Blog Archive

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beyond Borders: Five Years Later

They seem to be common place in TV shows and movies, story timelines that flash forward to "today". We put things on hold in our lives. We write chapters for books we never finish and we'll always have a room in our house that never gets cleaned out, filled with treasures from our past.

I've blogged on and off for close to 10 years. I was blogging when blogging had just been introduced to the world. It was a way to put my thoughts in order when we were embarking on a monumental journey to parenthood. It helped me gain clarity when faced with medical issues and job loss. Blogging provided a fun platform to write about my daughter Amanda, who always had a lot to say. I'm not sure if I expected my little collection of thoughts and quibbles to go anywhere or reach anyone in particular, but having them now makes me realize how far we've come and that obstacles have their own timeline and work themselves out eventually.

My last entry was five years ago. I was working from home on freelance projects and interviewing for full-time positions. I had recently been released from my job at Borders in Ann Arbor, which was a huge relief. Not everyone gets the opportunity to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, especially when the ship has already sunk. I had no idea how bad things were there before accepting the position. I had been seduced by a really cool IKEA decorated office and the e-commerce rock star, who was also brought in for this "special project.". On my first day, I learned the hiring manager was leaving and I was forced to watch at least 100 people exit the building who were laid off. I felt terrible. These people included many who had worked there for years, yet they hired me as Merchandising Manager for in hopes the e-commerce division would save the company and some of the hundreds of stores.

I remember at one point, another outside contractor told me that I needed to step up and have a big win here. Seriously? This was a big box book company that was being swallowed up by And they were counting on me? I'm good, but no one could save them. That's when I knew it was over. I also had two young women working for me who had their whole lives in front of them and they were miserable human beings. They were workplace bullies.  I never wrote about this, but my boss was also a bully. He would belittle me in meetings with other staff members present and look at me with contempt, when he didn't like the online sales numbers for the previous day. At times I just wanted to grab his shoulders and shake him into reality. You're going out of business! He ended up letting me go over the phone, just after Christmas. He even said, "You didn't do anything wrong, we're getting near the end." My 7 months of torment was finally over. I was looking for an image of Borders and found their obituary. I am truly sad their stores are gone. I also know it wasn't up to me to save them!

Let's flash forward to yesterday and what led me back to this abandoned blog. Rob and I went to the county courthouse to update our freelance business name, Freeman Computer Services. He asked me if we should register "Amanda Says," so we would have it to match the URL and Facebook account that was set up years ago. We hoped Amanda would take the name over someday and do her own writing and sharing. Only a mom in online marketing would think of creating a brand for their kid! Currently, she's writing a YA (Young Adult) romance story on her Watt pad app. We'll see what happens.

It may take me a few entries to catch up on five years or I may do more flashbacks while staying in the present. Right now, I'm facing a change in my full-time work, which is another reason to blog again. This will become part of my creative portfolio that companies are now asking for during the interview process. I'm not looking at this time in my life as starting over again, but instead a reboot. It's time to get centered. We are all so much more than the work we do from 9-5.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Blog Log

I’m a total hypocrite! Seriously, I tell people if you’re going to blog, you need to blog at least once a week. A few times a week is better and daily is best—if you want to do this sort of thing. I follow dozens of social media specialists who write frequently. They make it a priority and it’s a part of their daily work. I have come to realize the only way that will be me, is if it becomes a part of my daily job requirement.

Since starting my freelance work, I have picked up some interesting projects- unfortunately; blogging is not one of them. I am working with a very creative and much more disciplined writer and journalist. She has a great blog. She doesn’t blog daily, but crafts at least one or two memorable entries a week. It’s like exercise. You have to make a commitment to do it on a schedule, no matter how you feel and no matter what is going on in your life.

It was less than six weeks ago when my step-father fell and broke his hip. The following day he had surgery and then he was moved to a rehab facility where he has been about three weeks now. Tomorrow he is being moved to a nursing home to continue his therapy. I could and will write another blog about finding decent nursing care for a loved one. This has been so tragic- not only watching him in pain, but negotiating our healthcare system. There are so few options when you don’t have a lot of money for assisted care. Many of the nicer options cost up to 5,000 dollars per month. Is that reasonable? Our mortgages are not that high, even if you factor in electric, gas and water. For an elderly person? It’s pretty ridiculous.

I know I will have plenty of stories with this ongoing saga. I also want to start blogging about kids’ movies. I was inspired today after going to a Disney Nature film which was rated “G” and it was so far from “G”, that I had a sobbing child on my shoulder and lost one of my friends who had to leave with her three year old! More on that tomorrow!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Time to Grow

While I've been off, well more accurately, while I have not been employed full-time outside the house, I have really grown. I have had the time and random experiences that have made this all worth while. We're all probably sick of hearing the phrase "everything happens for a reason" and although true, the tricky part is in not knowing all the reasons up front. Some of the reasons take time to present themselves and need nurturing, just like a plant needs water and sun. Having the extra hours in the day or at least the luxury of having flexibility makes me gravitate toward the things I love best. I find myself puttering more in the yard. Yesterday, I used the electric hedger for the first time- and then spent the rest of the day worrying that Rob would have a fit over what I "hedged". I think I did a pretty good job and finished with all 10 fingers to boot! I pondered the empty space behind the deck where we had cut down the dead arborvitae and decided to put our table fountain there.

Today I went to the Heavenly Scent Herb Farm to get something inspiring for this new space I created. I found a metal faerie with colored stones and a hanging ladybug which now resides in our cherry tree on the deck. I'm thrilled to share some of what I saw today.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Street Sense

Sometimes the most amazing things can pass right by on the street in front of your house.

This morning I attended an open house at The Creative Group with about seven other marketing professionals and we talked and met with Donna Farrugia who is the Executive Director of the agency. She had flown in from California and wanted to have a meeting of the minds on social media. Obviously a hot topic right now- we discussed how so many companies want to join the bandwagon, but have no idea where to start or whom to hire as their buzzmaster.

I mentioned to this group that I also attended my first "tweet up" last night at a local bar/restaurant and found it all pretty interesting. Without going into the reason for this tweet up, I met a bunch of great new people who were in the industry as bloggers, internet marketers and social media makers- all very friendly, connected and plugged in to their device of choice, which overwhelmingly were i-Phones. Some although under the same roof were actually tweeting to each other. Most of the time I was there, my phone was in my purse- for these are the occasions I relish that face to face contact- my only concern was that my daughter had phoned me a dozen times because she was not happy I was out! The one thing that struck me was one of the attendees said that sometimes she just really appreciates having so many people respond on her Facebook and Twitter pages when she is having a bad day or is upset. What she appreciated the most was that human contact- people reaching out.

Going back to my morning meeting- we discussed how todays "kids" are wired so differently than previous generations. They grew up with computers, internet, texting and social media- it's how they live, learn and connect. I sometimes struggle with this- I don't want my cell phone to be my life line, but do understand why it can be theirs.

In the evening at home, we like to spend time outside visiting with neighbors, the neighbors dogs, children and just sit in the grass talking. Most times, I leave my phone in the house. Tonight, we spoke to a grandmother from around the block who happens to be from China. She was pushing her granddaughter in a stroller. The baby girl is half Russian and half Chinese. This babe is trilingual. Both Amanda and I greeted her in Mandarin- what a doll! After they passed by, a couple walked by holding a 10 week old black lab puppy named Cody. We learned that this pup visits on their son's golf night. They were thrilled to be puppy sitting and enjoyed meeting our Molly and her love Grue who shared ice cubes on the lawn.

I want Amanda to love the simple pleasures in life. That's why we ride our bikes a lot together. This is what my mom taught me. I'm obviously plugged in now, but Amanda is sleeping. My challenge is to take my "street sense" be successful working in an industry that is on 24/7 and squeeze in those quiet meaningful moments made without chiming notifications.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Going for Balance

While my new blog platform is being fleshed out- meaning my more technically advanced husband made it too complicated for me- I'm going to start posting again here. It has been quite sometime and it's certainly not because Amanda stopped talking. On the contrary! She has also had a lot to put up with this past year. My position at Gale Cengage was eliminated at the end of January and since then, I've been doing contract work and job hunting. The ironic part is, while I'm trying to secure a new position that would probably include social media, I have had no time to do social media for myself. You know that story about the shoemaker's kids...I always have time for others and love promoting businesses and developing ideas that translate into cash- but I have to make cash too. The bills don't stop when full-time employment stops!

I was so fortunate and perhaps wise beyond my regular income when I took a part-time consulting position last October, before leaving Gale. This same agency found me additional work and I did a neat little analytics project for Schoolcraft College. Thank goodness for Avinash Kaushik's web analytics books which walked me through some complex detail I needed- I was then able to really provide Schoolcraft a roadmap on where they should take their website.

Something else I have learned about doing contract work: It's a little hard for me to do the work and then let it go! I'm not used to that. I like to take ownership in a business and nurture it along. So, with that, I am interviewing and interviewing and interviewing more for something full-time and a place to call home. I have had some awesome opportunities present themselves and I am very excited to see where I'm going to land. I think what sets me apart from others is my backround as a merchant and I am really thankful to have a solid business foundation. I guess those 10 years of managing at Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue gave me more than a thinner waistline! I am so ready to get back to business. Universe, bring it on!

There is too much to update you on with Amanda, so I will make that a separate post. It's good to be back and I can't wait to share the happs with friends and family. Thank you to Marla for this photo! She really inspired me on her recent trip to China to bring her new daughter home! It really is all about balance. More to come-

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How Amanda became a U.S. Citizen

Here's one from the archives!

How Our China Punim Became a U.S. Citizen

When it comes to raising our China Punim, there are so many decisions to consider. Of course she will go to Sunday school and be a Bat Mitzvah, but those are easy decisions. Growing up in our area as all kids do is not a simple thing, but it’s decided and settled and right now, we are planning on sending her to public school. What about her Chinese culture? Both my husband and I want Amanda to learn Mandarin. It is not just because if she decides in the future that she wants to be a business person, she will have a definite edge in knowing the language, but we want her to learn about her Chinese heritage. We plan on returning to China, either to adopt another child, a “Mei Mei”, which means “Little Sister” or just to show Amanda her birth country, the culture she was born into.

It’s incredible to us what is going on now in the United States with the immigration issues. I can understand both sides, but one I will continue to support is the laws that affect the citizenship of children that are adopted internationally. One of the most powerful moments in our adoption emotionally was when we landed on U.S. soil in Detroit. Amanda was automatically a U.S. citizen. It felt like we held our breath for 2 weeks until we touched down at Metro Airport.

I remember the day like yesterday. We were sitting on the runway in her birth province, waiting to take off to Guangzhou for one more week. That was where the U.S. Consulate was. As we jetted out, my eyes welt up for her. I felt a tremendous sadness, like I was taking her away from all she knew. It did not feel natural, nor did I feel a sense of relief. It was more like a tremendous appreciation for the land and the unknown couple who created this incredible child to take care of and love. And although the country has its issues that girls are not as “desirable” as boys are, none of that mattered to us. We felt we were given a gift. I knew the next time we would land in the Guangxi Autonomous Region, we would be in the company of a boisterous 5 or 6 year old, or perhaps a moody teenager and we would be Mom and Dad.

Although everything was “Kosher” and legal, there was a sense of being in some episode of Alias, with passports, Visas, fingerprints and all those documents. We walked to the U.S. Embassy in Guangzhou, and our group was ushered past hundreds of Chinese citizens trying to get out of the country and to the United States. Left behind were these desperate faces clinging to and locked out behind the gate in hopes that someone would hear their case. Meanwhile these 14 girls in our group, once seen as less desirable, were about to become U.S. citizens. In retrospect, it was quite ironic.

Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed in the area because of security. We packed into a small room with a couple hundred parents holding their babies and repeating an oath we could barely hear- all the sudden everyone cheered and I knew that was it. Our girls were officially free to leave with us to start their new lives an ocean away.

As we were departing from mainland China for good, flying from Guangdong to Hong Kong, there was finally a sense of relief. We had her VISA to the United States and the famous brown envelope, not to be opened until it was handed to U.S. immigration officers in Detroit.

Friday, April 24, 2009

How old are we really?

I read an article earlier in the week. It talks about my generation and trying to define who we are. Who are we supposed to be? Part of me doesn't care what people think of me anymore. That definitely comes with age- some is wisdom, some is that I'm just plain tired out!

Since becoming a mom, working full time hasn't become harder, it's the time when you're not working that's completely out of control. How much can you pack into a weekend? There's laundry, housecleaning, Amanda's activities, family obligations. I get back to work on Monday morning where it's extremely quiet and I sit for a few minutes and let my mind catch up to my body. Most people my age don't feel their age. I can still climb trees with Amanda, do a cartwheel and can out run her if I have to. Who do I need to be? A logistics guru- no boss who has a working mom under them has REALLY seen her multi-task, unless he sees her at home. That's the game and some days go better than others. Grandparents really help if and when they can. We tried in the beginning to not take help- life becomes way more complicated when kids start school.

So Saturday starts with softball at 9am and horsebackriding in the afternoon. Sounds pretty glorious. More to come on motherhood and marketing. Much more to come from Amanda Says:

Yesterday, she said, "More respect for the momma, and you can write that on Facebook."