Red, White, and Blue Thursday Rundown

It is not often that a Thursday Rundown falls on the front end of a three-day weekend so this post must be special! So before you put on your red, white, and blue why don’t you read tonight’s five topics?…

Moving Things – This past weekend we emptied our storage unit we had in Pullman, put our belongings in a 26-foot moving truck, and transported it all to our new house in the Spokane Valley. After much deliberation, we decided to stay in the Spokane area. Once the WSU campus opens up again I will be making the daily commute to Pullman but we think it will be worth it. Although we moved our belongings into our new home, we won’t be able to actually live in it for a couple weeks as it is still getting finished. More to come soon.

My brother, dad, and brother-in-law filling our 26-foot moving truck this past Saturday.

Chicken Bog in Spokane – Five years ago, Sidney traveled to Spokane and wowed my family when she made chicken bog, the king of all Southern dishes. Well, she did it again earlier this week. Sid once again delighted my parents by making a big old pot of “bog” that tasted delicious and reminded me of South Carolina.

Sidney made this pot of chicken bog for dinner earlier this week.

State Countdown – I was recently reminded by Timehop of this very unscientific countdown of the 50 states that was written in 2015. I am proud that my state, Washington, was ranked #8. I guess spearmint oil production is good for something, right? Unfortunately, the other states I have lived in didn’t fare as well. If you are looking for a good laugh, give it a read.

This countdown is pretty good!

Night – On this date four years ago, Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel died. I remembered hearing the news and taking a couple moments to reflect. Wiesel wrote “Night,” a chilling account based on his experiences at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. During my junior year of high school we read the book in my humanities class. To conclude the unit, our teacher had several of us write letters to him about the impact the book had on us. It was a surreal day later in the school year when we received a letter back from Mr. Wiesel himself thanking us for reading the book and encouraging us to do what is right. “Night” should be mandatory reading for us all.

One of my best high school moments was receiving a letter from Elie Wiesel.

Fourth of July Garb – Let’s end the Thursday Rundown with some Fourth of July tomfoolery. As one who has always been up for dressing up, here are some of my favorite Independence Day outfits from years past. God bless America.

Some Fourth of July fun.

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It is my hope that you can have an enjoyable holiday weekend. I know for many it is tough to do in this current climate but I hope some patriotic joy comes your way. Don’t Blink.

Preparing Ourselves for 2020, Part II

Recently, I have written blog posts at the end/start of the past few months chronicling the many challenges faced in what has been an unprecedented year. With today July 1, I couldn’t help but continue the pattern, especially with what I wrote a year ago.

You see, I hold July 1 in high regard for many reasons, the biggest being that it is the start of the second half of the year. Even in normal years, I remind others that it doesn’t matter how big of a flop the first six months were––the next six can be transformative with effort and optimism.

Although I am going into the second half of 2020 with a positive mindset, I am not naïve. The second chapter of this year is going to be hard for many.

I think we need to put a renewed emphasis on taking everything one day at a time. I understand that a lot of people just want to get this year over with but who is to say that a switch will be flipped at midnight on December 31? We are stuck with 2020 for the long haul and might as well seize each day left in it and control the things that are still in our power (i.e. attitude).

The cynic in all of us might think how can the second half of 2020 be worse than the first? Sadly, I don’t want to give the next six months any added motivation to disappoint. Again, as I alluded to above, from a pandemic-sense, we need to prepare ourselves for more rough times.

But where the virus can overtake our immune systems, it can’t overtake our brains and our hearts. No matter how grim things get, we have to ask God for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change and the courage to change the things we can. As we begin the second half of the 2020 journey, we must remain strong. Don’t Blink.

Thankful on Social Media Day 2020

The powers that be decided to reserve today as Social Media Day. But in this day and age, one could make the argument that Social Media Day falls on every day of the week that ends in “y.” But with today’s official designation, I have an internal voice asking me what has social media meant to you?

The answer is A LOT.

Rewind the clock 15 years to a time when I didn’t even know what social media was. To think that I would one day make a career out of it was understandably preposterous. If you fast forward a couple years from that age of ignorance, you would find a sophomore in college debating whether to embrace The Facebook or not. It actually took a lot of encouragement from others to set up a profile but once I did I guess that was my initial foray into a new communication enterprise that would transform the world we live in.

I became very interested in social media after I was introduced to it and started hitting personal milestones.

Although I didn’t enter the professional world because of my social media savviness, it didn’t take long before I was working with it extensively. After I graduated college, I landed a marketing position within the athletic department at the University of Montana. About a year into that first job, our athletic director decided to place a major focus on social media and asked me to lead the efforts. Building our athletics social media presence was a blast and I became intoxicated with the idea of building an audience and developing community.

It was a blast leading the athletics social media program at the University of Montana.

When offered the opportunity to take my higher education career from an athletic department to a central marketing/communications office, I couldn’t pass it up. Social media brought me to sunny Myrtle Beach where I worked at Coastal Carolina University for nearly six years in the Office of University Marketing and Communication. It then brought me back to the western part of the country when I accepted the social media strategist position at Washington State University.

I recently concluded my time working at Coastal Carolina University.

I have literally made my living with social media. What greater testament to “what has social media meant to you” than that? Despite it paying the bills, I also admire how it has evolved. I have watched social media go from status updates and photo albums to augmented reality and challenge videos. I have watched it go from a “free” PR model to a multi-billion-dollar advertising juggernaut. I have watched it start as something that was measured simply by likes and followers to something that is now evaluated by complex analytics and ROI.

I have continued my higher education social media career at Washington State University.

Social media has led to the rise of influencers, the phenomenon of viral moments, and the scorn of digital fails. It has caught people and brands at their best and at their worst. It has chronicled historic moments, introduced countless words into our vocabulary, and launched movements. It has held people accountable while at the same time serving as a sounding board for those spewing hate. It has united and divided.

Throughout the good, the bad, and the ugly I have watched the proliferation of social media both through the lens of a professional in the industry and as an average user. It has been a crazy and unpredictable ride. On Social Media Day 2020, I am very appreciative for this powerhouse communication medium that has provided for my family and given me more inspiration than I could have ever imagined. Don’t Blink.

The Best Summer Nights

To put it simply, summer in eastern Washington is the best. In fact, the season is so pleasant that it is actually worth the (sometimes) long wait. However, while the days themselves are highlighted by bountiful sunshine and warm temperatures, I personally prefer when the sun starts to go down.

It is hard not to find peace during a June or July evening in the Inland Northwest. The sun lingers around but the heat does not, making for a calm and comfortable sunset followed by a refreshingly cool nightfall.

You forget how comfortable summer can be when you live in a humid climate for several years. Although I am a big fan of South Carolina’s mild winter temperatures, I don’t miss the suffocating humidity that doesn’t relent simply because it is nighttime or early morning.

As Sloan continues to experience her first Washington summer, I am making sure she enjoys the extended evenings. That means enjoying the outdoors even if it is after 8 p.m. Whether it be a walk through the woods, playtime at the park, ice cream on the patio, or lawn games in my parents’ front yard, we are making memories one summer night at a time.

One of our favorite activities has been to walk to an ice cream parlor as the sun sets.

But these summer evenings are fun for us adults too. Just this past weekend, my sister invited Sid and I over for a bonfire. We made s’mores, recorded TikToks, and told stories around the fire. At one point, Sid laughed, saying that we would never get away with doing something like this in South Carolina. With no relief from the 24/7 sticky humidity, it is hard to get excited about a bonfire.

We had a bonfire at my sister’s house the other night.

When enjoying the summer nights here, you must go one step further than savoring the extended daylight and basking in the cooler temperatures. That step is to take a deep breath. You see, there is nothing like the fresh, crisp air that swirls around this time of the year. It tastes exactly like summer and there really is nothing better. Don’t Blink.

Like a Hawk Thursday Rundown

Summer is here! I hope you have all had a nice first week of this beloved season and that the weather has complemented it. Although summer has arrived, this blogger isn’t on vacation. Let’s begin the latest Thursday Rundown…

Zoom Truth – I thought I would start off today’s post with some humor mixed with reality. A friend recently shared the below meme that will resonate with those of us who spend much of our day on Zoom. I was fortunate enough to have my most recent professional headshot taken by the talented Judy Johns who of course made me look way better than I actually do. So, by the time my last meeting of the day arrives at the end of the week, I don’t look anything like my polished photo…the contrast is real.

This meme about Zoom is true.

Ryan’s Mystery Egg Disaster – Sloan loves Ryan (“Ryan’s World”), the YouTube sensation who reviews toys and has his own line at Target. Ryan does a good job of pushing his merchandise during his videos and these plugs are not lost on the toddlers watching them. After constant begging from Sloan for a Ryan’s Mystery Egg, basically an egg-shaped container with a bunch of junk in it, we caved after a week of good behavior. We staged an elaborate scavenger hunt for Sloan to find it and let her spend that Friday night playing with it. Unfortunately, one of the items in the egg was putty. After playing with it non-stop, she placed it in her pocket and it went through the washer. When we started to fold laundry we noticed hardened spots on our clothes. It took us a few minutes to realize it was the putty. Basically, we blame 8-year-old Ryan for ruining a portion of our wardrobe.

At the end of the scavanger hunt, Sloan had found her egg.

Looking Back on Sloan’s Baptism – On this date three years ago, Sloan was baptized by Deacon Bob Jones at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach. Family, friends, and mentors joined us for the special and holy day, one that I remember well. It is important to remember and celebrate the day of your baptism while praying for the person who performed the sacrament. We have helped Sloan out with this today. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Sloan was baptized three years ago today.

Latest Energy Drink Review – A few months ago, I ripped the cotton candy Bang energy drink I tried. I thought it tasted unpleasant and cheap. I was told by numerous people that I tried the wrong flavor and needed to give Bang another chance. Well, okay. Today I tried the black cherry vanilla flavor and I must say it was much better. It was not only drinkable but it actually tasted good. Although it didn’t give me the same jolt of intensity that the Coca-Cola ENERGY drink I tried last week did, it still helped me power through the work day.

I tried Coca-Cola ENERGY last week and Bang Black Cherry Vanilla this week.

Watch You Like a Hawk – For those people interested in nature, a hawk visited my parents’ yard this past weekend. This guy swooped in and perched himself atop our basketball hoop. He stayed there for probably 10 minutes before taking off. To be honest, I really didn’t think it was that cool but my dad did so I thought I would share. Nothing but total transparency here.

This was the hawk that visited my parents’ house on Saturday.

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That’s all for tonight, folks. Busy weekend for us as we move our stuff into our new house. Hope your weekend is productive as well. Will catch up next week! Don’t Blink.

A Timeless Frozen Yogurt Haven

Before froyo, there was frozen yogurt. Believe it or not, the business used to be about quality, not quantity. Scales need not apply. People didn’t need the “freedom” of self-serve. The horror of paying a whopping $9.47 per cup seemed impossible.

But here we are in 2020. Although I did get caught up in froyo mania for a while, I soon saw the light. Three years ago, we were visiting Spokane. While out running a few errands, Sidney and I stopped by Didier’s Yogurt & More, a frozen yogurt place I frequented countless times as a child. We walked inside mainly for nostalgia purposes but once I actually tasted some of the yogurt I realized what I had been missing for years. After frequenting the gimmicky froyo stores that had seemingly taken over on every corner of the country, I had forgotten what good frozen yogurt actually tasted like.

Didier’s is a superb frozen yogurt location in North Spokane.

Growing up, my family celebrated stellar grades, athletic victories, and good behavior by going to Didier’s. A North Spokane mainstay, we equated it with achievement and tradition. Prior to driving to the store, we would call and ask for the flavor lineup as it changed daily. I remember crossing my fingers that a couple of my favorite yogurts, marshmallow dream and Snickers, would be on the handles that night. Oh man, I can still feel the anticipation thinking about it right now.

Didier’s was a hallmark of my childhood.

Didier’s wasn’t just a family obsession, it was the official hangout of my high school. If you were a Mead Panther, it was the place to see and be seen. You know how certain bars are known on college campuses for their weekly specials? If it was a Tuesday night, you could find roughly half of the Mead student body at Didier’s. That is because the store would offer heavily discounted frozen yogurt. For a long time, you could purchase a medium dish for $.99. Although the price has increased over the years, the value is still there and whenever you think of Tuesday you think of Didier’s.

This is a medium dish at Didier’s with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and strawberry shortvake yogurt.

Besides the reverence that Didier’s held with my family and high school, it was held in high esteem by my friends as well. I spent many summer days walking there with my buddies. We would walk through my neighborhood, cut through some woods, and stroll through another neighborhood before arriving at our frozen yogurt mecca. The journey was just as rewarding as the cold stuff.

Me eating frozen yogurt from Didier’s a couple years ago.

Last night, I took Sloan on the same walk that I trekked so many times during my childhood. It is on the longer side and you deal with some tough terrain but she did great. Our reward was sweet and delicious as we enjoyed our medium dishes (it was Tuesday after all) on the outdoor patio. Sloan ordered half watermelon yogurt and half French vanilla yogurt with gummy worms on top. What a winning combination.

Sloan had a great first Didier’s experience.

I am delighted to see that Didier’s has continued to prosper despite the newer froyo model. I have many good memories there and was so happy to make some more with my daughter. Don’t Blink.

Father’s Day 2020

Father’s Day this year was significant for a couple reasons. For starters, it was my first time being celebrated as a daddy of two. Although it just takes one to enter the extremely special fraternity of fatherhood, I guess it is like an extra badge when you reach the holiday and your family has grown. Truly, Father’s Day was even sweeter this year with Beau.

It was my first Father’s Day as a dad of two.

The other reason for Father’s Day 2020 being unique was that I had the pleasure of spending it with my own dad. It had been years and years since I last spent a Father’s Day with him so to finally celebrate by his side, as a father myself nonetheless, was a distinct honor. So yes, you better believe I savored the opportunity to play golf with him and enjoy one of his signature grilled steaks.

I had a blast playing Father’s Day weekend golf with my dad and brother.

After spending the past few months living with my dad, it is plainly obvious that he has not lost a step when it comes to being an incredible father. In fact, he seems to have taken his game to a whole new level. On a daily basis, I witness him extend the same fatherly love he has always given me to Sid, Sloan, and Beau. What a guy.

It was a joyous occasion yesterday. On an absolutely gorgeous summer evening, my dad had all of his children and their families out on his prized back deck eating a delicious meal. Everyone was enjoying themselves and living in the moment. My dad wouldn’t have it had it any other way.

We sure enjoyed our Father’s Day cookout.

Just prior to all of us congregating in the backyard, my dad opened some gifts. One was a special project that Sidney worked on all weekend. The long white panel had the handprints of all his grandkids with The best Papa HANDS DOWN written above it. It goes without saying that “father” and “father-in-law” could be substituted (and some handprints) in there as well.

My wife made this beautiful gift for my dad.

I hope everyone had a good Father’s Day. In a time when many of our celebrations are on hold, it feels good to be able to unequivocally honor the special men in our lives. Don’t Blink.

Coke Energy Thursday Rundown

Summer starts this weekend and we finally have the weather here in Spokane to back it up! Saturday and Sunday both call for highs in the 80s as we celebrate Father’s Day. Here we go with the latest Thursday Rundown…

A Little Girl’s Best Friend – Sloan has already grown close to her Spokane cousins and she has enjoyed going on play dates with some neighbor girls, but there is another close bond she has developed. Sloan made quick friends with Muffin, my parents’ cat. The admiration is mutual between the two, which is a tad surprising, because Muffin can be hard to get along with sometimes. Nonetheless, the two love each other so much that Sloan now says her favorite animal is a cat.

These two have developed a special bond.

Audio Tweets – Twitter recently started rolling out audio tweets and this morning I discovered that it is available to me. Of course, I had to give it a try. The feature allows you to attach a voice memo to any tweet that you publish. Kind of underwhelming, right? I figure that if I want my followers to hear my voice, I will just post a video or livestream. I think my social media colleague Matt Haugen described the shortcomings of Twitter’s newest rollout best by questioning why an audio tweet feature was introduced before a tweet editing option.

I tried out Twitter’s audio tweets this morning.

Sweet Honeymoon Flashback – Last week, I was reminiscing about our wedding so that means this week I get to reminisce about our honeymoon. Four years ago on this date we were wrapping up our romantic and relaxing stay in Cancun. Sidney and I reflect on it a lot. I feel bad that so many couples who had planned similar trips for this summer will have to put their tropical getaways on hold. But, for those who are still able to make their dream honeymoons work over the next couple months, here is a blog post I wrote about making the most out of it (make sure to get photos taken!).

Our honeymoon was awesome and I feel bad that others won’t get a similar experience this summer.

My Latest Energy Drink Review – Coca-Cola has made a big deal about its energy drinks so I was happy to finally try one today. I tested out the Coca-Cola Energy Cherry option. It had the Cherry Coke taste but it was much milder than that of the actual soda––but definitely enjoyable. It also delivered on its intended purpose––to energize! The drink gave me the perfect jolt I needed for a Thursday morning. So, what else can I say? Coca-Cola Energy Cherry tastes good and it works! I recommend it if you crave an energy drink every now and then.

If you like Coke and you like energy drinks, I recommend Coca-Cola ENERGY.

Anniversary Weekend – Sidney and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary by enjoying some time at Northern Quest Resort and Casino. Assured by the facility’s social distancing measures, we had a fabulous time highlighted by good food, beautiful accommodations, and loose slot machines. When we checked out on Saturday morning, Sidney walked away $50 richer.

We had a great time celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary at Northern Quest.

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Wow, you managed to read all five topics tonight?! Thanks! Make sure to wish your dad a happy Father’s Day this weekend and enjoy the start of your summer. Don’t Blink.

The Mascots I Adore

Today is National Mascot Day and it kind of hits home for me. Ever since I developed nightmares of McGruff the Crime Dog after encountering him at a parade, I have always found myself connected to these furry characters. But let’s skip my weird childhood mascot anecdotes and fast forward to adulthood…

When I worked at the University of Montana, one of my duties was to serve as the mascot coordinator. I had the pleasure (and sometimes the headache) of managing Monte, the institution’s beloved costumed grizzly bear and two-time Capital One National Mascot of the Year winner. Although scheduling his 200+ appearances per year, organizing his elaborate football entrances, and answering to the community whenever he did something questionable added some stress to the job, managing the mascot program had its perks. I had the pleasure of accompanying Monte to national competitions, traveling with him to away games, and watching first-hand as he made thousands of Montanans smile.

I had many good times with Monte.

I didn’t stray too far from my mascot roots when I landed at Coastal Carolina University. Although I was now in the central marketing and communications office, I still had mascot access to Chauncey, a fearless and unique Chanticleer. During this time at CCU, both the athletic department and the marketing/comm office had Chauncey suits. Athletics would of course have its Chauncey perform at sporting contests and external events while our Chauncey would be scheduled for academic engagements. Heck, the “Academic Chauncey” (as we called him) even had a pair of oversized glasses to drive the emphasis home. Needless to say, I was around him a lot.

Just like with Monte, it was a pleasure working with Chauncey.

Bottom line, people who are skilled enough to be mascots work extremely hard. While in the suit it is tough to move, it is hot, and it can be downright hostile. Trust me, kids aren’t the only ones who tug and pull. Also, don’t forget about the immense pressure these students (yes, students) are under to continually push the envelope and please their fan bases.

The students who serve as mascots are very talented.

With that said, I can’t wait to finally meet Butch, the mascot of Washington State University. The quarantine has delayed our introduction.

I love Butch! (photo courtesy of WSU Athletics).

Well, perhaps I should say it has delayed our “adult introduction.” I promised I wouldn’t resort to childhood mascot memories but #sorrynotsorry. Growing up I was a big WSU fan, and my love for the Crimson and Gray extended to the best mascot on the planet. Seriously, I thought Butch was the absolute greatest. Going to a football game was as much about watching the team play on the field as it was watching Butch roam the sidelines.

Happy National Mascot Day to all those who have put on an awkward and most likely very smelly character suit. You have made the days of millions and deserve to be celebrated. Don’t Blink.

Hot Shot

There was a bowling alley bar in Missoula that I would sometimes frequent with my friends. In the corner of the watering hole was a basketball hot shot game. Trouble visualizing what I am talking about? It was a coin-operated game consisting of a mini basketball hoop with netted sides that would challenge you to sink as many baskets as possible in a certain amount of time. But there was something unique about this particular hot shot game…

For those brave or drunk enough, you could challenge a certain talented bartender to a shootout. Now I don’t remember her name, but she was barely five feet tall and didn’t necessarily look like a basketball all-star. But once she pressed the “START” button on the game and those mini basketballs were released down the ramp, it was lights out.

This is how the challenge worked: The bar patron would pay for him/herself and the bartender to play. The challenger would go first and register a score. It was then up to the bartender to beat it. If she did, you simply lost your money. If she didn’t, you won a free drink. But trust me, from what I saw, that bar never needed to pour any complimentary beer.

I love these basketball “hot shot” arcade games. This one is similar to the one at the bar.

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As someone who has frequented many arcades ranging from major chains like Dave & Buster’s to the Spokane family-owned Wonderland my family visited this past weekend, I believe there is one common game that provides the greatest value of them all: Hot Shot Basketball.

Although arcades have evolved over the years, hot shot has remained a mainstay along with skee ball and air hockey. Any entertainment center worth a damn will have multiple basketball games to play and with good reason…

1. Cost – Hot shot won’t eat up your credits. For those looking to waste your money in quick fashion, you can play the newest shoot ‘em up gun game for $3 or you can spend a couple quarters and pretend to be Michael Jordan sinking last second shots.

2. Redemption – Not only is hot shot cheap, but you earn tickets for playing it. So if you are set on winning a couple pieces of candy or a toy ring, you can achieve your goal by shooting basketballs. Playing life-sized 3D Pac-Man won’t satisfy your sweet tooth.

3. Competition – Hot shot tests your accuracy and stamina, two things that carry bragging rights. Sidney and I went back-and-forth last weekend trying to beat each other. One year in elementary school at our end of the year ice cream social/carnival, I spent my entire time at the hot shot station, determined to register the highest score out of everyone at the event.

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Despite all my hot shot experience leading up to that one night in the Missoula bar, I still couldn’t beat the bartender. But perhaps all that experience isn’t worth that much in the first place because Sidney still beats me more often than not. Regardless of how good or bad I really am, I do know one thing––I love hot shot. Don’t Blink.