Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Impressions - In the D


I live in the Metro Detroit area, which leads many people to assume that I live in the city of Detroit itself. Quite the contrary--I live in what's referred to as a "suburb of Detroit," or basically, a city that's part of the surrounding area in Southeast Michigan. We're at least a good half hour away from Detroit, and the way of life here is much different than that of the Motor City.

Regardless, before I moved up here, I had more than a few people scrunch their faces up at me when I told them where I was headed. I didn't even tell them which area of Michigan I was headed to; everyone just assumed it was all the same--dirty, crime-ridden, and barren like the formerly-great U.S. city. Since I had not yet visited the state, I didn't know whether to believe them or take their horror stories as exaggerations. Overall, though, I became a little angry at all the pessimism that was being thrown my way right as I was about to leave my old life behind and start a new chapter somewhere completely different.

I first visited the Metro Detroit area in June with Brad, who had previously visited as part of General Motors' EcoCar Challenge (his team won, by the way). We had just gotten married, and were looking for a new place to live for his upcoming job at GM. Other than the random chilly spell (it was a fluke 60 degrees and raining the whole weekend) and potholed roads ("there are two seasons in Michigan: winter and construction"), Michigan did not seem to be as bad as everyone had made it out to be. Except, of course, for the things I heard on the news.

I must have watched two straight hours of local news one morning, and was mesmerized by all of the horrible things I kept seeing. Murders, collapsing walkways, arson, break-ins, random daytime shootings, and a serial Dollar Store robber--the stories were so ridiculous, yet plentiful. And they all had one thing in common: Detroit.

I looked at Brad, said, "we're not going there," and continued to stare at all of the unbelievable stories about this forlorn city. How on earth could a place so well-known be so grief-stricken? And why, when there were so many surrounding counties, was there no news about any place other than Detroit? I had never really heard anything about Detroit, but this distress was apparently an ongoing thing. I'm still very much in the dark the city's history, but I continue to absorb bits and pieces here and there.

My first trip to Detroit was for a Lions game this past weekend with Brad and some fellow VT grads-turned-GM employees. In addition to the game traffic, I've gotta say that my first impression of the city was not the greatest. Upon entering Detroit, you see a small skyline, surrounded by miles of charred, brick buildings, windows broken and parking lots deserted. Residents stroll around the game day traffic, digging through casino trash cans and taking leaks on parking garage walls. Beggars sit on the ground with their cardboard signs and stare as though they've lost their minds, or berate you for ignoring them when they ask you for your money. Casino attire is nothing more than heels and a dress that's impossible to bend over in, and the 5 Guys burger joint, which is open until 2 a.m., has its own indoor security guard.

It's all just remains from a once powerful city. Detroit grew, car companies struggled, people lost jobs, people moved out. Crime got bad. Crime got worse. Two weeks ago, there were 11 murders within just a few days, and so many people seem to have lost any integrity that was left behind.

Something that has intrigued me since I've been here, however, is a powerful, widespread mission to revamp the city. There are campaigns coming from every direction, from Believe in Detroit, to the Voices of Detroit Initiative, to the fact that there is a police department made specifically for the purpose of protecting public schools. Volunteers and organizations are doing what they can to help people who are down on their luck, all while fixing up the mess that past generations have left behind. Urban farming is all the rage, serving as a vital resource for Detroit residents who have nothing but gas stations nearby from which to buy food, and people from surrounding cities regularly spend their Saturdays boarding up abandoned buildings and picking up trash. In addition, several vendors and stores in the metro area sell apparel with the tagline, "Made in Detroit," an effort to coax natives back to their roots while restoring a sense of pride in their hometown. It's all so much to soak in--this city that was alive and booming, then demolished both literally and figuratively before so many people (me included) had a chance to understand its legacy.

Detroit Art In Action (Source)

Now, I am obviously still learning about Detroit. I've heard that it has its good areas and bad areas, and that there are certain places you can visit, while others are best to be left alone. I have heard that it is an artistic garden, filled with creativity that you could never imagine unless put in the situation that these people have been put in. Think sculptures made from trash, studios thriving in abandoned buildings, budding music artists--a whole new renaissance. If you are interested and haven't seen it yet, I strongly urge you to watch Planet Green's documentary, "Detroit in Overdrive." The TV special is a three-part mini-series that details even more of these stories, including those of a design student who creates insulated blanket-coats for homeless people and a soup restaurant that holds a regular open forum for fundraising and city improvement ideas. It's not short, but it's completely worth the watch. If you can't find the full episodes online, there are some clips here.

I know I've only touched the tip of the iceberg, but it's obvious that there's something exciting emerging from all of this. And while it's tragic and and intimidating and overwhelming in every sense of the word, I can't help but wonder about the stories that will emerge as Detroit builds itself up again. And that's my two cents for the time being.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Digital Takeover

Digital ads are all around us, and of course, we're living in such a dynamic time, we're probably not surprised by most of the new technology we encounter. But even if that's true, that doesn't make the non-traditional media any less cool.

When I lived in Virginia, I didn't live out in the sticks or under a rock, but I wasn't exactly right at the forefront of the technological revolution. I felt pretty connected to the rest of the world, but you never realize how different other places are until you visit them. So, here are a couple things I kept staring at the first time I visited a movie theater in the Metro Detroit area.

Digital Movie Posters

I was really hoping to have my own photo or video of this, but I always forget to take my camera with me when I got to the theater. Basically, they're electronic boards that showcase movie previews (complete with sound, despite the lack of volume on this video) while a fixed digital image surrounds the center preview area. Whenever one preview would finish, the screen would dissipate into another image, and a preview for a new movie would begin. I first saw one of these while I was waiting in line for the 8th Harry Potter movie, which was great to help pass the time. Plus, it's little touches like this, I think, that make a theater more exciting. When you go to the movies, you want to be entertained--so why not start in the lobby?

Sprint Coupon Kiosks

Basically, these kiosks reach out to anyone with a Sprint phone. Just text a number (provided on the kiosk screen) to Sprint, wait for a response, then hold that message up to a scanner on the kiosk computer. The scanner processes the message, then provides a code for you to receive a discount off any drink, popcorn, or candy at the theater's concession stand. Smart, no? And who wouldn't start to wonder if they should switch to Sprint if they realized they could start getting lots of free stuff?

Now, these things have been out a while, but what we have access to never stops evolving. In fact, I came across this article on Facebook yesterday that explained a new technology that uses facial recognition to deliver tailored ads to people.

Facial Recognition
In a nutshell, the technology makes it possible for a person to walk up to an ad display and have his or her face scanned by a computer to generate a series of relevant advertising. Visual estimates of age, gender, and ethnicity are compiled to help the computer decide whether the passerby would be more interested in clothes, makeup, or certain types of food. And according to the L.A. Times, facial recognition is already being used in Las Vegas hotels and is in the works of becoming part of Kraft Foods' and Adidas' empires.

I can't help but be reminded of Google, which always goes to the moon and back with everything it knows about everyone. True, Google basically owns half of the internet and is not the only company that can see what we're doing with our free time, but it's obvious that those Banana Republic and Marie Claire ads that pop up on every site I visit are not coincidence. And while I think it's fascinating how much more tailored of an internet experience I have now, I'm guilty of occasionally getting a "Big Brother" type of vibe. There is a very fine line between relating to people and crawling into their personal lives.

So, what do you think? Are you excited about the continuing digital/technology revolution, or are marketing tactics get a little too personalized for your comfort?

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Today, I fell in love with a town called Northville.

My curiosity in Northville has grown over the past several weeks simply because of random events, shopping, and ad agencies I've read about that are in or around the town. This past Sunday, however, Brad and I were watching HGTV (we're addicted to House Hunters) and a show called Cash and Cari came on. The show features a woman named Cari, who runs estate sales as well as hunts for antiques and vintage items for her store, RePurpose. I was reading a book at the time the show came on, but when I heard Cari say something about Michigan, I got out my laptop--sure enough, the shop was within driving distance. And behold! It was decided--I had too many reasons to visit Northville (and no more excuses not to), so I planned a trip.

I got to the town without any problems (a miracle for me to not get lost while driving anywhere by myself), and after driving through an under-construction street and finding a public parking deck with some actual free spaces, I headed down Main Street with two bags (purse and camera), an umbrella, and my sweater. My first stop was RePurpose, and although I couldn't take photos in the store, there was plenty of charm on the outside waiting for my new camera when I got done browsing.


The store had everything from old clothes to vintage-style stationery; from a 1930's era stove to a beautifully-painted wooden dresser that was just shy of $3,000. Needless to say, a majority of my favorite finds were way out of my current price range, but it was a little piece of comfort to walk through that place, gazing at the treasures. There's something about antique shops that makes the room go quiet--as if you have to listen for a minute to hear the stories all of the items have, where they've been and who and what they've seen.

Afterward, I took a cue from my growling stomach and strolled down the sidewalk in search of food. The town was a little too perfect for me, though, to hurry. So, I got out my camera, took my time, and followed my nose down the brick street sections until I found the perfect place to eat lunch--Great Harvest Bread Company.


After ordering my sandwich, I was asked if I wanted a free piece of bread, to which I gladly requested a sample of the cinnamon swirl. Even better, I got a big ol' hunk instead of the sliver I was expecting, and voila--free dessert!

On my way out, I had to take a photo of my new friends. I met them while they lunched together at an outdoor table.


I also took a photo of their buddy, who was sitting at the table behind them, but he looked a little too disturbing to post. In simpler terms, he had no eyes.

Do you know how many people stare at you when you take pictures? A lot of people. I guess it didn't help that I was carrying two bags and kept dropping my lens cap and sweater all over the place just to get a snapshot of some stuffed animals. I'd probably stare at me, too.

The rest of the town center was filled small theaters and gift shops. The kind of places where you go to look around, but never end up buying anything.

I definitely see myself coming back to Northville soon. Even if it isn't the place where I ultimately find work (it has the perfect combination of historic small-town meets downtown hangout area), it gives off that wonderful feeling of escape. You know what I'm talking about...everyone has that one place they like to go by themselves just to relax and wind down every once in a while.

And, of course, I have a date with Great Harvest to take home a loaf of their cherry walnut bread.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Michigan is Car Crazy

Okay, so this is probably a given, but Michigan is basically the car capital of the United States. Big-name industries reside here, including Ford and GM (where Brad works, and the reason why we came up here), and as a result, the automobile is king.

This past weekend, we took advantage of the local nostalgia and visited the Woodward Dream Cruise. Basically, the WDC is a day-long (or week-long, if you count the unofficial days) event where people from all over line the sidewalks of Woodward Avenue to watch other people from all over drive their fancy cars (mostly vintage) up and down the road. People ooh, people ahh, and lots of coneys are consumed. More on that in just a sec.


As part of our visit to Woodward, Brad had planned to take me to my first Coney Island restaurant. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Coney Islands, they are a large smattering of diner-type restaurants whose house specialties are usually--you guessed it--coneys. 

The first Coney Island we visited had car displays and a concert packed into its parking lot--but when we got to the door, there was a bouncer telling us that it was closed for a private event. Darn. Not to worry--we just walked back a block and found another Coney Island. It was more of a little hole in the wall, though...not with all the bells and whistles of this beauty:

Brad was annoyed that the first building turned us away and vowed never to come back. I'm sure they'll miss us.

Now, I'm familiar with coneys, particularly in the form of my favorite Sonic food, but back where I'm from, we just call them chili dogs. Regardless, I wanted to know what, exactly, came on the coneys. I mean, each restaurant could add its own personalization, right?

This is how the conversation between the waitress and I went:

Me: What comes on the coneys?
Waitress: *Stares at me like I just walked off a spaceship* "Oh, that's're not from around here. The coneys come with mustard, chili, and onions. They're really good. Can I go ahead and put you down for two?
Me: "Are they just regular-sized hot dogs?"
Waitress: "Yeah, they're regular sized. I'm gonna go ahead and put you down for two.
Me: "Okay, I'd like two with no onions, please."
Waitress: *Puts her hand on her hip and turns to Brad with her mouth agape*
Brad: "She doesn't like onions..."
Me: "I don't like raw onions..."
Waitress: *Caving, although she blatantly is not happy with my decision* "Okay, no onions." *Looks at Brad* "Do you want onions on yours?"

Of course Brad wants onions. Brad is strongly against ever ordering anything in a way other than how it comes.

Brad: "Yeah."

*Brad proceeds to order chili fries, which we had agreed upon, but the waitress pushes us to get them with cheese. I mean, of course you wouldn't want to make your own choice from a menu of pre-listed options...that would be absurd.*

Apparently, there is a soda culture up here, too. The waitress came back a few minutes later with a cup of something that looked like ginger ale, but tasted like a sweet soda with no distinct flavor (not Sprite or Coke or ginger). Vernor's. "A little taste of Michigan."

The waitress also brought us a bowl of onions to go with our fries and my coney, just in case I changed my mind. But she lost a little more hope for us when she asked Brad if he had eaten them on his fries and he said no.

The waitress then swiped Brad's phone to snap a photo of us eating our "first" coneys, but it ended up really dark and we look really stupid in it, so I'll spare you that one.

All in all, we had a pretty good time (even if you're like me and not into cars) and the event seemed like a nice, local tradition that I'm sure we'll take part in from here on out. Although, if you decide to go and see a little blonde boy running around in circles, don't say I didn't warn you--he will stand next to you and scream.

P.S. (This is just a bonus, and not even part of the Dream Cruise...we actually saw it in regular traffic on our way to the event.) Enjoy. :)

Monday, August 15, 2011


Can I just take a moment to say how much I love Target commercials?

Image Source

In particular, I've been seeing a lot of their back-to-school ads lately. My favorite? The second grade teacher who's really excited about hamsters, explorers, and glitter--"so much glitter."


Another fun one? The music teacher. He seems to be pushing some sort of fall-friendly fabric...not sure if I caught just what it was...

It's okay, I lived in jeans during high school, too. Well, I still live in jeans during every waking hour when I'm not working in an office or the weather's cooler than 78 degrees, but you get my point.

Target's also been pushing a series of short, smart snippets that like to point out the obvious. Funny how a "duh" moment can motivate you to make a quick run to the store.

Might wanna put those gooey treats on some sort of edible, eating apparatus...

Dogs aren't really that messy, are they?

Then, of course, there were all those Black Friday ads back around Thanksgiving of last year, where that wonderful lady trained for early morning shopping like it was a triathlon. I giggled so much during the month of November.

All right, so hopefully, you can't all relate quite as closely to this woman's enthusiasm as you can to the common sense ads, but it's entertaining all the same. Regardless, you've probably at least met people who, in your mind, are just as--prepared--for the Christmas season as this person is.

More at a later time, but I'll leave you with one more Target favorite. It doesn't go as much with the theme of the commercials I already mentioned, but there's music and dancing. 'Nuff said.

(You know you've made it when people Google your ads for the purpose of entertainment).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pen to Paper

Sometimes, you just need to get away from the computer and try something a little more . . . traditional. So, a few days ago, I grabbed a pen and spiral notebook and headed out to explore the city a little more.

I ended up tracking down the Novi public library, figuring it would be someplace peaceful (and free) to think. After exploring the inside for a bit, I made my way out onto a back patio and found, behind it, a little park with a small, schoolhouse-looking building. Novi Township Hall, apparently. The building, which is a reconstruction of one built in 1876 (the original caught fire), was moved to the library property in the late 1980's and renovated by volunteers. It now serves as an historical landmark--when I went by, it was bustling with a class of elementary-aged children, working on what I assumed were art or craft projects.

Behind the building was a little amphitheater, the sort of place you'd expect to see a bluegrass band playing on a muggy, summer evening.

So, I plopped myself down on the top row of concrete bleachers, pulled out my notebook and pen, and started writing. Everything, from notes on an ongoing website project to a stream of consciousness about how hot the sun was, came flowing out of that pen. It was wonderful, and I scribbled until my fingers ached and my right hand was smeared with ink.

Sometimes, it's hard to remember what that's like, especially when you're accustomed to tapping plastic keys day-in and day-out. Nothing feels better, though, than happily exhausting your mind with creative thoughts--a simple brainstorm on anything and everything can put your thoughts into perspective more than aimless thinking ever could. Sure, it might look like all sorts of crazy when you put your gibberish onto those college-ruled lines, but that's only because we're not used to seeing our minds mapped out onto paper. It's a prize in itself to see that all those random things floating through your brain can be pasted onto a readable surface. Fair warning, however: if you do it correctly, mental exhaustion will occur. That's just a given.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I'll let you in on a couple of little secrets. I love clothes. And I love Mad Men.

So, imagine my surprise when I discovered Banana Republic's campaign for a new Mad Men collection! Try as I might to get away (okay, I didn't try too hard), I kept seeing the teasers everywhere--Facebook feeds, banner ads, and even a tie-in to a business fashion segment on the Today show. I didn't even have to go looking for it, but it kept finding me. And rightly so.

Image Courtesy of

Image courtesy of The High Low
Image courtesy of News Letters Archives


Invitations floated around the internet, inviting guests to exclusive store release events. (Photo Credit)

The funny thing is, I didn't even find out about all of this from Banana Republic--it was actually through Mad Men's Facebook site. Kind of a smart move, in my opinion, for the show to focus on this collaboration, considering the fact that the new season has been on hiatus since late 2010 and won't return until next year. 

And it's a two-fer--yes, it keeps Mad Men die-hards satisfied by incorporating a little piece of the story into their own lives, but it also cross-links the fashion world with the 1960's-based show. Case in point: having never stepped foot into a Banana Republic, I instantly became a fan on Facebook and now am drooling over the store's regular lines, as well. Well-played, Banana Republic, well-played.

Image courtesy of Modern Destiny
Needless to say, although the line is out of my price range at the moment, I had to see the product in person. Luckily, we just happened to be strolling through the mall last night. And let me tell you--after viewing the store (even things outside of the Mad Men collection) in person, Banana Republic has reinforced my new-found interest in its brand.

(Online teasers match up to the real thing.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Just a thought.

Quick poll: How many of you have ever been to a public place, spent your hard-earned money on a product or service you hoped would prove satisfactory, then had the illusion (as you would soon come to know it) shattered, all because an employee was too lazy to muster up a polite demeanor?

Wow! Me, too!

But seriously, I often wonder where the the pride has gone from so many workers. I've always felt that having a job is a blessing, a privilege. Not everyone has the opportunity to go to a place every day that enables them to make money while building up a sense of accomplishment. It's doing something, anything--whether it's a corporate job or being a cashier at a sandwich shop--that makes the day worthwhile. And I have respect for anyone who's going out there to get something long as they're trying.

And that sense of pride should be reflected in every aspect of the person. What good is a positive customer experience if you walk into a cafe and have a friendly person serve you a cup of lemonade, only to meet a disgruntled employee on your way out who doesn't even grunt hello as they make their way in for their evening shift (and yes, this has happened to me just within the past few days)? Let people know you appreciate being there. Even if you're exhausted with your job, it is still something to be treasured--and it should be reflected in what you say, how you act, and what you do. After all, the attitude of a business or company reflects on your actions as an employee--why not make a little effort to positively showcase the place that signs your check at the end of the week?

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I've always thought that the relationship between a dad and his daughter is one of the most bittersweet things we experience during our human life. No matter if you are a daughter, have a daughter, or have witnessed a relationship between a dad and his daughter, you have to agree . . . there's something incredibly touching about a grown man having his life turned upside-down because of a little girl. If anything, it is proof of the power of unconditional love. A daughter myself, I have to say that I have been fortunate enough to experience the care that my father has given me for over 23 years; at the same time, however, it can be one of the most difficult emotional pathways that a person can experience.

When I was growing up, I never saw my dad cry. He was the strongest person I knew, and he always knew how to fix everything. He was stern, but loving, and he loved my family more than anything in the world. I knew that then, and I know this now.

Time changes, though, and I think we all grow a little softer as we get a little older. Through all of the life events we've experienced as a family over the years, especially this year, I continue to see my father become a little more human each day. In fact, as I type this entry, my dad is finishing up surgery in Virginia for a spot they recently found on his kidney. I know that this, along with my recent move, has caused him and my mother a lot of uneasiness over the past several months. I can't help but feel guilty for leaving them during such a difficult time, but I trust that this is a moment given to them by God, who brings us all closer together through the struggles we go through. I've witnessed it with my family before, and I'm seeing it once again.

My parents and me at my wedding (betcha couldn't guess from the big, white dress)

Good news! I just got off the phone with my mom, who said my dad's surgery went fantastically. I'm sure he'll be groggy for quite a while, but I really like knowing that he'll be out of that operating room, sleeping comfortably without that nasty thing growing inside of him. I'm also overjoyed at the moment with doctors in the surgical profession, and even more thrilled for a loving, awesome God who takes care of us!

Okay, so I will end this post by predicting (with 105% certainty) that it will make my parents cry (which is something they know I hate), but I'll just continue to focus on all of the happy right now. Today is about my dad, and he deserves a little hubbub.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Behind the Scenes

So, you wanna see what I do all day?

For those of you who don't know, I'm an advertiser. I love social media, love writing, love layout and design in general. When I watch tv commercials, I'm constantly gauging whether I love them or think they can do better. I mean, case in point: who remembers this AT&T commercial from a few months back?:

I'm sure not many people cared, but every time it came on, I fussed because if you're feeling "left behind," it's because you're the only one not in the loop. Not the other way around. I don't know about you, but I don't feel like the idiot in a group of friends if there's only one person being a snot about his phone working better than mine.

Surely enough, AT&T came up with a few more in the series of not being "left behind." In particular, there's one about an office taco party, and my favorite, the oblivious flash mob member:

This one, to me, makes much more sense. Being left out makes you feel stupid, not rejected by a jerk with an expensive phone plan.

By the way, doesn't that woman look like Pam from The Office?

"They have new phone systems now, that can ring directly to a salesman, or someone presses star and they go to accounting. Basically ninety-five percent of my job. But I'd like to see a machine that puts out candy for everyone."

So,  enough of my nerdiness. My point is, advertising is my thing. It's what I studied in college, what I work on every day, what I hope to reconnect with now that I've moved to a new area. And, as a result, you can find me on any given day, staring at my laptop until I go cross-eyed from all of the updates that come with being connected to the media world.

Among the brain drain is a plethora of resume edits, Photoshop windows, and status updates. I have more social media accounts than I can name now--it's ridiculous, but even more interesting how connected everything has become. I mean, seriously--20 years ago, how many people expected that soon, the only thing between them and sharing a piece of information with 100 people at once was a little "share" button? Even more so, it boggles my mind how many different ways there are to share things. There's no way one person could ever keep up, it seems:

This guy's been thinking the same thing.

So,  there's your look into my life. At least a little bit. Today, I had a mini-photo shoot out on our back deck so I could have a nice LinkedIn picture (the one I chose is the one you see in the photo of my laptop screen). By the way, if you're on LinkedIn, look me up! I love connecting with people.

Oh, and by the way...we bought a couch! It's red. But more on that later. : )

Tuesday, August 2, 2011



Last night, to help me beat my cabin fever, Brad took me out for a walk around a nearby lake. The sun was just lying down to rest, and even though I don't have the fanciest camera in the world, I was able to snap a few gems once I remembered my sunset setting.


On our way back to the car, we decided to explore the park on the opposite side of the beach. A few minutes down the trail, I noticed three furry, little creatures hopping out of the brush and pointed them out to Brad, who was thrilled to discover that they were baby raccoons, scavenging for food. Of course, he had to follow them to take photos and video . . . I, on the other hand, kept a more comfortable distance.

Today is more of the usual--tucking things into storage and shining my work history up like a brand-new penny. It's a little daunting to think that I'm back to this point, but I've been here before, and I made it just fine. I can't help but think that there is something great out there waiting for me, and it's just a matter of time before the two of us meet.
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