Taking a Stand for Girls

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Meg and Gigi at the March on Monument

It’s MLK Day in our nation, during a time when our country is heartbreakingly fractured. On Saturday, January 14, 2017, the two of us took a stand and walked in the March on Monumenta peaceful coming together of the various social justice groups that serve the Richmond community.  Two thousand or so of our neighbors stood shoulder to shoulder chanting a call and response:

Show Me What Democracy Looks Like! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! 

What do we need? LOVE. When do we need it? NOW. What do we need? Unity. When do we need it? NOW. 

There were older women and men. Parents pushing strollers and carrying signs. Old Basset hounds. Seasoned activists and college students. Wheelchair users. Artists, writers, musicians. And, members of the faith community.

Looking around, we saw our community celebrating diversity and inclusion at the statue of Robert E. Lee asking, How do we knit ourselves together in strength? How can we make our community a place where all people are respected and cared for? What can each of us offer?

We had been thinking long and hard about Girls of Summer, our curated reading list for strong girls, now approaching its seventh year. To be frank, last year, we wondered if it might be time to let the list go. Exhausted and overscheduled, we could point to dozens of other reading lists for girls to choose from.

But then the world got upended in deep and disturbing ways, most notably in an infamous video and talk of grabbing women by their genitals. And we realized that now was not the time to stop. There is still so much work to do together to make this world safe, secure, and nurturing of girls.

So plans have changed.

For the next four years, not only are we not letting go of Girls of Summer, but we are going to grow it big. We’ll use every ounce of our strength as authors, mothers, and literary citizens to build it up as a resource to empower young women of all ages to become lifelong readers and learners, with the tools to find their voices, to stand up, and to protect themselves.

So, here is the first of what will be many exciting changes this year:

Our Girls of Summer team is growing. We are joined by new and dynamic friends with loving ties to our city. These are book women, strong women, and advocates who will be helping to choose our list, plan our event, and spread the word to girls here at home and around the country. They are:

Stacy Hawkins Adams

Stacy Hawkins Adams

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Amanda Nelson

aisha-saeed-headshot

Aisha Saeed

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Maya Smart

In the coming months, you can expect to hear about new a partnership with Richmond Young Writers, too, as we develop new ways for young people to have access to our visiting authors. You’ll hear about a literary breakfast event organized by our longtime champions at the Richmond Public Library and about new schools and organizations who have asked to join us in this effort. And it’s our hope that you will, in fact, engage with us through attendance, donations, and support with new and urgent energy.

We linked arms as we marched on Saturday, in effort to stay warm and in thanksgiving for this friendship of ours. Encircled by thousands of new friends, we got caught up in the spirit of loving kindness and the spirit of justice that rolled down Monument Avenue. How did this happen, we wondered? Just two girls: one with roots in Cuba and one from Mississippi, two friends who have found that it’s our differences that make us strong and our shared values that keep us brave.

Our friendship is what sparked Girls of Summer, but we know that friendship alone isn’t what sustains this important project. For that kind of sustenance, we need a community filled with smart people who care about books and reading in the lives of every day folks. (Here’s looking at you bbgb books and Kris Spisak – champions from the start.) We need a community that is invested in respecting and empowering females, from ages eight to eighty-eight. We need neighbors who insist on equality and inclusion where we live, work, and play.

And in Richmond, Virginia, as it turns out,  we have found exactly that.

Stayed tuned.

Meg Medina and Gigi Amateau are authors of works for young readers. Among their many projects, they are the cofounders of Girls of Summer List, a curated summer reading list for strong girls. They live (proudly) in Richmond, Virginia.

Mrs. God

panel

This weekend the first Virginia Children’s Book Festival was held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. A great time, enjoyed by everyone who came out on a rainy weekend! Major kudos to festival founders, Juanita Giles and Katie Snyder on bringing a phenomenal program to kids and families in rural Virginia.

On Saturday, I joined these smart and funny women: Liz Magill, Meg Medina, and Deb Stone for a panel discussion about empowering girls through children’s literature. We had a blast and could have kept discussing and sharing with our fantastic audience for the rest of the day, for real. Continue reading

Morning meditation

Sparkly sunset on the James.

Sparkly sunset on the James.

My poor, neglected blog! One sure thing about a personal blog: it only gets updated if you update it. I have a backlog of pictures, guest posts, and wonderful horse books to share. But time remains finite, and I guess I always find ways to spend my time other than here.

Back in February, I started a new job. After working remotely for ten years, it’s an adjustment going into an office every day. One outcome of that switch is that I overhauled my daily routine so that I start my days spending my time doing things that I love: yoga, meditating, writing.

That way, every day starts out as a great day! Continue reading

Conversations with the Silent by Katie Cerminara

Katie and Sassy

Katie and Sassy

I met Katie Cerminara through her work with Canine Adventure. We needed someone to care for Biscuit over a string of upcoming out-of-town engagements. And, Bub and I were both working so much that we thought Biscuit might like to get out of the house and onto the trail for some adventure walks.

When Katie showed up that first day to meet Biscuit wearing jodhpurs to go trail walking, I pretty much fell in love with her on sight. And, Biscuit, did, too. Though not because of Katie’s outfit and passion for horses, but because she has a true heart for animals. Continue reading

Never Give Up

Judith & Latte

Judith & Latte

Sometimes I lay off blogging because I feel like I don’t have enough time to get my words right. The thought of doing what I’m doing now…just going commando in the post window freaks me out. Even just this second, I almost backed up to take out those … because I read a post elsewhere about how annoying and lazy it is to use …

So, yeah. I’m trying to be brave and nekked.

Originally, and probably still for a lot or maybe even most bloggers, I think blogging was like that. Just an organic recording of thoughts, impressions, and ideas. But, I’ve never blogged like that without at least the safety net of enough time to re-order, revise, and re-think. So here we go. Yah, boy!

Sometimes people ask me: What’s with the horses? Continue reading

A Place of Knowing Within

Stretching

Stretching

When our horse, Albert, passed away in May, my sister, Leigh, offered words and images that helped me move into, with, and through my grief. In her health care practice, hospice volunteer work, and honoring ministry for people and pets, there’s a common thread of accompanying people through transitions. In particular, she’s devoted to nurturing the bond between people and animals. She is also an artist. Her photography and artwork reflect these themes, too. The photos of Albert in this post were taken by my sister over the course of his life with in our family.

Continue reading

2,900 Miles From Home

Albert

Albert, May 30, 2013

My sister recently reminded me that after our grammy died in 2007, I didn’t write for a while, either. She’s right about that. Then, I withdrew to my garden and spent the summer weeding in my nightgown.

I miss my pony and think about him every day and night. But, it’s awesome to consider the outpouring of support from people who knew and loved this horse. Some of them for longer than I knew him.

People have sent embroidered pillows, bright flowers, uplifting cards, and generous donations to horse research and rescue charities. Friends offered to hold a wake for Albert and make a video tribute of his life. Folks prayed for and honored him in some incredible ways. So many good people called and emailed and shared in the joy of his life. Hundreds of people.

I like that a lot better than weeding in the garden alone. Though, I reckon each response is valid and healing.

When Albert passed away, just about three weeks ago now, I immediately left town for a business trip to Portland, which brought me home ten days later via Oakland and Phoenix.

While I was out West, during the week after Albert’s passing, my colleagues and family members let me cry and tell them about how much this horse has meant to me and my family. Folks back East checked on me by phone, listening while I recounted his courage and resolve.

In Portland, I even had help plotting a goofy memorial of tying up a stuffed pony to a historic horse hitch in Albert’s honor.

Old horse hitch, Portland, Oregon

Old horse hitch, Portland, Oregon

I didn’t just make this idea up. Portland is an enchanted city. There are all sorts of magical things to discover in the streets of Portland, such as Mill Ends Park, the world’s smallest park .

Admiring Mill Ends Park in Portland

Admiring Mill Ends Park in Portland

And, the Portland Pony Project.

So…when in Rome.

pretty pony

Pretty Pony at 10th and Stark, Portland

The afternoon that I hitched up this pretty pony, I offered up a silent thanksgiving for Albert and knelt to take a photo. As I stood up to leave, from behind me a man asked, “Do you mind if I take a picture, too? We have four at home.”

“Of course!” I tried to sound, I don’t know, extra chipper. “I have two horses!” Then, I burst into tears. “Well, not anymore. My old horse died the day before I came out here. I live in Virginia.”

His eyes welled up, too. “We have a thirty year old Arabian mare at home. We’re going to euthanize her this weekend.”

And, now, we both stood at 10th and Stark, crying in the sunshine.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I told him. “My horse, Albert, was almost thirty.”

He said, “She’s completely blind. Our mare.”

I nodded. “Albert was blind.”

So, us two strangers stood there taking pictures of a stuffed pony that I bought at Powell’s. We talked about Albert and talked about his mare, Kentucky. She was the first horse that his sixteen year old son ever rode.

And, that’s it. No big revelation. Except  2,900 miles from home when I was feeling so sad, I met a nice man named Ed, who loved his horse as much as I loved mine. And, he knew the day had arrived. Time to thank her for her service and let her go. And, time to remember.