What's New in the Community

By Lynda Gronlund

Exploring What's New in the Body/Mind/Spirit communities of Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County and surrounding areas.

New Offerings by Established Businesses and Practitioners

Anne Biris, a board-certified acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, and massage therapist, is moving her Ann Arbor practice, Eastern Integrative Services, to a new location on Washtenaw Avenue. 

The office at 2300 Washtenaw is being renovated and will open on May 1. She also maintains an office in Dearborn. 

Biris has been practicing since 1994 and specializes in fertility, women’s issues, pain management, and cancer care and recovery. After traveling to Mumbai, India, in 2011, she was inspired to form the nonprofit organization Humanitarian Acupuncture Project (HAP), which brings Traditional Chinese Medicine to the poor in India. The organization trains Indian women in giving acupuncture treatments, and has established five clinics in total, located in Mumbai and Tamil Nadu. HAP is now focused on bringing acupuncture to the underserved population in the very northern Indian province of Sikkim. Biris returns to India yearly to continue her work there. 

The new location of Eastern Integrative Services is 2300 Washtenaw Avenue, Suite 101, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Anne Biris can be reached at (734) 761-5402 or lotuskarma@gmail.com. The website for Eastern Integrative Services is www.lotuskarma.com and for the Humanitarian Acupuncture Project, www.humanitarianacupunctureproject.org. 

MOVE mind-body fitness and wellness studio opened a second Ann Arbor location inside Probility Therapy Services on State Street, in February. 

This studio houses MOVE’s new Transition Program, which is designed for post physical-therapy clients transitioning from therapy to a regular exercise and wellness program. The Transition Program is designed to help these clients learn to confidently improve their fitness while avoiding re-injury. The program is based on Pilates, which emphasizes core strength, posture, flexibility, and all-over strength. Said MOVE co-founder and instructor Elaine Economou: “Pilates is a very efficient system to help people be mindful and increase their anatomical awareness.” MOVE offers private and group Pilates classes for both post-PT and standard clients, as well as Yoga, Barre, and soon, Gyrotonic® and Gyrokinesis — another gentle exercise system emphasizing flowing, circular motions designed to improve balance, strength, and flexibility. The MOVE Transition program is offered not just to Probility’s clients, but to anyone exiting a physical therapy program. Economou said that for clients who live or work near State Street, the satellite location is more convenient than the main MOVE studio on Ann Arbor’s West Side. 

In November 2015, MOVE collaborated with St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Health System to bring fitness classes to St. Joseph employees on the hospital campus in Ypsilanti. Classes, which are held at the Women’s Health Center on Elliot Drive, include Barre, Yoga, Pilates, Gyrokinesis, and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). To accommodate employees’ work schedules, there are a variety of lunchtime and after-work classes offered. 

MOVE’s main studio also continues to offer new health and wellness programs, including instructor training in Pilates and Gyrokinesis. One of their unique offerings is a 21-day wellness challenge. Many studios do weight loss challenges, but MOVE’s 21-day challenge, offered bi-annually, focuses on all-over wellness, with participants earning points for activities like getting a massage, going for a walk, and so on. One of these challenges is held close to Thanksgiving and has a focus on gratitude. 

Of MOVE’s success and expansion, Economou said, “I’m so thrilled that people are working with a business like ours that is small and local…. I feel really honored and excited.” 

MOVE’s second location is located at 2058 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. The studio can be reached at (734) 761-2306 or office@movewellness.com. More information is available at www.movewellness.com.

Paul Hess, Ph.D., started Primal Rejuvenation, a nutrition and health coaching practice, in 2013.

As a former sufferer of chronic fatigue, Hess has researched many approaches and methods, and now helps others address symptoms of chronic fatigue, as well as look and feel younger. He said the five root causes for fatigue are nutrition, toxicity, infection, emotional stress, and misalignment, and his goal is to create a complete solution for each client. “I start with nutrition,” Hess said, explaining that “when the body has all the nutrients it needs it can heal itself.” He tests clients for nutritional deficiencies, sensitivities, and allergies in order to recommend dietary changes, and sometimes supplements, though “supplements aren’t as effective as food,” he said, and people over-rely on them. Hess said that knowing the physics of nutrition at the molecular level is important, and that things most people don’t think about, like getting enough sunlight, are important for the body to fully use the nutrition it receives. 
The second “root cause,” toxicity, he explained, can largely be addressed with correct nutrition, including knowing and avoiding what foods one is sensitive to. The third cause, infection, can include yeast overgrowth, parasites, and bacteria, and may be helped by nutrition, herbs, or, in some cases, medical treatment. The fourth, emotional stress, is another contributor to fatigue and can be linked to the fifth root cause, misalignment. Hess said emotional stress and misalignment can and should be treated together, with practices like yoga. A newly understood area of misalignment, he added, involves the teeth. “The biggest chiropractic subluxation occurs when the teeth and palate pinch the entire brain and imbalance the nervous system to impair sleep, digestion, immunity, and the ability to relax.” A subset of orthodontists are beginning to study and help patients with this type of misalignment for the purpose of eliminating fatigue and other problems. Small dental misalignments, Hess explained, may be able to be resolved with mouth exercises. 

Hess does most of his work through Skype. He offers a free consultation and can help clients with all aspects of fatigue to form a complete plan to restore their health and energy. When needed, he refers clients to other professionals, such as body workers, chiropractors, and orthodontists, to further treatment for a particular client’s needs. 
Paul Hess can be reached at hess.paulc@gmail.com. His website is

New Books by Area Authors

Mt. Clemens-based special education teacher and crisis counselor Kim Verhamme published a children’s book called Soul’s Whisper in June 2015. 

The book’s purpose, she said, is to “help young people work through life lessons … and to help them realize their innate possibilities.” “The book sat on the shelf for five years,” she joked, but during that time she used pages from what she had written in an art journal to help her students learn coping skills and to provide them with encouragement. She said the lessons she imparts are very simple, and, at first, she had the notion that everyone would already be familiar with them. But she realized that many people, children and adults alike, either aren’t aware of these simple concepts or need reminding. Students and adult friends with whom she shared the book told her how much it had helped them through tough moments, and this revelation led to her decision to publish the book. 

Each page of Soul’s Whisper is illustrated with simple line drawings reminiscent of Shel Silverstein’s children’s books. She kept the pictures and information simple, concrete, and “easily digestible.” Verhamme is also a Pranic healer (a form of energy healing) and said that the book is intended to help children connect with their “divine spark.” The book has helped adults as well, Verhamme found out. When she went to donate copies to a local organization that helps families in transition find shelter and build self-advocacy skills, she initially brought the books in for children, but the director of the organization said, after flipping through the pages, “This is what our counselors teach our clients,” and ended up giving them to adults to use. 

“Just remember you have all the answers; this [book] is just to help you remember. Your soul knows, just listen to the whispers,” Verhamme said.

Kim Verhamme can be reached by email at namastee@sbcglobal.net. Soul’s Whisper is available at Crazy Wisdom.

To mark the 45th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Food Co-op, local author Patti Smith wrote A History of the Ann Arbor People’s Food Co-op. 

The book will be released at the April 17 annual meeting and will be available at the Co-op afterward. The original idea for the book came from General Manager Lesley Perkins. Smith is PFC’s Board Administrator, and Perkins, being familiar with Smith’s 2014 book, Images of America: Downtown Ann Arbor, suggested that Smith write A History of the Ann Arbor People’s Food Co-op, and they immediately began gathering stories and photographs to include. It contains interviews from dozens of people throughout the PFC’s history and almost 100 pictures. Smith added a brief history of co-ops in general and in Ann Arbor specifically, as well as a timeline of major PFC events. The book, said Smith, is a celebration of the Co-op, which she hopes will be of interest to all its members, new and old. 

Patti Smith can be reached via email at teacherpatti@fastmail.net. 
The book has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PFCbook/. PFC’s website is www.peoplesfood.coop. General Manager Leslie Perkins can be
reached at gm@peoplesfood.coop or (734) 994-9174.  

Lisa Hardy has published her first children’s book, Smiles Are Everywhere. 

Born and raised in Michigan, she moved to California as a young adult, where she discovered meditation and began writing poetry. Still, she never thought of herself as an author until the idea for Smiles Are Everywhere came to her in a dream. She wrote it in one sitting after waking up and then set it aside for several years, until she came across an illustrator whose work resonated with her, Patricia Moffett. Having since moved back to Michigan to be closer to her parents, Hardy corresponded with Moffett, who lives in Wales, through email. “She took my dream and made it better,” Hardy said. The pictures are full of smiling people and also of objects that resemble smiles — leaves, a banana, an upside-down rainbow, and more. Hardy said that “life is like a mirror; when you smile you’re going to feel better” and see the smiles reflected back. She said that people of every age can benefit from the reminder of “the magical power and warmth of a smile.” 

Hardy has several more children’s books in mind as part of a series related to this first book. She works as a massage therapist in Waterford. 

Lisa Hardy can be reached at smilesareeverywhere1@gmail.com. Her website is www.lisahardy.com. 

Upcoming Events

On May 7, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Eastern Michigan University’s Pease Auditorium, Jewel Heart Tibetan Buddhist Center will host His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon in an event called a “Ceremony for a Successful Current Life and for Visions of a Future Life.” 

HH Kyabgon is the head of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage in Tibetan Buddhism, explained Kimba Levitt, assistant to Jewel Heart’s Gelek Rimpoche. This ceremony, she said, is a rare type of event traditionally held only in a Monkey year (every 12 years). 2016 is a Fire Monkey year, she said. This is the first time that HH Kyabgon will bring this event to Michigan, and it has been about 20 years since he last traveled here from his home in India. The event is open to the public. Levitt described it as a “cultural, spiritual event,” and said that it would interest spiritual seekers, open-minded people, and those interested in “life, visions of the future,” and reincarnation. 

Tickets for the ceremony are available at www.emutix.com. Jewel Heart Tibetan Buddhist Center is online at www.jewelheart.org and can be reached by phone at (734) 994-3387. Kimba Levitt can be reached by email at kimba@jewelheart.org. 

From May 13 to 15 at U-M’s Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, The Ann Arbor Young Actors Guild (YAG) Senior Ensemble will present Shakespeare’s As You Like It. 

Sue Roe, YAG’s founder and artistic director, said that the play features 21 actors, high-school and college-aged, and is done in a 1920s style. Her approach is one of inclusivity and seeks to break down barriers created by competition. Auditions are done in a workshop style, everyone is cast, and everyone gets to spend a significant amount of time on stage. Roe said that she and the other teachers at YAG work “from the actors outward,” whereas a traditional approach would mold the actors to the director’s vision. She avoids the term “lead roles,” and says that “heavy roles” with lots of dialogue (she doesn’t cut the scripts to make them easier) are usually double-cast, meaning that two actors practice for a given role and perform that role in two out of four performances. On the other performance nights, they would play less heavy roles. In this way, she explained, actors get to stretch the range of their acting and learn more while keeping the entire process non-competitive.

While the style is unconventional, students can really learn a lot. Since Roe started YAG in 1993, she has had many young actors go on to become professional actors, directors, and stage technicians. Even for those who don’t go into the trade, she said, the experience helps them in their everyday lives and dealing with people. 

Each year, YAG also puts on the “Summer Theatre Academy,” a two-week day camp-style program where actors as young as seven learn about acting and get to experience putting on a play. This year Summer Academy will run from July 11 to 13 and will meet at the U-M Student Theater Arts Complex (STAC). Children are divided by age and work on different “adventures,” Roe explained.

Students in grades 2 to 4 will create a performance, starting with just a title and imagining the rest from there. This year, the title is The Ball in the Tree, inspired by an adventure Roe’s grandchildren had last summer. Grades 4 to 6 will begin to work with a script, exploring how to “bring it to life.” The script for this year’s group will be Five Greek Myths, short versions of Greek classics, including puppets (made by the students) and a Greek chorus style of performance. Grades 6 to 9 will perform Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, learning about Shakespearean language, acting style, comedic techniques, and technical and behind-the-scenes aspects of theater. For the Senior Ensemble (high school and college actors), a play will be chosen based on how many people enroll. The play has to be exactly the right fit for the number of actors, Roe said, because, unlike other YAG productions, the Summer Academy culminates in just one performance at the end that includes all of the plays from each age group. The Senior Ensemble will learn about performance skills and techniques, practice different styles of acting, explore the history behind their play, and learn about what directors want in an actor. The final performance for friends, family, and the public will be given at Washtenaw Community College’s Towsley Auditorium. 

During the days of the Summer Academy, mornings are focused on developing story ideas, working on costumes and characters, and learning about stage speech and movements. Afternoons are spent on the performances, and lunchtime and downtime are filled with fun activities, such as “concerts” put on by students who sing and play instruments, trivia contests, chess tournaments, and just some general time for hanging out with new friends. Those friendships are part of what keeps young people coming back to YAG year after year, Roe said. 

More information and registration for the Summer Theatre Academy are available online at www.yag-season.org/summer-theatre-academy.html. The Ann Arbor Young Actors Guild can be reached by phone at (734) 926-5629 or by email at

On June 4 and 5, Intuitives Interactive will host its Holistic Psychic Fair at Eastern Michigan University’s Student Center. 

This is the organization’s first two-day event and their first time hosting at EMU, explained founder Amy Garber. Previously held at Washtenaw Community College’s Morris Lawrence Building, Garber said that the venue change was necessary in order to be able to use the space all weekend. The Holistic Psychic Fair has been growing since its first run in 2013 and is now held twice yearly. This year, the second two-day event is scheduled for October 8 and 9. The “reader room” at the fair makes it unique among events of its kind; attendees can get psychic and intuitive readings of all kinds. Readings are centrally scheduled and a concierge service escorts people to their appointments, so the readers can focus on their work instead of scheduling. This creates a more private and focused experience for the reader and the client, said Garber. For the first time at this fair, however, she explained that readings will also be allowed in the vendor area. In the national fair circuit, she said, there are a number of practitioners who offer readings in addition to selling products, and she wanted to give these vendors an opportunity to perform readings as well. It also gives clients more options, as the reader room appointments fill up quickly and many people like to get several readings from different practitioners. Garber said she expects about 25 to 30 readers in the reader room and between 75 to 90 vendors in the vendor room (not all vendors will offer readings). Another useful feature of EMU’s Student Center is its 250-seat auditorium. There will be free presentations in the auditorium throughout the fair, as well as gallery-style medium events, where mediums will attempt to communicate with audience members’ departed loved ones.
Also new this spring for the Intuitives Interactive group is a dedicated meeting space on Packard Street, in the office recently vacated by the Deep Spring Center for Meditation and Spiritual Inquiry, which has moved to share space with the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth. Managed by Garber and her business partner Christina DePugh, the space will be called the Enlightened Soul Center for the Holistic and Intuitive Arts. Garber and DePugh have plans for new groups and events, including a Healing Night where local holistic and energy healers can come in to work with people; a channeling group for beginners; an Intuitive Kids’ group, which Garber says there is a lot of enthusiasm for; and intuition development classes. The two small offices, a 300 square foot classroom and 500 square foot main room will also be available for rental to local body workers, intuitive practitioners, and others. Garber explained that making the space available for rental was always part of her business plan — serving the local spiritual community by offering a reasonably priced practice space for those who want it. 

The new Enlightened Soul Center is located at 3820 Packard Road, Suite 280, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. The website for the Intuitives Interactive group and the Holistic Psychic Fair is www.intuitivesinteractive.com. The website for the Enlightened Soul Center is enlightenedsoulcenter.com. Amy Garber can be reached at (734) 358-0218 or intuitivesinteractive@hotmail.com. 

New Classes

Lilian Anderson, registered dietician and mother of three, has started Sprouting Chefs, a new business that provides cooking classes for kids and adults. 

Last summer, Anderson was looking to enroll her nine-year-old daughter in a cooking camp that offered “a culinary experience, where she could really learn how to cook; not just baking, decorating cookies, mixing and serving, and so on.” A stay-at-home mom with lots of cooking experience, Anderson realized she could create that type of experience herself. She gauged interest in a potential group by asking other parents in the neighborhood, and she received a positive response. She then started a series of cooking classes in her home, easily filling each of the ten classes. By summer’s end, she knew she wanted to continue, and so she formed Sprouting Chefs. 

To increase her class capacity, Anderson now rents kitchen space in a local church, across the street from her new community garden, part of Ann Arbor’s Project Grow. This summer, her classes will involve a farm-to-table aspect since the plants Anderson will grow in her garden — tomatoes, herbs, potatoes, and garlic, to start — can frequently be used in the classes. Each class size is capped at ten students, and an adult volunteer works with Anderson to offer assistance. During the school year, classes will be held on Saturdays. Anderson said that students between the ages of eight and eleven seem to best respond to the classes. She has done all-boys classes with success, and even her twelve-year-old son, who normally wouldn’t have taken interest in a class like this, got involved. 

Anderson said that her parents were European and her mother cooked from scratch with whole foods. Her training as a registered dietician only reinforced her belief that cooking at home and including a variety of foods is the healthiest way to eat. Doing this is more nutritious, she explained, and one doesn’t necessarily need to get deep into the nitty-gritty of nutrition recommendations because, in eating this way, it’s “almost done for you.” 

Anderson is primarily focused on children but works with adults as well, notably in a dorm program at U-M, where she helps students preparing to move into their first apartments learn how to cook for themselves. She hopes to get more involved in schools as Sprouting Chefs develops, helping kids to develop nutritious food preparation as a vital skill. 

More information and class enrollment are available online at
www.sproutingchefs.org. Anderson runs a Facebook page at
She can be reached by phone at (734) 474-1006 or by email at

New Practitioners and Businesses

Linda Steinborn Bender, ACSW, LMSW, recently started Transitions, a private practice focused on a holistic approach to mental health and elder care.

Bender recently retired from Arbor Hospice, where she had been a social worker for 16 years. She named the practice Transitions, she said, because it is her goal to help people progress from where they are to where they want to be. Over the course of 30 years as a social worker, Bender has worked with many clients, striving to make sure each person’s unique needs were met and respected. She specializes in helping clients process abuse and trauma issues, grief and bereavement, and health issues. One tool she uses in addressing trauma is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Bender has worked with people who have chemical sensitivities, some of whom have felt unable to leave their homes for long periods of time due to their severe reactions. She explained that many times these people have not been listened to or validated, and when she is able to do that for them, it is a big step in helping them to “move back into the world in a way they can tolerate.” To this end, she is very conscious of keeping her office clean, scent-free, mold-free, and as chemical-free as possible. She does this, she said, to give chemically sensitive people “a safe space outside their homes.” 

The second component of Bender’s practice is working with senior citizens and their families “to adjust to the changes that come as people age.” Her goal is to identify the needs of everyone involved in this life transition and to meet them in ways that are respectful to both the caregivers and the seniors. Her many years’ experience in elder care has given her knowledge of community resources and long-term care insurance, as well as the mental health needs of this population. Bender was inspired to do this type of work after her mother had a health crisis. It eventually turned out well, but it was harder than it had to be because no advance planning was done. She also helps seniors whose loved ones may not be able to assist with day-to-day activities. She accompanies them to doctor appointments, works with private-duty caregivers, and provides all-around basic care, so the senior and their family can have peace of mind. 

Linda Steinborn Bender can be reached at (734) 395-2285 or lindabender3680@gmail.com. She accepts health insurance through Aetna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan. 

Former U-M football player Marc Ramirez, along with his wife Kim, launched a nonprofit organization called Chickpea and Bean in October 2014. 

Through their website and monthly meetings, the pair promotes a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle, which, they said, has changed their lives. 

In 2011 Marc was diabetic, suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, psoriasis, frequent heartburn, and erectile dysfunction. He was on five medications, including insulin shots. 

Diabetes has ravaged his family. His mother died at 61, having endured dialysis and a kidney transplant, as well as blindness due to complications from the disease. His oldest brother died at just 41 from pancreatic cancer. His twin brother has struggled with diabetes for over a decade, also suffering a heart attack in his early 40s. His youngest brother has had to undergo pancreas and kidney transplants, is legally blind, had his leg amputated, needs dialysis three times weekly, and has to take multiple medications every day. Marc thought he was facing a bleak future with the looming possibilities of transplants, amputations, blindness, heart attacks, dialysis, and most likely an early death. Moreover, he thought this was all due to his genetics, both familial and from his Mexican heritage, and that there was little he could do. He tried different diets and increasing his exercise and lost a little weight, but it did not have much effect on his symptoms or need for medications. At this point in his efforts, Kim’s parents gave the couple a copy of the documentary Forks Over Knives, which advocates whole food, plant-based nutrition and no animal products. Kim and Marc decided to give it a wholehearted try and started the next day.
The first thing Marc noticed was rapid weight loss, which eventually stabilized at 207 pounds, a healthy weight for his frame, and much lighter than his football-playing weight of 305 pounds. In just two months, he was able to get off his medications and insulin shots. In four to five months, his other symptoms had resolved as well. Marc has not had to resume any of his medications after going off them four years ago, and his glucose levels are normal. Kim, whose health problems were not as numerous or severe, experienced weight loss, relief from chronic headaches, and better skin. 

The couple began advocating and educating others about their new lifestyle through their website (chickpeaandbean.com). They began hosting monthly meetings in Clinton Township, where they live, with more recent meetings attracting as many as 90 people. The meetings are free and feature expert guest speakers like Dr. Victor Katch, retired U-M Professor of Kinesiology, who spoke there in February. Marc is featured in an online Diabetes Perspectives Summit about reversing Type II diabetes through lifestyle change, and he is working on more ways to help educate and inspire people to adopt a plant-based diet. “I know of no other diet or lifestyle that has been scientifically proven to reverse heart disease,” he said, and also emphasized that he has been able to not just manage his diabetes, but reverse it. He refrains from using the term “vegan,” he said, because “vegan can mean so many things — Oreos are vegan and they’re not very nutritious!” He said that he eats three to five meals a day, is never hungry, and feels healthy, strong, and empowered.

More information, including a meeting schedule, is available online at www.chickpeaandbean.com. Marc and Kim Ramirez can be reached at chickpeaandbean1@gmail.com. 

Local dancers Tracy Allyn and Irena Nagler along with musician Curtis Glatter have formed a new group, Ria Dance, which practices sacred theater and dance, with the three serving as “celebrants, performers, and teachers.” 

Ria Dance also collaborates with Nightfire Dance Theater and Storydance. Nagler said that she and Allyn dance in a “neo-gypsy” style based on original modern dance, belly dance, and primordial dance; the latter she described as “timeless, predating folk, ballet, jazz, or modern dance — movements unified with sound, environment, and energy.” Allyn, in addition to dance, is also a vocalist. Glatter uses mostly percussion with some keyboard music. His percussion style is unique, employing rhythms from various cultures, and sometimes involves found objects to create new sounds. It can be described as world music, Nagler said. Glatter improvises with the dancers, and the trio “[echoes] off each other, as the music sort of comes up through the earth with him.” 

“Ria as a name implies rivers and streams,” said Nagler. “Three letters, three artists, three birds of the Welsh Deity Rhiannon that are sent by her to people to give energy and solace.” Ria Dance offers teaching parties, similar to painting parties, with improvisational rhythms and dance and movement meditation. They also offer face and mask-painting. In addition, they perform and facilitate environmental dance and dance meditation, “helping people to experience their seamless connection with other species and the great web of nature.” They enjoy doing “environmental story-dance in a context of fairy theme gatherings for children of all ages (as well as adults).” Nagler said they can contribute to conflict resolution and community or group healing. Ria are available for celebrations of all kinds: birthdays, receptions, blessing ceremonies, children’s parties, bonding rituals, spiritual gatherings, life transitions, and anything else that people would like to enhance or create with music and dance. 

More information about the Ria Dance artists is available at Nightfire’s website: www.twofeather.com/nightfire. Inquiries can be sent to Irena Nagler at fontelucente5@gmail.com or she can be reached by phone at (734) 996-1772. 

Temple Echad was founded on the sixth night of Hannukah, Friday, December 11, 2015. 

It is described as a “new, Jewishly-inspired, post-denominational and interfaith spiritual community.” The name, meaning ‘one temple’ in Hebrew, reflects Temple Echad’s theme of bringing people together. It is one of a very few independent synagogues in the United States. Founder Abby Wells, a practicing interfaith spiritual director and professional mediator, said that the Temple’s purpose is to “raise consciousness in our community beyond religion,” and to help people “recognize that we are all connected.” It is a spiritual rather than religious congregation designed for modern life and inclusive beliefs. It provides a sacred space for individuals and families of diverse or unaffiliated religious beliefs. 

The Temple meets on Fridays, alternating between the Friends Center on Hill Street and Journey of Faith on Manchester Road, both in Ann Arbor. Three Fridays of the month are centered on personal narratives shared by members of the community, along with participatory dialogue and music. Wells said that everyone is welcome; people who’ve come have included religious Jews, secular Jews, agnostics, atheists, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Sheiks, and those of no religion. “It’s the most diverse part of my week,” she said. Overall, the common goal is to “live out the highest teaching of the Torah: love and kindness.” Services are a re-imagination of Jewish liturgy with the storytelling of individuals becoming the “sacred text,” through which everyone can connect. All paths to the Divine are honored as equally holy. Music, poetry, and prayers are a large part of the service, which, Wells said, participants really enjoy. 

Fourth Fridays of the month are recovery services, modeled around 12-step recovery programs with time for meditation, reflection, and sharing. These services are focused, Wells said, on “wholeness, healing, wellness, and recovering.” People of all faiths or no faith recovering from any type of addiction are welcome, even those recovering “from religion itself,” she said. 

Temple Echad’s website is www.templeechad.org, and people interested in attending should make sure to check the location for a given week. Abby Wells can be reached by email at temple.echad@icloud.com. 

Kim Cass and Kim Goddard are opening Zen Artisan Boutique in downtown Howell in early spring.

The two women met a year ago. Both already had small businesses selling handmade items — Cass makes luxury spa products and Goddard makes candles, skincare products, and lotions to help with arthritis, neuropathy, and other issues. The perfect space opened up when a local jeweler retired, and the two decided to create Zen Artisan Boutique. Howell currently doesn’t have another shop or business with the “vibe” Cass and Goddard are intending to create, Cass explained. “We use the word ‘Zen’ to embody peace, happiness, spirituality, and the overall ‘feel-good’ vibe it brings to mind.” The shop will host women’s empowerment workshops, open mic nights, and possibly some Tarot card readings. It will carry Cass and Goddard’s handmade products, along with other items from local artists and crafters. The “Zen Girls,” as Cass and Goddard call themselves, will always be looking to expand their selection of items to include work from more artists and crafters. So far the offerings include “boho chic fashion,” hand-painted wine glasses, aromatherapy scrubs, soaps, lotions and balms, candles, and more. There will be free tea — hot in the winter and iced in the summer — and visitors will be welcomed to “hang out” and socialize. The two also offer a monthly subscription box, the Zen Box, which includes a mix of items, like crystals, affirmations, candles, organic snacks, and bath salts or soaps. They will offer gift baskets around the holidays as well. 

Cass, an interior designer by profession, described the space as “urban modern meets shabby chic.” She said she loves the high ceilings, huge front windows, and exposed brick. They lend a “rustic and eclectic” feeling to the building, which has been around since the 1800s. During the summer, Howell has music in the local park every Friday, and Cass said she and Goddard hope that lots of people will wander in and discover the boutique while they are downtown.
The Zen Artisan Boutique is located at 108 East Grand River, Howell, MI 48843. The store’s phone number is (810) 522-3161. Kim Cass and Kim Goddard can be reached by email at TheZenGirls@gmail.com, and more information is available at


If you would like to submit information to be considered for this column, please email communitynews@crazywisdom.net or drop off or mail to the store: What’s New in the Community, 114 South Main, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. The firm deadline for submissions for the next issue (September through December 2016) is July 1, 2016. 

Posted on April 29, 2016 .