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Is that a hug, or are you trying to kill me with compressive stress?

Young’s Modulus aside, stress isn’t just tensile or compressive.

Stress is a toddler waking you at 2am, screaming about a nightmare he refuses to discuss.

Stress is having a crisis at work that forces you to stay late and work over the weekends in order to save the company.

Stress is, less than a week before the end of the month, bolting awake (shortly after finally drifting back to sleep post toddler’s nightmare scream-fest) and realizing you completely forgot about your promise to read a friend’s book and provide feedback by the end of the month.

Stress is a neighbor’s car alarm going off at 4am, triggered by the feral cats that march in a continuous, unseen stream to defecate on your lawn, shortly after you’ve managed to drift back to sleep after recovering from the double-whammy of an extremely vocal toddler with a bad dream problem and remembering you have less than five days to read a friend’s nine hundred page tome about sentient moss that declares war on landsquid using flying alpacas as a proxy army.

All after pulling an eighteen hour day at work.

Stress is the coffee maker, already hard-pressed to meet your caffeine requirements, shuddering violently, sloshing you with scalding hot but still not coffeed-up water, and then giving up the ghost the morning after all the above.

Oh yeah, and stress can also be shear.

But even though stress isn’t just tensile or compressive (or shear) doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel that way when you experience it.

There is good news, though, so don’t abandon all hope ye who clicked here and read.

The good news being there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The tunnel held up by supports under a great deal of compressive stress.

And hopefully zero shear stress.

The toddler will grow out of the night terror stage.

Or end up institutionalized at a psychiatric facility well out of earshot.

The crisis at work will be solved, and your schedule return to normal.

Or it won’t be, and the company will fold and you’ll find yourself with a lot of free time to relax and not worry about work.

The friend will be understanding, given all the stress you are under, and not hold it against you when you warn her that the critique will be late.

Or she will hate you till the end of her days, spitefully poisoning your reputation amongst your shared circle of writer friends, thus ensuring no more beta requests ever cross your desk.

Those feral cats will die, eventually, and their population will stabilize, eventually, so that the fecal flood zone will stop rising, probably long before it hits your front porch.

Or you’ll be arrested for discharging a shotgun in a public place at 2am, and PETA will put you on their ‘boycott and send hate mail’ list, causing your book sales to briefly spike but ultimately bottom out as people read the press and police reports and realize what a psychotic bastard you are.

Especially when they find out about the four-year old you packed off to an institution just so you could sleep at night.

The coffee machine can be replaced, assuming that work crisis is solved and you still have a job. And those burns will heal, after a long and painful period that introduces you to a level of misery you had no idea could exist.

Or, if you’re lucky, the hot water plus an energized but malfunctioning coffee maker will result in you being fatally electrocuted.

In that case, all your other problems won’t seem quite so serious.

I thought writing this post would help, but all in all, I find I’m not feeling any better about my stress levels.

In fact, I think I’m experiencing shear terror.

 

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Tread Carefully, O Muse, or at least wear shoes…

So last week I talked about the joys of mowing my lawn.  This week I want to talk about maintaining my lawn.

These are not the same thing.

You know what’s stressful? Trying to keep your kids from drawing on every single flat surface they can find once they’ve gotten their little hands on a crayon.

A crayon, to a toddler, is an invitation to leave their mark on the world. And by mark, I mean marks. And when I say marks, I am not conveying clearly enough the extreme plural nature of the marks. These kids draw on walls, floors, drawers, doors, windows, screens, television sets, chairs, shoes, other crayons, and occasionally, themselves.

And this is an extremely small subset of the things they will draw on with those god-forsaken crayons.

(It’s a well-known fact: every time a child is handed a crayon, a demon gets his horns.)

What does this have to do with maintaining my lawn? I’ll get there.

I own dogs. This means that they leave lots of little presents for me on the lawn in the backyard. But that’s okay. Because I knew what I was getting into when I decided I wanted to own dogs. So while I don’t exactly enjoy cleaning up these little pee-mail attachments, it comes with the territory.

My front lawn is a different story. Maintaining my front lawn is extremely stressful. Almost as stressful as dealing with my kids and their crayons.

Why is maintaining my front lawn extremely stressful? Let me tell you.

Maintaining my front lawn is extremely stressful because I live in a Third World neighborhood.

What do I mean by that? Let me tell you.

My neighborhood is overrun by cats.

I’m not talking about the fluffy Persian cats that turn their nose up at the wrong brand of cat food, or that sashay back and forth across their house’s front window, showing off their ‘Best In Show’ ribbon.

I’m talking about feral cats.  And when I say cats, I am not conveying clearly enough the extreme plural nature of the cats.

This confederation of feral cats is thriving because I have a well-intentioned neighbor who insists on feeding them. He loves these cats. LOVES them. He leaves out several bowls of food for them each day, and he leaves the door open to one of his cars, so they have someplace dry to stay during the rainy season.

Aw, how touching.

Despite this affection, he avoids all other aspects of pet ownership, such as tags and collars, regularly scheduled veterinary visits, and, more importantly, being responsible enough to neuter said feral cats. And as the old saying goes, “An unneutered feral cat community that lives together loves forever, eventually producing enough offspring to overrun an entire neighborhood.”

Why, you ask, do I care? Let me tell you while I sit here, serenaded by the yowls of a couple of feral cats rutting just on the other side of my fence, driving my dogs into an apoplectic barking frenzy that I am convinced is going to end in an aneurysm, either for one of the dogs, or for me.

You know the one thing the cats won’t do in the area where they are fed? If you said, “Go to the bathroom,” then ding ding ding! you win a prize.  Instead, they go somewhere else to do that particular business. Which is where my front lawn comes in.

(If you’re one of those lawyer types and you’re going to start shouting about getting your prize, just send me your address. As soon as I get it, I’ll go out to my front lawn and scoop up your reward.)

I’ve tried everything to keep them off my lawn. I have a spotlight on a motion sensor. I’ve left out mothballs. I’ve sprinkled the essence of jalapeno pepper around my lawn. I scattered granules of a particularly nasty smelling repellent on my lawn (made with, among other things, spoiled egg and dried blood). I’ve even tried watering my lawn every single night so that it’s soaking wet.

(I have even thought [SHUDDER] of leaving food out for them so they’ll do their business elsewhere.  But that’s just forcing the problem onto someone else.)

The cats don’t care what I do to discourage them. They love my lawn. It is the best kitty litter box they have ever encountered. They tell other cats passing through the neighborhood, “Hey dude, if you ever need to take a dump, have we got the perfect lawn for you!”

It’s driving me crazy.

Oh, I’ve thought of more extreme measures. I looked into traps so I could take them to the local shelter and have them fixed (and let me be clear – by fixed I mean neutered, NOT euthanized). Traps cost $65. And one of my neighbors, who’s already tried this approach, reports that the local shelter simply brought the cat back unaltered.

I’ve also thought about slingshots, pellet guns, even a .22 rifle (they’re not that loud). The old SNL yard-a-pult skit has also come to mind. But as a pet owner and all around decent human being, I could never harm another animal. Even if I have just stepped, barefoot, in that animal’s still warm and most-recent-in-a-long-string-of fecal deposits on my lawn.

However, I think I’ve finally come upon a humane solution. It involves my children and crayons.

The only problem is crayons don’t work very well on cat fur.

Does anyone have any advice on how to minimize the level of injury sustained while shaving a cat?

 
 

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