Posts filed under ‘Stench’

Stretch and Sage

In late February, Ryan and I moved in with my parents in their luxury townhouse.  We brought with us our pets, including our orange cat, Stench.  Now Stench is fourteen years old… and for fourteen years he has gone by his name… “Stench”.


Shortly after we moved in, my mother decided she didn’t like the name “Stench”.  She started calling him “Stretch”.  Not only that, she started enforcing her new nomenclature on everyone else.  So we would have conversations such as this one:

Vicky: Is Stench outside?
Mom: You mean Stretch!
Vicky: Stench.
Mom: Stretch!

This irked me. I didn’t name the cat, so I’m not particularly vested in “Stench”.  It has no emotional significance to me.  But the cat has had his name for fourteen years…nearly a decade and a half.  For goodness sake, he already has an established Flickr tag. Do we really need to rename him this late in the game? 

Laid-back Ryan wasn’t phased by the name change one bit… which prompted this conversation:

Vicky: Oh yeah? Well what if she doesn’t like the baby’s name?!?  Is she just going to rename him too?
Ryan: Don’t be ridiculous, sweetie.

At our twenty week ultrasound, Ryan and I found out the sex of our baby and shortly afterwards we decided on the name.  We were diligently keeping the name to ourselves, but one day driving to my grandmother’s, my mother implored us to share our secret with her.   “I really want to know the name,” she said.  So we told her… and guess what!  She didn’t hate it!!! I was so relieved.

Vicky: Oh good!  There were people on the Internet who said they would never name their baby Sagan because it is only one letter away from Satan.

Gah!  I said that!  Me! I planted that seed.

All seemed well and then a week or so later I was eating breakfast in the kitchen when my mother dropped this line on me:

Mom: I’ve been telling everyone that I’m going to call him “Sage”.  The more I think about it the more I don’t like “Sagan”.

Two things stuck out to me. First off, I noted she started with “I’ve been telling everyone” which indicated our secret wasn’t so secret anymore. Secondly, I noted that she did in fact, change the name of our unborn son.

What turned my mother’s opinion of “Sagan”?  One of the reasons she cited was “It is too close to Satan.”  Me and my big mouth!

Luckily now Sagan is born and the birth certificate has been filled out, we are seeing a great deal more acceptance of his name.

There doesn’t seem to be any hope for “Stench” though. 🙂

July 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm 2 comments

Sound Sleepers!

Last night I wasn’t feeling too hot, so I went to bed early. In the middle of the night I heard a really loud *SNAP* sound, but I promptly fell back to sleep. I wasn’t the only one. The two cats didn’t budge. Jimmie reportedly got up briefly and laid back down and most telling– Henry didn’t make a peep. Henry. The Beagle! The one who loves to aroo! To put it in perspective, this is how my brother describes Henry:

He would bark at an ant taking a shit on a piece of cotton.

By the time I woke up in the morning, the sound was a distant memory, but I did ask Ryan about it.

“Mmpf. What was that sound last night? Did I dream that?”

Ryan said he heard it too, but we shrugged off. As Ryan shaved, he speculated on possible causes. Thinking that maybe the foundation shifted, he came back in the bedroom and looked out the window above my head. He got an odd look on his face.

“IS IT SNOW?!?!??!?!” I said and jumped up anxious to see a white dusting on the ground.

Instead I saw this:

Ryan’s bedroom window

In the middle of the night, someone took it upon themselves to shoot the bedroom window with a buckshot:

Picture of the outside

Another view of the inside

So let me recap:

The window above the bed got shot at.

And two dogs, two cats and two people managed to sleep through it!

Obviously no one in the room was hurt. That, I hope we would have actually noticed. : )

And yes, the police were called and they started an investigation. I felt for the poor guys as they searched for evidence outside the bedroom window. Not only was it unusually cold, but that’s the compost pile. To do their jobs, the forensic team had to search through our old rotting food! : )

Anyway, try not to fret too much and certainly don’t lose sleep over this incident.

We didn’t!

December 22, 2008 at 10:47 pm 15 comments


As of a couple of weekends ago, my house is pretty much vacant. With no couch, no bed and a dwindling blanket supply, my poor animals have had to get inventive. Henry simply chooses to lay in his crate when he can’t find a spot. This morning, I found Stench laying in what is serving as my temporary dresser– my suitcase.

Stench has a bed

That’s not too odd. I can see Stench making himself at home in a suitcase under any circumstances. This one, however, is more unexpected:

Jimmie has a chair

(And don’t worry– I will be strategically placing some blankets and pillows in the living room for these poor creatures)

September 12, 2008 at 12:21 am 8 comments

Home… for about 36 Hours

I’m back in Blacksburg for the moment.  Tomorrow morning, I depart again.  But this time the trip will be different–  Sean and the dogs are traveling with me!  We are going to spend the weekend in Asheville, North Carolina to sightsee. 

I highly expect to love Asheville.  Before he moved to Hawaii, my brother had considered moving to Asheville.  I did a few Google searches at the time and thought it looked pretty darn cool.  Heck, they even have a mushroom hunting club.

We aim to visit the Biltmore Estates tomorrow, take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad on Sunday and take the dogs around Chimney Rock Park on Monday.  It should be a good adventure for all.

This will be Jimmie and Henry’s 3rd state.  They’ve only been in the Virginias (and the District of Columbia if you want to count that).  At the end of our journey, the Herrala Household State Count should look like:

Name # of U.S. States
Vicky 31
Sean 26
Jimmie 3
Henry 3
Stench 1

May 25, 2007 at 7:10 pm 1 comment

Journal Except: September 11th

With a number of the networks airing their original 9/11 coverage again tomorrow, I thought it would be a fitting year to share my 9/11 journals. 

Entry from Journal on 9/11/2001
Reactions and Church


Today is September 11th, 2001.  It’s the eight year anniversary of [a negative event in my life].  It’s been so long now.  It feels like a dream.  It feels like it doesn’t matter anymore.

Especially today.

Tonight I walk my dogs and for the first time in my life I can look up and see the sky my grandparents would have seen growing up.

A sky completely absent of aircraft.

Instead I saw two shooting stars.

The first one I made a wish as custom (or hope) encourages.

I wished, “Please help those people and their families.”

The news didn’t seem all that big to me.  When I came into work, I found Jaye Snidow was in.  Two evenings ago, he had to rush his wife to the emergency room.

Chris Mullins and Jaye have adjacent desks.  Chris was perusing a news web site.

I asked, “Jaye, how’s your wife?”

He said, “She’s doing much better now.  She’s home and might be returning to work this afternoon.”

“What happened?!?” I asked in regards to Jaye’s wife.

“A plane crashed into the World Trade Center.”  Chris Mullins answered.

I didn’t know what to say to his unsolicited answer.

“Oh…” I said and then redirected my question to Jaye, “What was wrong with your wife?!?”

It just didn’t seem like a big deal.  I guess I figured it was like the plane hitting the 14th Street bridge.  The bridge is still there and heck people survived that crash.

Then Chris Martz, Larry and I went into the conference room to see Martz’s first training session.  Mid-way through we had a technical difficulty.  We took a break and when we emerged from the room practically the rest of the company sat and stood in disbelief in front of a TV set in the lunch room.

Everyone was in shock.  Andy B’s sunburned face would occassionally turn from the TV with wide eyes– almost looking to others’ reactions for approval.  Jaye Snidow stood in silence and periodically shook his head.  It was as if he wasn’t allowed to express sorrow or fear so he settled for disgust.  Marvin sometimes lowered his head and his fingers would graze over his closed eyelids underneath his glasses.  Amy just sat, silent and dumbfounded.  At one point, Shane Kennedy grabbed a nearby newspaper ad and started writing.  Chris Martz’s usually medium complexion turned pale.  He’s supposed to fly out Thursday.

Larry Bowman disappeared for sometime, he even missed lunch.  When he returned I asked, “Hey what happened to you?”

“I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to go hug my daughter,” he said.

Stacy sent an email saying he was okay after the plane hit the Pentagon.  That affected me a bit.  I didn’t even consider he would be harmed.  But now that the notion crossed my mind as a possibility (even though Stacy already declared his well being) I wanted Stacy down here.  I wanted to see him and I wanted him to get out of that target for good.  I’m glad he is okay.

I went to a church service today at St. Mary’s.

It’s funny.  I never considered myself as an especially patriotic person.  I mean, I love my country and all, but I don’t get all emotional seeing the flag, hearing our anthem, etc.

Today at church the opening hymn was America the Beautiful.  When they annonced that, I suddenly got choked up.

I never noticed before but the words to that song are excellent…and reasonable.

I’m mentally and physically and emotionally tired.  I think I will go to sleep.

Notes on a Piece of Paper I Wrote at Work on 9/11/2001
Resentment of Life Going On


I am in a meeting, watching Chris Martz debut his … training.  My heart beats and my lungs breath.

Meanwhile on the streets of Manhattan, hundreds perhaps thousands, a “horrific” amount says the mayor of New York, of corpses lie buried and crushed under steel and rubble and suffocating grey dust.  Under what used to be the World Trade Center.

Here life goes on and we worry about trivial things like password prompts and the loss of love.  We have that luxury in our workplace.  The people of the Pentagon no longer have that.  Instead they have destruction and flames and evacuation to contend with.

But here, life goes on.

Entry from Journal on 9/12/2001
Envy of Dogs and Reading the Passenger List


Tonight I sat on the floor of my bedroom and watched, dumbfounded still, the television reports.  Jimmie kept approaching me wanting attention and I kept denying his bid for affection.  But he was persistant.  Finally I lost my patience and I pushed him far away.  He laid down and looked sad.  I felt bad.  I started to pet him and scratch his chest as he rolled on his back and held up his legs.  I laid down next to him and kept petting him on the neck and ears.  He looked at me with beautiful brown eyes and I thought:

“How can you explain this to a dog?  How can I make him understand?”

Although I still think if they were on the streets of New York, both dogs would feel the same fear as their human counterparts, here, now in Blacksburg, they can’t comprehend the loss and the pain.  And for that, I envy them.

At 6 AM this morning, Stench woke me up.  This, unfortunately, is becoming a daily ritual.  As I stumbled up, I noted the television was silent.   I closed in on it — as I always do without vision aids and as I have been finding myself needing to do even with glasses and contacts.  The TV was scrolling the names and ages of the people who were on the planes.  The silence made it all the more eerie.  I found myself uttering, “Oh my gawd” outloud as I watched this list slowly migrate up the screen.  [My exclamation] woke Sean up.

Later at work, I read a list on CNN.COM.  One flight it looked like a family of three perished… including a 4 year old.  A lot of passengers were senior citizens.

How can you look into the eyes of a 4 year old or the precious folded skin of a 77 year old and continue with their demise?

I went to work today.  I arrived an hour late.  I just couldn’t wake up.  Reality deterred me.  I even turned off the alarm clock.

I expected the … parking lot to be sparsely populated, even at 10 o’clock– but it appeared I was one of the last to arrive.

On one hand, I think it’s good so many continued on with life.  Showing “them” that we are okay and we are going to presevere.  Much like what I tried to do eight years ago.  Show that we are survivors.

But today, I felt a bit detached.  This whole tragedy still doesn’t feel real.  I haven’t had time to let it sink in to penetrate me.  Every now and then I feel like I should cry, that it would feel better to do so.  But I never did.

Those planes crashing into the buildings, all the deaths.  It doesn’t feel real.  It feels like a dream.

Entry from Journal on 9/13/2001
Silent Lunch, Patriotism and a Free Cookie

Day 3 after the disaster.  It still doesn’t feel real.  I can close my eyes and see with crisp detail the many images of that second plane colliding into the tower.  But still… it feels fabricated.

Today was the 3rd day in a row we ate lunch in near silence.  Day 1 we ate in a mob around the small TV set up in [the] lunch room.  Yesterday, Larry Bowman, Chris Martz, Bill C and I joined Sean’s regular lunch crew (Sean, John Smith and Colin Wiseley) at Gobblertown.  Independently, Tony Airaghi and Lud and two female co-workers showed up there as well.  A number of tables were pushed together.  We had a very large lunch crowd.  So many people, but it was more quiet than a simple lunch of two.  We all gawked at the TV set even though the reports never fully satiated our need for information.

Why did this happen?  Who really did it?  How many people died?  What were they like?  What were their dreams that will now be unfulfilled?  What kind of person did they want to be?

For the 2nd day in a row, I didn’t want to wake up.  I managed to force myself and got to work only 15 minutes late…I mean later than usual.  Yesterday I was an hour late.

I think part of the problem is we sleep with the news on.  Even when we’re sleeping, we are exposed to the terror and loss.  I don’t consciously notice anything and I don’t recall any negative dreams, but it can’t be a restful sleep.  Like Grandma’s morphine dampened misery the first week in the hospital.

People are displaying American flags everywhere.  We have one outside our cubicle wall.

Never since childhood have I coveted a flag so much.  I want to purchase one promptly.

All over the news you see the best of human nature evolve from the rubble.  Strangers helping strangers, people hugging and crying, everyone wishing each other the best.  Those gestures of generosity are so touching.

Tonight I saw a simple act of kindess, hours from the tragedy, right in my own town.

Sean and I went to Sycamore Deli for supper.  The owner greeted us promptly.

“How are you?” he said.

“The best you can be under the circumstances,” Sean said and the guy agreed.

A TV perched high up played the news of course.

I’m fond of the Sycamore Deli man.  Although he is too young to be mine, he reminds me of an uncle.  With his beard and vibrant demeanor, he reminds me of the Uncle Mark’s and the Uncle Timmy’s of my youth.  This man is always friendly and upbeat to us.  I’m glad we give him our business and I trust his food.

Tonight he rang us up and he said, “I accidently grabbed 3 cookies.  You two can split the third.”  He glanced up at the TV and noted, “We can all use an extra cookie this week.”

It was such a simple gesture, but its impact on me was astounding.  It was so nice of him.  Another time I got choked up.

In fact, I was so flustered with gratitude, I said “Thank you” and started to leave.

“Wait, we need our food.” Sean reminded me.

“If you want to pay $16 for a soda and a cookie, that’s fine with me!”  the Sycamore Deli man laughed.

He’s a very good man.  His business seems frequently empty.  I hope it never goes under.  I would hate to miss out on what has become a weekly encounter with this man and his great food.  Not to mention his awesome chocolate chip (& cinnamon?) cookies.

These cookies are delicious, but I bet this man could have offered us an extra stick of gum and the action would still be as meaningful.

Last night I woke up at 4:30 AM and watched the news for a while before falling back to sleep.

This morning I woke up and the news was still on.  I stood close to the TV and squinted to see the dusty cityscape without my glasses.  The whole morning and scene was just like yesterday.

I felt like I was in the movie “Groundhog Day.”

Well time for bed.

Entry from Journal on 9/14/2001
Thunderstorm Warnings and Camping


Another day and apparently no rescued survivors. 

It’s funny.  We now have an advanced weather monitoring system to warn the midwest of an approaching tornado.  We have flash flood warnings, hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings.  Heck we even scroll messages during prime time and transmit messages on the Emergency Broadcast System for thunderstorm warnings.  Not actual thunderstorms, but the potential of one.

These are acts of nature, acts of God, acts beyond our control.  Yet we can give people advanced notice.

But we weren’t able to warn people about objects we built and man.

I’m going camping with Carolyn and Jay tomorrow night.  It’s a good weekend to get away from it all and absorb the week’s events.  It’s especially a good weekend to spend with family.  I look forward to the Sawyer siblings having another adventure… like skiing earlier this year.

Entry from Journal on 9/17/2001
Marquee Mottos and Memorial Service


Tomorrow it will be a week from the attack.  It’s amazing.  I look around at America.  What I see is remarkably similiar to my life eight years ago.

Everywhere fast food marquees declare inspirational messages:

“We Will Overcome”

“Always Remember”

“Never Forget”

These are the same messages I told myself.  How frightened I was of forgetting … That notion seened like the worst thing that could ever happen.

Not it seems like nothing.  “So what?” I think.  I even venture to feel it isn’t part of my life anymore.

Another frequent marquee sign:

“God Bless America”

America has grown close to religion again as I did this time eight years ago.

America’s me.

There are some gas stations or restaurants that don’t have messages of significance.  Just annoncing the specials.  Then there is the Western Sizzler by work.  It went for a combination:

“God Bless America.

11 ounce sirloin $6.95”

On Friday Bowman and I went to the conference room to observe the moment of silence with our co-workers.  We ended up watching a service at the National Cathedral for 45 minutes.

I stood the entire time.  I really don’t see why but my legs started quivering.  I can run 2 miles, but I can’t stand for 45 minutes?

I kept thinking about sitting down, but then I remembered some wisdom from a choir director or CCD teacher.  She was responding to one of my peer’s complaints that kneeling was uncomfortable.

“Jesus died on the cross for you and you can’t even kneel for a few minutes?  Do you think hanging on a cross is comfortable?”

I think about that a lot when religion and discomfort are together.

September 10, 2006 at 8:23 pm 6 comments

Overestimating the Odds That Something is Dead

In my post this weekend about Jimmie’s Terror, my first thought was that Jimmie was dead.  This isn’t the first time I wrongly suspected something was deceased.  In fact last July 17th, Sean concluded on AOL IM:

you tend to overestimate the odds that something is dead

A couple of other examples:

Rugrat the Ferret
In our apartment and town home days, Sean and I had a sickly ferret named Rugrat.  I’m not sure if it was a product of her illnesses, but she was also a very sound sleeper.  Often I would find her upper body hanging limp over her hammock.  I could poke and prod with no response.  At times, I would even pick up her head and then drop it and watch gravity swing it lifelessly back and forth (Aaron Evans has this phenomenon on tape).  I fell for it a number of times. 

In particular, I remember one evening in our Pheasant Run town home.  I repeated the head swinging test a couple of times and yelled to Sean.

“She’s dead!”  Suddenly I had total disgust for this thing I had just been touching, “GET IT OUT OF HERE!”

From downstairs, Sean’s muffled voice assured, “She’s not dead.”

“This time she really is dead!  She’s DEAD!” I yelled, “Come look!”

So Sean ascended the stairs and sure enough as soon as he was in the room, Rugrat lifted her head and blinked her eyes, wondering what all the commotion was about.

Rugrat finally succumbed to her various health issues a year or so later while in the vet’s custody.  When the vet called to tell me she passed on I asked, “Are you sure she isn’t sleeping?”  It seemed like a legitimate question. 

The vet was not amused.

Henry the Beagle
Henry sleeps by me every night.  Frequently, I’ll wake up and see Henry lying very very still beside me with his eyes open and his mouth agape.  Poor Henry has been shaken awake on more than one occasion.  Usually he is pretty pissed and growls– which satisfies me.  Once I disrupt his perfect sleep, I’m able to lie back down and return to bed.  Meanwhile, poor Henry is left awake.

Stench the Cat
When Sean and I went to Colorado this past July, I left the door to the screened in porch propped open and placed a stockpile of water and food for the cat to ingest.  When we returned home, the cat was nowhere to be found.  We discovered that the door was no longer propped shut AND it was locked!  None of the food or water had been touched.  I quickly recalled that someone had been drunk and hanging out in the porch the night before our trip. 

I had a series of conclusions–  Sean locked Stench out of the porch->Stench could not get water->Stench died of horrible dehydration->My husband killed the cat.  I was married to… a cat killer! 

Apparently I could not conceal my suspicions.

“Why do you keep looking at me like I did this?!?!” Sean asked.

It turned out it was another false alarm.  Stench surfaced the next morning.  He wasn’t dead.  He didn’t even act like anything was out of the ordinary and he certainly didn’t seem to miss us.

In retrospect, all the rain the area got and the fact we had a person coming by twice a day to walk the dogs would have thwarted the death sentence I was certain Stench received.

Sean is very good at predicting my thoughts and our trip to Jekyll Island in 2002 was no exception.  One morning I woke up in the hotel to find a still and silent Sean.  I touched his shoulder and his skin was cold.  That was weird.  So I leaned in to see if he was breathing and when that was inconclusive, I poked his cheek to see if it too was cold.  Without moving or even opening his eyes, Sean spoke in a matter-of-fact tone:

“I’m not dead.”

So, yeah.  It does look like my death radar needs some calibration.  But the inevitability of death puts the odds on my side. 

Sooner or later, I’m bound to be right!

September 5, 2006 at 9:59 pm 4 comments

Sean’s Gift of Anticipation

In an earlier post, Dad Story: Hershey Kisses, I described a moment where Sean anticipated my thought and preemptively replied, "Yes, I'm sure it's not Hershey Kisses!"

This morning, I ran across an old e-mail where he displayed the exact same talent.  FYI: Stench is our cat.

—–Original Message—–
From: Sean
Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 2004 9:28 AM
To: Vicky
Subject: New one

I left the dryer door open with clothes in it and stench peed on them.

And yes, I'm sure it wasn't me.

April 6, 2006 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

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