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.



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.

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. 


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.


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. 

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.


Jenny & Me: Behind every business is a person.


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.

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 and MORE: the retreat.

Amber 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.