Here Comes March 2021

The start of March 2021 is unique because it begins the same way that February 2021 did: On a Monday. If you remember, I used the opportune timing of February 1 to write a pre-dawn blog post about the month ahead. With March being ushered in under similar circumstances, why not do the same?

March 2021 is here.

In my humble opinion, the fact that March has arrived is good news in and of itself. I often refer to January and February as “the gloomy months” so to be out of those woods is welcome by many. March is a sign of new life, warmer weather, and longer days. This particular March will hopefully also see COVID cases go down and vaccinations go up. I think we can all sense that the pandemic is finally starting to trend in a favorable direction and I am intrigued to see where we will be after these 31 days are over.

This month we will celebrate my daughter’s fourth birthday, a day she has been counting down to since the summer. I will also mark my one-year anniversary working for Washington State University. For sports fans, March brings the best tournament on the planet. This year will be especially memorable after the cancellation of March Madness in 2020.

At the same time, March 2021 isn’t entirely about basking in the longer daylight or celebrating the success of your NCAA Tournament bracket. Rather, a lot of it should be about sacrifice. Lent will extend throughout the entire month so if nothing else we should be focusing on the next 4.5 weeks to grow closer to God and prepare for Easter. When the month concludes on Wednesday, March 31, it will neatly lead us into the Holy Triduum that will begin with Holy Thursday on April 1.

No matter which way you look at it, I think we can all view March as an opportunity. I think it is entirely feasible to enjoy the month itself while still using it as a period of preparation for the major days that will come in early April. Have a productive Monday and get this month off on the right foot—I wish you nothing but the best. Don’t Blink.

Beau’s First Steps Thursday Rundown

The days are noticeably getting longer and March is just around the corner! I hope you have the same optimistic outlook that I do. Speaking of optimism, I have plenty of it in tonight’s Thursday Rundown so let’s begin…

His First Steps – During the lunch hour yesterday, Beau took his first steps! While Sid and I watched “This Is Us,” our son decided to draw our attention away from the screen and put on a show. Sid and I could sense he was getting ready to walk so I had my phone out. Beau took 5 ½ steps before stumbling to the ground and crawling off with the biggest smile on his face. His first steps came 10 days prior to turning 13 months—his sister took her first steps a single day prior to turning 14 months. To watch Beau walk for the first time, tap here.

Here is a screenshot from the video I took of Beau walking for the first time.

Special Beyond Words – When our family visited Myrtle Beach for the holidays, we had the opportunity to see our spiritual mentors, Tim and Kathy McCormick. They showered us with gifts and one particular item had more value than I can express. Tim and Kathy presented us with a mass intention card for Feb. 27. In simple terms, this means that the Eucharistic sacrifice at that mass will be offered for our family. Why Feb. 27? That was the day that Beau was baptized (the McCormicks are his godparents) and Sidney was welcomed into the Catholic Church. We love you, Tim and Kathy!

What a precious and valuable gift.

#PalouseUnity – Last fall we launched #PalouseUnity, a joint public health campaign that included WSU, University of Idaho, the City of Pullman, and the City of Moscow. The goal was to combat the spread of #COVID19. Because the campaign was so successful and visible, we brought it back in 2021 but on a grander scale. When we launched yesterday, our community coalition had grown to TEN organizations. Healthcare providers, city chambers, and even an electrical equipment company were all on board. Holli Sampson from the University of Idaho and I have had the pleasure of running point on both the organic and paid social media coordination of this digital-heavy campaign. Working with the social media managers of these various organizations has been fun and allocating the increased resources we have for this phase has also been a noteworthy experience. I will keep you posted on how it continues to go!

The creative for this portion of the campaign are images of community members from the partner organizations.

John Harvey Kellogg – Sidney and I are in the middle of a great series on Hulu called “The Food That Built America.” It traces the origins of food brand giants like Coca-Cola and Heinz. Another brand that is featured is Kellogg as well as the man behind the name, John Harvey Kellogg. Let me tell you what, this guy did a lot more than make cereal. He was a famous doctor and by all counts brilliant. In some ways his ideas were genius and in other ways they were misguided. He followed a very strict health regimen and lived to be 95 which was quite old back in 1943. If you have a moment, read his Wikipedia page.

John Harvey Kellogg was a pretty interesting guy.

Meme I had a high school math teacher who always had a “joke of the day.” He would put a comic book strip transparency on the overhead projector at the beginning of class. They were usually pretty corny. I feel I do the same thing, only mine is a “meme of the week” and it comes at the end of my rundown instead of the beginning. I digress. If you are a parent, I am sure you will be able to relate to this. I sure do, but most of the time it is my daughter giving me the wrong foot for the shoe I have out in front of her.

I can relate!

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Close out your February on a good note this weekend. Wish you all nothing but the best and look forward to catching up next week.

What Makes a Mexican Restaurant Truly Stand Out

I am notorious for saying that all food at family Mexican restaurants tastes the same. I am very predictable in my ordering habits as I usually order two enchiladas—one beef, one chicken—whenever we eat at a sit-down Mexican restaurant. I have scarfed down hundreds of enchilada/rice/bean platters in my day and, to be honest, whether I am eating at Azteca in Spokane, Fiesta En Jalisco in Missoula, El Sombrero in Walla Walla, or El Cerro in Myrtle Beach, my main course doesn’t taste that much different to me. Credit it to a taste bud deficiency on my part.

However, although I usually don’t detect a lot of taste variation with my enchiladas, there is a part of the Mexican restaurant dining experience that does stand out to me: the chips.

Chips are very important at a Mexican restaurant.

A Mexican restaurant can have an immediate impact on me based on the quality of the item that is brought out the moment you sit down. You better believe that in my eyes, not all chips are created equal. The perfect basket of tortilla chips can make me your customer for life.

So what makes that “perfect basket” of chips? Well, let’s start with temperature. If not piping hot, they better be at least warm. The illusion must be given that they just came out of the fryer, even if someone just popped them in the microwave for 20 seconds before bringing them to your table.

Second, thick chips win the day. I know many people prefer light and delicate but I want something that will allow me to dip it in salsa with minimum breakage. Third, let’s not forget about what should matter the most—the taste! A chip that is perfectly salted and very slightly seasoned with that fresh fried taste is the way to my heart.

Fourth, any basket of chips must be accompanied with a decent salsa. For me, I prefer a smooth and flavorful salsa over a chunky and tangy one. I enjoy anything that is spicy so if the salsa at the restaurant is going to make me sweat I won’t take any offense. Extra points to all restaurants that offer a red salsa and a green salsa.

Finally, I am a stickler for chips that are bottomless. I need to eat a basket right when I sit down followed by one while I wait for my food followed by one with my dinner. Servers who bring my table more chips before our current baskets are empty receive public recognition, a 5% increase in their tip, and the honor of knowing that we will likely be coming back to the restaurant.

Happy National Tortilla Chip Day, my friends. Is there a Mexican restaurant that you feel has the absolute best chips? Please tell me about it! Don’t Blink.

A Creative Hack to a Timeless Toddler Problem

Dressing your toddler can be one of life’s more stressful daily tasks. I am not making this up. Getting your kid to cooperate when it comes to clothing them can drive even those with a saintly level of patience bonkers.

On days that Sloan goes to school, I dress her. Because she wears a uniform, getting her ready can be a pretty elaborate process. Elaborate processes and 3-year-old attention spans don’t really mix. There are some mornings when we battle each other. Despite my stamina being depleted after these mini wars, Sloan always seems to have plenty of fight left in her when Sidney takes over for hair styling.

Knowing that feeling exhausted and frustrated by 7:30 a.m. wasn’t ideal, we sought a creative solution to our problem. Credit Sid with the stroke of genius…

With the new game that Sidney made up, we are as happy as Sloan is in this photo after we get her dressed.

Like any toddler, Sloan loves YouTube. However, her taste for content might be a little more sophisticated than most her age. She watches vloggers and reviewers to the point that it drives me nuts. With that said, this torture has had an upside.

We are now successful when it comes to getting Sloan ready for school because we pretend that she is on her own YouTube channel. During one particularly defeating morning, a switch flipped in Sid’s head and she drew Sloan’s attention to her imaginary followers. It was all over from that point…

Sloan would turn on the invisible camera and start narrating her hair routine. Sid would be her sidekick and biggest fan as she tamed our daughter’s wild curly hair. As my wife worked her magic of encouraging and imagining, I looked on in amazement.

Okay followers, now we are going to spray my hair. And now we are going to comb it…

Well, as you can imagine, it didn’t take long before I started playing the angle. Sloan’s YouTube channel now just doesn’t feature her hair routine but it also features a dressing segment too. She eats it up and I don’t mind feeding her viral ambitions one bit.

Now that she is on a “YouTube channel” she is much more cooperative and happy when we get her ready for school.

If you have a toddler who is high maintenance when it comes to getting dressed, you can either spank them or make them feel like they are the star of a YouTube account with a billion followers. I prefer the latter. For those of you looking for a fresh solution to an age old problem, turn on your imaginary camera. Don’t Blink.

Sloan’s First Sledding Experience

Growing up in a place where it snowed a lot, I went sledding all the time. Lucky for me, my family lived right across the street from a park. Even better, this particular park had lots of hills. My friends and I would spend hours sledding down the numerous hills as we would race, build jumps, and modify our sleds for optimal speed. Our moms would have to drag us inside at the end of the night.

Once I became an adult, the allure of sledding went away. Walking up steep hills, freezing my butt off, and beating up my body no longer had an appeal. I went many years without sledding until I took Sidney back in 2016 when we made a trip home during the holidays.

Sid and I after a sledding experience in early January 2016

A half decade would pass before I would go again. This past weekend, I took Sloan sledding for the first time. With the conditions perfect and my sister’s family up for a playdate, we met at one of Spokane’s best places for sledding.

Prior to heading to Holmberg Park, we bought this sled at Lowe’s.

After purchasing a sled at Lowe’s, Sloan and I drove to Holmberg Park. Home to hills that provide the same thrill Clark Griswold experienced in “Christmas Vacation,” I wasn’t easing Sloan in on bunny slopes. We met Miranda, Jay, Mikayla, and Johnny and got right after it.

Sloan at Holmberg Park.

Sloan can be a scaredy cat in some respects and fearless in others. When it came to sledding, she was the latter. I invited her to get into the sled and she didn’t hesitate. I let her get in front and I sat down in the back, curling my legs around her to make sure she wouldn’t fly away on her first run. After a push from Jay, we were zooming down the hill. The adrenaline from 20 years ago filled my body again combined with the parental instinct of keeping a 3-year-old safe when traveling down what was basically an ice track at a high rate of speed. When our sled finally came to a stop, Sloan was hatless but other than that still in one piece. I half expected her to be crying but she just had a surprised look on her face.

Sloan preparing to sled down a hill at Holmberg Park.

There was no looking back after that. Along with the numerous other children and parents at the park, we took several more runs down the hill. Although we never wiped out, we did spin out and had a couple close calls where we almost collided with other people on sleds. By the time Sloan started complaining about being hungry, not going to lie, I was a little relieved that we had an “out” to conclude her first sledding adventure.

Sloan had a lot of fun sledding with her cousins and really appreciated her Uncle Jay pulling her.

Not that it wasn’t fun—because it was a blast—but I didn’t want her first sledding experience to be characterized by a nasty spill or other traumatic experience. As I took off her snow clothes at our car and basked in the enthusiasm she still had in her voice, I was thankful for a memorable sledding debut and her growling stomach. Don’t Blink.

Temple Thursday Rundown

Hello, my name is Brent and I am a blogger. Thanks for joining me for another Thursday Rundown. If you don’t mind, I would like to get started…

Best Valentine’s Treat – Sloan’s preschool class had its Valentine’s Day party last week and our little girl made out like a bandit. Her classmates spoiled her with cards and candy but there was one particular treat that took the cake. Take a look at this festive Valentine character. Juice box body, Smarties arms, Jello head, chocolate feet, and a chocolate heart for his…well…heart. This had to have been a Pinterest hack but it sure turned out nicely.

This Valentine treat character was very well-done.

Valentine’s Fail – Transitioning from a well-executed Valentine to a botched one, this cake made me laugh and cringe at the same time. I took a screenshot from the TikTok I was watching of a teacher shedding a tear because of the incorrect usage of “your” (should be “you’re). I sure hope no one bought it.

This is a tough pill (or cake) to swallow for an English teacher.

Shirley Temple – A couple weeks ago I shared an image from the @historydailypix Twitter account and I want to do the same tonight. In my mind I have always viewed Shirley Temple as a young curly-haired girl who never aged. However, this photo shows her beyond her child acting days and it really showcases her natural beauty. I love seeing old pictures like this.

Shirley Temple had always remained a child actor to me.

Movie of the Week – If you are looking for a Netflix movie to watch this weekend, I recommend “The Dig.” It is set in the late 1930s and tells the tale of a local archaeologist who is hired to dig in the mounds of a rich woman’s property. After a fascinating discovery is unearthed, the film focuses on the expansion of the project and the ramifications it has on the original archaeologist. It is beautifully shot and contains superb character development. I recommend it.

You will probably enjoy “The Dig.”

Crazy Lost Pet Stories – You hear about pets who were found years later at locations hundreds of miles away from their homes all the time. It is basically in the same clickbait category as centenarians and lotto winners. With that said, these pet stories never fail to amaze me. I heard of another one today. A cat from Texas who disappeared from his home in 2017 was recently found in an Arkansas neighborhood more than 600 miles away. Nobody knows how it happened but the feline is said to be in good health. Yep, must have not been close to his nine lives.

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That will be that for tonight. Thanks again for your readership and I hope you have a nice night. Don’t Blink.

The 2021 Lenten Road

Sidney and I belong to a young adult Catholic group that draws from a couple of parishes in the Spokane Valley. This past weekend, Fr. Kevin Oiland was speaking about faith in terms of an adventure. It has a distinct journey that leads to a destination. The journey is of course one’s life on earth and the destination, hopefully, is eternal life with God.

It didn’t take long for us to apply this metaphor to another spiritual journey, one slightly smaller than the ultimate one described by Fr. Oiland.

Today is Ash Wednesday and thus the beginning of Lent. We will journey in our own temptation-filled deserts for 40 days before reaching our destination of Easter on April 4. Just like the journey for Salvation, this six-week voyage has the potential to be rocky. Sometimes the road can be a little treacherous but the key is to not let the conditions blind us from the plentiful opportunities of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer.

Lent is the journey and Easter is the destination.

This Lenten season I won’t be navigating alone. In 2013, I wrote about how Lent is a private time to grow spiritually and prepare for Easter. Three years ago, I focused more on the communal opportunities that this holy season also provides. So while I will individually try to draw closer to Jesus, I will also be walking Lenten Blvd. with a special person.

This is my wife’s first full Lent as a Catholic. She was welcomed into the Church last year shortly after Ash Wednesday but we spent most of the season apart because of the move out West. This year we will get to spend the entirety of Lent together as we trek hand in hand through that desert to Easter Sunday.

Is Lent easy? It shouldn’t be. Is it worth it? Absolutely. We need to properly prepare for Easter and Jesus gives us the perfect example of how to do that with his suffering in the desert. Let’s pray for each other as we go on our own Lenten journeys that not only will we be ready to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection this April but that perhaps we will take positive steps to the ultimate destination we hope to reach one of these days. Don’t Blink.

Appreciating Facebook Groups

For many, Facebook has the reputation of being an archaic social media platform. People, especially the younger generation, look at it as the channel that their grandma is on. It is not uncommon for Facebook to be the butt of social media jokes, sometimes mockingly compared to MySpace.

Despite its “uncool” reputation, I still really value Facebook. From a professional standpoint, its userbase and advertising capabilities are second to none. Personally, I am still able to use it to connect with a lot of people I would otherwise lose touch with. But there is another strength of Facebook that I appreciate that you can’t really get on any other social media channels…

Groups.

I value Facebook Groups.

Since its inception, Facebook has allowed likeminded users to create groups. Back when I first joined, I belonged to Facebook groups for my residence hall and an intramural softball team I was on. Fast forward 15 years and I am still very much part of Facebook groups but in a more sophisticated way.

Groups on Facebook have evolved from simply aligning yourself with something you are part of to serving as a community that provides tangible benefits. Notice my emphasis on community.

Perhaps the best professional networking resource I have at my disposal is a Facebook group for higher education social media professionals. The forum is always bustling with activity and is the place to throw around ideas and connect with counterparts across the country. I also belong to multiple other groups that are career-focused, whether it be niche communities like digital media buyers or TikTok advertisers. The users in these groups bring a wealth of knowledge and willingness to help.  Thus, it makes it pretty easy to check them on a daily basis.

Aside from professional development, I am part of Facebook groups that keep me glued into the local community that I live in. I am part of groups that highlight Christmas light displays, traffic accidents, activities for kids, festivals, and so much more. Like with my work-related groups, the common characteristics are solid information and helpfulness.

The detail, camaraderie, and usefulness of Facebook groups cannot be found on Instagram or Twitter. Competing social channels simply can’t compete in this respect and it is one of the reasons why Facebook will continue to stay relevant, no matter how many social media hacks will tell you differently. What Facebook group is your personal go-to? Don’t Blink.

Sweetness Thursday Rundown

Good evening from a frigid Spokane! To be honest, the coldest I have been in the past 12 months was when we were in Myrtle Beach for the holidays. Low temperatures and humidity can combine to rattle your bones. But I think today takes the cake as this morning it was only 10 degrees. Okay, let’s get started with the rundown…

Beau’s Initiation to Sweets – We now know that Beau has a sweet tooth like his daddy. On the morning of his birthday, we gave him a donut for breakfast. He grabbed it with both hands and gobbled the whole thing up. At that point we knew he was going to enjoy his cake. When we had Beau’s birthday celebration on Saturday night, he wasn’t tentative like his sister on her 1st birthday. Rather, he dug right into the smash cake that Sidney made for him. If it wasn’t for Sid cutting it in half, he would have ate the whole thing too just like the donut.

Beau gobbled his donut and birthday smash cake.

Fatima – My movie recommendation of the week is “Fatima.” I was so happy when I saw that this film was available on Netflix as I have been wanting to watch it since it was released several months ago. The movie is about our Blessed Mother’s appearances to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. The true story depicts how despite strong skepticism and pressure from others, the children continued to meet with Mary at appointed times as their devotion to her never wavered. The appearances culminated in the Miracle of the Sun that Mary performed in front of 70,000 people. Sloan watched the movie with me and was enthralled so it is a good choice for all ages. As we move towards the beginning of Lent next week, “Fatima” would make a great option for weekend viewing. Also, coincidentally, today is the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. On this date 163 years ago, the Virgin Mary appeared for the first of 18 times to Saint Bernadette. St Mary, pray for us!

“Fatima” would be a great movie to watch this weekend.

New Products – I tried a couple fun and new products over the past week. During the Super Bowl, my beverage of choice was Mt. Dew’s Major Melon soda. It had a refreshing watermelon taste and did wonders to wash down all the salty foods I ate during the game. Warning, the aftertaste was a little weird. My brother scored the Dunkin Donuts cereals for me at Fred Meyer. They were on sale for 99 cents each. I have already ate the whole box of the caramel macchiato flavor and I am now onto the mocha latte box. When they are poured into a bowl they both look the same with dark puff pieces and white marshmallows. Believe it or not, they taste similar too. With that said, the coffee-flavored cereals aren’t that bad, especially when you are paying less than a dollar for a box.

I had the opportunity to try the new Mt. Dew flavor and Dunkin cereals.

Eating Spokane Chick-fil-A – After writing numerous times about Chick-fil-A coming to Spokane (here and here and here), I finally got to eat from our local franchise on Friday night. Although it opened in December, long drive-thru lines that produced consistent multiple-hour-waits kept us away. However, now that the Spokane Chick-fil-A has been open for two months now, it only took Sid and my sister an hour to maneuver through the drive-thru. Lucky for me, my spicy chicken sandwich tasted just as good in Spokane as it did in South Carolina. I know Sid was happy to get a little taste of home.

Sloan eating her Chick-fil-A on Friday night.

Tom Brady’s “Touchdown” Pass – You might have heard that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their Super Bowl victory boat parade yesterday. One person who had an especially good time was Tom Brady as he was visibly drunk while celebrating his seventh Super Bowl victory. The fact that he needed a little assistance to stand didn’t shock me as much as when he threw the Lombardi Trophy from his yacht to a boat that some other players were on. Even though I knew he was going to do it when I watched the tape, I couldn’t help but hold my breath as the hardware flew over the water. Luckily it was a completion but nonetheless it was an ill-advised pass.

Tom Brady throwing the Lombardi Trophy was a little extreme.

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That’s a wrap for me tonight. Thanks for reading and stay warm this weekend. Don’t Blink.

Sloan’s Scathing Insults

With Sloan turning 4 next month, she has reached the age where she understands what an insult is. In the same vein, she is now “mature enough” to properly string one together, even if it is at a very elementary level. Tonight I thought it would be fun to reveal Sloan’s three go-to burns she is using at this point in her very young life.

Sloan knows how to hurl an insult. Do they always make sense? No. Are they always mean? Yes!

You’re Boring! – If Sloan really wants to cut deep, the insult she will hurl is “you’re boring.” Does she use it literally? Of course not! She won’t tell me I am boring if I am sitting on the couch and won’t play with her. Rather, she will say it if I ask her to eat her dinner. Or if I tell her to stop being mean to her brother. Or if I wish her good morning (seriously). “You’re boring” doesn’t mean I am dull or unimaginative—it means that basically I am a jerk.

Stupid – Every now and then she will reach for the six-letter “s” word. Kind of an ugly thing to say coming from a 3-year-old, I really fear her using it out in public. Although coming from Sloan it isn’t a shot at someone’s intelligence—rather just a repeat of what her favorite YouTube celebrities are saying—not everyone will take it that way. I think she sees the reaction of Sidney and I when she says it and that might egg her on a bit. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t mind if she stops saying it soon.

Dumb as a Scrum – This is a true Sloan original. Sidney and I can’t pin exactly how she invented this gem of a rhyme, but I do have an idea. Sometimes I will describe an inebriated person as “drunk as a skunk” and I think she picked up on it and added her own customization. She applies it correctly, or at least how I believe it should be applied, given the situation. For example, if a video shows up on YouTube that she doesn’t like or if one of her tablet games isn’t to her liking, she is reaching to her back pocket to describe it as “dumb as a scrum.” Hope there aren’t any rugby fans reading this.

Sloan certainly isn’t perfect and can say some hurtful things. We are working on it.

Fear not, Sloan still liberally uses phrases like “I love you” and “thank you” but she does have a bit of a toddler potty mouth on her. As long as it doesn’t graduate to an adult potty mouth, we should be fine during these early years. Being called “boring” hurts, but I guess it could be a lot worse. Don’t Blink.