My Top 10 Favorite Moments Working for Washington State University

I am currently in a contemplative mood. As my time at Washington State University comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the nearly 1,600 days that have passed since I became a Coug on March 16, 2020. Most of those days were spent in either a closet (first house), bedroom (second house), or (finally) a legit home office (third house). It would be understandable to think that a chapter in my career where I worked mostly from home wouldn’t produce the type of distinctive moments that I experienced at previous stops.

We moved to Washington when I was hired by WSU. I worked one day on campus and that afternoon we received the directive to work from home. We rented a house and I worked out of a closet space while the pandemic rocked the world.

However, that’s just not the case.

Truth be told, I did enjoy some defining moments while working at WSU. Yes, some of them did occur while I was on campus or traveling BUT others occurred at home as I sat in the ancient red office chair that my grandpa once used (and that my wife hates). It is with great pride that I present this blog post that counts down my top 10 moments working for WSU.

10. Winning Gold – In 2022, Holly Sitzmann (my boss) and I wrote a CASE award submission for an enrollment management marketing piece our UMC team put together. I was hoping it would just receive some recognition but my expectations were far exceeded when it won the highest honor bestowed by the organization. Our CougBeat magazine, a play on the teen fan publications wildly popular in the 1990s (i.e. Tiger Beat), earned the CASE Circle of Excellence Grand Gold award. I was proud of the social media-specific activation I oversaw in the issue but mostly I was elated that our UMC team was honored in such a profound way.

CougBeat was a creative and collaborative effort that won top honors from CASE. It was a pleasure to write the winning submission.

9. Presenting to the President’s Cabinet – Our social media program hit it out of the park in 2021 when it came to smashing benchmarks from previous years. As was custom for me at the beginning of each calendar year, I would deliver a presentation to our UMC leadership team recapping the analytics from the previous year. However, I gave an extra presentation in February 2022 when Phil Weiler and Holly asked me to also present the data to WSU’s top administrators at the president’s cabinet meeting. I nervously agreed and when the day came I fought back anxiety so I could coherently talk analytics with WSU big wigs such as President Kirk Schulz himself, the campus chancellors, provost, athletic director, and more. It was a proud moment for me because I was able to overcome nerves to deliver the presentation in a way that made sense to these senior administrators. But more importantly, the opportunity allowed me to showcase the solid work of our social unit and overall UMC team.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous to deliver this presentation. However, it ended up being a successful afternoon and a positive experience.

8. #PalouseUnity – One of the first big campaigns I worked on after arriving at WSU was our #PalouseUnity initiative. With COVID wreaking havoc across the Inland Northwest, we teamed up with the University of Idaho to promote positive pandemic behaviors. It wasn’t long after we launched that our dual university effort grew to a community coalition that was TEN organizations strong. Pullman and Moscow healthcare providers, city chambers, law enforcement, and even an electrical equipment company all joined the cause and lent their marketing/comms teams to help in whatever way possible. Throughout the entirety of #PalouseUnity, I worked with Holli Sampson from UI to execute the digital portion of the campaign in a strategic and organized manner. To partner with Holli and lead so many Palouse-based social media managers and digital strategists was the perfect way for me to meet area professionals and advance a worthy cause.

The #PalouseUnity project mattered and I was honored to work on it. Our photographers and designers worked together to create some powerful images of Palouse community members coming together with an “It takes all of us” message.

7. Rolling Out the Brand – Our UMC team pulled off the remarkable by executing a successful in-house modernization of our brand. Although I had nothing to do with the nearly two years of hard work it took to refresh a brand with 130 years of history, I did assist with the rollout. I was enlisted to serve on the training team that taught WSU employees across the system how to engage with/use the new brand assets and narrative. Throughout a series of Zoom trainings, I partnered with Danial Bliele, our web development director, to educate the WSU community on how to use the modernized brand on web and social. It was a thrill to teach these trainings because you could sense how hungry and curious these large audiences of WSU employees were to learn about the modernized brand and how to use it.

It was an honor to help facilitate training for our brand modernization rollout. This image is a sceenshot from one of the sessions I did.

6. #CougCounties – During my time at WSU, we were hit with crisis after crisis (COVID, Idaho tragedy, Pac-12 demise…just to name a few). Because of this, it wasn’t always an option to do fun stuff on social media. However, just this month I was able to conclude a major organic social media campaign that turned out really cool. Called #CougCounties, we took five months to feature all 39 counties of Washington. We designed special #CougCounties t-shirts and sent them to Coug volunteers who agreed to “rep” the Washington county they lived in. The volunteers slipped on the t-shirts and went to a landmark or point of interest in their county and posed for photos. The images turned out fabulous! We incorporated them into social posts that contained info on the county, fun facts about the landmark, and a quote from the volunteer on what WSU meant to them. The campaign pulled in massive numbers and became something that our social media audience looked forward to every Monday and Thursday. Here is the recap blog post I did on the campaign and here is where you can view a photo album of all the reps at the locations they visited.

#CougCounties was a really fun and successful organic campaign I had the opportunity to introduce at the beginning of 2024. We just now wrapped it up earlier this month.

5. Sharing the Stage with Colleagues – While at WSU, I was able to network with counterparts at other major universities. In fact, some of these “counterparts” became great friends. I teamed up with Victoria “V.” Mendoza from USC and Andy Thompson from the University of Utah to submit a proposal to present at the 2022 American Marketing Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Ed. Our proposal, #LearnOnTikTok: Higher Ed Strategies, was accepted and we spent the next few months preparing together for the big day in November. Prior to us traveling to the Washington D.C. area to present, our team grew stronger when Katie Camacho Smith from TikTok joined us. Our presentation went well as the four of us each focused on a different aspect of TikTok (I covered paid ads). To make things even sweeter, my boss, Holly, was in attendance to watch.

A photo of me presenting at the 2022 American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Ed as Katie (left) and Victoria (right) look on.

4. A Rewarding Mentorship – Throughout my career, I have enjoyed the honor of mentoring many students. However, my most recent experience might be the most rewarding of all. At the beginning of this year, then-WSU student Timothy Duenas emailed me to ask if I would mentor him about the marketing industry and best practices for entering the professional world. Over the course of several meetings, I was so impressed with the questions Timothy asked coupled with his curious/respectful nature. I looked forward to each session and was thrilled that our last meeting was in-person. Shortly after that final chat and just prior to graduating with a marketing degree, Timothy published a LinkedIn post about our time together that really touched me. I look forward to following his career long after I work my final day at WSU.

Timothy Duenas and I take a photo together after our last mentorship meeting in May 2024.

3. Meeting Colleagues in Vancouver – In October 2022, I attended my first #WSU System Marketers and Communicators Conference. The annual opportunity for marketing and communications professionals from across the system to meet for networking and presentations was revived after a COVID hiatus. Since it was my first time attending, I didn’t know what to expect but I left feeling so thankful for the opportunity. This particular conference took place on the beautiful WSU Vancouver campus and provided me the chance to visit in-person with many colleagues who I had only engaged with on Zoom up to that point. I also delivered one of the conference keynote presentations that I felt really helped introduce me on a greater level to my fellow Coug marketers and communicators.

Even though it was an internal conference, I relished the opportunity to network with many colleagues who I had only engaged with on Zoom. I also gave one of the keynote addresses.

2. Wisconsin Fans Try Cougar Gold – One of the best parts of my job was serving in a producer role for the creation of fun and engaging videos. The fact that I was able to complete these projects with our brilliant video team made it even better. Out of the many videos I worked on with Jason Refsland and Kara Billington, nothing tops the one we made prior to the 2023 WSU vs. Wisconsin football home opener. A few hours before kickoff, we approached Badger fans and asked them to sample Cougar Gold cheese. Of course the angle was whether self-proclaimed Cheeseheads would admit that WSU’s signature cheese was on par with what they produce in Wisconsin. The reactions were priceless and our video team executed an incredible edit in record time that allowed us to release the video near halftime. The video took a lot of planning and the filming took place on a scorching hot gameday but the final product was so worth it! I can only wonder if the University of Wisconsin will impact me at Eastern Washington University in the same it has at my previous three colleges

Collaborating on this video took a lot of planning and a lot of sweat, but the end result was awesome!

1. Presenting With Cara In Chicago – Although it took place almost 2,000 miles away from Washington, presenting with my co-worker and friend Cara Hoag at the 2023 AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Ed in Chicago was my favorite moment as a Coug. Our submission titled “Not Your Parents’ YouTube” made the slim 11% acceptance rate for the stacked conference. However, earning the right to present at such a prestigious higher ed gathering was only part of what made this experience so special. The topic we covered was a major success story that resulted from our semester-long effort to transform our WSU YouTube presence. To be able to present our method and results to a packed conference room in the engaging way we did will always be a career moment for me. I can’t thank Cara enough for teaming up with me and working so hard to positively represent WSU on the national stage.

Cara and I were all smiles after we answered the final question that put a cap on our AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Ed presentation.

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I have so many other happy moments like working on our holiday video, serving on a committee that planned fun gatherings for our department, and winning the 2023 UMC end-of-year trivia contest (😂) but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Bottom line, I was blessed to enjoy four years at WSU packed with opportunities and memories. However, none of the above would have happened if not for my UMC team. I can’t wait to thank them in a couple days. Don’t Blink.

My Time At WSU: Expect the Unexpected

There is a certain reality show my wife and I watch that relentlessly promotes its tagline. The mantra, expect the unexpected, is repeated multiple times per episode. Over the past four years, I have held a job that had me reciting the same thing at a similar frequency.

I had not even worked my first day at Washington State University before the unexpected hit. Shortly after accepting a job offer to become a Coug, my wife gave birth to Beau. While the birth of my son was expected, his stint in the NICU was not. Thanks to the graciousness and compassion of my bosses, Holly Sitzmann and Dave Wasson (at the time), my start date was moved back.

Once my delayed first day finally arrived, the unexpected struck again. Before leaving campus, the directive came that all WSU employees were to work from home for the foreseeable future. Hello, COVID.

And so it would continue for the following 200+ weeks. Pandemic disruptions, vaccine communications, head football coach scrutiny, a dark day on Dec. 30, 2022 (Idaho murder suspect arrested), the collapse of a conference, courtroom drama, and so much more.

Thankfully, my time at WSU is not ending in an expect the unexpected fashion—which is good—because it probably would have meant that I got fired 😂. Instead, my tenure as a Coug is concluding on my own terms with an offer from another employer that I simply can’t refuse. On August 1, I will begin my journey as the director of marketing at Eastern Washington University.

I will soon be leaving WSU. Thanks to everyone for making the past four years so rewarding.

But now is not the time to look ahead to my future with EWU. Rather, I need to heed the consistent example displayed by my bosses, including that initial instance when my newborn was sick, and show some graciousness. I much prefer to use this last week as a WSU employee to thank the institution that gave me so much over the past four years.

Because you know what? Even though I was certainly confronted with the unexpected, those who hired me still delivered on the expected. When I said “yes” to WSU in Dec. 2019, I was promised a senior role leading a social media program at a large university. I certainly got that opportunity and more.

Social media was elevated to its own unit within University Marketing and Communications, I was given a seat on our UMC leadership team, my bosses empowered me to represent WSU on a national level, and I was challenged with duties that extended beyond social. Yes, there was adversity that struck consistently but just because you face the unexpected doesn’t mean you aren’t equipped to deal with it.

So please allow me to go out the right way. As I start to phase out my extensive collection of WSU polos from my closet, I wish to adequately express my gratitude for my Coug experience. Over the course of this week, I plan to reflect on the moments that meant the most to me and thank the people who made my time at Washington State University so fruitful. Stay tuned Cougs, I’m not done yet. Don’t Blink.

Hot Hot Hot Thursday Rundown

Hot! Hot! Hot! We are in the middle of summer here and the high 90s/low 100s temperatures certainly reflect it. However, I am lucky to have my in-laws visiting from South Carolina and they are loving mornings and evenings that bring actual relief along with a very forgiving shade. So let me get through these five topics so I can join them under our back yard patio umbrella.

Wedding Memes – On this date eight years ago, I did something that might have been pushing it. I took the photos from our wedding and made memes out of them. I know, I know…why use the beautiful, expensive images from your happiest day just for a few cheap laughs? Well, perhaps I don’t always think straight. Below is one of the memes I created but if you want to see the rest, tap here.

Telling myself not to screw it up the entire night before obviously paid off.

Watermelon Art – Last Saturday, we attended my nephew’s 7th birthday party. It was held at the YMCA pool and followed an aquatic life theme (my sister loves a good theme). Speaking of my sister, she carved and prepared this watermelon to resemble a shark. Pretty cool, right?

This watermelon was served at my nephew’s birthday party.

National Sour Candy Day – I won’t even consider entertaining National Sour Candy Day (at least in the form of indulging). Even as a kid, I was not a fan of candy that made your face pucker. My children, on the other hand, are a completely different story. For whatever reason they enjoy the sensation of their eyes watering when they eat something like sour gummi bears, a Warhead, or Sour Patch Kids. But as I have conveyed through both my top five favorite hard candies list and my top five Jelly Belly list, I steer far away from anything that is sour.

Give me chocolate any day but I detest sour candy.

Big Brother 26 – It’s that time again. The latest Big Brother season premiered last night and our family is dialed in. Yes, even Sloan is now a fan. Big Brother 26 will mark the 13th season that Sid and I have watched together (10 regular seasons plus 3 celebrity seasons). Not bad for someone who was once passionately anti-reality TV. I can’t give my picks on who I want to win yet because last night’s episode only revealed eight of the 16 houseguests.

Big Brother 26 kicked off on July 17, 2024.

Better Late Than Never – By this point, you can probably tell I don’t have much new material this week given all the past blog posts I have referenced and the fact that this will be the second “national day” that I recognize. But I just feel like it wouldn’t be right if I completely snubbed the special day of one of my favorite foods—mac and cheese. Although I won’t give it the individual blog post treatment I bestowed on hot dogs yesterday, I do want to recognize National Macaroni and Cheese Day that took place on July 14. My two favorite mac and cheese blog posts jump right out at me: we have the time I achieved a life goal of actually judging a macaroni and cheese cookoff AND the post in which I shared the often overlooked toppings that complement the best dish in the world.

I love mac and cheese more than I love hot dogs.

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Five topics up, five topics down! As I mentioned, we have some special visitors so I am off to join them. Have an awesome weekend. Don’t Blink.

I Always Celebrate National Hot Dog Day

Today is National Hot Dog Day. If you ever doubt my fandom for a delicious frankfurter, simply type “hot dog” in the search bar of this blog. The number of hits that pop up will ensure that you never question me again.

Okay, so you want me to put my hot dog where my mouth is? In no particular order, let’s browse seven of my hot dog experiences as documented in Don’t Blink.

1. The Big Dog. It will be 12 years ago next month that I had the audacity to order “The Big Dog” at Northern Quest Casino. When the server came out with my entrée, I seriously thought it was a joke. The 22-inch gigantic hot dog topped with chili and cheese was “extra” to say the least. What wasn’t extra? The fact that it was on special that night for just $9.

This is me with The Big Dog at Northern Quest Casino in Spokane during the summer of 2012.

2. The Killer Dog. There is a favorite restaurant of Sid’s family in Myrtle Beach called Carolina Roadhouse. They offer terrific steaks, seafood, burgers, and much more. I always bypass all that stuff and go for the Killer Dog. Topped with chili and cheese like “The Big Dog” (but much smaller), it became a running joke that I would always order the hot dog instead of the many better options on the menu.

Sloan looks on at the Killer Dog I was about to eat at Carolina Roadhouse in 2017.

3. Is A Hot Dog a Sandwich? A year ago, I produced a video at WSU that was a lot of fun. We asked one of our food scientists to answer the age-old question of whether a hot dog is a sandwich. Dr. Foraker did a fabulous job as he described the scientific and historic merits on whether a hot dog is a sandwich or not. He then passionately offered up his personal opinion. No spoilers here, you must watch the video to find out what he said.

We made a video that asked one of our #WSU professors if a hot dog is a sandwich.

4. Ice Cream Hot Dog. All the other hot dog stories in this post are resoundingly positive except for this one. Last November I was in Chicago for a conference. During one of the evenings, we were invited by a vendor to the Chicago Ice Cream Museum. It was at this museum that my co-presenter and I were offered an ice cream Chicago Dog. It consisted of a poppy seed bun filled with hot dog-flavored soft serve ice cream and topped with mustard and relish. Needless to say, we passed.

This isn’t a joke! They make ice cream Chicago Dogs at the Ice Cream Museum.

5. Is A Corn Dog a Hot Dog? Ha! Okay, I promise this is the last topic that begins with a question. I would probably say a corn dog is not a hot dog, but I did write an entire blog post dedicated to corn dogs several years ago.

Sloan eating a Sonic corn dog.

6. Wienermobile. I achieved one of my life goals when I saw the Wienermobile in-person. The “big hot dog on wheels” visited Myrtle Beach in 2018 and parked in front of a Publix grocery store. It was fun to scope it out, touch it, and pose for photos in front of it. But the best part was definitely the free hot dogs from the Oscar Meyer trailer that was a short distance away from the Wienermobile.

Back in 2018, our family visited the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile while it was parked outside a Publix grocery store in Myrtle Beach.

7. Costco Dog. Even though I made it clear that this list wasn’t organized in any particular order, I bet a lot of people believe I saved the best for last. Who doesn’t love the $1.50 hot dog and soda combo at Costco? When I listed the top five things I buy at Costco, you probably won’t be surprised that a hot dog from the food court was on the list. It isn’t just that the value is amazing but that the hot dog itself is really good!

Sloan and I eating Costco Dogs in 2019.

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Trust me, those seven instances just scratch the surface of hot dog mentions in my blog. If you are still hungry, keep searching! Or, save yourself some time and just eat a hot dog right now. Don’t Blink.

#CougCounties

I learned a lot about our state over the past 20 weeks. 🧐

Yesterday, our #CougCounties organic social media campaign concluded when we featured Whatcom County. The final post of the campaign followed Washington State University alumna Meg List to Birch Bay, a chill beach-side community. This concluding post was the 40th feature of the campaign as we successfully spotlighted all 39 counties in the state of Washington plus the Colville Reservation.

Our #CougCounties campaign ended yesterday with Megan List in Whatcom County.

But first, let me back up. #CougCounties was born at the beginning of November 2023 when I summoned some of the most creative minds in our University Marketing and Communications department to pitch the concept. Detailing my vision via a Powerpoint presentation and creative brief, I outlined a campaign that would use Cougs across the state to highlight each Washington county in a creative and engaging way.

#CougCounties was a very successful organic campaign that debuted in February and wrapped up yesterday.

Thankfully, my team liked it and promised to support the campaign any way they could.

This was the gist: A volunteer or “rep” would be designated for all 39 counties in Washington and the Colville Reservation. Each rep would then be mailed an exclusive #CougCounties t-shirt. From there, the rep would throw on the t-shirt and go to a point of interest or landmark in their county and take photos. The images would then be sent to us along with some info and we would finesse it into social media posts and deploy them strategically over the course of 20 weeks.

A look at the format of each #CougCounties post. Thanks for Madeline Wetch for representing Yakima County.

It worked! Thanks to our design team, we had a sharp campaign logo and t-shirt design ready by December. Once the new year arrived, our t-shirt shipment arrived. By the middle of the month we announced the campaign and asked for county “reps” to volunteer. The response was overwhelming. The second half of January was spent shipping out the 40 t-shirts. Once February kicked off, content started trickling in. On Feb. 26, 2024, #CougCounties officially debuted with Adams County. All it took was that first post to know that we were onto something.

As mentioned, Adams County led off the #CougCounties campaign. Kyle Niehenke started it off by taking us to the Coug Shed.

For the next five months, two counties would be featured each week—one on Monday and one on Thursday. We moved through the counties alphabetically as the posts were published on our WSU Facebook, LinkedIn, and X accounts. The consistent structure of the campaign combined with the anticipation of where the next rep would go captured the engagement and imagination of our audience.

The #CougCounties logo served as the front of the shirt. This design is what was screened on the back.

What also made the campaign fun was the diverse nature of our reps. #WSU students, staff, alumni, and fans all participated. #CougCounties was open to everyone and we definitely captured a vibrant sample of our Coug community.

We even had #FutureCoug students participate. Devin Bobbett, who will begin classes on the WSU Pullman campus this fall, represented King County. He went to Kerry Park on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill.

As mentioned, it was up to the reps to decide where at in their counties they would take their photos. We encouraged them to snap numerous images and we made every effort to include as many of them in the post as possible. In addition to the images, each post was accompanied with three sections of snackable info. After the rep was introduced, we gave background info on the county itself. We described its geographic location in the state, when it was founded, what made it unique, and the county seat/largest city. Next we focused on the landmark that the rep visited. We provided its history, current usage, and other fun facts. We then concluded by shining the spotlight on the rep. After explaining how they were connected to WSU, we included a short quote straight from the person about what WSU meant to them.

You can get a better idea for how the copy was organized in each post by reading the feature we did on #WSU alumna Debbie Galbraith of Skagit County.

Thanks to #CougCounties, we went to some really neat places in our state. Lighthouses, theaters, statues, train depots, bridges, and museums were all popular places that reps proudly showcased in their respective counties. Other spots included an old schoolhouse, award-winning candy store, historical airport, and mountain trail. My personal favorites? I really enjoyed the Wild Horse Monument in Grant County, the replica Stonehenge in Klickitat County, and the Cedar Creek Gist Mill in Clark County. You also can’t forget about the eclectic spots such as Christmastown USA in Mason County, the squirrel statue in Cowlitz County, and the Stonerose Fossil Dig in Ferry County.

Numerous county reps went to lighthouses. This is WSU Pullman student and Pierce County rep Kyla Klym who went to Brown Point Lighthouse in Commencement Bay.

But instead of me using words to describe all the fabulous content, just tap here so you can see photos of all 40 locations yourself.

This is one of many awesome photos that Grant County rep Troy Franzen sent us when he visited the Wild Horse Monument.

The #CougCounties campaign was a smash hit. All posts received engagement way above benchmarks and numerous times people broke through social media to tell our UMC team in-person that they really enjoyed #CougCounties. The WSU Insider even did a story on it.

#WSU alumna and Pend Oreille County Ashley Dana showed us around the Pend Oreille River.

Of course, at the end of the day, the success of #CougCounties rests entirely on the shoulders of our reps. They answered the call and delivered the content. Thanks to them, we were able to paint our Washington counties crimson! What a blast it was. Don’t Blink.

Dealing With Butler

It is well past midnight but I have little interest in sleep right now. Ever since news spread this afternoon at my nephew’s birthday party about the incident in Butler, I have been glued to coverage nonstop.

For me, this isn’t a political thing. Instead, it is just really sad and surreal. What happened today shook me up. I have talked to my wife and dad a lot about it. When chatting with Sid, I told her the last time I felt such an unsettling feeling was the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.

Of course the massacre seven years ago was much more heinous when it comes to bloodshed, but I think both incidents share that same sense of helplessness that has me so bothered.

The event in Pennsylvania should have been secure—or at least that is the notion that most of us believe…perhaps erroneously. For someone to have the window to shoot down on a large gathering of people is something that legitimately keeps me up at night.

Speaking of being kept up at night, there are two big things that have swirled around in my head all day…

First, I think of the violent death that missed Donald Trump by literally millimeters. A weakness in my stomach festers when I think how close it came to a bloody death of decapitation. To ponder that my children would be exposed to that gruesome clip for the rest of their lives makes me sick.

Second, I think of the innocent victim who did meet the death that Trump so narrowly escaped. A dude went to a rally and was killed when bullets rained down from the sky. His family witnessed his unimaginable death. During the 2016 presidential election season, Sidney and I went to multiple Democrat and Republican rallies (South Carolina is a primary hotbed) and I never thought once that the possibility existed that one of us might not come home.

Again, I am not entertaining any political angle, advantage, or conspiracy theory from today. The only thing I am doing is PRAYING that Joe Biden and Donald Trump AND everyone else who decides to take part in the political process—whether that be by attending a rally, working for a campaign, or covering a race—remains safe. While I am at it, I also ask you to join me in praying for complete safety and peace at the Summer Olympics that begin later this month.

Let us pray hard for peace for the remainder of this election season.

It is going to be a long four months, folks. May this bitterly contested presidential race abandon violence and hatred and instead embrace peace and civility. Don’t Blink.

Saddle Up Thursday Rundown

I am sure everyone is craving a Thursday Rundown after being deprived last week because of the Fourth of July holiday. Well, your hunger for five random and insignificant topics is about to be fed. Here we go…

Post Falls Horse – More than six years ago, I wrote about my personal allure to coin-operated rides that you don’t seem to see as much anymore. This past weekend we found a coin-operated horse outside of a random Post Falls, Idaho, convenient store. It looked like it had been very well-used over the years.

Sloan saddles up on a coin-operated horse at a random Post Falls convenient store.

Fun Photos – With Beau (and Sloan for that matter) back at St. Paschal’s for the summer educare program, it means more backdrop photos that brighten my day. This firework-themed photo was taken this week and although many were taken I had to choose the one of Beau being Beau.

I love the photos that St. Paschal’s educare program takes of the kids.

Work Ice Cream Social – It seemed only appropriate that I attended an ice cream social on the hottest day of the year. Yesterday I was in Pullman for my once-per-week day in the office and to also attend our University Marketing and Communications ice cream social. The ice cream came from Ferdinand’s in the form of a grabber (ice cream cookie sandwich). As always, it was great to see everyone and catch up. But oh man, the Apple Cup Crisp ice cream flavor is so delicious!

Because of the intense heat, we had our ice cream social inside. I was stoked that my Ferdinand’s grabber had my name on it!

Free Slurpee Day – From one summer treat to another, my parents celebrated Free Slurpee Day with Sloan, Beau, cousin Mikayla, and cousin John by taking them to their local 7-Eleven. The convenience store giant celebrates its birthday on July 11 every year by treating each customer to a free small Slurpee. In theory it is a lovely promotion but I have never known a kid who could drink/eat/slurp a Slurpee without making a mess (simply look at Sloan’s shirt in this photo). Happy 97th birthday, 7-Eleven!

Beau and Sloan hold their free Slurpees right outside of my parents’ local 7-Eleven earlier today.

Fear No Evil – All I can say is that Sloan is doing much better with her summer reading program than yours truly because this book took me an embarrassingly long time to read. But “Fear No Evil” was the first James Patterson book I have read and to be honest, it might be the only one. Perhaps the extended length of time it took me to finish the novel was partially because of my interest level. Even though the book was fast paced with a Mexican drug cartel, a rogue vigilante ex-law enforcement squad, and a massive amount of violence it was never a page-turner for me.

I recently finished “Fear No Evil” by James Patterson.

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That will wrap up tonight’s rundown. I think today was the first day this week that didn’t eclipse the three-digit Fahrenheit mark so maybe we are headed to a slightly cooler weekend? We shall see. Drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen, friends. Don’t Blink.

Simple Compassion

On this date two years ago, I came across the below social media post. As was eloquently conveyed, the Reddit user who responded to the thread displayed commendable compassion and kindness.

I appreciated the perspective and message from this social media post.

Coincidentally, on this date 10 years ago, I wrote about a different sandwich franchise that implemented an anxiety-free ordering system. When I lived in the South, I always enjoyed picking up a sandwich at Which Wich. This particular place offered fresh, delicious food via a unique approach to ordering.

When you walked into Which Wich, you would arrive at a table that had brown sandwich bags in differing sizes. Based on the size of sandwich you wanted, you would select the appropriate bag and then pick up a Sharpie. You would then use the pen to make choices on the bag. By checking boxes, you would select your bread type, veggies, meats, condiments, etc. From there you would hand the bag to an employee and they would make your sandwich exactly how you specified it. No need to “go down the line” directing a “sandwich artist” on how you wanted your sub made.

This is what a Which Wich bag looks like.

Of course Which Wich’s ordering model is no longer as unique as it once was. Every restaurant chain, including Subway, now has online ordering where you can build your meal with extreme specificity that doesn’t require a single word to be uttered.

Still, I understand the Reddit poster’s apprehension at making a traditional in-person order at Subway. Sometimes processes and choices can be overwhelming, especially in an environment with lines and crowds. In college I had a friend who was discouraged from going to the gym because of the sometimes burdensome and anxiety-ridden process of swiping your student card and punching in an ID number.

We need to be understanding that things some of us think as simple–like ordering a Subway sandwich–can be challenging to others.

The point is that we should be understanding of those who suffer from anxiety and the societal processes that exasperate it. Refraining from judgment and streamlining should always be goals. Don’t Blink.

Manatee Memories

When Sidney and I went on our honeymoon in Cancun, the item at the top of my wife’s to-do list was to swim with the dolphins. Sure enough, in the middle of our trip we found ourselves on an island many miles away from the resort swimming with a pod of dolphins. But believe it or not, it was another species of mammals that stole Sidney’s heart…

A photo of me with a dolphin while in Mexico.

The package we bought included more than just a dip with dolphins. After we finished that session, we jumped in some pretty murky waters with manatees. It was shortly before this encounter that I even knew what a manatee was and now I found myself swimming with the animals. To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with these large, awkward “sea cows” but Sidney sure was. She thought they were super cute and gentle. Their underdog demeanor compared to the diva dolphins won her over.

Sidney’s dream to swim with the dolphins came true but a different animal would win her heart.

Last night, I read a book titled “Saving Manatees” with the kids. Although I characterized them as “sea cows” above, the opening paragraph of the book used different animals to describe a manatee: A manatee is like nothing you’ve ever seen. You may see it as a hodgepodge of animals, but a manatee is a unique creature. Close up, manatees have the whiskers of a walrus, the eyes of a mole, the wrinkles and toenails of an elephant, tail of a beaver, and the gentle nature of a sloth.

We read “Saving Manatees” by Stephen R. Swinburne last night.

After that description, Sloan was hooked!

We learned that manatees spend six to eight hours a day eating as they sometimes consume more than 100 pounds of water plants in a day. It was brought to our attention that Columbus believed manatees to be mermaids. The author explained that manatees can live to 60 but many die before they even turn 10. The reason? Of all manatee deaths in Florida, 30% are caused by watercraft collisions. Manatees grow quickly from starting off as a three-foot, 66-pound baby and ballooning to an eight-foot, 550-pound youngster in just two years.

With Sloan so amazed at these gentle giants of the sea, it was fun to tell her that Sid and I had actually swam with them before. We told her about petting them and feeding them lettuce. We described how they had algae growing on their backs and the funny sounds they made. It was nice to reminisce.

I am still not a huge manatee fun but I appreciated yet another example of a book opening up Sloan’s imagination and allowing me to relate the subject matter to a close-to-home real life example. Don’t Blink.

2024 Independence Day Weekend

Let me catch my breath because it was a hot, fun, and memorable Fourth of July weekend. In fact, I am sure it packed more energy than even the craziest fireworks package you spent way too much money on. So, if you are interested, let me roll back the past four days for the Reser Fam…

We had an awesome Fourth of July weekend. This photo was taken inside River Park Square in Spokane as we made our way to Riverfront Park on July 4, 2024.

Explosive July 4 – I think it was the busiest Fourth of July I have ever been part of. We woke up on Thursday morning and drove out to Coeur d’Alene for the community’s Fourth of July parade. It was the first Independence Day parade I have ever witnessed in-person and it didn’t disappoint as it put us in an authentic red, white, and blue spirit for the rest of the day. We then left Idaho and drove back to Spokane where we visited Riverfront Park. A traveling carnival had set up shop near the Looff Carrousel that extended to the red wagon playground. I cringed at the ticket ride prices but because it was a holiday I allowed Sloan and Beau to have fun on several of the attractions.

We spent the Fourth of July morning at a parade and a carnival.

From Riverfront Park we headed out to my parents’ house in north Spokane for a Fourth of July cookout. In addition to my siblings and their families in attendance, our friends, Dylan and Fidela, also joined us. It was such a good vibe as we enjoyed each other’s company and celebrated America’s birthday the right way. After the cookout we drove to Pavillion Park for fireworks. We re-joined Dylan and Fidela and ate freeze pops as we waited for the show. At a little before 10 p.m. the pyrotechnic arrangement started as brilliant colors and effects filled the sky. The perfect way to cap an amazing Fourth of July!

Our Fourth of July afternoon/evening was a lot of fun. We had a cookout at my parents’ house and then we headed to Pavillion Park for fireworks.

Chill July 5 – Needing to recover just a bit after a jam-packed Fourth of July, we took it pretty easy. Our main event was spending the late morning/early afternoon at the Southside Aquatic Center. This place is our favorite pool/water park in our region and we enjoyed taking a few hours to just splash in the water and go down some slides. After we finished up we cooled off with a round of Italian sodas.

We spent time at the Southside Aquatic Center on July 5.

Wet July 6 – I have written before about the sparkling pool oasis owned by Ms. Kathy, the longtime next door neighbor of my parents. Well, on Saturday, we had her entire pool to ourselves as we visited for our own private swim session. Sloan had a blast jumping off the diving board and flying down the slide while Beau played with toys on the pool steps. We later ventured to Q’emlin State Park in Post Falls, Idaho. This beach area was great for the whole family. Sloan swam in the water, Beau built sand castles, I sipped refreshing beverages, and Sid relaxed in her beach chair. Afterwards we had a family dinner at Red Robin.

Our Saturday of the Fourth of July weekend was spent at a private pool and Q’emlin State Park.

Restful July 7 – After three days of sun, fun, and water, we tried to take it easy for the final day of our Fourth of July weekend. We attended our usual 9 a.m. mass at St. Mary and then came home and watched “Back to the Future.” I then took the kids to Browns Park where they had too much fun with the splash pad. They made friends with some other children and made a game out of soaking themselves and then zooming down the slides “slip ‘n slide” style. We then capped the night off with grilled burgers.

The kids playing at the Browns Park splash pad in Spokane Valley on Sunday night.

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I would say we had an all-American Fourth of July weekend. Thanks to my children and wife for going on such a fun four-day ride with me. Let the summer continue! Don’t Blink.