It’s a team that makes the individual.

Players have a set of individual talents that make them great. Whether it’s closing gaps in the outfield, a great first step on the base paths, or the ability to turn on a fastball, individuals are just that. Individual. In baseball, not one person can single handedly win a game. One person can end the game, but no one person can win it. You need defense. A pitcher needs players behind him to make plays, even if he’s pitching a no hitter or perfect game. It’s a team that makes the individual, not the other way around. 

In my life, I’ve been blessed with a great team. My family has been critical to my personal and professional success. My wife’s support, my kids laughter and needed distractions have been nothing beyond life saving. My parents and sister’s support and encouragement has been enough to push me through the late innings when things get tight. The one part of my team that I’ve been neglecting lately has been my friends. 

Our friends are one of the most important aspects of life that easily get overlooked. Whether it’s old high school friends you only see at reunions, college friends who you used to do ridiculously stupid stuff with, or friends you’ve met in your adult life, these relationships tend to get the short end of the stick. While I don’t think the growing amount of time between gatherings is an indication of the importance in your life, the longer time passes the harder it gets to feed them. 

I often make the mistake of letting my friendships begin to wither. Whether they’ve done something that I most likely don’t remember to upset me or just life in general keeping us apart, I’ve been guilty of letting my friendships start to wither. I can’t name a single relationship that I’ve constantly fed throughout the years. The same relationship that we had then is most certainly not the relationship that we have now. 

I’ve had some great friends along the way. Friends who would do absolutely anything for me. Friends who have. Some of my greatest memories are with them. These relationships were great because of who we were then. To expect the relationship to stay the same, 10-20 years later is probably a bit unfair. When we start to grow, we’d be remiss if we expected our relationships to stay exactly the same.

Just last night, one of my closest friends brought his family over for a Laborious Day of fun. This friendship is one that I could feel was starting to get away, not of any particular reason but just because life has been more difficult the last few months. But having them over was a great reminder that when we feed our relationships, not only is it our friendships that grow but my kids will have memories of this very weekend with their friends. It’s been fun watching our kids grow together and now feed each other. 

Our teams should be filled with greatness. Fill a team with people who you can trust to play tough defense behind you. People you want to go to battle with every day. Sooner or later, our contracts will expire so make the most of the team you have today. Leave it all on the field. Because no matter what happens at the end of the game, you’ll be proud to all be in the same dugout.

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You can either hit a curveball, or you can’t.

Recently, I had signed up for Fizzle. It’s a place for people who either already own their own business or people who have an idea and just need some help getting it going. The community there has been pretty great and it’s encouraging to know there is a group out there wanting me to succeed when building a business. While I’m not anywhere near close to what I want to do to make some side cash, I know I enjoy writing and part of the process is honing my skills here. 

When signing up for the community, they asked to provide a profile pic so people can put a face to the Fizzler. Being someone who has some image issues recently, I have very few images of myself to pop up. Sure I had tons of selfies with my kids making goofy faces, drinking beer (me, not my kids-but I hope that in about 18 years I will be doing that with my sons) or some that just aren’t appropriate for a forum like Fizzle. I did what any normal person would do. I put on a nice shirt, found the perfect spot in our beautiful back yard with the right light and had my wife take a picture.

Once we took about 10-15 pictures and found the right one, I began to edit in Instagram. I played with the filters. I messed with the contrast, shadows, and Vignette (whatever the bloody hell that is). After about 10 minutes of editing, I had the perfect photo. I loved the way I looked and immediately made it my Twitter (@nmaestas), LinkedIn (who cares) and Fizzle profile picture. I had a lot of Facebook comments saying how nice of a picture it was, how great I looked. The boost in confidence was great. It made me feel like a good lookin dude and immediately bought my wife a sword to ward off any oncoming co-eds who wish to make their passes at me.

But that night, I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see the same guy. I saw someone with hat head, bags under my eyes, growing grey hairs and poofy cheeks. I saw myself unedited. It was in that moment I realized that I only share the side of myself that make me feel better. What I shared wasn’t who I was, but how I wanted others to perceive me. I shared a lie. Ok, a lie may be a strong word, but it definitely wasn’t the every day Nick that people in real life would see.

The truth is, it’s rare when I share the real version of me. But that’s what social media is* (my English teachers would be disappointed in ending a sentence with a preposition.) Social media is a place for us to put out the vibe that we want others to see, not the 24×7 versions of ourselves. To steal a quote from Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch “You can fool everyone for a while, you know? It’s not like baseball. You can either hit a curveball or you can’t. That’s the way it works. You can have a lucky day, sure, but you can’t have a lucky career.”

As my friends, my family, or random Internetters, I want you to always see the real me. The unedited version. The good, the bad, the great, and the shitty. On the journey to find myself, I am going to choose to be as real with you all as possible. To not always be perfect. To not just get lucky on a 3-1 fastball when everyone in the park knows that’s the pitch you’re going to get. I want to be able to say in the end that they know who I was. Where I stood. And hopefully, with little editing, I could be someone that they could cheer for. Someone that they KNOW will get a base knock, regardless of the count. 

What parts of your life do you edit in social media, emails, work, etc?

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Swing away, big guy.

I was thinking about posting something a little heavier. something that I’ve been on the fence about sharing with you all, but I’m not entirely sure I want to do that today. Today has been a pretty great day. The start of a four day weekend usually helps improve the mood. I think instead, I’ll delve into the world of parenthood, AGAIN.

The first two weeks of school for Jack have been with mixed reaction. Some days I couldn’t be more proud of Jack. Others, we get stuck on his refusal to walk into school by himself. Those are the days that require multiple pulls from the now empty Jack Daniels bottle*. (Note to self, buy more whiskey)

While in my last post I discussed the difficulty of the parent letting go, being able to see our children walk off into the abyss on their own was difficult. Now the tables have turned. It’s definitely a little more difficult for Jack to let go. It’s something I have to say I didn’t really expect. I thought he would glady make his way away from the same people he goes through life with. What I didn’t take the time to do was concentrate on how he feels. His comfort level. Bottom line: He’s scared to let go. To walk in by himself.

Now once he’s in, he’s fine. He turns into a regular 5 year old, willing to learn, play, and kick ass in the classroom*. (Note to self, don’t tell the kids to kick butt in school today-they take that literally. Yes, we found out the hard way.)

But he can’t let go. He’s spent the majority of his mornings with his mother and his brother. It’s what he knows. Sure he goes to daycare, but he’s always had his brother there. My son, Jack, is a creature of habit. He lives off the status quo. If anything changes the status quo, he gets rattled and the first place he goes is emotion. It’s been hard not to get frustrated with him.

Today I was lucky enough to have the day off and was able to take him to school myself today. Lucky enough to give my wife a break from the emotional chaos that the school drop off has been. Today I woke up a bit early and got things ready for Jack’s favorite breakfast. He got french toast sticks (that he discovered at school by the way,) and bananas. He was so proud of his special breakfast. He gladly dominated the hell out of those milky, egg dipped slices of cinnamon sugar vanilla bread. Shortly after, he gladly got dressed and was happy to have about 15 minutes to play before he went. He was comfortable this morning. He wasn’t thinking about letting go. He was living in the moment. He was happy.

The drop off went so much better than i ever could have imagined. No tears. He came back for one more kiss but then he was on his way. Just him and his backpack into the abyss. He walked into that school proud. Waving the entire way, but proud.

I think what made the difference wasn’t me taking him instead of his mom. I think he was comfortable this morning. He didn’t spend time dreading something he knew he had to do. Instead, he just lived. And when it came to the big moment, he stepped up to the plate and hit one into the third deck. Seeing him do that on his own today made me proud. Made me realize that this isn’t permanent. That each day is a day to learn and grow. And while we will all have set backs, we need to do the best we can to live each moment. To enjoy where we are, to be happy where we are. But when our time comes, when it’s our turn, we need to step into the box and swing away. To not be afraid to swing at the first pitch with runners on, down 1. Don’t live life expecting not to swing. When the big moment comes up, hack away, big guy.

Today, my son hit one out of the park. I can’t wait to congratulate him when he gets home.
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Holy Sh!T It’s Kindergarten Time!

I remember my first day of kindergarten. Not the entire day, but the most difficult part. I was spoiled rotten by my grandparents. I lived with them. They did everything for me.  I remember walking downstairs of my now torn down elementary school. It was dark and musty. I remember I was the last one in the hallway with my grandmother and my mom. Mrs. Ritterbush said it was time to go. I didn’t want to and my grandma had a hard time letting go. The argument those two got into is one of my first clear memories. But I remember walking into the room after calming down and I met some of my best friends I’d have for years to come.

Tomorrow it’s our turn to walk our son to school. It doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t seem like we would ever get to this point as a parent. All we ever had to worry about before was making sure he had enough to eat, he was learning a little bit, and he was having fun along the way. I think we’ve provided him all of those things and a little more. I know he’s ready. Ready to make life long friends and learn and grow and become a little closer to becoming a man.

that’s what scares me. It’s the letting go. Knowing that this is a huge step forward towards growing up. To him becoming a strong, smart man who, Lord willing, becomes twice the man I am.

It’s funny. When I was young, I couldn’t wait to grow up. To find out what being an adult was like. To have freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted to do. To not give three and a half shits what anyone thought about what I did and how I did it. But now I would give anything to slow down time. To cherish each moment a little more. Each second that passes is another second we won’t get back. I’ve wasted a lot of seconds in my life. I can’t get them back.

But what I can do is take each second and fight for each one. To make each f*cking second count. To help my sons grow up and at least get them in the direction of the path.

At some point, it’s going to be time to let go and let them pick their own path. For now, I’ll enjoy holding their hands along the way.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to loosen that grip a bit. I know it’ll be harder for me than for him.

I’m just glad I’m here. To be a part of it. to help give them a better story.

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Give um hell tomorrow, Jack-a-roo! I’m so g’damn proud of you! You’re going to absolutely kill it. Your laugh and your smile will be contagious. Those girls have no idea what they’re getting into. (just no chasing them on the playground trying to kiss them like daddy. sitting on the window sill during recess is no fun!)

I love you buddy. Go off and grow. “What will your verse be?”

Every Little Thing’s Gonna be Alright

Please forgive the nashville video-it really has great music and the song fits nicely.

It sinks in. It’s like trying to fall asleep. It happens slow, you’re not sure when it’s going to hit. Then it all happens. All at once.

Depression.

Now, moms (and mine especially), let me explain. It’s not clinically diagnosed or anything and I’m not entirely sure I would’ve been. There were a series of events that brought me to a place that I needed to wipe the slate clean and start fresh…with everything. This probably started around 3 months ago and today I’m feeling a lot better about where I am mentally. The fog is lifting and I don’t have to force smiles anymore. My energy is coming back and I’m excited about some new opportunities.

It really started, I think, when I had a job offer from a company here in Lincoln. I’d get to work with a good friend and the pay was unlike anything I’d ever been offered. The tradeoff was the shift in my work/family balance. There was a lot of after hours/on call stuff that I wasn’t completely ready to shake up. I turned the job down. The money would’ve been life changing. But it was work I’d never done and even though I knew I wouldn’t fail, I wasn’t ready to take that risk. The next week, Jack had some weird foreign substance in his eye that needed surgically removed. $2,000 later, I felt I made a mistake in turning down the job and the security that the money offered. My heart knew I made the right decision, my wallet filled me with guilt. I think that’s what kicked it off.

It wasn’t too long after that, that the unthinkable happened. Around 2:30 on the Monday after Easter, management at my work called everyone into the Board Room to tell us that our beloved Bettina had been the victim of a homicide at the hands of her husband. While that news in and of itself was tragic, it was the details that haunted my dreams. Bettina and I weren’t the best of friends, but friends we definitely were. The high fives, the smiles, her laugh, and her genuine eyes are missed and that is what has replaced the details that kept me from sleeping. The details that have forced me to nightly sleep aids, otherwise I would be up at 4:30 and be up for good.I suddenly felt it necessary to lock our doors at night and I gained a weird fear of dying in my sleep.  While losing gramps was extremely hard, the news of Bettina’s death was something that none of us could deal with. While I still have some minor set backs regarding the thought of my eventually inevitable death, it’s something that I’m slowly coming to terms with.

A year ago, I ran the majority of the Lincoln Half Marathon. I signed up again this year fully expecting to beat my time. I had gained about 15 pounds since I had last ran it, but I thought I could easily work that off and whip my old time. I had got into running after new years. I got up to 6 miles. While it wasn’t the best, I was running 6 miles and thought I was on my way to a successful half. Then the two above things happened and my training fell apart. I ate myself into temporary muted happiness. I finished the half, but I only ran about 5 miles total. I walked the majority of it. While I did it for Bettina and was proud to finish for her, my frustration with letting myself go only aided into my sadness.

About a month ago, things started to move in a better direction. A great friend of mine emailed me telling me that a job had become available with his company. A company that I had been hoping to get into. The interviews went great and I landed the job. I start on Monday. While I’m going to miss my foundation family dearly, this was the right time for me to go. The direction of my department felt like it was moving to a place that didn’t fit my skill set any longer. I made so many great friends there. I worked with one of my best friends for 4 years. I’ll miss the health insurance, the 401k matching, awesome vacation leave, and knowing the ins and outs of the happenings at the university. I’ll miss our pop o’clock gathering’s at UStop and one of our Network Admin’s complaining endlessly about how bad the Huskers are, even in the middle of a great game. But I’m looking forward to being a part of a team again. I’m looking forward to learning about Scrum and OnBase. I’m excited to work with so many of my old Fiserv friends. But I’ll never forget my 4 years at NUF. Ever. They are family. Plain and simple.

Being in I.T. afforded me the luxury of putting in my notice and getting 2 weeks paid vacation. It allowed me to take my family to KC to see a real life Thomas the Train, a great night with great friends on their back deck, and a night at Great Wolf Lodge. It also allowed me and my wife to go digging for the spark that got lost in my depressiony haze by spending 4 days in Colorado camping and relaxing in posh hotels.

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All of the great things that have happened in the last month brought me through the fog. Brought me back to me. I feel like myself again. And while I still have some unpleasant flashbacks, every little thing is gonna be alright. I’m going to be alright. We’re all going to be alright.

I consider myself to be so lucky. Lucky to have an awesome support system. An awesome new job and a beautiful family. A great support system made it easier for me to come out of the fog. To get back to me. I feel like I’m back home.

Please Come Home

Oh, hey guys. It’s certainly been a while since I’ve last submitted my mental purging onto the web. I wanted to stay away from this form because I felt like it became a place for me to continue reburying my grandfather. While I still have issues, I think I’m growing positively in that department. So that’s the last time I’ll bring him up here unless it’s relevant.

Ok, now that we got that precursor out of the way, lets move onto another subject I’ve been wanting to avoid–faith. I used to be filled with the stuff. Grace, hands up during praise & worship at church, calling everyone “friend” and only reading books regarding Christianity. I even got some Christian tattoos to prove to everyone how Christian I was. Even after getting married, we found a couple of great churches to attend. We’ve loved the two that we’ve found together, Flatland in Omaha and Mosaic here in Lincoln. We used to go to Flatland every week. The drive got a bit old but the content and worship made it worth it. Jack was just a babe when we went and most weeks we would get interrupted with cranky bubba, so we slowly quit going, until we stopped altogether.

We then found Mosaic here in Lincoln and we liked it a lot. It had the same qualities Flatland had. Great content and fantastic (but sometimes too loud *damn kids and their loud music*) worship. The people all were genuine and we fell in love. We then had Miles who was a pup when we first started going. He wasn’t old enough to hang with Jack and they had a small room with a lot of people. Miles wasn’t a fan, so we would get pulled out. And we slowly quit going, until we stopped altogether.

Truth be told, I haven’t really missed it. My wife has some pretty deep scars from her experiences with a local group/church here in town. She has been slowly wanting to get back but wanting to do so with a peaceful, yet protective heart. Yet another reason for me to say “well, lets just go when things settle down.” I’ve been ok with not attending. And since we’ve stopped, my attitude and my overall general behavior have shown this. I’ve always had a potty mouth. I’ve always drank a lot more than a father of two kids should. I’ve always been super judgmental of people who gave ever “given me a reason to.” The pastor of a church quit following me on some social media sites after I had a stupid cursing outburst during a football game, and honestly, I have had a hard time wondering why so I’ve found reasons to stop attending-afraid of the judgment and being ashamed. Mostly being ashamed.

I have been Godless for a couple of years now. No anger about it. No hard feelings. Just haven’t been living with Him in my life. It wasn’t until we had to take my son to the hospital to have a foreign object removed from his eye that I found myself praying again. While I knew that I had no right to be praying out of convenience, it was natural to go there. Some of the old feelings started creeping back. While we were waiting the hospital visit, I was at work and listening to some old David Crowder that always made me feel a bit better. It got me thinking about the example I am setting for my children. Not only in my behavior but in neglecting to introduce them to some of the beliefs that Jenny and I agreed to when we started having children.

Having faith isn’t about living this perfect life. To me, faith is going towards Christ, even after a few years, a few mistakes, and a lot of pride. Maybe it’s still in there. It’ll take a while to get back there. But this time, I’m not going to force it. I am going to just take each day at a time. Each Sunday service, I’ll go and have a clear and open mind. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find my way back in His arms. Not only for myself, but for my wife who needs me to lead her. And my children who need me to hold their hand and show them the way. It’s time to come home.

 

You make me happy, when skies are gray.

I want to first start by apologizing to anyone who read my blog last night. I was in a pretty dark place and tend to go there. I need to learn to harness that stuff, turn it around and find the light. But in the middle of the darkness, it’s hard to see where you’re going. I always want to portray my true self in this forum. If someone can relate to my dark, then maybe it’s ok.

Today is better. I knew today was going to be better as I hit highway 34 on my way west to Lincoln. As I got on the road, the sun was slowly peaking and once the first hint of sunlight hit the purple sky, a feeling of warmth came over me. It is a new day. A day to put the dark behind, to make the day the best I can not only for me but for my family. Last night, I was sitting at the computer, pouting and drinking. Jack came right up to me and put his arms around me, slowly rubbing my back. I think that’s when my dark got a little less dark. He told his mom last night “I think daddy is really sad, but he loves me.”

That’s maybe what’s most important to me as a dad. I know I’m going to screw up. I’m going to fail my sons. But when they see me in my dark place, they know I still love them. I want them to know that I’ll always love them, no matter the current condition of my weak heart.  My boys make me happy, when my skies are gray.

Today is a new day. It’s bright, beautiful, and a chance to live like gramps.

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