West Michigan Woman Feb/Mar 2023

Page 12








Published by Serendipity Media, LLC Volume 11, Issue 4 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2023

VOLUME 11, ISSUE 3 www.westmichiganwoman.com


Kasie Smith

Serendipity Media, LLC


Susan Smalley

susan@serendipity-media.com 866-252-7108


Sarah Suydam

Josh Veal


Courtney Van Hagen


Emily Alspaugh


Loren Eisenlohr


Jasa West

Natalie Villar


Megan Marshall

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February/March 2023

© 2023 Serendipity Media LLC



BEAUTY page 6

Don't Sleep on These Lash and Brow Services


Five Things You Didn't Know About Heart Health

HOME page 10

Cleaning House and Donating with Intention


An Empty Nest: Now What?


Sex & Relationships

CAREER page 22

Your Work Doesn't Have to Define You—And That's OK


How Saving for Your Retirement Has Changed

TRAVEL page 26

Love Is in the Air: Romantic Getaways for You and Your Boo

Q&A page 28

Jasmine Bruce: Art Is a Tool for Healing

SONJA FORTE: Showing Up for the Community page 14 West
by Serendipity Media
THE COVER (photo © Kelly Braman Photography)
Michigan Woman is published


II know it’s a bit late to wish you all a Happy New Year, but the sentiment stands! As we enter 2023, I’m so excited for what this year will bring. So many lessons have been learned in the last three years; lessons that have helped us look at life, work and family in a new light. This issue has threads of these lessons learned throughout and provides hopeful tips for the future.

Those of you who know me personally know that my work is a priority, and some might say my work defines who I am. It wasn’t until COVID, and being faced with the loss of 60% of our business, turning over much of our team and reverting to revenues that mirrored the start of our business, did I really realize what this statement truly meant. Upon reflection, I was defined by my work. I love what I do, I thrive in the physical work, and am driven to see growth and success within our team. But being faced with this loss forced me to do some internal work and really dig deep on where that stems from and create a plan to uncover who I am—with and without my work. The beauty of what I do every day is that I know I’m not alone. On page 22, Jackie Green dives into this very subject, offering tips on finding yourself, not getting burnt out and letting go of the guilt that comes along with making positive change.

The last three years have provided new roles for many of our readers. Sonja Forte (page 14) is among them, having stepped in as Executive Director of Baxter Community Center in the early days of the pandemic. While she had been with the Center since 2012, Forte’s new role allowed her to amplify her commitment to service, community and team. But she doesn’t do this work alone. She encourages her team to find their own voices, shows up for others when it counts and doesn’t jump to conclusions. Sonja knows so much goes on behind the scenes, thus leading her team by example, never assuming, giving people the benefit of the doubt and looking into something before jumping to a conclusion. Certainly a lesson we all can be reminded of!

As I wrap my letter, let me close with a mention of wellness—a priority for myself and many of you as we look ahead. Yes, I would love to lose those extra 10 pounds I’ve been talking about losing forever, but it’s so much more than that. Our priority should be to care for ourselves in whatever capacity that looks like for us as individuals. That includes being aware of your heart health. I certainly learned a couple new things in reading “Five Things You Didn’t Know About Heart Health” on page 8.

Reconnecting with yourself, nurturing your relationships and pampering yourself should be a priority for all of us in 2023. It’s true, most of us put others before ourselves. But remember: In order to be good for others, you have to be in a great position yourself to provide that for yourself, as well.

Whatever your goals, priorities or aspirations are for the year ahead, my hope is you find some happiness, joy and fulfillment in 2023!

LETTER JOIN US ONLINE RECEIVE FRESH CONTENT in our FREE eNewsletter! THE "BEST OF" found only on westmichiganwoman.com Top Read articles last month: Warm Up with These Cozy Soup and Chili Recipes A Thank You Letter to My High School Art Teacher I Am Intersex and I Am Here When Your Professional Dreams Change


Long-term nursing care can be a temporary place to recover after an illness or injury, or a new place to call home that offers support, comfort and protection from the effects of a prolonged illness, disability or aging.

Long-term care services are designed to help maintain your current lifestyle as much as possible when you may not be able to be fully independent.

At Beacon Hill at Eastgate, our state-of-the-art skilled nursing facility offers peace and quiet in fully private rooms and bathrooms. We are flexible and willing to meet your needs to make you the most comfortable. We see each resident on a personal level, not just as a medical condition. Every resident receives a Personalized Plan of Care—a complete, individualized plan to meet your needs, built collaboratively with our interdisciplinary care team, you and your health advocates.


Photo © Justin Haylee Photography/ Beacon Hill at Eastgate


with modern amenities. Choose from 75 individually appointed rooms, many of which have private balconies overlooking Little Traverse Bay.

Book your Winter Getaway Package now until March 31 to receive: two nights lodging; breakfast vouchers each morning of your stay; $40 in Stafford’s Dining Dollars (redeemable at any Stafford’s location); and a welcome bag upon arrival with a choice or wine or Stafford’s signature ground coffee.

The Perry Hotel in Petoskey is the only one of the area’s 20 luxury hotel resorts built in 1899 still in operation today. Located within walking distance

to the shopping, dining, art museum and bayfront park found in Petoskey’s downtown Gaslight District, the hotel offers guests historic elegance paired

Package starts at $299, based on two guests per room. Make your stay even more memorable by adding on a Special Occasion or Ultimate Romance Package. See theperryhotel.com or call 1.231.347.4000 to book.

Ad on page 27.

Photo © Jacquelie Southby/Stafford’s Hospitality)


WWhen it comes to primping your brows and lashes, the possibilities are truly endless, thanks to a bevy of innovative services. From the subtle enhancement to the all out glamorous, take a look at some of the options available.


Lasting 12-18 months, microblading is a semi-permanent technique that uses pigment placed into tiny hair-like strokes in your skin to enhance your brow’s shape and fullness. It’s great for those looking to cut down on time in front of the mirror or who want brows that don’t budge. Lisa Abbott, Brow Artist and Microblading Specialist at Siren & Proper, explains that if you already tint or use makeup to fill in your brows, microblading may be a service to consider.

“With individually placed hair strokes, we can add density to areas of the brows that won’t fill in after years of waxing, tweezing or maybe just hairs that were never there,” Kaylie said, noting the importance of doing your research. “There are many contraindications, so if you have any health or skin concerns, you should always talk with your doctor or dermatologist first. Make sure to seek out a reputable artist who is licensed and look for pictures of healed microblading, as well.”


Another option for improving the fullness and style of your brows is lamination, a service which is essentially a straight perm for your brows that can replace the need for a brow gel. With a staying power of four to six weeks, lamination holds brow hairs in a straight, upward direction, providing a natural looking and “fluffy” brow look. Especially ideal for those with stubborn and unruly brow hairs, the process only takes about 35-45 minutes and requires no downtime.


A lash lift and tint does exactly what it sounds like! The service adds a semi-permanent lift and tint to the lash, enhancing your natural features. According to Ashley Lange, Owner of Sweet Nectar Shop, lash lifts and tints are great for anyone looking to have brighter, bolder eyes and can be as subtle or dramatic as you desire.

“Lash lift and tint services are popular because they truly do add an instant ‘wow’ factor,” Lange said, noting the service requires no

downtime and lasts for six to eight weeks. “The lift eliminates the need to curl your lashes daily, and with a successful service, the lift can give the illusion of length and depth to the lashes. The tint can replace mascara, which allows the eyes to shine.”


While many are familiar with false strip lashes, gaining in popularity over the last several years is a more semipermanent option: Lash extensions. Individually hand glued to your natural lashes, extensions last anywhere from four to six weeks, though you’d get a “fill” every two to three weeks if you’re hoping to maintain your look.

Jaime Wind, Owner of Lav & Lox studio, says if your natural lashes are healthy and can support the weight of extensions, you’d be a candidate for the service.

“I always recommend a consultation with your lash artist if you’re unsure,” Wind said, noting the service is also a short escape for many and a chance to unwind.

“We can do a variety of styles, shapes, lengths, curls and densities to achieve a desired look. Clients love getting their lashes done because it’s a time-saver in the morning! And most of my clients find they wear less makeup after getting lash extensions.” WMW

Photo © Jaime Wind

AHeart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., killing 314,186 women in 2020 and one person about every 34 seconds in the U.S. today, according to the CDC. And while February is dedicated to shining a spotlight on heart health, it’s a subject that’s worth paying attention to year round.

Thankfully, there’s an abundance of information and resources available from organizations around the country and top health systems right here in West Michigan that can help you stay on top of your cardiovascular health. Even still, there are plenty of things in relation to keeping your heart in tip top shape that many people remain unaware of.

Keep reading to learn more about some of these facts and their importance.

A consistent mindfulness practice shows promise in helping lower blood pressure.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure (hypertension), many of which are completely unaware they have it. Recently presented research found that adults with elevated blood pressure who participated in a mindfulness behavior program for eight weeks had significantly lower blood pressure levels and greatly reduced sedentary time, when evaluated at a six month follow up. Thankfully, mindfulness is a practice that can be easily integrated into your daily routine, no matter what your lifestyle currently looks like.


Your job might affect your heart health.

Preliminary research presented at the AHA’s 2019 Scientific Sessions found that women who held specific jobs showed an increased likelihood to have poor heart health: social workers (36%), retail cashiers (33%), registered nurses (14%) and women in some health care roles (16%), especially in the areas of nursing and psychiatry and home health aides. Identifying these occupations helps spotlight which areas of work could benefit from workplace health programs, in addition to supporting future research to examine cardiovascular disease risks in women.

Most people don’t know the signs of a heart attack in women.

According to a 2020 Cleveland Clinic survey, many Americans report not recognizing key symptoms of heart attacks in women. Many were unaware that: chest pain (24%), shortness of breath or sweating (28%), pain in the neck or back of jaw (43%), new or dramatic fatigue (55%) and nausea/vomiting (60%) are signs of a heart attack in women.

Exercise reduces the risk for coronary heart disease in women by 30-40%.

While most everyone is aware that physical exercise is good for your health, many don’t realize how dramatically influential staying active can be on your heart health. Physical activity—ideally 150 minutes a week for women—has been shown to reduce risk of stroke by 20% in

Set aside five minutes to learn more about your risk for stroke and heart attack, thanks to American Heart Association’s Health Calculator ccccalculator.ccctracker.com


moderately active people, in addition to improving blood circulation and cholesterol levels, preventing bone loss and more. Of course, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any concerns and before starting any new workout regimens.

A woman’s risk for heart disease and stroke increases at and around menopause.

Women become at greater risk for stroke and heart disease once reaching menopause, with research indicating that women who arrive at this stage of life before age 45 have a significantly higher risk of coronary heart disease. AHA’s Go Red for Women campaign advises postmenopausal women to maintain their cardiovascular health by continuing to receive regular heart screenings; exercising regularly; eating a healthy diet; focusing on mental well-being; and finding support through communities such as their #GoRedGetFit Facebook group. WMW

Learn more about how to maintain a healthy heart by visiting heart.org and goredforwomen.org.

Having trouble remembering stroke symptoms?

Remember FAST:

F ace Drooping

A rm Weakness
ime to call 911
S peech Difficulty T



YYou’ve finally done it. You’ve successfully taken on the task of clearing out unwanted items from your closets, cabinets and basement. From appliances to clothing and everything in between, it feels good to round up what no longer serves you to make room for what does. What feels even better? Donating those items to organizations who can get them in the hands of those who could use them.



With a mission of providing hope, dignity and respect through the best shopping experience money does not have to buy, In the Image (ITI) seeks to help people on some of the worst days of their lives by offering a welcoming environment to shop clothing and household necessities, at no cost.

ITI accepts items ranging from linens, kitchen items, small appliances, games, toys and books to clothing, accessories, shoes and other miscellaneous basics. They even accept certain types of materials for rags! Of course, ensure your new or gently used items are free of pet hair and are freshly laundered so they’re ready to be enjoyed by those who receive them.

While there are plenty of options to choose from, we’ve rounded up a short list to get you started.



The Business Boutique at Women’s Resource Center is all about helping women make the right first impression by providing the participants in their programs with gently worn, high quality professional clothing and accessories appropriate for job interviewing.

The Business Boutique looks for items like two-piece suits, blazers, purses, dress pants, blouses, jewelry, skirts, lightweight cardigans/sweater sets and coats that are currently in style (three years old or less). Also accepted are brand new bras and hosiery. Donation drop-offs are currently by appointment only, so be sure to schedule a time to swing by with your professional clothing items.


INCLUSIVE OTTAWA COUNTY linktr.ee/inclusiveottawacounty

Inclusive Ottawa County seeks to identify and uplift the voices of historically excluded groups and serve as a bridge to resources; create space that’s safe for people to educate and be themselves; as well as provide resources, such as food, clothing—and eventually financial assistance—to underserved community members.

Items to consider for donation include: Food, hygiene products, new or used clothing in good condition, books and seasonal items. Inclusive Ottawa County—currently located at at 4950 32nd Ave, Suite A in Hudsonville while renovating their future community center—is open Sundays from 2-5 p.m., Mondays from 9:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m., and various dates for scheduled events.

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY KENT COUNTY habitatkent.org/restore

Habitat Kent’s ReStore sells new and gently-used building materials and home improvement products to the community at discounted prices. Proceeds from the sales at ReStore go right back into the community, helping to fund Habitat’s homebuilding and vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Ideal items to donate to ReStore include: appliances, cabinets, doors, electrical supplies, fasteners, furniture, hardware, housewares, lighting, lumber, plumbing, reclaimed wood, supplies, tile, tools, upholstery, wallpaper, windows and more. Habitat Kent also offers a Material Recovery Program, perfect for homeowners who are starting a home improvement project and want to donate salvageable materials. Donations can be made in person or can be scheduled for pickup. WMW

If you’re still stuck on figuring out how to clean house and get organized, revisit our past article “Home Organization Essentials: Tips and Tricks from an Expert” at: bit.ly/3ETPDqO



TTwenty-six years ago, my world shifted forever the moment I held my 7 pound, 8 ounce, 21-inch-long baby boy. I knew right then that I would do everything I could to raise this tiny human, whom I already loved deeply, to be the best version of himself.

I think most parents can relate. And so, as we raise our children, we become time-management experts, doing our own work, volunteering, and socializing—often making sacrifices in all these areas—as we manage seemingly endless doctors’ appointments, playdates, carpools, homework-helping, meal planning and the rest.

Our family grew to five, with the addition of two more boys and, slowly, each of them took over life’s responsibilities which, eventually, included applying to colleges. And then, off they went, one by one, until suddenly, I didn’t have all of that to manage anymore.

The quiet was at times wonderful and at times deafening.

While some parents are profoundly sad when their children leave home, others revel in their newfound freedom. Many, like me, fall somewhere in between. Either way, here are some helpful words of wisdom from women who’ve been there.


When Terri DeBoer, meteorologist at WOOD TV and co-host of eightWest, navigated her children leaving home, she experienced deep emotions.

“What I discovered is that this transition is a process. Finding out who you are now is a journey, in the same way that parenthood was a journey,” said DeBoer, who also authored Brighter Skies Ahead, an upbeat book that gives parents 50 strategies for

weathering the empty nest.

She says the transition can be tough because, as our focus shifts, we have to give ourselves permission to do things we enjoy.

“It’s not being selfish,” she said. “It’s healthy, and the healthiest thing you can do for your adult kids is to help them see you as a confident, healthy person.”

After some introspection, you may find yourself drawn to volunteering, a new hobby, or even a part or full-time job.


If you’re partnered, you have an opportunity to rekindle romance after years of kid-raising, through shared interests and spontaneous fun. But friendships are important, too.

“Evaluating friendships is a tough part of the empty nest season,” said DeBoer, who suggests examining friendships as you move forward. “If you don’t, you can get stuck in a circle that no longer serves you, doesn’t


push you forward, and maybe doesn’t push the other person forward either.”

When you do connect with others, consider trying new things together. Sandi Clegg, a mom of three grown boys from Grand Rapids, vacationed without her spouse for the first time. She traveled to Croatia with a group of friends, something she says she would never have done when her boys were younger.

“It was so rewarding to know my girlfriends and I could do this on our own,” Clegg said. “My boys and husband were excited for me. It was a great, guilt-free trip.”


When Janice VanVelsen Scharich, a pediatric physical therapist in Grand Rapids, found herself with fewer kidrelated commitments, she decided to recommit to fitness and tried a Zumba class. A former athlete, she eventually found her way to the pickleball court.

“In some ways I questioned picking up a new sport at this stage, but the community is so inclusive,” said Scharich. She woke up excited to play games after her workdays. Last November, she won gold in the 2022 Pickleball Nationals in Women’s Singles.

“Pickleball has been a huge part of my transition to the empty nest,” she said. “I’ve seen myself grow, it’s given me excitement and energy, and my social life has exploded with new friends. It’s also been crucial to my mental health.”

Regardless of what type of fitness you choose, you can’t lose by focusing on health and wellness.


Your child was made for this: to learn, to grow, to launch. If you’re struggling with grief, remember that while your role is changing, it’s not ending. You can cultivate a deep friendship with your adult child, complete with new traditions.

Recognize, too, that it will take some time to adjust to the new normal. Don’t expect to feel great about everything right out of the gates. You’ll get there.

“It’s a mental paradigm shift,” DeBoer said. “Your kids aren’t leaving you. They’re going toward what’s meant for them.”

If you can’t shake your grief, consider speaking with a therapist. WMW


KIRSETIN MORELLO is a Michigan-based author, speaker, writer, travellover, wife and grateful mom of three boys. Read more about her at www. KirsetinMorello.com.

communities like Revel (hellorevel.com) that offer online and in-person events for women over 40.
You can order an autographed copy of Brighter Skies Ahead and its companion journal at terrideboer.com. Explore




Personally and professionally, Sonja Forte takes pride in being someone others can count on; a person who actively and fully shows up for other people. As Executive Director of Baxter Community Center, Forte puts these attributes into practice daily, leading a team that offers services to neighbors and spaces where the community can come together to feel not only cared for, but wholeheartedly welcomed.

Born and raised in Flint, Forte considers her childhood to have been traditional, with a mother who worked for Ameritech (AT&T) and father for General Motors.

“They’ve always been big on making sure I was involved in the community and extracurricular activities,” Forte said, noting the massive influence both her parents continue to have in her life. “I’m my father socially and I’m my mother at work. Everything I know professionally came from watching her. Both of them are quiet givers and show up for family and friends. They’re the people you can count on, and that shows up in me … in all pockets of my life.”

Forte made her way to Grand Rapids to attend GVSU, where she earned a degree in hospitality and tourism management with an emphasis in event planning and conference management, something she pursued after attending conventions with her mother while growing up. From there, her career trajectory has been anything but linear, an increasingly common reality for many.

“My career journey to where I am now has been completely insane,” Forte said. “I’ve probably worked every type of job humanly possible.”

From internships at the Amway Grand Hotel and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, to a stint at T-Mobile and TGI Friday’s, to being a public relations assistant, to working in affordable senior housing for Porter Hills Village, Forte’s breadth of experience is vast. She eventually landed at Baxter Community Center in 2012, not having any idea at the time she’d one day be its leader.

“I believe everybody should have to work in hospitality in some way, shape, or form. It’s just a great way to cut your teeth into humanity,” said Forte, who stepped into the Executive Director role at Baxter during the early days of the pandemic. She explained how all of her varying experiences have been fundamental in her continued approach to service and commitment.

“Our Disney handbook talked about exceeding expectations, and that’s something I’m really big on, even still today with Baxter,” she said. “People ask, ‘Well, what’s the correlation?’ and it’s all about how you see and treat people.

“I’ve told folks, I want to be able to give Ritz Carltonlevel service on the southeast side of Grand Rapids.”

With two main areas of focus—health and education— Baxter’s offerings certainly go above and beyond. Operating all under one roof, the center offers everything from childhood development and adult education classes on nutrition, finance and fitness, to dental and holistic health services for those who are under- or uninsured, a greenhouse, special events and more.

Forte shares that Baxter’s Marketplace, which includes fresh produce grown on site nine months out of the year, serves about 500 families every month—a 20% increase over the last year.

“When you’re talking about a community center, you have to have everybody in the community in mind if you’re really going to have any type of significant results or progress,” she said, adding that the center hopes to expand their programming, staffing and hours of operation in 2023. “It’s about bringing people together so everyone has an opportunity to enhance their quality of life and has a place to land.”

Forte, a self-professed goofy introvert who loves gift giving, considers her greatest professional accomplishment to be leading her current team, many of whom are new and emerging leaders themselves.

“The ability to walk that journey with them and help them develop their own leadership styles and find their own voices is great,” she said.

Forte reflected upon recently coming together with fellow GVSU alumni spanning decades to organize the Black Alumni Network Weekend, after the pandemic halted the network’s usual gatherings and efforts.

“It was great because it’s so important we didn’t lose that,



because you do have a different lived experience as a person of color at a PWI (predominantly white institution). Coordinating was exhausting, but exciting,” she said. “You know, I’m not there for all the fluffy stuff; I’m not at everything. But when it counts, I’m going to show up, and I’m going to give you 110% and make sure things happen and that we don’t lose what’s important.”

Plenty of lessons have been gleaned over the years, but one in particular rises to the surface for Forte:

Don’t jump to conclusions.

“I remember the saying, ‘Everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten,’ and I’m starting to realize as I get older just how true that is,” she said. “Leadership teaches us that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes the world will never know about. And it’s easy to assume what’s going on from what you read in a headline and hear by word of mouth. There are typically so many more things at play. I try not to assume, give people the benefit of the doubt, and really look into something before jumping to a conclusion.”

If she were to offer some advice to her younger self, Forte would assure herself that no matter the path, everything is going to work out OK—whether you believe it to be true or not.

“Oftentimes, you go through life thinking you have to have so many things accomplished. I’d spent so much of my life focused on thinking I had to do this one thing to make the next thing happen, and you realize life doesn’t actually work like that,” she said, emphasizing that for the majority of people, there’s no one straight line.

“Even then, your line isn’t the same as somebody else’s. Things work if you roll with the punches, figure things out, are flexible and decide what’s good out of whatever it is you’re experiencing.”

In her free time, Forte can usually be found near or in water, enjoying live music, cooking and baking, and listening to a good audiobook or three (at a time).

“You know, I’m 43. And you think to yourself, ‘You’re supposed to be an adult adult by now,’ and I’m not an adult yet. I know it. I’m not there. I haven’t arrived. I’ve still got stuff to figure out.” WMW

can learn more about Baxter Community Center and getting involved by visiting wearebaxter.org.
Photos (pg 14 & below) © Kelly Braman Photography Candids © Sonja Forte




Recently, I had the pleasure of having a photo shoot with Elise Kutt, Photographer and Owner of Mod Bettie Portrait Boutique—something I’d been wanting to do for years. I’d marveled at the many gorgeous images shared by my friends and acquaintances over the years from their own sessions (ranging from personal branding to boudoir and everything in between) and had always thought, “Wow. How beautiful! One day, I’ll do that, too.”

I’m not entirely sure what held me back from booking the shoot sooner (I was no stranger to the camera in my early 20s), but it almost felt like I needed a reason or “excuse” to make it happen— which is so not true. Something came over me one day and I finally decided: Now is the time! And it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

“Book with a photographer that you can trust to handle all the details so you can focus only on showing up. Actually booking the shoot is hard enough for so many women; the planning process leading up to shoot day shouldn’t be,” Kutt said. “A series of coaching emails leading up to the shoot, a huge wardrobe closet to choose from, hair and makeup on site and professional pose coaching would be the top services to look for when selecting your empowerment photographer.”

Here are a few reasons I found the experience to be empowering and would do it again in a heartbeat (and would encourage you to consider something similar, too)!



The theme of the shoot was “Versaille,” so I truly felt like royalty through the whole experience. I arrived with a full face of glam (though hair and makeup services are available), ready to dust off the cobwebs in the part of my brain that used to remember how to pose. I was able to browse through an unbelievable closet of extravagant robes and dresses to choose exactly which one felt like “me.” I landed on a long dusty blue dress and robe with frills to the gills—peak rich aunt vibes. Though I did an individual shoot, the experience is also one that can be easily shared among friends (and a bottle of champagne).


While you can get glammed up in any way you choose for your photos, it’s also a chance to embrace any perceived imperfections you may have about yourself. From dimples and wrinkles to scars and stretch marks, they’re all a reminder that aging is a privilege—one we get to experience, if we’re lucky. Showing them off while feeling like a movie star truly feels like an act of rebellion and radical self-love. I asked Elise her thoughts on this.

“The self-acceptance journey is just that, a practice. If we get more comfortable seeing ourselves on camera, we can start to connect our thoughts about the way we feel in our body and take a step toward accepting the parts we sometimes don’t love,” Kutt said. “Mod Bettie takes more of an art therapy approach to our sessions, using the camera as a form of art therapy. The idea is that if we document our bodies more frequently, especially in images we love, we are doing deep, sometimes uncomfortable, work to connect to it.”



Women’s+ Health Collective was designed to recreate modern medicine. We fight the bias in medicine that leaves many unheard, untreated, disregarded, or offered inappropriate treatments based on research that doesn’t apply to them. We were founded on the basis of listening. In our listening, we’ve heard you ask for Primary Care services. Introducing Sarah Mika PA-C!

See whcollective.com.

Photo © Elise Kutt, Mod Bettie Portrait Boutique


During the shoot, Elise’s direction and feedback made me feel like I was a total pro— there was no intimidation factor. I left the studio feeling confident, accomplished and like a certified goddess with no regrets. My session was in the morning on a Saturday, so I had the rest of the day to revel in the good vibes and take my hair and makeup out on the town (even if just to grocery shop).


I felt plenty of anticipation while waiting to see my final images, and I even had moments of self-doubt, wondering if they’d match the feeling of how awesome I felt at the time. Spoiler: They did! I even decided to purchase some extra images. And a bonus, if you chose the boudoir route, is that it can also make for a spicy gift for your significant other!

“The images are really a bi-product of the empowerment experience, but having portraits of yourself that you love is a great way to reflect back on your growth journey and remember the invincible power you felt on shoot day,” Kutt said.

While it’s important we remember to care for the relationships we have with others, it’s also paramount we nurture the one we have with ourselves. Sometimes, that means doing things “for no reason,” like a just-for-fun photoshoot. We shouldn’t have to feel afraid or ashamed of our beauty, sexuality and multifaceted layers. Capturing the beauty of who you are in photos is something beautiful in itself; a lasting image of a moment in time that gets to live on for generations to come.

If you’re still thinking about it, just take my word for it: Book the shoot.


Therapy is already a topic that comes along with a stigma. Throw couples into the mix and it becomes even more taboo. Seeking counseling in your relationship often comes with the assumption that said relationship is doomed or failing, which of course, is untrue. Thankfully, more and more people and couples are acknowledging the benefits of seeking counseling. However, it may be tough to recognize when it’s time to seek out help from the pros.

We sat down with Bob Eggleston, MA, LPC from Mindful Counseling GR, to learn more.

According to Eggleston, couples counseling is individual work that is shared with your partner.

“Counseling seeks to provide a space where a couple can identify issues, challenge cognitive and emotional distortions, and experience change together on a consistent basis while being supported externally


by a therapist,” he said. “Couples work involves focusing on the self and the areas in which you can make changes. No matter the length of a relationship, it can help individuals navigate any romantic and platonic relationships they find themselves in.”

Couples counseling offers an environment for growth and progress, but you might not be sure it’s the right time to pursue the idea. Eggleston suggests considering counseling if you’re experiencing the following:

1. When you are feeling distant from your partner but the conversations feel superficial or empty.

2. When you are searching for ways to be alone physically and emotionally from your partner.

3. When you begin to have more dialogues with your partner in your mind rather than in real life.

Even then, how do you bring up the idea—which can be a sensitive topic—to your partner?

“Begin with acknowledging within yourself the reasons you want to begin couples therapy,” Eggleston said. “Explain to your partner what it is you’re feeling is missing with a focus on what is missing, not on whose fault it is. Emphasize how counseling could be an act of love you do for each other. The act of going to therapy can be seen as effort being put into the relationship.”

Eggleston has seen countless positive outcomes from many couples who have embarked on a counseling journey together.

“As a therapist, the times I have seen couples therapy achieve its goals are when each individual in the couple accepts the part they have played and puts effort into making the necessary changes,” he said. “They stay focused on themselves, rather than on how much the other person needs to change.” WMW



Just like every other body part, a woman’s most intimate area changes—and it’s never your fault. Major events in a woman’s life, such as vaginal childbirth, hormonal imbalances, menopause, hysterectomy or chemotherapy, can affect the health and function of vaginal tissue. Vaginal dryness, discomfort, painful intercourse and urinary incontinence or leakage are commonly reported symptoms. We don’t have to suffer in silence!

Join Physician Assistant Susanne Pettigrew and Dr. Diana Bitner for an intimate conversation focused on vaginal health at the true. Women’s Health clinic on February 21, 2023 at 5:30 p.m. Learn more about MonaLisa Touch® laser, a gentle and quick three- to five-minute solution that delivers immediate and long-lasting relief. MonaLisa Touch® can:

• Increase vaginal moisture, without hormones or creams.

• Decrease pain with intercourse.

• Treat mild stress urinary incontinence.

• Increase vaginal tone and laxity.

Space is limited! Attendees will automatically be entered to win a free MonaLisa Touch® treatment and have an opportunity to purchase a discounted treatment package at the event.

at truewomenshealth.com/events.

IIt’s no secret that women have plenty on their plate and are giving of themselves constantly in both a personal and professional way, with many women increasingly examining the specific relationship between their occupation and overall identity.

Ponder the question: Who am I if someday, without warning, that aspect of my life went away? What is left?

In the era of the “girl boss,” it’s imperative to recognize that women are more than the labor we do—and you don’t have to feel guilty about embracing that. Your work—no matter how much you love it and how proud of it you are—does not have to define who you are as a person. So, what does?

We sat down with Jackie Green, Host of the “Gray & Green Show” on 105.3 HOT-FM and Mrs. America 2021, to get her perspective on the topic.

Green, who is currently also a nation-wide pageant and life coach for teens and women, emphasizes the importance of having an identity separate from your work.



“As women, we often start to lose ourselves especially when we are trying to juggle motherhood, relationships and careers,” she said. “The need to show our colleagues that we can indeed do it all can lead so many of us to forget about who we are and what we care about.”

Being in the media, Green finds herself in a unique position, surrounded by several individuals who have multiple “identities” and personas.

“Many times we use stage names, and form characters that we present to our audience. The line blurs between ‘Jackie Green’—the person you hear on the radio—and ‘Jackie Blankenship’ the wife and mother of a busy 6-yearold,” she said. “I start to question who I am without ‘radio me.’ If I don’t have that persona, what am I? The fear that people won’t like regular me or that I won’t fit in if I’m just Jackie instead of ‘Jackie Green’ is a real problem.”

The same goes for many women who are recognizable for the work they do, whether it’s on television or simply within their respective fields. And plenty of folks, who are on the outside looking in, might not quite understand.


Who am I if someday, without warning, that aspect of my life went away? What is left?


“When you decide to do something for you that isn’t the norm or isn’t what has been expected, people won’t necessarily be supportive,” Green explained. “Change disrupts people and no one likes their ‘cheese’ moved. That’s when you know you’ve made the right decision.

When people are so accustomed to you doing everything and living and breathing this ‘field,’ then it’s more crucial than ever to rediscover ‘you’ and not just move the cheese, but throw it in the trash.”

The reality, Green emphasized, is that women have become accustomed to making work our lives, and when we aren’t at work, the rest of our lives are splattered on social media.

Taking a step back is not only encouraged—it’s essential.

“There’s nothing ‘fake’ about presenting a professional or business side of yourself and shutting it off at the end of the day to do what matters,” she said, acknowledging the guilt that can come with setting those boundaries. “Sometimes, finding you can be hard, especially when you’ve made your life all about other people.”

Green suggests trying doing something you’ve never done and meeting new people who don’t know you for your work.

“Get out of your comfort zone and do a new hobby or something that will bring you meaning that has nothing to do with your job or being a parent,” she said.

Being overworked or being overly fixated on “the grind” or “the hustle” can absolutely lead to burnout and potentially bigger problems down the line. Try to be cognizant of what crossing that threshold looks like for you and reflect on how to draw it back to a reasonable place.

“Oftentimes, especially earlier in our career, we think, ‘If I do all this now, then later, I will be successful,’” Green said. “But there’s always more to be done and new projects with new deadlines.”

Of course, we always think about doing more, doing it better, and doing it in a new way. But sacrificing your peace of mind, time with your loved ones and neglecting your brilliant, multifaceted self in the process isn’t going to produce the fulfilling outcome one would hope for.

“Don’t let guilt become regret later in life. We have one opportunity to live our dreams, and no one’s dream is to simply be a workhorse.”

If you’re feeling a bit lost, take those small steps toward doing what gives you joy that doesn’t have anything to do with getting paid. Don’t shy away from taking a mental health day here and there and spending quality time with yourself and people who make you belly laugh.

“The most fulfilling thing for me has been learning that Jackie Blankenship has some awesome friends that couldn’t care less about Jackie Green,” she said. “You’ll find that same thing when you step away from the desk and breathe.” WMW



Retirement isn’t what it used to be, which means we need a new way to plan for it. As employer-funded investments and government plans disappear due to a changing global economy, it’s crucial to personally save for retirement.

Not sure of the best way to do so? You’re not alone.

Leanne Rahn of Fiduciary Financial Advisors told us more and more women are seeking to understand finances and wise investments, while Carol Dehen of Mosaic Wealth Management said it’s more important than ever before to start saving now.

The best thing you can do is speak with a financial advisor who can talk through your options and help ensure you have a healthy, smart, diversified portfolio that will last long-term.

First, let’s take a look at some of the top advice from experts like Dehen and Rahn.

Are there any new saving mechanisms people should be aware of?

Dehen: Not sure how many new vehicles there are, but I would say some that have been around awhile are gaining traction. We’re seeing more people add to the ROTH side of their 401ks and opening ROTH IRAs. You can do both, split your money between the two vehicles. They both grow tax-deferred, but the ROTH money goes in after tax, and is therefore generally not taxed when you withdraw it. A traditional IRA provides a tax savings now, but is taxable when you draw it upon retirement. Contributing to both can help you manage taxes now and in the future.

Rahn: This is a short-term savings mechanism, but treasury bills can be a great short-term savings mechanism, where we’re seeing above-average yields right now. If people have an emergency fund just sitting there, it’s more than likely losing to inflation. Most people don’t think about that, because inflation doesn’t get taken out of your bank account.

Is there anything you’d avoid when saving?

Rahn: Don’t let emotions ruin your investment decisions, especially in times like right now, when the market is all over the place. We’re seeing a lot of variations and our emotions are feeling that, too. To the unwise investor, when the market drops, it sparks the emotion of fear, which leads to selling. Then, when the market rises, they get a little greedy and buy. If you think about this, it’s actually a vicious cycle of buying high and selling low.


Have you seen any unique ways to save for retirement?

Rahn: One thing that’s encouraging and a good idea is, instead of contributing $50 a month to your IRA, maybe it’s 3% of your pay instead. Or if it’s not a percentage, at least have a plan in place to increase those monthly contributions. Maybe, every six months, challenge yourself to put an extra $20 in each month. Some system that allows your investments to grow as you grow, and as your income grows.

Can you talk a bit about “green investing?”

Dehen: It’s really a personal preference. Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) looks to invest in companies that are screened to evaluate their behaviors with regard to the environment, how they treat employees and ethical standards in the way they conduct business, including but not limited to pollution, climate change, diversity, health, safety, tax strategy, charitable giving, etc. The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years and we’re finding more and more companies in general are trying to do better in these areas.

Any final advice for our readers?

Rahn: Align your risk and time horizon. Establish a long-term portfolio and make sure it’s diversified. Ride out the waves of the market. Know what you’re paying in investment fees. Understand what a “fiduciary” is and how one can be vital for your long-term success. What it means to be a fiduciary is that we have a legal obligation to put our clients’ best interests first, and I cannot sell investment products. I truly am recommending what’s best for my client, not because I will get paid more.

Dehen: Start as young as possible not only saving, but planning. A financial plan can help you establish a roadmap and can be updated regularly to see if you’re on track to meet your retirement goals. It will change many times over the years as you marry, have children, change jobs, care for parents and all of those life events we experience. Begin with as much money as you can afford. If you get a raise or promotion at work and don’t need the extra funds, sock it away in a retirement plan or a savings or investment account outside of the different retirement plans. WMW

Fiduciary Financial Advisors, LLC is a registered investment adviser. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any securities. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed. Be sure to consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein.


Though often viewed as more of a summer destination, Traverse City seduces visitors all year round. Sip wine and take in dreamy views of Grand Traverse Bay at Black Star Farms or Chateau Chantal. Or, snuggle up and go dashing through the snow on a sleigh ride at Fantail Farm or Ranch Rudolph.

For a bit of pampering, fine dining and a cozy place to lay your heads, consider Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. Visit their onsite Spa Grand Traverse for a couples massage and then unwind for dinner at the 16th-floor Aerie Restaurant & Lounge while enjoying panoramic city views. Crystal Mountain is also a popular spot for romance, with its indoor and outdoor fireplaces, skiing, and award-winning spa. Both resorts have a selection of packages and specials for couples.

Lovebirds flock to the Saugatuck/Douglas area for its coastal charm and quaint vibe. Whether it’s shopping at the many boutiques or taking in arts and culture at the local galleries—or seeing a performance at Saugatuck Center for the Arts—there are countless options for “we” time.

Dine at favorites such as the elegant Belvedere Inn, which is also a top pick for overnight stays, or the more rustic Bowdie’s Chophouse. Further afield in Fennville is Salt of the Earth, which regularly features live music in addition to farm-totable fare. For inviting accommodations, book a luxury room at the Wickwood Inn, or the cottage Sherwood Forest Bed & Breakfast. In the warmer months, take an Antique Joyride



AAhh … the holidays are over and it’s time to wrap up in a fuzzy blanket and go into hibernation mode until spring. Or, is it? At West Michigan Woman, we believe in the power of a romantic getaway to shoo away the winter grays. Whether it’s to celebrate Valentine’s Day or just because, we have the goods on where to go and what to do with your main squeeze. And, it’s all right here in glorious Michigan!

with a personal chauffeur who will transport you through downtown Saugatuck, Douglas and beyond.

There’s much to love about Ludington for a couples retreat. Take your honey by the mitten for a lantern-lit snowshoe hike—or get those hands dirty with a private workshop with Mary Case Pottery. Create your own signature candle scent at House & Harbor located in The Port Ludington, and linger in this unique collective space for casual dining, live music and browsing artisan shops.

Enjoy dinner and 10 pins at the newly remodeled STIX Ludington, or once spring has sprung, have a meal by the waterfront at Crown and Cork. And, at the end of the day, rekindle your love at one of Cartier Mansion B&B’s four Carriage House Suites.

Photo © Jill DeVries Photography

Looking to truly get away? Allegan’s Castle in the Country Bed & Breakfast is an adults-only escape that’s a destination in itself. Set on 65 secluded acres, this two-estate inn and resort offers 10 guest rooms and suites, many with jetted tubs and fireplaces. Wander the stately grounds, walk or bike on wooded trails, canoodle at the gazebo, or sit in serenity in the winter igloo or summer screened garden dome. Seasonal use of snowshoes, kayaks, and paddleboats is also available to guests. There’s an onsite spa as well, plus from-scratch breakfast served daily and a number of special packages that can be added to lodging experiences.

Bay Harbor is yet another gem, nestled between Charlevoix and Petoskey along the Lake Michigan Shoreline. In addition to breathtaking views that provide an idyllic backdrop for your love story to unfold, the greater area is overflowing with appeal. Wet your whistles at area wineries and breweries, take in a performance at Great Lakes Center for the Arts, or pick up something special at the many local shops. For lodging, the Inn at Bay Harbor, part of the Autograph Collection, welcomes couples to stay in luxurious comfort.

And, don’t forget Downtown Grand Rapids . Even if you live in the city, you can still get to know it more intimately with a long weekend away from home. Get a room at the classic Amway Grand Plaza or the swanky City Flats. Nosh on inspired eats at San Chez Bistro or Max’s South Seas Hideaway, then have a couple of pours at House of Wine or GRNoir, which also has live jazz. A stroll along the quiet, streetlamp-lined streets is also a must. WMW



has been a West Michigan resident since 1987 and a professional writer since 2002. A GVSU alumna, she launched her own freelance writing business in 2017. Allison is a cookie connoisseur, word nerd, aspiring gardener, and metastatic breast cancer thriver who loves traveling in Michigan and beyond, and enjoys art, world cuisine, wine, music, and making homemade preserves.





Art is a tool for healing. I use it to reflect, connect and evolve. When I’m creating, I’m reflecting on and recording my healing story. At the same time, I’m sending out bat signals to anyone who might connect with this story. When the signal is intercepted, a connection is made and we have the chance to share, reflect and heal. Healing is transformation, evolving into our highest self. How can we push the envelope for healing with art?

Art as a tool for healing has been at the root of my career from the start. Whether in the position of the creator, admirer or critic, there is always a moment of dynamic reflection. Within these moments, our true self, perspectives and opinions stare back at us. The parts of ourselves we ignore, or don’t understand, become tangible. This allows us, whether we want to or not, to heal. When we can see ourselves outside of ourselves, we gain greater understanding. We all need healing in some way, shape or form. I’ve been amazed with how my artwork has created a moment for people to reflect, connect and heal


AA visual artist from Grand Rapids and Public Arts Coordinator at Lions and Rabbits Center for the Arts (LRCFA), Jasmine Bruce has made leaps and bounds within the artist community. In 2020, Bruce—who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from GVSU and works with mediums like acrylic, oil and digital painting—led hundreds of artists in the Windows GR project, which spoke on social injustice through art. In her role with LRCFA, Bruce has led various public art projects like After Dark, Women’s Way and more.

Knowing her work is a powerful driver of community, we sat down with Bruce to learn more.

Our work is thorough and focused with the artist and community always at the center. We understand the framework and support for artists to build freelance careers is lacking. We aim to improve this by creating job opportunities, providing professional development resources and advocating for artists. Our team surveys communities, listens to what people want and need, and collects data in order to create sustainable connections and drive communities forward. What does that look like? We like to use this term called “placeHEALING” … creating a place using artwork (murals, installations, etc.), a mission and a stellar team of local artists, businesses and community members. We strive to build prosperous creative independence for all.


Engaging with and supporting the arts is easy! Visit lionsandrabbits.com to donate and sign up for our monthly newsletter to keep up with our journey. We host events and fundraisers and would love to meet you. If you or someone you know wants to activate their space with artwork, we have a client portal on our site. For artists, we have an artist newsletter which provides any job opportunities available.


Growth! In 2023, we are branching out into communities outside of Grand Rapids including Wyoming, Muskegon and more! We’re excited to create even more connections and opportunities within each community. Thank you for your support! WMW

Learn more about Jasmine Bruce and her art at jasminebruce.com, @jasminebruceart, and facebook.com/jasminebruceart. Photo provided by Jasmine Bruce
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