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Bridget S. Smith

Radio Personality. Nonprofit Leader. College Instructor. Author.

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To Detroit, With Love Now Available for Nook!

It’s been six months since I published my first novel, To Detroit With Love on Amazon Kindle. In March, it was released in paperback. Now, it’s available for your Barnes & Noble Nook. And, because I love a good beach read just as much as the next gal, I’ve reduced the digital price to just 2.99 for the summer.

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Alexis Morgan thought she had everything wanted: A budding career as a college instructor, her own house in an up-and-coming Detroit suburb, and a close-knit group of friends. She wasn’t looking for love when she met former boy band front man, Craig Harris, her childhood crush. Yet, their flirtation evolves into a long-distance romance that is challenged by Alexis’s independence and hesitation to get involved with someone at the mercy of the paparazzi. Still pained by the dissolution of her only serious relationship, can she handle a love affair with a man she has to share with the public without losing herself in the process? To Detroit, With Love is a story about growth and trust in love set amongst the backdrop of a city is on the cusp of revival that’s echoed in Alexis’s hope and tenacity.

 

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Three Reasons I Still Make New Year’s Resolutions…

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I was out having drinks with a friend last night who explained, “I’ve never been into new year’s resolutions. I mean, you gotta make the changes you gotta make. You don’t need to wait until January to do that.”

I agree with her entirely. In fact, most of my adult life has revolved around the motto, If you don’t like something, change it. Still, each December 31st, I find myself making a new year’s resolution. While we each have our own unique influences, I think there are some pretty solid reasons for holding on to this cultural tradition.

  1. It’s often a time for reflection.

There’s nothing like spending the holidays with your family to make you re-evaluate your life. Are you where you thought you would be? Or, do you need to make some changes? Are you fabricating answers to keep your mom off your back? Or, are you fabricating answers because you don’t like the honest ones?

Last year I set a new year’s resolution to run a 5k in 2015. It didn’t happen. I’m okay with that. One obvious reason I didn’t reach that goal is because I don’t have any interest in running. I hate it. So, instead, I’ve decided to change my resolution. In 2016, my goal is to hit the gym at least 3x a week for 60 minutes. It’s a similar sentiment but this newly adopted goal allows me to do things that interest me other than running including Yoga, Zumba, and aerobics classes that better suit my interests.

  1. It provides an opportunity to try again.

There’s something pretty amazing about starting over. When we wipe the slate clean, we can take a fresh look at the situation and make the adjustments we need. What caused this goal to fail? Did we give ourselves enough time to complete the task? Did we bring in the right resources? When we get back up after a failure, it provides an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. Through learning, we grow as individuals.

It’s hard to articulate how many times in my adult life I’ve had to start over again. I’ve launched three careers all before the age of 35. I’ve had relationships leave me so broken it was hard to get out of bed in the morning. Still, knowing that I can start over each day, each year, provides some hope. Starting over and trying again has allowed me to build the life I have now. Starting over gave me the opportunity to find my own happiness.

  1. It provides a deadline.

As adults we say we want to do things, and then life happens. For example, you say you want to visit Europe, but the sticker shock makes you put it off again. Or, you say you want to take up a new hobby, but decide you will have more time next year. Without deadlines, it’s easy to put things off until tomorrow. Without deadlines tomorrow can become a year or even a decade. Putting a time stamp on something can lead you to make it happen.

I wrote my first novel in 2012. It’s now 2015. In January, I made the resolution to publish a novel this year. When I realized the novel I had originally wanted to publish still needed some work, I decided to publish a different one that I felt more confident in. I published To Detroit with Love on December 12, 2015.  Now with one book published, I hope to publish the next two in 2016.

Why I wrote a romance novel…

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Writing served as a form of therapy for me as a teenager. I wrote poems that today’s ’emo kids’ would be surprised at. But, it helped me to see the world in a different light. It gave me time to reflect and put things into perspective.

After that, writing became academic for me. I spent most of my twenties, and on into my thirties in college. I hold too many degrees that cause me to question my academic ambitions. I hold an Associates in Arts from Grand Rapids Community College. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Grand Valley State University. I hold a Master of Arts in Social Sciences from the University of Michigan- Flint. I also hold a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management from Argosy University. That’s too many degrees for one person.

But, it was during my first masters degree that I really found what interested me in writing. I’m always searching for ‘why’. Why are people racist? Why are they homophobic? Why do people choose to date online? Often questions lead to more questions instead of answers and writing provided a mechanism for me to explore them.

A question that I still struggle with is, why do women in romance novels sacrifice everything for love? Does love inherently make you a different person? Should you throw away your life for the man of your dreams?

Unfortunately, the answer I received in most books in the romance genre is, yes. In order to be in love, a woman should sacrifice everything for love. Love will make you a different person entirely. And, yes, you should throw away your life for the man of your dreams. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure the couple gets married within a month of meeting too.

I wasn’t satisfied with those answers, and that’s why I began writing romance novels. Let’s be honest here. Real love, is rarely easy. Love is messy. Two strong-willed people rarely agree on everything. Love takes commitment. Love takes communication. Love takes work.

My novels are lighthearted easy reads. I’ve spent enough time in academic writing that I’m over the heavy reads. Instead, I write books that I want to read. My heroines are strong and career minded. They also have a sense of humor. While a relationship can change someone, that change should come from within.

My first book, To Detroit, With Love is now available on Amazon for Kindle. (More formats will follow.) It’s the story of a young college instructor who is living a life that she carefully built for herself. She has no interest in falling in love and getting married. That is, until, her childhood crush walks back into her life.

Of course, I’m also not a serious person all the time. I love pop music and pop culture. I’ve had an obsession with boy bands since the 2nd grade. The male hero in the first novel is the former lead singer of a boy band. While he is not based on any particular person, Fans of New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys may notice some influence. I wanted to write a male romantic interest that, for once, was not a complete jerk.

At it’s core, To Detroit With Love is about falling in love without losing sight of who you are. Alexis learns to make some sacrifices, but she doesn’t give up who she is just because she fell in love. Instead, the couple works together to make their relationship work, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

To Detroit, With Love is available on Amazon.com for $3.99

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2015 in review…

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So, 2015 will go down in my history book as a really tough year. Instead of focusing on the negative, I’m going to focus on the positive. (These are not in any particular order.)

#1- We did a major remodel on our house adding a bathroom on the 2nd floor of our bungalow, and removing two walls to create a large open concept kitchen.

#2- We escaped from all the remodeling stress by going on a cruise to St. Maarten and St. Thomas.

#3- Serving as chapter president for the Central Woodward Junior Chamber (Jaycees) we took on some major challenges and ended the year at growth.

#4- We snuck away for long weekends in Savannah, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.

#5- New Kids on the Block Toured

#6- Two of our friends had destination weddings up north. We even found time to walk the Mackinaw Bridge on Labor Day.

#7- I chose to focus on my hobbies and interests more this year, and as a result, my first novel will be published December 2015. In October, I started with a new radio station 98.7 AMP radio in Detroit.

“Opportunity Detroit”

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I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been working long hours at both my nonprofit and radio jobs. I took a writing class early this fall and wrote some interesting pieces. This is just one of them. 

“Opportunity Detroit”

The scene is surprisingly underwhelming. I look around and see people going about their business, as if nothing had happened. Not even a strand of police tape or chalk outline remain. People are waiting at the bus stop at Woodward and Chicago, trying to get to work on time. No one would believe that just three hours earlier, someone had been murdered on this street corner.

Philipus Ockstadt arrived in Menominee Michigan from Hesse, Germany in 1881.  He came to the United States seeking opportunity in Northern Michigan’s mining country.  As with many recent arrivals, German was forbidden to be spoken outside the household.  Their customs were quickly replaced with American ones.  In 1891 he married Louisa Brohman, also of German decent.  Life wasn’t easy, but he managed to provide for his family.

In 2014, Detroit saw just 300 murders. That’s the fewest homicides the city has seen in 47 years. Still, Detroit is the third most violent city in America. As much as locals want to defend Detroit, it’s hard to argue against the facts. Embarrassed by the actions of a few, they try to downplay the violence that dictates the local media. My heart aches for the city of Detroit.

Among Philipus and Louisa’s seven children was Frank.   Frank grew up watching his father work in the mining industry.  He watched his father work long hours for little pay. Frank knew that he wanted a better life for his own family and moved to Detroit around 1930.  He and his wife Marie would raise six children on the City’s east side.

They call it the brain-drain. It’s when the most intelligent minds leave a country in search of better opportunities elsewhere. It’s the reason why you see so many foreign doctors in US Hospitals. When the great economic crisis of 2008 hit, Detroit began its own brain-drain. The best and brightest fled, leaving little left in their wake.

When the great depression hit, Frank did just about anything to survive in the city. He started working as a day laborer. Supporting his six children and his elderly in-laws, he did whatever work he could find.  His daughter recalls at times having little more than bread and lard for meals. Following FDR’s new deal, opportunity found Frank when he gained full-time work as a postal carrier.

Detroit has around 700,000 residents today. At its peak in the 1950’s there were around 1.86 million people living in the city. Every morning, just like this morning, I’m confronted with the shell of what it once was. I gawk at the homes in the Beautiful Boston-Edison District. I tell myself that, someday, I’ll buy one of these abandoned masterpieces and restore it to its former glory.

By the mid 1940’s, Frank was successfully caring for his large family. With their hearts set on an even better life, they left Detroit for the suburbs. Frank and Marie bought a house on West Troy Street in Ferndale. Frank worked hard so that his kids could attend a private Catholic School. In the years that followed The Great Depression, the Ockstadt’s had gone from renters to home owners.

The most iconic symbol for Detroit today is not the glass structure of the Renaissance Center.  No, the national news media does not like to paint this picture.  Instead, Detroit’s unofficial mascot is the old Michigan Central train station.  Its owner, billionaire Matty Moroune, has held onto the property for decades, refusing to make improvements.  A massive and beautiful façade, it’s empty.  Its haunting presence serves as a metaphor for the city.

Frank’s daughter Dolly graduated high school and took classes to become a secretary. Dolly loved being active and working in the city. Each morning she would walk to Woodward Avenue and take the street car in Detroit. Eventually she would meet a young man by the name of Charles Yodhes who lived on the other side of the rail road tracks. Charles came from the poorer neighborhood of Ferndale but eventually gained Dolly’s heart. But, that would be short lived. When Charles was drafted into the Korean War, stubbornly independent Dolly would return his ring to him.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was adopted in 1993.  Touted as economic opportunity for North America, it became the pallbearer for a city still recovering from the 1980’s recession. When the plants opened in Mexico and Canada, Detroit was abandoned.  Its industry gone, the city fell into a coma.

On July 11th, 1953 Frank and Marie’s daughter, Dolly, married Charles Yodhes at St. James Parish in Ferndale.  Charles and Dolly would eventually move back into that house on West Troy Street to care for her aging parents. Charles and Dolly went on to have 9 children and adopt their niece. Frank spent his retirement building a cottage outside Lapeer, helping care for his grandchildren, betting on horses, and taking risks in the stock market.

In 2015, the unemployment rate in the city of Detroit is about 10%.  It’s tough to find work when there aren’t any jobs. Of course, this is a stark contrast from the height of the city in the 1950’s and 1960’s where someone could drop out of high school, go to work in a factory, and support a family of four comfortably. Today, a large supermarket moving into the city quickly becomes a competition for the city’s best and brightest praying for minimum wage jobs.

Charles found work as a firefighter with the city of Ferndale. Not rich by any means, Charles found a way to provide for his family by working two jobs, helping at a nearby funeral home on his days off. In July of 1967, Charles responded to urgent requests from the nearby Detroit fire units. Charles was being called in to help put out the flames of the once great city as it burned to the ground. Charles would be shot at, trying to control the flames that erupted throughout the city. The race riots of 1967 would mark one of the last times he would step foot in the city.

Detroit is a city of slogans. T-Shirt stores pop up everywhere with sayings like “Say Nice Things About Detroit” and “Detroit vs. Everybody”. (My favorite among them, ‘Bitch Please, I’m From Detroit’.) National press loves to cover the failures of Detroit, its long abandoned buildings the backdrop for a popular genre of photography called ‘ruin porn’.

In 1979, Charles and Dolly would see their third eldest child married at St. James. Susanne, a teacher at a Catholic School in Detroit married an automotive worker from Livonia.  Keith, too, came from a modest background.  A factory worker with little more than a high school diploma, he would out earn Suzie for most of her career.  Seeking better opportunity for their future family, they moved to Three Rivers, Michigan.

Detroit has become a land of opportunity again, for some.  Mr. Gilbert gives his employees a bonus for living in the city.  With Detroit Public Schools abysmal graduation rate, with nearly 40 percent dropping out, Gilbert and others are looking outside the city limits.   The new economy of Detroit consists of tech jobs and mortgages.  A scarce few DPS graduates are prepared for these positions. There are windows going into the old train station now, but rumors say it’s only because the city threatened to seize the property if he didn’t.

I remember sitting in the kitchen of the West Troy House with my great-grandfather. Great-Grandpa Frank was always up early listening to the news on News Radio 950-AM WWJ. Frank lived to be 91 years old. He had the opportunity to meet not only his children, but also his grand-children.

The house on Warren Avenue that Frank bought, it’s now a gas station.  The neighborhood has lost its former glory.  When they tell you about the rebirth of Detroit, they like to leave out the story of the longtime city residents.  They ask the national media to visit Midtown and New Center.  They hide the family on the east side, living in the only occupied house on the block.  They don’t want you to know about the grandmother that was once Frank’s neighbor, who’s now too afraid to leave her house.

There’s little outrage over today’s murder. The city just carries on like it always does. People, eager to make a life of their own, push it to the side. They line up at the same bus stop. Praying the busses arrive on time.  Detroit has become desensitized to its own violence, a coping mechanism to navigate through the hollow streets.

In 2011, my fiancé and I bought a house on West Troy Street. It is walking distance from Frank’s Ockstadt’s house, where Dolly and Charles still live.  Kevin Botos and I were married on June 30th, 2012 at St. James Parish in Ferndale where my grandmother continues to work as a secretary.  Both children of factory workers, we sought a better life for ourselves and went to college.  Now with Masters Degrees following the great recession, with student loan payments greater than our mortgage, we’re struggling to get by.  My husband has been out of work for three months, and he’s running out of leads.

I’ll go home from work today and take a different side street through the Boston Edison to study a different street. On Saturday, I’ll go to work at CBS. I’ll pause outside the studio for WWJ Newsradio 950 and think of my great grandfather.  And, on Monday, I’ll interview at another radio station, in another state, just praying we can find our better future.

Paying your dues…

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I’ve spent my entire adult life paying my dues.  I’ve busted my butt to get by.  I’ve worked in radio markets so small, they aren’t rated.  I’ve commuted over an hour each way just to get my break.  When I finally landed a decent paying job (by radio standards), I was let go.  I got a master’s degree and walked away from my passion and started a new career.

I paid my dues again.  I worked three part time jobs for 4 years, just hoping that someone would offer me full time work.  I got another master’s degree.  I added on a fourth part time job.

A year later, the 4th job did hire me full time.  I was putting in 50+ hours a week, plus another part time job.  My program was understaffed and I felt that I was underpaid.  I was miserable. I gained 20 pounds.  Eventually I was promoted again, to a better job.  I am treated really well.  They like my work.  But I’m still not happy.  Then came a random conversation with a supervisor.

B- “I’m just bored, you know?”

J- “That tends to happen to you a lot, doesn’t it?”

B-“I guess that’s what happens when you aren’t doing what you really want to be doing.”

It was as if the words came out of my mouth before I had even comprehended them myself.  I think I’ve spent the last few years lying to myself.  I thought I could be happy doing something else.

The crazy thing is, I’m actually really talented.  It just took me a long time to realize it.  I’ve won awards for my teaching abilities.  I’ve also held the highest ratings in my weekend day-part in a major market.  I’ve even done morning drive in a major market, albeit as a fill-in.

At 25, I had a “quarter life crisis” as I called it.  I’m not sure what it’s called in your 30’s.  An awakening?  Either way, things have become pretty clear to me for the first time in a long time.

I’m done paying my dues.  It’s time to blaze a new path and put my talents to work. It’s time to find that place where I can work as hard as ever, to bring in the ratings that I know I can.  It’s time to find that piece of the American Pie that I’ve been working so hard for.  I’m done looking for a job that will lead to something better– it’s time to find that something better.

It’s time to start playing darts with a map of the United States again.

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Staying true to your ‘self’.

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I will go on record and say that the past year of my life has been the most challenging one of my professional career.  I was trying to run two programs and was chronically understaffed and overwhelmed.  I worked through my lunch every day and after hours every day.  I made it through the best that I could, but it ultimately took a toll on my sanity and health.  I wound up with a relapse of mono and a stomach ulcer.  I lost site of the things I truly enjoy and went into survival mode.

Still, I plugged along.  Being an adult means bills.  It also means living up to your responsibilities.  Working with children, I knew no matter how hard it was, I had to do the best that I could for them.  They drove me crazy half the time, but those kids were counting on me.  I plugged along and got through each week.  I made it to Christmas, then to Spring Break (onto a much needed Caribbean cruise), and eventually through the end of the school year.

I never lost site of the fact that I know my ‘self’.  Just getting the job done has never been part of me.  I need to be able to grow, to get better, to improve.  Knowing that my talents lied elsewhere, made it an especially trying time for me.  I was also brutally honest with myself and others about the work that I was doing.

And to the degree that the individual maintains a show before others that he himself does not believe, he can come to experience a special kind of alienation from self and a special kind of wariness of others.

I’m lucky, it worked out for me.  I was able to transition into a position as an Executive Assistant position recently. I have consistent hours and less emotional stress.  I help coordinate things and make sure events happen without a hitch.  For the first time in many years I feel like I’m honoring my professional background in radio and event planning, academia, and my graduate degrees.  It has also given me clarity to reflect on my life.

No matter which career path I follow, I’m still the same person.  I’m a performer.  Music speaks to my soul.  I’m analytical.  I’m creative.  I’m driven. I’m a staunch believer in equality and social justice.  I’m never satisfied with status quo.  Life is a journey and I have a lot of roads left to travel.  These are the same answers my fifteen year old self would have given.  I have a certain amount of pride in that.

While my goals have shifted, I’ve never lost sight of my dreams. Here’s to acknowledging your self and making changes in order to stay true. In the months that come, you’ll see a lot more writing from me.  You can also be fairly certain, you won’t be seeing me working with children.

The self… is not an organic thing that has a specific location, whose fundamental fate is to be born, to mature, to die; it is a dramatic effect arising diffusely from a scene that is presented.

Lunch it, Punch it Program

I love dining out.  Love it.  I should be more specific- I love dining out at locally owned restaurants.  I recently started a desk job that has me doing little activity during the day.  Add to that our location- just outside of Detroit’s Mexicantown in Deaborn.  Within 5 minutes we have amazing Mexican AND Middle-Eastern Food.  Its fresh.  Its sometimes healthy.  But it can be expensive. We also have an amazing Italian Restaurant that has such good bread, the office has dubbed it ‘crack bread’ because its impossible to eat just one piece.

I stumbled on this through Michigan’s healthy lifestyle initiative, a Healthier Michigan.  They have tips for creating a brown-bag lunch habit.

You can read the full article here.

The lunch it, punch it program is pretty simple- printable punch cards.  Think of it like a loyalty card.  After 10 punches, then you get lunch out.

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Here’s a link to a PDF version: http://lunchitpunchit.com/LIPIcards.pdf

Here’s more on the program: http://lunchitpunchit.com/cards/

Finally, a weight loss challenge I might be able to follow!

A blog and video for anyone who has struggled with weight loss

Its funny in a lot of ways just how many things I was told about my thirties have come true.

I do have a much stronger sense of self and understanding of my self identity.

My maternal instincts, absent for the duration of my twenties, have kicked in.  Children still terrify me, but for the first time I can see myself having them- in a few years.

I’ve learned the best financial practices and like most of my generation, regret some of the decisions I made in my twenties.

Finally- I’ve gained a better understanding of my weight problems and struggles to lose weight.  I started dieting later than most girls- around fifteen.  I was a cheerleader, and looking at those photos now, I would do almost anything to look like that again.  I was a size 12 but I was very active.  I rode my bike for miles every day in the summer.  I worked out with the cheerleaders.  I wasn’t a star athlete by any means- but I was healthy.

But then one day a mean boy that I had liked said to me, “Ever heard of slimfast?”.  And that was it.  I started dieting on and off for the next 17 years.  At one point poor habits combined with a morning drive radio job had my weight all the way up to 250 pounds.  That was combined with every diet known to man.  I did weight watchers but lived off their pre-packaged meals.  I actually gained weight- probably because all of the carbohydrates.  I did medical weight loss- and lost a lot of weight- only to gain it back again.

The only solution that seemed to work for me was rather simple in concept- watch what you eat, and exercise.  If I went out to lunch, I’d eat a salad for dinner.  If I knew I was going out the bar after work- I’d make sure I was light on the calories during the day.  I worked out almost every day.  When I moved on campus at school, I worked out after my air shift- because there was a gym on the ground floor.  When I took on my promotions job- that meant long hours I went to the gym on my lunch.

Then life happened.  I’ve struggled with the same 20 pounds for the last seven years now.  I go up- I go down.  Last year- convinced I needed to get thinner than I’ve ever been in my adult life I got help from my doctor.  This wonder drug- combined with diet and exercise, helped me lose nearly 30 pounds.  I did weight watchers, and found myself obsessed with food- and trying to control it.  And then I sprained my knee.  Then I stopped the pill.  Then after months of restriction from my doctor, I gave up working out.  Then I took in a foreign exchange student who’s favorite meal is pizza and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  It started out as little indulgences here and there. It was no big deal- because after-all I was going to  start a diet the next week.  Then I started a new job and was trying to balance working 4 part-time jobs on top of caring for an exchange student.  When I wasn’t at work or taking care of the house, I was grading papers.

Well I started a diet.  Its not so bad.  Its healthy- clean eating with calorie restrictions.  But I cheated already.  Let me tell you I’m not even the slightest bit upset that I did either.  I was hungry for something beyond veggies- and it made me full quickly.  Then, I had a salad for dinner.

I think this video makes a lot of sense.  They say that successful weight loss is centered around a balanced lifestyle.  Certainly my indulgences since our exchange student moved in are not part of a balanced lifestyle.  But, restricting myself only makes me want things more.  In fact, I read an article about a woman who successfully lost weight- but was miserable.  She obsessed over food.  She was happy heavier.

I’m not happy at my current weight- and that’s my own feeling.  But I was happy 20 pounds lighter- still in the obese category.  I think life, in general, is all about balance.  So as I transition back to exercising- at home for now, and eating healthy- thanks to the meal plans that are sent to me, I need to stop obsessing over the pounds and focus more on being mindful as the video suggests.  I read that the magic percent is 80.  80 percent of your intake should be healthy.  That leaves 20 percent of your meals, or 2 per week, for “cheating”, within reason.  This “cheating” is 2 meals, not two days.  (Many of us eat healthy all week, and fall apart on the weekends.)  I’m focusing on being mindful and bringing balance back to my life.  I think this video makes some really great points.  Anyone who’s ever struggled with their weight should watch it.

Sandra Aamodt: Why dieting doesn’t usually work

 

 

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