Thursday, December 18, 2014

Families who play together, stay together at Family Center of Arts

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
December 18, 2014

Petite, her dark hair in braids and tucked beneath a navy woolen hat, Rebecca Achenbach doesn’t look so very different from the children who scamper through the door of Family Center for the Arts at 6136 S. Westnedge at the back of Southland Mall in Portage. She’s the owner, and she bounds around the spacious center, walls painted sunshine yellow, with unstoppable energy.
Rebecca Achenbach at FCA

"You know, I think busy parents have forgotten how to play with their kids," she says. "I want them to learn how. A parent will tell me, my child wants to learn about music, but I don’t have a musical bone in my body. Oh, but they do!"

Achenbach beats a rhythm with her palm on the table. "Timing, rhythm, we can all do this. I empower parents to play with their children."

Music isn’t the only art form Achenbach brings to Family Center for the Arts (FCA). Along with dance, drama and art are also available for ages birth to adult, or, as Achenbach says, "as long as you can dance."

Achenbach has been working with "children of all ages" for more than 25 years. Prior to opening FCA in September 2014, she was child care executive director for the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo for 10 years. She oversaw the Y Art Center, in the same location, until she took over the lease and the operation, making it her own. 

"I grew up on a farm in Fulton," she says. "It was a commune-like environment, and it made me passionate about community. We worked with ...


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teach Your Kids About Money Now, Says Stanley Steppes

by Zinta Aistars
On air at WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Stanley Steppes and his son Christopher

When should you start teaching your kids good money practices? Kalamazoo’s Stanley Steppes says right now
He’s the founder and CEO of Financial Literacy Partners of America—a financial education and consulting firm for adults—and Money Smart Kids, a similar program for children. It all started two years ago, when Steppes wrote a children’s book called Christian and Daddy Go Shopping, modeled after a trip to help his 5-year-old son pick out a birthday present for his mom. 
Steppes says his goal with the Money Smart Kids programs is to get kids to ask questions about spending and encourage parents to make every day activities teachable moments.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dinner Table Drama In 'The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons'

by Zinta Aistars
from WMUK 102.1 FM Arts and More program
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate
Aired December 11, 2014

Heather A. Slomski recently released her collection of short fiction The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons. Now living in Minnesota, Slomski got her MFA at Western Michigan University. Her work has appeared in TriQuarterly, The Normal School, and other publications. She also won the Iowa Award for Short Fiction.

Slomski says she didn't realize how many dining scenes she had in her writing until she put together the collection. 
"It also made me realize how much I really enjoy cooking and having a glass of wine - and so my characters do as well," she says. "It's kind of a way to extend those fulfillments into my writing."
Uncomfortable Dinner Conversations
Whether it's a couple talking about one's infidelity or two very different neighbors, there's an element of uncomfortableness to some of Slomski's stories.
Slomski says she's interested in these difficult every day relationships and often the tough discussions come up at the dinner table. After all, we all have to eat.
"Just to give these people, these characters some tight quarters where they have to face whatever it is they're facing," she says.
Making Scraps Into Idea Soup
Slomski says she often gets her ideas for a story by ...