the problem I have with that. My steps backwards are much bigger than any single step forward and will usually have a very negative impact. That seems to bring me down and get the depression going. When I go in reverse, I end up dwelling on it. I don’t stop long enough to realize that I’ve made far more steps forward, even if only small ones. And when added up, all those little steps forward are greater than a single big step backwards. Why do we sometimes get hung up on the one failure when we are still moving in the right direction overall? Why do we fixate on the negative like that? I don’t believe I used to be that way. I used to shake it off and keep moving.

For me, it’s probably because I’m my own worst critic. And I know I have my share of critics out there. I also rarely celebrate or “advertise” my achievements. I might mention something to a couple people if I’m happy about something I’ve done, but I don’t get too caught up in insignificant things. My little victories are not a big deal to me. Yet, my downfalls are atrocious in my eyes and in my mind. Not to mention, a lot of my forward and backward progress are just things that go on in my head, not something you can see. And let’s be honest, sometimes a small step forward is simply not smacking the crap out of someone that deserves it. I’m not sure I should share that little victory out loud every time it happens.

I will continue to take a hundred tiny steps forward and hope my occasional big step backwards doesn’t take away all the progress I’ve made, like what I’m doing with the penny stocks I trade. I have no delusions of grandeur that my stock trades are going to make me rich or that my life and mind will magically get back to where it used to be. I am content with small steps forward on both fronts. Although I’m content with just surviving at the moment, that should not be taken in a negative context. It wasn’t too very long ago that I did not want to survive at all. Another small step forward. I’ll take it, and I’ll keep surviving, and I’ll continue with my small steps forward.

Thanks for reading Story of My Life this week and being part of my small steps in the right direction. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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Back to School

This week, my kids, like others all around the country, started back to school. Classes officially started this week, but the kids had already gone back in some respect. Cross country practice, band practice/band camp, and swim practice. A junior, a sophomore, and twin freshman, all at the same school and all active in one thing or another. That’s only four of six. The older two have already moved out to conquer the world. And so far, they seem to be doing that. At one time, not long ago, including the oldest at college, the six kids were at five different schools. It’s nice to have the last four all at the same place for the next couple of years.

Every year about this time it’s a great time for students to start anew. Provided they take advantage of it. They really don’t know how good they have it. I didn’t know back then either. As parents, we can only say so much to implore them to make the most of this time of in their lives. Free rent, free food, little or no bills. They have no idea what’s in store for them later in life. I can say with certainly that being an adult is overrated. They won’t know that for years to come. But for now, they only have to jump through the hoops of high school and get passing grades.

I’m sure we’ve all, at one time or another, wished we could go back to those carefree years. But only with the caveat of knowing what we know now. I’m pretty sure teenagers would disagree that they are in the carefree years, but we, as adults, know better. How different would things be if we possessed all the knowledge we have now and were able to go back to our high school years? We would all be rich and famous, successful and happy. In theory. But that’s not how it works. And probably for the better.

I am not rich or famous. I’m not successful. I do have happiness, but sometimes it’s overshadowed by the PTSD, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, and life. Even so, I think I would miss out on too much if I went back and changed anything. All of my life experiences make me who I am today. If I changed one detail, I probably would not be who I am, I would be a different version of me. And who’s to say that person would be better or better off? As many hard knocks as I’ve had (most of which were brought on myself), how do I know this is the worst version of who I could have been? Everything has a trade-off.

I went to war, that changed me. I failed in business, that cost me. I’ve made a million bad decisions to become the person I am today, good or bad. And even though I struggle through life sometimes, as I wrote about last week, I don’t want to be anyone else except who I am right now. I would choose to not go back in time with all I have learned up to this point. Too much would be at risk.

To my children, make this your best school year yet. Put some effort into your studies. Go the extra mile in the sports you have chosen to participate in. Shine bright in the band. And above all, enjoy this time in your lives. You will never get this moment back. And the moments in the past cannot be changed. Period. Love y’all bunches. -Dad.

Thanks for reading this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Struggling

I’ve been struggling lately. Bouts of depression. Anxiety. Easily irritable. Minor anger issues, not eating right, and certainly not sleeping right. Weird, vivid dreams. Some about war, some about normal everyday life, but all of them so intense they turn out to be a nightmare. My body doesn’t feel good, I’m in persistent pain. I’m always tense, I can feel how tight my shoulders and neck are. I try to relax, but it doesn’t work. My breathing is not right. My focus and attention to detail is off. Way off. And lately I speak my mind without filter more than ever now, so, I sound like a dick. But if it’s the truth, get over it. Because I really don’t care. I do not subscribe to being politically correct. I never really have.

I think one of my issues is my medications. I’m not taking them like I should. I’m out of one of them and have started rationing the other one. Hopefully, my refills will be here soon. The first refills were sent automatically. Apparently, that was a one-time deal. I didn’t know to call and get the refills sent until I was almost out. The VA is genius about that stuff. Or they’re stupid. Or they just don’t care. (I’m going with curtain 3, they don’t care). And I’m still pissed at my new psychiatrist for changing how I can get my medications. If she had just let me keep getting them at the military base like I have for more than a year now, I would not be out of one and almost out of the other. I might be able to sleep at night and not worry about if I’m going to run out of them. I might be able to wake up feeling rested. She’s an ass. I plan on telling her that at my next appointment. Anyone want to go babysit me at my next appointment so I don’t need bail money?

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/06/10/my-new-va-psychiatrist/

Another issue is work, my job. I love my job. And I love the bond I have with most of the other employees. But the drama, stupidity, and selfishness of a few of them is more than I want to deal with. I’m losing my motivation to keep being the awesome employee I have been since the beginning. I’m not really that awesome, but I work my butt off, never call out sick, and actually care about doing the job right. What I don’t understand is how some people can just stop doing their job just because they aren’t happy about something or someone. Get over it and do your damn job. Stop leaving other people hanging. I helped open that restaurant. I cleaned, I painted, I organized, I helped get the doors open. And I worked my ass off doing it. I feel like I have a stake in it. Or I used to feel that way. Not so much anymore. I told the corporate boss that I’m updating my resume, but I haven’t actually done that yet to put it out there. We’ll see if anything gets fixed soon. But I’ve already had a job offer in the last couple weeks before it got this bad at work, so maybe I won’t have to update my resume after all. We’ll see.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/03/04/back-to-work/

The third thing that has me discombobulated is where I’m at in the army reserves. (Yes, I used discombobulated, that’s your word of the day to use in conversation). The unit I’m part of doesn’t seem to have their shit together. Even my Sergeant Major suggested I write my congressman. He’s retiring this month, so it’s probably not a huge concern to him if a Congressional Inquiry gets opened. He wasn’t prepared for my response last month when he asked me what was going on. I think any other Sergeant Major would have done paperwork on me for the things that came out of my mouth. I won’t go into detail since I still wear the uniform, but the army (at least in the reserves), seems to not care about the fact that I’m not right since coming back from my last deployment. Both physically and mentally. I don’t care if I stay in or they put me out, I just want them to take ownership of the pains I’ve endured. I want them to acknowledge the problems I developed that are a direct result of serving my country. I’m damaged goods now, they can’t fix me. But they can take responsibility for it.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/03/12/passing-the-torch/

(Damn it, I burned my popcorn. I need a new microwave. Or maybe I shouldn’t use the one I have while drinking.) Add burnt popcorn to my list of life-crisis issues. The current reality of my life is that even burnt popcorn contributes to the funk swirling around me. And I’ve only skimmed the surface of my troubles in this post. Or at least what I view as my troubles, the things that bother me, the things I dwell on. And how did popcorn make the list? Never mind, we just covered that. I’m struggling. Everything is on the list.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/05/21/im-ok-i-promise/

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am struggling. But I am not in danger. I am not a threat to myself or anyone else. My outlet is here, where I write. This is my therapy. I’m ok, I promise. Thank you for reading this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

(Between writing and posting this entry, my meds showed up in the mail, so that’s a good thing. I guess better late than never).

Home.

After two weeks at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, doing army training, I am finally home. Good training. Pretty easy stuff, but it dragged on for two weeks. I felt like I was there for two months. And it was all classroom instruction. I got bored rather quickly being in a classroom environment 8 hours a day for two weeks, but I survived. And I got a 99 on my final, so maybe I did more than just survive. The 500+ mile drive home went well. I made decent time, had great weather, and there were only a few idiots on the road. And yes, the idiots had Georgia tags on their cars.

There’s nothing exciting from training to write about and I doubt there is anything I can write this week that would be an adequate follow-up to last week’s post. If you saw it, it was a tough one. Very emotional. It was hard to write. It was hard to fall asleep the night before I posted it, with all those thoughts swirling in my head. I also second-guessed myself as to whether or not to even bring it up. If you missed it, I will put a link at the bottom so you can read it if you desire. But I think it helped. Getting it all out there, the way I remember it, opening up about how horrible a memory it is. Only time will tell, but I feel better about it for now, today anyway.

The comments and messages I saw and received after it posted were amazing. Many people who were also at Camp Bucca, Iraq during that time, a lot of whom I’ve never even met, shared their memory from that horrible time. My memory was slightly flawed concerning some of the details, but the main part of the tragedy, the part that haunted me, is exactly as I remember. A special thanks again to my friend Galvan who’s words really gave life to the story. Much more than I could have on my own. Thank you Galvan for opening up, I know it was hard.

After a long week in class and a long drive home yesterday, this is all I got. But thank you for taking the time to read my weekly post on Story of My Life. I hope to have more for next week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Last week’s post.  https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/07/15/my-worst-war-memory/

 

My Worst War Memory

WARNING  This content may be upsetting or triggering to some.  WARNING

This week, while on orders at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, I ran into a long-time army buddy. It was good to catch up with him while having dinner and a couple of beers. We reminisced and talked about the people we served with together, shared stories of what’s going on in our careers now, and had a couple good laughs. Most of my army memories are good. Most of my deployment memories are good, even if only because I try to remember the good ones. Most of the not-so-good memories can still be made into an amusing, funny story. But not all of them.

Not long ago I did some online forums where people could ask me questions about a topic I would post. One reader asked me what was my worst memory was from war. For a moment, I wasn’t sure. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the worst memories, so I had to think about it. And as discussed in a previous blog, I have memories that are hidden. One of which, not my worst, was discovered during a therapy session with my psychiatrist. And once I remembered it, it was back. My mind had hidden it for two years until my therapist walked me through it.

But my worst memory from being deployed happened while I was in Iraq (2008-09). I went a number of years with that memory tucked away, hidden from my consciousness. And I didn’t even know it. It surfaced a few years ago, hung around for a while, then was gone again. I think it’s been more than three years since I thought about it. Now it’s back. This is something I’ve only shared with very few, and even then, I generally only tell the main part of the story.

I was at Camp Bucca, Iraq. My chaplain and I were responsible for about a thousand Soldiers that fell under our battalion. The two of us went to the hospital to visit a Soldier that had been seriously injured in a motor pool accident. The Soldier was soon to be transported to Germany, then back to the States, I think to San Antonio to get specialized treatment and start rehabilitation. I never made it to the room with the chaplain to visit the wounded Soldier.

The bay-style room we walked through that would lead to a private room with the motor pool Soldier had three beds in it. In each of those beds was a child. Each child had been severely burned over their whole body. The chaplain and I both paused and inquired about the children. Their ages were approximately between four and nine years old. It was the most unexpected thing I’ve seen. I got the story from the medical staff that had accepted the children into the hospital due to the severity of their injuries.

Their father was dead. He was trying to steal fuel, propane I think, according to my memory of the story I was told, and the whole tank somehow exploded. Why he had his three little girls with him to steal fuel, I will never know. But the explosion killed him and engulfed the children in flames. They were brought to our hospital for treatment. They were almost completely wrapped in gauze, only parts of their faces showing. Only the oldest spoke while the other two whined and cried. I think the oldest was trying to comfort the other two. They couldn’t see each other, only hear the sounds of pain and anguish that filled that small part of the room.

After a couple of minutes with the staff, the chaplain was ready to move on to the injured motor pool Soldier. I couldn’t do it. I had to leave. I told the chaplain I would be out back, that he could come get me when he was done with the Soldier. I found my way to an exit, then I sat on the steps and cried. The reality and gravity of three children laying there, burned, crying, scared, barely alive– it got to me. It got to me in a way nothing else previously had in life. That includes losing a child one day after birth.

I could see that memory every time I closed my eyes, from that night on, for about two years. Then, it was gone. I forgot about it. It would reappear every 2-3 years, depress me, horrify me in my sleep, then hide again. Well, it’s back. This is probably the most details I have ever shared about this memory. I’m hoping that sharing it this way will help. I don’t remember ever talking to any psychiatrist or counselor about it. It must have been pretty well hidden since my psychiatrist last year was able to get the memory of a wrong turn in Kabul, Afghanistan to resurface, but the burned children never came up.

In preparation for this post, I reached out to a friend of mine that I served with in Iraq, Joseph Galvan. He told me that the event of the three burned children was one of his worst three memories he has of war. Being a medic, he was regularly exposed to more pain and suffering than most. He was on staff at our hospital on Camp Bucca during the time the children were there. I asked him if he would give a quote for this week’s blog about his experience there during that time. Just as I remember him during deployment, he didn’t fail to produce when called upon now. Here is what he had to say:

“As horrible as having three severely burned children was, the worst was after. The MRO (Medical Regulating Organization), who was the theater medical operations hub, ordered that we no longer accept any critically injured local national patients. The girls were in our ICU for about four months and we only had 5 ICU beds.

“’Try and imagine what that must have been like for our medics. Locals bringing their severely ill and injured to us, having heard that the Americans took care of children that were near death, only to be turned away. The begging, pleading, and crying they had to witness.”

 

 

My friend and hero, Joseph Galvan.

Galvan went on to say, “I can still hear them scream from their wounds being cleaned; there’s only so much morphine you can give a child and it’s not enough. That’s why I’d always bring my guitar to work. I knew the schedule for their wound care and I’d play for the kids after, while the nurses washed their hair. It got to be a routine. I’d even do it on my days off. The smell of burning hair and children crying or screaming in legitimate pain fucks with me pretty hard. And the burn patient smell…that sickly sweet, but acrid smell…I can’t do it.”

Maybe his sharing this with me will help him in some way. He told me earlier this week, “I just realized that I’ve never told anyone about that. The folks that were there (in the ward, on shift) knew, but I’ve never talked about it.” Joseph Galvan is a hero. His heart for those children makes him a hero to me.

This is why it’s harder to come home from war than it is to go. The memories never leave. Never. They may hide for a while, but they always come back.

Thank you for reading this week. Good day, God bless. And a special God bless to our military medics.

Dave