My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2020

During a year that saw the cancelation of so much, somehow Don’t Blink managed to stay afloat. That’s right, this 9-year-old blog continued to grind out posts over the past 12 months. Why Brent? Hasn’t this world suffered enough in 2020?

All joking aside, writing provided a release for me during a year that was ripe with COVID anxiety and an aggressively toxic political news cycle. Because I managed to feed my blogging appetite in 2020, it means that I am in position to present my seventh annual Big Blog Post. This is my favorite entry of the year when I look back at what I wrote over the past 52 weeks, tab my 10 favorite posts, and rank them.

In 2020 I published 172 posts, up from the 165 posts  I wrote in 2019 but a far cry from the 253 posts I wrote during my peak year of 2014. Considering we added a new baby to our family along with other major life events in 2020, I won’t get down on myself for this year’s blogging output. 

As I say every year, the list is mostly reflective of my personal opinion. However, audience feedback and blog post traffic are always considered when making my final decisions. Thanks for reading in 2020 and let’s get this countdown started…

10. Beau’s Newborn Photos (November 23) – Not promising anything, but Beau might be leading AND ending the countdown this year. Not too long after Beau arrived home from the NICU, my friend and former co-worker Judy Johns came over to take newborn photos. Judy is the director of photography at Coastal Carolina University and one of the best photographers you will ever meet. In this particular post I showcase some of my favorite images from her beautiful work.

Judy’s work is incredible and I enjoyed the opportunity to include some of my favorite images in this blog post.

9. The Joys of Working From Home (August 12) – I am always careful to paint the pandemic in any type of favorable light. However, if there was one result from COVID-19 that turned out pretty well for us it was the directive to work remotely. In this blog post I reflected on what a joy it has been to work upstairs while my wife and kids are safe/content downstairs. From enjoying the early mornings to eating daily lunch with my kids to simply walking down a flight of stairs when the work day is over, this post conveyed the joys of working under my own roof.

Working from home in 2020 has been nice.

8. March 2020: I Will Never Forget (March 31) – In March, the world changed. COVID-19 introduced itself on a mainstream level and life as we knew it took a hike. But our family didn’t need the added pandemic to make it a crazy month. We packed up our house, I moved across the country, Sloan celebrated her third birthday, and I started a new job. In this blog post I looked back at a month we will never forget, beginning with seemingly normal daddy-daughter dates and ending with a bizarre earthquake. March was CRAZY and I am glad I documented it.

Before I left for Washington, I had an early birthday celebration for Sloan.

7. The Weight Loss Challenge (November 23) – During the fall, Sid and I decided to go outside our comfort zones and participate in a weight loss challenge sponsored by our gym. For six weeks we went on diets and pushed ourselves…almost to the point of insanity. This blog post traces our weight loss journey and the measures we took to be successful. In the end, we both lost weight and I even won the competition. I also come to grips with my previous unhealthy methods of dieting.

The Weight Loss Challenge proved to be successful for both of us.

6. They’re Here! (May 12) – I am not going to lie, it was hard going eight weeks without my wife and kids. I literally counted down the days until their arrival. Thus, you can imagine how ecstatic I was the afternoon they landed on Spokane soil. In this blog post I wrote about feeling whole again while also recognizing the surreality of it all. I described that first special weekend together while also being frank about the sadness of saying goodbye to Sid’s parents. It is a blog post of many different emotions and new beginnings!

It was so great to get my best friend back!

5. Until Next Time, Myrtle Beach (March 18) – I moved to South Carolina solely for a job at CCU. However, during my time out east, I received so much more than a paycheck. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the Grand Strand community and by that time I had fallen in love with a girl too. In this blog post I paid homage to what made Myrtle Beach so special. From my new family to my church to my gym to Sloan’s daycare, I wrote about how appreciative I was for the people and places that made such a positive influence on me during my time as a transplant.

Was so fortunate to become part of this great family during my time in Myrtle Beach.

4. Feeling Symmetrical (November 10) – Last month, Beau shed the corrective helmet he wore pretty much all day for three straight months. When his headgear was removed, he had a completely symmetrical head, a complete transformation from its shape in July. In this blog post I was able to show before/after photos, explain the intricacies of helmet therapy, describe the thrill of watching Beau progress, and reveal how the outside world reacted to a baby boy who wore a hard hat. It is kind of weird, it seems like forever ago that Beau had to wear his helmet but I am thankful for this blog post because it won’t let us forget the interesting challenge of correcting his misshaped head.

This was Beau’s last day in his helmet.

3. My Top 10 Favorite Moments Working for Coastal Carolina University (February 19) – During my nearly six years at Coastal Carolina University, I had the opportunity to do some really cool things. After I announced my departure from CCU, I remembered some of my defining moments as a Chanticleer. This post pretty much summarizes what a fun, diverse, and busy tenure I had in #TEALnation. This post allowed me to reflect quite a bit and I was happy to include so many of my former co-workers in it. I would write one final CCU wrap-up post but this countdown piece is my favorite.

I had some really good times working at CCU.

2. Pumped to be a Coug (March 1) – With pride and relief, I announced my new job via my blog on March 1. After keeping tight-lipped about the opportunity, it felt great to finally reveal that I had accepted a position at Washington State University. In the post I was also able to explain what I would be doing and why Sid and I decided to take the offer (so glad we did). As I re-read the post, the excitement that I wrote with brings me back to that entire crazy post-Beau’s birth/pre-pandemic period when we were preparing to move across the country. This post rates high for both significance and vividness that it is my runner up in 2020.

We took this photo for the “Pumped to be a Coug” blog post.

1. Beau Meets World (February 17) – This isn’t just my top post of 2020—it might be my top post in the history of this blog. I tried to be raw and thorough as I chronicled the emotional 11-day journey from the moment Sidney’s doctor decided to operate to the Sunday afternoon that Beau was released from the NICU at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, South Carolina.

The post is special to me because it displays Sid’s courage and Beau’s grit. It also conveys the important role that faith played throughout the saga. Tough setbacks are confronted and glorious triumphs are celebrated. It isn’t saying much because I consider myself a mere novice with the pen, but from a writing aspect I think this is one of my finer pieces. But even if most serious writers consider Beau Meets World to be garbage, it sure means a lot to Sid and I.

An 11-day journey of emotional twists and turns is chronicled in my top blog post of the year, “Beau Meets World.”

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Thank you to all my readers for supporting Don’t Blink throughout 2020. I can’t promise how productive I will be with my blog in 2021 but I do plan to write at least some. Tomorrow I will close out the year with my annual wrap up post and then I will be looking entirely forward to January 1. Thanks again. Don’t Blink.

My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2019
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

A TikTok-Inspired Holiday Video

Click here to watch the 2020 #WSU Holiday Video

One December tradition that COVID couldn’t wipe away was the higher education institutional holiday video. You know, the videos where your favorite university wishes you season’s greetings in a sentimental/funny/ creative way?

During my time at Coastal Carolina University I had the pleasure of being involved with the annual holiday video whether it entailed me being in it, conceptualizing it, or just promoting it. It was always a fun project so I appreciated the opportunity to assist with Washington State University’s 2020 video.

“Illumination” was the theme of the 2020 WSU Holiday Video.

Although a pandemic couldn’t halt university holiday videos, it did limit what could be done (say goodbye to large festive group shots!). But could new limitations perhaps open new avenues for creativity? At WSU, the answer was yes.

We debuted our 2020 holiday video via our President’s Twitter account. Creativity played a big role this year.

In a year that many across the world might consider “dark,” we wanted to show how WSU was able to offer some light. We settled on the theme of illumination and decided to express it in a way that our student audience could relate to.

Our holiday video was successful because it appealed to all audiences. However, it especially resonated with students because it actually used students and it utilized a format popular with GenZ.

This is a bold claim as I have not watched an overabundance of other university holiday videos yet, but I think we might be the only ones to produce ours based off a TikTok theme. That’s right, the WSU 2020 holiday video is definitely TikTok-inspired…we even shot it vertically. Drawing motivation from the infamous Pass the Brush Challenge and other TikTok videos that pass objects off screen to other participants, we decided to go with something similar.

We had numerous students who appreciated our TikTok-inspired theme and who filmed clips to be included in the holiday video.

The basis of our video showcases WSU students dropping a holiday light from one screen to the next. The students catch a non-illuminated light, react to it, and then—magic—it illuminates! The light is then dropped to the next participant.

The video centers around people catching a holiday light, illuminating it, and passing it on.

The video kicks off with our mascot, Butch, illuminating the first light. It culminates with our First Lady catching the final light and passing it to the President. He then screws it into a string of lights and with a snap from the First Lady, the string and the state of Washington illuminates. Throughout the video, a voiceover from the President recognizes that it has been a difficult year but credits the WSU community for creating its own brightness.

Butch kicked off this year’s holiday video.

Our social team had a seat at the brainstorming table when developing the illumination theme. Our primary responsibility was to recruit holiday video participants by promoting the opportunity on social media. In just an hour or so after posting the callout we were inundated with willing Cougs. We sent out Christmas lights to the people (mostly students) who expressed interest along with directions on how to film their portion of the video. Our volunteers didn’t disappoint. Within a week we had received more than enough material to hand over to our video team.

Our video professionals did an incredible job piecing the video together and adding the illumination effect to each Christmas light. A talented staff member who writes for our magazine penned the President’s voiceover that really hit home. One of our designers built the video into an email to send out to the WSU family. It was a true team effort by our University Marketing and Communications department and it paid off.

The video all comes together at the end when President Schulz screws in a missing light and Dr. Noel Schulz, our First Lady, illuminates the string with a snap of the fingers.

The video was a major success. It was received extremely well because of its uniqueness and natural flow. As of Monday night, it has been viewed more than 40,000 times on social media and I am yet to see one negative comment on any platform. During an extremely tough year, it feels good that this project has given people a reason to smile. Don’t Blink.

Six Months A Coug

If you had told me that I would spend the first half year of a new job primarily at home, I probably wouldn’t believe you. But that would have been my thinking pre-COVID. As we all are very familiar with now, this virus has a way of crushing norms.

Thumbs up for my six-month anniversary at Washington State University. Had to get Sid to snap a photo of me in my closet office.

Today I mark six months as an employee at Washington State University. When I have a meeting with someone for the first time, my go-to icebreaker is to tell them that I literally spent one day in my on-campus office before receiving the directive to work from home. It’s true. On March 16 I traveled with my supervisor to Pullman for that first day. When I was packing up to leave that night, we were told to prepare to work from home for the next couple weeks. Well, 26 weeks later…

I was all smiles my first (and only) day on campus.

Despite the strange circumstances and the unprecedented period we are navigating in higher education, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first six months at WSU and am so happy that I made the decision to work for the Cougs. I am in a good spot.

What I have treasured most during my short time at WSU is just being able to contribute. With the COVID crisis really turning everything upside-down, there was plenty to do the moment I switched from teal and bronze to crimson and gray. Besides assisting with our coronavirus response, I have been able to focus on the things that really attracted me to the job: analytics, paid social advertising, and campaign development.

Before moving into the closet at our new house, this was my at-home office

I have also taken on projects and efforts that are vitally important in the current educational climate. To be entrusted with such tasks at a major land grant institution is exactly the direction I wanted to take my career in.

To say I am grateful for both my position and the projects assigned to me is an understatement. I can’t thank my bosses enough for affording me both. I have remained impressed and inspired by our department leadership and feel fortunate to work in such a great work climate…even if it is a virtual one.

Our family is proud to be Cougs!

Making the work climate so effective and welcoming goes beyond my bosses. My co-workers have a lot to do with it too. I work with some talented and dedicated individuals who also are team players. Even though I have primarily worked with them via Zoom, the work relationships feel authentic and very similar to all of the ones I have had in the past.

The next six months will be interesting to say the least. Who knows where we will be with this virus and what instruction at WSU will look like. Needless to say, when March 16, 2021, comes around I will have a very interesting post to pen about my first year as a Coug. Don’t Blink.

The Joys of Working from Home

This morning, I had a moment of complete gratitude. It hit me how lucky I have been to stay at home with my family during the workday. Please know that I would trade anything to end this awful pandemic and cease the suffering of so many, but I also don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing to appreciate some of the outcomes that have transpired due to social distancing measures.

I don’t think the opportunity to work from home could have come at a better time for my family. As they continue their cross-country transition, we are thankful that I can have a 24/7 presence in the house to offer stability and support. Although I am obviously tied up from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., I know the comfort of having me upstairs is a very welcome feeling to Sid, Sloan, and Beau.

But I think the arrangement might boost my psyche even more than it does theirs. To spend time with my children all the way up until I report to my upstairs closet office in the morning is a blessing. Not going to lie, it is stressful getting them ready for the day and then hauling them off to daycare before making my own commute. With that out of the equation, I can really enjoy the time I have with them, which leads to me reporting to the job in a happy and refreshed mood.

Never before have I looked more forward to the lunch hour. Forget about eating a sandwich alone at my desk. I now get to join my wife for leftovers or something else that doesn’t consist of peanut butter and bread. Sometimes we will eat outside on our back deck and watch Sloan play. Other times we will turn on the news or Netflix and eat on the couch. What a nice and healthy way to break up the day. 

Last week, Sid and I ate out on the back deck and watched Sloan run through the sprinklers during the lunch hour.

Then comes quitting time. Walking down the stairs to begin the evening with my wife and kids is so much better than jumping in a car and battling traffic. I also don’t feel stressed when it comes to wrapping up tasks at the end of the day because the pressure of battling the clock to leave the office on time just isn’t there.

Best of all, I like the brief moments of interaction I get to have with my family while I am holed up in my home office. Sloan will sometimes bust in with a huge grin on her face. Sid will bring Beau by on a daily basis so he can say “hi” to me. These little things propel me forward and brighten my day.

Working from the comfort of your own home has plenty of advantages, both from family and productivity perspectives. One day I might write about the latter, but tonight it is about the one that matters the most. I am trying to embrace and appreciate this arrangement as much as possible because I know it is a luxury that many of us will only enjoy for a very short time in our careers. Don’t Blink.