Unsung Inspirational Women by Dr. Niamh Clune

Friday, 18 November 2011

Meet Melanie Saxton

Unsung Inspirational Women...

Meet Melanie Saxton: Inspirational mother, writer and educator.

Melanie Saxton is one of those superwomen – determined,
focused, and talented with exceptionally high personal 
standards and self-expectations. She is a magician with a 
sleight of hand juggling act who balances being a mother 
with several demanding careers. Yet she manages to 
remain a thoroughly decent and inspiring human being.

She is a tour-de-force within the writing/editing world
- a teacher of English - a lifter of others (especially 
emerging authors) with her supportive spirit and generosity 
of soul.

When asked about the most important things in life, 
her first and foremost pride and joy is, and always 
will be, her daughter. Fifteen years ago, baby Emily 
came into the world and lit Melanie’s soul. At the time, 
Melanie was in her mid 30’s. She had always wanted 
a daughter and can't quite find the words to describe 
her joy at becoming a mother somewhat later in life. 
Melanie is still amazed to watch Emily morph into a
talented, hard-working, and beautiful young woman.

Emily is now a sophomore. She loves high school and has recently tackled driver's ed. Melanie must now adjust to the fact that, next summer, her daughter will be driving alone. Turning her out onto 
the highways and byways causes Melanie the usual anguish that all those of us who are mothers must suffer. Fortunately (the timing was serendipitous), she interviewed Victoria Osteen, herself a mother of a young teen driver. Victoria told Melanie, "God gives us
grace for every season.” Melanie needed to hear these words. They contained within them the power to help her accept the inevitable - that which every mother must face, albeit some more gracefully than others – the next stage in her daughter’s personal development.

To understand the close relationship between Melanie and her wonderful daughter, it is important to add that since Emily was seven, Melanie has been a single mother. Post-divorce, Melanie discovered a fierce maternal strength. She focused completely on her child. She made certain that Emily's young life was filled with all that any mother hopes for her child. Circumstances would deny her
child nothing of true value. Melanie re-entered the marketplace to earn a living and give Emily the best possible childhood.

Melanie hadn't worked outside the home for nine years! She wanted to minimize the disruption in Emily's life while still earning enough for them both to live on. It wasn't easy. In fact, single motherhood has been the greatest balancing act that Melanie could ever have imagined. First, she had to ramp up her writing career, a difficult job in the first place, let alone trying to earn enough from it to support a child. Writing is, however, a career Melanie excels at and loves. It has given her the freedom to wrap her schedule around her daughter’s, as though it were a pair of loving arms. Emily did not attend day-care. Her mom was right there with her throughout all her growing years, volunteering at the school and keeping a close eye and involvement in all her child’s concerns.

She watched Emily progress through dance classes, sports and orchestra. In turn, Emily watched and admired her mother finishing a college degree, which she had first pursued in 1980 and finally completed in 2009. Melanie did so in order to tackle teaching certification whilst Emily considered career choices and high school credits. Melanie is acutely aware that she is her child’s role model and compass. If Melanie is pointing north and following her dreams, Emily knows she is empowered to do the same.

Melanie still flashes back to those early years when she learned to navigate the all-consuming and unrelenting demands (and rewards) of single parenthood. After the divorce, the little family moved to a smaller town on the outskirts of Houston where they could be near Melanie’s sister. "Mommy, I feel like I'm tumbling!" cried the then seven-year-old child, reeling as she mourned her absent parent, adjusted to a new neighbourhood and navigated an unfamiliar school.

"I feel like I'm tumbling, too," empathized her mother. "Good thing you are in gymnastics! We both know how to land on our feet!" Melanie knows the key to single parenting. She taught her child to cope. She taught her to be emotionally competent. She gave her daughter the threads to weave her own healing. She kept a sense of humor. She believes this is a great gift for any child. "This is the hand that was dealt us," she told Emily. "So let's work the deck and play those cards!" Always, she has taught her daughter to be self-determining…"We can't choose the past, but we can choose our future."

The fruits of Melanie’s labour lie in the fact that she has raised a child of whom she is proud. Emily has grown up actively looking for opportunities. She began working at boarding kennel just four days after turning 15. What’s more, Emily loves it! She is considering pursuing a career in Veterinary Medicine. What a wise choice of work experience. This will surely stand her in great stead when interviewing for college!

With the advent of high school, the little family runs on jet fuel rather than gasoline. Emily's teen years are adrenaline-filled. Melanie drives the fifteen-year-old to and from work and activities. Then there is always a school project, always a new adventure. But the end results are well worth it and there is much joy in the journey.

Melanie balances commuting to and from her clinical teaching assignment in another town, and traveling back home as quickly as possible to spend time with Emily, grade papers and plan the next instructional day. She stays up late editing and doing her creative work. She writes for six magazines (and is also a contributing editor). She specializes in high profile and celebrity interviews and feels privileged to have featured former First Lady Barbara Bush, A.J. Foyt, George Foreman and many others. She has her own editorial business and edits and proofs books for emerging authors. She gets very little sleep and - amazingly - has more jobs than she can handle! “Thank heavesn,” she exclaims, “For other editors like Kristy Stevenson who can take my overflow work.”

Melanie’s life revolves around Emily and her career(s). Although, I haven’t mentioned her pets yet! She has two dogs and (gulp) two cats plus two kittens (one a Scottish Fold) – all rescues, and all a source of amusement. Melanie is obviously softhearted and finds it difficult to say, “No!” to an animal, child, or friend in need.

Melanie will catch up on sleep and devote herself to writing full-time next summer. She has two novels percolating and plans to publish them in the near future. The next blessed school year she plans to return to the classroom, energized. It is a blessing that in a down economy she has more work than she can handle. She loves her life and feels fortunate to have entered single parenthood relatively unscarred. Melanie feels she has done her job and done it well, as long as her daughter is thriving, her students are learning, her client's are hiring and her articles are published.

As for dating . . . Emily will never worry that her mother will abandon her to a Friday night attraction or bring strangers to the doorstep. When Emily begins dating, so might her mother. Until then, Melanie is happy being an inspirational mother, writer, and educator.


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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Unsung Inspirational Women by Dr. Niamh Clune

Meet the wonderful...Pandora Poikilos

Welcome to my blog on unsung, inspirational women, the kind hardly anyone knows about, the ordinary you's and me's who live up the street or around the corner but who live beautiful, extraordinary lives and give so much to others.

Pandora Poikilos is one of them who exists for some of us only in virtual reality. She is one of Blogland’s leading lights. With more than 8,000 followers of her Blog Peace from Pieces, and a book ranked among the top bestsellers on Smashwords, she has made the sometimes inscrutable world of technology her new home.

In 2003, at the age of only twenty five years, Pandora was diagnosed with Intracrannial Hypertension. Her symptoms began with headaches and double vision. She went for a CT scan followed by an MRI. Then she saw the neurologist, and in a single moment, the man in the white suit gently pointed out that from then on, Pandora would not be in control of everything.

Intracranial Hypertension is a neurological disorder, which literally means that the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the skull is too high. “Intracranial” means “within the skull.” “Hypertension” means “high fluid pressure.” Main symptoms are headache, nausea and vomiting, double vision and other symptoms. If untreated, it may lead to swelling of the optic disc in the eye, which can progress to vision loss. There is no known cause. There is no cure.

Most days, Pandora feels double her age. She has a VP Shunt in her head and a tube that runs from her brain to her body. She feels scared. She feels cursed. And she feels abnormal. On some days, she is like a raging bull, tearing around doing as much as she can. Others see such days as ‘good.’ They call these supernatural bursts of activity, ‘determination.’ It probably helps them feel easier; reassured and less threatened by the reality of Pandora’s all-consuming, life-altering disease. However, Pandora sees her actions as the mask she wears. Compulsively, she does as much as she can before another bad day catches up with her, and she won’t be able to do anything other than lie in bed and wish away such moments. She feels helpless. She cannot see what eats away at her. But she knows it is there, everyday – an invisible force tearing her to shreds from the inside out. Blackness envelops her, as her eyes fail. She needs help with simple everyday tasks. The pain you and I feel should we jam our hand in a door is nothing to the pain Pandora endures when she undergoes brain surgery. But the VP Shunt is a choice between sight and sanity or ongoing crippling symptoms driving her mad.

Pandora has been together with her partner for more than two years. They met two months before she was due to go for her VP shunt surgery. They clicked instantly. Pandora repeats how brain surgery helps you put your priorities in order. Some days are really bad. And it is painful when Pandora’s partner cannot fully understand what she is going through. But they take things one day at a time. “Life's too short to sweat the small stuff,” she says.

Though Pandora lives in London, she has moved countries several times to reach doctors who were able to treat the condition. After the surgery last year, symptoms vastly improved. She no longer needs lumbar punctures (painful enough on their own) or daily medication. She only needs regular checkups for the shunt and her eyesight.

I asked Pandora what writing means to her. It means many things: acceptance, love, faith, hope, freedom, and peace. These are all themes she has touched on and about which she has written. But if she had to choose one word to complete the sentence, ‘Writing is…’ she would say this: "healing". When she writes, she is no longer the frail, inept woman battling an incurable neurological disorder. She can be anything she sets her mind to be…without limitations. She can choose to heal past hurts. She can sketch her future and show the people closest how much they mean to her.

Pandora had been going through a particularly rough patch with medical and personal issues when a close friend suggested that she should pick up a pen and write to heal herself; hence the name of her blog: Peace from Pieces.

“Most of all,” says Pandora, “I hope I can offer ‘healing’ to someone else who may need it, so they too can chin up and keep moving forward. Lord knows I'm literally a few brain nerves short since my diagnosis and shunt surgery, but for everything that has been taken from me, I still have the best thing of all, my words…”

Pandora’s favourite quote and one that she lives by is something she wrote: "The next time someone tells you 'the absence of expectations is the absence of disappointment,' do not listen. Have expectations. Keep them great. It'll be a very bumpy ride. You'll even get bruised, sometimes very badly. Sometimes, you'll come to an abrupt halt or even fall off your ride. But you'll grow. And if you do not grow, you do not live."

I identify strongly with Pandora, and am grateful to her for being the first inspirational woman to feature on my new blog. I too suffer from a debilitating disease. Writing is my release, my escape into the hauntingly beautiful world of the imagination. What a gift it is, this imagination – the means by which we might participate in the beauty of the day!

Thank You Pandora for being such an inspiration, one of the unsung, unnoticed, special women who is truly deserving of exaltation!

Pandora Poikilos - http://pandorapoikilos.com/ |

Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/peacefrompieces |

Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/PandoraPoikilos |

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Excuse-Brains-Have-Stepped-Out/dp/0983197873 *Support the cause - $1 from every paperback copy of Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out purchased on Amazon.com will go towards the National Organisation of Rare Disorders.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Orangeberry Book Collective

How Tweet It Is To Be Loved By You!
It is difficult for new writers to ‘get their work out there.’ We are as a shoal of fish being tossed this way and that in an ever-changing Internet ocean. We are not big fish in a small pond, but tiny, miniscule fish in an Amazonian sea of self-promotions.
We try to stand out. We wrack our brains thinking of this sales technique or that, always trying to entice the reader to read us. After all, being read and enjoyed is the air we breathe, the liberation of a writer’s soul! We scour the Internet looking for information about ‘how to sell.’ Alternatively, those capitalising on our sales ignorance bombard our email boxes, face book pages, and twitter accounts with ‘follow me’ recipes guaranteed to bring instant fortune. Meanwhile, we try to wear every hat, self-promote, write the blog, tweet the tweet, tick the box and like the page, until there is little time left for writing.
This is why some of us have decided to create a new way of operating, of rocking and rolling in this gigantic, virtual ocean. We have realised that by working together and supporting each other, we can do business a different, beautiful way. It involves ‘Paying it Forward.’ We generate goodwill instead of Narcissism, and develop new networks, make new friends and generally don’t feel quite so lonely.
This describes this initiative, Orangeberry Books: a new kind of web site by authors for authors. Many other collaborative promotional initiatives feed into this such as book launches where everyone uses their personal hard-developed networks to help launch each other’s books. After all, for some of us, it is easier to promote someone else’s wonderful work rather than rave about our own. (We are, of course, also capable of that, when asked!) I hope you will support this new initiative. Help the little fish to be noticed. Promote the work of new authors who are dedicated, hard-working, and so deserving!
Big Thank You to all, especially Brian Bianco for creating this wonderful new site! Thank you also to Tammie Clarke Gibbs for creating the great logo!