My Holiday Break with Sloan

The evening I got off work to begin the holiday break, I wrote a blog post detailing a few things I wanted to do over the next nine days. A couple of those items included binging a Netflix series with Sidney (check! We watched season two of “You”) and watching as much college football as possible (check! Watched more football in a week than I had in a couple years). But there was a third goal I outlined in the blog post that I feel I crushed more than the previous two…

Spend as much time with Sloan as possible.

With this objective, I wanted to especially get her out of the house. When it was all said and done, we had a very active break! I figured I would document what we did for tonight’s blog post.

Sidney, Sloan, and I kicked off the break by baking cookies. We cranked up the Christmas carols and let Sloan take point, only intervening when she started to eat too much cookie dough.

Sloan and Sid worked together to bake cookies just prior to Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, Sloan waited for Santa by hanging out with her cousin, Henry.

Henry and Sloan waited for Santa to come!

Sloan was completely overwhelmed (in a good way) on Christmas Day. She celebrated the holiday by enthusiastically ripping open gifts with a mile-wide smile.

This smile says it all, doesn’t it?

A Christmas gift Sloan received from Santa was a bike. Starting on Christmas afternoon and lasting throughout the rest of the break, Sloan and I would go outside in front of our house and ride it. She picked up on it fast!

Sloan got a lot of use out of her bike during the holiday break.

Throughout the time off, Sloan spent a lot of time with her best friend, Jacqueline. On December 26, Sloan and I went to Savannah’s Playground and met Jacqueline and her mom, Susannah. The temperature was in the mid-70s and the girls played hard.

Sloan and Jacqueline took advantage of beautiful weather by spending the morning at Savannah’s Playground.

We found ourselves at the mall a couple times so we balanced out our shopping/returning activities with time at the shopping center’s indoor playground and on the coin operated rides.

While adults swarmed Coastal Grand Mall like crazy people, Sloan took a more laid back approach.

With the weather holding for most of the break, we hit up more than one outdoor playground. I took Sloan to the Carolina Forest Playground where she ran around with Henry.

Sloan had a fun-filled time with Henry at the Carolina Forest Playground.

Sloan got her game on when Sidney and I took her to Dave and Buster’s for lunch and fun. She bounced around from game to game, staying true to her independent persona as she preferred to play with little help from her parents.

Sloan had a blast at Dave and Buster’s.

A special treat came Sloan’s way when she was invited to swim with Jacqueline at the Marriott’s indoor pool. The two girls paddled around the heated pool and ate snacks afterwards.

Sloan and Jacqueline swam at the Myrtle Beach Marriott pool.

One day during break I did a workout at the Coastal Carolina University track. I brought Sloan along and she showed me how it was done!

Sloan ran with me at the CCU track.

Sloan and Jacqueline got together once again when we met at Rockin’ Jump for a morning at the trampoline park. After they jumped their hearts out they did the obvious…eat snacks!

Sloan and Jacqueline concluded the holiday break by visiting the trampoline park.

Besides the activities listed above, we also filled our break with reading books, hanging out in the playroom, going to church, and spending time with her grandparents. To be honest, I almost didn’t feel bad sending Sloan back to daycare because we couldn’t have done anything else to make the break more fulfilling. We took advantage of every moment and made many memories to end 2019. I am so thankful for my little partner-in-crime. Don’t Blink.

First Thursday Rundown of 2020

Welcome to 2020, everyone! I hope you had an awesome holiday yesterday and that your year is off to a positive start. Yes, I will be writing Thursday Rundowns in 2020. See below for proof.

Life’s Little Instructions – I am bringing back more than Thursday Rundowns in 2020. Those who follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram know that I share advice from a page-a-day calendar called Life’s Little Instructions. Heck, if you even read this blog you know my admiration for Life’s Little Instructions because I write about them often. Well, this is the 14th year I have had Life’s Little Instructions, the 12th year I have shared them on Twitter, and the 8th year I have shared them on Instagram. Hope you enjoy this year’s advice!

Life’s Little Instructions have returned in 2020.

Sloan Got a Bike! – I had an incredible holiday break with Sloan as we did so much together! I will write more in depth about the whole nine days in the near future but I did want to share one memory from the break tonight. Her big Santa gift was a bicycle! From Christmas Day through New Year’s Day, we would go out in front of our house and practice riding it. The strides she made in that short time were incredible. She is now a pro at using her little legs to peddle up and down our street.

Sloan is a quick learner. She sure loves her new bike.

Christmas Gift for Sid – My wife and I have a simple Christmas Eve tradition. Late in the evening we drink hot chocolate, listen to Christmas carols, and exchange presents. We always set a low limit for how much we spend on each other but it is nonetheless fun and special. The “big” gift I got for Sid this past Christmas was a pair of blue light omitting glasses. These bifocals block the exposure of blue light from televisions and smart devices, lessening strain on the eyes. Sid has complained lately of headaches and hazy vision after looking at her classroom’s smart board and personal iPhone for extended periods of time. She suggested I “surprise” her with the blue light omitting glasses and that is what I did! Who cares if she had to exchange the pair I got her (pictured below) for a more stylish version, right? So far Sid is pleased with the extra eye protecting.

A look at the blue light omitting glasses I got Sid from Dillard’s.

Our Winter Break Netflix Series – When I wrote about our plans for the holiday break, I mentioned that Sidney would probably select a Netflix series for us to binge. My prediction proved correct as we watched the entire second season of “You” over the span of a couple days. In my opinion, this newest season was much better than the first. Biggest reason why? The characters! I enjoyed getting to know Forty and Will (the real Will, not Joe) and several other supporting characters were engaging as well. The constant commentary and dark humor from the narration of Joe was even more spot on and hilarious this time around. As with the first season, you were kept guessing about the twists and turns up until the very point that they actually happened. If you watched the initial season and was lukewarm about it (like I was) give it another chance with the second season.

Season 2 of “You” is pretty good!

Staying Up Until Midnight – On New Year’s Eve, I tweeted about the probability that we would stay up to see the ball drop. After two straight years of falling asleep prior to 12 a.m., I didn’t know if we would break the streak this year. We did! I contribute it to the fact that we weren’t exhausted or jet lagged from holiday travel. Our NYE evening consisted of eating appetizers, drinking soda, watching Netflix movies, and then tuning into Ryan Seacrest’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” coverage from about 11:50 p.m. to midnight. What an accomplishment!

I questioned whether we would make it until midnight.

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Not going to lie, it was a little tough going to work today. However, the silver lining is that tomorrow is Friday! Have a great night, everyone. Don’t Blink.

In 2020, Take it One Day at a Time

Happy New Year! I hope your decade is off to a fantastic start. Last year, I provided some tips on how to get your year off to a positive start. Today, I wanted to offer some extremely simple advice to keep in mind throughout all 366 days of 2020 (don’t you love leap years?).

For a while now, I have consistently told Sidney the same thing over and over: take it one day at a time. This advice usually comes in the context of her pregnancy. She is now almost 32 weeks along and the anxiousness and stress can really start to build. Rather than eyeing the due date or even the next week, I encourage her to focus on the day at hand, stressing that each single day well-lived is good for her and the baby.

I also tell her this when it comes to the school year or summer break. But the truth is that I don’t only dispense this advice on my wife, I am constantly reminding myself of it as well. I have tried to do a better job at following my own mantra of Don’t Blink by savoring each day that I am blessed to live. This means not looking too far ahead or wishing any days away. Although I am by no means perfect at following my own advice, this mindset has led to more productive and positive days.

Can you guess what my advice to you for 2020 is? Let’s roll out the italics again…take it one day at a time. This year, make a commitment to truly be the best version of yourself from the moment you wake up to the moment you lay down your head at night.

I think New Year’s resolutions are great. They challenge us to set goals and better ourselves. But because of the long-term nature of these resolutions, we sometimes look way too far ahead while neglecting the present. By all means, make these annual resolutions but be weary of losing track of the days while you try to lose a bunch of weight by a certain date or get in shape for a vacation in the summer. Instead, emphasize each day as a building block for reaching your goal and literally take time each morning to recognize how blessed you are to have consciousness. It will make a difference.

Even if you aren’t a resolution-type, make a commitment this year to value each day. Give it your all, make a difference, and savor every moment afforded to you.

Have a terrific 2020, my friends. Don’t Blink.

2019: Hard to Describe

For me, it is hard to label 2019 as something specific. I have thought about this reflective end-of-year blog post for a couple weeks now and no definitive theme has emerged. Does that mean that the past 12 months have been anticlimactic or boring?

Our family is thankful for the blessings of 2019.

Ha! Don’t make me laugh.

Although I can’t assign a single adjective to summarize the entire year, I can offer a few. Productive, blessed, and challenging are all valid when it comes to describing 2019. As with 2018, this year was characterized by a couple different breaks in the calendar. The first six months were rather smooth while the second half was more of a rollercoaster. By the time I wrote my blog post marking the midpoint of 2019, I already had a feeling that the latter six months would be a bit more intense than the former.

Just a couple days prior to writing it, Sidney found out she was pregnant. We were overjoyed by the news and excited to give Sloan the ultimate gift, a sibling. Family was big this past year. The three of us enjoyed a lot of special time together and once we knew we were having a baby, he (yes, we are having a boy) became part of our clan as well. Sloan has enjoyed watching Sid’s belly grow and is anxiously awaiting her brother’s arrival.

Having all of Sid’s immediate family within a 10-minute drive has continued to be a blessing to us. Even with the close proximity, the best memories this year were made with them in the Florida Keys when my sister-in-law got married. Although we didn’t make it to Spokane in 2019, my immediate family filled in the gaps by visiting us in Myrtle Beach. My parents came South for Sloan’s birthday in March and again in the summer. My dad made his annual October visit and my brother and his fiancée joined us for a week of fun in July.

Our faith played a big role in 2019. After joining the Knights of Columbus in 2018, I became more actively involved in 2019. I am so thankful for my fellow KOC brothers who I have been able to develop rich relationships with. Helping out with Coastal Catholics has also been a highlight for me this year as well as attending the South Carolina Men’s Catholic Conference. Sidney has taken the biggest leap of faith out of any of us in 2019! I will provide more information in 2020 but let me just say that I am very proud of her. By observing Sloan, it is easy to see why Jesus loved children so much. Her honesty while praying and singing hymns has warmed our hearts in 2019.

In terms of my career, 2019 will forever be defined by my presentation with Lindsi Glass at the American Marketing Association Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. Nothing is more empowering than when your work is validated by your colleagues from across the country. Back on campus, our #CCUSocialMedia Program continued to win national awards while engaging our #TEALnation audience. Most importantly of all, I grew closer to my University Marketing and Communication team members as we stuck together no matter what.

In 2019, the little things mattered. Sloan’s friendship with her partner-in-crime, Jacqueline, prospered. I got to know my gym family at Legacy Fitness better. We survived another hurricane. Sidney moved from the second grade to the fourth grade. We enjoyed a weekend getaway to Atlanta. We attended numerous community events and fests. I took Sloan to just about every playhouse and park in Myrtle Beach. We discovered the fun of TopGolf. This year we had few dull moments, but when we did, we enjoyed them.

I would be remiss if I didn’t quickly recognize that the end of the decade is at hand. The 2010s will be remembered as the start of my professional career. I have served two incredible higher education institutions, the University of Montana and Coastal Carolina University, in two great communities, Missoula and Myrtle Beach. The decade will also be remembered for making the best decision of my life––asking Sidney to marry me. I also won’t forget the proudest moment of my life––becoming a father.

But this post is more about 2019––it is about the promise of 2020. Much of what was accomplished in 2019 will set us up for a banner year in 2020. We got a baby coming and a lot more! Thank you for reading my blog, your support is appreciated. Until next year, happy holidays! Don’t Blink.

My Top Ten Blog Posts of 2019

Oh man, it is that time again. For the sixth straight year I am continuing a cherished Don’t Blink tradition and presenting my top 10 blog posts of the year. Affectionately referred to as the Big Blog Post, this is the entry where I comb through 12 months of posts, choose 10 favorites, and rank them.

Since I have become a father, my blogging output has decreased each year. Unfortunately––or perhaps, fortunately, since it means I am taking care of my kid––2019 was no exception. I published 165 blog posts over the year, a 12% decrease from the 187 posts I wrote in 2018 and a 35% decrease from the 253 posts I wrote pre-wife/daughter in 2014. But it has never been about the quantity and I had little issue finding 10 posts out of this year’s crop.

As usual, this list is mostly reflective of my personal opinion on the significance and quality of the featured posts. However, audience feedback and readership are also considered with this compilation. Without further rambling, here is my 2019 list…

10. Asking for Permission (July 29): When reading the paper one day, I came across an advice column that dealt with asking permission from a significant other’s parents before asking for her hand in marriage. I added my own commentary on the importance of doing so but it also allowed me to tell my own story of how I asked permission from Sidney’s dad to marry her. In fact, I was even able to briefly touch on how my brother asked his fiancée’s dad for his blessing. Having the chance to share these happy stories was pleasant for me.

In 2019, I wrote a blog post that dealt with asking permission before asking your girlfriend to marry you. I touched on my own experience of asking my father-in-law (far left) for permission.

9. Our Family Vacation to the Florida Keys (July 3): Toward the end of June, we traveled to the Florida Keys for the wedding of Sidney’s sister. The trip doubled as a vacation as we spent several days in the Keys after the nuptials. Spending a week in a sunny and exotic location was a ton of fun! In this blog post I used lots of photos (and some words) to tell the story of a truly remarkable family experience.

Our vacation to the Florida Keys was filled with memorable moments.

8. We Are Lucky (January 16): Growing up, my dad would routinely whisper something into my ear whenever we crossed paths with someone who was obviously less fortunate than us. This constant reminder has helped me shape my perspective throughout my life, especially now that I have my own family. The simplicity and reality of my dad’s message was conveyed in this special blog post.

In 2019, I reminisced about something my dad would always tell me.

7. A Year of Growth: Happy Birthday, Sloan (March 17) – On St. Patrick’s Day, also known as Sloan’s birthday, I reflected on the second half of her 730 days of life. I pointed out some highlights from the past year while focusing on the two main areas of growth from her second trip around the sun: intellectual capability and emotional expression. On a more humorous (but oh so true) note, I also mentioned the biggest difference between 0-12 months and 12-24 months…instead of caring for a baby, we were being managed by a toddler.

Sloan eating her birthday cake on her second birthday.

6. Observing the Generosity of the Community (September 23) – Aside from family moments and milestones, I found no greater joy in 2019 than spending time with my Knights of Columbus brothers. One of the service activities I had the pleasure of participating in this year was Columbus Hope charity drives. We would stand at the doors of various businesses and collect donations for individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs in South Carolina. One particular day stuck out to me in particular. I had the pleasure of volunteering with John Kost, a 90-year-old World War II vet who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me for two hours outside of Sam’s Club in the unforgiving late summer heat. Not only was our conversation incredible but it seemed like every single person who crossed our paths that day donated.

I had the pleasure of donning the Knights of Columbus vest multiple times this year.

5. Building the Faith (July 22) – This year I became involved with Coastal Catholics, a student organization that serves the Catholic community at CCU. I was drawn to the organization because of my faith and because of the vision of a young priest named Father Nerbun. Energetic and motivated, Father Nerbun came to CCU and not just revitalized the group but kicked off an ambitious plan to build a Newman Center for Coastal Catholics. This blog post outlined the campaign and also detailed my personal passion for constructing a Newman Center.

It was special to see the positive direction that Coastal Catholics took this year.

4. A Half Decade at CCU (May 1) – On May 1 of this year, I celebrated my fifth anniversary at Coastal Carolina University. I marked the milestone by writing a blog post that summarized my time at the institution. I mentioned some achievements but it was more about the people––colleagues and students ––who have made my time at CCU so memorable. I think my pride and gratitude for my employer was very evident in this post and it was a pleasure to go back and read it in preparation for this list.

To mark my fifth year anniversary at CCU, I wrote about the great times and awesome people that have defined my tenure.

3. Our Moment in the Sun (November 13) – Probably my greatest professional highlight came this November in Las Vegas at the American Marketing Association Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. I had the pleasure of presenting with Lindsi Glass, our associate vice president for marketing and branding (and my supervisor). In front of higher education marketers from across the country, we revealed CCU’s Generation Z-optimized Instagram strategy. In this post I discussed the exhilarating day and the empowering aftermath.

Lindsi and I after our AMA presentation in November

2. We Are Expecting (again) (September 9) – This blog post was the sequel to the version I wrote in 2016, one which also landed in the #2 spot of its respective yearly countdown. Like with the post three years earlier, this one was short and sweet as well. But for this countdown, length isn’t as much of a requirement as significance and posts don’t come much more significant than this one. In the entry I wrote about our state of joy and excitement, including that of Sloan. We can’t wait until early 2020 to finally meet our newest Reser!

Sidney announced our big news on social media.

1. Will You Be My Best Man? (July 8) – My greatest honor of the year came when my brother asked me to be his best man at his 2020 wedding. Glen and his fiancée, Carrie, visited our family in early July. Midway through the trip he nonchalantly asked if he could blindfold me (no big deal, right?). I consented and he tied a cloth around my face. What followed, and what is outlined in my favorite blog post of 2020, is Glen’s elaborate method of asking me to lead his wedding party. The creativity of what my brother did, the meaning it held, and the pride that is plainly evident in my writing all make Will You Be My Best Man? my favorite blog post of 2019.

The best man “proposal” included this six-pack.

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It was another solid year for Don’t Blink. Although the post quantity might be down, I hope my readers can still appreciate the quality. What ten blog posts will grace the Best Blog Posts of 2020? I will let you know in a year. Don’t Blink.

My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2018
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

Heading Into the Holiday Break Like…

Well, I have officially worked my last day of the year (I always love saying that)! I am “on break” until January 2 and I can’t wait to spend the time with my wife and daughter. As we settle in on this Christmas Eve Eve, the next week will be a little different this year.

Instead of traveling out west to spend a few days with my family, we will be spending the entire holiday season with Sid’s family here in Myrtle Beach. Not that airport crowds or rising airfare tickets are keeping us away; the main reason we are staying put is that flying across the nation when someone in your family is 30 weeks pregnant is usually frowned upon.

Although Sloan will miss seeing her papa, grandma, and West Coast aunts/uncles/cousins, we can’t really complain about our situation. We will have more than a week to just chill with each other and spend time with Sid’s family. Because we aren’t traveling, some of the holiday stress will be lessened this year, paving the way for an optimized relaxation period.

We don’t have big plans for the next several days. We will spend Christmas Eve at St. Andrew and Christmas Day with Sid’s family. We will then enjoy couch time and laziness. I want to get Sloan out of the house a couple times for fun daddy-daughter dates and I hope to watch plenty of college football. I am sure that Sidney will find a Netflix series for us to watch.

My blogging activity should be pretty low key for the rest of the year but I can promise my two “big” annual blog posts at the very end of December –– my top 10 blog posts of 2019 and my yearly reflection. Stay tuned for those.

Thanks to Coastal Carolina University for this extended time off, it is very much appreciated. I wish everyone a happy holiday season! Don’t Blink.

Week Before Christmas Thursday Rundown

Can you believe that in a week Christmas Day will have passed? Don’t fret, that just means the true Christmas season, lasting 12 days, has only started! Speaking of getting things started, let’s begin this Thursday Rundown…

An Elf on the Shelf – Over the weekend, Sloan was assigned an elf named Sallie. My in-laws filled out the proper paperwork so that Sallie can keep an eye on Sloan over the next several days leading up to Christmas. Our daughter is in love with her elf and has ecstatically looked for her each morning, instructing me to take a photo of Sallie once found. It is pretty cute!

We are responsible for Sallie, an “Elf on the Shelf.” The photo of Sloan pointing at the elf was taken from a video so please excuse the blurriness.

Thoughtful and Creative Gift – He did it again! Scott Dean, one of our photographers, gave me a homemade cookie mix to bake at our house. I shared this nifty gift idea last year but I did not have the foresight to take a photo of the container it came in before it was too late. Not this year. The mix comes in a glass jar with handwritten baking instructions from one of Scott’s children. This was a HUGE hit last year and we can’t wait to bake them again. Thanks, Scott.

This is such an awesome Christmas gift!

Another Story from Commencement – Believe it or not, Ron Daise (“Mr. Ron” from Gullah Gullah Island) didn’t steal the show at CCU’s commencement on Tuesday. Instead, that honor went to Doris Glass, an 89-year-old interdisciplinary studies major who returned to college to earn her degree. When her name was called, she used her cane to proudly walk across the stage and give President DeCenzo a hug. While she did this, the entire HTC Center stood up to give Doris a well-deserved standing ovation. If you want to know more about this special lady, read this great article from the Horry County Independent.

Doris Glass stole the show at the Fall 2019 commencement.

The Masked Singer – Over Thanksgiving weekend, Sidney and I started watching “The Masked Singer.” We caught most of the episodes leading up to last night’s finale. The show annoys me in many ways but, I have to admit, when the time comes to unveil who a contestant is I get pretty excited. Sidney was awesome at guessing who the singers were while I was usually clueless. Chris Daughtry (the rottweiler) was runner up to this season’s champion, Wayne Brady (the fox). 

Wayne Brady, who was dressed in the fox costume, won the second season of The Masked Singer.

Decade of Pop – If you think you can handle it, I challenge you to listen to this mashup of songs from the past decade. DJ Earworm annually puts out a mashup of songs from the past year that is always highly anticipated, but this decade track is something else! In under three minutes, prepare for a bombardment of 100 hits from the past 10 years. Get ready for some memories!

If you listened to Top 40 at all over the past decade, you might want to listen to DJ Earworm’s “Decade of Pop.”

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I know this upcoming weekend will be busy for many. Try not to stress and always remember the reason for the season. As always, thanks for your readership. Don’t Blink.

The 2019 #CCU Holiday Video

Click here to watch the 2019 #CCU Holiday Video

Every year around this time, I like to recognize the work of our University Marketing and Communication team on a certain project. Although we are tasked with high level initiatives such as creating major marketing plans and communicating to the campus community during times of crisis, there is a certain light-hearted undertaking that we embrace on an annual basis.

Actually, wait. Strike what I just said.

“Light-hearted” isn’t the right phrase because our audience takes this project very seriously. How can’t they? The holidays are a special time and if you are going to do something that coincides with this magical season, you better do it right. For another year in a row, I think we did just that.

The 2019 #CCU Holiday video is another gem.

We debuted our 2019 #CCU Holiday Video today. After going back-and-forth in past years with videos that were either funny or sentimental, we went in a different direction this year. With our university president set to retire in the near future, we made something that recognizes his many achievements at CCU in a holiday-themed way.

President DeCenzo stars in our 2019 #CCU Holiday Video.

But why do I keep saying “we”? Full disclosure my friends, I had nothing to do with this masterpiece. Once again, it was Geoff Insch and Lindsi Glass who developed the concept of this latest edition. They modeled the 3D flashback theme of a Rolex video that told the story of the company’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf. When they first showed me the inspiration, I thought how are they going to pull this off? But, just like every other year, they did.

This year’s video is based off of a video on Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex.

The video’s success depended on President DeCenzo’s buy-in (check!), Geoff’s editing skills (never a doubt) and our photography team’s talent and dedication (they are awesome). With the President’s top moments documented and his voiceover complete, the weeks of constant editing work commenced. Judy Johns, our director of photography, worked tirelessly along with our other photographers, Scott Dean and Tad Robinson, to pull images that corresponded to President DeCenzo’s memories. From there, the trio used Photoshop to painstakingly cut out numerous people and objects. They then had to recreate whatever was supposed to behind the people and objects, many times stealing objects or people from other photos to transplant into the original one! 

You need watch the video to appreciate the 3D effect.

Judy’s team then passed their work to Geoff. From there, he worked his magic, and by “magic” I mean he spent about 80 total hours piecing the video together. Geoff took the different layers, backgrounds, and elements from the photographers and brought them into his computer. He stacked the content into multiple layers in reference to a digital camera in a 3D space. From there he could move the digital camera through the 3D scene. When the camera passed elements it would reveal other objects behind them and with all the layers moving in relation to one another it achieved the 3D effect that separates this holiday video from the hundreds of others released by universities across the country. When he was finished, there was no denying that the hard work was worth it.

This year’s holiday video stands out.

Take a moment to watch the video for yourself. In an industry that is sometimes labeled as “behind the times,” I think it is pretty cool that our team took a concept from a company on Forbes Most Valuable Brands List and put our own spin on it, all the while executing the 3D component perfectly.

Fabulous job to Geoff, Lindsi, Judy, Scott, Tad, and everyone else in our department who helped make this outstanding video. Happy holidays from Coastal Carolina University! Don’t Blink.

2018 #CCU Holiday Video Review
2017 #CCU Holiday Video Review
2016 #CCU Holiday Video Review

An Engaging Commencement Speaker

As a little kid, perhaps 8 years old, I remember summer mornings really well. Before heading off to swimming lessons, we would watch a lineup of television shows on Nick Jr. that included Little Bear, Rupert, and Gullah Gullah Island. I enjoyed all three programs but the one that stood out was probably Gullah Gullah Island because it wasn’t animated and the main character wasn’t a bear (duh).

As a kid I watched “Gullah Gullah Island.”

I forgot about the show for 20 years and then I moved to South Carolina. Not too far from Myrtle Beach is where the Gullah people have lived and thrived for hundreds of years. Because of Coastal Carolina University’s research of the Gullah culture and language, I have learned a lot more than what I initially knew from the television show.

But that is not to discount the show but rather to honor it. If not for watching Gullah Gullah Island more than two decades ago, I would have had no point of reference to the culture when I moved here. I quickly found out Ron Daise, known as “Mr. Ron” on the show, is a major pillar of this community and a respected ambassador of the Gullah Geechee culture. His day job entails educating the public, especially children, about Gullah heritage. In fact, Sidney has brought her class on field trips to Brookgreen Gardens to absorb cultural lessons from Ron, who serves as vice president for creative education.

Today it was my turn for a lesson!

Last week, we announced Ron Daise as our commencement speaker for the fall ceremonies.

Ron Daise delivered the commencement address at Coastal Carolina University’s fall graduation ceremonies. Because we had a ceremony in the afternoon and evening, I had the pleasure of listening to it twice!

As you can probably imagine, Ron went the creative route when it came to his speech. He gave the graduating students “Four Lessons From Songs of Gullah Gullah Island.” Each lesson, such as self-motivation or leadership, came with Ron singing a song from the show to exemplify the principle. He saved the best for last, telling students to “just put your foot in your hand,” a phrase that means to hurry up and not let the important things pass you by. At that moment, Ron busted out a complete remixed version of the Gullah Gullah theme song that substituted Coastal Carolina University in many of the lyrics (To go forth and be remembered, you must make the world better, when you become a CCU graduate!).

It was a pleasure listening to Ron Daise speak today.

Ron’s address was energetic, nostalgic, and funny. After having worked numerous commencements and participated in a couple myself, I don’t think I have ever heard a more engaging speech. It was refreshing to hear something so original.

If you want to learn more about the Gullah Geechee culture, I encourage you to reference the Charles Joyner Institute for Gullah and African Diaspora Studies that is housed right here at Coastal Carolina University. Thank you for bringing your perspective to commencement, Ron. Don’t Blink.

Brent’s Top 5 Songs of 2019

Move over Grammy Awards, it is mid-December and that means it is my turn to tell the music industry what struck a chord (pun intended) this year. Yes, for the sixth time in Don’t Blink history, I am back to offer up Brent’s Top 5 Songs of the Year.

In 2019, it seemed to me that musicians actually started to do their jobs and make good music. Seriously! For the past three years I have complained that my countdowns were hard to populate due to lack of worthy tunes. But this year is a little different. Whereas I had a tougher time crowning one song as my undisputed favorite, the countdown from top to bottom is much stronger. So, without further ado, here is my annual list…

5. Shallow – Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper

Although “Shallow” was released in October of last year, it had a major impact in early 2019 as “A Star Is Born” mania spread across the country. I can’t say that it is a song that I can listen to over and over, but it has something that really makes it stand out: emotion.

The passion in this song is obvious to anyone who listens to it, even a tone deaf musical doofus like me. When I watched Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform it at the Oscars I made a mental note that the song would make this list. For those of us a little clueless on what a duet should be, we just need to listen to “Shallow.” Although “A Star Is Born” would probably rank higher than #5 on my top list of films for 2019, its title track bringing up the caboose on this “prestigious” top song list isn’t anything to scoff at.

4. “Here With Me” – Marshmello f. Chvrches

Sidney and I were at SunTrust Park this past May watching an Atlanta Braves game, one of our favorite weekends of the year. Between the sixth inning, the public address announcer encouraged those with small children to raise them in the air or put them on their shoulders as part of a Chick-fil-A promotion. After the prompt, “Here With Me” by Marshmello started playing as the video board showed children hoisted in the air.

As cheesy as the promotion was, the song made it work and it immediately stuck out to me. It was my first time hearing it and the melody combined with the enthusiasm of the parents in the stadium who participated really made Sid and I wish that Sloan was with us so we could also raise her in the air.

On our way back to Myrtle Beach the next day we looked the song up. We played it throughout the drive and it kind of became the mantra of our weekend. The good memories the song brings back every time I hear it gives it a spot on this year’s countdown.

3. “Never Really Over” – Katy Perry

This was our song of the summer. Its quick tempo, electronic beat combined with Katy Perry’s fast but signature vocal performance made it a fun song to listen to during the hot months of 2019. It kind of reminded me of a roller coaster; Perry starts off slow with the first several verses, seemingly building up momentum, until she starts spewing out lyrics at a rapid pace as the chorus takes over.

Just like with “Here With Me,” this Katy Perry hit takes me back to good times during the year. I used it for a couple highlight videos of big summer family events and I can’t help but think of my sister-in-law’s wedding or my brother’s July visit when I hear it. Easily one of my favorite Perry songs ever, I am happy to declare it one of my favorite tunes of 2019.

2. “Beautiful People” – Ed Sheeran

Talk about smooth. “Beautiful People” by Ed Sheeran is a song that makes for easy, yet sophisticated, listening. It has a relaxing and unique beat that lends itself to a track I don’t mind listening to regardless of the situation. It makes someone like me who is probably too old for Top 40 feel cool.

The song also tells an endearing story about staying true to oneself and denying materialism. It is about not selling out and never taking yourself too seriously. I can appreciate the message as well as every word that composes it. If you have time, just read through the lyrics themselves––no music is necessary, the pure poetry is beautiful enough.

In another year, this song could be in the top spot. But I don’t feel too bad for Ed because he topped my list in 2017. I look forward to listening to this song many more times in 2020 and beyond because it has qualities that will allow it to stand the test of time.

1. Sunflower – Post Malone, Swae Lee

If “Beautiful People” makes for sophisticated listening, “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee makes for contemplative listening. I mean it, you can turn the track on and just get lost in the melody and on-point lyrics. Although I would classify its sound as completely unique, sometimes it does take me back about 12 years to “Don’t Matter” by Akon, a song I loved as well.

Throughout the year, this song would fill our house as Sidney played it on our Echo Dot. As “Sunflower” would play, literal beams of sunshine would come through the large windows in Sloan’s playroom. It was always a soothing experience, one that will always make me associate “Sunflower” with happiness and positive vibes.

Just like with Gaga and Cooper, Malone and Swae both contribute in big ways. If either performer was not on this track it would not be the same. Despite two stars crooning out lyrics, “Sunflower” proves that you can be short and sweet. It is only 2:39 but the singers make every single second count.

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As I said above, after a few years of disappointment, I was impressed with 2019. Thanks to the talented artists who made some great music this year and helped shape some of my memories from the past 12 months. Although I might not know music per se, I do know feeling. Don’t Blink.


Brent’s Top 5 Best Songs of 2018
Brent’s Top 5 Best Songs of 2017
Brent’s Top 5 Best Songs of 2016
Brent’s Top 5 Best Songs of 2015
Brent’s Top 5 Best Songs of 2012