My Top 10 Favorite Moments Working for Coastal Carolina University

This was tough. I knew I couldn’t close my chapter at Coastal Carolina University without reflecting on some of my favorite moments from the past five and a half years. But I realized I would have to exercise some restraint and limit my highlights to a number that was appropriate for a blog post. Naturally, I chose 10––but it just doesn’t seem like enough.

I smiled a lot while writing this. For nearly six years I have been spoiled with opportunities, support, and an outstanding team. These special advantages contributed to a memorable ride with defining moments. Today I would like to share them with you.

10. The Social Circle with Brent Reser: I would have embraced the role of anonymous social media dude who no one knew about, but my team had other plans. Shortly after I arrived at CCU we debuted Coastal Now, a television show that detailed the happenings of our University. Would you believe that I was given my own segment? Called the Social Circle with Brent Reser, I had a few minutes each show to tell #TEALnation the latest about #CCUSocialMedia. Given the freedom to write and present my own segment, I relished the creative control I was entrusted with. My favorite show will forever be when I made my debut.

Hosting my own segment on “Coastal Now” allowed me to take a temporary break from behind the screen so I could get in front of our audience.

9. In the Fast Lane with NASCAR: Because of the marketing genius of our former vice president, Bill Plate, we identified a student on our campus who was working his way up the NASCAR ranks. We signed a sponsorship deal with Brandon Brown and soon enough the CCU brand was zooming around the most famous racetracks in the nation. I had the opportunity to help leverage the sponsorship. I received all-access at places such as Bristol Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway to chronicle Brandon’s pursuits on social media. But my favorite instance of covering Brandon Brown didn’t take place on Facebook or Instagram. Rather, it occurred in print. I was tasked with writing a feature about CCU’s unique NASCAR marketing venture for our alumni publication, Coastal Magazine. Oh yeah, my story wasn’t just a regular feature––it turned out to be the COVER STORY! 

I had the honor of writing the cover story for a recent Coastal Magazine issue.

8. The Hurricanes: I know it sounds insensitive that I would list hurricanes as a “favorite” moment but please let me explain. It took me a while to become accustomed to living in a hurricane-prone corner of the world. It was strange and scary at first. Having experienced this, I was able to bring a special kind of empathy to our #CCUSocialMedia audience when a hurricane threatened the area (which happened at least every year). Using a formula based on accuracy, compassion, and customer service, our team was able to deploy a social media strategy that made students and parents, many of whom were from out-of-state with no hurricane experience, feel comfortable and safe. Our Hurricane Florence social media plan won a Communicator Award for its effectiveness and creativity. This past fall during Hurricane Dorian I wasn’t just running our social media response––I also sat in the #1 spot for the communication division of our Emergency Operations Center (EOC). To literally sit shoulder-to-shoulder with our university president while we crafted communication messages was a big (and kind of intimidating) moment in my career. Being able to serve our CCU community during such vulnerable times was always a pleasure.

Me working in the EOC during Hurricane Dorian. I took the role I got to play on social media very seriously during these challenging times.

7. In Front of the Board: Even though I was petrified at the time, looking back on it, I still didn’t realize how big of a deal it was to address the Board of Trustees. But there I was, about a year into my tenure at CCU, standing in the Wall Ballroom in front of the trustees, the President, and every other important person at Coastal. Our department’s vice president had tasked me with delivering a 10-minute presentation on our social media program, specifically our digital success at that year’s men’s basketball NCAA Tournament. You better believe I prepared hard to properly represent our University Marketing and Communication department. But would it pay off? Fortunately on that day it did. Using analytics and humor, I won over at least one trustee who stood up at the end of my presentation and publicly commended our strategy, leading to rousing applause from everyone in the room.

I had a lot of nerves prior to addressing the Board of Trustees in the Wall Boardroom at Coastal Carolina University.

6. Totality: In the summer of 2017, the nation was captivated as the Great American Eclipse swept over our country. Our social media program relied on faculty experts to teach our audience about the phenomenon leading up to the big event on August 21. When that day arrived, I jumped in a car with our vice president, Bill, and one of our videographers, Alexandra, and we drove 80 miles to a small South Carolina town called McClellansville (population 500). Why? It was one of the few places in the country that would experience the eclipse at complete totality. It was also the location where Louis Keiner, one of our physics professors, was observing and photographing the event. It was an incredible day listening to Dr. Keiner analyze what was going on and then to experience that special moment of totality was indescribable. Needless to say, our social media content on August 21 received heavy engagement.

The Great American Eclipse was a unique experience. Bill, Alexandra, and I traveled together and met Louis Keiner and his daughter, Emma, in McClellansville.

5. Generating National Attention at the NCAA Tournament: In 2015, our men’s basketball team punched a ticket to the Big Dance. The Chanticleers earned a #16 seed and a game against top ranked Wisconsin in Omaha. Because our athletic department did not have anyone in its main marketing position at the time, I was sent to perform social media duties. Just like when I went with the University of Montana, the whole experience was amazing. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the best tournament in sports and became friends with several of the athletic department staffers. But the most memorable part of the week was engaging in a Twitter back-and-forth with the main University of Wisconsin account. We each were able to toss some playful jabs while maintaining a civil tone and proudly representing our universities. The exchange was picked up by numerous news organizations and generated a lot of positive exposure for our university.

In 2015, I traveled with the Chanticleer men’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament.

4. Appearing in a Darius Rucker Music Video: The night before Darius Rucker rocked the HTC Center on the CCU campus, I went to bed thinking how rad it was that I would get to cover the concert. Little did I know that much more was in store. About 24 hours before the show, Rucker tweeted that they needed extras for a music video they were going to shoot a few hours prior to that Saturday’s show. I showed up to the shoot, which took place in a hallway of the arena, to document the excitement for #CCUSocialMedia. Apparently I looked more like a Darius Rucker die-hard than a social media professional because they chose me to stay through the entire shoot. I got to meet Darius, watch how a music video is made, and witness an epic concert later that night. The cherry on top came about a month and a half later when the music video for “Homegrown Honey” made its debut. Right at the 1:42 mark there is a goofy-looking blogger with a mile-wide grin across his face sharing the screen with Darius Rucker. I made the cut.

I had my two seconds of “fame” at the 1:42 mark of the Homegrown Honey video.

3. Working With My Team: While at CCU, I have had the honor of working with talented and dedicated marketing and communication professionals. It has been a pleasure collaborating with these individuals to reach and exceed the goals of our University. But while I am proud of the professional accomplishments, I cherish the fun we have had along the way. Whether it be Kentucky Derby parties, t-shirt exchanges, birthday lunches, karaoke nights, the infamous birthday cards, or a host of other quirky/fun things, I have been fortunate to become friends with so many great people. Thanks to Bill Plate for establishing a special MarComm culture that kicked butt in the office and had fun outside of it.

I love these people. It was an honor to be part of the University Marketing and Communication team

2. Representing #CCU on a National Stage: I feel like an exclamation mark was put at the end of my CCU tenure just a few months ago in Las Vegas. It was at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in Caesars Palace that I presented with Lindsi Glass, our former associate vice president for marketing and branding, in front of a standing room crowd. We earned a coveted speaker spot at our industry’s premiere conference by working together to submit a proposal about how #CCUSocialMedia was connecting with Gen Z on Instagram. After several months of preparation, we hit our presentation out of the park. The feedback we received from our counterparts at universities across the nation was sweet validation of our methods and creativity…it was the highlight of my career.

Presenting with Lindsi Glass in front of the higher education marketing world at the AMA Symposium was the highlight of my career.

1. CCU Wins the College World Series: The summer of 2016 was like a dream. Fresh off getting married and returning from our Mexican honeymoon, the Coastal baseball team punched its ticket to the College World Series. That feat alone was enough to make our #CCUSocialMedia audience go bonkers but it was just the beginning. The Chants would land in Omaha and win…win…and win some more. When it was all said and done, our University had played on an ESPN network eight different times in 10 days and won a national championship. Back in Conway it was bedlam. Engagement on our social channels was through the roof and I told one local station that “Other than being in Omaha, I had the best seat in the house” for the magical ride. It was a surreal scene covering the team’s return to the Myrtle Beach Airport as the crowd and energy blew me away!!! The next day was even crazier as the student-athletes and coaches were celebrated with a parade through Conway followed by a ceremony inside Springs-Brooks Stadium. Not only did every piece of content we publish seem to stick but user generated content was out of this world as well. The title run by the baseball team was something every higher ed social media professional hopes for as it boosted #CCUSocialMedia to new heights. Nothing will ever compare.

I had to think really hard about what to write for this tweet. In all honesty, it was an honor to be the person to send this out.

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Wow, it has been a ride. As I reflect on these great times at Coastal, I am so grateful that the institution empowered me to do my job and succeed. I will take these experiences with me throughout my professional career and always cherish the time I spent in #TEALnation. Thanks, CCU. Don’t Blink.

Forever A Chanticleer

Graduating students at Coastal Carolina University are reminded of something at every commencement. At the end of the ceremony a representative from the Office of Alumni Relations will take the podium to encourage the new grads to keep in touch with the University. The last words of the address, regardless of who is delivering it, are always the same:

Remember, you will forever be a Chanticleer!

Although I did not graduate from CCU, I like to think that the sentiment can be applicable to departing staff members as well.

I recently concluded my time at Coastal Carolina University.

My time at Coastal Carolina University recently concluded. As of last Friday at 5 p.m., I am no longer an employee of #TEALnation. I have accepted a position at another university and will start next month. To all my colleagues who I did not get to say goodbye to, I apologize. I intended to let everyone know about my departure in person but the early delivery of our son and a stay in the NICU changed those plans. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed working at Coastal Carolina, something I hope to make clear with a couple blog posts over the next week. Without the opportunity I received almost six years ago to serve this special place, my life would be completely different and much less fulfilling. I owe the world to CCU.

Due to life events (you know, like having a baby?!) and thanks to the overwhelming patience and understanding of my new employer, I will be around the area for several more weeks. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home dad for nearly a month. This transition period will allow me to spend precious days with Sloan and bond with Beau.

My wife is the best. Despite everything going on with our growing family, she has given me the blessing to pursue this opportunity. What more can I say?

CCU, it is time for me to properly thank you. I will do this by reflecting on the events and people that made my tenure so memorable. Stay tuned, there is more to come. Don’t Blink.

Beau Meets World

An Unexpected But Beautiful Beginning

Wednesday, February 5, 2020, was a day of both Deja vu and new experiences. I accompanied Sidney to her latest doctor’s appointment, a visit that was supposed to be one of the final ones before she gave birth to our son, Beau Thomas Reser. It ended up being the final one.

With Sid’s blood pressure rising, her doctor decided it was time to deliver. In a calm and nonchalant voice, Dr. Nancy Collins said, “You’re going to have a baby today.”

It immediately brought me back three years ago to when we were told the same thing a few weeks prior to Sloan’s due date. However, although I still felt shock, the room didn’t close in on me like it did in 2017. That initial experience taught me that preeclampsia is a serious condition and doctors will take action if symptoms reach severe levels. I knew in the back of my mind prior to Wednesday’s visit that an early delivery might be ordered.

We hurried from the OBGYN office to The Birthplace, the labor and delivery wing of Conway Medical Center. Sidney was taken immediately to one of the rooms and I went downstairs to register her. Sloan’s and Beau’s expedited deliveries both caught us off guard but they were very different in their duration. With Sloan, they tried to unsuccessfully induce labor for three days before operating; with Beau, induction wasn’t even an afterthought.

Sidney and I just minutes prior to the hospital staff wheeling Sidney to the operating room.

It is recommended that mom’s who have a C-Section continue to have them for subsequent pregnancies. This was the case with Sid. We entered The Birthplace around 11 a.m. and before 2 p.m. we would have the newest addition to our family.

As Sid and I sat in that operating room, the experience was 180 degrees different from 2017. Instead of being loopy from three days of induction drugs and deprived sleep, Sidney was completely dialed in (but of course very numb). With the same doctor behind the screen and an increased knowledge of C-Section protocol, I was less nervous. Sitting right next to my wife on our side of the partition, we prayed together moments before Dr. Collins started the surgery.

I held Sid’s hand and watched the nurses on our side of the screen look over at the other side. Before long, at 1:37 p.m., we heard the voice of Dr. Collins cooing at a brand new little boy followed by those sweet first cries. After Beau was held up so we could see him they took him away for a couple moments. He then re-appeared and was laid right at Sid’s head before being transferred to my arms. It was beautiful.

Beau was born at 1:37 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020.

This time around, I felt so much different. When Sloan was born I simply did not know the depths of love I would develop for her. No new parent can fully comprehend it. But the moment I saw Beau my heart swelled with the same love I have for my daughter. When you are suddenly face-to-face for the first time with someone you have an indescribable affinity for, you can’t prevent the tears of joy.

After those precious moments between the three of us, Dr. Collins started to close Sidney back up. A nurse escorted Beau and I to the nursery area where Sidney’s family was waiting for us. Beau was handed off to another nurse who recorded his measurements and inked up his feet so his footprints could be stamped. With a large panel of soundproof glass separating Beau and the nurse from us, she held up fingers to communicate to us that our little boy was 7 pounds, 3 ounces.

The nurse who recorded the initial measurements on Beau brought him up close to the glass so we could all see him.

The hospital’s pediatrician came out to tell us that despite being born a little early, we had a healthy baby boy. I took a moment to soak it all in. Just a few hours ago I had no idea that we would be meeting Beau that day. Now we had a son with a clean bill of health minus the delivery complications from Sid’s first birth. It almost seemed too easy.

The smooth sailing would not continue.

Something is Wrong

When the nurse was taking Beau’s measurements behind the glass, we noticed that he was breathing fast. When the pediatrician had given us the initial report, she mentioned that his breathing would most likely stabilize in the next few hours. Because the rest of the report was so good, we had little reason to be concerned, especially since the doctor said it was a temporary issue.

After about an hour, Sidney was wheeled back to her hospital room. She was on Cloud 9––both figuratively and literally––after giving birth and taking some powerful pain medication. With a mile-wide smile spread across her face, we showed her photos and video of Beau, thinking it would help pass the time until the nurse would be walking through the door with our son to hold. Instead, we got the hospital pediatrician again.

As Sidney waited to see her baby, she passed the time by looking at photos on her mom’s phone.

The doctor said Beau was still breathing fast and that it was likely a combination of being born a little premature and being delivered via C-Section. She said an X-ray would confirm it. However, she remained confident that his breathing pattern would become more normal soon. Our own pediatrician, Dr. Sangtian, who is a complete rock star at what he does, was out of the country and not returning soon––he was being held in quarantine because of the Coronavirus. Despite the absence of our own pediatrician, the other doctor in his practice came to check on Beau and delivered the same news that the hospital doctor did…his breathing will sort itself out.

Beau was put in the isolation room of the Conway Medical Center nursery. Sidney would not get to see him the rest of the day. I got to see him early that evening and just before midnight. He was so handsome but you could tell he was working hard to breathe. I prayed that he would be breathing easier the next morning.

Me looking at Beau in the Conway Medical Center isolation room.

I woke up in Sid’s hospital room and before I left to take Sloan to daycare (she spent the night at my in-law’s) I saw Beau again. There had been little improvement. After dropping Sloan off I returned to the hospital in time to hear from both the hospital pediatrician and the pediatrician pinch-hitting for Dr. Sangtian. Despite his breathing not stabilizing, they said, he still just needed more time, perhaps 48-72 hours.

With it nearing 24 hours since Beau was born, Sidney’s nurse wheeled her into the isolation room so she could see Beau. Although therapeutic to see him, it was hard to look past his fast breathing pattern. A couple hours later, my mother-in-law and I watched as this sweet brand new baby continued to struggle.

While we looked on at Beau, the hospital pediatrician was meeting with Sidney in her hospital room. My wife asked the doctor some pointed questions that made the pediatrician concede that a children’s hospital with a regionally renowned neonatal intensive care unit might be best for Beau. The pediatrician then came to the isolation room where the two of us agreed with what Sidney suggested. From that point, all we needed was the thumbs up from the pediatrician who was filling in for Dr. Sangtian. He had no objections and within minutes a team from McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, South Carolina, was in route to Myrtle Beach.

With Beau’s transport on the way, the Conway Medical Center nurses allowed Sidney to hold him, something she had not done up until that point. My wife and I got to spend some quality time with our son as we prayed with him and told him that a proud big sister was waiting at home.

Nurses from McLeod arrived and placed him in a transportable incubator. We said our goodbyes and off went Beau in the McLeod neonatal emergency vehicle. We felt relief in the sense that he was in good hands but also sadness that 75 miles would now separate us. Throughout the whole saga, this was the toughest day for me. I woke up with such high hopes only to send him to the NICU. The emotion would boil over that night. Shortly after Beau left for Florence, I went to Sloan’s daycare to pick her up. The owner of Oxford Children’s Academy walked out from her office to congratulate me. When she asked to see photos, I broke down.

This was the incubator that Beau rode in to the NICU.

After dropping Sloan off with my father-in-law, I returned to the hospital to spend the night with Sid. My mother-in-law had traveled to Florence to make sure Beau was taken care of. The doctor on duty at the NICU called us and said Beau needed more surfactant in his lungs, something McLeod was well-equipped to do. The seemingly simple prognosis provided us some comfort at the end of an otherwise very challenging day. But while my personal toughest day was ending, my wife’s was about to begin.

A Mother’s Heartbreak

On Friday morning, we received a couple pieces of news. First, it turned out that Beau needed more intense treatment than just some surfactant pumped into his lungs. Doctors discovered that he was also battling pulmonary hypertension, a condition that McLeod could treat but that would require more time to do so. The other development was that Sidney would be discharged from Conway Medical Center by the end of the morning.

There was no denying that Sid being discharged was a good thing. No one wants to be in the hospital, especially the labor and delivery wing when your baby is no longer there. Although we were always treated so well by The Birthplace nurses and staff (just like last time), it was a tough place to be. I felt so bad for Sidney because the joyous moments associated with the postpartum hospital stay––baby being wheeled into the room, peeking at him through the nursery glass at night, visitors coming by to see him, etc.––were denied to her this time around. True to her humble nature, Sidney would smile as new mommys and ecstatic daddys walked past her door in the hallway with their babies, but I knew it was painful for her.

At Conway Medical Center, they treat all moms and dads who just delivered to a steak meal. Even though we didn’t really have appetites this day, we wanted to share a meal together and prep ourselves for the days ahead.

Even though exiting that environment was a positive step, it couldn’t erase the sadness of leaving the hospital without a baby. Conway Medical Center hires elderly volunteers to provide a wheelchair escort for moms and their newborns at the conclusion of their stay. In 2017, it was such a triumphant moment when I pulled our vehicle in front of the hospital doors as Sidney and Sloan rolled out into the fresh air to go home. Last week, it was just Sidney being pushed in the wheelchair and I know that was extremely tough for her.

As you can imagine, arriving home baby-less was another dagger to the heart for Sid. Even though Beau came early, the house was still ready for him. Adding to the emotional pain was the sharp physical pain from surgery combined with unforgiving postpartum hormones. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go and it was a definite low point. But even as Sid struggled through the day, she started to set her sights on getting Beau better so he could soon receive the proper homecoming he deserved.

Our NICU Journey

With Sidney safe and secure at home, her sister came over to stay with her. This allowed me to travel to McLeod Regional Medical Center for the first time. I went on this maiden voyage with my in-laws and I was glad I did because my mother-in-law was able to teach me the ropes of entering a neonatal intensive care unit. She showed me how to store my personal items, the proper way to scrub, and how to wear the yellow garment that all visitors must don while in the NICU.

The NICU at McLeod has almost a warehouse-type feel to it. The spacious area is divided into a few different “aisles” with babies on either side of each aisle. As I walked to Beau’s station at the end of the middle aisle and passed other babies, I realized that the gravity of my son’s situation wasn’t as critical as others. As I caught glimpses of the smallest babies I have ever seen in my life, many ranging in the 24-30 week range, I realized that we had it pretty good, all things considering.

It was emotional to see Beau. I was overjoyed to see him but also sad to see his tubes and wires. The NICU staff limited most stimulation. On this day, the general theme was that he needed time to rest and for his lungs to develop. I spent most of that initial visit just at his bedside praying.

This was Beau on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020…his first full day in the McLeod Regional Medical Center NICU.

The next day, Saturday, Feb. 8, I made the journey to Florence on my own. Sid was still recovering from surgery and was in no condition to travel, a reality that put her in low spirits. When I arrived at the NICU, a nurse asked about Sid and I told her about the tough time she was going through. In a true display of compassion the nurse allowed me to Facetime Sidney, something that is usually a no-no in a NICU. This meant the world to my wife! When the call went through her face lit up and she started blowing kisses to Beau. After spending quiet time with Beau I attended mass at St. Anne’s, a tiny Catholic church just minutes from the hospital. While there I reflected on how lucky we were to have our son receiving the proper care he needed.

On Saturday, Feb. 9, I visited Beau by myself. He was still heavily reliant on machines.

Between our physical visits to McLeod, we would call in the early morning and at night to receive updates from the nurses on Beau’s condition. Sidney made the call on Sunday morning and spoke to a nurse named Jordan. Even though she was still recovering from surgery and was trying to save her strength for a trip to Florence on Monday, Jordan suggested to Sid that a visit that day would do wonders for her psyche. The gentle challenge from this nurse motivated Sid to travel to the NICU that day. I stayed at home with Sloan and my in-laws took Sidney to Florence. If the Facetime call on Saturday boosted her spirits, Sunday’s visit shot them through the roof.

When the new week arrived, we would drop Sloan off at daycare and make the trips to Florence together. Most of the days, Sidney’s mom would also come along and drive so we could rest. The whole week was filled with daily triumphs. On Monday they took him off his ventilator, on Tuesday they ceased sedation and IV fluids, on Wednesday they introduced bottle feeding, on Thursday they removed his CPAP support, and on Friday they took off all electrical leads. These milestones corresponded with Beau looking more and more handsome each day. His color improved and his swelling went down.

Throughout the week of Feb. 10 – Feb. 14, Beau improved dramatically each day.

Wednesday was especially joyous for a reason beyond bottle feeding…we got to hold him! It had been almost a week since the last time we held him––in the isolation room at Conway Medical Center minutes before he was transferred to Florence––so we couldn’t wait to cuddle our little man. That morning Sidney woke up literally singing…

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!

It was a big deal for us when we finally got to hold Beau again.

Sidney, to put it mildly, isn’t much of a morning person so the fact that she was belting out a hymn at 6 a.m. says a lot about her excitement and gratitude toward God. Ah yes, God. Throughout the first couple challenging weeks of Beau’s life, we turned to God and our Blessed Mother a lot. The trips back and forth to Florence gave us a lot of time to pray, as did other idle moments during the journey. While in the NICU, Sid and I would pray the Rosary together at Beau’s bedside, using each Hail Mary to ask for his healing.

These are the rosaries we brought with us to the NICU…an adult one and a child one.

But it wasn’t just our prayers at work for Beau. Both our families were praying non-stop for his recovery. Our church was absolutely incredible––multiple prayer groups at St. Andrew, including the clergy members themselves, were praying to the Lord and asking for intercessions on Beau’s behalf. My Knights of Columbus brothers were especially comforting as they sent out update emails on my son’s condition and prayed fervently. Additionally, we had the prayers of our friends, co-workers, and daycare staff.

With Beau improving each day, there was a lot to smile about.

With talented doctors, dedicated nurses, and faithful prayer, how couldn’t Beau get better?

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Doctors and nurses in the NICU are notorious for being tight-lipped about identifying a specific discharge date too far ahead. It is common to get word a mere 24 hours prior to dismissal. But by the end of Friday, we knew Beau’s stay in the NICU was coming to an end. We had intelligence that Beau would see light outside of the McLeod Regional Medical Center after the weekend. Saturday he would get circumcised, Sunday we would “room-in” with him, and Monday he would be released. To know that we would soon have our baby home was an exhilarating feeling.

On Saturday morning, we were getting ready to depart for Florence when I received a call from the hospital. The woman on the other end of the line asked to speak with Sidney. She informed my wife that Beau would be discharged on Sunday and that we could room-in tonight. We were no longer going on a day trip! Sid and I excitedly started packing our bags for an evening with our little man in lovely Florence, South Carolina.

It was a fun experience sharing our first night with Beau via the hospital’s “Room-In” program.

The room-in program is designed to lessen the anxiety that parents might feel after bringing home a baby who spent time in the NICU. Moms and dads are usually elated to get their child out of the hospital but might also feel a little scared about taking care of a baby who was recently critically sick and dependent on so many machines. With the room-in opportunity, parents can stay in a hospital room with their baby and take care of him just like they would at home but with the safety net of the NICU staff being right down the hall. Although not obligated to do so, Sidney and I decided to take advantage of the program.

Beau was just Beau on Saturday night. No cords or machines!

We arrived at the hospital early in the afternoon on Saturday. We spent a couple hours with Beau in the NICU and then the nurses showed us to our room. After we brought our bags up, we told Beau he had spent his last night away from us and wheeled him into our digs for the night. It was a satisfying moment. It was just the three of us––no nurses, no doctors, no machines, no cords, no yellow gowns.

Even though we were up throughout the night feeding him, it was actually a relaxing evening.

The evening went well. Our nurse, Joshua, was helpful but hands off. He introduced himself by saying “this is your show.” It was a night of bonding and relief. The NICU did a great job of placing Beau on a schedule as he waited out his three-hour eating intervals like clockwork. His 5 p.m., 8 p.m., 11 p.m., 2 a.m., 5 a.m., and 8 a.m. changings/feedings went off without a hitch. After the 8 p.m. feeding I snuck out of the hospital and picked up Chinese food to bring back to the room. We were eating takeout in a cramped hospital room but it was a celebratory dinner and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Even though we had the night ahead of us, we knew things were going to be okay.

Come Sunday morning, we were on the fast track to discharge. The NICU staff administered the “Car Seat Challenge” by placing Beau in a car seat for 90 minutes to make sure he could keep his oxygen levels at a healthy rate. His circumcision was next, a procedure that is provided free of charge to McLeod NICU patients. He then aced his hearing test. Finally, Dr. Doug Moeckel came into our room to issue his discharge orders. After some last words of wisdom from the nurse assigned to us that morning, we were free to go!

Beau resting in my arms just minutes prior to being discharged.

After 10 days in the NICU, a nurse escorted Sidney and Beau out the front doors of McLeod Regional Medical Center. I had pulled our vehicle up to the main entrance to greet my wife and son, holding back a tear or two. The special moment that was denied to Sid a week and a half ago was playing itself out now. As we left the premises of the hospital, we felt strong appreciation for the medical care Beau received but Sid vocalized that she never wanted to return.

Beau was discharged at noon on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. Sidney finally got to enjoy the special moment of leaving the hospital with her baby.

A Sweet Homecoming

Only 75 miles separated us from a meeting that we had waited nine months for. Sid and I had literally dreamed about how Sloan would react when she met her baby brother for the first time. Sunday was Big Sister Day and all I needed to do was get us home safely so we could properly celebrate.

As we entered Myrtle Beach, my white knuckles started to return to normal color. I lessened my grip on the steering wheel as my nerves of crashing the car decreased and my anticipation of our children meeting for the first time increased.

Pulling into our driveway was a little surreal. After agonizing for almost two weeks about “just wanting to get him home,” the front door was within view and Sloan was right behind it. I detached Beau’s car seat from the base and we walked up. Sid opened the door and Sloan was there to greet us. She was over the moon to simply see mom and dad but Sloan is a bright girl and immediately realized that we had Beau too.

“Oh, what a nice surprise,” were the literal first words out of Sloan’s mouth when she realized the precious cargo in the car seat. She then proceeded to help us unbuckle her new sibling.

We helped Sloan climb up on the couch and we placed Beau across her lap. After a moment of dreamy gazing, she broke out into sweet and unprompted song. It is just something you kind of have to watch for yourself. To say that this sister-brother relationship got off on the right foot is an understatement.

This was the first ever meeting between Sloan and Beau. It went well.

For Sidney and I, to have the four of us under one roof was a relief. No longer did we have to divide our time between Sloan in Myrtle Beach and Beau in Florence. No longer did we have an empty bassinet in our bedroom. No longer did we have to keep our “Beau Meets World” marquee illuminated, something we did since Feb. 5 to keep vigil for our son until we brought him home.

Finally, everything felt right.

We kept our marquee sign illuminated 24/7 until Beau arrived home.

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Beau’s birth was both beautiful and traumatic. I will never forget the special moments that I spent in the delivery room with Sid as Beau was brought into the world or the pride I felt when I walked him up to the nursery. It was euphoria.

But the next 10 days, especially the first few, were really tough. Observing the emotional and physical pain that Sid went through was just as difficult as watching Beau struggle. Our faith in God and ability to put the situation into perspective helped us stay sane. As I mentioned earlier, Beau was born at 36 weeks, weighed 7 pounds, and spent 10 days in the NICU; other babies that shared time with Beau in his wing were born at 24 weeks, barely weighed 3 pounds, and had already spent weeks at McLeod. We were the lucky ones.

It took some time to get our children under one roof but we are so happy that it is finally a reality.

We will forever be indebted to the doctors and nurses of the neonatal intensive care unit at McLeod Regional Medical Center. We are grateful to the support of both our families. We are fortunate to belong to a church dedicated to helping its parishioners in times of need. We appreciate the care and concern of friends. Most of all, we are blown away by the grace of God and the protection of our Blessed Mother.

I am so thankful for our family of four. Thanks be to God.

Welcome to the world, Beau. We love you so much. Don’t Blink.

Ouch!

It was an extraordinary moment for all the wrong reasons. Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I saw Sidney brought to immediate tears because of the infliction of pain and Sloan simultaneously cowering in fear. Relax, it all turned out to not be that serious.

Before the incident on Sunday afternoon, Sloan and I went to the mall for pretzels and icees.

Last week I mentioned that Sidney has been on bed rest since mid-January. Prior to the Super Bowl, the three of us were all goofing around on the bed. Sidney was sitting up, right in front of Sloan and I who were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. Sid’s phone rested between the three of us. For whatever reason, Sloan picked up the device and it slipped out of her hands (well, technically she threw it) and flew three feet to my wife’s lip.

Crack.

No, the iphone didn’t crack but it sure sounded like bone did. Sidney immediately started crying.

I first thought about the possible damage. I got Sid to open her mouth and blood had started to pool around her bottom teeth. However, I was able to surmise that her teeth were all intact and the bleeding was probably from the impact to her gums. I then thought about my wife’s poor luck. She has been stuck in bed and in great discomfort for the past three weeks…why did she have to deal with this? But my thoughts of sympathy didn’t stop the crying. Thankfully, my in-laws were over. Sid’s mom is a retired nurse so I ran and got her. She took Sid into the bathroom to treat her injury.

I then thought of Sloan. I had set up a couple of our kitchen chairs in our bedroom so we can keep Sid company while she is resting. Under one of those chairs was where I found Sloan, curled up with tears rolling down her cheeks. I pushed out the chair and picked up Sloan who was shaken. I immediately started to tell her that mommy was OK, knowing that it wasn’t the time to scold her for throwing the phone. I took her into the living room to sit with my father-in-law so I could join Sid and her mom in the bathroom.

I had misdiagnosed the injury. Sid’s lip had been busted, not her gums. There was a gash inside her bottom lip that didn’t look like much fun. However, it was a welcome relief to Sid who thought at least one of her teeth had been broken upon contact.

Sidney’s concern turned to Sloan. After a long hug between the two, we brought her back in bed to assure her that everything was fine while also educating her that phones aren’t meant to be projectiles. Sid then made a joke that the police would be at the house tomorrow (insinuating that they would be after me for spousal abuse). A minute or two later Sloan said something that made us feel just a tiny bit sad for her.

“I don’t want to go with them,” Sloan sobbed.

“Go with who?” we answered.

“The police.”

We made it clear to Sloan that cops weren’t going to take her away. She was sweet for the duration of our time in the bed, taking it upon herself to hold Sid’s ice pack up against her lip.

As crazy as it sounds, I could relate to how Sloan felt as she hid under the chair yesterday. When I was probably two years older than Sloan, I accidentally shut a car door on my grandma’s fingers. Even though that happened years and years ago, I still remember feeling awful, mortified, and embarrassed.

As children we see adults, especially our close relatives, as invincible. We can’t fathom the fact that we could possibly hurt them physically, so when we do, it is jarring. Sloan’s reaction proved how much she loves her mommy and that she has a conscience. Also, it made me believe that she probably won’t be throwing a phone any time soon. Don’t Blink.

Fancy-Ish Thursday Rundown

And just like that, the first month of 2020 is almost in the books. How was your January? Mine was great! Let’s get started with my latest Thursday Rundown…

A Delicious and Relaxing Dinner – As I mentioned, Sid and I were able to sneak out on Tuesday evening for an intimate dinner. We went to Rivertown Bistro, a popular restaurant in downtown Conway that Sid describes as “fancy-ish.” We had such a nice time and the food was superb. We split spring rolls for an appetizer and Sid ordered the lobster, shrimp, and scallop au gratin while I opted for the bacon wrapped pork tenderloin. Sidney needed an adventure outside of the house and yesterday’s outing was perfect.

Our dinner date at Rivertown Bistro was wonderful!

Cheer – So we binge watched the Netflix documentary “Cheer” over the weekend. Although I once worked closely with cheerleading coaches and even went to cheer camps and national cheer competitions, I didn’t know if it would be my cup of tea. Well, the verdict is in and I enjoyed it! The documentary itself is just so well done and many of the subjects are really interesting. “Cheer” does a masterful job leading up to the climax and even though the filmmakers couldn’t shoot the final routine with their own cameras, they still did a great job capturing it. In fact, it had my wife in tears (she blamed the late stage of her pregnancy for the waterworks). You can’t go wrong watching the first episode and judging from there whether you want to continue.

I thought the “Cheer” documentary was pretty good!

Sloan’s Gift to Her Mama – Recently I mentioned that I sometimes let Sloan go on $3 spending sprees at the Dollar Tree. She has become pretty good at those so I entrusted her with buying birthday presents for Sid. This week I let her go through the store to pick out a handful of presents. Sidney couldn’t help but laugh when she opened up the interesting lineup of gifts: Dum Dums, bath bombs, makeup, Crunch ‘N Munch, a toothbrush, and a solar light stick. Although she found it humorous, she also found it extremely pure and thoughtful of Sloan.

A look at Sloan’s gifts to Sid. Each item was wrapped and placed in a gift bag.

MVP Christmas Gift – Later this year when I declare my hot Christmas gift of 2020, I might have to go with a lunch box. Sidney got me one this past holiday season and it quickly replaced the plastic grocery sacks I used to bring. I think I look a lot more professional when I put/remove my lunch in the breakroom refrigerator, even if I am taking up more space.

This is the lunch box that Sid gave me for Christmas.

What’s Wrong With Hot Dogs? – We are a month into 2020 so I figure it is time to share my first Life’s Little Instruction of the year. This one had me scratching my head. What is so bad about posing for a picture with a hot dog in your hand? I am not arguing about the alcohol component of the instruction because that is Common Sense 101. But hot dogs? Seriously?! To be frank, I must admit that I have violated this norm in a huuuuuge way.

Seriously, what is wrong with aphoto with a HOT DOG?!

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That’s a wrap for tonight. If I take any selfies over the weekend I will be sure to make sure I am not holding a hot dog. Don’t Blink.

Feeling Vulnerable

I wake up at 2 a.m. from nightmares of our @ccuchanticleers Twitter account getting hacked. For any social media professional, the thought of an account under our watch being compromised is downright scary. We change passwords frequently, utilize multi-factor authentication, and stay up to date with cybersecurity best practices but we never know if it will be enough.

NEWS FLASH: It isn’t.

Over the past several days, twitter accounts from half of the teams in the NFL and multiple ESPN-affiliated accounts (including @ESPN) have fallen victim to hacks. Hello!? How could social media heavyweights like @Packers and @Sportscenter get hacked? With mega followings and A LOT of money invested into their social presences, shouldn’t they invest in protection that wouldn’t make them susceptible to such breaches?

These are the types of tweets the hacked NFL Twitter accounts sent out after they were compromised.

But this is where it gets even scarier. They do. Don’t kid yourself, these teams and brands are set up to thwart hacking attempts. They know full well the negative impact of someone else broadcasting random tweets to their millions of followers. The somber reality is that certain hackers are simply ahead of this cat and mouse game.

A hacker group called OurMine is currently causing the carnage. They have successfully managed to infiltrate the security provisions of highly popular accounts and take over. This is no fluke, folks. You don’t gain control of Twitter handles from the NFL, UFC, and ESPN by getting lucky; rather, you have to be damn good at what you do.

How much would this suck to happen to your Twitter account?

Of course the ramification we have to look at first is how hackers could impact the lives and well-being of millions of people. Instead of hacking the account of a football team, what if OurMine hacks @CNN or @DeptOfDefense? Could you imagine the panic that would be caused if they decided to drop their self-promoting-white hat hacking “help us improve your account security” garbage and instead tweeted something about a bogus impending nuclear attack? It would be pandemonium.

The much minor ramification is the impact that groups like OurMine have on my mental health. Obviously the accounts I manage are free for the taking. What happens if one day OurMine decides it wants to terrorize the social media accounts of a medium-sized liberal arts college as opposed to those of the Worldwide Leader in Sports? Yikes!

Sometimes we can’t obsess over the “what ifs?” Instead of beating myself up over the possibility, I need to tighten my plan of how we would react and regain control of our accounts if the catastrophic ever did happen. By no means are the accounts we run invincible. Aside from doing the absolute most to secure our accounts and plan for an actual hacking, we can cross our fingers that the social media channels themselves are going to do all they can to regain the upper hand over hackers. Don’t Blink.

A Birthday at Home

My wife has spent her past three birthdays in dramatically different situations. Two years ago she was taking care of a sick daughter and a sick husband. Last year she was traveling to Columbia for a teacher rally. This year?…

Sidney is currently on doctor-ordered bed rest. Now in the final weeks of her pregnancy, the medical professionals at her OBGYN office thought it was best to shut her down until she gives birth next month. The bed rest, which has been in effect for two weeks now, is doing wonders for Sid. Teaching is a stressful profession and going to the classroom each day wasn’t doing her any favors with her blood pressure.

Happy birthday, Sidney! You deserve to have a wonderful day.

Although the time at home is just what the doctor ordered, it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an eventful birthday. But don’t feel too bad for Sidney, she actually probably wouldn’t have it any other way. The way she sees it, a low key celebration with her family is far from a disappointment.

As we celebrate her birthday today, I am impressed and thankful at how Sidney has managed herself (and that baby inside of her) over the past few months. With a child growing inside her combined with a couple other stressors, she has been an absolute rock. Believe me, she deserves a very nice birthday today. In fact, tonight might even call for the slight bending of rules…

Sidney and Sloan just moments ago. The in-laws have now arrived and will watch Sloan so we can slip out for dinner!

Please don’t tell the doctor, but I might smuggle Sid out of the house for a quick birthday dinner. If anyone has earned it, it is her. Happy birthday, Sid––I love you. Don’t Blink.

Kobe and Other High Profile Deaths That Hit Home

When I saw the @TMZ tweet that Kobe Bryant had died, I had the reaction thousands of other Twitter users had…please don’t be real. As other sources started to confirm the tragic news, a deflating feeling set in. Unfortunately, that feeling became even more grim as updated reports circulated about additional people involved.

Learning of Kobe’s death was a gut shot.

The deaths of famous and noteworthy people, especially in sudden ways, can jolt us. Although it might not hurt as much as when a member of our own family passes away, there can still be pain involved. Despite the unpleasant emotions we feel, high profile deaths deliver a message that we can all take a heart: Death spares no one. Regardless of whether an individual has been gifted with political power, athletic prowess, or international popularity, we all must face mortality. Although we don’t know when, where, or how, we all will be judged…regardless of how many Instagram followers we have when we pass.

A common theme on social media yesterday was that Kobe’s death will cement itself in the timelines of millions of lives. Years from now, many of us, especially sports fans, will remember where we were when we heard the unbelievable news that one of the greatest basketball players to ever walk the planet had his life cut short. This will hold true for me. Whenever the movie “Inglorious Basterds” is brought up in discussion or shown on TV I will think about Kobe Bryant because that was the film I was watching when I heard the news. As I sat on our living room couch staring blankly at the tweet, I glumly told the news to Sidney as she hung with her friends who came over to celebrate her birthday.

I believe the news of the Kobe helicopter trash will engrain itself in my memory in the same way as three other famous deaths. Although Osama Bin Laden’s demise will always ring fresh in my mind, I prefer to focus this blog post on the souls who had a positive impact while on earth.

Princess Diana – I know I am dating myself with this, but I vividly remember Princess Diana’s death in 1997. I was at my grandparents’ house in Walla Walla, Washington, when news broke that the Princess of Wales had been in a car accident. We watched CNN’s coverage as the network tried to sort out what had happened and who (if anyone) had survived. When the lower third displayed the unthinkable news and the screen showed a photo of the Princess with “1961-1997” written underneath it, my grandma looked straight at me and said “Uh-oh.”

Pope John Paul II – The leader of the Catholic Church since 1978, Pope John Paul II had been in his post for 27 years when he fell critically ill in 2005. I was a high school senior at the time and my family watched coverage for two days straight as the Holy Father’s time on earth neared its end. When he did finally pass, we sat in front of the TV in the basement, thankful for the example he set for the entire world.

Michael Jackson – I had just started my first professional job after graduating college. It was an afternoon in July of 2009 and I was in the athletic offices at the University of Montana. Word started to spread around the Adams Center that Michael Jackson had died. Not much work was done the rest of the day. That night I went downtown with a couple friends and it was a circus-like atmosphere. Even in Missoula, Montana, there were Michael Jackson impersonators roaming the streets and every bar was playing music by the King of Pop.

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Let us pray for the souls of those who lost their lives in the helicopter crash and also for the families left behind. Don’t Blink.

Iguana Thursday Rundown

The second half of January has not been as pleasant as the first. After a couple weeks of sunny and warm conditions, Myrtle Beach has joined in solidarity with the rest of the nation by becoming very COLD. Now that the obligatory weather report is finished, let’s begin with the Thursday Rundown…

When Breakfast Turns Into Brunch – I shared my love for going out to breakfast with Sloan this past Saturday. I took her to the Early Riser Diner and I read her my favorite traditional breakfast offerings on the menu such as pancakes, waffles, and French toast. When I asked her what she wanted, I was just a tad disappointed when she opted for a grilled cheese and fries. I think she had a case of food envy because she only took one bite out of her sandwich and ate just a couple fries. Then again, who am I kidding? Her poor eating effort had less to do with the plate that was in front of her and more to do with the jelly packets and coffee creamer containers that she played with the whole time. On a side note, my chocolate chip pancakes were really good!

Sloan got the grilled cheese she ordered but she was anything but interested in it once it arrived.

National Handwriting Day – Today is National Handwriting Day and I am celebrating myself! As an avid journaler, I practice my penmanship on a daily basis. As someone who struggled writing neatly as a child, I have developed a respectable handwriting style over the years, mostly because of practice. My wife characterizes my handwriting as “neat but very masculine.”

Happy National Handwriting Day!

Falling Iguanas – The cold snap is impacting areas further south than just my state! Florida is experiencing freezing temperatures as well and there is a rather strange byproduct from the chilly temperatures. On Tuesday night, the National Weather Service warned the Sunshine State to be cognizant of falling iguanas. The forecast proved correct as the lizards started falling on Wednesday. As you probably guessed, the cold blooded iguanas froze in the trees they hang out in and fell to the surface. Because the invasive species has reproduced so rapidly over the decades, the ground becomes littered with the fallen reptiles. This story had the group messages for both my family and Sid’s family blowing up!

These green iguanas are all over the place in Florida. Currently they are waking up from a deep freeze.

Thanks for Helping a Pregnant Girl – At almost 35 weeks pregnant, Sidney is experiencing a lot of uncomfortable nights. It is just so hard to move around and find a comfortable spot. Can you imagine how an uncontrollable coughing spell would heighten your misery even more, especially since she can’t take most medicines? On Friday night, Sid suffered a nasty coughing attack that lasted for hours. As I watched the tears start to come in my wife’s eyes, I asked Twitter for help. Followers responded with remedies ranging from pineapple juice to raw honey. However, the idea that provided her relief was rubbing Vick’s Vapor Rub on the bottom of her feet and then slipping on socks! Thanks, Twitter.

This was the Twitter plea I sent out on behalf of my wife.

Rewinding It Back – Let’s go to the archives to conclude this Thursday Rundown. On this date a year ago, I wrote about how we were dealing with our newest houseguest…ALEXA! On Jan. 23, 2018, I sounded off on the reality shows that Sidney watches, ranking them according to how unbearable each one is. Finally, on Jan 23, 2017, I listed my top five pizza delivery places. Any guesses on my top choice?

Me holding the Fritos Chili Pizza.

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Don’t you love short weeks? It is already Friday tomorrow! Treat yourself to some hot chocolate and have a great weekend. Don’t Blink.

#SquirrelAppreciationDay

Today is #SquirrelAppreciationDay, a “day” on the calendar that I think all of us can “observe.” I say this because it seems like squirrels cover this entire nation. I have never lived in a place or visited a location for an extended period of time and not seen squirrels. Like them or hate them, they are all over!

This is what a University of Montana squirrel looks like.

However, the cool thing is that squirrels vary greatly. With more than 200 species, there is plenty of variety. This diversity plays itself out across the country, or even just across county lines. I mentioned that squirrels have inhabited every town I have lived in but by no means are they all the same. If I was knocked out cold and had no idea where I was at, I would immediately come to my senses and know my location if a squirrel moseyed by. I would look at its size, fur color, movement, and tail and immediately know the town I was in.

Myrtle Beach is home to some pretty gnarly looking squirrels.

Those who have spent time in higher education could identify a college campus based on a squirrel. Universities are havens for these rodent-ish animals that become part of an institution’s culture. There is just something about the cute appearance and social nature of a squirrel that endears itself to students. Everyone loves to make specialty brackets during March Madness and I think it is about time that a bracket is created for the squirrels of our favorite universities. Trust me, people would become very invested.

One day I looked out my office window and saw this guy just chilling out!

I don’t have any personal great squirrel stories to tell other than we fed them growing up. We would place peanuts on my parents’ back yard deck that connected to our house and watch them up close through a glass sliding door. Because we have always had cats, a few squirrels are buried out back. Although I don’t have any crazy tales to write about, I have simply enjoyed watching squirrels do their thing over the years.

Happy #SquirrelAppreciationDay! Gotta love the Coastal Carolina University squirrels!

Do you have a squirrel story to tell? Please don’t hold back. In the meantime, make sure to throw out a couple extra nuts for your resident squirrels tonight. Don’t Blink.