Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Feng Shui

Oh boy do I miss those kitties. The kittens are currently at a friend’s house and we are temporarily in an apartment. We are in an apartment because the roof has come off our house. This has happened on purpose, however, and it is a good thing as we are adding on a couple of rooms. (Boy has Katrina really put that in perspective for me!) The house, though “light and airy” at present, has no walls or roof to speak of. Great views, but it is also noisy and dusty. Not a shelter for man or beast in any sense of the word.

We found a nice furnished hotel-like two-bedroom apartment on campus, and because Greg is a professor, it is a truly cheap option for the four (make that six) of us. The one drawback is that pets are not allowed. When we first arrived in Boulder, we stayed in university housing (before pets) and noticed that though pets were not allowed, there were many people who had them anyway. So we figured we’d be one of those tenants this time around. Only the place we are staying this time around is slightly different from our old apartment. It has the added bonus that it is more truly furnished and they clean it on Tuesdays and Fridays, change the sheets, make the beds, etc. Really nice that they do this, but a sure-fire way to let them know about the feline members of the family.

Wanting to make it all work, we arranged an elaborate plan for Greg to take the kittens to work on the cleaning days. I dealt with disguising their food and litter; he dealt with the cats. We became kitten smugglers. It felt wrong to me, so pre-meditated and effortful. Not a passive sort of, ”Oh, I’m sorry, cats aren’t allowed? I didn’t know,” or, “it didn’t occur to me that it would be a problem.” So how to work it? Other ideas included bribing the cleaning staff, who were surely underpaid, not to report us. But this seemed triply wrong to me: first the pets, then the bribe, and then asking someone to take the bribe. We never seriously considered that.

The cats are small and not destructive, but it still made me tense every time they would meow or even when they would sit prettily on the windowsill. I was out much of the first day they were here, but during the one hour I was in the apartment, a man knocked at one of the doors (we have two doors, confusing!). And since I didn’t immediately know which door he was at, he thought no one was home and came in to pick up the university-owned phone. Yikes! I quickly shooed him out and handed him the phone through the door. But what if I had been away? It was our first day and already we were almost busted!

The next day was a cleaning day so Greg took the cats to work. He really seemed to enjoy the subterfuge. He said he also enjoyed having them at work. But the real wake up call came when I mentioned to the boys that they should tone down talk of the kitties because technically, they weren’t allowed. This truly distressed Rees. If it was wrong, it was wrong, no gray area about it. I have to admit it distressed me too. We tried to reassure him, but he could not relax. And what good instincts for him to know that what was wrong was wrong. We should encourage that instinct, not dismiss it. Finally, he said, “Mom, you know the cats? In the apartment, they are bad feng shui.”

He hit the nail on the head. I often talk about feng shui as something that either makes you feel comfortable and secure, or something that doesn’t. For the kids that would mean that leaving your glass of milk near the edge of the table or absent-mindedly rocking the pitcher of juice back and forth would be “bad feng shui.” I include in this category being loud and fast in a restaurant or behaving erratically in front of people carrying trays of food or walking on crutches. The response from the kids that, “I wasn’t going to crash into them,” doesn’t cut it for me. It is still distressing, and so “bad feng shui.” At one point, Rees had taken to asking me if he was bad feng shui! Poor kids. I was afraid they were going to grow up with a very distorted view of feng shui.

And the cats, usually a source of good feng shui as they come up to you and purr or sit prettily looking out the window, ears alert, tails twitching, had suddenly become a source of stress and danger. I tried to rationalize it, but it was clear that neither Rees nor I was comfortable with the situation. I imagined dirty looks from our neighbors in the apartment, I avoided going to the housing office to ask questions, and was tense every time I passed someone in the halls or walked by that especially menacing door labeled “Resident Manager.” Uggh.

So I started asking around and found the family of one of Rees’ friends who were cat lovers, but miraculously did not have cats. They were willing to cat sit. They are responsible and loving and I trust them completely. Good feng shui there. We delivered the cats to them and the cats have adjusted well to their new circumstances. Still, it seems a long time to be away from the kitties---six weeks when we have only had them for three months. But they seem happy and the energy in our apartment has improved dramatically. I can smile at the people in the halls now and have even had nice conversations with the resident manager. Our neighbors suddenly look much more friendly. The feng shui has definitely improved.

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