The late year. The year of saying yes.

A practiced skill continues to improve; when ignored it fades.

I’ve been ignoring writing lately, and I hate that. It’s certainly taken a back-burner to the rest of life that has been happening as of late; I still need to tell you all about 2016 and write my tardis entry for the year. Seeing as it’s almost March I am incredibly tardy; but I hope that once I can manage to put together an explanation, it will be understandable.

The main unit of measurement here is exhaustion. Happy exhaustion to be sure, but exhaustion to the point of coming home and watching Master Chef, not coming home and using more energy to write.

So, feeling like a bomb that’s about to explode (we’ll get to that later) – here I am, to write about 2016 before I am exhausted in a way that not even glassy eyed viewings of Master Chef will be able to cure.

**January** may have been the beginning of the Master Chef/Reality TV priority shift, as Neil and I finally started watching the incredible train wreck known as The Bachelor. It’s amazing, it’s terrible, it’s exactly what we needed. We still watch. In other, more important news though, January was when Paige started walking! I cannot believe this now as I’m looking at her running and jumping and riding her bike, but it was just last year that she took her first very wobbly steps. She is a bundle of energy, a bundle of joy, and is the absolute light of our lives. It shows in the photos that we took at the end of January for my mom’s birthday – I remember spending most of the time not in front of a camera chasing Paige down the warehouse studio as she tried out her new, faster movement abilities.

**February** brought a wonderful magic show at the Pantages for Neil and I’s anniversary. (6 years! and 10 together!) I also started my own little side gig, building wordpress designs with the intention to sell templates to local mommy businesses. I was also taking job interviews (and had been for a few months), but being incredibly picky about location and hours, so I decided that if I hadn’t landed anything solid and up to my standards by the end of February, I would dive into my own business full time for a while and see what happens. With this knowledge, we enrolled Paige in daycare for three half days a week to start, and I was immediately floored at what I could accomplish with a little time just to myself – something I had forgotten in the previous year spent at home with her. We also had another big milestone with Paige – and washed her last bottle ever in Februrary. Again, looking at her now – I have a hard time believing this was only a year ago. It’s incredible.

Per usual when I set myself any sort of deadline, the universe aligns (or, ya know, maybe it’s just my own hard work), and things fall into place. The last day of February I got a job offer for a local company full of enough interesting people that I decided to give it a shot. In **March**, I started as a digital producer for a just-crazy-enough place that the only thing I can really say without a doubt that it stays interesting. As of today, I am still employed with them. I am a bit sad about my wordpress company falling by the wayside, but as noted above – it’s been a wonderful, exhausting year. We switched Paige to full-time daycare, which to sum up quickly, was as hard as everyone says it is. Very luckily for us, we had found a wonderful place for her, full of loving teachers and an owner who really cares. The knowledge that she is being loved by so many makes those long days just a bit easier. Also – I should note that as the requisite social butterfly born of two introverts, she LOVES it, and has since day one.

**April** was quiet. It was mostly spent adjusting to being a working mother, a working family. Neil and I had to figure out new routines, and I am happy to say that we, as usual, make an awesome team. Weekends were spent on local hiking trails or at the park, evenings were for walking and catching up with love, life, Paige.

**May** stayed par for the course, we had a lot of fun weekend adventures with Paige, including going to the local teaching zoo! She loved the monkeys until they started making noise, and then they were less trustworthy. It was a great weekend that I think we will refresh quite a bit. Neil treated me to a spa day at the Four Seasons for Mother’s day – he spoils me rotten. Then he went mountain biking on Memorial Day weekend, and for the second year in a row, injured himself. It’s now a blackout date, we’ve all agreed he’s not to do anything except possibly BBQ in future years.

**June** found us a Saddle Peak for Father’s day, which Neil loved, (score!) and at a wonderful weekend barnyard wedding up in Northern California for a good friend. I should mention here that it was a wedding with an open bar. An open bar with fancy bride and groom and farm themed cocktails served in little mason jars tied up with string. Adorable. And I had exactly zero, because the morning we left for the airport I decided to give in to the tiny voice inside my head (mostly so I could enjoy my unending stream of mason jar cocktails in peace) and take a super-early-result pregnancy test. Which apparently, work really well. I came out of the bathroom and flung it at Neil. We had been planning on this, but it was still a shock that it happened so fast. He grinned at me. “That was easy.”

**July**┬ástarted with a wonderful Big Bear trip, and then the rest of the month came and went as long summer days do, with a beach day, our first doctor appointment, and oh – tearing part of the roof off our house to remove an enormous beehive. It was around this time that the reality of bringing another newborn into our house (link) started to set in, and the questions in the back of our heads became poundings at the front. I’m not sure exactly when we decided to start looking for new houses, but being newly pregnant, sick, and reliving all of the realities of how difficult it was to live there with tiny humans certainly had me looking somewhat longingly at open house listings.

True to our “get shit done” MacMillan nature, by **August** 10 (which happens to be my birthday) we had put in an offer, gotten it accepted, and listed our current house. I was plugging along with this pregnancy, feeling okay (not great, but not nearly as sick as with my first), and we were getting our lives in order to take advantage of making things as easy as possible for everyone. Which meant moving. Moving to a house where you could bring in groceries without training for Everest, where you could walk with a stroller to a local park, where there are sidewalks and streetlamps and people who walk their dogs and say hello. A cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood. Call us sellouts, but we love it.

August also brought a miniature family reunion in the form of my dad’s 75th birthday. All of my brothers and sisters flew in and we spent the weekend at a beach resort not too far from here, but it felt like a wonderful mini vacation. This is also when Neil and I finally spilled the beans on the new pregnancy; there’s no way I would have gotten away with not getting sloshed with my sister without someone figuring it out. It was a great memory, and I hope to do something similar again in the future.

By **September** we had closed on the new house, and Neil’s sister painted Paige’s new room as a wonderful meadow, and as of **October** we moved in. We completely, massively, enormously, devastatingly, underestimated how difficult it would be to sell a house with a thousand stairs, and so these month proved to be stressful. From living there and trying to keep things perfectly clean with a toddler, to packing while pregnant and trying to carry things up and down, to just the knowledge that we were very quickly going to be facing two mortgages. There were many tears and even more tears that there couldn’t be many, many glasses of wine on my part. But the new house has proven since day one, to be so worth it. The first weekend we were in we walked to one of the local parks for a festival that was happening, where Paige got to pet (amongst other critters) an owl! She is fearless. I love it. Just a few weeks and a trip to a working farm/pumpkin patch later, we hosted a small birthday party for her, and seeing everyone gathered around our new kitchen island, sitting in the backyard, and being so comfortable made our hearts triple in size. Like the grinch, we had finally found the love that a workable home can give. (As a selfish aside, I also finally have my amazing deep soaker tub that I thought would only ever be a pipe dream.)

**November** brought the usual chaos of the upcoming holidays, this year including election day, which I am choosing to ignore in this entry for the sake of small ears and my own general sanity. We also got Paige her first “real” haircut (we had been trimming her bangs for a very long time but this was a full style – and she hated it with a firey passion. We’ll see when that happens again. Oof. Neil and I also got a treat from my parents and got a date to see Hedwig at the Pantages – it was a great (and very wet!) afternoon. Somewhere in this time period I also had a gestational diabetes scare, (everything is good), a total and utter breakdown about the two houses that we owned, politics, and a general feeling that the sky was falling.

Not long afterwards, we got an offer on the house and were able to save a few more bucks by selling it as-is. By **December** it had closed, and all of the toppling dominoes in life could be organized again. I like to say that I deal pretty well with stress, but as I told my boss somewhere around this time when they offered me a promotion, I can only handle so much at once. This said, December proved to be a beautiful balance back to the way life should be. We took Paige to see Santa (EPIC FAIL) and baked gingerbread cookies, and finished the year with Neil and I puking our guts out all of Christmas day. Oh, what? Yeah.

2016. It was like that. So much, so dumb. So hard, so epic-ly, wonderfully good.

1000 Words on Working. None of them particularly Useful.

For the first time in weeks (months, even), I am staying home all day with my baby girl. My baby girl who is not so much a baby anymore but a self confident toddler who throws herself on the floor with the intensity of a tornado touching-down, and then instantaneously turns into a wet, moppy rag doll so you can’t pick her up off said floor. She giggles at my lame attempts to get her to stand in between screams of frustration about whatever it was that caused the floor-drop in the first place (she wasn’t allowed to pull the cat’s tail; she couldn’t stick her finger in the electrical outlet; I gave her an apple instead of a banana; the sky is blue.)

I’m home, sitting in silence, watching her on the monitor as she sleeps away a terrible fever. This, such a short time ago, was my every-day, my life, my focus. Now I am stretched and commuting, I am snuggling her at 5:30 as I pick her up from daycare as if I haven’t seen her in a week instead of a day, I am so tired and so refreshed in totally different yet very basically the same ways.

I have more patience with her than I used to. Instead of being thinned out over the hours (which can feel like years sometimes) I get a short window of time for her to scream at me because she is hungry or tired, to throw herself on the floor, to giggle and take a running leap into my arms (my very favorite one). We read books, we eat snacks, and then she is done for the day and rubbing her eyes and I feel like I just barely got to see her.

I have more drive and energy than I used to. The routine is good for me; for my anxiety-riddled brain, that, given enough down-time, can spiral into darkness and chaos. Getting up every day and driving to a place in which there are expected things that I do, and do well, is calming to those shadowy creatures of habit in my gut. I find that outside of work I am trying to make better use of my time; having less of it for myself – and while this is absolutely nothing new to me (I always worked best in school when I was scheduled up to the gills) it is also something that is much harder for me to enjoy. I feel like I am missing out – missing her smiles and chatter, missing the very raising of my child.

40 hours is a lot of time. Before I was a stay at home mom I worked a job that had an alternative schedule – every two weeks you would get one extra day off, giving you 3 day weekends every other week. It was glorious. I was there for 5 years. My point in saying this is that I haven’t worked at 40-hour week full time job in over 6 years. My stress-induced eye twitch is back in full force. Have you ever had an eye twitch? It is one of the more irritating harmless-body-things that I’ve dealt with in life. It happens when I do too much, when I am moving forward at an unsustainable rate. When I’ve lost track of the pace car; barreling downhill. I barely have enough time on the weekends for all of my laundry, you can forget driving an hour each way to see friends on the other side of the city. I want to write, I want to exercise, I want to cook dinner. All of these things feel like the last domino, like it’s just too much. These are the things that make me happy in life. I may be okay now forgoing these things, but what about 6 months from now? A year from now? Will I still be happy with so little time for *anything else* in life?

I’ve never defined myself as what I do. Some people say “Hello, I’m Ashley. I’m a teacher.” They say this because it is part of their identity, their very being. This is their passion, their love, their life. I have had dream jobs. Except for my stellar resume, I didn’t advertise that I had them. I’ve always defined myself with other parts of my life. It wasn’t until I stayed home from work to be with the little girl that I started doing things like calling myself a writer. A developer. A creator. Because for the first time, when I was doing these things for myself, on my own time and by my own rules, that I had pride in my work. Pride with what I was doing every day. I say this because I have yet to disclose to almost anyone where I am currently working, what I am doing. I have fallen back into the “it doesn’t matter” camp. And while I don’t necessarily feel negativity towards this, it is an interesting thing to note. It simply is what it is.

I guess my point here is that if I can be 5 years old for a minute, I’d really, truly wish, that I could have my cake and eat it too. There are a lot of good things that have come out of me going back to work – namely, organizing my headspace and giving me something else to focus on, something to make use of my “curse of competency.” But I’m not sold that I can sustain a 40-hour in-office old-school dress-code type of job without those balances tipping back into the direction of “not worth it.”

I’m just not sure. I’m not sure of much these days. All I know is that my little girl is sick and I am worried. It makes me think, this worry, think about what is important in life and what is the responsible choice for our future, and how those two things don’t seem to coexist very well. I wish society was structured differently; that I could keep one foot in the workforce without jumping in completely. I wish a lot of things.

I make responsive and beautiful, flexible websites. Isn’t it fair to want that sort of flexibility for the analog realm as well? I need to sit down and wireframe life.

Web Development Using a Chromebook.

I’m about to get all techy up in here, which I understand is SO not the right content for this blog. However, due to some recent projects, this is something that has been on my mind quite a bit, and in the end, Ultra-Pink is more about what is happening in my personal life than any other blog that I write. Maybe one day I’ll start a tech only blog and repost this there. But for now, get your nerdy thinking caps on and follow along, or go check out this dancing cat video and come back for messy motherhood posts another time.

I use a Chromebook. (Specifically, I have this model.) They are affordable, user friendly, and 90% of the time, they do 95% of everything you’d ever want to do on a computer. Unless you are creating super-enormous high end graphics or slinging some seriously processor heavy code, you can very easily use a Chromebook as your daily machine. But what happens when someone like me (who loves to tinker) wants to get back into some light web development? It’s taken some research, but it indeed, can be done.

Firstly, because this is my personal machine, which means I also want to look at Facebook and cat videos, I use OneTab. OneTab is a plugin that reduces memory usage (something that the Chrome browser is notorious for hoarding, and unfortunately I can confirm that it is no different on the Chrome OS) and also, almost more importantly, organizes your links in a friendly, focused way. I *am* that person with 56 different tabs open at once who then complains that her computer runs slowly. OneTab fixes this. I have a set of tabs that I open for when I am doing web development, and I can add or remove things from this list at a whim. I also have a different set of tabs that is meant more for the time I putz around checking email and reading TMZ. (Just kidding. I read stupid things like The Smithsonian’s Blog. Nerd Alert.)

I’ve found that Caret is a simple code editor, (I like ones that don’t have too many bells and whistles), and sFTP is great for uploading to my server. Yes, there’s the catch – I don’t actually have a local development environment, nor can I make one without doing serious things to my poor little laptop (like a dual boot.) However, even with a heavy need to rely on my FTP client, it still seems to be working out nicely. This will change once I push my current project site public and hand out the link to everyone, but for now while I’m learning, I’m quite happy.

Canva and Pixlr Editor are awesome graphics sites and they also do 90% of what you need 95% of the time. (Bonus, Canva makes you look like a design genius.)

I’ll probably update this entry as time marches on and I change my mind or find new/better ways of working. (Let’s be honest, I’m mostly writing this entry as a way to organize my own workflow.) I’ll get some real writing in soon too, but for now, this is where I am putting in some extra effort, and hopefully it will pay off for me in the end.

31 – A Brand New Kind of Life

It’s been a while that I’ve written about my own life, mainly because I am not sure that I think about my own life all that much anymore. Now, don’t take that the wrong way – or maybe, yes, do, but either way, my own feelings and problems and general reasons for doing the things I do are on the back burner. Have been for a while now. Mostly because I have had bigger things to worry about, in the form of a small human. For this reason, and all the reasons that go along with it, 30 has been a rather rough year for me.


I don’t do well with change – we already established this when I spent the first 2 months at UCLA convinced they had made a mistake in accepting me and that I wasn’t actually smart enough to be there – when I spend the first 2 weeks of every new job I’ve ever had convinced that I will never figure out what is going on and how to function within that company – and even when I spend the first 20 minutes of every new place, shop, meeting, anything really – panicking that I won’t find a parking space, that I will be heinously late or embarrassingly early, and that everyone I meet and/or talk to will turn out to be jerks and it will have been all a huge waste of time, so why bother leaving the house in the first place.

This is why 30 has been hard. Wonderful and joyful, but not necessarily always happy.

Because with a track record like that, bringing home a brand new, strange person who is screaming at me, biting me, and generally making me cry on a daily – if not hourly basis, was something that I was not equipped to deal with in any way. I went into a tailspin shortly after she was born and as I am climbing back out I am realizing that all of my hopes, dreams, and passions got left behind somewhere deep in that hole. I miss my job, I miss working out. I miss being creative, and having time to myself. The scary part? I’m just now feeling like I can tackle these things. Like I have a handle on the baby situation enough that these are things that I might just be able to fit back into my life without shattering all over again.

But here’s the big secret folks. I wanted to go back to work. I resigned because I felt like I literally, physically and emotionally, couldn’t. It wasn’t for months after my supposed “return to work” date that I started feeling halfway human again, that I wasn’t using my shower time to cry incoherently into my loofah. I could barely hold a conversation with a good friend without tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt like I was walking around in a strange dream world. I remember being at a mommy group therapy session just a week before I was supposed to go back, sobbing all over my daughter’s head, while 12 other moms looked on, nodding their approval and giving me hugs.

The good news is that it took 30 for me to feel the way I do today. I am so much more confident in myself. Confident in dealing with change, and being able to find that elusive balance. My baby may have made me cry in those early months but she was teaching me lifetimes worth of patience, understanding, and flexibility. I am much less easily ruffled these days, I can leave things open ended and I have gotten used to being late or early. I happily meet up with relative strangers, who turn out to be wonderful people, for play dates at places I’ve never been to before.

I’ve adapted in beautiful, life altering ways.

So now I’m looking for another job, a better job. Maybe it will look different in hours or content, maybe it will be my own creation. I don’t know yet. And I’m being creative, I’m writing much more. And I’m even trying to start moving my body in ways that don’t just involve crawling around after the baby. And all of these reasons are why 31 will be a great year. Because 31 is going to be about taking care of me again, with a brand new kind of life.

Home Sweet…Home?

I wrote once about how much I loved our House. The breezes that float down the hallways, the birds that are constantly chirping outside the very many windows. These things I still very much love; it’s part of this passionate affair that will never die. But now I have mom-vision, and I see so much of this house that I never saw before. The terrible location, with no sidewalks and no streetlamps. Where once I was amazed that owls nested in our trees, now all I notice is the cars that come speeding down the blind corner at all hours of the night. The privacy and quietness of this little offshoot of a street now feels trapped, with no ability to walk anywhere. I go two houses up, two houses down, during daylight hours only. Too far up the street and you hit the drug house with the litter of broken glass and used condoms in the dirt out front. Too far down the street and you hit one of the busiest roads in our little town. Full of car and bicycle traffic, but there seems to be no room for walkers or strollers, or sidewalks of any kind. Thanks to the mountains that we fell in love with, it’s even tough to cross this street – every corner seems to be a blind one. The clientele from the top house always park in front of our mailbox and loiter in the more shadowy parts of our front yard. When we’ve mentioned this to the cops the only response we got was “Oh, yeah, we know that house. It’s fine.” *Move on with your day, lady.* Meanwhile, the house on the other side of us rents out every bedroom to a different family, so we never quite know who is living next door. Between these two houses, the cops are on our street quite often, breaking up fights next door or cruising up and down the full length, very slowly rolling by the parked cars. Once, while sipping my coffee, I saw them unpack full riot gear from an unmarked van and go walking on foot up the hill. This consistent police activity makes me feel either very safe or very not. I’m in my garage a lot, since I have to drive everywhere, for everything. Every once in a while I find myself hurrying to get the door closed quickly at night, like some unconscious part of me thinks I might be robbed at my own threshold. There are good people on this street too, don’t get me wrong. We have wonderful neighbors across the way, and seemingly normal people on the other side of us. But since the baby came along, all I see is the danger of blazed drivers coming far too quickly down our little hill; their reaction time being very, very slow.

It’s the house too, though. Our decks, our wonderful outdoor living spaces – look like enormous fall hazards. Our myriad of hawthorne trees are almost buzzing their own tune they are full of so many happy bees. The staircase – the very heart of our home – is the biggest problem. Winding up an invisible tree, our staircase reaches three stories into the air with ease. The spindly honey oak railing is the only thing that keeps you from a tile floor 25 feet below. It’s not so much teaching her to be careful on the stairs that I worry about – it’s everything else. It’s having friends over whose kids maybe *aren’t* careful on stairs. It’s climbing two flights from the car to the kitchen to bring in groceries with an almost-mobile, squirming baby, and loading her and all her stuff down two flights in order to go out. It’s carrying her up and down the stairs in general; while she’s in our arms she is high above anything that could catch her fall if she were to throw herself out of our sometimes-necessary vice grip. It’s the idea of being pregnant again and doing all of that with a child and a belly, which seems very much impossible.

Hello, stairs.

Hello, stairs.

Because of the huge open staircase, our house is very loud. Noises echo up and down the floors, bouncing off everything like the symphony of life. It never bothered me until I tried to put my baby to bed while my sweet sweet husband decided to cook me dinner, banging pots and pans and making her eyes fly open at every little ting. We have to turn her white noise machine up so loud that sometimes I’m afraid we’ll never be able to get her to sleep in a quiet room again.

To be honest, this house is starting to feel exhausting. Are they all things that might be blown out of proportion due to mom-brain? Yes. Are they all pretty real reasons to at least give a few second thoughts? Yes. So what do you do, when the house you love so much starts to show its ugly side. Do you childproof as best you can and move on with life? Nothing is really all that big an issue, and we live in one of the safest neighborhoods around. Our “neighbors” are really nothing to worry about in the grand scheme of life. Suburban problems are not urban problems in any way.

Or do you bite the bullet and move somewhere less stressful and more accessible? Of course, it would cost more money, that’s a given. Where do you draw that line? When does it become worth the money, the hassle, the craziness of uprooting your life for somewhere new to call home?

Finding Happiness

Today, one day before you are officially 5 months old, your great grandmother died. This makes me sad for a number of reasons, though maybe not the ones you think.

Grandma C was a very strong, independent woman. For years and years, she’d travel the world. It was never a surprise to hear “Oh, your grandmother is on safari in Africa.” or “Oh, she’s complaining about the shots she has to get for her journey to India.” She was a code breaker during the war, in the underground tunnels of London. I can only imagine her young and full of fire, shouting out commands to anyone unlucky enough to be around to hear.

Every summer I would see her, at a very special place called Twain Harte Lake. One day, I will take you there and show you the bench that is dedicated to your great grandfather. Someone I never knew, but always heard was a most incredible man. Here’s the thing. He was the key to Grandma C’s happiness. And from what I understand, when he died, a part of her did too.

She battled depression her whole life, and never did anything about it. No doctors, no drugs, no hope. Oh baby girl, there is mental illness in your family. So very much of it. And it scares me. Because I never, ever want you to have to deal with these things, and I know you probably will.

I have fleeting memories of seeing my grandmother happy. Swimming across the lake or watching me dance at my wedding. But many times, I remember her to be a very sad, very angry woman. She’d call me rude and tell me I was the worst child in the world. She’d ignore me completely. And the unforgivable – she’d make my mom cry.

I am sad she is gone – yes – nothing will change the fact that she was my grandmother. But I am also relieved that her suffering – physical, and mental – is over. I hope that Grandma C has finally found her happiness. That maybe the next life will be more fulfilling to her than this one was.


A happy day.