A Blog That Helps (Sometimes)

A few months ago, something cool happened. I was presenting to a room full of staff members at Coastal Carolina University about social media. When my presentation concluded, one of the employees in the room approached me. I did not recognize her, which made sense because she identified herself as a new employee.

In a very humble manner, she prefaced what she was going to say with “I don’t know if you will remember this, but…”

This particular CCU staffer had been on the job for a couple months. She had moved from a northern state to start fresh at a great university in a beautiful part of the country. But what made her specifically choose our little slice of paradise?

This person revealed to me that when she was deciding whether to move to Myrtle Beach, she did her due diligence researching the area. During this period, she stumbled upon Don’t Blink. She read a post I wrote in 2015 that gave my direct assessment on the pros and cons of living here. My frank opinion on Myrtle Beach life caused her to comment on my post. From there, I answered some of her specific questions via email.

It is not uncommon for me to correspond with readers via email. It also is not uncommon for readers to try a pizza place or watch a television show because I recommend it. But what is slightly uncommon (or so I think) is for a reader to use my blog as an influential source for making a lifechanging decision.

This staff member willingly approached me to say my blog played a part in her moving to our area and applying for employment at Coastal Carolina. She thanked me for providing counsel over email. I did in fact remember our electronic discussion, but I underestimated the power it would have.

To stand face-to-face with someone who started out as one of my “faceless” readers in a far off state only to become a fellow staff member in the same conference room as myself was pretty rad.

I write Don’t Blink mainly for selfish reasons – I have an obsession with keeping a written record of my experiences and I strive to keep my personal brand fresh – but I do hope that the time I put into a project such as this can help and/or benefit others. To know that I hit the mark in the latter objective is rewarding.

All of my traffic to Don’t Blink is 100% organic. However, writing over 1,400 posts over the course of several years will give you a large reach without ever having to spend a cent on SEO. True, the vast majority of my readers will never make crucial decisions based off of my wacky top five lists or Lay’s potato chip reviews. But if my posts can positively influence a small number of people out there who I would otherwise never encounter, I would call that a success. Don’t Blink.

Soup Du Jour Thursday Rundown

Good evening to all! It is that time of the week for my latest Thursday Rundown. No small talk today, let’s get right to it…

Empty Bowls – Today I covered and enjoyed a cool event at Coastal Carolina University. Each year, our Department of Visual Arts puts on a fundraiser called Empty Bowls. Ceramic bowls are handmade and glazed by faculty and students. The bowls are presented on a table in the Edwards Courtyard and attendees can purchase whatever one appeals to them (average cost per bowl is around $5). Once a bowl is purchased, individuals can take it to another table that is covered with crockpots filled with soup. You can enjoy as many refills as you want! I bought my own bowl and filled it with butternut squash soup. All proceeds benefited local homeless charities.

I attended the Empty Bowls event at Coastal Carolina University this morning. I sampled the butternut squash soup.

Pope Francis Tweet – If you only follow one person on Twitter, make sure it is Pope Francis (@Pontifex). He tweets out the most humble and relevant guidance every day. His latest tweet was an excellent reminder to us all, especially me! Many of us make plans to attend church every weekend but once we leave the pew, we neglect to apply the gospel message at all times. As Lent approaches, I want to do better at being the servant that God calls us all to be.

Do yourself a favor and follow Pope Francis (@Pontifex) on Twitter.

Blinded Him With Science – Sidney is an incredible aunt! For Christmas, we gave our nephew a couple of educational science kits. One was a volcano assembly activity and the other was an experiment guide. On Monday, I watched as Sid helped Harrison build his volcano and then aided him with the classic “CO2 balloon on a bottle” demonstration. With his custom-made lab coat on, Sidney not only helped Harrison execute the experiment but she also used her teaching skills to help him (and me) learn something. She clearly explained to him that the vinegar and baking soda combined to create a chemical reaction that produced a gas that was capable of inflating the balloon. It was cool to watch.

It was a holiday but Sidney didn’t take the day off from teaching. She helped Harrison with a science experiment and explained the results to him.

Sloan at 44 Weeks – If you read my blog last night, you know Sloan turned 10 months on Wednesday. Tomorrow she will turn 44 weeks (or 308 days). The biggest accomplishment from this week was when she clearly said MAMA. It was so incredibly cute. She is also waving “bye bye” constantly. We took her to a church dinner on Monday evening and the people at our table couldn’t get enough of her. She attended a birthday party for one of her “friends” on Saturday and behaved admirably, allowing Stevie Blair to have the spotlight.

Sloan will turn 44 weeks tomorrow.

Curious Food Choices – On Friday night, I splurged at Dollar General by purchasing a couple treats I had never tried or heard of before. I bought an Oreo chocolate candy bar and a pint of Hostess Sno-balls ice cream. The candy was decent but the ice cream was a little sketchy. Besides the fact that a frozen dessert made with a Hostess product is a little weird to begin with, it didn’t help that it was two months out of date. Yes, I ate some of it before realizing that it was expired.

I would recommend the Oreo candy bar but not the Hostess Sno-Balls ice cream.

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Have a great rest of your Thursday evening, everyone, I will catch up with all of you again soon. Thanks for your loyalty! Don’t Blink.

The 10 Fears of Sloan

Sloan became a 10-month-old today. Where has the time gone? To mark this latest milestone, I wanted to list the 10 things Sloan is afraid of. But before I start revealing them, let me say this: For the most part, she is a fearless little baby…perhaps too fearless.

Sloan turned 10 months today.

However, despite all her guts, Sloan does have a fear factor just like us all. When our baby girl becomes afraid, she lets out a high pitched heartbreaking cry that clearly communicates “I am scared and I don’t like this!” When this happens, we can’t help but quickly console her and let her know that things will be okay. In no particular order, I present the fears of Sloan…

Santa Claus – When we brought Sloan to meet Santa, she did great for the first moment on his lap. But then she looked up at him and it was all over.

Sloan did not enjoy Santa (photo courtesy of Erin Dietrich).

Dogs – Sloan can tolerate smaller canines but she does not like bigger dogs. This past weekend we were visiting my sister-in-law and her boyfriend’s large dog scared the wits out of her. Sloan was okay if it kept its distance but once it got close she shrieked.

Hair Dryer – Sid thought Sloan would like the sensation of some air blown on her hand. She didn’t. Although she can point the hair dryer at Sloan without any reaction, the moment she turns it on is when Sloan becomes upset.

The Water (just the first time) – Sloan is a little fish! She loves baths and will wade in pools with us. However, the first time we took her “swimming” it didn’t go too well. We were at a friend’s house and were cautious to slowly introduce Sloan to the water. Sid gently navigated down the pool’s steps with Sloan in her arms. Just like with Santa she was composed at the start but became unglued when she realized her surroundings.

This was the first time Sloan ever entered the water. Shortly after this photo was taken she started to panic.

Vacuum Cleaner – Crawling across our hardwood floors is a favorite pastime of Sloan. She will go from one end to the other without even thinking. That is of course if Sid is not vacuuming. If it is the weekend and Sid is using the vacuum, Sloan won’t be happy. Even if my wife was several feet away, Sloan would get rattled if Sid made one small step toward her with the vacuum.

Strangers – Sidney calls it “stranger danger.” Sloan has reached the stage where she feels frightened in the arms of someone she doesn’t know. For some folks she will be stoic and for others she will break down.

Snow – We were so excited to introduce Sloan to the snow when we went to Spokane at the end of December. She didn’t share our excitement. We took Sloan out in my parents’ front yard for a sleigh ride and she was not amused. Our winter wonderland experience was filled with more tears than laughs.

The snow scared Sloan.

A Tiger Head – My nephew owns a Clemson blanket that has a Tiger stuffed animal head attached to it. He showed it to Sloan and she must have thought she was alone in the jungle and the beast was real.

Her Daddy’s Face – Just kidding! That would be so sad.

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Happy 10 months, Sloan! Mommy and daddy joke around about what scares you but we know you are the bravest little girl ever. Don’t Blink.

Movie Sequels

What do you think of movie sequels? Apparently, Kevin Costner doesn’t like them. In a recent interview, he expressed his belief that the writing often suffers when a follow up film is introduced. Because the screenplay is what attracts Costner to a movie, he has the tendency to pass on such projects.

Many of us don’t have such a specific reason for disliking sequels. Instead, we will resort to the general line of “the sequel is never better than the original” when discrediting a film that has a roman numeral after it. However, I try not to be so dismissive.

In my opinion, I think a sequel can oftentimes be better than its predecessor. If a movie is so good that it deserves a second (or third, fourth, etc.) part, then chances are that the new film is going to receive more resources to make it. That means a bigger budget. A bigger budget means better technology and better talent. It also means a larger contingent of writers or, in the case of Mr. Costner’s apprehension to participate in sequel projects, original writers who are even more motivated to produce a better screenplay because they are getting paid more.

But besides a fatter budget to make a movie, I enjoy sequels simply because they will always be more updated and modern than the original. This goes beyond the technology aspect I mentioned above. Movies that are made later more closely mirror the current reality we all live in. In other words, we can relate to them more. What’s not to like?

As long as a sequel is not rushed in production, I truly think it can be just as good or better than the original. I think many of us suffer from a psychological bias in that we have been told so much that the original is always better than the sequel that we blindly assume it to be true every time.

However, to be fair, I think there is another bias that makes us favor sequels. If we watch a sequel first and then watch the original, from my experiences, we are likely to declare that the second movie is better than the first. Just like with our tendency to give the original the nod over the sequel based simply on an old adage, this thinking also dismisses objective thinking.

Sequels have a place in cinema. However, I think they will always face an uphill battle from a critical standpoint. Now, should I end this blog post with a few sequels I think are better than their originals? Okay! In my opinion, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II (being serious here), The Birds II, Poltergeist 2, and Rocky II are all way better than thei first films. Do you have a favorite sequel? Let me know! Don’t Blink.

Diet Coke Shakes It Up

Judging by the time I have spent on this earth, I can count three sodas that people depend on. What do I mean by “depend” on? I mean drinks that people rely on multiple times per day for their liquid intake. They grab it in the morning, at lunch, before they go to sleep, and every possible time in between. When it comes to these soda addicts, two of the soft drink choices I have regularly seen people obsessed with are Dr. Pepper and Mt. Dew.

But there is another soft drink that trumps both DP and Dew in terms of people using it as their water. Unequivocally, there is no drink more popular than Diet Coke. I have met people who are rarely seen without a Diet Coke in their hand. I know individuals who will pour three cans into an oversized mug container and drink a few of them throughout the day. I can name folks who have enough Diet Coke stockpiled at their residences to last them what seems like a decade or two. The obsession is real.

It is because of this mania that I just figured the Coca-Cola Company would never need to expand its Diet Coke brand. Why tinker with a product that basically has a cult following of millions?

Needless to say, I am not being paid the big bucks to serve as a soft drink executive. Apparently, Coca-Cola believed it needed to “liven” up Diet Coke and they definitely made good on their intentions. Last week, the company introduced a line of Diet Coke fruit-flavored sodas. In addition to the original, you can now choose between flavors such as ginger lime, feisty cherry, and zesty blood orange.

Diet Coke is introducing new fruit flavored sodas.

And the new flavors won’t be differentiated simply by packaging regular Diet Coke cans with the signature script in a different color. These new flavors will come in tall slim cans with splashes of color covering the can. As one person said, they will be very “Instagrammable.”

So yes, I made it clear above that I didn’t think Diet Coke would or need to alter/expand its brand. But now that it has, I kind of like what it did. I was very critical of Coca-Cola’s decision to “change” the name of Coca-Cola Zero but I think this Diet Coke rollout makes a little more sense.

The company is unapologetically honest when explaining why it is introducing new Diet Coke flavors and it can be summed up in one word: millennials.

I get it. Targeting millennials these days is a very profitable business strategy. When done right, it can pay off with a significant return on investment. I think Coke is introducing a product that will appeal to this audience. Although I read one article in the Washington Post where the author said Coca-Cola is trying too hard to entice this coveted group, as a millennial myself, I kind of like the new Diet Coke launch.

For one, I do like a little fruit with my soda. I am a fan of the Coca-Cola freestyle machines and will typically add a shot of cherry or grape to my soft drink. I also think the fresh look is sleek and appealing. It just looks modern to me. In my mind, it reminds me exactly of the Red Bull expansion. Just like Diet Coke, Red Bull has a very distinctive brand and taste. The energy drink went out on a big limb when it offered fruit flavor twists on its signature taste. However, it yielded success. I think Diet Coke will experience similar results.

I have never figured out why Diet Coke tastes good to so many people so I won’t go out to the store to buy the new fruit flavors. However, I think this move has the chance to succeed. If you are one of my Diet Coke-loving readers, please let me know your thoughts. Don’t Blink.

Thursday Rundown Within A Thursday Rundown

All is right here in Myrtle Beach. After some chilly temperatures, even by my own standards, we are back to 70 degrees. We are also back to the Thursday Rundown! Let’s get started…

Convocation of Priests – On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to attend mass with a bunch of priests! The Diocese of Charleston held its 2018 Convocation of Priests retreat in Myrtle Beach. During the retreat, the group met for daily mass at St. Andrew. I attended the Tuesday service and had a nice time listening to Bishop Guglielmone and worshipping alongside every priest in the diocese. You will never attend a mass with more enthusiasm and crisp responses than one with 50 ordained disciples of God in the pews. Adding to a memorable night was reconnecting with Msgr. LeBlanc for the first time since he left St. Andrew about 10 months ago.

On Tuesday night, I attended mass at St. Andrew. It was in conjunction with the Convocation of Priests for the Diocese of Charleston. The priests sat up in the front section while parishioners sat in the middle and back sections.

The Lion King – Sidney and I spent our Saturday night watching “The Lion King.” It was a little ironic because we had talked about the movie just a couple days before. We had a nice time watching it for the first time in years. What stuck out to us was how old the animation looked but how beautiful and creative all the songs were. Did you know there is going to be a live action Lion King that comes out in 2019? Seth Rogen is going to play Pumbaa. Get ready!

A photo I took of my TV of one of the more well-known scenes of “The Lion King.”

A Thursday Rundown Within A Thursday Rundown – Five quick thoughts for you…(1) Congrats to Alabama on winning the national championship in thrilling overtime fashion, even if I didn’t make it to the fourth quarter. (2) We watched the 2018 premiere of “This Is Us” on Tuesday night – not the best episode and not the worst. That therapy scene though! (3) Sidney made her Cajun chicken pasta on Wednesday night, it is one of my favorite meals she makes. Trust me, look up the recipe! (4) One of Sidney’s New Year resolutions is to Tweet more. Make sure to follow her at @sidneyreser. (5) On Monday, students returned to Coastal Carolina for the spring semester and it has been great having them back on campus!

Sidney makes a Cajun chicken pasta that is to die for.

Sloan Update at 43 Weeks – Our daughter is doing just fine. She is reaching for us now and will cry if we walk away. It is imperative that we keep a close eye on her at all times because she can move from one end of the living room to the other in a flash. If Sloan knows that Sid is in the master bedroom, she will leave her spot in the living room and use her combination of regular crawling/army crawling to visit her mommy. Although she is not saying any words, she is very vocal! Her smile is as bright and frequent ever.

Here is Sloan’s photo collage at 43 weeks.

Throwback Thursday Baby Style – I snapped the photo on the left of Sloan and her cousin, Henry, at daycare this morning. Aren’t they cute?! Even though they are still babies, it made me think about when they were just newborns. Now they can sit up and eat ice cream! Time goes by so fast.

The photo on the left I took at daycare today. The photo on the right is from when they were newborns.

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Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Happy 1st birthday to Stevie Blair, the daughter of our friends. We can’t wait to celebrate on Saturday. Don’t Blink.

The Decline of the Anti-Trumpers

In the paper today, I read an interesting and honest article. Titled “The decline of anti-Trumpism,” it analyzed the way in which people who oppose President Donald Trump are increasingly dooming their own cause. Instead of critically explaining their arguments and offering alternatives to the policies of President Trump, they simply aim to express their hatred for the man while embracing whatever negative rumor they hear, regardless if it is completely false (such as Fire and Fury). The author of the article said anti-Trumpism is “getting dumber.”

With Anti-Trumpism on the decline, it looks like Donald Trump could once again get the last laugh.

Here is the thing – the author of the article is an anti-Trumper himself. However, he felt it was time for him to speak out against what he thinks is a troubling trend. He decided to use The New York Times to do so.

Although I don’t involve myself in politics, it has been hard to not observe what Mr. Brooks wrote about this morning. After President Trump was elected, it was a tough time for many in this country. Protests were held, steam was vented, and threats to leave the country were levied. I understood the frustration. But when Inauguration Day came around, I challenged my fellow Americans to give Trump a chance.

That never happened.

Not that President Trump did himself any favors. Instead of ignoring the mainstream media and those who never bothered to give him a fair shake, he decided to fight back. When it came to his critics, he brought the same attitude he had as a private citizen into the Oval Office. He has been nasty and rude to many, a trait that many find very unbecoming of the Office of the Presidency.

Of course, President Trump’s rhetoric has only fueled those who hate him. People have so much anger toward our Commander In Chief it is damaging their ability to actually offer critical arguments, Brooks observes. Perhaps that has been Trump’s game plan all along?

Anti-Trumpers, as hard as it might be, need to stop taking the bait. The old adage of “two wrongs don’t make a right” couldn’t ring more true. Brooks argues that at this point you almost can’t tell a difference between President Trump and those who oppose him.

Unfortunately, this stalemate favors Trump. Why? Think about it, President Trump could suddenly stop lashing out. If he did so, Trump’s accomplishments in office (and as much as it hurts many of us to admit, he has achieved a lot in his short time in office) would take center stage instead of his poor temperament. Where does that leave the anti-Trump movement? As angry and bitter as ever, just with much less leverage.

The anti-Trump movement needs to do an about face. People who despise Trump must stop pressing the retweet button on every extreme tweet they come across, cease chastising people who voted for him, and swallow the venom they spew every time they hear the name President Trump. The chance to be a clear and respectable alternative is slipping away. And we all know what that means…Trump wins, again. Don’t Blink.

Not Pumped About Tonight’s Game

Tonight is the College Football National Championship Game. If you are asking if I will be watching, the answer is yes. How couldn’t I watch the grand finale of the game I like the most? It isn’t even close, I enjoy nothing more than college football, it just doesn’t get any better. However, if you were to ask my thoughts on the 2018 matchup, you wouldn’t see me jumping up and down with enthusiasm.

I am not one of those people calling for a drastic overhaul of the current playoff system. I appreciate the step that was taken in the first place to create a playoff, even if it only includes four teams. Although no lawyer, I have a rudimentary understanding of contracts and I realize this current format will be here for several years. I plan to live with it.

So in no way am I blaming this evening’s Alabama vs. Georgia national championship tilt on anyone. Rather, I am just chalking it up to dumb luck.

Sorry not sorry, I think it is lame that two teams from the same conference are playing each other to determine the college football national champion. Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking anything away from the SEC. I think it speaks volumes about the conference that two schools ended up making it to the title game. But for the average fan, this sucks.

In my mind, championship games, especially at the college level, are just better when they feature teams with contrasting styles of play from different geographic locales who don’t play one another in the regular season. The element of the unknown is part of the intrigue.

I hope we are all treated to a hard fought, close game this evening. In the end, I guess that is all we can ask for. But we would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t admit that this season’s championship game has lost some of its luster.

Oh, and by the way, I am rooting for Alabama. Don’t Blink.

Start the New Year Tomorrow

We are already a week into 2018 but to be honest, it seems like I never had adequate time to welcome in the new year. At the beginning of each year, I always take the first day to start things out right and fulfill a few traditions. Then, the next day, it all about returning to work and starting a routine.

Was your first week of 2018 a success?

However, that didn’t happen last week. A snow storm disrupted the start of 2018, wiping out Sid’s entire school week, shutting down Sloan’s daycare, and closing campus at the university I work at for 2.5 days. This unexpected time off created a type of purgatory between 2017 and 2018. The holiday season was over but the feel of a fresh start was absent. It was kind of weird.

Forgive me for overreaching my bounds, but as far as I am concerned, my new year starts tomorrow. Sid’s school will welcome students for the first time in 2018, Sloan’s daycare will finally open its doors again, and the spring semester will start at Coastal. The normalcy of a routine will set in and the opportunity to make positive new year changes will be available to us all.

I bring this up to illustrate a point. Perhaps the first week of your new year didn’t get derailed by weather. Perhaps everything went as scheduled and Mother Nature neglected to close down your town. But, despite favorable conditions, maybe you already faltered with your New Year’s resolutions or neglected to set any at all. What to do?

Start fresh tomorrow! You still have 51 weeks left in the year. The first week of the new year is hard enough to begin with a bang. The holiday hangover is real, it is tough to automatically flip the switch, and for those starting a fitness goal the regulars at the gym can be especially cruel to newcomers. Perhaps the week of “purgatory” I mentioned above can be a good thing for all of us.

I am a big proponent of New Year’s resolutions. Why? Because they are goals. To be productive human beings, we all need goals in our lives. They help better ourselves while also giving us hope and something to strive for.

No matter if it was impacted by a weather event or not, the first week of 2018 is gone and there is nothing we can do about it. However, what we can do is make the next 358 days of the year the best we possibly can. For those of us who didn’t crush the start of 2018 on January 1, start tomorrow. Don’t Blink.

First Thursday Rundown of 2018

After a couple weeks off from writing the Thursday Rundown, it feels good to work on the first one of 2018. It might be a new year but the premise of the Rundown is still the same…five random topics. Here we go…

Update On Snow – Yesterday, I wrote about the snow storm that was supposed to hit Myrtle Beach but never did. Well, overnight we did get some snow. Yep, what you see below is what we woke up to. But we did get a lot of ice and surrounding towns did get actual snow. Thankfully, roads were perfectly safe and clear in the Myrtle Beach area by 11 a.m. this morning. As a precaution, Horry County Schools will remain closed tomorrow so Sid will have another day off. At CCU, our day will be delayed with work starting at 11 a.m.

This is the extent of the snow we received in our Myrtle Beach yard.

Fun With Geofilters – When Snapchat first debuted custom geofilters, it was a long and sometimes expensive process to get them approved. Not anymore. The submission process is a breeze and approval comes within minutes. The price tag is even better. During the holidays, I was able to activate these custom geofilters for 24 hours at only $5 each. My family loved them and they were very well used. If you have a party, birthday, or milestone coming up for a loved one, I recommend creating a geofilter to celebrate it.

Custom Geofilters are easy, fun, and impactful.

Best Nine – A certain website uses Instagram to create a piece of content called Best Nine. The site will look at an Instagram account and determine the nine photos that received the most likes from a given year and place them in a collage. In the past, I haven’t been too happy with the output for my Best Nine. Just because they are your most popular photos doesn’t necessarily mean they are your favorite. Well, I was pretty satisfied with this year’s edition. My followers seemed to especially enjoy the photos I posted of my two favorite girls. Below is my 2017 Best Nine.

This is my Instagram Best Nine of 2017.

Sloan at 42 Weeks – As 2018 has now arrived, when someone asks me when Sloan was born, I can now reply with “last year.” In fact, I can also reply with “last year” when someone asks me when Sloan started to crawl. That’s right, Sloan legitimately crawled for the first time on Dec. 29 in Spokane right in the middle of my parents’ living room, the exact same place she rolled over for the first time last July. She loves her new Christmas toys but still enjoys playing with baby wipe packages, outlet cords, and iPhones. Her hair has curled in the back and she seems to be growing each day. We believe that 2018 is going to be a banner year for her.

This is Sloan’s photo collage at 42 weeks.

Life’s Little Instructions Back Again – For those who follow me on Instagram, you know my trademark is posting Life’s Little Instructions each day. For six years I have done this to brighten the day of my followers when they wake up in the morning. Well, your daily piece of lighthearted advice is back in 2018. If you wish to receive some extra motivation each day, make sure to follow me on Instagram (@brentreser).

Me holding the 2018 Life’s Little Instructions calendar. To see the daily instructions, follow me on Instagram at @brentreser.

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The first of many Thursday Rundowns of 2018 is in the books. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great rest of your day. Don’t Blink.