West Michigan Woman February/March 2024

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P u b l i s h e d b y S e r e n d i p i t y M e d i a , L L C Vo l u m e 1 2 , I s s u e 4


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VOLUME 12 , ISSUE 4 www.westmichiganwoman.com

F ebru ary/Mar c h 20 24

PRESIDENT & PUBLISHER Kasie Smith Serendipity Media, LLC







page 12


LE T TER + ONLI NE page 4

MARKETING COORDINATORS Rachel Syrba Kelsey Shoemaker


ACCOUNTING AND OPERATIONS SPECIALIST Megan Marshall West Michigan Woman is published bimonthly by Serendipity Media, LLC; 535 Cascade West Parkway SE; Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Periodical postage is pending at Grand Rapids, MI, and additional

W E L LNE SS page 6 Get Your Greens

HOME page 8 Light It Up! How Lighting Can Elevate Your Mood and Transform Your Space

mailing offices. Subscription information can be obtained through the above address, by calling 616-458-8371, or by logging on to www.serendipity-media.com

R E LATI ONSH I PS page 10 How to Best Support Parents When They Welcome a New Baby

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S P EC IAL SEC TIO N page 16 Self-Care Matters!

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F I NANC I AL page 22 Is Saving for Retirement Different for Women?

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TR A V E L page 25 Sun Seekers: Direct Flights to Warmer Destinations

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Q & A page 28 Wendy Falb, Ph.D.: Meeting the Community Where They Are

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KASIE SMITH | P re s i d e nt & P u b l i s h e r | k asi e@ser endi p i t y- medi a.com


Welcome to the first issue of 2024! The new year is well underway and I hope it’s off to a great start, filled with

thoughtfulness, intentionality and deliberate actions. Here at West Michigan Woman, we are doing just that. We are being thoughtful of the content we share, intentional about the programing we bring to the community and are being deliberate about moving forward. We are excited that 2024 will introduce new ways to engage with our brand. You’ ll see new special sections throughout the year, starting

with this issue’s self-care section (page 18). We don’t need an excuse to do the things that make use happy and healthy, so we’re giving you fun tips to integrate into your lives. In our April issue, we’ ll be introducing our Women’s Business Leaders issue, featuring women who are making significant contributions

to our community.

And come fall 2024, we’re introducing the Brilliance Summit, a sister event to the annual West Michigan Woman Brilliance Awards. This summit will provide a platform for Brilliance Awards top honorees and finalists to impart their wisdom, insight and lessons learned in their development as leaders. Further details will be provided soon! While we’re introducing new things in 2024, we’re excited to bring our readers the events and content you’ve come to know and love. We’ ll continue to feature the stories of women in our community doing amazing work and inf luencing others. This issue features Ashley René Lee, Vice President of Strategic Communications at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Ashely is not only a leader, but a changemaker inf luencing all that surrounds her. She leads with intentionality and when things don’t look right, she works to inf luence change in a positive direction. To learn more about Ashley, turn to page 12. On May 9, we’ ll host the eighth annual West Michigan Woman Brilliance Awards. A community favorite, this event recognizes and celebrates the dynamic talent, spirt and intellect of those who tackle issues facing professional women. Nominations are open through February 9, so if you know someone deserving, please visit westmichiganwoman.com and nominate them if you haven’t already. As you can see, we’re planning on 2024 being a year filled with great content, collaboration and celebration. We invite you to join us on this exciting journey, and as always, if you have a story to tell or know of a great story, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

R E CE I V E W E B -E XCLUSI V E CON T E N T i n o u r F R E E e Ne w s l e t t e r ! T H E "BE ST OF " f ound on w e s tm ichig a nw om a n. com » Not Just Another Parenting Book: How Robyn Gobbel is Empowering Parents » Breaking the Cycle: Strategies to Prevent Burnout » Regaining My Power » The Story of Grace: Tammy Born Huizenga, D.O.


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» The Big M: Methods for Managing Menopause —and More


SUPPORT FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF AGING ADULTS If you’re overwhelmed by a loved one’s care and concerns, you’re not alone. Pine Rest invites you to their free Family & Friends of Aging Adults Support Group which meets monthly to provide understanding, information and resources on topics around dementia care, managing anxiety, planning, finances, in-home health, hospice and more. The February 20 meeting will feature Liz Barnett from the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan on the services they offer to area seniors and their families.

Photo © Eva-Katalin / Pine Rest

On March 19, Sarah Wendling from Pine Rest’s Older Adult Services will present, “Activities and Engagement for Persons Living with Cognitive Limitations.” Family & Friends of Aging Adults Support Group meets the third Tuesday of every month at Thornapple Evangelical Covenant Church, 6595 Cascade Road SE. For more information, visit: pinerest.org/aging-adults. Ad on page 19.

Photo © Downtown Holland

GIRLFRIENDS WEEKEND: SHOP AND RELAX IN DOWNTOWN HOLLAND We get it. While it’s easy to talk about self-care, making the effort to take care of yourself isn’t always that easy. That’s where Downtown Holland’s Girlfriends Weekend comes in! They’ve created a three-day weekend getaway that’s close to home where you can relax and indulge with your best friends—without worrying about the stress of work, kids and spouses. From March 1 – 3, 2024, you’re invited to shop the weekend away with in-store specials, enjoy fun hands-on classes, wine and dine at local bistros and let loose with a night of dancing all in Downtown Holland. Visit girlfriendsweekend.org for the full schedule of events and registration details today! Ad on page 2 .






As we leap into February, hearts surround us: in the stores, in our feeds, in every corner of our

lives. Yes, yes. We get it. Valentine’s Day is coming and love is in the air. And, while not all of us may


have affection for that aspect of this second month of the year, all of these motifs are also a gentle reminder to take care of our hearts—in all ways! It’s no mistake that February was chosen as Heart Health Month; it’s simply hard to ignore. Given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally, according to data from the

World Health Organization, and no. 1 for women in the U.S. per the CDC, heart health should be top of mind. And, though red may be the color du jour, green is the real darling, not just for our hearts, but for our entire bodies. We’re talking about leafy greens, here, and—wow—can they pack a punch. True superfoods filled

with an array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, leafy greens can reduce a number of disease


risks, boost immunity, and support gut, bone, and skin health, among other benefits. They’re also

The GR Dietician

high in fiber and low in energy, making them ideal for incorporating into our daily meals. To help us understand these powerhouses better, we talked with Holly Dykstra, also known as The GR Dietitian. Dykstra, who worked with Corewell Health for more than a decade before starting her own private practice, is a registered dietitian and a certified intuitive eating specialist. She has all the details on greens, from what they do to how to get more of them. When it comes to leafy greens, there are the usual suspects, such as spinach and kale, but Dykstra reminds us: there are plenty of others, including collard greens, arugula, swiss chard, microgreens, cabbage, endive, and even romaine lettuce. She also notes that a number of herbs fit the leafy green category, like basil, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, and mint—to name a few. “All of these leafy greens have incredible nutrient density, but there are slight differences between each of them, and a lot of times it comes down to the different phytonutrients that they offer,” Dykstra said. “All of the nutrients found in them can really help with cellular protection. They help to maintain DNA integrity, support DNA repair processes, and reduce the risk of oxidative stress and DNA damage. Just from a general aging standpoint, they’re going to help a lot.” In addition, she notes that leafy greens not only improve heart health, they also reduce the risk of other chronic diseases like cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.


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Headshot © Amanda Kamppinen of Arrae Photography

Wellness Stock Photo © Adobe Stock

What’s not to love? For some of us, though, the trick might be integrating them into our diets. It’s actually easier than it sounds! First, there are countless ways greens can be prepared, whether sautéed, roasted, or raw—sprinkled on eggs, blended into smoothies, or added to soups and sauces. Dykstra recommends finding a few personally enjoyable preparation methods, and


also taking a cooking lesson or watching a video, and expanding the ways we could enjoy

ALLISON K AY BANNIS TER has b een a West Michigan resident since 19 87 and a profes sional writer since 20 02. A GVSU alumna , she launched her own freelance writing busines s in 2017. Allison is a cookie connois seur, word nerd , aspiring gardener, and metastatic breast cancer thriver who loves traveling in Michigan and b eyond , and enjoys ar t, world cuisine , wine , music , and making homemade preser ves .

greens in different cuisines and cultural f lavors. If keeping fresh greens in the kitchen feels intimidating, or adds worries over using them before going bad, it’s important to remember that freezing is an option. And, given that many store-bought frozen vegetables are f lash frozen within 24-48 hours of being picked, their nutrient value can be even higher than fresh. Also important to note is that greens contain nutrients that are fat soluble; vitamins A, D, E, and K, in particular. That means oil-based (or fat-based) dressings and dips, often misrepresented as the baddies of the food universe, are an excellent way to ensure our bodies are actually absorbing the nutrients some of these greens offer. File that under things we didn’t know! “Overall, there are a lot of great components to all foods, and when we pair certain ones together, we can get even bigger results,” Dykstra said. “Even if we’re eating just a little bit here and there, we’re still giving our bodies those helpful nutrients that help us thrive. And, if we’re adding leafy greens most days of the week—even in small amounts—we’re going to reap the benefits in the long term.” WMW


true . WOMEN'S HE A LT H HELPING WOMEN ACHIEVE THEIR HEALTH GOALS It’s an exciting time in the field of obesity medicine as science opens new doors for individuals seeking safe and effective strategies for weight loss. As we navigate the realm of diet and nutrition, it’s important to explore these breakthrough weight loss medications—they’re reshaping the landscape of healthy living. In my practice, I’ve witnessed the transformative impact of these medications on women striving for sustainable weight management. From innovative appetite suppressants to medications targeting metabolic pathways, options are expanding. It’s essential to recognize that incorporating weight loss medications is not a crutch but a tool in a comprehensive strategy. These breakthroughs provide an additional layer of support and personalized solutions to help women achieve their health goals. Weight loss medications complement lifestyle changes, enhancing the potential for success. We can celebrate these advancements for a healthier future and also recognize the choice of utilizing medications as a valuable tool. Celia Egan, MD, DABOM, MSCP | truewomenshealth.com | 616.330.1700

Photo © Chase Loreto, Leverage Marketing WMW : WESTMICHIGANWOMAN .COM



LIGHT IT UP! How Lighting Can Elevate Your Mood and Transform Your Space


Have you ever been in a space and the vibe is just … off ? Often,

lighting is the culprit. Research indicates that warmer lighting is most associated with a cozy and relaxed atmosphere perfect for being creative and socializing, while cooler lighting is more suited for when you need to be most alert and ready to focus on the task at hand. And while preferences vary, more and more folks are recognizing how inf luential lighting can be in a space, especially within your home, where you’re meant to feel the most at ease.

WHAT MAKES LIGHTING “GOOD?” According to Julie Chesla, Lighting Consultant for Grand Rapids Lighting Center, lighting sets the general tone of a room’s environment, as it inf luences the appearance of wall colors, the shadow patterns cast by objects within your space and can make a room appear larger or smaller. “Good lighting can brighten up a space and make it feel open, larger and inviting, while bad lighting can make it feel dark, dreary and smaller,” Chesla explained. “Good lighting, without glare, also reduces eye fatigue and headaches.” Chesla notes that lighting can also affect your mood, as it can stimulate the production (or lack thereof ) of serotonin and melatonin. “Keep in mind, blue light suppresses levels of melatonin helping us stay awake and alert while red light increases levels

“Just be sure to install dimmable bulbs and with the compatible

of melatonin helping our bodies get ready for bed,” Chesla said.

dimmer so the fixtures work correctly,” she said, noting that

“The higher the kelvin temperature in your bulb or light fixture,

adding table and f loor lamps or wall sconces to any space is also

the bluer the color of the light emitted. Bedroom lighting should

effective. “These items add an extra layer of lighting and come in

have a lower kelvin temperature to make it easier to sleep, while

so many different designs that also can double as a home décor

kitchens and bathrooms need brighter lighting, making a higher


kelvin temperature more suitable.”

A bonus? Table and f loor lamps are portable, meaning they can be placed anywhere an extra hint of light is needed and adjusted

WHAT YOU CAN DO A great way to up the cozy factor in a room, Chesla says, is to

accordingly if you ever decide to switch the room’s layout around. Wall sconces can also simply be plugged in for a quick installation

replace any existing switches with dimmers, as they allow you the

wherever you need a dash of light. You’d be surprised just how

f lexibility to match your mood in any given moment.

much these little touches can entirely reinvigorate your space!


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Types of bulbs vary. So while incandescent bulbs are a thing of the past and longer-lasting, energy efficient options have taken center stage, the craving for warm lighting remains. DON’T FORGET … Remember not to discount the power of natural light! Not only is it free, but there’s nothing quite like a golden hour sunset or bright winter’s light shining from the outside in. Take advantage of whatever natural light you have by clearing clutter from blocking window spaces, choosing light filtering window treatments, considering installing skylights and more. Also, in case you forgot, lighting can be fun! Don’t be afraid to get creative with lighting accents that fit your specific style. This

While shopping, keep this range in mind: 2200 kelvin (warm glow) 2700 kelvin (soft white) 3000 kelvin (bright white) 4000 kelvin (cool white) 5000 kelvin (daylight)

could include everything from a warm Himalayan salt lamp on a bedside table and an eclectic neon sign above your bar cart to wall-mounted picture lights for art in your office and a nostalgic lava lamp in your den. Yes, a lava lamp. WMW






If you’ve never had a little one (or it’s been a while), it can be

Drop off some healthy snacks. If mom is breastfeeding, healthy

difficult to know the best ways to celebrate our friends, family

snacks can help provide the nutrients she needs to produce milk.

members, colleagues or neighbors when they welcome a new baby.

A few ideas to consider are: Sweet Batches granola bars, Ferris nut

Here are a few ideas to show them some love, whether they’re

mixes, lactation cookies or items that freeze easily like Nantucket

welcoming their first or fourth.

Bakery’s trail bars. Some yummy beverages can also help keep new

Reach out. It sounds simple, but a quick text or call to see

how they’re feeling can mean a lot. With so much attention going

parents hydrated. Inv ite them on a walk. While it can be a challenge to get out

toward their new baby, it’s important to see how they’re doing, as

of the house, a nice way to see your pals is by clocking some

well. Just don’t expect an immediate reply!

miles on their new stroller. For people who have experience

Bring a meal or set up a meal train. If they don’t already have a meal train, offer to set one up. With infants, parents are living minute to minute in between diapers, feeding, wake windows and naps. Not having to think about a meal is a huge help.

with newborns, this can also provide a safe space to see if a new parent needs any guidance. Run an errand—or ride along. Loading that car seat in and out of your vehicle for quick trips like the post off ice or

Send a gift card. If you don’t live close enough to drop off

pharmacy can be a pain … Literally! Those things are heav y.

a meal, a virtual gift card is a nice alternative. Meal delivery

Offer to run an errand or two, or simply offer to ride along, if

services like Doordash and UberEats can be sent directly through

that’s easier for them.

text message or email, so it’s a nice option if you don’t have your friend’s address.

Contribute toward a “gift of service.” If they’re going to be utilizing any postpartum services like doula care, you could

With so much attention going toward their new baby, it's important to see how they're doing, as well. 10

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Relationships Stock Photo © Adobe Stock

contribute directly to their account. This also applies to cloth diaper services, home cleaning, lawn care or other helpful services that take a load off the new parents. Bring a care package. When you have an infant at home, nearly all your energy is focused on them, so even a small care package focused on the parent can be a real treat. Items like lotion, lip balm, comfy pajamas or cozy socks will remind them they’re loved and cared for. Ask about their baby by name. When you ask about their baby, use the baby’s name. That child is the center of their world, and knowing their community cares enough to know their baby’s name can feel like a big deal. Send books. Parents can never have too many board books; they’ ll read them over and over again, so a variety is wonderful. There are so many cute books out there, so it’s worth seeking out a topic that means something either to you or the parents. Help around the house. If you’re visiting, take the opportunity to do something that doesn’t require asking, such as doing dishes, taking out the trash, folding some laundry or changing a diaper, if they’re comfortable with it. Surprise them with a gift from their registry. This is a great option for someone you might not be super close with but still want to acknowledge. Look up their baby registry and have a gift shipped directly to their home with a congratulatory note. If you visit, snap a picture. Taking a few candid photos of the new parents simply parenting

CONTRIBUTOR LIZZIE WILLIAMS helps teams and organizations build communit y and connection through creative experiences , thought ful communication , and values-based strategic alignment. She lives with her husband , their daughter, and her t wo teenage stepsons in Grand Rapids , Michigan .

can be a very sweet gift. They might not love how they look in the moment, but down the road it can be a special reminder. And finally, no matter how you decide to show love to your people, remind them that no new parent should waste any time writing thank-you cards! WMW






Photo © Kelly Braman Photography Hair © Destined for Beauty Makeup © Radiant Enrichments


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Ashley René Lee has never been one to temper her desire to

pursue what’s just and right. An optimist with the belief there’s always a lesson on the other side of adversity, she centers herself

While Lee’s initial plans to return to New York post-graduation

on four guiding principles: her faith, her wellness, being a

had changed (thanks to the Great Recession), this became the

great mother and wife, and showing up as the best family and

time when Lee got her first taste of community-building work as

community member she can.

a neighborhood coordinator through what’s known today as LINC

Having relocated from Flint to Grand Rapids in the third grade,

Lee says that both cities raised her, as she spent a generous amount of time in each due to her parent’s divorce. The oldest of five, Lee is thankful to be from a large, beautiful and blended family.

UP. Rebuilding trust was often part of her work, during a time when community tensions were high. “I spent my days in church basements and neighborhood association offices, talking with and getting to meet people,” Lee said,

Lee proudly gained her education through Grand Rapids

noticing a shift in her career when combining writing and community

Public Schools and speaks fondly of the many educators and

work. “The core of what I loved was storytelling and bringing people

mentors who took notice of her writing skills and encouraged

together. It started to open my eyes to other possibilities.”

her. She went on to study at GVSU where she majored in

After a period of working in public relations in DC and earning

journalism and minored in African and African American

her master’s degree from Georgetown, Lee knew home was calling.

studies, and saw her skill blossom further.

She ended up in Lansing working at MSU, and met her husband,

“I wrote for the student newspaper, and when they weren’t covering

Ryann, who she married in 2017. When the opportunity for her to

what I felt was important in terms of race relations on campus, I

join the Grand Rapids Community Foundation arose that same year,

started my own paper called Stand Up,” said Lee, who’d also developed

Lee initially wasn’t sure she was ready. Then, she recalled a bit of

a long-standing freelance writing relationship with the Grand Rapids

wisdom one of her Delta Sigma Theta Sorority sisters once shared:

Press. “I got a cohort of other students who were interested, and looking

“She reminded me of the saying: ‘God doesn’t call the qualified,

back, it was really beautiful because we were building our portfolios and where opportunities didn’t exist, we created our own.” More opportunities arose, including one to intern in New York City at Essence.

He qualifies the called.’” Today, as a West Michigan resident and GRCF Vice President of Strategic Communications, Lee is energized in the work the Foundation does, and finds fulfillment in seeing their efforts move

“Essence was really like the Black girl Bible, and as a little girl,

the needle within the community as it relates to racial, social and

I would see it on the coffee tables of my grandmother and aunt’s

economic justice. She recalled hearing then-longtime president

houses and in the hair salon,” Lee said. “The internship was the

Diana Sieger speak about the Foundation’s North Star and

first time in my education and career where I was in a space full of

commitment to an inclusive economy and thriving community.

women who looked like me. And it was just so empowering.”

“ To hear an organization in West Michigan unapologetically name systemic racism as one of the biggest issues in the community that impacts us today and in the future was

“The core of what I loved was storytelling and bringing people together. It started to open my eyes to other possibilities.” WMW : WESTMICHIGANWOMAN .COM



refreshing,” Lee said. “ The work we do isn’t about checking boxes. It’s an ongoing str uggle. There’s so much progress that’s been made, but even more work that still needs to be done. I’ve had the oppor tunity to build an amazing team of folks who are equally committed to this work. A nd even though change is hard, I feel like I’ve been a par t of really meaning ful progress in this organization.” And we all have a role to play in advancing these efforts in our own lives. “We can take steps toward equity by the decisions we make every day about who’s at a table, ensuring we’re not gatekeeping and that we’re bringing others alongside us,” Lee said. “Ask yourself, ‘Are you holding space for folks who are different from you?’ Examine where you can authentically open your heart and mind to be an advocate, mentor and sponsor for someone who may not have your privilege. If you want to be about it, be about it.” Lee admires and is inspired by the matriarchs of her family, having gained a better understanding of the weight they and she carry specifically as Black women. Photo © Abby Jayne Photography

“I look back and wonder, ‘How did they do it all?’ And while I never saw them break a sweat, I now understand the magnitude of their sacrifice,” Lee said, urging other women to prioritize their wellness and define success for themselves. “Take care of yourself and don’t let anyone define what success looks like for you. Really think about what makes you happy.” As someone who always knew she wanted to be a mother, Lee says her journey to motherhood provided a real shift in perspective, from struggling to conceive and suffering miscarriages to safely welcoming her daughter, Emery, in 2022. “That journey really tested my faith,” Lee said. “But I believe God wastes nothing. And so as hard as it is to talk about, I try to be open and share my story so other women, especially women who look like me, know they’re not alone.” L ook ing toward the f uture, L ee hopes to live in the moments that mat ter and continue to g row, including w ith Photo © Peadbo, Inc.

Peadbo, a sof t ware company that she co -founded w ith her brother that helps indiv idua ls build and manage their communit y of suppor ters.

“Ask yourself, 'Are you holding space for folks who are different from you?'” 14

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A self-proclaimed extroverted introvert, Lee finds enjoyment and solace in reading, traveling, shopping, listening to live music and being close to the water. “Get me a good bottle of wine and some good conversation with some close friends, and that’s what it’s about.” WMW

Photos © Created With Bri

Photo © Ashley René Lee

Photo © Tiberius Images







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Special Section Stock Photo © Adobe Stock



The concept of “treating” ourselves has long been equated with indulgences and luxuries to be enjoyed sparingly.

But what if treating ourselves really meant engaging in self-care? You don’t need an excuse to do the things that make you happy and feel like your best self, especially in a society that consistently undervalues (and downright fails to recognize) the emotions, labor and overall contributions of women. In the spirit of self-care (keeping in mind that it looks different for everyone), come along as we journey through

10 ways to treat yourself—without any shame.









breweries and distilleries just waiting to be discovered.

Nature’s seasons never cease to provide stunning

Make a literal checklist of places old and new that

backdrops for fun, reflection and contemplation. It has

you’ve wanted to try (and perhaps have never had

something to teach us year round, if we let it. Treat

a “reason” to)! Establishments like Scholar, Rika’s

yourself to an outside adventure by admiring the beauty

Chicken and Myrth are just some of the stellar options

of the trails at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Blandford

to consider.

Nature Center, renting snowshoes at Hemlock Crossing Park, and taking in the festivities at World of Winter—


the largest winter festival in the Midwest.

Whether you venture out solo or plan a getaway with your best friends, travel is always good for the soul.


Remember to use that vacation time! Don’t want to

When it comes to self-care, most people think of spa

worry about the logistics? Enlist the services of a travel

treatments, salon services and other relaxing activities.

advisor, like Edgewood Travel’s Meredith Rothouse or

If that sounds like a bit of you, book the service you’ve

Cruise Planners’ Lori Visser. Witte Travel & Tours also

been dreaming of and allow yourself to decompress.

plans travel for all around the world. Letting someone

From massages at Ethos Day Spa and the infrared sauna

else handle the stressful parts while you get to relax?

at Wanderlux Salon + Spa to hair and nail services at

Sign us up.

Design 1 Salon Spa, your choices are endless. For those looking for med spa treatments, SkinCoLAB offers a plethora of luxury aesthetic services.




GET YOUR BLOOD PUMPING! Treat yourself to some endorphins by moving your body and getting in a good sweat. Dive into highenergy cardio at CKO Kickboxing or a low-impact (but far from easy) barre class at The Barre Code. Unsure of where to start when building a fitness routine? Get some personal coaching, like from the experts at Valeo / Training. PRIORITIZE YOUR LIVING SPACE. If organization weighs heavy on your mind, call in the pros (like JJ Organizational Design) who can help sort through all the clutter and get you to a place where your home works for you again. If you also find


yourself without the time to clean, consider cleaning


services from teams like Clean Bee Home Services and

If you’re up to date on all of your appointments

Sparkle & Shine. You’ll feel lighter from just booking

with your doctor, dentist or otherwise, please know

the appointment.

that we’re severely impressed. If you’re not, that’s OK! However, you owe it to yourself to be kind to your mind and body. If you’re in the market for a provider,

Don't hesitate to romanticize your life by doing little things for yourself along the way— simply because you can.

there are many to choose from: the concierge services designed by women for women available at true. Women’s Health, the mental health offerings at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, dentistry by Great Lakes Dental Care and more. Don’t forget your largest organ—your skin! Offices like Dermatology Associates of West Michigan can help. Continued on page 20 ...



YOUR TRUSTED PHARMACIST As your trusted pharmacist, I recommend the powerful synergy of fiber and berberine for effective weight management. Fiber, the digestive champion, ensures fullness and satisfaction, while berberine ignites metabolism and reduces inflammation. This combination aids in blood sugar and cholesterol reduction, supporting you to reach your health goals. keystonerx.com | 616.974.9792 Photo © Maya Cassetta


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... continued from page 18.

FIND A GOOD NEW BOOK. Treat your imagination to an immersive read! No matter your favorite genre, West Michigan’s many libraries and local bookshops—Books & Mortar, Schuler Books and We Are LIT, just to name a few—are the perfect places to find exactly the story you seek. You could even start your own book club with friends and find a cozy corner at a local coffee shop like Scorpion Hearts Club, Morning Ritual and Last Mile Cafe. BRIGHTEN YOUR DAY (OR SOMEONE

SHOP FOR A NEW OUTFIT! Sometimes you need to add some pep into your step. Sometimes, that pep comes in the form of a new outfit! Luckily, West Michigan is home to boutiques and second-hand stores full of pieces and accessories to refresh your wardrobe. Swing into Gina’s Boutique for the latest trends, A.K. Rikk’s for high fashion from designer labels or Gild the Lily for gently worn pieces looking for a new lease on life.

ELSE’S) “JUST BECAUSE.” As the saying goes, life is short. Don’t hesitate to romanticize your life by doing little things for yourself along the way—simply because you can. Perk up your day with a stunning floral arrangement from Eastern Floral, some sweet treats from Love’s Ice Cream & Chocolates, a new (to you) record from Vertigo Music or some life-long art from Balm Tattooing. You could also brighten someone else’s day by volunteering your time and skills with one or more of

You owe it to yourself to be kind to your mind and body.

West Michigan’s many charitable organizations such as CSNIP, Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, Women’s Resource Center and more.

Sometimes, self-care is also knowing when to end friendships that have become toxic and unfulfilling. Though calling it quits in any relationship is never easy, it may be time to re-evaluate a friendship if the following sounds familiar: »

Being treated differently based on mood or who is around.


A one-sided relationship in which you feel obligated to give and give, with little if anything given in return.


Being judged or feeling as though you’re being manipulated.


When your friend talks about others and you are pretty sure you also get talked about.


The friend frequently makes every conversation about them.

Read more by visiting our past conversation on the topic: bit.ly/FriendshipToxic


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It’s true that saving for retirement

is indeed different for women. But why? And in what ways can women adjust knowing these factors? To learn more, we connected with Abby Lininger, Financial Advisor with Drake Financial Group, and Laura Corbiani, CFP®, Wealth Advisor with Midwest Capital Advisors.

THE DIFFERENCE Retirement for women can be inf luenced by a number of factors. According to Corbiani, women tend to be less confident in financial matters because of things like the fear of embarrassment when asking a question, being afraid of making mistakes or telling themselves they’re “ bad at math.” Corbiani also notes that women—who account for two-thirds of the minimum wage workforce in the U.S. typically make less money than men while also having a longer life expectancy. “Living longer means their money needs to last longer, and women likely need to save more and/or be more aggressive with their investments to cover the extended period of time,” Corbiani said. Lininger notes that among her clients, she sees many women who have alternative sources of income through independent consulting roles or small businesses, which often prevent them from having a traditional 401k or 403b for retirement savings. “[Some can end up feeling] overwhelmed, not knowing what their options are or where to turn for good advice,” Lininger said. “As a result, nothing gets invested and valuable years go by, putting us behind our male counterparts.”


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“Women make more financial decisions than they realize. If women can recognize the skills they already have and proactively address biases, this can help improve their financial skills.”


Financial Stock Photo © Adobe Stock

ADJUSTING CONFIDENTLY While it can feel downright awful to think about what’s working against us, there are ways to take control and work toward a future that includes a comfortable retirement. “Women make more financial decisions than they realize,” Corbiani said. “If women can recognize the skills they already have and proactively address biases, this can help improve their financial skills.” She suggests taking the following steps: Make time for your f inancial self. “Making time to understand your financial situation is paramount to long-term financial security. The first step is often assessing your current financial

ABBY LININGER Financial Advisor, Drake Financial Group

situation, and from there thinking about your financial hopes and dreams.” Express how you learn. “Do you prefer text, charts or graphs when it comes to learning new concepts? If you’re meeting with a financial advisor, let them know how so they can appropriately explain any thoughts or feedback.” Use automation whenever possible. “If you have an employer plan where you can automatically increase your contributions each year by 1%, turn that feature on! Small changes can turn into a large sum of money over time.” Check in with a professional. “If you have an employer plan that has an investment advisor, consider scheduling an appointment to learn if you’re invested appropriately.” Network and learn from others. “Talk to your friends, colleagues or mentors who’ve taken action in understanding their financial situation/retirement planning. It sometimes can be a social taboo


to talk about money, but just like many other important topics for women, it’s time to shine some

Wealth Advisor, Midwest Capital Advisors

light on subjects that are not always ‘polite’ to talk about.” DON’T TALK DOWN TO YOURSELF It’s not uncommon for women to feel pessimistic about their future financial situations, with many not feeling confident they’ ll reach a comfortable retirement. Lininger wants us to reframe that thinking entirely.

Abby Lininger Headshot © Mae Photo Co. Laura Corbiani Headshot © Midwest Capital Advisors

“Nine times out of 10, anxiety comes from a lack of planning,” Lininger said. “Most of us were never taught how to calculate how much we’ ll need to retire, let alone what we need to do to get there. How are you supposed to reach a destination you don’t even know exists? We put so much pressure on ourselves, especially as women. Why do we think that in addition to being an expert in our own field we should also be a financial expert? It’s OK to ask for help.” And remember: It’s never too late to take steps toward a secure retirement. Corbiani suggests embracing incremental progress, focusing on controllable factors, considering alternative paths and taking care of your well-being. “There can be a lot of confusing terms with financial matters, and it’s easy to avoid dealing with it because it’s human to avoid things that are overwhelming,” Corbiani said. “Money is one of the most important things to understand in life—the sooner you understand it, the better you’ ll feel. Resources are available that can meet you at the level you’re at, so you can empower yourself to learn more about your situation.” WMW

To find qualified financial advisors and other resources: napfa.org | cfp.net | savvyladies.org



Photos (TtoB) © Getty Images/Visit Austin, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation


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Direct Flights to Warmer Destinations



This time of year, the itch to venture to sunnier climates becomes almost

inescapable following months of dreary winter weather. Thankfully, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport hosts a variety of direct f lights to destinations all around the country. So whether you’re planning a spring break vacation or simply need to skip town for a while, these warmer-weather gems to the south are sure to please. AUSTIN, Texas Feb/Mar average high temperature: 65°-73°

Recognized as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin, Texas certainly lives up to its name. If escaping to warmer climates while grooving to music of all kinds sounds like your kind of jam, there are tons of options here, including live music at the ​​iconic blues venue Antone’s and record shopping at BLK Vinyl. Need to cool off ? Sunbathe beside the La Piscina pool atop the Austin Proper Hotel or buy a pool day pass at the charming Austin Motel. You could even venture to nearby Hill Country for a distillery tour and tasting at Dripping Springs Vodka. Try some genuine Texas barbecue at County Line on the Hill, catch a new release or cult classic f lick at Alamo Drafthouse, shop for candles at Slow North or for Fido at Tomlinson’s Feed, and take to Sixth Street for some nightlife. HILTON HEAD ISLAND, South Carolina Feb/Mar average high temperature: 63°-70° If white-sand beaches, towering live oaks and a small town coastal vibe are what you seek, Hilton Head Island should be your next stop. Accommodations abound, from beachfront resorts to impressive vacation homes and villas. And bicycling here is super popular, so rent some wheels and enjoy the salty air. Other can’t-miss activities include respectfully learning about the island’s thriving Gullah culture and cuisine; ziplining above the tree canopy; golfing on one of 26 championship courses; and dining on a classic Lowcountry boil at Skull Creek Boathouse. It’s also worth noting that a short 45-minute drive away is Savannah, Georgia—a perfect place for those interested in taking a tour centered on history, architecture or even ghosts.




MIAMI, Florida Feb/Mar average high temperature: 75°-77° Embrace your inner Golden Girl and head to Miami, where sunshine is a year-round luxury. From boutique to beachfront and everything in between, Miami’s hotels have exactly what you seek, no matter if it’s a solo trip or one for the whole family. During your visit, try a little taste of everything with a culinary tour, explore the Everglades and admire all its inhabitants on an air-boat ride, embrace all things Cuban in Little Havana, or take part in the city’s legendary nightlife scene. Of course, the whole family will love Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, a hub for hands-on learning and environmental stewardship. Thinking of hopping on a cruise with lines like Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian? Port of Miami is right within reach, as is Port Everglades, located about 30 miles north in Fort Lauderdale. NASHVILLE, Tennessee Feb/Mar average high temperature: 52°-62° Music City is a popular travel destination for trips of all kinds and it’s easy to see why! There’s live music and something exciting happening around every corner. And while Broadway usually gets all the love, be sure to make your way to quirky East Nashville across the Cumberland River where you’ ll find vintage stores, cozy dive bars and the Donut Distillery. Mini donuts, boozy shakes and prosecco? Say less. Go bowling and catch a live show (at the same time) at Brooklyn Bowl, enjoy brunch and a “Big Ass Mimosa” ser ved in a one-liter stein at Von Elrod ’s Beer Hall & K itchen, tour the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, step on stage at the iconic Grand Ole Opry, and more. Remember to try some Nashville Hot Chicken, found at eateries like Prince’s Hot Chicken and Hattie B’s. PHOENIX, Arizona Feb/Mar average high temperature: 72°-77° Natural beauty is easy to find in Phoenix and the surrounding area. Located in the picturesque Sonoran Desert, full of mountain terrain and iconic saguaro cacti, Phoenix has no shortage of ways to enjoy the outdoors. Open-air adventurers will bask in panoramic views after hiking Camelback Mountain, while thrill seekers will find breathtaking views aboard a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. Tranquility can also be discovered at the area’s many mountain-side retreats, like the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa. Don’t forget to enjoy the immersive and interactive art show at Wonderspaces Arizona in Scottsdale, the award-winning authentic Mexican cuisine of Barrio Queen (multiple locations), a tour of Taliesin West, (Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home), and more. WMW

Photos (TtoB) © Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, Visit Phoenix


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WHERE THE GOING GETS GOOD: GERALD R. FORD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT Whether you’re flying out for your family’s spring break or a warm winter weekend getaway, your vacation begins before you even takeoff at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, where a host of exciting amenities, culinary delights and retail shops await you. Located in the post-security Marketplace, Prospect Hill boasts local craft brews, including renowned beer from Founder’s and a diverse menu to satisfy every craving. Venture toward Concourse B to discover the new Ink by Hudson, a wine bar and contemporary bookstore. Elevate your travel experience with sips of Michigan wines while perusing shelves stocked with

In the newly expanded Concourse A, Blue Bridge Market

best sellers, travel essentials and unique gifts—the

invites you to dive into the flavors of West Michigan with

perfect place to pick up a book for lounging on the

Madcap Coffee and Nantucket Bakery, or create your own

beach or relaxing by the pool.

experience with a self-serve meal. If you realize a little too late that you forgot those staple toiletries, worry not. With the new Thornapple Essentials, you can find those last-minute items before you board. Take a moment for yourself at Aletitude, a full-service restaurant offering breakfast, lunch and dinner options. You’re in for a treat with a delicious chicken and bacon flatbread, savory breakfast sandwich or Bavarian pretzel. Head to Concourse B to discover classic and creative bagel sandwiches at The Great American Bagel. At the MI Tap Room, local and national beer brands meet signature dishes, ensuring your travel experience is a flavorful blend of comfort and excitement. For those awaiting their loved ones, GRR Life Market, located pre-security, offers mouthwatering breakfast sandwiches, enticing pizzas and fresh salads, ensuring every selection is crafted to delight your taste buds.

For more information about Gerald R. Ford International Airport, its more than 30 nonstop destinations, guest amenities and more, visit FlyFord.org.

Photos © Gerald R. Ford International Airport







A driving purpose in Dr. Wendy Falb’s life has been a commitment to creating

more equitable educational opportunities and a passion for effective community transformation. She served on the GRPS board for 10 years, where she was instrumental in the development of the Museum School and part of the team that increased enrollment for the first time in 25 years and passed a $175 million millage. Dr. Falb has led the Literacy Center of West Michigan as Executive Director for

the past nine years. Since her start, the organization has grown to be the largest community-based adult literacy organization in Michigan and among the largest in the country, instructing over 1,100 individuals annually. With March being National Reading Month—and one in eight adults in West

Michigan struggling with low literacy—we spoke with Dr. Falb to learn more.

Photo © 616 Media

families out of poverty. We’ ll be leading a project that implements a workforce WHAT MAKES YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT YOUR WORK?

Michigan and multiple sectors to provide

development strategy in partnership with

skilled training alongside integrated

Corewell Health, GRCC, and WMCAT

The remarkable assets of the people

literacy instruction. By removing literacy

to help employees upskill into midlevel

we serve. Some of our adult learners are

as a barrier, these programs help actualize

health care careers. We’re excited and

congresswomen, engineers, or business

the talents of everyone in our community

know this work will be a game changer for

owners in their own country who need

while also creating a new talent pipeline.

our participants, our largest health care

language skills to work even the most basic

The Literacy Center also creates paths

system, and the entire region.

jobs in the U.S. Some are mothers who

to citizenship, supports citizens returning

speak an unwritten Indigenous language.

from incarceration, and collaborates

Others are refugees who’ve never attended

with multiple school systems to provide a

school until our classes. Their courage and

two-generational approach to children’s

Close to 300 of our 1,100 learners work

accomplishments make them leaders for

literacy. We challenge ourselves to meet

one-on-one with a volunteer literacy coach

their families, community, and our region.

people where they are in life, designing

from the community, and we always have

our programs with, rather than just for,

a large list of learners waiting for a coach.

our adult learners. This approach sets us

Please consider volunteering for this role—

apart from many adult education providers

you’ ll love it and will likely learn just as

and is the foundation for our success at

much (if not more!) as the adult you’ ll be

addressing literacy in West Michigan.

working alongside.

HOW DOES THE CENTER WORK TO INCREASE LITERACY IN WEST MICHIGAN? We work alongside immigrants, refugees, and native speakers of English to provide literacy support tailored to their individual adult needs and priorities. A


Don’t underestimate what you WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE CENTER IN 2024?

might accomplish, how you might be a changemaker in your community and in

key player in workforce development, the

The Literacy Center was chosen as one

your own life, if you take your personal

Center also partners with employers and

of 10 non-profit organizations in Michigan

passion and skills and direct them toward

other vocational programs across West

to receive just over $1 million to move

solving the unmet needs in our world. WMW


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BUSINESS LEADERS ISSUE NEW IN 2024! Show the West Michigan Woman community why you’re a leader in your industry. + Featured in the April/May issue of West Michigan Woman + Expanded distribution at the 2024 West Michigan Woman Brilliance Awards

SPECIAL SECTION EXPERTORIAL In each issue of West Michigan Woman we offer a unique editorial focus with our special sections. These topics have been chosen with our readers in mind and when you highlight your business within the special section you will reach over 55,000 influential and professional woman. 2024 TOPICS: FEBRUARY/MARCH: Self-Care APRIL/MAY: Entrepreneurship JUNE/JULY: Alternative Wellness AUGUST/SEPTEMBER: Aging Well OCTOBER/NOVEMBER: Women’s Health DECEMBER/JANUARY: Readers’ Choice Awards

+ View the WMW Media Kit



+ Email Susan Smalley susan@serendipity-media.com WMW : WESTMICHIGANWOMAN .COM



F E B R UA R Y/ M A R C H 2 0 24 : W M W

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