Feel the Teal: Surprised and Recognized at CCU

I am blessed to say that all of my days at Coastal Carolina University are good days. But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that some days are even better than the good days. Today was one of those.

After I left work yesterday I received a call from our awesome and valuable administrative assistant, Kim. She told me that a 9 a.m. meeting had been scheduled for today. I thought something semi-urgent must have come up that our communication team needed to talk about. This morning at about 8:30 a.m. Kim came to my desk and told me that the meeting would just be with me and our Vice President for University Communication (Bill Plate – My Boss). She also added that the meeting would start in his office at 8:55 a.m. My head started to turn. What was up? Did I do something wrong?

I went into Bill’s office and he just asked me to help him establish some goals for an accreditation program. Right away at ease, I brainstormed some ideas with him. After discussing a couple more topics our meeting concluded. I walked out of his office and strolled down the hall to my desk. Once I passed through the hallway and made it to our office’s lobby area I was greeted with a special surprise.

Across from me stood all of my University Communication co-workers and superiors. Our university photographer was present and he had his camera fixated right at me. Right in front of the whole group holding a bunch of teal balloons was Eileen Soisson, the Director of Service Excellence at Coastal. Everyone was starring at me and everyone was smiling.

Eileen Soisson addresses me this morning. I swear that there were more people watching than just our crazy Director of Creative Services Rob Wyeth (Thank you to our University photographer, Bill Edmonds for the photo. Thank you to Mona Prufer for passing the photo  C.D. onto me).

Eileen Soisson addresses me this morning. I swear that there were more people watching than just our crazy Director of Creative Services Rob Wyeth (Thank you to our University photographer, Bill Edmonds for the photo. Thank you to Mona Prufer for passing the photo C.D. onto me).

Eileen, the woman who is in charge of the innovative and popular “Feel the Teal” program, addressed me. She said that she was in our office today to honor me for the simple act I did last weekend. If you didn’t read my post from Monday night, I had the opportunity through a social media promotion to give my football tickets away to a student and her overseas dad who just happened to be in town for Family Weekend. It was a no-brainer on my part but the university still wanted to give me some recognition.

Eileen hands me the balloons. The Feel the Teal program is outstanding and innovative.

Eileen hands me the balloons. The Feel the Teal program is outstanding and innovative. (Thanks to Bill Edmonds for the photos).

After saying some really nice words about me, Eileen handed me the balloons while my office clapped. It was the nicest, most genuine thing that has ever been done for me in a professional setting before. I was able to hold it together but it did touch me. This is why I am at Coastal, I thought to myself.

Me with Eileen Soisson. It is easy to love a university and want to do your best when they treat you like this.

Me with Eileen Soisson. It is easy to love a university and want to do your best when they treat you like this.

Needless to say, it turned a good day into a great day. Bill, the same great boss who recognized me at the Board of Trustees meeting, orchestrated the whole thing. This morning was one of those times where a snap shot was instantly cemented into my brain. I will always have that image of all the people I work with on a daily basis looking right at me while Eileen stood in the center with balloons. I can’t thank Coastal enough for letting me implement my vision for its social media program and then honoring me simply for following through with it. I am at the right place. Don’t Blink.

My Ideas for Saving McDonalds

Read the business section of the newspaper or even watch the national news and you are bound to hear about the tailspin that McDonalds is on. The giant restaurant corporation has suffered slumping quarterly earnings for quite some time now. The past couple weeks it has seemed like the panic button has been activated as there are some real issues for Micky D’s.

I am not a McDonalds fan. I have ate there twice in the past two years. However, there was a time when I ate at the “Golden Arches” more often. Heck, my sister used to work there. So given my past with McDonalds and my so-so marketing IQ, I want to quickly offer my five best suggestions for reversing the declining sales of the world’s most popular restaurant chain.

I have five ideas to help McDonalds. And yes, only I would go out of my way on the drive home to find a McDonalds and take a selfie at the sign for a blog post.

I have five ideas to help McDonalds. And yes, only I would go out of my way on the drive home from work to find a McDonalds and take a selfie at the sign for a blog post.

Eliminate Terrible Car Smell: One of the worst smells in the world is when you enter a vehicle that had McDonalds food in it within the past 48 hours. The number one reason why I don’t eat at McDonalds is because I don’t care for the food but my number two reason is because I would never subject my car to the “after stench” of having the greasy grub riding shotgun with me. Do you think someone with a new car will go through the McDonalds drive-thru? Heck no! McDonalds could moderately increase business by finding some way to not make the food stink as bad. Alternatively, they could also introduce an air freshener that is given to you at the drive-thru window that would naturally eliminate the smell. Call it the McFresher.

Improve Chicken Nuggets: The rare times that I do go to McDonalds I order chicken nuggets. However, I think they suck. McDonalds needs to do something to make them better. I offer this suggestion: Make them bigger AND stuff them with something! How cool would it be if when you bit into a nugget cheese or BBQ sauce would come out? Or how about go completely crazy and have either honey or frosting in the middle? (yes, I just suggested putting frosting in chicken nuggets). I think a campaign that totally remakes one of McDonalds’ signature menu items would cause an exciting and profitable stir.

You see those card behind me? Many of them had people inside and they were all wondering what I was doing.

You see those card behind me? Many of them had people inside and they were all wondering what I was doing.

Social Media Deal EVERY DAY: McDonalds is starting to up its game on social media. Each day it seems like a sponsored McDonalds Instagram image comes up in my feed. This is a great first step but I want more than a stock image. I want a deal! Each day on the social media outlets of McDonalds they should offer a free small side of fries, a worthwhile BOGO deal, or the option to supersize your meal (if they even do that anymore) at no charge. McDonalds could seriously measure their social media reach while at the same time laying claim to the distinction of being the first fast food chain to offer a social media deal every single day. We all know these offers won’t break the bank, in fact they work well to increase the bottom line.

New Menu Item Each Month: Taco Bell does this so incredibly well. You turn on the TV and you are bound to see some creative and tasty looking new menu item that the chain is offering for a limited time. Dorito hard shells, quesadilla wrapped burritos, waffle tacos, etc. McDonalds no longer keeps up in this department. If they do offer something new it is boring, dry, and expensive (think salads or a fruit cup)! Taco Bell introduces items that look so good you want to tweet about it. As I mentioned above, chicken nuggets would be a good start but then McDonalds must follow by continually introducing new, creative items.

New Spokesperson: McDonalds has done away with Ronald McDonald. With so many companies successfully integrating individuals to serve as the face for their company, maybe McDonalds should follow suit. The new Wendys girl, Flo from Progressive (who I hate with a passion), and that equally annoying girl from AT&T have all provided their respective companies with an identity. I say McDonalds should invest in a female spokesperson as well…one who is attractive and who doesn’t make me want to rip my ears off. I think such a hire would give McDonalds a fresh new identity and light a spark.

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It is time for McDonalds to turn this ship around. My ideas differed from the typical “healthier choices” and “more sophisticated ordering options” that all the experts talk about. I like to think outside of the Happy Meal box and offer some unique solutions. Best of luck McDonalds, time to sink or swim. Please don’t be offended though when I say I couldn’t care less if you filed for bankruptcy tomorrow. Don’t Blink.

Visiting a South Carolina Cemetery

After work, some people like to go to the bar or the grocery store. Personally, I like to go to a cemetery.

As I have described before, I love cemeteries. I find them to be historic and peaceful lands that will teach you a lot if you decide to pay a respectful visit. After work today I drove to a cemetery that I pass by every single day and simply started walking around. Called Hillcrest Cemetery, I spent a lovely 45 minutes winding down after work as I strolled around the premises.

Me at the Hillcrest Cemetery in Conway, South Carolina, early this evening.

Me at the Hillcrest Cemetery in Conway, South Carolina, early this evening.

When I went back to my car I had some defining characteristics in my head that really stuck out in my mind about the cemetery. The one thing that became really apparent to me after about 15 minutes of exploring was that it was a young cemetery. The earliest date I found in the graveyard was 1889. A World War I vet named John T. Duckett was born on August 8, 1889, and passed on March 20, 1982. Since it was a South Carolina cemetery I had hopes that I would find really old tombstones but unfortunately that was not the case.

This was the oldest person I could find in the Hillcrest Cemetery.

This was the oldest person I could find in the Hillcrest Cemetery.

Of course with a lack of old markers you could imagine there was a plethora of young memorials. This was definitely the case. I saw a lot of tombstones from the 2000’s. There were tons and tons of married couple buried together. There were also many double tombs that just had one deceased partner buried underneath (for the time being). Sadly, I saw many baby grave markers.

Benjamin has been waiting for Hazel for over 30 years.

Benjamin has been waiting for Hazel for over 30 years.

A somewhat eerie characteristic of the cemetery centered on the grounds themselves. When I was walking around gravestones my shoes kept sinking into the soil. I think it must have something to do with the climate in South Carolina but I had never had the sinking sensation at a cemetery ever before. I felt like I was stomping around and disturbing the graves because my feet would dip so deep, it made me feel kind of bad.

My feet would sink as I walked around the grave stones.

My feet would sink as I walked around the grave stones.

As the cemetery was newer, it had some modern characteristics. For one, the grounds contained streams and waterfalls. Hillcrest also had several large, newer looking mausoleums on site. Some of the tombstones were very creative and colorful. Not trying to be funny here, but you could breathe in the cemetery. What I mean by this is that graves weren’t crammed together. Also, you couldn’t find any big, bulky structures or elaborate statues on site.

This stone had a surfing image depicted on it.

This stone had a surfing image depicted on it.

The last characteristic of the cemetery that I will remember is that it also included a plot of land for animals. Yes, there was a pet cemetery included in the actual people cemetery. Although it is off to the side, I had never seen people and animals both buried so closely together before.

Over yonder are the pet graves.

Over yonder are the pet graves.

I am told that I need to go to Charleston, South Carolina, to see some major league type cemeteries. I hear they are kind of like the cemeteries I encountered in Boston. If anyone else has any graveyard site suggestions for me to see, please send a message my way or comment below. For a history buff like myself, a cemetery is like a playground. Don’t Blink.

#CCUSocialMedia and WMBF Helping Out

To view the news story that this post is based on, click here.

As a proud Chanticleer football season ticket holder, there was no way I was going to let my two tickets go to waste. It was 1 p.m. on Saturday and I had no one to give my tickets to. With the game sold out and demand high from people who didn’t get tickets, I offered up my seats on #CCUSocialMedia.

I simply sent out a Tweet on our official twitter account asking our audience to retweet it. At 2 p.m. a user who retweeted the message would win the two tickets I had to giveaway. Twenty-five people responded with a retweet but one Coastal student added a little more.

This was the tweet that was sent out asking our social media audience to retweet it for a chance to win football tickets.

This was the tweet that was sent out asking our social media audience to retweet it for a chance to win football tickets.

After retweeting the @CCUChanticleers tweet, Marissa Reusch replied with a tweet of her own. She stated that she didn’t have tickets but she did have a dad who was only in town for the weekend before he would fly back out to Kuwait. If at all possible, she would like to take her dad to the game that night.

Besides retweeting the tweet, Marisa sent this.

Besides retweeting the tweet, Marisa sent this.

Well it was a no-brainer from there. I selected her as our winner of the promotion and hand delivered them the tickets when they arrived on campus. I managed to snap a photo of father and daughter with the tickets in hand.

This was the tweet announcing Marisa as the winner.

This was the tweet announcing Marisa as the winner.

Okay, this isn’t the main point of the blog post. Of course anyone would have done what I did given the situation. Who would deny a man serving our country and a daughter begging for a special experience with her dad a couple of football tickets? No one. But it is what came next that really touched me.

Marisa and her dad, Darryl, with the game tickets they won on Saturday afternoon.

Marisa and her dad, Darryl, with the game tickets they won on Saturday afternoon.

Journalism these days centers on social media. Forget about press releases and websites…reporters discover their stories through social media. WMBF, a local news station in the Myrtle Beach/Conway area, noticed the Twitter promotion. The station also noticed the subsequent Facebook post that identified the winners and their special story. Brooke Holden, a reporter for WMBF, tweeted at Marisa with a story request. The next day a news crew was at the airport to speak with Darryl and Marisa Reusch.

This was the story produced by WMBF. It chronicled the social media events of Saturday afternoon perfectly. But what it did even better was show the love between Marisa and her dad along with the heartache of saying goodbye. Watching them hug with tears in their eyes made my own eyes water up. The uneasiness of having a loved one serving overseas in a war country is unfathomable to many of us.

I want to thank WMBF for putting together such a heartfelt story and to Marisa and Darryl for doing it. As I got misty-eyed at my desk this morning I couldn’t help but once again realize that I love social media and I love my job. Don’t Blink.

Speed Reading

On Friday I traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, for a social media conference. The conference went well but there was one peculiar part. Toward the start of the day, one of the presenters randomly pitched us on a speed reading book they had for sale. Prefacing his plea by saying “Now I know this has nothing to do with social media…” he discussed how speed reading is legit and how it had helped him bolster his reading performance. I did not buy the book.

Although I am fascinated by speed reading, I am skeptical. First thing that jumps into my mind is an infomercial that used to play over and over when I was in my early teens. A fat guy with glasses sat at a table with a host across from him while he would demonstrate his speed reading skills. Using his hand to scan each line of the page, he moved his fingers at lightning speed in a downward motion, then he would violently turn the page and continue his rampage. He put on quite the show. And, he managed to correctly answer the comprehension questions asked by the host. I mean come on, don’t for one second think the speed reader was prepped/provided with any of the answers. They do all those infomercials live, right?

I have no idea how speed reading works. I neglected to do a Google search to see if I could find out the basics of the speed reading formula. However, in my ignorance, I think speed reading could possibly be a giant scam. I admit, I have only seen the con artist on television demonstrate the technique. I don’t think real speed readers physically beat up a book and practically tear out every page. I am thinking the legit ones have a more subdued and less flashy way of getting through literature quickly.

But here is my main question: Why aren’t there more speed readers out there? In my lifetime I have never known a legitimate speed reader. Way back in the day I had a classmate who claimed to speed read but it was a giant hoax. I know many avid readers, professors, and students…none of them speed read. Why is that? Although I understand that many folks might say they want to enjoy a book at normal speed, you would think majority of people who are very dependent on reading would be invested in the technique.

So I turn it over to my readers. Have you ever undergone any training for speed reading before? Is it legitimate? Do you speed read through my blog? Please let me know. Don’t Blink.

Reunion, Chick-fil-A, 9/11, Social Media Conference, Niece

Good evening my valued readers! Thursday is here and that means it is time for me to throw five different topics your way. Before I lose your attention, how about we start right now?

Reuniting: The first Coastal Carolina student I ever met was in March when I visited campus for my on-site interview. This student was named Briana Dinkins and she served as my guide for the campus tour that was arranged for me to go on. Despite a rainy and dark day, she was all smiles the whole time with a positive attitude to match. Driving around on the golf cart with her provided some great relief for me in between interview sessions. She was a big part in making my campus visit memorable.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see Briana for the first time since that early spring day. I interviewed her for the #CCUfamily campaign and let me tell you, she was the same energetic and positive person from March. It was so cool to come full-circle and have the chance to tell her how much I enjoyed the tour she gave me and what a great representation she is of the university.

Briana is such a positive person. Coastal is so lucky to have her!

Briana is such a positive person. Coastal is so lucky to have her!

Beautiful 9/11 Vigil: I could have spent tonight writing about 9/11. However, I think I said what I had to say three years ago. Instead, I decided to mark the 13th anniversary in a much more meaningful way. Just minutes ago I attended a candlelight vigil put on by the #CCU NAACP. On a gorgeous evening I got to hear beautiful singing, heartfelt speeches, and the respectful silence of a community marking the date together. I think I feel better on this date than I ever have before.

The choir at the vigil was amazing.

The choir at the vigil was amazing.

Chick-fil-A on Campus: Last week I wrote about our campus receiving a mobile Starbucks truck. Well this week another major company set up shop at Coastal Carolina. We now have our own Chick-fil-A store! Yesterday I had the privilege of taking part in the “soft opening” of the restaurant and enjoyed a free spicy chicken sandwich and waffle fries. Today I covered the official grand opening. It was fun watching our students line up and then witnessing the ribbon cutting/first bite ceremony. Our campus gets better each day.

I took a photo with the Chick-fil-A cow at today's grand opening.

I took a photo with the Chick-fil-A cow at today’s grand opening.

Off to Columbia, South Carolina: Tomorrow I head off to the state capital of South Carolina for a social media conference. I will be departing Myrtle Beach a little before 5 a.m. and will be returning at around 8 p.m. In between that time (minus the driving) I hope to learn techniques and practices that will allow me to improve #CCUSocialMedia. And to be completely honest, I am kind of excited to enter into Gamecocks Country and see if I can get a feel for the pride that the community has for the University of South Carolina.

Niece Update: My niece will celebrate her one week birthday tomorrow. I can report some good news: Mikayla is doing wonderful! Besides that basic report, here are some newer photos of her:

Here are some photos I threw together of my niece, Mikayla. My sister, Miranda, is in the photo on the bottom left.

Here are some photos I threw together of my niece, Mikayla. My sister, Miranda, is in the photo on the bottom left.

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Have a great night everyone. Please take a few minutes to remember those who lost their lives in such an unfair manner 13 years ago. God Bless America. Don’t Blink.

Time Alone

Every now and then I like to say a few words about my Life’s Little Instructions thought of the day. The wisdom dished out for September 10 held some truth for me personally so please allow me to go on for a few brief paragraphs.

This was today's Life's Little Instruction.

This was today’s Life’s Little Instruction.

For those who can’t read iPhone photos of text, the thought says this: “To be happy when alone is an exquisite happiness.” I couldn’t agree more. Some people dread being alone, not me. I find peace and harmony locking myself in my apartment and writing, reading, Tweeting, and watching television. I don’t yearn for a big thrill, I don’t become restless, and I don’t become needy…I just become…well…happy.

Not that I am an anti-social loser either (at least not the anti-social part). I love my family more than anything, I have a great girlfriend, and I have a solid pool of friends living all across the country. But I do covet the time when I am alone. Notice how the quote defines the solitary happiness as an “exquisite” one. The word exquisite to me means very fine and top of the line. I think that describes my sense of joy when I am relaxed at home perfectly. It is just a stress-free, effortless type of existence.

I keep myself company very easily. I don’t get scared while alone. I don’t feel left out or like something is missing if it is a Friday night and I am home by myself. I don’t feel any negative emotions at all…I just feel joy.

I am an outgoing, people person but I am also a recluse. I love to travel and do things but I am also very appreciative of time alone. I really do enjoy the “exquisite” things in life. Don’t Blink.

Where Did These Dollar Coins Come From?

Lunchtime rolled around today and I decided to leave the office to eat with the lunch crew (our graphic designers and our editor-in-chief). As we walked out the door I stopped at the vending machine to purchase a bag of Chex Mix. This particular machine is a new model and it accepts $5 bills. Hating to break such a bill in a vending machine but not having any singles, I slipped an Abraham Lincoln note through the slot and made my selection. What came out of the change slot was something I had never seen nor heard about before.

This vending machine was introduced a couple months ago. Each time I used it I always noticed the label announcing that it accepted $5 bills. The question of how change was returned always went through my head. Did it shoot back crisp dollar bills into the change slot? Did it go Vegas style and dump down 16 quarters? These are the stupid things that keep me up at night. Turns out I was wrong on both fronts.

This is the vending machine that I visit on a regular basis and that gave me a surprise today.

This is the vending machine that I visit on a regular basis and that gave me a surprise today.

When I selected my Chex Mix a clinking sound filled the slot. Okay, part of the mystery is solved, it returns coins. But the sound didn’t signify a whole bunch of quarters. Before opening the door of the slot I thought I either had Sacajawea dollars waiting for me or I had been ripped off. Once again, wrong on both fronts.

What I picked up was something I had never seen before. In my hand were four goldish-looking coins with different cartoonish-looking portraits of the U.S. Presidents on each of them. On the back was a depiction of the Statue of Liberty with the signification that it was worth $1. Since I was a kid I have always loved different types of coins and bills so I was immediately fascinated and also a little confused. How had I never seen these before?

Me holding the four coins I was given from the vending machine.

Me holding the four coins I was given from the vending machine.

I caught up with my four lunch partners who had already started walking to the building where we eat at and I showed them my change. Not one of them had ever seen these types of coins. Each one had a different portrait of a President…George Washington, William Harrison, Martin Van Buren, and Abraham Lincoln. My co-workers shared my astonishment as we discussed whether anyone would even accept them if I tried to make a purchase. When I returned from lunch I showed the coins to more people in my office. No one had ever seen them before! It spun my curiosity the whole afternoon.

An up close look at the four Presidential dollar coins I received.

An up close look at the four Presidential dollar coins I received.

I waited until I got home to do an internet search. I expected to learn that this was a new dollar coin initiative that just started up. So wrong again! I was amazed to find out that the Presidential $1 Coin Program started in 2007!! In a model that resembles the U.S. State Quarters Plan, select coins are introduced annually. Specifically, four Presidents each year come out on the $1 coins. The issuing goes according to chronological order. In 2014, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and FDR have all been released. Presidents must be dead at least two years before having their image minted so most likely the program will end in 2016 with Ronald Reagan.

For someone who loves the United States Presidents and currency as much as me, I still can’t believe I have been completely ignorant to this program for seven years. However, maybe I should say just four years. You see, in 2011, the government decided to stop minting the coins for circulation, opting to just release smaller amounts for collectors. Although I am a fan of currency, I don’t collect it. My full intention is to spend these coins but the question remains…will retailers look at me with confused faces when I present them as payment?

A look at the front and back of a Presidential dollar coin.

A look at the front and back of a Presidential dollar coin.

What a cool little lunch discovery today. If you have any experiences with these coins, please let me know. It is crazy how little publicity this program garnered. I will let you know how my transactions with this type of money goes. But, if you want a piece of history and are willing to pay me double for them, I will definitely take your offer. Don’t Blink.

Why Dum Dums Are Special to Me

Starting this school year, the Coastal Carolina University campus went tobacco-free. While most people immediately think of the students, and as they should, others are impacted as well. In my office I have the privilege of working with a fine editor named Joanna. She is a longtime smoker. When the tobacco ban took effect, she had to figure out some way to make it through the day.

In a drawer in Joanna’s office is a gigantic 300-piece bag of Dum Dums lollipops. When a craving comes she tears the wrapper off one of the suckers and pops it into her mouth. Although I can only imagine how much it pales in comparison to the satisfaction that a shot of nicotine would provide her with, she is making it through the day. Although Joanna doesn’t have plans to quit smoking now, she is doing her part to make our campus tobacco-free while at work.

Joanna and her BIG bag of Dum Dums.

Joanna and her BIG bag of Dum Dums.

The best part about Joanna’s Dum Dums regimen? She hooks me up with all the suckers I want! That’s right, on my desk I have a supply container that is filled with Dum Dums. I like them because they give my desk area a little bit of color. I like them because when I forget to bring gum they provide me with an alternative breath saver. I like them because in the middle of a long day they provide me with a little bit of relief. But I like them most of all because they let me reminisce.

These are the Dum Dums on my desk that Joanna gave me.

These are the Dum Dums on my desk that Joanna gave me.

My family owned an Italian restaurant in Walla Walla, Washington. Called the Pastime Cafe, my grandpa and uncle ran the place all through my childhood. Before my grandpa and uncle, my great grandpa operated the place. The restaurant was in operation for over 80 years, all under the ownership of my mom’s family (the Fazzari family…can you get more Italian than that?)

The Pastime Café, the restaurant I grew up in.

The Pastime Café, the restaurant I grew up in.

Anyway, when you walked into the restaurant there was a glass counter case directly to your right that contained every candy bar you could think of. Sitting behind the glass case was the person who operated the antique cash register (usually my Aunt Becky). The register rested to the left of my aunt, and underneath it was a sliding wooden door. Inside that wooden door were two things: Dum Dums and Andes mints. Now I loved both of those candies, but the Dum Dums hold more sentimental value for me.

This is my great grandpa at the cash register. As you can barely see, the glass counter case is visible at the very bottom of the picture. The wooden door is also visible.

This is my great grandpa at the cash register. As you can barely see, the glass counter case is visible at the very bottom of the picture. The wooden door is also visible.

After we ate dinner my mom would let us pick out a candy bar (we could only eat half of it) and also choose a Dum Dums. Back then there weren’t 16 flavors like there are now but it didn’t matter because my brother and I would always pick out the same one over and over: The Mystery Flavor!! Wrapped in paper with purple question marks all over it, my bro and I thought it was the coolest option. Of course I look back on it now and think what idiots we were; why not just choose a flavor we really liked instead of leaving it up to complete chance? Dumb kids.

Me with some Dum Dums.

Me with some Dum Dums.

For the hundreds of times I ate at the Pastime and the numerous times I went with my grandpa on Sundays when the restaurant was closed, I always got a Dum Dums sucker. I became convinced that our restaurant was keeping the Dum Dums factory in business.

As a 27-year old man, I no longer think that Dum Dums are unique to a small Italian restaurant in Walla Walla, Washington. However, you better believe that whenever I suck on one I immediately think of some of the best memories of my childhood. To get some of those sweet thoughts while living 3,000 miles away from “the town so nice they named it twice” is pretty cool and comforting. Thanks for the suckers, Joanna. Don’t Blink.

Mikayla Joy Koutecky

The chimes rang at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, at 3 p.m. PT this past Friday. Whenever a baby is born at that hospital the beautiful sound can be heard filling the hallways of the newborn unit. On this particular afternoon the chimes were in honor of Mikayla Joy Koutecky, my first ever niece.

The first ever photo of Mikayla Joy.

The first ever photo of Mikayla Joy.

My sister, Miranda, gave birth to Mikayla via C-Section, presenting my parents with their first grandchild. The procedure, much like the whole pregnancy, went smoothly. At six pounds, nine ounces, the bundle of “Joy” is a healthy and happy baby. She has dark hair and blue eyes.

My sister and her brand new baby.

My sister and her brand new baby.

Just a couple weeks before I moved out east, I had the opportunity to watch as my sister surprised my parents with news of her pregnancy. Although not there for the months that followed and the birth itself, I did follow along by way of Skype, picture messaging, and phone calls. After work on Friday I hustled home and sat on my couch while I awaited word. Right around 6 p.m. eastern time my mom texted me to tell me that she heard chimes. About 45 minutes after that text I received the first photo of Mikayla.

My mom (Grandma) with Mikayla.

My mom (Grandma) with Mikayla.

My family is ecstatic about the new addition. Although I will have to wait two and a half more months until I meet my niece in person, I have received plenty of photos to make me feel not so far away. Earlier this week I even sent my sister a Coastal Carolina University dress for Mikayla. It is designed for babies 3-6 months, so maybe when I arrive for Thanksgiving she will just be able to slip into it.

My dad (Grandpa) with his new baby girl.

My dad (Grandpa) with his new baby girl.

Congratulations to Miranda and her husband, Jay. Also, congratulations to my parents, who will undoubtedly make the best grandparents ever. Welcome to the world, Mikayla Joy!! I look forward to meeting you. Don’t Blink.