War Within My Veins

About a month ago, my father died… I cried, I’m not ashamed to admit that. It was the first time I had ever lost a parent of mine… I broke down, there on my knees, bent over the crisp sheets of the queen size bed I was leaning against in my hotel room roughly 1,500 miles away from him in Iowa while he was in North Carolina helping my wife move our family to Florida for my new job.

First my mind flooded with the pictures of him as he attended my first, and only real graduation in my life from college. Then the ones of him holding my beautiful daughter on the lawn with the shade from the old oak tree in our front yard. Her smile, as radiant as the brightly colored rose pedals in front of our house, pointed straight at the silly, half-buzzed grin of her grandpa after a few mixed drinks in the morning… long before anyone’s happy hour.

Then entered the first time I ran in the Junior Olympics… three first places to my credit that day. I remember the phone call, he couldn’t believe it when I told him. In his words, “Bullshit,” he replied to my elated tone.

Next, within my easing sobs, was the memory of receiving his letter to me at Chrysalis when I was 15 years old. “I love that you are finally learning to find your relationship with Christ,” he wrote on a piece of paper slightly scented and stained with what I could guess was Jack Daniels whisky. Walking in the front door of our home, with tears in my eyes from the letter he wrote I recall my reply, “Dad… what the fuck did I ever do to you?”

As the last of the tears left my eye, the last memory I have my father as a dad crept into my broken heart as I felt the pain of the years of his sickness pierce my chest. “You’re the third biggest mistake in my life!” “You’re a coward for coming here and recruiting at home while your brother is off fighting in a war to defend our country!” “Sounds like you’re a Satanist, just like your mother!” “So, you’re taking Oxycodone to cover up your Coke habit huh, can’t wait till their new hot shot exec is asked about that…” “I swear to fucking God Michael, if you don’t give me that money you will fucking regret it!” “Send me that money so I can get home Michael, or I swear to God I will make you regret it!” “You’re fucking bitch wife and you better get me home before I come there and take it!”

Still on the phone, my wife whimpers to me in the same fear I felt as a child, “Michael, I swear to God I would never just accuse your dad of this shit. I’m not lying. I came here, and he was incoherently drunk on the floor with Mary screaming on the floor!”

My hand begins to crush the edges of the cell phone within my palm as she continues, “He hadn’t fed her all day or changed her. Mary was shaking in my arms Mike, and when I accused your dad of what he had done he started getting in my face. He started screaming about what a bitch I was, and started throwing things at Mary and I before I threw him out of the house.”

My mouth began to dry, and my muscles began to tighten and the combination of rage and adrenaline swirled within my veins as she concluded, “Michael I am scared. He was creeping in the garage while I was walking around the house half-naked. He is calling with threats every hour, and I had to call the cops. I didn’t want to call you while you were away on business, but I don’t know what to do. He is acting like he is going to kill me!”

A long, deep, silent breath fills my lungs before I exhale and instruct her to call her father and ask him to please stay with you until I can get home.

“Okay,” I ask her in hopes of a response so she would hang up the phone. She agrees, and with that my phone deafens in my ear.

“MOTHERFUCKER! I TRUSTED YOU! YOU SON OF BITCH, I LEFT YOU WITH MY LITTLE GIRL! I THOUGHT YOU HAD CHANGED! I THOUGHT YOU HAD FINALLY GOTTEN BETTER, BUT YOU NEVER DID! YOU JUST FOUND ANOTHER WAY TO HURT ME… to hurt my little girl.”

Calmly I state over the line as my father screamed obscenities over the receiver against my ear. “Valiant Gale Nims III, you are dead to me. I had hoped my daughter was perfect enough for you to love, but the only things you love are the substances in your veins. I pray that you aren’t stupid enough to be there when I fly home, because if you are, the war within my veins will defend the ones I love. I promised my baby girl that I would devote my life to her happiness. To protect her perfect love, and to guard her against the evil in this world. God forgive me for breaking my promise, but she will never know the horror of your sickness, your addicitons, ever again…”

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Missing North Carolina

On my Facebook account, my username is Missing California. I came up with that name for my account because I have been away from the majority of my friends and family for nearly six years if you exclude my two weeks of leave while I was deployed to Iraq. Six years was a long time to go without visiting the place where I was not only born, but it was also responsible for over 20 years of life experiences. From the moment of my birth until the moment I made the decision to risk my life in the name of freedom, California was the only place I called home. Fast forward to the present, and it seems I have managed to find another place to miss calling home. North Carolina, about as far as you could get from my birthplace, and other than the fact that interstate 40 that eventually ends in Barstow, it really has nothing in common with California. Though it was in this state that I was able to learn how to be a man in the military after I was plunged into the heart of the terrorizing theater of war, and while that time forced me to experience so much death and destruction while I remained in Iraq, North Carolina has also given me all of the building blocks in which I have used to begin raising my family and grow in my marriage with my wife. I have graduated from college, enjoyed the birth of my precious daughter Mary, and have been able to use what little I have to help those in need that God has brought into my life. I have enjoyed some of the greatest friends a person could ask for, and I have also spent the past 5+ years continually growing into the type of man who can proudly say that I am able to fully provide for my family now as the days of me being a child have all but disappeared. I owe a lot to North Carolina, but as I said the future looks bright going forward.

Now my family and I will be moving to Florida, and my wife will be leaving the only state she has ever truly called home as well. However, she is as excited about the opportunities as I am. Though it’s not that Cindy and I are at all happy about leaving everything behind. Our friends, family, and memories together are here in North Carolina, and those are the things that we will miss dearly, but the possibilities that are just over the horizon are the kind of things that dreams are made of. In a sermon today, the pastor told us that the work we do should be the best that we can possibly produce, and in doing so we are glorifying God and as a result are given dominion and responsibility over more as our efforts merit it. Over the past five or so years, I have lived and worked by two guiding principles: the first is to always be the hardest working person I know, and the second is to never let my family go without. During my time in college I worked for Dicks Sporting Goods, the North Carolina National Guard, and now Best Buy. In each of those jobs I worked as hard I knew how even though I knew for the most part that these jobs were not going to be the career that I enjoyed when I finished school, and I was rewarded by being rapidly promoted in every profession I was in. Little did I know, but it was those efforts over the past five years that would be the basis for the reason I was recruited into my future role with Target as a Group Leader.

Yes I worked incredibly hard for the opportunities I have had come into my life up till now, but make no mistake about it, I am blessed. This opportunity has allowed me to not only provide for my sick wife and newborn child, but the monetary benefits of it will undoubtedly allow me to do the one thing I believe I was put on this Earth to do, and that is help others who are unfortunately going without. Those who know me to any real extent would probably agree that it is that characteristic that defines me more than any other.

So as my family and I begin missing North Carolina while we begin our new lives a little further south, we are happy about the days ahead. I cannot wait for the chance to put all of that potential I feel I have, and finally begin to make my impact on the world. I cannot wait to wake up in the morning and simply be eager to enjoy life more than I did the day prior. For the first time in my life, I can open my eyes to a world that is only filled with opportunities and not obstacles, and I have the people and experiences I have experienced in North Carolina to thank for that. I will miss you Wilmington, North Carolina. The things I have experienced here have allowed me to move on to bigger and better things, but I never could have made it this far without everything here.

Until I visit again, this is the Nims family, sitting here in this soon-to-be empty house, missing North Carolina…

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For My Family, I Cannot Fail…

Last week I received a job offer, and that offer was the most lucrative of any job offer I have ever seen placed before me. In fact, this particular job offer allows me to earn more than quadruple the amount that I currently make with my present employer. It is the best thing that has ever happened to my family and I, but yet I am struggling with the overwhelming weight of that position every single day and I haven’t even begun my first day of work…

Because of this position, everything is changing for my family and I. We are getting ready to move across two states in the union, and preparing to leave all of our family and friends we have in Wilmington behind. Cindy has all but sent in her two weeks notice to her current employer, and I am simply waiting for my background check and drug screen to come back before we begin looking for a place to live in northern Florida. There is nothing for me to be troubled about, and yet I am scared out of my mind.

In just a short week, I have been placed at the front of my family with the sole responsibility to provide for them, and since my wife has been diagnosed with multiple illnesses the weight of this responsibility has increased tenfold. I have never been afraid of responsibility before, and yet now I am terrified it seems. How do I succeed when I am taking on a job that requires all of my attention while all of my attention is fixated on the apprehension I am currently filled with?

If there is any advice out there please let me know, because right now that is all I can seem to write about…

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Patience and Humility

What does having humility mean in your day-to-day life? Well the dictionary defines it as a modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.” Though as you read further on, the synonyms of this term are lowliness, meekness, and submissiveness. Those are the words that I liken the term to more than anything else. I feel that showing humility in various aspects of one’s life that they consider themselves to be fairly proficient in is nothing short of being anything but a leader in that respect. However, it’s the validity of that opinion that really matters in the first place. Are you really as good at something as you think you are? Should you take a step back in an attempt to learn from others who know more about something than you do yourself? As a man, or woman who considers themselves a leader in their specialized area this can be a very difficult path to follow. I know that in my case, that is certainly something that I struggle with daily.

Since I have dedicated myself to the idea of getting a college degree, I have learned that all of the potential that I was told I had as a child was indeed there. In my first semester I attained a 4.0, and since then I have been nothing less than at the top 10% of my class. In terms of smarts, I guess you could say that I have some in the academic world. Though where I work, very few people actually have a degree at all and to quote my current manager, “have taken years to learn what I have in just 11 months.” With these facts in my mind, I have found it very hard to show any humility at all because of my capacity to learn much more quickly than my peers in the work place.

Couple that capacity to learn with a financial need to take care of my family and you have an employee who, while promoted pretty rapidly, appears to be both cocky and inpatient as I continually ask to learn more in an attempt to increase my knowledge and attain a higher position in the company. I know what it can appear to be, and even my wife admits that she would hate to work with me, but in the end all I ever really want to do is give my family the life I never had. Though as most of the working world can attest to, you must be as skilled at the politics of the workplace as you are in the work you produce. I lack the prior drastically.

My personal belief is that if you are someone who exhibits extraordinary levels of initiative, drive, and motivation in the workplace, then why should anyone hold you back? I know that experience is needed in any job field, but just because you have not been in a position for very long shouldn’t mean that the information you seek in order to become more proficient in your job be withheld from you should it? Unfortunately, those are the politics of the work place that I have no natural ability in whatsoever.

What should I do then if I don’t believe in the very principles that are used in order to claim the advancement opportunities that are out there for me to grasp? My wife thinks I should begin practicing the very things that would seek to strip away what has defined me for so long. Humility would inherently take away my drive to excel, my will to lead, and my desire to advance because as I see it I would be willingly taking a back seat to others until I get my turn. Yet, I have a baby girl, and she ultimately will cause me to try anything that might allow me to better care for her in the long run. Allowing myself to show the patience to wait until others are ready to teach me, and having the humility to sit back and accept that others indeed know more than I do, which I already objectively know. I guess being a parent is going to re-shape me in a lot more ways than I ever realized, and force me to become someone I have never been before. Time to play the game I guess, because after all I simply do anything to take care of my little girl…

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Patience, Trust, and Low Morale

I have been working at Best Buy for ten months now, and I have to say that since I have been there it has been nothing short of awesome. The work I do makes me feel pretty important, and the people I work with are pretty cool for the most part. My manager Sean, and supervisor Dave, are a couple of people who I really admire, and respect more than most of the leadership I have worked for in the past. However, the entire workplace has really been dragging me down quite a bit as of late. Recently it seems as though everything I hear from people are the things I am doing wrong as an employee there, and I rarely hear of anything I am doing right which has me constantly reminding myself of the reasons I love working there in the first place.

1. Even in the face of mental mistakes I was currently making, my leadership did see it fit to promote me to a full-time employee with product process team.

2. In my own personal dealings with everyone I work for or with, they are nothing but great with me on a daily basis.

3. I have been constantly reassured that I was chosen to be in the position I am in for a reason, and that has not changed, so all this recent criticism must instead solely be only for my benefit.

As every working man or woman is aware though, there are those out there that have negative things to say that continually cause me to second guess everything that I am told. Everyday I hear about shady dealings that have happened in the past that I “should be aware of” that involve moments of deceit or other instances that cast a negative light on the people that have thus far looked out for my best interest. Sure there are things that I am not happy with as an employee, but for the most part without these people my family would not have health insurance and I would not have a full-time job at this moment in time. I also have faith that those very same leaders I look up to will continue to have my best interests at heart as I progress further in my career, but the negative things that I do hear have nonetheless shaken my trust in those people for the simple reason of having a highly vested interest in my own self-preservation. I have to constantly be on the lookout for anyone that might do anything to benefit themselves at the cost of me and my family. Though I have no reason to believe that anyone above me would do anything like that to me, because the history simply isn’t there to justify it at all.

So, the question remains: Do I wait around and see what happens? Do I wait around and anticipate great things because I believe (and hopefully others will concur) that I work hard enough to deserve some sort of reward in my career, or do I wait eerily by in a constant state of paranoia as I wait for my forewarned moment to get screwed over? In essence, do I view life as a glass half-empty or a glass half-full? For over 27 years I have been an eternal pessimist living by the quote, “Always do your best to look out for yourself, but nobody looks out for you quite like you,” but for some reason this time I see the glass as being more along the lines of half-full. Maybe it’s because I believe that no person in their right mind would do anything to mess with a newborn child, or perhaps it’s because I Cindy keeps repeating the phrase, “Everything is going to work out honey, trust me.”

I personally like to believe that my trust is not misplaced, that my newly discovered patience is in fact a virtue, and that even in the face of current state of low morale I can expect nothing but good things from the past ten months. After all, 27 years of pessimism, paranoia, and my inherent inability to trust anyone haven’t really gotten me anything to show for all that past time. Maybe a change of pace is just what I need. Maybe, just maybe, I should just patiently wait, and simply trust that everything really is going to work out this time…

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Being A Marine

My brother, Christopher Gale Nims, recently re-enlisted in the Marines for another four years of protecting our freedom here in the United States. This decision came as somewhat of a shock to me though. For months my brother talked about how he couldn’t wait to get out of the Marine Corps, and that he was planning on moving to South Dakota when he got out. However, whether it was the economic condition of the nation right now, or the fact that Chris hasn’t ever known anything else other than the military, I can’t really find myself being that happy with his decision. After all, he is my little brother, and after going through the same hell that he has been through, I can’t really fathom why he would continue putting himself through it again.

Then I recalled a conversation online that my brother had with me before he had raised his right hand again, and we talked about how serving in Iraq has effected us. I know that on my end it has rattled me pretty hard. I still have nightmares in the middle of the night from the mortar rounds that were dropped all year-long, and some of them coming within 15 yards of where I was sleeping or walking around. Being there for so long, and experiencing all that those terrorists had to offer, really left me never wanting to be apart of that place ever again. Though in speaking with my brother, I informed him that if he was hit again by another enemy attack, and didn’t survive it like the one he suffered in 2004, that I would gladly endure any horror to avenge his death.

How my brother replied to my pledge was startling though. For over 18 years I have held the role of family protector with pride, but as my brother began explaining how he felt it was clear that the torch had been passed on (at least in spirit that is).

“Mike, I feel it too. I feel the pain of that place every day too. I still have the nightmares, and I still have my P.T.S.D issues in the middle of the night, but it’s my responsibility to do this. This is my job, not yours. I don’t want your blood wasted if my life is taken. You need to be home with my niece and your wife to look after them. I don’t have a family, or a life away from here. This is my life, and it’s what I do best. I know that you feel the need to protect me and keep me away from harm, but I need you to look after our family at home. I will endure the suffering and the memories that you hate, because it’s my job to do it so you don’t have to. Just take care of our family, and let me protect you.”

I was speechless, and all I could come up with was, “Okay.” Yeah, I did a lot of things that I have undoubtedly left me scarred and full of regret. I never wanted to hurt anyone, or end the lives of a population that clearly didn’t want us there in the first place, and the weight of those sins weighs even heavier now that I have my own family when I begin to think about how many families were ripped apart by me alone. If I felt this way though, then how much must my brother be burying deep below the surface so that he may continue to do what he feels must be done? If one tour in the theater of war did this to me, then what was it doing to my little brother whom I used to protect from bullies on the school yard when we were younger?

Thanks to my little sisters, I know some of what has occurred with him after he was first wounded in Iraq. Uncontrollable moments that were supposed to be spent in the bathroom in the middle of the night, and sleep walking while dreaming of the memories that plagued his subconscious. Though my brother was raised to be a strong man, without flaws to show the world so he would not be seen as ever being weak. There is no doubt in my mind though that my brother is suffering to some degree even now, but his bravery in the face of certain additional damage both physically, as well as psychologically are something to stand in awe of. What I did during my time in the Army some would label as courageous, but going once just means I didn’t fear the unknown. Once I knew what was there, I couldn’t find the intestinal fortitude to fight again, and neither could any of my fellow battle buddies who went over there with me. Nearly all of them got out of the service just as quickly as I did, but my brother and many of his fellow Marines still continue to serve despite what they know lies ahead of them in the Middle East.

I suppose that is what being a Marine means though. It means being fearless, and standing against the evil that threatens the ones you love. It means doing what is necessary so that their kin are able to sleep soundly at night, so after my brother informed me that he was going to fight again for another four years in the Marines I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was. My brother is a Marine, and I should expect nothing less than his undying efforts to protect his family and friends from the horrific violence that President Bush  had labeled as the War On Terror. My brother is a Marine, and being a Marine means being a man. A man who, at the age of 26, stands for more than just a skilled student of war. He stands for what others cannot, and willing to sacrifice a life that many of us will never even be able to touch.

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Accepting Salvation

My wife Cindy lost her mother when she was just 18 years of age. At a time in her life when society declares that you can now legally make the decisions that your parents previously made, Cindy wished more than anything that she didn’t have to make the grown-up decisions she was being asked to make now. Where would you like your mother buried? Do you prefer an open casket or a closed one at the service? What would you like her headstone to say? Trust me when I say that she knew more than anyone of that age, past or present, that being 18 hardly means you are an adult. I would say ask her, but most people would feel pretty awful about it after they see the tears in her icy-blue eyes…

At 18 though, there were some decisions that she did make, and they shaped her life far more than any other event would have following the tragic moments following her mothers untimely passing. The first, and the one that I recall more easily than the rest of what she has told me, is that she blamed God for taking her mother away from her. She blamed him every time the anniversary of her mothers passing came. Damned His name every time she needed her mommy late at night when she had drank too much. Cursed Him on the day of her wedding when her mother wasn’t in attendance I am certain. Then was constantly reminded of her absence every day that she progressed through her first pregnancy. God was the source of her pain, and the reason that she held this deep sadness around with her each and every day of her life…

Then Cindy became a mother herself. Our daughter, Mary Peden was brought into this world with nothing less than the widest eyes of wonder anyone had ever seen. Our daughter, the namesake of her late mother, was now the source of all the joy Cindy thought she had been missing over the last 12 years since her mother had passed. As Mary grew bigger, got stronger, and more expressive, it seemed like each passing day was happier than the one before it, for me that is. I hadn’t noticed it completely, but Cindy was becoming more depressed with each passing. People blamed it on post-pardon depression, but Cindy knew better than that. Cindy and I began fighting nearly everyday over the stress that comes with sleepless nights, and stress-filled days at work. Something needed to change, and we tried everything we could think of. We tried getting her to see her parents for a while to get some time away from me, sending her to her grandparents to get some relief, and even having her father come to help with the baby for a couple of weeks while tried to just get some extra sleep. Nothing helped though, and as time went on without a solution to the depression she was suffering from, Cindy and I brought up the idea of divorce… It was the saddest day of my life. Here I was with the family I had always wanted, and yet I was standing here watching it all fall apart right in front of my very eyes. Then we tried harder,  and I had an idea.

I knew what brought be happiness during the darkest parts of my own life. War, fights, addiction, all forms of abuse, death, and even during jail time I searched for God to rescue me from the many torments of my life. Some self-inflicted, and some from the acts of others, but every time it was my relationship with Christ that allowed me to get through the times in my life when I thought I would never survive them. Knowing only Christ as my savior in the hardest of times, I suggested that Cindy and I finally make that trip to Port City Community Church that we had been putting off for such a long period of time. After the second trip I was able to be found once again by Him. On our third visit, Cindy made a discovery of her own…

After the service was over, I noticed some tears flowing from Cindy’s eyes. When I asked her what was wrong though, she simply sobbed and glanced up to me to say, “Nothing Honey. I am fine. Excuse me.”

With that, Cindy raised up from her chair, and proceeded to walk down to the welcome desk or something like that (I can’t remember the actual name of it). When she came back, she held some information pamphlets on the starters course for those who are wanting to know more about Christ for the first time, but I didn’t say a word…

Then tonight, just before I was going to leave to the hospital to be with my sister who was giving birth to my nephew,  she began to ask me a multitude of questions about my relationship with God. How she wanted that happiness in her life, and what did she have to do in order to gain her own salvation to enjoy a walk with God of her own? She was ready to stop blaming God for taking her mother away from her, and after reading her mom’s bible for the first time in years, she noticed all of the notes that reminded her not to fear the impending death that Cancer was sure to deliver into. I think at that very moment, Cindy realized just how powerful that relationship between her mother and God was. How it literally carried her mother through the shadows of death itself, and into the arms of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That was the same love that Cindy yearned for, and needed to know in order to feel any sort of happiness or love again.

And the conversation just went on. We talked for roughly an hour about the most basic questions too like, what did Jesus die for, what does that happiness feel like, but none were more important than when she asked me, “What do I do in order to get saved Michael?”

“It’s really kind of easy honey,” I replied, “Just ask.”

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