A Tribute To Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, celebrated poet, author, civil rights activist and single mother has died today. I’d like to simply honour her by quoting from the BBC website’s report.

US President Barack Obama has led the tributes to Maya Angelou, describing the poet, author and activist as “one of the brightest lights of our time”.

He hailed Angelou, who has died aged 86, as “a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman”.

She made her name with the memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which charted a childhood of oppression and abuse in the Deep South in the 1930s.

Her family described her as “a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace”.

InĀ a statement on Facebook, they said she passed away quietly at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at 08:00 EST (12:00 GMT).

“Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belaboured by a loss of acuity or comprehension,” they said.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being… The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

President Obama and Maya AngelouBarack Obama gave Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011
Maya Angelou and US President Bill Clinton in 2000In 2000, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton

Mr Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award, in 2011.

He said: “Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer.

“But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true.

Maya AngelouI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings dealt with the racism and family trauma of Angelou’s upbringing

“A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves.”

Raised by her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of seven. After she told her family what had happened, the boyfriend was killed.

“I thought my voice had killed him, so it was better not to speak – so I simply stopped speaking,” she said. She remained mute for five years, but read voraciously.

Former President Bill Clinton, who invited Angelou to read at his 1993 inauguration, said America had lost a national treasure and he and wife Hillary had lost “a beloved friend”.

“The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace,” he said.

“I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of On the Pulse of Morning at my first inaugural, and even more for all the years of friendship that followed.”

Hear No Evil, See No Evil?

Today I was invited back to Allison Ferns’ show on Radio Sussex to do a review of today’s papers.

One of the stories I picked to discuss was the fact that former “ladette” and wild child, DJ Sara Cox has been discussing that now she has a young daughter, she is far more censorious about what she and her daughter watch or listen to. She even finds popular show “Come Dine With Me” too raunchy these days, complaining that someone is always stripping off or showing too much cleavage. On the music front – and despite being a Radio 1 DJ before her recent move to the more sedate Radio 2 – she also has concerns about the suitability of some of the music that is getting airplay these days. Sara mentions rapper “Pitbull”, whose sexist and aggressive lyrics degrade and disrespect women.

What do you think and as a parent yourself, how do you seek to control the constant stream of inappropriate content bombarding our children these days?

My book, ” THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available now from Amazon and hits the shops on 1st July.

The Power of Networking

As some of you may know: as well as being an author and coach, I’m also a Regional Director of the Athena Network, a business women’s networking group. Two of my groups met this week, with another meeting tomorrow. I’m constantly encouraged and inspired by the spirit of camaraderie I find in the groups and the notion that we are all there to help each other’s businesses to grow – but also to forge strong relationships that go far deeper and are far more meaningful than a casual business acquaintance. It’s something that women do so well. We naturally share good news, advice and recommendations. If somebody has a question or an issue, there will always be someone in the network who can offer the solution or at the very least some sympathetic encouragement.

In my book, I explore this idea of building a support network and reaching out to ask for help when you need it. All the single mums who so generously agreed to be interviewed for the book were doing so with the hope that by sharing their stories they could comfort, reassure or help another woman in a similar situation. And we all agreed on one thing – it’s vital to reach out and ask for (as well as accept) help when you need it. When the opportunity arises, I’m sure you’ll be the first to reciprocate and you in turn can help another woman on her way.

“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order on Amazon. Visit my website www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com. To find out more about the Athena Network, please visit www.theathenanetwork.com

Study The Evidence

There’s a lot of pressure on our children these days – My 17 year old is doing his A.S. exams at present, some of my friends have children who are sitting A Levels and some are doing SATs. There’s a lot of pressure on us parents too. Parents can be heard everywhere discussing how their children are doing – and how best to support them. Should you test them, help them plan their revision, buy extra study guides? How many hours should they study for?

Even between exams, as a parent you need to be on your toes to make sure that everything at school is running smoothly. Don’t assume that you can just leave it all to the teachers. It’s very easy (as I’ve discovered on occasion) to take your eye off the ball and not spot that your child is struggling. Especially when you are a single mum, this can seem like such a responsibility but you know your child best and you know what motivates them, how best to encourage them and when they need a gentle shove in the right direction. One thing that helps is to keep asking how things are going, show an interest and offer advice. Keep the dialogue open, make it easy to chat without censoring your child’s feelings. Reassure them – and yourself – that it’s only through mistakes that you learn. It’s vital that your child can trust you to take their concerns seriously – what may seem trivial to you can be major for them. Be fair at all times; if they are in the wrong, make that clear. But if someone needs to fight their corner, step up and be counted!

My book, “THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order on Amazon and hits the shops on 1st July. Visit my website: www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com

Make Them Play While The Sun Shines

Today my husband and I went on a long (for me, anyway!) 10 mile bike ride. I was missing my boys – as they were at their dad’s this weekend. It was such a glorious day today and it was almost as if Mother Nature had dressed up in all her finery for us. On the riverbank we cycled past sailboats and canoes and some kind of raft that you stand on and paddle (what are they called? It’s a new sport to me). Lancing College Chapel presided grandly in all its Gothic splendour over the hazy summer landscape and the river below. And everywhere we went there were people of all ages on bikes or walking their dogs – including families walking slowly so little ones could keep up, or stopping for a picnic and to enjoy the view. When we stopped at a pub for lunch there were children running round the garden, having fun on the playground apparatus. There was a tiny baby being passed around admiring friends by a proud new mother.

My reflections today are really all about encouraging your children to enjoy the great outdoors before the joys of technology lure them inside to the Xbox and their computer games. Even then, persuade them somehow to get some fresh air and get the benefits of the Vitamin D! It can be done and you’ll be able to polish your halo!

photo 2

My book, “THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available now on Amazon. Visit my website: www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com

The Best Things In Life Are Free

Well that’s not true, I hear you say – here I am, a single mum, struggling to pay the bills and here you are preaching all that idealistic stuff at me! You have a good point and in my book, I’ve written a whole chapter about finances and how to keep your head above water.

So, to plead my case, here are some wonderful things that are absolutely free : watching your children paddling by the water’s edge or building a sandcastle on a sunny day, or letting them stay up late on bonfire night so they can watch the fireworks with you from the upstairs window. Dancing around the sitting room with two freshly-bathed and excitable children until you are all laughing and they’ve burnt off enough energy to go to sleep. Reading a bedtime story and tucking them up in bed, sleepy and cuddly and adorable. The feeling when your child climbs onto your lap just for a snuggle. Seeing the look on your child’s face as he blows out the candles on his birthday cake – or comes excitedly dashing into your room, ready to open his Christmas stocking. Squidgy little baby feet – or hands. Your baby’s fist tightly curled around your finger. Watching your baby get the giggles for no apparent reason and finding it so infectious that you are soon laughing along too. Seeing your child all dressed up in his school uniform, ready for his first day at school. Need I go on? All those precious moments, and as their mum, you can treasure them all.

My book, “THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order on Amazon. Visit my website: www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com

It’s The Little Things In Life…

They say it’s the little things in life that get you down – just think for a moment about the grief a tiny mosquito can cause! All over The world, people get into arguments about trivial things like squeezing the toothpaste tube in the wrong place, or putting the empty milk carton back into the fridge. As parents, there are days when our children infuriate us. They forget their packed lunches, P.E. kits, front door keys, homework. They seem unable to pour a bowl of cereal without sprinkling it all over the kitchen work surface and leave a sticky trail of sugar granules and drops of milk for you to come across later. They are sleepy when it’s time to wake up and they dawdle when you are running late. Sometimes it seems as if you have to repeat everything at least three times to prevent it going in one ear and out the other. Before I had children, it used to amaze and sadden me how often parents could be heard complaining loudly about their offspring. “Just you wait”, they’d say – “you have no idea what you’re in for”… But one friend in particular stood out as a shining example of positivity. I once asked her how she managed to remain upbeat, despite the trials and tribulations that every parent goes through. She explained that she’d realised early on just how easy it would be to complain and criticise her children, rather than looking for the good stuff.

I knew she had a point and I have tried to bear this in mind. So just imagine for a moment how the little things can make you glad to be alive and proud to be a parent. The fact that my elder son actually asks my advice on his studies and texts me his results when he gets good news during the day at school. The fact that my youngest son confides in me and still tells me on a regular basis that I’m the best mum in the world. The fact that we can still enjoy each other’s company, despite the distractions of technology. Little things like an unexpected cup of tea turning up on my desk when I’m most in need of it, hearing from a stranger – or a teacher – how polite and friendly my boys are. And sometimes you can watch your child sleeping and have a massive wave of gratitude that he is alive and that you had a hand in creating him. It’s the little things in life that make it all worthwhile!

My book, “THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The pieces and build a Happy New life” is available now on Amazon.