Pumpkin Pie Thursday Rundown

We have reached Friday Eve once again and we all know what that means. Let’s get things started with the Thursday Rundown…

Trick-Or-Treat Chart – I was smiling from ear-to-ear when Sidney showed me this “How Kids Judge Halloween Candy” graphic. Although I have written about Halloween candy before, this is much more comprehensive. Sid came across it on the Facebook wall of a friend and sent it to our Reser Pride 8.0 family text message group so everyone could enjoy. We dubbed my mom “The Trusty Provider” with a pinch of “Cheapy McCheapface” mixed in. How does that work out? Because my parents get hundreds of trick-or-treaters every Oct. 31, they usually run out of the Skittles and Baby Ruths by the end of the night. To last them the final hour, they usually have to retrieve the Double Bubble bucket in the basement reserved for my dad to chew on when refereeing football games.

This chart is golden.

Costco Pumpkin Pie Facts – I bit on the clickbait last night and followed the link to the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Costco’s Pumpkin Pie. As someone who loves pumpkin pie and is fascinated by Costco, I couldn’t resist. The facts are pretty interesting as they reveal the type of pumpkins used, where the seeds go, and the origin of the recipe. It is worth a read. Coincidentally, a year ago on this date I counted down my top five pumpkin-inspired foods.

The Costco pumpkin pie is a classic.

Sloan the Firefighter – Sloan’s daycare, Oxford Children’s Academy, is incredible. The latest activity the center hosted was a meet and greet with Horry County firefighters. The department sent more than just its people – a big fire truck pulled up in the parking lot as well. The teachers said the toddlers really enjoyed looking at the vehicle out the window but got a little anxious once they stepped outside. When the siren sounded and the lights flashed, Sloan was pretty alarmed. But she eventually calmed down and admired the fire fighting machine in front of her. Best of all, each child was given a hat to bring home. Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday.

Sloan wearing the fire fighter hat she was given at daycare yesterday.

Chauncey’s New Ride – I have mentioned on a few occasions that a role I played at the University of Montana was mascot coordinator. Not only did I star in videos with Monte, but I organized all of his entrances into Washington-Grizzly Stadium as well. There was always pressure to come up with new and daring ways for him to make his grand appearance. I wish he had what Chauncey recently received. Our CCU mascot now has his own “Surf Turf” vehicle to get around Brooks Stadium. Efficient and eye-catching, I hope he gives me a spin in it one of these days.

Chauncey’s new “Surf Turf” vehicle is pretty cool.

Hey, Watch This – I usually don’t share pieces from news magazines on this blog, but I have to make an exception for what I saw on Sunday night. 60 Minutes caught up with National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore. His job is to go around the world and take photos of the rarest animals on the planet. He says he tries to capture the emotion of each animal just as if he was photographing the senior portraits of a human. His talent will take your breath away and the dangerous situations he has found himself in will make you jump. His photos are out of this world and his subjects are as eclectic as they come. I recommend watching it.

An image that Joel Sartore took of a rare gibbon.

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Kind of an interesting Thursday Rundown, right? Well, at least I hope. Enjoy your evening and I will catch up soon. Don’t Blink.

My Favorite Pasta

I love pasta. My mom, a full-blooded Italian from a very Italian family, made plenty of it for our family growing up. She used the best (and most secret) recipes from my grandpa’s Italian restaurant to make some really delicious dishes. Needless to say, I ate good as a kid and always got plenty of carbs.

I love eating heavy, meaty, saucy Italian pasta. But I also like something much lighter.

I have never met a pasta dish I didn’t like – no matter the noodle, the sauce, or the meat – I eat it all. I salivate over classic dishes such as lasagna or manicotti. I enjoy all sauces, whether it be alfredo, pesto, vodka, marinara, or whatever other Italian concoction is available. I think topping a dish with meatballs, grilled chicken, or Italian sausage is a great way to consume protein and go home with a full belly.

So don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy rich, heavy pasta dishes. But believe it or not, my all-time favorite pasta dish is on the lighter side.

When I tell Sidney that I could eat buttered noodles for a month straight, I am not kidding.

What are buttered noodles you ask? Besides the addition of salt, the name pretty much tells it all. It is by far the most basic and easy pasta dish (well, except maybe for Easy Mac) you will ever make. All you do is boil noodles and add butter and salt. It is simple but good.

Buttered noodles that Sid made for me (with some toast on the side).

My mom made me buttered noodles my entire childhood. There would be summers that I would eat them for lunch every day. When I would get home from playing my high school football games, I would request buttered noodles for my postgame meal. The light, buttery meal would always warm my soul and fill me up.

I don’t think you are ever too old to eat buttered noodles. Sidney makes them for me all the time. Also, luckily for me since I like them so much, I can prepare buttered noodles for myself since it is such an easy dish to make. I will every now and then prepare a pound of buttered noodles for dinner and then have leftovers the rest of the week for lunch. During the season of Lent, buttered noodles make the perfect Friday meal.

Sidney made this batch of buttered noodles too. Look at that garlic bread though!

Sidney has evolved my plain Jane buttered noodles recipe a bit. She will mix in garlic and parmesan cheese, adding a little more taste to the final product. Sometimes we will add a couple pinches of pepper too. By the way, Sloan definitely is her daddy’s child – she loves buttered noodles!

Sometimes simplicity wins out. Don’t get me wrong, chicken alfredo is one of my favorites, but angel hair pasta tossed in butter never fails. Happy National Pasta Day. Don’t Blink.

Celebrating International Dessert Day…1 Day Late

Yesterday, everything aligned perfectly as I was surrounded by a ridiculous amount of desserts. Thanks to a late night ice cream run, a birthday celebration, and a nice gesture by my student intern, I had a beaucoup of sweet treats in my kitchen.

The only problem? Yesterday was October 15. International Dessert Day was on October 14.

Although I would have found myself unnecessarily excited if the sugar explosion occurred on International Dessert Day, it still didn’t take away from the impressive display. Not to make anyone jealous, but I wanted to present to you the options I had to choose from at around 9 p.m. last night.

As you will soon learn, a joint birthday party that was held on Sunday helped add to the impressive display of desserts at our house.

German Chocolate Cake – On Sunday night, Sid’s family had a birthday celebration in honor of my sister-in-law (October 5) and myself (October 8). This handsome, homemade German chocolate cake was made by my mother-in-law for the party. Of course I ate a piece of it that evening and it was delicious.

This German chocolate cake was homemade and delicious.

Coconut Cake – The Mathis family does it big! We didn’t just have one cake at the birthday celebration, we had TWO. Complimenting the German chocolate cake was this coconut cake. Doesn’t it look tasty? This 7” dessert was so enticing that I just didn’t eat the piece of chocolate cake on Sunday night, I ate a piece of the coconut one as well! You want to know how good it was? My wife, who hates coconut, indulged in a big piece of this particular cake and loved every bite.

The coconut cake was so good that even Sid had a piece.

Plate of Brownies – My student intern, Katie, surprised me with a belated birthday gift yesterday. When she walked into the office she gave me a plate of homemade brownies, remarking, “You should have told me it was your birthday.” They made my office smell good all day long and I made sure to share with my co-workers. I still had plenty to bring home at the end fo the day.

Thank you, Katie, for these delicious brownies.

Sonic Blast – After I worked the Coastal football game on Saturday night, I decided to bring home a late night treat for Sidney and I. Stopping at Sonic on the drive back to the house, I ordered two medium chocolate chip cookie dough Sonic Blasts. Holy cow, you mean to tell me that what you see below is a medium?! We watched TV and enjoyed our Blasts. I ate half of mine and threw it into the freezer, thinking I would eat it on Sunday (forgetting for a split second that the birthday celebration was taking place that evening).

Sonic makes really good ice cream!

Great Value Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – It is a surprising fact that the Great Value chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is the best of its kind on the market. Thus, it is necessary that Sid and I always have a carton avaialble at our house (along with a box of cones). You can never go wrong with a scoop or two at the end of the night.

This is the best chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream you will find.

So, what did I end up choosing as my Monday night dessert?…

What an impressive lineup of desserts!

None of them, I have a dentist appointment this week!

Well, of course that is a lie (not the dentist appointment part). I definitely didn’t hold off as I selected the Sonic Blast. I love Sonic ice cream and I knew if I didn’t finish it off, it would get way too freezer burnt. I put it in the microwave for 20 seconds and it tasted just as good as it did over the weekend.

I think I made the right choice going with the Sonic Blast.

Did I make the right choice? Let me know! Hope you have a good night and if you are looking for some dessert, you know the house to go to! Don’t Blink.

Halloween Costumes For Days

This weekend, our family found ourselves at Target looking for a Halloween costume. We ended up finding something that fit Sloan perfectly. Well, when I say “fit” I mean personality wise – we had to take the actual costume back the next day because we needed a bigger size. But I digress (and no, we aren’t going to reveal what she is going to be just yet)…

As we were perusing the store, I ran into a co-worker. I showed her the costume and she remarked that the key to getting the most out of these annual purchases is to wear them year-round. I couldn’t agree more.

The co-worker explained that her young son found ways and excuses to wear old Halloween costumes during non-October dates. While she was saying this, Sid was nudging me in the side. My wife related to what our friend was saying, noting that her nerdy husband (based on old photos and what her mother-in-law told her) wore Halloween costumes way out of season as well.

I couldn’t dispute what Sid revealed. I didn’t just wear my old personal Halloween costumes during Christmas time or the dog days of summer, I also raided the costume closets of my friends as well. I loved dressing up in wacky ensembles for no reason at all, it was a defining characteristic of my childhood. Good thing I grew out of it…

Of course that is a lie.

Dressing up in costumes on random days didn’t stop after I turned 10. In fact, it ran well into my high school days. I had an alien costume that I would don, much to the enjoyment of my friends, up until I left the house to attend college. Not that going to an institution of higher learning made me mature; I still took the opportunity to put on ridiculous outfits during the offseason. I guess it goes without saying that the habit lasted well into adulthood, evidenced by my holiday message tradition that would require me to dress in outlandish costumes. But, with the ending of my holiday messages, I have started to act a little more my age.

For over a decade, I staged over the top photos to accompany holiday text messages. My Christmas Eve photos were always a little wacky.

Oh my, what did I do here?

I was not trying to discourage you from allowing your children to play dress up. I know the last thing you want is for your kid to turn into an adult with an inclination to wear old Halloween costumes and embarrass himself. But in reality, I just wanted to get you the most bang for your buck. Purchasing an elaborate Power Rangers costume might seem a little unnecessary for just one night but if your child can get hours and days of post-Halloween entertainment out of it, perhaps the investment is a sound one.

Happy Halloween costume hunting! Any guesses on Sloan’s costume? Don’t Blink.

More Bang For Your Buck Thursday Rundown

Good evening to my loyal readers. Thank you to those who reached out this week to wish me a happy birthday, you are all too kind. Let’s get started with the Thursday Rundown.

Five Great Birthdays – I shared this image on Instagram (@brentreser) but I feel it is blog-worthy as well. This collage contains a photo of each birthday I have celebrated with Sidney over the years. I have made it a point to snap a picture each birthday to not only show our progression through time but to also illustrate what an incredible baker Sid is!

This collage shows the photos from my five birthdays that we have spent together. The upper left hand image was taken on Monday night.

Hurricane Michael – I am so saddened by the unbelievable destruction in Florida caused by Hurricane Michael. It is sobering to try to comprehend the complete annihilation of communities. Not that it matters, but as a byproduct of Michael, we experienced tropical force winds in our area today. The gusts were so strong that Horry County Schools once again had to cancel classes. Just hours before the decision to shut the schools down was made, the revised academic calendar with makeup dates was released. Undoubtedly, there will soon be a new revision coming out. Not that Sidney wanted another day off, but she enjoyed the one-on-one time she had with Sloan in the morning and afternoon. Please pray for everyone in Florida.

Group Presentation – As you may know, I present to different groups quite frequently on various social media topics. Most of the time, I do these presentations solo. That changed yesterday when I had the pleasure of presenting with colleagues at a conference for the South Carolina and North Carolina Chapters of the National School Public Relations Association (SC/NSPRA and NC/SPRA). Made up of public information officers from school districts across the Carolinas, the chapters asked CCU to present on how we use video to tell our University’s story. It was a compliment that these professionals recognized the great work we are doing and it was a distinct pleasure to present with my co-workers and superiors. Our digital journalist, external communication coordinator, and our two University Communication vice presidents all shared the stage with me. I presented specifically on how we leverage video on social media.

Piecing together a group presentation was a great lesson in teamwork and our efforts paid off. The public information officers had plenty of praise and questions for us after we concluded our session.

This tweet from the SCNSPRA Twitter account captured me answering a question.

Cat and a Snake – Driving home the other night, I couldn’t help but stop in the middle of our street to watch a cat harassing a snake. Sid pleaded with me to keep driving to our house but for me it was one of those things you couldn’t turn away from. It must really be Halloween season!

A photo of the cat playing with the snake on Tuesday night. The things that amuse me!

Thursday Rundown in a Thursday Rundown –
Five quick bonus items…
– Sidney and I attended Taste of the Town on Tuesday night. It was once again a wonderful evening of delicious food and socializing. I always feel such pride in our St. Andrew community for putting on such a large and successful fundraiser.
– While I specifically asked for my Ancestry kit, I was given the perfect surprise birthday gift from my wife. Sid gave me a hammock! I mentioned to her several months ago that I always wanted a hammock but I didn’t know she was taking notes. With a big back yard with plenty of trees, this gift is going to work out great!
– We still don’t know what Sloan is going to be for Halloween but we will entertain any ideas that you might have. Speaking of Halloween, our neighborhood has some houses that are totally decked out for the holiday (much more intense than the previous neighborhood we lived in). Can’t wait to show some of them off.
Four years ago on this date, I watched a Clemson vs. Louisville football game from the sidelines of Memorial Stadium. My friend Kenny, who happens to be the nephew of Bobby Petrino, scored Sidney and I the passes. We had such a good time.
– I once again made it a point to personally respond to all of my Facebook birthday wishes. I have done this for a long time and I have actually explained in depth why I do it.

Sidney and I at the 2018 Taste of the Town. Once again, the St. Andrew community put on a great event.

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Florida. Florida. Florida. Let us continue to think about those people and pray for them. Don’t Blink.

My Birthday Gift

Usually, I frustrate my loved ones who want to shop for me. When my birthday rolls around or Christmas is approaching, I usually just shrug my shoulders when someone asks “What do you want?” However, this past birthday was different.

Months before October arrived, I had something in mind that I wanted for my birthday. Not since I was a kid had I found myself so excited about a potential gift. My giddiness for this certain present was so great that I spilled the beans this past summer.

I wanted a DNA kit.

This Ancestry kit came to my house last week.

Fascinated by how specific the results can be, I made it known that I wanted to find out the DNA makeup of my 32-year-old body. After researching reviews for both Ancestry and 23andMe, I decided upon the former.

The kit was a perfect present for my parents to get me. Because the tests are so easy to order from anywhere on the planet, the distance between us posed no issues with either locating the gift or shipping it.

A couple days prior to my birthday the kit arrived in the mail. The next day I provided the saliva sample, packaged it up (materials provided), and put it back in the mailbox. Now the hard part: the wait.

Now I have to wait. At least Ancestry.com keeps you updated on your status.

Ancestry estimates that results will take 6-8 weeks. I have my own internal clock counting down to late November. I hate waiting but I think the information will be well worth the wait. Today I received a text message notifying me that the Ancestry plant received my sample.

I go this text today notifying me that my DNA was received.

My mom is full Italian. My dad, however, calls himself a “traveling man” which means he has a lot of different blood in him. I want to put all the pieces together and find out exactly what I am. This information will be helpful in telling Sloan’s story as well. Also, if I am connected with some long lost relatives in the process, even better!

I will be excited to link back to this post in about 50 days. I plan to share some of the basic details of my DNA test right here on my blog. Until then, we will keep guessing on what I exactly am. Don’t Blink.

Here’s to 32

Oh my, these birthday blog posts are starting to get boring. Although I used to fret about turning older, my tune changed two years ago when I turned 30. I think my negative obsession with my advancing age stemmed from comparing myself to societal benchmarks that are thrust upon us. However, when I looked around me 730 days ago, I liked what I saw.

My outlook is the same today. I am content – no wait, let me rephrase that – I am blessed to have what I do at 32 years of age. How can anyone want more than a beautiful wife, precious daughter, great job, fulfilling church, strong faith, and a comfortable home?

An oversized card that Sloan (with a little help from mommy) made for me. It was waiting when I walked inside the house this evening after work.

Seeing another candle on the birthday cake doesn’t make me want to jump up and down with glee, but it doesn’t send me into a fit of depression either. Although we can’t slow down time, we can embrace the fact that God has given it to us in the first place.

To be honest, I don’t know what else to say. I think I am going to have to take a different angle on my birthday blog post next year because these perspective pieces are getting redundant. However, I can only deliver the truth.

Sid and I with the candy bar cake earlier this evening.

What a great birthday it has been. It is amazing how quickly the work day goes by when you have texts, calls, and social media messages transforming a regular Monday into something much more festive. Even better, tonight’s celebration was perfect. Sidney made me lasagna and a candy bar birthday cake. My in-laws attended the dinner and Sloan was beyond sweet the entire evening (a departure from her recent naughty streak). My family on the West Coast made me feel especially loved with Facetime calls and cards. As we wrap up and get ready to watch “Manifest,” I swear I am the happiest 32-year-old dude on the planet.

My birthday lasagna that Sid made me.

Can’t wait to see what this latest trip around the sun has to offer. I am not a fortune teller, but I have a feeling it is once again going to be pretty special. Don’t Blink.

Sophisticated Thursday Rundown

As I mentioned last week, September was tough in our area. Although many Carolinians continue to face hardships, I know a lot of people are happy that we have turned the page on a new month. Personally, I love October! Here we go with the Thursday Rundown…

National Taco Day – Next up in the line of ridiculous “National Day of _______” celebrations? Tacos! To be honest, I prefer a burrito, enchilada, tamale, chimichanga, or basically any other Mexican food item over a taco. Although I love Taco Bell, I don’t order the fast food joint’s signature item when I go there. So you will never see me write a blog post about my top 10 favorite tacos. With that said, if you wanted me to identify my only favorite type of taco, that is easy – the homemade ones we make at home! We have taco night about once a month at our house and I am more than happy to scarf those down. Happy National Taco Day!

Sidney eating a taco.

Massive Flooding – Our neighborhood was spared of major flooding. However, that wasn’t the case three years ago. On October 4, 2015, Sidney and I waded through the knee-deep flooded streets of Bellegrove. At the time, I had no idea that water levels could get that high on regular neighborhood streets. Thankfully the house never flooded and we didn’t get sick exploring the dirty water. Here is a YouTube video I made of the spectacle.

The flooding that the Bellegrove neighborhood received was insane.

Informed Delivery – I recently signed up for a great feature that the U.S. Postal Service started offering this year. Called Informed Delivery, each morning I receive an email from USPS showing me the letters (and bills) that will (or should) be in my mailbox when I get home in the evening. Every piece of mail is photo scanned and inserted into the email, giving me a complete visual on what I can expect. Although it does take away the element of surprise when I open my mailbox, the security it gives is worth it. If a piece of mail that I viewed in my Informed Delivery email isn’t in my box, I know I have been a victim of theft. I can then receive assistance immediately. The service is FREE so make sure to sign up!

Informed Delivery is a really convenient and free service.

Sophisticated Sloan – Thought I would slip in the below photo of Sloan. The latest funny thing about our daughter is that she has proven to be quite sophisticated. She likes to carry around her purse and keys. You see, she was so obsessed with our own keys that we gave her a ring of keys that we don’t use anymore. She will strut around the house with her accessories and encourage us to follow her by saying “Come on.”

Sloan with her purse and keys.

M&M Television – Sid and I are currently watching two new television shows with one-word titles both starting with the letter “M.” The first one is “Manifest,” the highly promoted series about a commercial plane that disappeared only to land five and a half years later. When the aircraft touched down and the passengers got off, no one had aged a day. The people on the plane felt as if it was just a normal flight and no time (except for the intended flight duration) had passed. How is that for a plot?! So far, just two episodes in, the intriguing premise is backed up with intriguing episodes. Watching the passengers re-adjust to everyday life is fascinating as they face both major and minor issues resulting from the time lapse. The series is only going to get better as questions start to be answered.

We are also two episodes through a series called “Maniac.” A Netflix exclusive starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, this one is probably more difficult to figure out than “Manifest.” All I know right now is that both actors are participants in a health study. I wish I could give you more info but I can’t. Reality is blurred and I am pretty confused…giving me even more of an incentive to watch!

“Manifest” and “Maniac” are both creative, interesting shows.

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Tonight, let’s pray for those battling terminal illnesses. May God provide these individuals with comfort and their families with acceptance. Don’t Blink.

Talking Social Media Customer Service

It is International Customer Service Week. At Coastal, we have an extremely innovative service excellence department called Feel the Teal. Each year, Feel the Teal marks this week with events, recognition opportunities, and training sessions.

For the second consecutive year, I was asked to speak to the campus community regarding social media customer service. It is always an honor to talk with my colleagues and our students about this topic so I always enthusiastically accept the invitation. Today, inside the training and development conference room, I delivered my “Social Media and Service Excellence” presentation.

Acting cool moments before my presentation started.

The speaking engagement couldn’t have come at a better time. Fresh off our Hurricane Florence/flooding response that saw social media activity to our main accounts skyrocket, I had numerous examples of customer service opportunities and challenges to share. As you can imagine, when a catastrophic storm is forecasted to impact your campus, you can count on plenty of students and parents who will need compassionate customer service during a difficult time.

Besides recapping our Hurricane Florence social media response, I also gave examples of bad social media customer service (hello Wendy’s) and stressed how social media service excellence is similar/different to other forms of customer service.

However, the crux of my presentation consisted of my “10 Ways to Provide Great Service Excellence on Social Media.” If you want all my tips, please contact me and I would be happy to send you my presentation. For the purpose of this blog post, I want to briefly share just three of them.

Always Respond – It is imperative to respond to every honest inquiry you receive on social media, especially those that are critical in nature. In a time of crisis or for those of us managing large digital audiences, this can be a tall task – but it is important. Audience members need to know that they can turn to their favorite social accounts for both answers and respect. Nothing makes a social media user feel more valued than when an organization/university/company responds to a question/comment, especially if the user already values the entity he is engaging with.

Have A Certain Mindset – I always stress that when you respond on behalf of your employer on social media, you must do so with a certain reality in mind. Respond knowing that anything you post can and will be screenshot for thousands, if not millions, of people to see. Any entity with any type of a social media following will have trolls looking for slip ups. Having a bad day and accidentally respond in a snarky or frustrated manner? Someone will take a screenshot. Guaranteed. It is imperative for social media professionals to put the pressure of possible public humiliation and job termination on themselves each time they respond. With this in mind, there is no way you can provide anything but immaculate customer service.

Know When to Continue a Conversation Elsewhere – Most of the time, if someone asks a question on a public thread, a simple response will prove adequate. However, sometimes an issue might need some hashing out. Although a back-and-forth conversation on a public Facebook post or tweet might showcase transparency and dialogue skills, I think it is in the best interest of the user if it is shifted to a direct message format. Specific details and personal information start to surface once conversations get more in depth. But you also might want to take a conversation to a private forum for another reason. It is sad, but any account with a large following will have users who will try to instigate and embarrass. Questions that can’t be answered or that are asked simply to make the account look bad are often posed. Don’t take the bait! Respond publically that you would like to continue the conversation via direct message and leave it up to the user to comply. If not, move on.

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Excellent customer service is imperative for any person who is running a brand social media account. Thanks to the typical grind of a higher ed social media professional, I have had my fair share of practice. However, I am still learning. Let me know your social media service excellence tips! Don’t Blink.

Be Tolerant, Be Respectful

There is no doubt that the current state of politics is toxic. It doesn’t matter what side you are on, it seems as if a dark, angry cloud of venom hangs over it all.

My point? None of us can claim that whatever party we happen to support is taking the moral high road. There are enough crybabies and instigators to go around.

I have brought up this reality before. So what’s different tonight?

I just want to stress tolerance.

As someone who tries to keep an open mind, I notice how social media users, whether it be a Facebook friend or a Twitter follower, chastise others for having a different opinion than them.

If someone supports a certain party or a certain candidate, it doesn’t make them a bad person. It doesn’t mean that a label needs to be thrust upon an individual. Whatever happened to respecting differences?

Have compassion and respect for those who are different than you. Even better, let your acceptance for the political views of others be underscored, either by a response or a lack of response, on social media.

We all need to do better. Don’t Blink.