cats life

mystery of the sacred fridge

A few months ago, we redid our kitchen. As part of this remodel, we purchased new appliances – including a new refrigerator. And ever since then, sometimes when I go into the kitchen, I find my neurotic cat sitting in front of the refrigerator, at attention, staring intently at the ice and water dispenser. As soon as he hears me come in though, I have interrupted his moment of worship, and he wanders off.

I have often wondered what, exactly, he thinks is going to happen. If there are no people in the kitchen to operate the dispenser, it doesn’t do anything. At all. Ever. Or so I thought.

It turns out, when the planets are aligned just right, something does happen. If, after getting a glass of ice water, a piece of ice falls into the tray at the bottom of the dispenser, right on the edge, and if, after some time, it melts just right, that piece of ice will fall on the floor. And then my neurotic cat gets a tasty treat, or a splendid toy, depending on his mood at that moment. And that is what he waits for, these moments of rare blessing, bestowed by that great deity, the refrigerator.

hobbies life

weekly installments

So, after yesterday’s post, I really started thinking about all my nerdly pursuits. And I decided I could have a weekly installment of ‘don’t even try to out-nerd me.’ I thought perhaps it would be a month or two of good fun, but after I started making a list of all the potential topics, I immediately came up with 3 months worth of topics. The list has slowly grown, and I am now up to 4 and a half months. Which means that I can milk this topic for at least 6 months …

So, be on the lookout for my new nerdly column. I haven’t yet decided what the nerdliest day of the week is …

life music


I had the opportunity this weekend to go to a Linkin Park concert. Turns out, one of my friends bought tix after she asked her husband over and over if he would go with her, and he agreed. Then he backed out, after the purchase, of course. Enter me, to save the day. 🙂 I gladly went to the concert, especially as my own husband would rather … do just about anything than go see Linkin Park and all the riffraff that comes with it.

I got to admire all the multi-colored hair and piercings that I know I’m too old – and I suppose too ‘professional’ – to be able to pull off. I got to eat overpriced food. But most importantly, I got exposed to some new bands.

My Chemical Romance totally rocked the house. They rocked it harder than Linkin Park. There was fire and fireworks all over that stage – but no manner of pyrotechnics could ever outdo Gerard. Gerard the flamboyantly emo. Gerard who came out on stage dressed up in a Prince-ala-hot-topic getup. Gerard with more makeup than me. (Ok, so that last one’s not hard, seeing as I wear …. chapstick.) Gerard who knows how to put on a show.

The music was awesome, but Gerard really knows how to get the crowd into it. Gerard managed to get a significant portion of the male audience to take off their shirts and swing them around their heads. For real. Cuz when Gerard asks you to do something, in his feverishly appealing way, you do it.

I only knew one of their songs – that ‘when I was a young boy … black parade song’ – but all their songs were great. I’m gonna have to buy their album now. And if I ever see them on the concert circuit again, it’ll be time to call up my friend and get tix of our own.

life travel

the color of skin cancer

spf50I recently spent a week in sunny sunny southern California, and managed to get myself quite burned. Walking around Sea World, nonetheless – I wasn’t even laying out on the beach asking for it. I slathered on my husband’s SPF 50 at the beginning of the day, and thought I would be good.


Throughout the afternoon, I kept asking how the back of my neck and shoulders looked, and my husband insisted I looked fine. I shouldn’t have taken his word for it – I know I’m not an insta-burner. I know it takes half a day for the true extent of my sun damage to display itself.

Luckily for me, I have spent a teeny amount of time in the Virginia sun this summer. My arms have seen enough to not be stark white, as have my face and neck – and by neck, I mean the neck that shows when I wear my regular, apparently fairly high-neck, t-shirts. So any skin that I normally expose to the sky only got the tiniest bit burned, there was only a small amount of peelage.

But, on Sea World day, I decided to wear a new, adorable shirt. Which exposed more skin than I usually expose. (Don’t get excited, it’s still very much classified a t-shirt, with actual sleeves and everything.) And every bit of skin that hasn’t seen the sun in years, burned. Burned bad. It peeled, over a week and a half, the most painful peeling I’ve ever experienced. And the skin that emerged was pink. Pink! I can’t ever recall having a burn that did anything but peel off to expose a beautiful tan.

My back and shoulders have stopped hurting, and I have been able to resume my nearly scalding hot showers. I have to admit, though, I haven’t looked at them to see what color they may have ended up. My arms however, have what most people would consider a nice color. A nice tan, but not leathery or obnoxious. (Obnoxious tans are the ones arrived at in a tanning bed, or through very deliberate laying out in the sun. You know the look.) Looking at my arms, though, all I see is the color of skin cancer. I see a glimpse of sun-spotted middle-aged lady arms. It doesn’t look good to me, and it most certainly doesn’t look healthy. I can’t wait till mid-fall when my tan finally fades to my own natural white with a tinge of yellowy-olive. I think I may just find myself a dermatologist to start cataloging my moles – and I’m definitely gonna start using more of that SPF 50.


i love the greenway

The Dulles Greenway is a privately owned toll road in northern va. It’s a 14 mile stretch that costs $3 for the pleasure of driving on it. It doesn’t matter what distance you actually drive on it, it’s $3. I happen to live at just about the midway point of this lovely road, so I pay $3 to drive 6 or 7 miles.

If I were to actually drive on the greenway every day, to and from work, that works out to about $1500 a year. And if my husband were to do the same, that’s $3000 dollars a year. Since I happen to be a money-nazi, we don’t. Much to my husband’s annoyance, perhaps, but we don’t.

There are A LOT of people who live near the greenway. In fact, that’s about all there is surrounding the greenway – it’s a 14 mile stretch of residentially zoned area, full of single family homes, townhomes, condos, and apartments. Lots and lots of ’em. And the greenway is the most convenient way to get to, well, anywhere.

But, thankfully, most of these people who live near the greenway also seem to be money-nazis. Which means, that not everyone who lives along the greenway, uses it every day to get to and from work. Which means that when I am running late, and I need to get somewhere FAST, no matter the cost, I can use the greenway. And THAT is why I love it.

general complaints life

i fought the law …

hoa approved rock garden and the law won.

I recently did something so heinous, I can’t believe that I didn’t get a single comment on my blog about it. That’s right, I dared to build a Japanese rock garden in the raised flowerbed that wraps my porch. My porch. That’s attached to my house. The house that I bought.

I should have known it would be against the HOA rules. The Japanese have the dubious distinction of being one of the few races to be rounded up and relocated in this great country where all men are created equal. My neighbors recently brought to my attention an article in our local paper about rocks in the yard signifying the homes of swingers. I have to admit, I didn’t realize that signing the HOA paperwork when I moved into the neighborhood meant that I would not be allowed to flaunt my offensive heritage – or, apparently, engage in an alternative lifestyle. I now realize that it is the duty of my HOA to discriminate based on race and sexual preference.

I am a little hurt that not one of my neighbors stepped forward to let me know what a hideous eyesore I had created. On the contrary, I had many people stop by to compliment me on it. They even dared to call it beautiful. And to think that I used to call some of them friends! I won’t make that mistake again.

After getting a not-exactly-friendly letter letting me know of my offense against the neighborhood, I was quite shocked. I was informed that I had 10 days to remove the garden, put mulch in the flowerbed, and plant things. When I sent an email (the HOA does NOT take phone calls – you can leave a message, but they WILL NOT return it) to the HOA Enforcement Squad, requesting mercy, I was informed that I could submit an Exterior Alteration Application. (In the email chain, the HOA-ES insisted on addressing me as ‘Mr.’, even after I started signing my emails with with a very deliberate ‘Mrs.’)

The Exterior Alteration Application is necessary when making changes to the exterior of your house. Like if you want to change the paint color. Or build a fence. Or build a deck. Or cut down a tree. Or, it would seem, put things in your flowerbed. That aren’t visible from the street.

The application requires signatures from your 4 most affected neighbors. And would you believe it, they all signed it without hesitation, and even feigned shock that I would be required to do such a thing.

I received notification of my application disapproval, delivered by certified mail, at 1 pm on Saturday. I was told I had 48 hours to verbally request an appeal. Which meant I had to make my request by 1 pm on Monday. The Monday I was going to be out of town until 4 pm. There are no HOA hours on the weekend. So, I had from 9 am on Monday to 1 pm on Monday to request my appeal. Needless to say, I missed that deadline. The disapproval letter also said that I had to attend the next ARB meeting to discuss my appeal. The next meeting that is happening while I am going to be in San Diego.

So, that is what brought me to tear up my garden yesterday evening. (Well, that, and the mood that always comes during a certain phase of the month.) And place it in 15 paper yard waste bags (because, per HOA rules, you can only throw yard waste away in paper yard waste bags). These bags are now on my porch, until 6 pm on Wednesday, because that is when I can put trash out for Thursday morning.

When the fall comes around, and I’ve had some time to forget about my rage against the establishment, I will try again. I will start over with the HOA, and find out what, exactly, I can do to my flowerbed to both celebrate my sliver of Japanese-ness, and not offend the sensibilities of the HOA-ES.



Recently, I was waxing sentimental, and wrote my now infamous brothers and sisters posts. I had intended to stop there, but I have since received requests for a “husband” post, as well as a “father” post – and I’m sure there are a few out there waiting for the “mother”, “husband’s mother”, and “father-in-law” posts. I haven’t forgotten the other very important members of my family, but I also haven’t yet been inspired for those posts. The things I write about sorta “come to me” – and if I try to force it, it doesn’t turn out well. So – for those of you expecting your very own posts – don’t worry, I’ll get to them. And I hope I make it worth the wait. 🙂



Although I was more excited about the arrival of my sister than the existence of my brothers, my brothers had much more of an impact on me. In fact, had it not been for my brothers, I don’t know that I would be where I am today.

I have a brother 2 years older than me, one 2 years younger, and one 4 years younger. So, right from the get-go, I was always “one of the boys”. I was never one to shrink from a challenge; anything they could do, I could do better. I may not have come up with the idea to turn on the hose and make some good ol’ backyard mud to play in, but once things got started, I was definitely going to join in.

Don’t get me wrong; I had quite the collection of barbies, I wore dresses and pigtails, and my favorite color was pink – at least until I was 12. From the age of 6, I always had a female best friend. Recess was spent playing with girls, and I participated in plenty of sleepovers. I may not do makeup, but I am rather fond of nail polish. I’m not exactly what you would call super-girly, but there are definitely plenty of girly pursuits that I partake in.

That being said, I had many an adventure with my brothers. We built time machines that required every toy in the toybox, a dining room chair, and all the refrigerator magnets that could be reached by someone under 3 feet tall. We played Mario Brothers and don’t-let-ET-fall-in-the-invisible-pit on our Atari 2600. We made the impossible trek through the spiderwebby path between our two back neighbors’ fences. We let b2 play the flight simulator on the Commodore 64, because he was always good for a huge crash – and a crash always meant it was time to ‘parachute’, screaming of course, as we ran out the back door.

We often had to line up in the kitchen as mom grilled us to find out who had broken the plate or eaten all the cookies. Invariably, when none of us cracked, we were all sent to our rooms while my mom contemplated why it was that she had decided to have 4 children. We occasionally had to wait all day for dad to come home, just so we could line up for a dreaded spanking.

Poor b3 found himself in the emergency room on more than one occasion as he tried to keep up with the rest of us. Luckily for him, fingernails grow back and bones heal. We choreagraphed plays and puppet shows to put on for our unsuspecting parents. We went camping in the backyard. We wrote Basic programs on our IBM-compatible. B1 always knew the tv lineup, so we never missed re-runs of The Monkees or Batman.

B1 was hard to keep up with. When he learned to blow bubble-gum bubbles, I spent weeks working on it. When he came home from school and could write his whole name, I made him teach me how to do my lastname. When he learned how to tie his shoes, I studied the way my parents did mine until I could do it myself. (I consequently tied my shoes ‘wrong’ – with my hands actually crossed – until I was 21 years old and someone pointed out that my method was horribly inefficient and painful to watch.) When he figured out how to whistle, I spent a whole day walking around the house with my lips in a tight ‘o’ shape, blowing as hard as I could.

Even though we shared many adventures, there were some I couldn’t join in, because I was ‘just a girl’. When I was 5, I excitedly told my dad that I wanted to be a cub scout, too. B1 got to go off in his blue shirt and yellow kerchief to go do something really fun, I was sure of it. And he wasn’t the only one, there were other kids in the neighborhood, too. All I remember is my dad telling me I couldn’t be a cub scout, girls weren’t allowed. I’m sure he went on to tell me about girlscouts, but if I couldn’t do what b1 was doing, I wasn’t interested.

All my brothers went on to be boyscouts, where I wasn’t allowed to follow. Not being one to just accept the fact that the ‘Y’ chromosome makes for a superior fire-maker, arrow-shooter, and hiker, I organized my own backpacking trips with my friends. And found that girls can carry 25% of their weight on their backs and spend a week walking 35 miles through the woods, building fires and filtering water along the way, just as well as boys can.

It didn’t stop there; science and math weren’t ‘too hard’ for girls. And I certainly wasn’t about to play dumb to improve my appeal to the other gender. If they had a problem with me being smarter than them, they could go cry to their mommas about it for all I cared. I was a girl, yes; but that didn’t mean I should have a different playing field.

In college, I picked the ‘man field’ of computer science, and I excelled at it. I put those boys in my calc class to shame; they never saw me coming. I graduated with Latin honors, and had a fantastic job lined up when I graduated – which was more than many of my fellow graduates could say.

Today, I’m a software developer, where I work with mostly men. In fact, on my current project, I sit in a room with 4 guys, who range in age from a few years older, to a few years younger. And I love it! It’s just like getting to hang out with my brothers – every day.



When I was 11 years old, I was elated when my mom had a baby girl. I already had 3 brothers; now I would finally have a sister!

What I didn’t account for, was the fact that she was 11 years younger than me. And that when I moved out, she would be 7 years old. And that after I moved out, I would be more like an extended relative – more like an aunt who visited a couple times a year – than a sister. The late nights of giggling about boys that I had imagined turned out to be late nights of babysitting.

Not to say that I didn’t enjoy having a baby sister. I think it taught me a lot about the fine art of child rearing – I was too young to remember much of anything about my two little brothers’ first few years of life. With my sister, I was old enough to start learning the arts of diaper changing and baby pacification. I haven’t yet needed those skills – except for other people’s kids – but the responsibility was good for me.

It’s been a few years, and my sister is finally starting to catch up with me. She’s in the midst of high school and will soon be setting off for college. While we’ll never have a relationship of giggling about boys long after we’re supposed to be asleep, I do look forward to getting to know my sister as the adult she is about to be.

The sad thing about my sister growing up, is that one of these days, she is going to realize I’m not quite as amazing as she once thought I was. When she was 5 or 6, I asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up; without any hesitation, she told me she wanted to wear contacts, play the clarinet, and work at McDonald’s. You might think that’s an odd wishlist, but those were the things she knew that I did – and at that age, she knew she wanted to be just like me. Because when you’re in kindergarten, there’s no one cooler than your sister in high school.

I asked her just the other day what she wanted to study in college, and, true to little sister form, she spouted off my major. To be fair, it also happens to be the area of study for two of my brothers – but she’s still looking to follow in my footsteps. I’m glad to see that as she has grown, she has also grown more discriminating – nowhere in her future plans does she include “drive a car with a hugely embarrassing dent” or “own a house with popcorn ceilings.”

She’s definitely not what I thought I wanted when I was 11 years old. But she’s my sister. And that’s exactly what I needed.

home improvements life

a beautiful house

As I was walking downstairs this morning, in my big white fluffy robe, I saw my living room and thought, what a nice house! And the feeling continued as I actually got to the main level and was able to see the dining room and kitchen.

I know it’s my house, and I see it every day, but it’s so nice to love the place I live – and for it to feel like home.

Since leaving home for college, this is the longest I have ever lived in the same place. This is the longest I have ever gone without packing all my stuff up and moving somewhere new. I was worried that I would start to get restless, that I would get the itch to move on – but I am finding it’s actually kind of nice to put down some roots.

I know my neighbors! Not all of them, but quite a few. When you plan to live somewhere longer than your 6 or 12 month lease, there’s actually some incentive to chat with the neighbors. There’s the possibility that you could be seeing them for years – and there’s the possibility that these could be life-long friendships.

I have pictures hanging on the walls! I have never decorated the walls of the places I have lived in. The one apartment that I lived in all by myself, no roommates, I didn’t put a single nail in the wall. It was a most barren place. I didn’t actually hang the pictures on the walls myself – my husband’s mother helped me out with that – but I really like having artwork on the walls. I especially love the picture hanging above the couch, it’s the first thing I see when coming downstairs in the morning. I know my husband doesn’t get it – or its price tag (it really was quite a steal, I could have spent $$$$ on artwork that big) – but I love it.

I have matching furniture! The living room has a matching recliner, sofa, and chair. The end tables match the coffee table. The dining room actually has a table in it! I really feel like an adult now – the college days of mismatched goodwill goods are behind me, as well as the newly married merging of random furniture days. Most all the furniture in the house was purchased after we got married – and the few pieces left, we are itching to get rid of.

Our house still needs work – I would love to get rid of the popcorn ceilings upstairs, and there is some stenciling and wallpaper bordering that needs to go – but that doesn’t mean I don’t love my house. It’s my house – it’s a work in progress – and it’s beautiful.