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The Cat’s Meow: A Feline Queen’s 10-Point Decree

Greetings, loyal subjects. It is I, Queen Lily of The Forest.

I address you today to relay some important points about your life here. The Forest at Duke is a one-of-a-kind kingdom – err, queendom – and I, your magnanimous queen, wish for you to fully appreciate its value. With that said, I urge you to read and obediently observe all ten points of the following decree and heartily hold its associated anecdotes in high esteem.

1.  Enjoy the view.

The bay window seat in my living room is my favorite place in the whole world. Specifically, the bay window seat in my living room when my parents, Wes and Ebbie, are nearby is my favorite place in the whole world.

Lily watches a squirrel.
This is my favorite show ever. (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

On the other side of the glass, nestled within the lush branches of our Southern Magnolia, life is happening. There are woodpeckers, finches, jays, robins, cardinals, and squirrels galore, going about their day under my watchful eye. I have the full subscription to Kitty TV, and the front yard is my favorite channel. If there’s nothing exciting on, I’ll settle for a view of the street or sidewalk. There’s usually someone interesting walking by or a familiar vehicle passing through.

The Forest is full of beauty, everywhere you look. I wouldn’t have my royal realm any other way! The trees are so lovely in their green, yellow, orange, and red attire this time of year, and your neighbors’ gardens and hanging plants are a pleasant sight to see. Beyond the beautiful landscaping and charming cottages and buildings, the people are so friendly. Their warm and welcoming smiles are part of the magical atmosphere we all share.

I’m convinced you won’t find another place like ours anywhere else in the world. Even the sky seems a little bluer and brighter over The Forest! Stop and admire your surroundings. You’re swimming in the richness of good people (cats included, dogs questionable) and bountiful opportunities.

2.  Love your favorites, hard.

A little while ago, when my parents visited the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, they picked up a large, fuzzy, black bear just for me. They insist it wasn’t intended for me, but I know better. A souvenir is merely a gift for your queen.

Lily snuggles with her bear.
Such a loyal bear. I plan on knighting him “Sir Rocky” very soon. (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

Mr. Rocky is a wonderfully loyal subject and understands my intense need for attention and snuggles. To hear my father tell it, you might think I’m too rough with Mr. Rocky. “She drags him all over the house by his ear,” he’ll tell you. And Mom does the same. “She carries him from the window seat to the master bedroom on the other end of the cottage, then from the floor to the top of the bed,” she’ll add.

Mind you, I’m not too rough on Mr. Rocky. I spend much of our time together lying peacefully beside him, simply enjoying his company. Nonetheless, Mom and Dad insist upon keeping my dear bear in what they call “Witness Protection,” all for the sake of keeping his fur and good shape preserved. Hmph. I never.

But if Dad is right about one thing, it’s his understanding of my demands. “Everything she wants, she gets,” he says with a laugh. Despite his reservations, he and Mom continue to pull Mr. Rocky out of hiding on a regular basis to give me my snuggle time. As a reward for their faithfulness, I never bite my parents – I simply hold them in place with my teeth. I love them so.

Forest subjects, love your favorites as much as I love mine. Certainly you have loved ones both near and far – family you cherish and friends you enjoy seeing every day. Don’t let a day go by without those people knowing how you truly feel about them. Spend more time with your acquaintance from the Residents’ Association. Get down in the dirt and dig alongside your chum from the Grounds Committee. Share a game of bridge with your lunch mates. Call your children and grandchildren and invite them over for a visit.

Speaking of grandchildren, do you know what Mom says? “I have almost as many pictures of Lily as I do of my grandchildren.” To that, Dad laughs. “And Lily says, ‘So?’” (He knows me so well.)

3.  Take advantage of the treats.

If I do say so myself, I am a sweet tempered queen. A discerning leader. A beautiful, patient ruler. But I will say this: I do not have patience for a delayed treat.

Did someone say “treats”? My tongue awaits such scrumptious delights. (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

Dad and I have quite the regimented treat schedule: three times a day, Greenies in the morning, no exceptions. As Dad tells it, “Sometimes I take a little too long to make my coffee before I give [Lily] her treat. She does not care for that at all!” He’s right about that. If it’s treat time, and he forgets that it’s treat time, I will stand at the end of the kitchen counter and gently remind him. With my paws. POP. Give them up, human.

Lucky for you, my dear subjects, the treat situation in Heartwood Café and the Rosewood Room is much more consistent. Thanks to our talented pastry chef, Nicholas, The Forest has ample opportunity to enjoy sweet treats every single day. Craving a chewy chocolate chip cookie at lunch? Nic has you covered. A scrumptious brownie at dinner? No problem. Looking for something more adventurous, like chocolate beet cake, Fruits of The Forest pie, or gooey butter bars? A non-issue. There’s always something delicious to eat solo or as a complement to your meal.

Take advantage of those delectable bites, I say. And remember, Nic’s always looking for ways that everyone can enjoy dessert – even those on restricted diets. There are lots of sugar-free options, but if you’re looking for a different treat to satisfy your sweet tooth, speak up like I do! Just don’t pop any team members to get your way. Such behavior is reserved for queens.

4.  Do your part to make your house a home.

I may be a noble creature in this community, but I am not of such high birth that I cannot help around my own home. Just ask Mom: my favorite is helping with the laundry! My specialty is pressing out clothes by making biscuits on them. I make the freshest biscuits around, adding luxurious, silken strands to each garment as I go. I even warm the clothes before Mom and Dad get dressed for the day. Aren’t I thoughtful? You don’t get to be queen by being a fool.

Fresh, made-from-scratch biscuits, anyone? Coming right up! (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

You can also make your home here at The Forest more beautiful by serving your neighbors in unique and special ways. There are a number of committees that would love your help. Have you considered joining the Green Team? They teach others in the community how to refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle, in turn making our corner of the world a better place. Pretty noble, I’d say.

There are a number of fine groups awaiting your membership and special touch. On the Interior Gardens Committee, you would add splashes of color and beauty to every nook and cranny of the Health Center. How wonderful! As a volunteer in the library, you would spread the joy of reading to all who pass through the doors. There are plenty of opportunities to make our home more lovely, and you needn’t look far to find your niche in service to others.

It may be hard to believe, but being jaw-droppingly beautiful like me isn’t enough. We must all do our part.

5.  Warmly welcome everyone who crosses your path.

Ask anyone who has visited our cottage: I am the official welcoming committee to all who enter these doors. I’m the first to greet guests, the one who graces their ankles with my silky warmth, and the ethereal being who bids them adieu at the end of their stay. I am not only their queen, but the queen of hospitality. I cozy up to our guests, entertain them, and ensure that they feel appreciated and included.

Lily sits in a bathroom drawer.
Greetings, human. (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

I do the same for Mom and Dad. I wait for them in our bay window seat every time they go out. Even if it’s just to the Community Center for dinner, I’m always waiting for them in the window upon their return. I love being near them at home and insist upon sitting on or near them. They could always use my charming company, after all. I’m an adoring daughter, what can I say?

You, too, can be a warm and welcoming entity here at The Forest. We are hosts to new faces on a regular basis. If you spot a guest, give them a smile and a sincere greeting. Team members always appreciate a kind word and a friendly nod in passing. New residents, even those who have lived in Durham for much of their lives, could also use your love. They may already have friends on campus, but why not add yourself to that list? You can never have too many friends.

Give the best of yourself to everyone you meet, whether they’re new to our community or established neighbors. Everyone deserves a ray of sunshine to make their day a little brighter. And as someone who enjoys basking (and napping) in puddles of warm sunlight, I can tell you that there is nothing like it. Be the friendly face you’d like to see and pass that warmth along.

6.  Get your daily exercise and beauty sleep.

This kind of beauty sleep isn’t for the weak. (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

You might look at my sleek, gorgeous physique and think that I earned these looks naturally. While your supposition would be mostly correct, I also believe in taking care of myself to give my appearance that extra sparkle. Not to mention, my health is also pretty important. As much as I’d love to subsist on treats alone, that would do absolutely nothing for my figure.

Besides regular beauty naps – always taken on my back – exercise is the name of my game. I have a few toys I enjoy batting around (in my most elegant, regal manner, of course), but my favorite activity is getting the zoomies.

If you’ve ever been in the company of a fabulous feline like me, you may already know all about this. I prefer to get the zoomies (or run my track meets, as Dad says) at night. There is a method to my madness: I figure nighttime is the best time to run around aimlessly, because there’s no one awake to hinder my path. As such, I won’t inadvertently trip them, either. Isn’t that so thoughtful of me? My parents don’t seem to appreciate my reasoning. They say I wake them up with my nocturnal sprints. Eh. So be it. A girl has to do what a girl has to do, you know?

Now, these piercing green eyes, feather boa tail, and long, silky fur are 100% natural. No matter how much you run, swim, or otherwise burn calories, you will never look this good. Sorry to disappoint you.

However, there are many, many options available at The Forest to help you look and feel your best. You could play table tennis, take a yoga class, or enjoy a go at square dancing. You could also take part in Tai Chi, dance your heart out at Zumba, or participate in a cardio and strength conditioning meet-up. Whether you prefer to be inside or in the great outdoors, there’s definitely something fun for you to try! If the treadmill and free weights aren’t quite your speed, perhaps you’d like to join the Forest Striders and get off campus for some exciting, scenic hikes. Whatever keeps you moving is important.

And sleeping. Beauty sleep is always good.

7.  Take some time for yourself if things feel overwhelming.

Sometimes, as queen, I am obligated to fulfill the most unpleasant of duties. I must tolerate the occasional visit from groomers who insist upon clipping my beautiful claws, just when I’ve sharpened them to their prime. And Mom and Dad wonder why I go running when I see that forsaken car pull into the drive! “She does not like it when they come to give her her mani-pedi,” Mom says. “She is not pleased.”

Going somewhere without me? I think not. (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

No, I’m not. Not at all. And I’m entitled to be skittish for the rest of the day when I must endure such offensive events.

I am also displeased at a number of other occurrences: when Mom and Dad travel (how dare they leave me behind?!), finding myself stuck atop the bathroom door (don’t ask), being groomed with the FURminator (ugh), and riding in the car (horrible) to visit the vet (UGH) to get my shots (the horror!).

When these things happen, whenever possible, I take it upon myself to promptly exit the scene and find appropriate shelter. When my parents’ five-year-old granddaughter comes to visit the castle, I politely sit by Margo and grace her with my presence. (I’m a dutiful hostess, as previously mentioned.) However, when her youthful vigor becomes too much for this regal feline to bear, I hasten to depart and find sanctuary beneath Mom and Dad’s four-post bed. Margo tends to follow me under there, so I really need to find a new hiding place, but my point remains the same: stealing away is A-okay.

Take care of yourself. Things don’t always feel good. That’s life. When the going gets tough, you can do what I do and burrow under quilts and blankets. Or, if it’s more your speed, hide away in your apartment or cottage for a while and watch some movies. Listen to your favorite music and sing along to lift your spirit. Maybe knit a blanket for me to lie on. Something that will keep you distracted from the troubles of life and that I’ll ultimately appreciate. It’s important to refill your tank.

8.  Drink plenty of water.

The most delicious water in all the land comes from this very place. (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

Speaking of refilling your tank – are you drinking enough water, my friends? The sink is the place to be, as far as I’m concerned. And while my loyal subjects/parents dutifully provide me with fresh water every day, I just don’t see it as fresh enough. Hence, the bathroom sink is my drinking fountain.

According to Mom, “[Lily] will deign to drink from her bowl if you’re filling it and then hold it for her. She’s a diva – she just is! She really runs the show, and we just love it. She’s a sweetheart.”

How right you are, Mom.

Dear people of The Forest, see to it that you, too, stay well hydrated. Cats and humans just function better with water to fuel us. Whether you prefer drinking from a bottle, the café fountain, or your sink, there are many choices available to you here. Don’t forget the fruit-infused water in the lobby during the summer months. I hear that stuff is the cat’s pajamas!

9.  Spend time in your favorite places.

I have a lot of habitual haunts in our cottage – err, castle – and I’m not shy about them. The sink, of course. Under the quilt on my parents’ bed. Dad’s chair or ottoman.

Pull open a drawer and stay a while. (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

I was adopted from Cause for Paws in Raleigh, a mere princess at only eight months old. Even as a foster kitten, I had my preferred spaces: beds, soft sofas, cozy laps, and what have you. When I entered Steen Castle in the fall of 2017, I was immediately crowned Queen of my domain and took to the throne: my favorite window perch in the living room.

My ideal spaces are safe, comfortable, and inviting. They’re exactly the places a delicate, discerning feline wants to be.

What are your favorite locations here at The Forest? Are you a fan of the art studio? The wood shop? The fitness center or pool? How about the community garden, the café, or a good friend’s armchair?

Perhaps you like being at home best. That’s okay! We all have places we feel most comfortable, and we should spend much of our time there. It’s important to recalibrate and find our centers in the spaces we find most appealing. I encourage you to find those spaces for yourself, if you haven’t already. There are lots of places to explore at The Forest and plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Like treat bags.

10.  Lend a hand. Or a paw, as it were.

Lily plays with her mom's shoestrings.
Thread, loose strings, shoelaces… They’re all acceptable playthings to me! (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

My parents don’t always appreciate my noble actions, but I am among the most helpful felines in all the land. For example, Mom loves making beautiful needlepoint pieces and is quite talented at doing so. I’ve often admired her handiwork and have wished to make something so lovely myself.

That’s why, when Mom goes into her stitch room, I get the zoomies and race into the space with her! She complains that I “get into everything,” but I’m only trying to gather materials to help her with her latest project. Honestly, it hurts my feelings that she and Dad keep the stitch room closed to prevent me from going in. Why should any place be off-limits to a being of noble birth and blood?

For the record, curiosity never killed the cat, it simply inspired her. There’s nothing wrong with digging around in my parents’ things to see what fun awaits me. Why can’t I play with Mom’s spools of thread? Who’s to say I don’t simply want to learn the craft of needlepoint myself?


I digress.

Lily sits atop a door.
Looking down upon my queendom. (Photo courtesy of Wes and Ebbie Steen)

If you want to keep yourself out of trouble and make things better for those around you (whether they see it or not), you can also be a big helper like me. Have you really ever looked at the incredible number of resident-led activities, groups, and initiatives we have at The Forest? You could lend your voice to the Forest Singers or make and fix beautiful jewelry through the Jewelry Design & Repair Workshop. You could serve on the Marketing Committee and give the Sales & Marketing team your great ideas to attract prospective residents.

Love shopping? Why not volunteer in the gift shop or the Encore Store and promote our very important Benevolent Fund? Have a green thumb? You could be join the Rose Clippers, work on your own community garden plot, or tend plants in the greenhouse. If you have a heart for serving others, you could volunteer in the Health Center or mentor a new resident.

There’s something for everyone at The Forest. I kid you not, there’s even someone here who coordinates cat claw clipping…

I shudder at the thought.

Regardless of my feelings on the matter, you bring an important and unique set of skills to the table, and I urge you to put those talents to good use. Yes, even if you’re especially good at trimming claws.


Royal decree by Queen Lily of The Forest, as witnessed this day by Lauren Young, Marketing Specialist

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