Halloween Reflections

It’s the day after Halloween and I’m still basking in happiness from last night. I’ve been looking forward to our first Halloween in our house for a long time. Halloween in a third floor apartment = no kids. Halloween in a neighborhood FULL of kids = more trick-or-treaters than I could count. I would have to estimate that we had somewhere between 60 to 75 kids at our door last night. 

Because I’ve been looking so forward to Halloween, I really wanted to decorate outside. There’s not much point decorating inside, because we don’t have kids around who would really enjoy it, so I decided to put all my efforts outside for our trick-or-treaters. I knew Dave would come close to killing me if I bought everything I wanted this year, so I started my collection and I’m planning on increasing it by a piece or two each year. I started off with a cemetery kit from target. It included two styrofoam tombstones with plastic stakes that go into the ground, a skeleton head and two arms, a small bag of fake cobwebs (which was more than enough for our front yard), and four freakishly realistic-looking plastic spiders, and a few pieces of fake fencing. I’ll have to replenish my cobweb supply next year, but otherwise everything is re-usable from year to year. Unfortunately, there were two problems with the kit. The first was that the fencing pieces were not going to go into the ground. GraveyardWe have really hard clay in central Indiana, so it might not be a problem if you live somewhere with sandier earth, but the ground was bending the plastic ends of the fence. It was a no-go. Second, we’ve had some decently strong winds throughout October and the larger of the two tombstones ripped off the stakes and blew into our neighbor’s yard. We retrieved the tombstone, but it will need some repair if it’s going to be used again. That said, the smaller tombstone with the skeleton looking like it’s coming out of the ground was fantastic. Tip: don’t do what Dave did and put the arms right up by the head….no one crawls out of the ground with their elbows next to their ears. Be anatomically correct and put our arms down a bit farther! Dave suggested that he could make me some sturdier tombstones that are made out of wood, so hopefully we can have several of those next year for a full-out graveyard. Oh, I also bought a skeleton dachshund from Target for Dave because he has a thing for weiner dogs….he kind of loved it, and it’s creepy enough to go into my display. Skeleton DogNext, I bought a few things from Grandin Road. I had never ordered anything from them before, but I will definitely be a repeat customer. If you’re looking for festive home decor, Grandin Road will have what you’re looking for, and the quality of everything I’ve bought so far has been excellent. My purchases this year included: one zombie, one zombie cat, and a set of three bats. The zombie and zombie cat were both pretty heavy so there was no way they were blowing away and they didn’t need to be staked into anything. Like the skeleton, the zombie looked like it was coming out of the ground. So I put him right by our walkway so it looked like he was coming to grab a little trick-or-treater. We put the cat right on our front porch, and we hung the bats up on the front porch as well. Both the cat and zombie took batteries that we put in yesterday afternoon. The cat’s eyes just glowed red, but the zombie must have had a motion sensor or something and when he went off his eyes were red and he made some creepy moaning and groaning sounds. I’m not a huge fan of Halloween decorations that make sound, but this one was a) subtle (no stupidly insane shrieking) and b) fairly realistic. I’ll have to see what Grandin Road has to offer next year, but I know I’ll be tempted to get another zombie. That said, I really want to get some skeletons that look like they’re crawling up the side of our house. In years to come I’m also going to want some ghosts, mummies, giant spiders…..out get the picture! Continue reading Halloween Reflections

What I’ve Learned from Two Years of Marriage

Wedding Laughter

Today we are officially celebrating two years of marriage. Unofficially we celebrated yesterday because, well, today is a Monday. That means Dave is working today and heading out for Monday Night Football this evening. Yes, I’m “letting” my husband go spend the evening with a bunch of dudes watching football on our anniversary. Does that make me the coolest wife ever? Really we kind of spent the weekend celebrating our anniversary in a low-key way. We spent it at home, together. That might sound like any other weekend, but when you look ahead at our schedule for the next few months, weekends like those are going to be few and far between. We’re both introverts, and we need that quiet recharge time. We worked on stuff together and relaxed in front of the fireplace together. Last night we headed out to Kona Grill for a sushi dinner, then went to Orange Leaf on the way home for some frozen yogurt. It was relaxing and even though it doesn’t sound to fancy or splashy, it was perfect.  Continue reading What I’ve Learned from Two Years of Marriage

Summer Recap

Given that I dropped off the face of the planet and stopped blogging for a few months after my surgery, I missed blogging about a lot of big summer events. I’ve been debating on how to chronicle everything and catch y’all up, and I think the easiest way is to do a big ole recap post. Let’s get to it…


Abby’s Bridal Shower & Bachelorette

Ashlen, Niki, Abby & Katie

Abby is Dave’s cousin. They grew up in the same small town, went to the same school, etc. etc. Given that Dave is an only child, Abby and her sister Katie are the closest thing Dave has to siblings. They were in our wedding and they and their mom hosted my bridal shower. So when Abby got engaged, I knew I wanted to help out with her bridal shower. I helped host it with Dave’s mom at Wolcott House – the same place where my shower was held. It’s kind of a tradition for locals to hold sowers there and it’s easy to see why – there’s space to set up several tables, a kitchen to prepare food, space to play awesome bridal games….so pretty much everything you might need for a shower and no one has to deep clean their house and rearrange half their furniture. Continue reading Summer Recap

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