Susan Macaulay & Amazing Women Rock
Don't be good. Be amazing!


Introduction The seeds of were sown one spring afternoon in 1993

by a quip in a parking lot in Abu Dhabi, which caused me to decide to write a book - about expat women and how they contribute to their adopted communities That was in 1994. The book remains unwritten to this day. In its place is, a website which I launched in 2008, by which time I had been to China, left my husband, climbed mountains, taken up triathlon and transformed myself into a new me...



In November 2003, I attended an International Business Women’s Group dinner; it turned out to be the beginning of the end of the life I had known for 20 years. I signed up for a six-day, 120-kilometer trek on the Great Wall of China, which I had long wanted to visit.

To shape up, I started walking, and I began to eat differently – mostly vegetarian and much less than before. Women tend to gain weight during menopause, but I lost it (the weight AND my mind at times!). Over the course of the next year, I dropped 20 pounds (about 9 kilos), and become “petite,” more muscular and lean.

As my body changed, so did I. I began to think, feel, and dress in new ways.


While the transformation was exciting, it certainly wasn’t easy. My hormones wrought physical and psychological havoc. As many menopausal women do, I suffered the expected (and unwelcome!) hot flashes and mood swings.

I was an emotional powder keg a lot of the time. I cried at the drop of a hat, publicly – in banks, travel agencies, supermarkets – as well as privately – wherever I happened to be at the time. It wasn’t unusual for me to find myself curled up in a ball on the floor of the kitchen, bedroom or living room, sobbing uncontrollably, for no apparent reason. Uncharacteristically, I also start to pray. A lot. For deliverance.

My 20-year marriage fell apart at the seams. I was devastated, and in a state of high anxiety for a solid year.

Amidst the turmoil of 2004 there were many gifts. Among them, the trip to the Great Wall was remarkable. I rose to the challenge (as did everyone in the group), made new friends and learned some wonderful life lessons. Raising money for charity through group adventure travel was an exciting, rewarding, life-changing experience for me.

The Wall itself was fantastic – an architectural marvel that runs for more than 6,000 kilometers atop razor-backed mountains in the Chinese countryside. It's wild, rugged, and astonishing in every way.

As I look back, I see the Wall as a metaphor for the process I was going through. In some places it was crumbling, as I felt my life was then, in others it had been rebuilt, as I hoped my future would be. Perhaps most important, it was breathtakingly beautiful in all its aspects, just as life is, with both its joys and sorrows.

I moved to Dubai in January 2005, and started to put myself, and my life, back together. I felt at once powerful and free, yet vulnerable and afraid (still do). What had I done? Was this all a terrible mistake?

I know now that there’s no point looking back. The only way forward is…well…forward! I’ve also learned that new lessons take practice and time, maybe even a lifetime, to implement. That which sounds easy in theory can sometimes be extraordinarily difficult to execute. Especially changing oneself and one’s relationships with others.

Inspirational reading

My quest for learning led me to read all kinds of inspirational books. Two in particular captured my imagination: Women of Courage and Women of Spirit, both by Katherine Martin, a talented writer and editor who set out, in the early 1990s, to explore the meaning of courage in women’s lives. (Sadly, Martin died in January 2006 after a courageous battle with cancer.)

Instead of writing a book, I decided to develop a website based on the same premise – it would contain inspirational stories about amazing women from around the world. (A concept similar to the Hot Mommas project.)

As the site took shape, I begin to feel afraid. Terrified actually. I asked myself questions: Where will the stories come from? How will people learn about the site? Will anyone visit? And if they do, will they engage with the site? Will I be able to afford to keep it going?

Lots of questions. Few answers.


But I dreamed on, and sought the answers (to these and other questions), by challenging myself physically.


Getting physical

In November 2005, I hiked up Mt Kinabalu (at 4,095 meters, the highest mountain in southeast Asia), with two friends. It was grueling going up, even worse coming down. But the night sky as we headed toward the summit at 2 a.m. was one of the most awe-inspiring sights I have ever experienced.

In December 2005, at age 49, I participated in my first sprint triathlon – half the distance of an Olympic event, but a triathlon nonetheless. Three months later, I celebrated my 50th birthday with a second triathlon. In May 2006, I tackled Mt Toubkal , the highest mountain in Northern Africa, another challenging adventure.

While I trained for triathlon, conquered mountains, and ran my business, the website floundered badly. The developers I chose, and the technology they used, were simply not good enough. After 18 months, the fledgling site failed before it even got online. In November 2006, I walked away from the significant investment I had made with nothing to show for it. It would take another six months to save enough money to start again.


The next chapter

I hired a new website developer, in June 2007, and we started over from scratch. This supplier promised to have the site up and running in 59 days. A year later, in June 2008 (10 months behind schedule), we were ready to launch. Almost.

How did 59 days stretch into 365? Contract negotiations, more developer issues, unexpected delays, functionality lost in host transfers, recoding, testing, debugging, testing, debugging, testing, debugging, adding bits of new functionality, testing, debugging and tweaking, tweaking, tweaking.

It’s now 2011, and Amazing Women Rock has been online for a little over two years. The site will never be “finished.” One of the myriad things I’ve learned over the last five years is that websites are never-ending works in progress - kinda' like we are. I’m now in the process of re-branding and migrating AWR to the latest version of Joomla!, the open-source software platform on which it is built.


The site is finally at a point where I may be able to generate some revenue through advertising and/or sponsorship. Amazing Women Rock was never meant to be a profit-making venture, but somehow I need to find a way to fund it so that I can sustain it, grow it and keep inspiring women around the world. When I have some revenue, I will be able to pay others to help me with the work, which I still do mostly myself.

So far, the website has 2000+ pages, and gets about 15,000 unique visits per month; the AWR Facebook page has  22,500+ fans.

Although I am only one woman acting on her own, I have impacted the lives of thousands of women around the world through this project - many have been inspired to do things they might not otherwise have done as a result of what they have seen or read on the website, its Facebook page and/or its Twitter account. I'm both proud and grateful for what I have accomplished.



3. Professional issue AWR should have been monetized long before now. It really needs a team of 10 to 20 people to run it – not one! I’ve tried enlisting the help of volunteers through my fans on FB and my Twitter following, and by advertising for volunteer interns through the International Association of Business Communicators website. None of these strategies have worked. So far the project has cost tens of thousands of dollars, and I am unwilling to continue to pay for it out of my own pocket. I feel I lack the business skills to move the project forward, and if something doesn’t change soon, I may have to abandon it.



4. Personal issue This project is my passion, and yet it is coming dangerously close to taking over my life.