A Birthday and an Anniversary

As of today, we’re officially living with a teenager. However, our teenager is also a senior citizen. That’s because today we are celebrating our beloved Katie-dog turning THIRTEEN! As the title post mentions, we’re also celebrating an anniversary – the anniversary of having Katie in my life and our family for five wonderful years. I didn’t adopt her on October 1st, but a few days later (I would have to look at the adoption records to remember the exact date…) but I figure they’re close enough to celebrate them together. 


Continue reading A Birthday and an Anniversary

How to Make an Autumn Garland

How to Make an Autumn Garland

Growing up in Canada we celebrated Thanksgiving in mid-October….about two weeks before Halloween. So when we celebrated Thanksgiving, the house decor was for Thanksgiving / Halloween / autumn. Here in the U.S. it’s a bit different since Thanksgiving is celebrated a month after Halloween. You can take the Halloween decor down and put up Thanksgiving decor. Of course after all that you switch it out for Christmas decor, making the last three months of the year the most intensive period of decorating changes. 

Since we used to live in a tiny apartment, we really don’t have a lot of decorations. We do have a decent amount of Christmas stuff, but almost nothing for Halloween or Thanksgiving. Now that we’ve moved into a big house, I figured I would primarily focus on Christmas decor for the first couple of years, and just slowly build up things for the other holidays. That all changed when we talked to Dave’s family and were assigned to host….Thanksgiving. 

This is going to be my first time hosting any major holiday, and I find it ironic that it’s a holiday I didn’t even celebrate growing up as a kid. In fact, when I was working in Kansas I volunteered to cover Thanksgiving Day because I had nothing to do on that day, other than watch some college basketball. Thankfully (no pun intended) the traditions surrounding Canadian Thanksgiving aren’t that different from American Thanksgiving, at least in terms of the food. (Obviously the Canadians don’t really get into the pilgrims and all that jazz, it’s really more a celebration of the harvest). 

Since we’ll have almost about a dozen people in the house, I figured I should probably make the place look somewhat festive. Step one….decorate the fireplace mantle.  Continue reading How to Make an Autumn Garland

The Day of Surgery

Now that I’m back on the blog, I might as well head back to the day y’all last heard from me….the day I had surgery. In case you’ve forgotten what was going on, you can read this post as a refresher. I went in for a left sacroiliac joint arthrodesis (fusion). Basically, I had three titanium rods hammered into me to connect the lower part of my spine to my hip because the joint wasn’t stable and kept causing me a lot of pain. 



I had to be at the hospital at 6am on the morning of my surgery. My mom had just arrived the day before, so she and Dave were with me on the drive downtown. Once we arrived, Dave came with me into the hospital and my mom went back to the house to take care of the dogs (she brought her two – Abby and Mischa – down from Canada with her, and of course we have Katie). We had to wait a bit to register, but the registration process itself was a breeze because I had done the pre-registration questionnaires over the phone the week before. Then we were lead up to the surgical waiting room, where Dave was given a pager and a special number he could use to identify me on a screen in the waiting room that would tell him where I was in the process of things. 

We had to sit in the waiting room together for a little bit, and that was torturous. Of course I was kind of nervous about the surgery to start with, but they also had fresh coffee brewing for the friends and families of the patients. Do you know how hard it is for a caffeine addict to ignore the aroma of fresh brewed coffee at 6:30am when you can’t have any!? Let’s just say that it was horrible for me. Thankfully it wasn’t long before me took me back to the pre-op prep area. Dave was actually allowed to accompany me, which was nice. I got to give a urine sample, rub myself down with disinfectant wipes, put on a gown, have my temperature and blood pressure taken….all that kind of stuff. During this time I also got the first glimpse of my friend Colleen, who was working as the pre-op pharmacist. It’s so nice to have a friendly face around (other than out family) when you’re heading into surgery. While the nurses were bustling about the neurosurgical resident came by with a med student in tow to mark the leg they were supposed to be operating on with a sharpie. Then my neurosurgeon, Dr. Rodgers, came by before heading into the OR to make sure I didn’t have any last minute questions. Finally….my anesthesiologist came by. As a pharmacist, my primary concerns were all drug-related, so he was the poor guy who got peppered with a million questions and concerns from me. As soon as I started talking it became very apparent that I wasn’t some Joe-schmoe patient, so it didn’t take long for the anesthesiologist to figure out I was a pharmacist and start talking to me like a real person and not some kind of imbecile (which is how I feel when health care providers start talking to me like they do to every other normal patient….not that I blame them, I talk to patients in the exact same way). So once the anesthesiologist and I got talking on the same level, I quickly got the assurances I needed. Then it was time for me to get on the gurney. Colleen stopped by for a quick “see you later” and I said goodbye to Dave, and the anesthesiologist wheeled me away.  Continue reading The Day of Surgery

Yes, I’m Alive

Keep Calm Because I'm Back

My mother recently pointed out that I abruptly stopped blogging right after I posted that I was heading in for surgery, and that may leave some people wondering if I just died on the table. Given that I pretty much went silent on social media as well, she kind of had a point. So, I’m here to assure you that I survived surgery and am, in fact, alive and well.

I didn’t mean to just stop blogging. It wasn’t something I planned at all. In fact, I figured that I would have tons of time to write while I was recovering and that I would be blogging more than ever. Obviously, that didn’t happen. At first it was just because I was in pain, on a somewhat insane schedule of medications, and had absolutely nothing going on in my life – which inevitably leads to some writers block. Once I got out of the habit of writing every morning, it just became tough to get back into the habit. I’ve missed it at times, and I kept piling up post ideas in my head, but I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and write. Part of it is that I’ve been a bit too busy enjoying my new pain-free life. Let me tell you, it’s pretty liberating. But more on that tomorrow….

I don’t know if I’ll go back to posting quite as frequently as I was before. As I said, I can do a lot more now and I don’t want to feel chained to my laptop when I can be up doing stuff. Like gardening – my new favorite hobby (more on that later too). BUT….I am planning on posting somewhat regularly, perhaps just not quite as frequently as I was before my big break. It’s all going to depend on how much I have to say and how much time I feel like putting into it….and right now I don’t know what that looks like. What I do know is that I have a lot of stuff to catch everyone up on, starting tomorrow. 

To sum this post up in a nutshell…….I’M BAAAAAACK!!!

Until tomorrow, Ashlen



This post is scheduled to go live the same minute that I’m scheduled to be wheeled into OR #4 at Methodist Hospital in downtown Indianapolis. I’ve mentioned this surgery before on the blog – it seems like just yesterday that I was writing about my emotions before going to the appointment with the physiatrist and not knowing for sure if I would be referred to a surgeon. Obviously I was referred to the surgeon (rather quickly, in fact) and was scheduled for the operation today. 

I’m having a left sacroiliac joint arthrodesis. I know that sounds big and complicated, but it’s not. The sacroiliac joint is where your spine (sacrum) connects to your pelvis (ilium). It’s held together with really strong ligaments so it doesn’t move around a whole lot. In fact, it’s barely supposed to move around at all, unless you’re giving birth. About 10 years ago I managed to damage those ligaments. Think of it kind of like a sprained ankle but in your hip / back. Because the area doesn’t get a ton of blood flow, the body can’t do a great job of healing and tightening those ligaments back up on its own. So my sacroiliac joint shimmies around a bit whenever I do just about anything, which then aggravates the nerves in the area, causes things to get inflamed and muscles to spasm, and then I get to feel a lot of pain. It’s not a whole lot of fun, and I really don’t recommend it. Unfortunately, sacroiliac join dysfunction isn’t the easiest thing to diagnose, which is why it took me so long to get here….to surgery. I’ve tried pretty much every non-surgical option in the book, and apparently I’m the perfect candidate for the surgery….unless you’re my insurance company, who apparently disagrees with about 5 different doctors and doesn’t think I need this surgery at all. Their recommendation? Do nothing. Just live in pain. The good news? When I get super fat from sitting around doing nothing because I’m in so much pain, I can get them to cover gastric bypass surgery. But the surgery that will allow me to lead a healthy active life and not get to the point where I need gastric bypass? No dice. Go figureContinue reading Surgery

Five on Friday

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Five on Friday post, so let’s get this show on the road!


All the Joys - Blogger Love

Given that it’s been a while since I’ve done a Five on Friday post, it’s also been a while since I participated in Blogger Love! Here are some posts you should check out:

Let’s Talk About Feminism (Amanda Moments) – I really enjoyed reading about Amanda’s perspective of being a feminist….that it’s not about being superior to men, but equal to men. I found myself nodding my head to a lot of Amanda’s thoughts on the subject. 

5 Tips to Take Better Pet Photos (A Beautiful Mess) – Ok, so this post really made me want a pig and a little goat, but it also had some great ideas. I need help photographing my little Katie-dog because she always looks so GRUMPY! It’s the eyebrows, I swear….she is really a happy dog most of the time! 

Overcoming our Insecurities – Learning to Accept Compliments (Ember Grey posting at Life with Mrs. G & the Artist) – I am LOVING the “Overcoming our Insecurities” series that Faith is hosting. She’s featured some of my very favorite bloggers (Emily from Ember Grey included) and every post is so real, authentic, and makes me love the bloggers she features even more for being willing to open up and expose some really raw emotions. Emily’s post was so relatable. When I was working we would have assessments – you had to come up with your strengths and weaknesses. This wasn’t just a “write it down and only you know” kind of thing, it was something that was discussed with your mentors – people I really respected. Even if it was something I could write down and keep to myself, I would have a really hard time coming up with my own strengths. Pointing out my own weaknesses is so easy, but admitting that I’m good at something is almost impossible for me. Learning how to accept a compliment is the same kind of thing – I will rarely take the compliment, and come up with excuses as to why the compliment isn’t true. Isn’t that ridiculous?!?

Preparing for a Marriage (A Prioritized Marriage and Eat, Drink & Be Mary) – This post made me reminisce about our relationship as we were planning our wedding. Truth: it was the second worst / most difficult time in our relationship. The worst? When we spent almost a year living halfway across the country from each other. But wedding planning? It was amazing and it as rough. The amazing part was realizing how involved Dave wanted to be in every aspect of our lives together – even if that can be a tad annoying at times (it went to an extreme when we were building the house – it wasn’t until one of our very last design meetings that he agreed to let me handle picking out cabinet hardware on my own). It was also amazing to realize how much we could agree about easily, and how easy it was to compromise for each other. The ugly? Moving in together. We argued over everything. Thankfully….it gets better.  Continue reading Five on Friday


Awesome Link Up

Today I am excited to be co-hosting the monthly Awesome linkup with Anne from Love the Here and Now! Let’s get down to business with some awesome things I’m loving right now….


Spring is amazing in Indiana. Winter is grey and dreary, summer is way too hot and humid – spring and autumn are the perfect in-between seasons. I was going to go out yesterday to take some pictures of the loveliness (even though most our trees are past blooming and are just leafy now) but then it started raining. It was a full thunderstorm actually….which turned out to be pretty nice because we could sit on our lanai, eat dinner, watch the rain come down, and listen to the thunder without it being insanely humid. Plus….we’re not quite into tornado season yet, which is a huge bonus. 


Since moving into the house, we’ve turned into major barbecue fans. We haven’t been able to barbecue in years, and it’s just so delicious. Pretty much every meal we eat has some barbecue component to it….last night it was including barbecue chicken on our nachos. Dave picked up some fresh pico de gallo, which made the whole dish even more deliciousContinue reading AWESOME

Recap: Our First House Guests

Can you photobomb a selfie? If so, I think I managed to do so in this picture!
Can you photobomb a selfie? If so, I think I managed to do so in this picture!

Early last week I posted about how we were getting ready for our first house guests: my cousin Braden and his girlfriend Sabrina.

Wednesday Evening

Braden and Sabrina rented a car and drove down to Indy after spending several days visiting Chicago. They arrived on Wednesday evening, so I decided to do a relaxing barbecue dinner. I had grabbed some steak filets from Kroger as well as some vegetable kabobs. Braden and Sabrina brought something very important with them from Canada: a bottle of Hy’s seasoning salt. There is no seasoning salt quite like it, and we’ve been out of it for several months now. Since we moved into the house we’ve been barbecuing a fair amount because we haven’t been able to barbecue is so long. Plus, barbecue is easy and tasty. It’s even tastier when you season your meat and veggies with Hy’s. I also made my favorite cheesy mashed baked potatoes and a salad. It was seriously delicious, if I do say so myself. What made it even better was that we set up a table on the lanai and are out there. The weather just keeps getting nicer and nicer so we haven’t taken the table down yet. I have a feeling that we’ll keep using it all season long – or at least until we get a more permanent option! Continue reading Recap: Our First House Guests

Ready for Guests

It’s been THREE WEEKS since we closed on the house – and that seems unbelievable! The house definitely already feels like home (it did from the very first night) but we’ve been busy unpacking and getting ready to show off our new casa.

We’ve already had a few of our close friends over, but this week my cousin and his girlfriend are coming to stay for a few nights! I’m really excited for our first overnight house guests (other than my in-laws when we first moved in). I only have one cousin (yes, only one….I come from a very small family!) so having him come visit is pretty special. The only time he’s been to Indianapolis was for our wedding, and this will be his girlfriend’s first visit here, so I’m really excited to hang out with them and show them around. In anticipation of their visit I’m trying to get us completely unpacked. Trust me when I say that it’s easier said than done! We’ve made some great progress, but there are still boxes and stuff all over our counters that need to be put away. 

It just needs to warm up a bit so we can start USING the lanai!
It just needs to warm up a bit so we can start USING the lanai!

We are so thankful for our friends and new neighbors for their hospitality. Our friends Adam and Lacey are letting us borrow a set of chairs for our lanai, because so far we have nothing but lawn chairs. One of our neighbors welcomed us with a gorgeous orchid, and our friends Leif and Katrin gave us a bottle of wine and a bottle of their home-brewed beer!  Continue reading Ready for Guests

A Discussion About Essential Oils


Essential oils have become a craze. Every time I turn around there’s someone talking or writing something about essential oils. As a pharmacist, it’s a trend that has me a bit concerned. I’m not completely against using essential oils, but I do have a problem with how they’re being marketed and some of the ways which people are using them. 

Unsafe Natural ChemicalsNatural versus Synthetic

There’s definitely been a trend towards using more natural products and fewer synthetic (man-made) products. We’re becoming more aware of how some synthetic products are affecting the environment around us and our health. In many situations, that’s a change I applaud, support, and have been making myself in certain capacities. There is no doubt that there are many dangerous synthetic chemicals that should be avoided. I switched to using standard chemical cleaners to using Norwex because a) using primarily water and microfiber cloths to clean my house is safer than using cleaning chemicals and b) often, I’ve found the Norwex products to be more effective than the chemicals. As a pharmacist, I’ve been trained to think about drugs and chemicals in those two ways: safety and effectiveness. If a chemical is safe for human use, but not effective, there’s not any use in it! If a chemical is effective, but not safe, then you need to weigh the risks and the benefits before use. 

First of all, let’s realize that you cannot eliminate chemicals. Organic chemistry is at the basis of biology. A chemical, by definition, is two or more atoms joined together through a chemical bond. Everything around you can be broken down into various chemical components, which can then be broken down into atoms. Even water is a chemical! 

To be completely honest, just about every chemical can be harmful to some degree, it’s just dependent on the dose or exposure level, and whether it is doing more harm than good. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
-Water: in general, water is very safe for human use and consumption. However, excessive water consumption can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, which can be fatal.
-Chemotherapy: the drugs used in chemotherapy are very toxic and can cause a lot of health problems. However, we use them at specific doses in patients with cancer as a medicine that can help save their lives. The side effects of chemotherapy are all evidence of the toxicity, but overall the result in patients with cancer can be more good than harm. 

Whether a chemical is natural or synthetic is irrelevant with regard to it’s safety to humans (or our pets!). There are plenty of really nasty natural chemicals that we try to avoid all the time!  Continue reading A Discussion About Essential Oils