Because I want MORE

What do I want? I want MORE. MORE time. MORE support. MORE opportunities. MORE for me.

Last week while I was on a play date, a friend asked me why I had started my company MORE. And I gave her the most authentic answer that I could. I said because I want MORE for me.

I didn't have a chance to go into details because we were with our toddlers, but I wanted to. I wanted to tell her that I, just like her, was in pursuit of MORE.

More time to nurture my relationship with my husband and opportunities to look beyond the shadow that I see during our baby handoffs. I want more chances to talk with him. To tell him I love him and to hug him until I decide to let go. I want to make sure he knows every minute of the day that we are in this thing together.

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I want to be able to enjoy my son's stages instead of wishing pieces of them away. I want to be there, every time, present and engaged. I want to be the one who instills in him the confidence he's going to need to navigate through the rocky path that's in front of him. I want to hear him say out loud that he is beautiful, smart, special and loved and then know deep down that he believes it. I want to give him the very best — the best education, the best experiences and the best of me. I want to be able to say YES at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday if he asks me to play Spider-Man.

I want more creative freedom to figure out what I'm capable of doing. For the majority of my life, I've spent my time helping other people build their dreams. I want the opportunity to build mine.  I want to be able to step out on my own and release something into the world without my imposter syndrome holding me back.

I want more genuine friends. People who refer to me as passionate instead of aggressive. I want to find more people who, just like me, are trying to be the good in the world that they want to see. I want to find my tribe.

I want to be around to see others find their MORE. Like Stephanie, who is one of the most brilliant, genuine and kind-hearted people I've ever known. I want her to find her happy place, and I want to see her thrive. I want to see her create the space to cook with her son, write freely and share her wits with the world. And when I tell her that I love her and will always be here to support her; I want her to know that I mean it.

I want Joy, who lost her daughter Elli several years ago, to find solace knowing that Elli lives on. I want to be around when she finds the space to tell her story. And I want to be the first person in line at her book release party, waiting patiently, with a smile, a few tears and a big hug.

I want Nailah, who's so incredibly beautiful and strong to feel supported as she creates more safe spaces for women of color black girls, in particular — to be free and vulnerable and to grow. The work she is doing is so important. So needed and so brave. I don't want her ever to feel like she's doing it alone.

But most of all, what I want is MORE Spaces. MORE Spaces where we can be authentic, vulnerable, feel safe and be brave enough to keep going. Space to be the husbands, wives, mothers, business owners, working professionals, family members, friends and humans we want to be. MORE Spaces is what I want for you and me.

To MORE,

Amber

My beautiful threats

Today was going to be our last visit. We've had issues with this company before, but there's record breaking heat in the forecast, we have a 3-year-old, and our AC needs repair ...

This morning was set to be a beautiful day. I woke up next to my family – which is a treat because I usually get up between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. to work while Kai and Kayson sleep. It may seem small, waking up together every day, but it means a lot to me. When Kayson was in the hospital, it was all that I could see. 

I prayed that one day we would be together, the three of us, snuggled tight, without a worry in sight. I prayed to God, Budda, Muhammad, anyone that would listen, to keep my family safe. When I get up, at 2 a.m. to work I do it because I remember those moments. WE (Kai and I) do it for us. 

It was 6:45 a.m. by the time we bounced out of bed. We had an appointment with an AC company, whom we've used for over three years, to repair our unit. The unit that was broken again – regardless of the fact that we had followed all of their recommendations, instructions, service repairs and re-repairs due to poor performance. Our technician, Dodd, was scheduled to arrive by 7.

At 7:10 a.m. I started to think something was wrong. They've been here many times before. Perhaps they're running late. I'll wait. But, by 7:30 a.m. I decided to call. And gratefully I did, as the owner's wife said Dodd had just turned around since we were not responding. 

"Not responding?" That's weird. My phone is right here. 
"Well we called, and your husband gave us the wrong gate code." She said.
I assure you that's not true. I replied. We've been waiting for you. Perhaps you have the wrong number? Maybe you want to check it again. 
"Sure." She said with an irritated reply. "I have XXX-XXX-XXXX ... which now, after looking at the caller Id, I see is incorrect." 
OK. I replied.

And then Dodd rang the door bell. 

Two worlds collide

He was a tall white guy above 6 feet, who'd been there before. I called Kai down and took Kayson from his arms as they continued to the back yard. The job was supposed to be easy, it wouldn't take more than 20-minutes to fix, but 10 minutes in I heard arguing. I grabbed Kayson and stepped outside to see Dodd yelling at Kai. 

"What is your problem? You're at my house, fixing my stuff, don't talk that way in front of my wife and my son." Kai said.
Dodd said You're my fucking problem (or something along those lines).

As Kai began to reply, Dodd stood up. He picked up a piece of our AC unit and threw it against the wall, slammed our gate and left us sitting there.

Kai opened the gate and yelled,

"Hey man, you owe me an apology."
"Let him go," I said. "He's obviously crazy."
"Something's wrong with that guy. He came in with an attitude. I asked him a few questions like I always do." He replied. 

As he took Kayson and we made our way upstairs. My stomach began to sink. Something didn't feel right. I tried the AC company but wasn't able to reach anyone, so I hung up and called the police.

"I would like to file a police report."
"Sure. For what?" The lady on the end replied.
An AC technician, who has been in our house and has our gate code was acting irate and just cussed my husband out. No. I don't know why? I don't even know his last name, but something is not right.

She asked me a few other questions and said she'd send a police officer by. I told Kai, who at this point is visibly upset that it's going to be OK. 

About 30 minutes later the police arrive, and as we're talking the owner of the AC company, Tom arrives. He's here to fix our unit, which Dodd had disconnected. Kai gives the policeman his statement, and the two pull the owner aside.

The officer asks him what happened and the owner begins to defend "his guy." He then proceeds to explain how Dodd was justified because

"... he felt threatened." 

My beautiful threats

Threatened? What? Is that really his reply? I am the one who called the police because I feared we were in the presence of a crazy guy.

How could the tables be turned so quickly? How could it be that the perpetrator was now my 5'7 black husband inside. The man who, honestly, wouldn't hurt a fly. Now this is how it starts. Dodd arrives at our house, becomes irate, slams a gate and escapes without an apology or anyone questioning his fate. 

When I heard Tom offer up this defense, so many thoughts ran through my head. I thought about Emmitt Till, Trayvon Martin and so many others who through this same "I felt threatened" defense are now dead. 

what do i tell my son? 

When things like this happen, how are we suppose to reply? After calling the police we realized that the officer didn't even get the names of these guys. He stood there, calmly, listening in. And then when the story was finished he left us with Tom nervous and shaking.

As the mother of a beautiful chocolate boy and a brilliant chocolate man, this is my reality. It's these microagressive comments and lack of action that leave us wondering. 

And after all of this I don't know what to tell my son. 

"Mommy, why was that man so mean to my dad?" Kayson said.
"I don't know, honey. I don't know why he did that to dad. Eat your pancakes before they get cold. Don't be sad. We're OK. That man is not coming back. You're safe."

Shortly after this exchange Kai walked in. I hugged him. Then I walked back to my office, turned on my computer and I cried. 

Please world, have mercy on my beautiful threats. I promise you. They are not the bad guys.

Family is not philanthropy

My son has had a fever for five days straight and is starting to wheeze. Sickness has hit our house.

My son has had a fever for five days straight and is starting to wheeze. I've been coughing for over a month and Kai's hiding it, but he's struggling. Sickness has hit our house.
There are no sick days for working parents, especially small business owners. We're always on.

Earlier this week I had a call with a business counselor who was referred by a good friend. We're also connected on Facebook and have met a few times in person. I was looking for someone who I could bounce ideas off of, and she is supposed to be an "expert." Perfect. A win-win. 

After joining the call, the first question that she asked me was what can I do for you. And I replied that you could start by telling me what it is that you do. She sped through her elevator pitch, making sure to hone in on all of her/her company's accomplishments; We have started xx number of businesses here. Helped business owners grow their businesses there. Collectively generated billions of dollars last year, etc., etc. 

I politely listened as I looked at my sick toddler who was sitting beside me. His eyes were sunken in, and I was really concerned about him. I was also thinking about the deadlines that were approaching and how, because of this call, I would have to get up at 3 a.m. to get them done; The contracts that I had lost that week. The clients who were behind on their invoices. And how the day before my mother, who's insurance expires today, told me that her heart has been skipping beats.  

After taking me through her pitch, she turned the tables on to me. 

She said, "tell me about your business," and I'll tell you what I think. 

"Well," I said. "I own a business strategy agency, which I've had for five years and my husband and I own an organization where we make it easier for working parents to manage their professional and family responsibilities."

"Yes. Your organization is called MORE, right." She jumped in to say. I remember hearing about your retreat last year. It's a great concept, you're touching on an important issue, but I don't see the business model here. 

"Have you seen our website?" I said. 

"No. I haven't." She replied. But you may want to think about your work and life integration idea separately. There's the philanthropy piece, which I know is close to your heart, and then there's the business side which is going to be the tough part. I want you to be successful, but I don't see you making any money off of this idea. 

At that point, I had two options. One, go with my natural instinct and justify our position. Or two, wrap up the conversation because, apparently, she didn't know who she was talking to or what she was talking about. Given the situation, and my sick toddler who was sitting beside me, I chose the latter. 

I could have stayed on the call and walked her through our website, shared my credentials or given her my business plan. But doing so would have been a waste of my time. And I needed to save my energy for my business and my little man. 

My hope is that one day we'll look beyond our computers and see that there are real people in front of us. People who own businesses. Have children. Are dealing with issues. Family isn't a one off thing that we do when we get off our 9-5. Family is who we're working for. Family is, for most of us, our why.

The Day After. Life. Politics & Friendships.

Please help me. I can not breathe. My chest is tight. And there are tears in my eyes as my son lies here next to me.

This is not about an election. It's about our ability to keep going - our ability to believe. You see next week my son; he turns three and as a former preemie that means we should be happy.

Another year. Another life. Another opportunity. Another chance to raise him to be an amazing, beautiful, kind, brilliant and loving man, just like his daddy.

As I sit here nauseous at 3:10 am I know deep inside that this has nothing to do with an election. This feeling is about me. I am a wife. A mother. A boss. People are counting on me. And tonight, as I sit here, I am struggling to breathe. This is not about an election.

An election is nothing but a process - it's just plans and forms which without context are irrelevant. They don't matter. It's the people behind the polls that count. It's my "friends," colleagues, teachers, mentors, and mentees that with all my positive vibes, charm and wits went into that booth and didn't think once about me.

It's about my former best friend, a woman who I have known and loved since high school, who believes that a Donald Trump presidency will be ok for me. She thinks that because HER children will benefit the same goes for mine because, in HER view, we're all the same, like a Dr. Suess nursery rhyme - we're just thing one and thing two.

It's about her husband who, she admits, has said Nigger more times than I'd like to count, but still is considered a "good guy" so his insulting, degrading and racists words do not count.

It's about how my friend's parents, one who is an immigrant herself, have been provided with the luxury of light skin and have chosen to use it to "blend in." Their kids do not have to worry because they are the epitome of white privilege.

This is not about the election. It is about the fact that we were never friends, just acquaintances, and I am heartbroken because I let you get too close to me. It's about the fact that I believed that we were equal; that we were free. But we're not. At least I am not, because as you wake up happy and relishing in your victory, my husband, my son and my family wait silently for a sign that it is safe to come out.

We. Are. Afraid. Don't you see?

The new president-elect is being supported by the KKK. They do not care about the issues impacting me and my family.

For example, did you know that one in three little black boys born after 2002 will spend life behind bars mostly because of racially bias government policies? Or that the black family has been dismantled and is suffering drastically because of issues that happened back in slavery? Nearly 70% of black children (that's seven out of ten) do not know what it's like to have a father to hold. How about the fact that as an African-American, a women and a business owner my path to success is so fucking rocky. No one believes in you but you. Every day is spent proving people wrong and in the world of "hustling," you are left physically exhausted, mentally beaten up, isolated and completely withdrawn.

As I said before, this is not about an election.

An election is a set of processes and forms. No. This is about the humans behind the booths who found the changing landscape of this country threatening.

It's about you. It's about me. It's about the fact that today, November 9th, the day after election day, America has shown it's true colors. We were never friends, just acquaintances and I let you get too close to me.

Right now I can not breathe because I believed it when you told me that I could be anything. I had hope after my friend's father made a racists comment that he was the minority. I sat silent after being raped in college because I knew no one would believe me. I ignored the sexist comments and worked my way up the corporate ladder in IT because you told me to "Lean In." I believed you when you vowed to protect and serve even after you put my husband's life in danger because he looked "suspicious." I was a good friend.

In your quest to make America Great Again you forgot about me. My son. My family. The America that you seek is designed for you, not me. It is filled with negativity, lies, and deceit. It embraces segregation and hatred. The America that you seek looks just like 1963

This is not about politics. This is about the pain that comes after you realize that a friend has betrayed you. This is what it feels like when you realize that history is and always will be true. There is no progress without honesty. There is no truth in our lies. And for this, I am saddened because I have to tell you goodbye.  

I will never forget this day and how it made me feel. Today I am left scared, lonely and confused. But tomorrow I'll pick my head up and keep going because I have to. I have a son to raise. 

But, today. Today, I am going to sit here and remember. Today, I am going to allow myself to feel this pain because some of us (people of color, women, Muslims and the LGBT community specifically) have been betrayed. 

Good luck as you work to Make America Great Again. Good luck as you turn it into a world that is designed JUST FOR YOU. I wonder if you'll notice that I'm gone. I wonder if you'll realize that this was never about me or us. No. This entire relationship has always been about you.

This is not about an election. This is about how when the time came to stand up for someone else, someone you called a friend, you thought about no one else but yourself. And now we have to live with the consequences for at least four more years. 

This is not about an election. This is, and has always been, about you looking out for you. 

We. You + Me.

WE, me and you and you and me, in 14 years, have been through so much.  

 
 

WE have loved, lost, fought, won, fell, and got back up.

WE have learned to love through good and bad times. When faced with obstacles, we decided to stand up straight, hold hands, and plow through them together.

WE, not just you, and not just me, have built a life together that is exactly what WE wanted it to be.

WE are in love more today than we were 14 years ago, and to this day, not just in public but in the way we live each day.

WE, Kai-Saun, are meant to be . . . together.

WE, not you or me, decided to forgo the "big" wedding so that we could save our money - choosing instead to get married in our living room.

WE, bought our wedding rings off of Amazon and our flowers from Costco because we knew that what mattered most was how we felt, and that as long as I had you, and you had me, that WE would live happily every after.

WE ignored the chatter as people questioned our decisions, our faith, our resistance and decided to do what was best for us.

WE decided to forgo a honeymoon so that we could take my niece to Disneyland after experiencing trials that even an adult woman couldn't get through.

WE lay there as she played her video games, smiling and holding hands, thanking God silently for making you my man and me your woman.

 

WE were just happy to be together.

WE went on to have a beautiful baby, and although his entrance into this world was crazy, we stayed there next to him, promising never to leave - EVER.

WE watched as our fathers moved farther and farther away, crying to one another each day, making a pact, no matter what happens, never to leave.

WE stuck by each other as more and more people began to go. During what felt like some of our weakest times, we held our own and, as always, chose to grow.

WE, yes, Kai-Saun Tskei, held on as things got harder and harder, believing that as long as we had each other, we had ENOUGH.

WE kept going and going like the energizer bunny even after knowing that we were alone.

 

We made a beautiful little boy. 

WE love our son. He's the reason we are here, and with every ounce of ourselves, we give back to him.

WE forgo date nights, vacations, money, and time so that HE can have a better life.

WE know that the world is not what we want it to be, yet we keep pushing and giving so we can make it better.

WE, not you and not me, know that we already "have it all" as long as we are together.

WE don't care about appearances, clothes, cars, shoes, houses, bank accounts, fancy this, or fancy that because it is you AND it is me that bring real happiness.

WE have grown so much. You have watched me become a wife and a mother, and I have watched you become the most astounding husband and father.

 

WE are stronger together.

WE have grown despite our circumstances from workers to business owners, and at the end of each day, WE can say that we are freaking KILLING it.

WE, not a nanny, not daycare, and not a stranger but you and I are raising the strongest, smartest, wisest, kindest, friendliest, most genuine, and amazing kid on this planet. We are choosing to give him everything we have and MORE.

WE strive to be our son's role models, not some guy who's 7'6".

WE do not exchange gifts on anniversaries and holidays because we know there are no materials worthy of the time I get to spend with you each day.

WE wake up every day with smiles because marriage is our utopia.

WE, you and me, Kai-Saun, is what REAL love looks like, and I promise you that my heart will stay true even after I fade away.

WE, a combination of you and me, are the true definition of always and forever.

Happy anniversary, Kai-Saun. I love you more today than I did yesterday. 

Love always & forever, 

 
 

Goodbye, Christine.

My grandmother died today. She was 92 or 93; I can't remember. I cried, but it wasn't for her. 

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Christine was in her 90s, either 92 or 93; I can't remember. In fact, I don't know much about her. She wasn't that warm toward me. We didn't cuddle like grandmothers and granddaughters do. She didn't attend my play when I was the lead character in elementary school, my softball or dance championships in junior high, my high school or college graduation, my trip to the women's college world series, my wedding, or my baby shower, nor did she visit when I was in the hospital in intensive care with my son. I have lived in Arizona for 14 years. She never visited me, and for years, she never called. So, as much as I appreciate her contribution to my being, she's a stranger. When I heard about her passing, it was my father who called. He's 60 years old and doesn't handle stress well. Since his father passed in 1985, he has been her rock. Through good times and bad, he was there - for her. He loved his mother more than he loves me; I'm sure of it. He would have, and often did, do anything for her.

I cried when my grandmother died, but it wasn't for her. Besides being told that she's related to me, I don't know anything about the woman. Instead, I cried for my father. He's a recovering alcoholic, located 3-1/2 hours away by plane. I don't know how he will cope. Will he learn to lean in and embrace everything beautiful that is still in his life? Will he take time out to bond with HIS children, the three kids who only have him as the man they can call a father? Will he take time out to learn about his grandchildren? He has five, three boys and two girls. Will he become the man I used to know - the one who was there? Or, will he fade further and further away? I don't know.

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When I was younger, I used to worry about my father. I would pray that one day he'd come back to me. I prayed he would one day choose us, but that was a long time ago. I am older now and more mature. I'm also a mother and a wife.

My grandmother's funeral is next week, right in the middle of a major launch for one of my companies.

In a perfect world, I would be there, right next to my dad, my mom,  my husband, my son, my sister, my brother, and my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews, but this is not a perfect world. None of my father's children or grandchildren will be attending Christine's funeral.

I have been told that my grandmother was a beautiful lady - funny, happy and as beautiful as they come in her prime, just like my dad. But I don't know that person, and as of today, I never will. 

Today, my prayer is that one day my son will get to know his grandfather - my father, not the man that I call my dad. 

Goodbye, Christine. 

You leave behind three grandchildren; one grandson and two granddaughters, five great-grandchildren; two great-granddaughters and three great-grandsons, and one great-great-granddaughter.

One of your great-grandsons is my son. His name is Kayson. Kayson is kind, brilliant, funny, lovable, beautiful and destined for great things - just like me. 

Rest in peace, Grandma.

Please keep an eye on my dad. 

We did it!

So, MORE: the retreat was amazing.  People came from Utah, Tennesse, Ohio and all over Arizona. We laughed. We cried. We learned and we all grew...together. Here are just a few highlights from the retreat. Details on our 2017 event will be announced soon! This time it will take place in June! 

Highlights from MORE: the retreat 2016

. . .

How am I supposed to concentrate?

How am I supposed to work when issues that affect my family and me arise every day?  

How am I supposed to focus when I am reminded as I drive down the street of the disconnect between me and my two-year-old in the back seat and the man tailgating me, or when my husband gets racially profiled as we prepare to host the first-ever family-friendly business retreat?

Tell me how I am supposed to concentrate when I am reminded every day of where I stand. There is a riparian a couple miles from where we live, a little gem just up the street, but the last time we were there, we saw a group of people who made it clear we were not welcome there.

How am I supposed to concentrate when I see people being murdered when scrolling through my Facebook feed? In some of the videos, you can actually watch them being shot and left for dead. To you, it may be a stranger, but I see my uncle, my cousin, my brother, my son, and my husband.

Tell me how am I supposed to concentrate at work when I heard my boss react at the murder of a teenager in 2012 by saying "I'm surprised" and then carrying on with his day while I sit silently, melting away as my little Trayvon baked inside of me.

How am I suppose to focus when my husband, the man in the rolled up Banana Republic chinos, has been pulled over, strip searched, pepper sprayed, pinned to the ground, and held up by the people hired to protect him and the people who are supposed to protect us? It has been not one, not two, and not three but four times that their assault rifles have threatened his life - twice in front of his house while talking on the phone with me and two other times while driving at night after getting off work early. Imagine my fear when he's driving alone and I hear sirens in my ear. I say a silent prayer and take a deep breath when he says the police just passed. Kai, drive slow, be safe and come right home to me.

Please, anyone, tell me how I am supposed to concentrate as I see footage of Donald Trump rallies and know that with every word, every sentence in this horrible reality show, the white supremacist group in my neighborhood begins to grow? They're stronger, bigger, and, in their heads, more certain that my family and I do not belong here even though we work our asses off, own companies, pay taxes, and have family members who have paid the ultimate price. What is this 1963?

We purchased this house back in 2008. At the time, it was a beautiful community, right off the beaten path, but with the crash in the housing market, things have slowly started to get bad, and as more and more renters move in, we start to make plans for when we can move away, but we can't do it yet, nor why should we? My family deserves to be here.

But, we know we will have to be the ones to leave because there are more of you than there are of us. If not, then why aren't more people speaking up? Is it because it's not your husband, or because it's not your little boy? Regardless, your silence is loud.

And as if that wasn't enough, I am also a CEO. I have a business to run. I need time to think. There's always someone with more chasing me. More money, more time, more resources, more opportunities to grow - and I have to stay focused. But how can I work when I have life going on all around me?

One day I stepped out and took a chance. After being cut off by a man with a big Confederate flag, I decided I had had enough. I called the police to report the racial epithets on the sidewalk on our walking path, the gas station we visit weekly, and the 20 Confederate flags that lined the exit to our street. The officer told me she had good news. The group who was responsible for the tension was new and harmless. They were just a bunch of young vets who loved their country.

I sat there silent and then said, "I'm scared. I have a two-year-old in there" as I sat in my car in the garage unaware of where to go next. She replied, Mrs. Anderson, like I said, there's no need to fret. The police are on it. They are not a threat. I have your number, and you have mine. If things change, I'll reach out. Until then, try to unwind. It was at that very moment that I realized we were alone.

As always, I picked my head up. I had that retreat. I worked on client projects and decided not to allow her words to sound like defeat. But, it is hard, and a constant struggle, to focus on work when life is happening all around me.

 

Mother. Mom. GG. Donna.

to my mother on mothers day. 

Today they call the "difficult children" spirited. Spirited children are the ones who push back, test the waters and jump when their parents say stay. They're intense. They're determined, and they're passionate.

You can usually spot the "spirited children" a mile away by the way people describe them. Common phrases include "hard to control," hard-headed, stubborn, difficult and demanding. These are the kids who talk back. They fight authority and never grasped the concept of "No".

In 1982, after several miscarriages, and eight years between baby 1 and baby 2, you were blessed with a spirited child of your very own. You named her Amber because she was your precious Jewel.

To some, Amber would have been seen as difficult, stubborn and demanding but not to you. To you she was perfect. Even today when you describe her, you use words like beautiful, intelligent, determined, destined, and with purpose.

It takes an angel to raise a spirited child because they're not easy. Trust me; I have one of my own. But if you do it right; like you did, one day all you'll have to do is sit back and watch them soar.

Happy Mother's Day, Donna M Turner.

I love you always and forever for finding perfection in me.

My New Fit

Getting Past Go. 

This "I'll do it myself" thing is something I struggle with constantly both at home and work. Being a perfectionist is both A Gift and a curse. 

Amber Anderson.ME is more than a blog. It's my online journal. The space I'm using to grow personally and professionally. Pressing publish on this site was a big deal. I toggled with the idea for about five years. Once I made the decision, it took me an additional year to actually hit publish.

A part of that time was getting things together. But, honestly, most of the time (like 98.7%) was spent working through my insecurities; letting go of "perfection" and being reminded that I can NOT do everything myself. 

This "I'll just do it myself" thing is something I struggle with constantly at home and work. It's held me back for years. It also almost kept me from launching this site. Had it not been for a pen, a Pinterest board, a woman named Sara and a little Salted Ink who knows where I would be. 

Here's the story behind the Amber Anderson.ME design and the wickedly brilliant mommypreneur who saved me from me.

 
 

Sara & The Salted Ink.


I stumbled across Salted Ink a couple of years ago on the DIY Bible, Pinterest. I had just started Kayson and was looking for design inspiration for the company website. The design team we hired asked me to put together a "brand board" - a Pinterest board of sites, colors, and logos that I liked, so I did. I searched. I pinned, and before I knew it, half my board was full of designs from this agency called Salted Ink. I loved their name and their designs, but I never reached out.

Then, a year later, when I decided to launch this website, I turned to my trusted friend Pinterest again. This time, I did so with less time, a non-existent budget, and the intention of building everything myself. Creating a digital outfit (aka identity & brand) you're proud of is important. It's the first impression people have of you and your business. So, naturally, I wanted mine to be good. But the process of getting there can be daunting.

Branding is time consuming, can be super expensive, is sometimes frustrating (revisions, revisions, revisions), and there's always a chance you'll walk away unsatisfied. So, for this project, I decided to build everything myself. Honestly, how hard could it be? The site was about me and no one knows me better than me.

By creating the assets myself I thought I'd be able to get something custom without the custom price; professional but not stiff; light and fun but serious, honest, authentic, and real. I'd be able to design my own digital outfit.

For four months, I messed around in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Canva. I created things, deleted things, screamed at things, and begged Adobe to get their sh*t together. I spent over 80 hours working on stuff, none of which resembled what I had seen in my head. And I wasn't even close to anything Pinterest-worthy. 

Then at 2am one night. I found Sara and The Brand Bar. 


My Brand. Her Bar. The Brand Bar.

Simple. Easy. Budget-friendly. A perfect fit. 


Photo provided by Salted Ink

Photo provided by Salted Ink

Sara is the founder of Salted Ink and the mastermind behind The Brand Bar - a marketplace of custom-created brand identity packages.

She's also a wife, mompreneur, North Carolina girl, and one of the dopest, kindest, talented, and most down-to-earth creatives on the planet. 

With just a click of the button, one email thread, and six business days later, I was out of DIY hell - a project that ended up costing me over $20,000 in lost revenue - and into my newly designed digital outfit.

Simple. Easy. Budget-friendly. A perfect fit.

I love my new fit! It's sleek, bold, fun, straight forward and versatile. Just like me. 

 

 


Lessons Learned

7 things I learned from this experience


  1. Products can be tangible or intangible. Ideas can come from anywhere. Be creative. Think outside of the box. They just need to serve a purpose and fill a need. 
  2. Even service providers can offer products! Don't count yourself out. 
  3. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. All of the brands on sale in The Brand Bar came from a previously paid project that was not selected. So smart!
  4. Designers have a style. Finding one that matches yours will make the process so much smoother. Do your research. Find the right match.
  5. Time is precious and, especially as a service provider, worth money. If it costs you more to do it yourself, find and hire a professional. Seriously. Like right now! 
  6. Buy vs Build? Building something from scratch is not always better. Whether you're looking to do something new (no matter how big or small) make sure you do your research before you kick things off. Your time has value! Do the math and then decide. 
  7. The Brand Bar is updated periodically with new designs. All designs are sold once, can be customized to match your business's brand, cost half the price of a custom design project and will be delivered in 10 days or less. 

.ME Brand Journey

Me Before. ME after.


Before



after


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36 Never Looked So Good

My heart skipped a beat the moment we met.

I was 20, and you were 22. There was ASU. The Language and Literature building. A frat party flyer and just me and you.


"I thought you were perfect"


I thought you were perfect - good looking, kind, gentle, funny, brilliant, confident, caring and genuine. You told me I could call you Kai and so I did.

In a world designed never to feel like you have "enough," I wake up every day #grateful for you.

You have given me more than I ever dreamed of; more than I knew was possible, of a husband, best friend, and father. 


"You are the perfect verse over a tight beat."

- Taye Diggs, Brown Sugar


I will love you always for the man you were then, the man you are today and the amazing man you'll teach our son to be. I love you more today than I did yesterday and I always will.


Happy Birthday, Kai-Saun Tskei Anderson


When life meets work.

For ten years... 

I dedicated my life to my work, committing myself to every project, every deadline, every boss and every opportunity that came my way.

I drove initiatives, built products, launched new services and made the companies I worked for lots and lots of money.

Coming from a working class family, putting in hard work was just something you had to do. I viewed it as a right of passage, for moving up a tier, and I took it on as a challenge.

I gave the best of me to my career and to the people I worked with. Anything they threw my way, I ran with. Were there challenges? Of course, but I always had the strength to get past them and the drive to keep going. I was committed. I was loyal. I was young. And, I was also smart.

I knew how things worked, especially in technology. Your value is defined by the last project you complete, not by your past experiences. The challenge, however, is that once that project is finished, there would always be another and then another and then another. To keep going, you had to stay fresh and on your toes. There was no time for breaks. Things had to be done. I remember my husband, Kai-Saun, pulling me aside one day and saying, "Amber you need your rest. You can't keep working like this. You're going to burn out." At that point, I was waking up at 1 a.m. every morning to work and had pulled a couple of all-nighters. I smiled at him and gave him a kiss. I knew he was right, that I couldn't keep this up forever, but I couldn't stop. Not now. I was so close. I was almost there. So, I waited until he fell asleep and then got back on my computer and picked up where I left off.

I remember justifying my actions in my head. "I have to do this." "He doesn't understand; I'm almost there." "I'm the breadwinner of our family." "We need this. I need this." "Don't worry. One day, they'll notice me, and when that happens, I will rest." But that day never came.

In November 2013, after returning home from a business trip just a few weeks before, I went into labor with my son. I was 31 weeks pregnant (9 weeks early) and at work when my water broke. His name is Kayson. His weight was 3lbs, 11 oz. His chance of survival was 50%.

 

Work. work. work. Life.


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For as long as I can remember, I have been focused on where work would take me. However, in reality, everything that I needed and wanted I already had. It's hard in today's society to stop for a moment and think. Put your phone down, and think about what really matters to you. Think about the people in front of you. Think about your family. They don't care about the new product you built, or how amazing your startup is, or how quickly you can get your company to grow. They just want you.

Today is Wednesday. It is the third day of spring and a few weeks after spring break. Most children are back to school and parents back at work. Everyone's settled back into his or her routine. Old projects are closing, and new ones are opening, and it won't be until the next holiday that everyone will be able to "relax" again.

After Kayson was born, my life changed drastically. I contemplated going back to work but decided not to because I knew that I did not have the energy to "keep up". Nor was I willing to make the sacrifices it would take to remain "competitive".

It was hard at first, seeing all of those years of hard work left behind and someone younger, more eager, with more time and more support, take my place, but I try really hard not to own that, because it's a false sense of reality.

Success is not defined by what you will obtain in the future. It is defined by where you are today. And, for me, the only things that matter are the opportunities that allow me to soak up as much time as I can with my Kayson and Kai-Saun.

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CO+HOOTS & Me: Behind every business is a person.

Paralyzed.

That is the best way to describe how I felt the moment I started my business.

I had just recently returned home from the hospital with my premature son. I had quit my high-paying job in tech and was doing everything I could not to sink into a deep hole of postpartum depression.

It's not that I didn't know how to overcome challenges. It's that I didn't have the energy. After overcoming so many hurdles—moving across the country for college, surviving a rape, spending ten years working my way up the corporate ladder, navigating through a career in tech as an African American woman, leading tech teams, overseeing global initiatives, showcasing new technologies, building strategies for Fortune 500 companies, making and saving the organizations I worked with millions, and delivering a premature baby—I was spent.

When Jenny Poon met me, I had already started and closed a business, lost some close friends and felt completely debilitated. It took everything out of me to get out of my yoga pants that day, put a smile on my face and drive 30 minutes to her office at CO+HOOTS. EVERYTHING. But I did it.

During our meeting, I presented two ideas to Jenny as my final push to dig myself out of this hole. The first idea was the creation of a product management team. This would be a collaboration of freelancers who would come together to support bigger projects and provide better services. The second idea was the creation of a program that would help people with families. Women, like me, who were navigating through the challenges of taking care of families while working.

After almost losing my son, entrepreneurship for me became a necessity, not a choice, and that made everything more challenging. I felt like I had more at stake, more to lose, and less to give, and if only there was someone or something that I could turn to for help, with no strings attached, I'd be ok. I'd be able to pick myself up and keep going, like I had done so many times before.

Entrepreneurship is the way out for many people. It is their way to freedom and balance. However, getting there takes work. It takes support. Being successful takes a village. You need people who genuinely believe in your success, who are willing to support you through your high and low times, and people who get you out of those yoga pants, send you encouraging text messages at 3 a.m., tell you that they believe in you, and, after being asked to sit on a panel with John McCain, the president of GE and the governor of Arizona, still finds time to swing your two-year-old in their arms and hug him after a tantrum.

Jenny Poon is my unicorn, my guardian angel, and one of my best friends. Because of her support, I am now the owner of Kayson, a strategy company that brings together freelancers to support small businesses, and MORE, a movement focused on helping working parents. Her husband and daughter, and my husband and my son, make up my family, and I am grateful for each and every one of them.

Prints provided by Fresh Words Market. 

Prints provided by Fresh Words Market

CO+HOOTS is expanding, and Jenny is asking the community for contributions to help cover expenses. All of the co-working spaces in Arizona are run by men. They usually have deep pockets and are focused on serving a particular demographic. CO+HOOTS is the only space run by a woman, a mommy, a wife, and a friend. The money that has been invested in that organization came from a family, not an investor - and what they have done so far has been incredible.

Please support their expansion. Doing so means they will be able to do so much more for the people who need it. The people like me, who just needed a little support to keep going.

To new beginnings

Happy new year!

For most people, the 1st of January marks the start of new beginnings. They make plans, set resolutions, close last year's books and get ready to start fresh. For many years, I was that person.

Every year I'd have some new goal that I wanted to accomplish. For example, run a 1/2 marathon, graduate from college, play on a D1 softball team, start a business, lose some weight, spend more time with my husband, work less, laugh more, track the moon changes for one full month, take a vacation. Have a healthy baby. Live life happier. 

Some years, I accomplished my goals. Some years, I didn't. Some things that I wanted in hindsight were clearly nice to haves - I could live without that trip to Fiji. Other things that I wished for I wanted more than anything in the world, like having a healthy baby, and when it didn't happen the way I envisioned, it nearly broke me. 

For the last two years, I haven't had the time to plan what my life looks like. That could be because I have a healthy and active two-year-old or because I'm too busy living it. I'm not sure, but what I can say is that today, March 1st, 2016, three months past the "traditional date" I'm in a place where I've never been before. 

I've done a lot of amazing things in my life but nothing as true, raw and real as the two things I'm announcing today. After I had Kayson, I quit my job so I could be at home with son. When I did it, some people called me brave, and some called me crazy (behind my back of course). To be honest, I hate both labels. Letting go of my "professional" career was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was on the up and up - offered partnership in an engineering firm, leading initiatives for presidents and executives and reaching every goal, I'd ever made and worked my ass off for. I wasn't brave. I was desperate, and I wasn't crazy, I was a mother. 

And for a while, I didn't know how to respond. Most of the time I just smiled and said thank you. But in reality, every day felt like a moment in Walking Dead. A fight for survival which only my husband could understand.  He was there the moment my son was born. He knows what it's like to almost lose someone you love more than anything in the world. And he, more than anyone, can relate to what it feels like to be present. 

After I had Kayson, I said I wanted to focus on me. And that's what I'm doing. There were two goals I set for myself this year. Learn more about Amber and go on a vacation. I'm happy to report both are in full force. As a small business owner, it's hard to get away, so I built a vacation around the two biggest things in my life, my business and my family. 

Welcome to Amber Anderson.me and MORE: the retreat.

Amber Anderson.me will be the space I'll use to find my voice, document my journey and learn more about Amber. MORE: the retreat is the place I'll go to prove that I'm not crazy, but that work and life can mingle together.

Amber Anderson (dot) Me

My son is who some would call a spirited child. He is driven, passionate, loving, stubborn, super intelligent, dedicated, tender-hearted, a light sleeper, and a little bossy.

He knows what he wants and expects to get it, whatever "it" is, exactly how he asked for it, preferably as quickly as possible. He has high expectations, of himself and others. 

At two years old, he knows no fear. To Kayson, there are no boundaries, only opportunities, and even though the world is much bigger than he is, he lives life to the fullest. From the time he wakes up in the morning to the time he goes to bed, he is on: touching everything, seeing everything, discussing everything, and being everywhere. He gives 150%.

Kayson doesn't know anything about racism, sexism, Instagram followers, the Kardashians, or limitations. Decisions are made easily by how things make him feel. Happy face means good! Sad face means bad! And, when things are really bad, he cries.

He loves dancing, guacamole, french fries, sports, Michael Jackson, Thomas the Train, and the movie Cars. He'll jump off the bed and the couch and the chair and the table if you let him, because he relishes the feeling of accomplishment. When you try to correct him, he will look you straight in the eyes, smile, say he's sorry, and then do it again. And, just as you begin to think you can't possibly take any more, he'll say something cute and give you a kiss.                                                      

When my mother looks at Kayson, she sees a spitting image of me. Not only because he has my eyes, but because he has my heart. Driven, passionate, loving, stubborn, super intelligent, dedicated, tender-hearted, a light sleeper, and a little bossy are characteristics used to describe my son, and they are characteristics commonly used to describe me.

Kayson and I are passionate people—always striving to be better. Our nature is to give first and think later, and when we love, we love hard. The first thing people notice about us, if it is not our laugh, is our size. He was born premature, weighing in at 3 lbs 11 oz and is in the 10% range of his peers. And me, I'm just petite. We both love food, chips, sweets, and an amazing man named Kai-Saun—who I call Kai and Kayson calls daddy.

 

Kai is a professional photographer and the glue in our family—he's silly, funny, kind, genuine, creative, charismatic, and loving. His calm & methodical demeanor complements Kayson & my fast-paced lifestyle nicely, making him the perfect yin to our yang.

Those two are my family—the center of my being and the "why" behind everything that makes up Amber Anderson (dot) me.

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