Happy birthday Harry Potter

Team Hunsperger at Wizarding World of HP

It’s hard to believe 20 years ago this week J.K. Rowling introduced the world to Harry Potter. My family was late to the game, picking up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2007, ten years after it was first released. Our oldest son was seven at the time and my wife would read the book to him every night before bed. I would stand outside his door and listen and quickly became captivated. I’ve never been one for fiction, but as soon as they finished the first book, I picked it up and started reading. We had a deal, no movie until the book was complete. Like I said we were late to the Potter party so we only caught Half-Blood Prince and the two Deathly Hallows in the theater.

Butterbeer break

Our son became obsessed with the boy wizard, dressing like Harry Potter for most of the Halloweens from 2007 until he stopped wearing a costume. Our family also has had a chance to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter twice at Universal Studios in Orlando. The first trip came in 2010 and a portion of Islands of Adventure had been transformed into Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.  Rides like the Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge added to the excitement of all the shops, including Honeydukes Sweetshop and Ollivander’s Wand Shop.  There are places to get your fill of Pumpkin Juice, Butterbeer and Gillywater.

Gringots Bank

In 2014, the Wizarding World expanded into the Universal Studios side of the park.  Now, you can hop aboard the Hogwarts Express and take it back and forth, assuming you have a ticket to both parks.  The train ride is reminiscent of the movies, it’s by far the most relaxing of the five Potter-themed rides at the park. Speaking of other rides, the only other new ride added with the addition is Escape from Gringotts.  Because it was new at the time, the wait was between 60 and 90 minutes (in October), although on our last day there, we went straight to that ride when the park opened.  Our wait time that morning was about 40 minutes.  It’s a 3-D thrill ride with twists and turns, but not nearly as jostling as the Forbidden Journey ride.  But a little kid did barf on the way out and right in the path of where people were walking.

The Dragon

On top of Gringotts Bank is a giant fire-breathing dragon.  Almost like clockwork every 10 minutes, a ball of fire shoots from his mouth.  There are plenty of stores along Diagon Alley, including Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour,  Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and the Leaky Cauldron.  We ate lunch at the Cauldron, and although pricey, it was delicious.  I had the Bangers and Mash.  The one interesting thing is there are no basic drinks in the restaurant.  It’s all Pumpkin Juice, Butterbeer, or Gillywater (which is a bottle of water with a $4.25 price tag).  You won’t find a soda on the menu.  After we sat down and started eating, we were offered a complimentary cup of water.

The wand in action

One of the other really cool parts of the whole Wizarding World Experience now is the interactive wands they sell in addition to the usual collector’s wands.  These interactive wands can be used at the various storefronts (that have a special marking in front of them) and the holder of the wand can perform some magical task.  A sensor in the window reacts to the sensor in the wand to make things happen.  There’s a cake topper that dances around, a tape measure that comes unrolled, among other things.  It’s neat, but again, an added price of about $50 per wand.

Everyone gets a wand

Compared to most of the other attractions and experiences at Universal, it’s obvious Harry Potter and his posse are breathing new life into the theme park.  They’ve managed to cast a spell on my family and millions of others.  While not on the same level of Disney’s magic, the folks who built this portion of the park have done a great job.

Check out Morphing Mugs Harry Potter Marauder’s Map Ceramic Mug

But first, let me take a selfie

Branding Kevin Hunsblogger

June 21 is National Selfie Day. I know there are plenty of people who judge those of us who take selfies as narcissistic and self-centered attention whores. In some cases you’re right. But let’s face it, there are times when taking a selfie is fun.

I’ll admit there are some situations where a selfie probably isn’t necessary. I don’t judge those who do it, but I wouldn’t take one at a cemetery, funeral home or other places to honor lost lives; like the 9-11 Memorial in New York. I understand why some people might though. We want to prove to the world we’ve been places and experienced things.
So here are a few of my favorite selfies. Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far.

WrestleMania viewing party

The 7 Dwarves Rollercoaster at Magic Kingdom

Oh deer

Aboard the Black Diamond Harley-Davidson helicopter for storm coverage

Our first escape room in Paducah

Snapchat silliness

The My 1-2-3 Cents guys

Easter with my family

My mom and daughter

Running through downtown St. Louis

The Old Glory Relay with friends

5th-grade field trip to Cypress River

Wishes are for Aladdin, be your own genie

Aladdin

Aladdin (Courtesy: Disney)

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert or a guru at anything, just sharing some advice that’s worked for me.

 

Many times we say we wish something could be better about our lives. I’ve done it a lot. But now instead of wishing for stuff or opportunities, I’m focusing on making these things happen. There’s no lamp and there’s no Genie. Change has to come from within.

Two people, I credit for this outlook are my buddy Tom Harness and someone I’ve never met before, Gary Vaynerchuk. I started following @GaryVee on social media just over a year ago and continue to deploy the tactics he discusses on his videos, live streams and podcasts.

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His advice is simple and doesn’t require paying for a subscription. One of his principles is content is king. He’s the reason I’ve started a “blogging streak” on my wrestling site, My 1-2-3 Cents. There has been fresh content every day on that site since May 26, 2016. It has helped build awareness and show readers I’m consistent. It’s lead to more views on that site which is one of my goals. Gary has also been a driving force in encouraging me to not care what other people think about my goals and to forget about luck and focus on hustling.

As mentioned, my other go-to guy in the world of social media, marketing and life, in general, is my buddy, Tom. He’s one of the most uplifting and positive people I’ve ever met and is the one who got me hooked on Gary Vee. He also believes in me and has hired me to do some freelance blog writing for his clients. 2016 was a great year for that. In fact, his encouragement led to the creation of Kevin Hunsblogger (he even coined the name).

MDMC

Tom invited me along with his team at Harness Digital Marketing to MDMC17 in St. Louis. The digital marketing conference opened my eyes to a whole new world. I’ve made connections and picked up tips that have lead to other freelance gigs. But there’s always room for more, so if you are in need of content, let me know.

Shinesty suit

Branding has become a big part of what I’m doing in 2017. There are new projects on the horizon that I am looking forward to. This is just a quick look at what I’m doing. Remember, wishes and luck don’t lead to success. Hard work and sacrifices do. There’s always a way, you just have to be open to finding the path, which may not be the one you like, but adapt and conquer.

I do still wish for a pool on hot summer (late spring) days like this one. But that’s not going to happen either without hard work. Maybe one day this website will be getting updated poolside.

Buy Gary Vee’s book

20 Things I love about my wife

K L Wedding day

June 7, 1997

I’ll probably catch hell for this at home, but 20 years ago today my wife and I walked the aisle and said: “I do.” It’s hard to believe that much time has passed, and we’ve actually been together for 25 years, having our first date at the end of our freshman year at Southeast Missouri State University. So to mark the occasion, here are 20 reasons I love my wife, Lisa. I look at them as bragging points which will likely embarrass her, but this comes from the heart.

1. She loves me, even when I’m not the most lovable person. My sleep schedule is not the best in the world and often I’m grumpy due to a lack of z’s. Despite my moodiness, I know Lisa will love me.

Hunspergers Garden of the Gods

Family time at Garden of the Gods

2. Lisa is an amazing mother. We were married about a year when she talked about starting a family. We got a dog instead and delayed the family building for about six months. She stayed home (running an at-home daycare) when our boys were small and up until our daughter started school. That time she spent with them has molded them into three pretty outstanding young people (if I do say so myself).

3. She’s a straight shooter. We don’t sugarcoat anything, even with our kids. If they have questions about things, we answer them as directly and honestly as possible. We were never parents who said “weenie” or “private parts.” We speak pretty bluntly here, which can sometimes sound crude, but I think our kids appreciate the real talk.

4. Right before our daughter started kindergarten, Lisa decided to go back to school and get her Masters. She worked hard balancing school work, internships and raising a family. I’m proud of the career she’s chosen as a behavior analyst and the differences she’s making in people’s lives (and our family).

Family

Four families, one pic

5. She loves my parents unconditionally. I know not all in-laws get along, I’m happy that our families do.

6. She has helped two other families welcome children into the world. Lisa “rented her womb” and served as a surrogate. In 2009 she delivered a healthy baby boy and 18 months later she had twins (a boy and girl). You can read the reasons behind the decision here.

7. Lisa has pushed me to strive for better things for myself. When I first started looking for a job in TV news, I struck out more times than any Cubs team prior to 2016. There was a point I was ready to throw in the towel and pursue a different career option. But Lisa pushed (sometimes nagged, okay I’m kidding) to keep moving forward. A couple months later I landed my first job.

8. That job included a move to Alabama (from St. Louis) and a cut in pay. I was actually making more at the part-time job I had at the time. The hours sucked; I worked holidays and I had to go out and buy a new wardrobe. She never complained and only continued to motivate me to do my best as my dream of becoming a TV journalist came true.

9. She’s had my back with all of our moves. Southern Illinois is actually the third stop on the path (and probably the last). We lived in Alabama for almost 18 months and then Indiana for four years. We rooted ourselves in southern Illinois 13 and a half years ago. Lisa hasn’t complained once about the moves.

Scooby gang

She’s cool with my crazy Opposuits and other nerd things

10. She supports my wrestling habit, craft beer drinking and odd suit wearing. She joked with my buddy Tom Harness recently telling him “you’re better than heroin.” I know I probably embarrass her with my antics sometimes, but the fact that she has my back every step of the way is an awesome feeling. In fact, she’s encouraged me to add more Opposuits/Shinesty suits to my wardrobe.

11. More on the wrestling thing, the first time I wanted to go to WrestleMania with my friend Chad Smart. The price tag was going to be about $1,200 and I knew it would be a hard sell. But to my surprise, Lisa agreed to it. I remember walking into the All-State Arena that night and telling myself to soak it all in because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. But Lisa is cool and I’ve been on my bromance trip to WrestleMania a total of nine times. Also back in the early days when I had no friends who liked wrestling, Lisa attended multiple live events with me.

12. Lisa is the handy one around the house. She and my dad have done more home improvement projects together than I’ve even thought about doing. So yeah, take my Man Card.

13. In addition to the handy work, she handles 95% (probably more) of the budgeting and bill paying. The more I think about what she does, the more of a slacker I’m learning I am.

Hunspergers Skiing

Skiing in Michigan

14. She’s up for adventures. I’m pretty plain in terms of my travel ideas. I’d be content going to Disney World or the short trek to Holiday World for vacation. But Lisa has planned out several memorable outings, including a trip to Mexico for the two of us to celebrate 10 years of marriage and a family ski trip to Michigan last year. Despite my fear of skiing, I really did have a good time. While I’m not ready to sign up for another round on the slopes, I have no doubt we will once again be swooshing down the hills in the future. Also when she worked as a tax preparer at night and on weekends years ago, she earned a trip to Branson for our family. We had a blast at Silver Dollar City and the other parts of the city.

15. Despite my opposition, she pushed for us to buy our boat 10 years ago. I’m not an outdoorsy or water person, but Lisa grew up on the lake, so I played along. Boat ownership isn’t all that bad, even for a land loving guy like me. Having it and getting to take the kids to different places around southern Illinois and western Kentucky has helped us bond. I’m fortunate we both have careers that have allowed us to participate in these kinds of activities. If it weren’t for Lisa’s love of water this would have been an opportunity our kids would have missed out on.

 

Halloween

A stranger Halloween

16. Halloween! From getting in trouble in the dorms in 1992 (I’ll tell that story another time) to this past year as the characters from Stranger Things, we love dressing up for Halloween and getting into the spirit. For years we also had a New Year’s Eve party and each one had a theme. We dressed up like Han Solo and Princess Leia, Juno and Bleeker and Minnie Pearl & Larry the Cable Guy. Fun times for sure.

17. In 2009 when the iPhone was relatively new, I wanted one really bad. I’d never had my own cell phone and one day I got an email at work with the subject line “This is coming from your new iPhone.” She went out and bought me a phone, starting my addiction to Apple products.

18. When I started running a few years ago, Lisa laced up and joined in. We made it a family affair, running a few 5Ks together. Our schedules don’t allow it as much, but we still sometimes run together, but it’s something I’d like to do more.

19. And with the running, she surprised me in 2015 when she got up with me the morning of my first marathon. She informed me she was coming along to cheer. It blew me away. Lisa waited the 4 hours and 35 minutes it took me to finish the race. She positioned herself in several spots along the course and motivated me to keep moving. I cried at one of the stops because I was fatigued and so grateful that someone cared enough to spend most of a Saturday morning standing in the rain and cheer for me.

wedding day 2
20. Thinking back to our wedding day 20 years ago, I wanted a few things that many women would probably cringe at. I wanted to wear a Mickey Mouse bowtie and vest with my tuxedo, I wanted to come to the aisle via zip line (like Shawn Michaels did at WrestleMania 12) and I wanted Ric Flair’s theme song 2001: A Space Odessy played when we entered the reception. I got two out of the three. I really knew the zip line wasn’t going to happen, but I shot for the stars.

It’s been an incredible 20 years as husband and wife. I couldn’t have picked a more quality human being to spend the rest of my life with. It’s been a quarter-century since that first date in May 1992 and we’ve been together ever since. Lisa, I love you more than you’ll ever know. Thanks for everything and I hope this post isn’t too over the top for you.

Shop for anniversary rings

Content is king in the social media kingdom

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I am by no means a social media expert. But I learn something new daily about this still evolving form of communication and when the time is right, I share that information with others. My go-to sources include the wildly popular Gary “Vee” Vaynerchuk and locally, the team at Harness Digital Marketing in southern Illinois.

Check out Gary Vee’s books.

Opposuits

The Harness Digital Marketing team at MDMC17

In April I joined some of the team from HDM at the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference in St. Louis. I was in ‘sponge-mode’ soaking up all I could from the likes of BuzzFeed, GoDaddy, Ms. Candy Blog, Chris Strub and Bonnie L. Frank Coaching & Consulting. Topics ranged from video content, live streaming and best times to post on social media.

Now that my plugs are out of the way, here are some thoughts for anyone with a website or a social media page and trying to drum up support. You have to populate your pages. Content is king. Of course, I’m going to push the written word in the form of blogs. That’s what I do. I want to help businesses and non-profits draw attention to what they’re doing. Too many times I come across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages that haven’t been touched in weeks, months and in some cases years. This gives people looking for your services a poor impression about what you’re doing. But there’s a solution…

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By simply adding photos, videos or links to other sites your followers would enjoy, you’ll boost your growth and start seeing results. It’ll serve you even better if that content is original and directing people to your site. Some of the clients I write content for have seen their page views and likes increase organically. An active site is going to draw more attention and “real” people liking the page or account. If you’re interested in learning more about my blogging, check out these samples and contact me via the link below.

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40 Fun facts about Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

chuck-e-cheese

Chuck E. Cheese

May 17, 1977, the first Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza opened its doors. Since it’s the 40 year birthday of the beloved pizza chain, I thought I’d share 40 fun facts about CEC. I should note (especially if you don’t read my other blog My 1-2-3 Cents) I worked at CEC for three years while in college. I held every position there, including shift supervisor (assistant manager). Some of these are just relevant to the location I worked at and were happening between 1993 and 1996.

  1. The E stands for Entertainment.
  2. The company merged with Showbiz Pizza, ousting beloved Billy Bob and his cast of friends.
  3. Chuck E. Cheese’s was known corporately as CEC Entertainment and eventually bought out Discovery Zone.

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    Munch’s Make Believe Band

  4. Chuck E.’s bandmates included Helen Henny, Jasper T. Jowls, Mr. Munch and Pasqually.
  5. Pasqually is the only human in the group, but all members talk and perform music.
  6. I have dressed up as Chuck E. Cheese (both casual and tuxedo), Jasper T. Jowls and Helen Henny (don’t ask).
  7. My favorite thing on the menu was cheese sticks. When I’d go on break I’d add extra oregano and bacon bits before putting them in the oven.
  8. Cleaning the ball crawl involved large nets and a trip to the car wash.
  9. Bandaids, socks, shoes and random toys were always found in the empty pit.
  10. There was a large grease trap in the kitchen which also required cleaning. I HATED this process more than just about anything.
  11. Except for the time a kid pooped in his pants. When I entered the bathroom I found feces smeared all over the toilet, stall walls and floors. Oh, and his dirty underwear were just laying on the top of the trash can with a turd still inside.
  12. Several times a year a handful of employees stayed after hours to disassemble and clean the ovens. This was a long and taxing process.
  13. Sometimes when an order was messed up, employees would get to eat the mistake.
  14. But sometimes the manager on duty was salty and would toss the order in the trash. I was never “that” manager.
  15. When the Power Rangers first came out we couldn’t keep Power Ranger water bottles on the shelves of our gift shop.

    chuck-e-cheese-ticket

    Note the “tracks” on the top & bottom of the ticket

  16. Ticket takers knew when guests would steal tickets. Games would dispense tickets and leave an imprint on each one. But tickets that were just yanked from the machine had no imprint. We busted many people doing this.
  17. Each game only costs one token.
  18. Cast members were instructed to answer the phone “We’re making magic at Chuck E. Cheese. This is ___ how can I help you?”
  19. Each guest got a visit from Chuck E. Cheese in costume. I don’t ever remember a time when this didn’t happen.

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    The new Chuck

  20. In 2012, Chuck E. got a makeover. The updated version is a little edgier looking and is voiced by Jaret Reddick from the band Bowling for Soup.
  21. When the air compressor was turned off at night, the characters on the stage would begin to “relax”. This would sometimes result in creepy sounds, especially when the showroom was partially dark and silent.
  22. I once dropped an entire pizza on a child’s feet. He wasn’t hurt, but as a goodwill gesture, not only did they get a new pizza, but a comp pass to come back and eat and drink on us. The family also received an entire roll of tokens during that visit.
  23. The “tech” or person who fixed the games roamed around in a multicolored stripe shirt to stand out from other cast members in their gray uniforms.
  24. Toward the end of my time there, I started doing some public relations work creating a couple of different events, including a food drive and a family safety day.
  25. It was that safety day where I dressed up like a Crash Test Dummy. It was part of a collaboration between us and the Cape Girardeau police and fire departments. The event even received coverage from KFVS-12.
  26. The costume heads had to be wiped out and sprayed with Lysol after each use. The bodies were taken to the dry cleaners on a frequent basis.
  27. The live shows were a big deal and choreographed by a handful of cast members who were dancers at Southeast Missouri State University. My now wife also helped put these shows together.
  28. Each morning the person who opened the kitchen had to prepare the dough for the next day. Ideally, the dough was supposed to set up overnight in the walk-in fridge. But there were times of extreme busyness that the next day’s dough had to be used that evening.
  29. The dough was mixed in a giant bowl and a large hook that kneaded it. The process was pretty neat.

    Chuck E Cheese cake

    Love that cake

  30. The chocolate birthday cake is still one of my favorite dessert items of all time.
  31. If the wall behind the Skee-ball machines could talk, it would have some interesting stories.
  32. Cast members got to dress up on Halloween.
  33. Every Christmas we had a party with a gift exchange, along with a toy drive for Toys for Tots.
  34. The main food order came each Thursday morning. The opening manager and kitchen staff had to be on hand at 7 a.m.
  35. Produce orders were made more frequently for obvious reasons. We used a local distributor for that.
  36. Because I was low man on the management totem pole, I was the first one called in overnight when the alarm would go off and it happened frequently in my six months as a manager.
  37. During one call, I thought a Cape Girardeau police officer was going to shoot one of the robotic characters. It was eerily quiet and dark and Helen moved and made a sound (remember that decompressing air). The officer threw back the curtain on the stage and had his hand on his gun ready to protect us. I also thought someone was in the restaurant with us.
  38. The location I worked at is now a Goodwill Store.
  39. Our sister Chuck E. Cheese’s was in Paducah. The owners also owned the now closed Ponderosa in Cape Girardeau. Managers could go there and eat free once a month.
  40. I had the time of my life working at CEC. I think back on those days and smile. From time to time I’ll bust out an “I say ‘happy’, you say ‘birthday'” exchange with my wife.

Hope you enjoyed my mini-stroll down Memory Lane. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more blogs here.

Make your own CEC pizza

Mother’s Day: Grin & bear it

teddy bear earring

Happy Mother’s Day

I’m guessing I was about eight years old when my dad took my brother and I shopping for Mother’s Day gifts. I had saved my allowance and wanted to get my mom something really special that year.  After rejecting the usual slippers, perfume, and flowers, I found what I thought was the perfect gift: a pair of earrings.

But these were no ordinary earrings.  They were teddy bears.  And not just teddy bears, but fuzzy teddy bears.  I knew my mom would just love them.  I eagerly waited as she unwrapped the floral paper and opened the small white box containing my gift.

I don’t know how she did it, but my mom acted as if it was the greatest gift she’d ever received.  She made a big fuss over them and how much she loved them.  She even took out the earrings she was wearing and put them in as we prepared to go to my grandma’s house to celebrate the day.  I felt proud of my decision.

Many years later I was not able to come home for Mother’s Day because I was studying for finals. So my parents met me halfway at a park for a quick lunch. It was a nice break from studying. As I walked to the picnic table I noticed those fuzzy little bears dangling from my mom’s earlobes.  

Now more than two decades later, one of the bears has gone missing. But the remaining earring still sits in mom’s jewelry box. I bought those earrings more than 30 years ago and it makes me feel good she still has one of them.

Find some great gifts for the woman in your life.