She Rocs March/April 2018

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Say ‘ahhhhh’ at the spa A colorful palette of sip & paint places Local author fulfills her writing fantasy with Disney book deal

Dr. Meami Craig is loving life — and herself

WRITERS IN THIS ISSUE BREANNA BANFORD is the Yelp Rochester community director. She brings the online community offline, connecting people to great local businesses through collaborative events and marketing partnerships. As a Rochester native, Breanna lives, breathes, and eats for this city. When she’s not hosting events for the Yelp community, you’ll almost always find her with rosé in one hand and french fries in the other. SALLY PARKER is a writer and editor who has worked in journalism and marketing for 25 years, including 14 years with Rochester Business Journal. She said she is “still blown away that people share their stories with me and I get to tell them. These stories are everywhere, and many of them seem to pique my curiosity … Stories celebrate the human spirit and the drive to create and to make a mark. These stories will always be with us.” Learn more at LINDA QUINLAN had a more than 30-year career in community journalism. She likes to say she is “semi”-retired today. She is a freelance writer, enjoys volunteering in the community, and is excitedly expecting her first grandson this spring. She has been married for nearly 39 years, has three children, a beloved granddaughter, and a cat named Bella, who never hesitates to show her much larger dog Murphee just who is in charge. Quinlan likes to read, garden, and collect salt and pepper shakers.

VONJULA THOMPSON holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from SUNY Brockport and recently completed an internship with Roc Parent/She Rocs magazine.


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Photography opens doors Arleen Thaler’s mission Sip and paint places A palette of options Help from Yelp Say “ahhhh” at the spa Q&A with Leslie Youngblood Magic of local author’s writing catches eyes at Disney

Writers & Books essay “Poor Girls’ Palace” by Leslie Youngblood Community Spotlight Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley


Dr. Meami Craig is loving life — and herself INSIDE

• Say “ahhhh” at the spa • A colorful palette of sip & paint places • Local author fulfills writing fantasy with Disney book deal


March/April 2018

“Love Like Sky” caught the attention of a Disney-Hyperion senior editor who uses words like “sparking humor” and “heartfelt honesty” to describe Leslie Youngblood’s writing and her characters.


LESLIE C. YOUNGBLOOD received an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has been awarded a host of writing honors including Yaddo’s Elizabeth Ames Residency; the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Prize; a Hurston Wright Fellowship; and the Room of Her Own Foundation’s 2009 Orlando Short Story Prize. Her first middle-grade novel, Love Like Sky, will be published by Disney Hyperion in November 2018. Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and raised in Rochester, she is fortunate to have a family of natural storytellers and a circle of supportive family and friends.



Dr. Meami Craig is a trusted and popular Rochester brand. You’ve seen her byline in newspapers and magazines and you’ve heard her sharing lifestyles advice on the radio. For our cover story, she invites us into her lakeside home and shares her positive views on life. PHOTO BY NANCY CARR

Opening doors through


BY SALLY PARKER A toddler in a tutu, caught on film walking toward a window in a dark and dusty room, tells the story. The child’s mother works nights, a sex worker. She has three kids. The family has no bed and sleeps on the floor. Arleen Thaler takes a photo of the child’s silhouette and posts it to her Instagram account. Offers to help come pouring in—food, clothes, toys, furniture and other life-affirming resources. “People in Rochester are abundant. They want to give,” she says. “To have that photo with a few words to captivate people to give, that’s my thing.” This is Thaler’s mission: to be a conduit for the stories of people whose voices are rarely heard. With their permission, Thaler uses photography to open doors for communities largely hidden from society. Her hope is that more exposure will bring change. “I can say this is my ministry,” she says. “My ultimate goal is to capture the attention of the stake holders, agencies and community members that can offer help and work toward solutions. I am never on a mission to save the world. Some people want to remain where they are at, so if it is just some food, clothes and toiletries, that is a gift in itself.” That she steps into hidden worlds is no surprise to those who know her. Thaler grew up in a house full of foster kids. After her parents split up when she was 6, Thaler was raised on Braddock Bay in North Greece by her aunt, Peggy Merkel. Over the years, Merkel has provided foster care to more than 450 children from across the county. There was always room for one more. Now 81, Merkel is still at it; Thaler and her husband, Daryl Thaler, and her youngest son, Ethan Oliver, live in the family home, too. Her foster siblings, now grown with families of their own, come by to visit or share the holidays. “They are my brothers and sisters,” she says. “I grew up surrounded by these kids.”

Through her photography, Arleen Thaler, pictured at right, strives to tell stories of people whose voices are rarely heard. PROVIDED PHOTO

Because of her siblings’ different backgrounds, Thaler can’t understand why people build barriers against folks different from themselves. Life’s challenges cross boundaries imposed by race, ethnicity, geography, culture and financial means, she says; all of it falls away when real connection happens. “This is a story that’s always been unfolding in front of me,” Thaler says. Thaler has been a teacher and photo artist in residence at Flower City Arts Center, and she is an addiction counselor at Huther-Doyle. In conversation, she is down-to-earth. She listens closely and quietly. When she speaks about the people she’s come to know through her work, the words come tumbling out. “I meet someone right where they’re at, so much so that I’m almost walking right in their shoes with them,” she says. “I can hang around with all the homeless people I want, but until I immerse myself right into their world—sleep beside them, break bread with them—until then I consider it a drive-by shooting. … Behind that scene, there’s this whole story.” Often her work is heartbreaking. The mother of three sons, Thaler has a soft spot for young men caught up in gang violence,

and she counts them as friends. To help illustrate the complexity of their lives, she has photographed them in moments with their children, and she is working on a project that would allow them to tell their own stories through videography. Her photos are rich in juxtaposition. Taken after many months of becoming acquainted, they strip away stereotypes to reveal stark realities. A photo of the feet of women huddled in an abandoned garage shed light on sex workers, a virtually invisible population caught in a cycle of abuse, drug addiction and poverty. The image caught the attention of a homeless advocate who within a day was on the streets assessing their needs. Thaler is driven by her own experience. Domestic violence, poverty and the death of her infant daughter brought her a soft understanding of people in need. “Now I know what’s going through a battered woman’s mind. Now I know what it’s like to have a baby born dead, to have a family member suffering from being addicted,” she says. “So I pay it forward to others who are in need.” “I want everything I do to represent the people. I can capture the photo, but it’s not me.” She Rocs Magazine

March/April 2018


Sip, paint, and unleash your talent BY LINDA QUINLAN

Looking for something different to do, by yourself or with a group? Wouldn’t mind a glass of wine, but not into the bar scene? One of the more intriguing options out there is to “sip and paint” — meaning just what the name implies: Sip some wine (most often bringing your own) while you paint a piece of art you can take home. Not artistic? No problem. “Everyone has the urge to be creative; to let your inner-artist out,” said Melissa Salatino of Vino & Vernici Paint Parties. “Plus, going to a ‘sip and paint’ event is a less threatening, more fun environment to try something new.” Janice Meyer has tried several events. “If you don’t think you have [artistic] talent, the teacher will help you find it … and you’ll have fun in the process,” Meyer said. Her favorite is Splash Mob painting parties with Gloria Kreitzberg. “She actually teaches us things — techniques, tips, tricks,” Meyer said. Today, she not only hangs her paintings in her home, but has given them away to family and friends and has even sold a couple. Kreitzberg has been operating her business for two years while also holding down a full-time job in graphic arts and marketing. “A potential client had a retail store and asked me to do a group painting class there,” she recalled. The business blossomed from there. She combines the painting with music, dance, and sometimes even sing-alongs. It’s not fine art “I try to make people come out of their shells,” Kreitzberg said, adding that school … We’re a place the “surprise,” for her is that her to come, unwind, relax, own life has become so enriched by the new friends she has made. and enjoy the company. People bring wine to her classes, as well as food, and everyone shares. — AMBER DORITY, “It’s not fine art school,” said Amber PAINTING WITH A TWIST Dority, manager of one of four Painting with a Twist franchises in the area. “We’re a place to come, unwind, relax, and enjoy


March/April 2018

Hosting a private party featuring Splash Mob’s painting classes is just one of the options for people looking for an artistic outlet — with an adult twist. PROVIDED PHOTO

the company. All ages are welcome.” Jami Cimino has owned and operated Created By Us Pottery in Fairport for almost 10 years. While “pottery” is in the name and you can certainly paint on pottery at her studio, she also offers opportunities to paint on canvas, glass and wood. An artist for going on 35 years, Lesley Shakespeare-Brogan has been offering “paint and sip” classes for about four years. “If you can take simple direction and hold a paint brush in your hand, you’re good to go,” she said with a laugh. “It’s something to do, other than going out for drinks. And, you get to go home with a finished product.” “It gets you out of the house, no kids, for [up to] three hours,” Rogina Davis said, “and you can go by yourself or with a group.” What’s not to love? To get you started, here’s a sampling (in no particular order) of the offerings out there locally. There are literally dozens of others, too, so don’t be afraid – go paint!


Painting on ceramics 3349 Monroe Ave. (585) 383-8420 980 Ridge Road, Webster (585) 872-5720

Paint Class Wine Glass

522 McCall Road, Rochester (585) 340-7473

Roc Paint Sip

Mobile, around Rochester (585) 764-1062

Wine and Design

4165 Buffalo Road (585) 594-8007

Vino and Vernici

Locations: Various, including Casa Larga, Perinton; A Gust of Sun Winery, Spencerport; Three Brothers, Geneva; and the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua. Meaning of the name: Translated from Italian, it means “wine and paint” Owner/Operator: Melissa Salatino Website: Phone: (585) 259-7189 Highlights: Salatino also does private parties. She will be at Casa Larga every Thursday in March and April Specialty: She is known for teaching painting on wine glasses, but also teaches painting on canvas and “switches it up” with painted wine bottles or pint glasses as well Time: Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for a class Cost: $25, minimum of eight people Designs: If taking a class, the teacher chooses; if hosting a private party, the host chooses Key quote: “A glass of wine helps the creative juices flow,” Salatino said. “It loosens people up a bit.” Since she wants people to be happy with their finished project, she will help them get “back on track” or touch a piece up, if necessary, she said.

Splash Mob Painting Parties Locations: Various, including some area restaurants; community and recreation centers, private clubs, colleges, and even a garden center. She also does team-building events; private parties in people’s homes; and parties for older children Owner/Operator: Gloria Kreitzberg

Website: Phone: (585) 310-2584 Specialty: She only teaches painting on canvas. Time: Allow 3 hours for a class, though she can do a shorter class if desired. Cost: $40 for a three-hour class. Designs: If taking a class, the teacher chooses; if hosting a private party, the host chooses Key quote: “I wanted to be different; not like anyone else,” Kreitzberg said, explaining that her focus is on quality and teaching professional painting techniques. “I actually teach students about art — not just painting.” Her emphasis is on fun, so she combines dance, music, wine and food.

Painting With A Twist

Locations: Part of a large franchise operation, there are four area studios in Fairport, Brighton-Henrietta, Greece, and Webster. Manager: Amber Dority runs the Fairport and Win-Jeff Plaza locations, owned by her parents Website: Go to, type in your zip code, and a list of local studios will come up Phone: (585) 321-5577 (Fairport studio) Specialty: Painting on canvas or wood cutouts Time: There are both two- and three-hour classes Cost: $35 for a two-hour class; $45 for the (more advanced) three-hour class. Designs: A calendar, with a picture of the design for each class, is posted

online the first of every month. You can reserve a seat for an individual or group. Private parties are offered for groups of 10 or more.

Created By Us Pottery

Location: 3 Railroad Street, Fairport Owner: Jami Cimino Website: Phone: (585) 223-8210 Regular hours: Noon to 8 p.m. (or 6:45 p.m., if there are no painters), Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday Specialty: Painting on pottery, canvas, glass, or wood door hangers Time: Walk-ins are welcome, unless there is a scheduled class Group reservations: Groups can reserve for a specific time and date; if all participants are over the age of 21, wine and beer may be brought in. Food is welcome. Groups have included team-building exercises, holiday and birthday parties, showers, etc. Cost: Varies, depending on project; there is also a $40 a year membership option available. Specialty: If you’re painting on pottery – there are a wide variety of options — you have to leave your piece for clear glaze and firing, then may pick it up in a week; you can generally take other projects home the same day. Key quote: “We have enough tools to help you; it’s fun for all ages,” Cimino said. She also goes out and teaches, particularly at Lifespan facilities and day care centers, and specializes in working with special needs students.

Hope In Art Studio

Location: Studio and gallery at 144 Mill St., Canandaigua Owner: Lesley Shakespeare-Brogan Website: Phone: (585) 727-4574 Specialty: Painting on canvas, but also offers ongoing, six-week classes in acrylics or colored pencil Time: Allow about 2.5 hours for a class. Cost: $25 for a one-time class. Reservations: Any group can reserve for a specific time and date, but she also has regular “date and paint nights” and “mother-daughter” classes. She will also go out to teach a class for a corporate event, “girls’ night,” or children’s party. She will be hosting an animal art exhibit for the month of April. Key quote: “I’m walking around constantly, offering little tips and individual attention,” ShakespeareBrogan said. She also does demos, recognizing that some students need visuals. She formerly taught at Monroe Community College. She Rocs Magazine

March/April 2018


Treat yourself, Rochester! MAKE ANY DAY A “SPA DAY” In need of a Zen day or just some “me” time? Go ahead and treat yourself to that perfect massage, mani, or pedi — as these go-tos will literally hit the spot. Take some time out of your busy schedule to kick back and relax. She Rocs magazine thanks Breanna Banford, Yelp Rochester’s community director, for curating this list of spas.

Happy Feet Spa

TT Nail Spa

626 Park Ave, Rochester (585) 730-8612 |

1697 Monroe Ave., Brighton (585) 271-3333

“The first part of the foot massage begins with a shoulder massage while your feet are soaking in a tub of hot water. While you relax in a very comfy lounge, covered in a blanket they work on your feet, calves, and thighs.”

“Amazing service ... Love the attention to detail when shaping the nails and cleaning the cuticles.”

— Natalie M.

3340 Monroe Ave., Pittsford (585) 264-9940 |

The Spa at The Del Monte 48 N. Main St., Pittsford (585) 419-3000 | “I went for an aromatherapy massage and a body scrub … both the massage and scrub were the best I have had anywhere. The entire day was so rejuvenating and relaxing.” — Alison N.

Therapeutic Massage & Bodyworks

— Kristie D.

Scott Miller The Spa at the Del Monte. PHOTO POSTED TO YELP BY JENNA B.

La Salon Bianca 3259 S. Winton Road, Brighton (585) 272-0707 | “I see Nick for my blowouts and he’s part of my glam squad ... The staff is pleasant and the prices are quite reasonable.” — Jen R.

Bodymind Float Center

20 Regency Oaks Blvd., Gates (585) 426-6130

622-1 Park Ave., Rochester (585) 413-0616

“Therapeutic Massage and Bodyworks has people that are trained to use lots of techniques to make the session fulfill your needs (hot rock, deep tissue, thai, body wraps, lots of skincare options, etc.). I like that they keep it up-to-date and cutting edge.”

“This is a deeply relaxing experience beyond what words can describe. You find yourself in this existence between being conscious, not asleep, but not awake. Time flies. It takes a bit of getting used to and perfecting the art of floating.”

— Nicole M.

—Janelle S.


March/April 2018

“I came to Scott Miller for a blowout and makeup lesson. At every turn, the attention to detail and the friendly professionalism of the consultants at Scott Miller were A+ top notch.” — Amanda C.

Skintopia 2354 Monroe Ave., Brighton (585) 775-7546 | “The newly-introduced foot soak incorporates the experience of the zero gravity [chair] and takes it to a whole new level. In a softly lit room, gorgeous tranquil music plays, while you sit in the heated, vibrating chair. Then, a foot scrub, followed by tingling mask.” — Brenda K.

help from

Leslie C. Youngblood is at her happiest when she’s writing Her realistic fiction has earned her two book deals with Disney-Hyperion get along, but we know that’s not realistic fiction. So I really had to go back in and say, “Leslie, you know it’s messy.” I had to bring that into the story.


Leslie C. Youngblood has moved mountains to reach a greatness that is seemingly destined. She has worn many hats as a daughter, sister, educator, and novelist — and the latter is currently elevating her name and career, as she is a newly signed novelist with Disney-Hyperion. Her story Love Like Sky caught the attention of Disney-Hyperion senior editor Laura Schreiber, who offered her a twobook deal and uses words like “sparking humor” and “heartfelt honesty” to describe Youngblood’s writing and her characters. The young adult/ middle-grades book Love Like Sky will be released this fall. With Disney-Hyperion’s support, Youngblood is expanding her short story about a blended family and infinite family love. “When I first started reading Love Like Sky on a January morning, I knew almost instantly these were characters that would become as dear to me as my own family,” said Disney’s Schreiber. “Leslie’s ability to convey the joy, melancholy, and messiness of family and love moved me deeply.”

What is your novel Love like Sky about? Love Like Sky is about blended families. The parents remarry and have two little girls who are trying to make sense of it all. How did you come up with the title? Love Like Sky is about how you love people. It’s how you ultimately love someone. You love them like sky and what is the end to sky? It’s never ending. When you love someone like sky, that is an infinite love. The protagonist tries to explain the fact that the little one is scared, that the daddy doesn’t love them anymore. When you’re in a blended family and a parent remarries, things change. The kids wonder, “Do they love us, do they love them more?” Parents may be trying so hard to win the affection of the stepchildren that they may put their biological kids on the backburner. So


that’s what it means, that infinite love that parents have for their kids and the love siblings have for each other. I was writing Love Like Sky while grieving a brother that was murdered. So, not knowing how to deal with grief, I just needed to write about love, about an endless love and that’s what came. That’s what “Love like Sky” means to me — how I love my brother, how I love all my siblings. It’s just a way to not only honor his memory, but really for all the kids out there that are struggling, that yearn for that type of love. I hope this novel touches them.

Do you have advice for blended families? I’m a product of a blended family. My parents have been married almost 31 years. A blended family is all I really know. Even though the book is of importance, it’s not autobiographical. What I would advise is just what they do in Love Like Sky — be honest with the children and do the best you can to keeping them grounded. Try to do as they do in the novel; they really make an attempt to get along. When I initially started Love like Sky, I realized it could not be too cotton candy and butterflies. I just wanted to write a good positive story. I wanted everyone to

Why do you think Disney was interested? The big thing about Love Like Sky being picked up by Disney is that it doesn’t have any magical realism. It’s strictly what I call realistic fiction. No witches or warlocks. The important thing that this family has is their own magic. They continually support each other and try to cheer each other up. I had two publishing houses bid for the book. Laura (Schreiber’s) vision was closely tied to my own and Laura’s excitement for the book exuded from her. Who cannot go with that? Why did you choose Rochester to relocate? I was raised here since I was five. I went to West Irondequoit High School. My mom and dad lived in the 19th Ward forever. So it was about coming back to Rochester.

Were you following your dreams? I was following my dreams and coming back to Rochester rooted me. The sense of family was here and high school friends were here, but my brother’s spirit is here. I really thought I couldn’t live here. He was murdered and buried here. The memories I thought would be too painful, but I feel his spirit here and it’s encouraging as opposed to being sad. I wish he was here, but who would of thought that coming back home would be a grounding experience? I just know right now for at least the next several years I see myself in Rochester. You have to follow your passion; you have to follow your dreams wherever it takes you. I’m so thankful that my family supports me here in Rochester.

So what’s is next for you after the novels? Wow, that’s the easiest question for me to answer. After this, all I’m going to worry about is writing more. I don’t do it for the money. It’s wonderful that Love like Sky has this deal, but I truly love what I do. It’s an old cliché, but if you love what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life. I honestly feel that way. I am my happiest when I’m at my computer typing. That itself is a blessing. She Rocs Magazine

March/April 2018



(Novel Excerpt. Chapter 3) Clarissa, the youngest, rode shotgun. Ronetta drove, and Debra, slumped in the backseat of the Dodge Colt, was as quiet as a stowaway. “Air conditioner’s out. This’ll have to do for now.” Ronetta cranked up the Isley Brothers’ “Summer Breeze” before merging onto I-85 South and into the scorching July heat of Atlanta. “You figure out what you’re gonna say?” Debra asked, absently touching the scar that sloped from behind her earlobe down to her collarbone. “Not really. Just want her to call Renee,” Clarissa said. “She’s only six. She misses her real bad. And this is the longest Mama’s ever been gone.” “How long’s it been?” Ronetta asked. “Bout four months now.” Debra squeezed Clarissa’s shoulder. They’d only been housemates for a couple of weeks. Debra tried to keep her distance but knew a 15-year-old, too-grown-looking girl wouldn’t fair well on her own coming from Greensboro to a city like Atlanta. When she’d heard what Clarissa was setting to do, she’d gotten Ronetta to drive them. Debra bit her lip when it dawned on her — there she was, helping someone’s daughter when she wasn’t allowed to spend time alone with her own. “You said your mama’s boyfriend gave you this address?” Ronetta asked, between patting her short Afro into place and keeping an eye on the road. Above them an airplane flew low. The control towers pointed to the sky. “One of her boyfriends.” Clarissa’s words fluttered in the air and trailed them all the way to Hapeville, Georgia. Fifteen minutes later, they exited the highway. “It’s Elmgrove, right?” Ronetta asked, making a sharp left. “Yeah, 520,” Clarissa said, holding a 8

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ripped envelope, her unpolished nails bitten to the quick. Ronetta slowed the car, checking for the address. Children played along the sidewalk and dogs barked underneath their laughter. She inched along. “This is it,” Ronetta said pulling in front. The house was one story with broken blinds and toddler-height weeds in the yard. When no one moved, Debra said, “I can go up and ask if she’s here.” “She is,” Clarissa said. “How do you know?” Debra asked. “Mama got a loan from Aunt Ida to ‘get on her feet,’ and came back with that.” Clarissa pointed to the lime-green Buick Regal parked in the driveway. “Hard to mistake that color. But they built more than one,” Debra said. “I can see her rabbit’s foot,” Clarissa added. “I bought it for her. Guess it’s not really lucky after all.” Clarissa’s heavily glossed lips trembled. “Plates missing, but that rabbit’s foot confirms it’s her car, huh?” Clarissa nodded. “That’s lucky,” Debra said. Turning off the engine, Ronetta said, “Let’s check it out.” Clarissa led the way. Debra and Ronetta stayed two steps behind like backup singers. Clarissa’s thick bangs nearly covered her eyes. A red, gumball-size ponytail holder fastened the rest of her hair on top of her head. Debra reached out and grabbed Clarissa’s wrist. They all stopped. “You sure you’re up for this?” Debra asked, meeting Clarissa’s eyes. “Once we knock, that’s it. Sometimes people just not ready to be found.” Debra remembered how she used to go missing for weeks at a time, losing herself, losing custody of her baby girl, Ashley, who was 10 now and living with Debra’s ex-husband and his new wife. Honing in on her mid-thirties, Debra was no longer that rail-thin, strung out

girl. But the ghost of her was only a thought away. Debra lowered her gaze. “It’s not fair to my little sister. If my mama was mad at me, she shoulda just put me out.” “Mad at you?” Ronetta said. “Bout what?” “What’s it matter?” Debra snapped. Once on the porch, the theme to Ironside belted out. Clarissa knocked twice and rang the doorbell. The TV went mute. A few seconds later the blinds to the front windows moved. “Who is it,” a lady asked. “My name’s Clarissa. I’m looking for Alberta Rice.”The door cracked open. “Well join the club. I thought you was her for a second. Gotta be related.” “Yes, ma’am. I’m her oldest daughter,” Clarissa said. “Kids? News to me,” the lady said and whipped beaded braids off her shoulder. The crystal beads glistened against her honey-colored skin. Clarissa peeked inside. “You sure she’s not here? That’s her car outside.” “Correction, sweetie pie, that’s my car. And it’s a piece of crap. She was here for a few weeks until some chump wired her a little cash. Sold me that clunker to get the rest. That was about a month ago. Ain’t seen her since.” “Where’d she go?” Clarissa asked. “If I knew that, I’d have already gotten my money back for that hunk of junk?” Clarissa eyed the car. “What she need the money for?” The lady chuckled. “Sweetie, we don’t ask those kinds of questions ’round here. But I’ve heard she’s still in Atlanta, maybe the West End.” “That’s our stomping ground, Clarissa,” Debra said. The bass of a man’s voice rose in the background. “Whatever they selling, we ain’t buying?” “I gotta go.” She started to close the door. “Just a sec!” Debra shouted. Ronetta, pressed her palm against the

door forcing it open. “What now?”The lady huffed. We didn’t get your name,” Debra said. “That’s ‘cause I didn’t give it.” “Well?” Ronetta said. The lady sighed. “It’s Sugar.” Debra rolled her eyes. “If you hear anything, Sugar, or she comes back, call us,” Debra said. Ronetta handed Sugar a card with Pink Fox Beauty Salon on the front. Sugar reached for it. “It’s a long shot she’ll show her face round here.” “She might,” Clarissa said softly. Sugar eyeballed Clarissa. “Let’s just say she didn’t leave. Let’s say, I kicked her out. Your mama likes to help herself to what ain’t hers. But you her daughter, you probably know all about that.” Then the door slammed. Clarissa, her eyes welling, faced Debra. “I’m ... I’m not like that. Mama thinks so, but I’m not.” “I know,” Debra said. Clarissa didn’t move until Debra put her hand on her back and eased her off the porch. “Don’t mind her,” Debra whispered. “She’s just mad about the car is all.”

She Rocs magazine is collaborating with Writers & Books to share a short story or essay in every issue, written by students or instructors. Writers & Books is a nonprofit literary center based in Rochester that fosters and promotes reading and writing as lifelong activities. The programs are numerous and varied, reaching more than 25,000 people per year. Learn more at

“At least you know she’s alive and kicking,” Ronetta said. Debra searched for words to console Clarissa. “Here’s something to think about,” Debra said as they headed to the car. “You wash hair at Pink’s, which is smack dab in the West End. Show your mama’s picture to the customers. Sooner or later, someone’s gonna recognize her.” “You best believe that,” Ronetta said, cranking up the car.

“Wait!” Debra yelled. “What’s going on?” Ronetta asked as Debra hopped out and hurried to the Regal. The air was thick with dust and heat. She tried the doors and found the passenger’s side unlocked. She opened it and snatched the rabbit’s foot off the rearview mirror, squeezing it until the tiny claws dug into her palm Debra hoped it would bring Clarissa the luck that she had stopped believing in years ago. “Let’s go, Ronetta,” Debra said rushing in, the Isley Brothers’ harmony underscoring her words. Before Ronetta rounded the corner, Debra glanced back at the house and saw someone on the porch, watching them drive away. Set amid the colorful backdrop of the mid-to-late 1970s, Poor Girls’ Palace is a novel in progress, spotlighting the lives of four women living in a rooming house that was coined the “Poor Girls’Palace.” The short story was originally published in the Indiana Review in Jan. 2009. The first novel draft of Poor Girls’ Palace appeared on in 2013. She Rocs Magazine

March/April 2018



Meet Dr. Meami Craig ... and see how learning to love herself has changed her life By SHE ROCS STAFF

Dr. Meami Craig is a popular columnist for She Rocs and has been a known brand around Rochester for more than 30 years, as a newspaper columnist, PR professional, and radio personality. She began writing for the Democrat and Chronicle and Messenger Post newspapers while working as assistant director for public relations for the University of Rochester Medical Center. Craig was the most-read blogger for “Her” magazine, which translated to a Monday print column in the D&C, and for 15 years wrote the weekly “Families” column for Messenger Post. At the same time this Harvard University graduate was live on the radio giving lifestyle advice on WARM-101.3 with Tony Infantino and Dee Alexander for almost 20 years, while raising her own two children. Her most recent radio show was “Change Your Life With Dr. Meami Craig!” on WHAM-1180AM. Our editorial team agreed that “She Rocs” and asked Craig to be our cover photo and cover feature. We also asked her about her passions and thoughts on empowerment. Here’s what she told us … 10

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women nowadays but I take a different twist on that — I say, as I did for myself, look inward and define your real needs being totally honest with yourself. I figured out for one thing that I need to live near water to feel connected to nature and be truly happy, so I took gradual steps to do just that. To be empowered I also had to look at my life and let go of toxic relationships that were draining my energy and hurting my soul’s spirit. I put boundaries on them that are flexible but strong. I also let go of shame and guilt, and forgave even those people in my life who don’t think they need forgiving, for my own sake and theirs too. Did you know negative emotions reside in our body in our fat tissue?

SHE ROCS: What makes you tick? What are you passionate about? MEAMI CRAIG: I put myself first. My family is right there, too, in importance to me, but I’ll bet you’re wondering if I think it’s selfish to put myself first. I struggled with that one for decades and—after years of putting my kids first—I finally reversed it and did the opposite. SR: Why? MC: Well, recently my 30-year-old daughter, Courtaney, spoke to me from her heart about the importance of seeing me, as her mother, love myself before anyone else. She got married in October and confided in me as we were planning her wedding that this was the one thing she needed most from me: to role model true self love and self care before all else.

SR: How do you serve as a role model for self love and self care? MC: It’s a lot more than just bubble baths by candlelight and mani-pedis — although I do include those on a regular schedule. I am very aware that women have to be able to financially afford these niceties. So, many times I’ve done my own mani-pedis because, for me, having my nails bright and happy help makes me feel bright and happy when facing the world with confidence. Self love begins with knowing who you are, owning your mistakes and your triumphs, while taking care of yourself as carefully as you would a small child you are raising. That means getting enough sleep, which we women always hear about, but how many of us really do? I used to stay up at night until I got it all done, right down to having permission slips properly signed in my kids’ backpacks, even if that meant I was up till 3 a.m. and then on the air at the radio station at 7 a.m. No more! Sleep is sexy. It lets me be vibrant and more alive during my waking hours. Women, rearrange your schedules if you have to, but figure out what self care is to you, as a form of self love, and do THAT as a first priority! Help each other with this, too. Your kids will see it and follow suit so they’ll grow up to be their best selves, too. SR: What empowers women? MC: Having counseled people for so

SR: Whaaaat?! MC: Yes, it is scientifically proven to be true! Recent research shows a protein substance in our bodies called I-l6 causes inflammation in our fascia, which is a layer of fat we all have on our bodies when overstimulated by negative feeling in our brains. It regulates metabolism and helps fight infection hence my theory that losing weight is more than just food-in and exercise-out. It’s a head game; one I have been working on most of my adult life.

SR: What do you do that’s lifeaffirming? MC: I force myself to be honest with myself. I ask myself if am I living my values, with kindness to myself and others, even strangers. I can’t change the past, but I am in total control of how much I let it affect my life in this moment.

many years, I have learned you really can transform someone by loving them who they are right now, in the skin they are in. Just being listened to makes anyone feel empowered and respected. And if there is no one in your life doing that for you then you have to do it for yourself. There’s so much talk about empowerment for

SR: What are you excited about right now, or looking forward to? MC: I am beyond thrilled to say that I am going to be a grandmother for the first time in May! My son Matthew and his beautiful Brazilian wife are going to have a baby boy! The happiest time of my life, so far, has been when my own children were babies and toddlers, so I can’t wait for this part two of that! My only question is what should my grandma name be? Glamma, Nana or Bamma? I ask your readers to call my Happiness Hotline at (585) 432-1010 and vote on my “grandma” name! Or go to my website at I’d love to hear from you.

Own your mistakes and triumphs and take care of YOU! She Rocs Magazine

March/April 2018



What is the mission of the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley? To empower and inspire women and girls to achieve economic self-sufficiency and reach their full potential by providing investments in community programs that give a “hand up” to women and their families who are struggling to survive and by providing educational and philanthropic opportunities that encourage teen girls to set career goals and give back to their community. How and when did the Women’s Foundation get started? The Foundation was established in 1994 by a group of nine women who wanted to create lasting social change for women and girls living in poverty in our community. They knew that women and children were disproportionately affected by poverty and began to raise funds for a permanently restricted endowment, interest from which would be used to award grants to programs that have proven successful in lifting women and girls out of poverty. Since that time, the Foundation has invested over $1.3 million dollars in programs offered by The Center for Youth, YWCA, Catholic Charities, Sojourner House and many more. Some of the categories supported are: re-entry after incarceration, employment readiness, financial literacy, college readiness and more.

Local business owner Tricia Lall volunteers as a purse model. PROVIDED PHOTO

What kinds of programming and services does the Women’s Foundation offer? We award grants to programs making a real difference in the lives over 1,200

Tell us about the Women’s Foundation’s partnerships in the community. The Foundation partners with approxi-


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women and girls each year. Increasing a woman’s ability to support herself and her children is the primary goal of our grant making. In addition, our Girls’ Initiative Program helps over 500 under-resourced girls each year set goals to stay in school and plan for a financially independent future through our After School Literacy Program, Voices of Experience event, and Girls Grant Making Committee.

mately 13 organizations serving over 1,000 women and girls each year through our grant awards. The Girls’ Initiative Program partners with over 40 schools, clubs, not-for-profits serving girls and more, reaching over 500 girls each year.

Tell us about the A Purse for Change event. A Purse for Change is the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley’s signature event; a fun night of shopping and friendship. In its twelfth year, the event will feature more than 150 brand new purses, ranging from $10 to $1,200, from namebrand designers (and local makers), including, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Coach and more. A Purse for Change will be held on Thursday, March 22, where we’ll transform Temple B’rith Kodesh in Brighton into a ladies night out dream come true. Tickets to attend are just $65 (with sponsorship options available that include tickets, advertising and more) and includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres (charitable calories don’t count), wine, purse silent and live auctions, fashion show by Panache Vintage, music and more. All proceeds will benefit women and girls from the Rochester community and the surrounding counties, helping them overcome challenges to become financially independent adults. Share the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley’s vision for the future. The Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley will be recognized as one of the leading organizations in the greater Rochester area focused on women’s economic self-sufficiency, by: • Advocating for women and girls through fundraising, education, research and high-impact grant making • Partnering and collaborating with key institutions, agencies, foundations and corporations • Striving for excellence in all that we do. • Delivering measurable results We will promote greater social change for women and truly make a difference. To learn more and get involved, visit or contact Director of Development and Program, Alyssa Belasco, at