Cat Ellen


Reflections on a Birthday


This is what 49 looks like in my world–tiara and bright hair!

Thinking About Thinking

Social Media usage and the political climate over the past two years has seriously affected whether or not I posted my thoughts through blog posts. For a while there, my blogs were scattered in different locations, and then I started pulling them all together (here). But most of my social circles are on Facebook, and I just haven’t been as journal-consistent lately as in days past. 

As I’ve been reflecting on what I think about my birthday today and what I might plan for the next 365 days, my thoughts were unfolding with the need to bring back the simple blog post approach. Also, part of my reflections are (a) what are my current habits? and (b) what habits would I like to be building? What legacy will I take from my forties?

Reflecting on Where I’ve Been

Today I’ve turned 49. This starts the last year of this decade. And it’s been a wonderful decade.

Seven years ago, my Sweetie and I entered into a relationship that has surprised us both. A month after our friendship had evolved into a “relationship,” I also found American Tribal Style (ATS®) Bellydance. It’s Sweetie’s fault (hee hee), a fact that has never quite been lived down.

I moved from the Long Beach area after seven awesome years with my Best Roomie EVAR™ to several years alongside my bellydance community in a small rented room (piled high with crafty gear) to several years with my Sweetie (and most of the crafty gear now in storage, or piled high in one of two locations at the house). Gone are the large tea parties in our spacious living room, and ushered in are the dufflebags and totebags for living on the road and from small spaces. 

After 12 years of contract jobs, one right after another, I’ve spent three years now at one job downtown. It has helped me become debt-free, allow me to “buy a real car” for the first time, and allowed my Sweetie to flourish in a freelance mode with my administrative assistance. And I now help run or market several websites for several events or small business efforts. 

My dance path has moved from beginner to advanced student (taking up to 15-20 hours of class or rehearsal per week) to beginning instructor to now I’m teaching three times per week. Next year I should be able to launch my first two-hour block of classes since I finally have enough students to offer something in the intermediate level. There have been some really rough spots trying to teach, and I still don’t always have enough students every week. But my heart is still in it and my current students still fill my week with so much joy.

My SCA involvement relaxed massively over the past seven years, and I’m still trying to find my favorite balance for that love. Santa season and Storytelling events and Instructor opportunities on my Sweetie’s schedule fill in between my full-time job, full-time commute, Dance instruction, and Crafy pursuits.

Health is an odd thing as I go into my 49th year. Two years ago, I started having issues with my knees. I still need to regularly work on my physical therapy exercises, and it’s still never a given whether I can walk easily or might need a cane just to be sure of myself on the pavement outside of my work building. I haven’t hit the joys of “hot flashes” yet (I know, I’m oversharing now), but I can tell that I’m headed into a new world of hormones now, too. (Most notably, I get dizzy when I am lying down which is extraordinarily weird.) 

How the Present Has Been Affecting Me

I took an amazing workshop in January 2017 to specifically plan and dream about Goal Setting for Artists and Dancers. When I boiled down my dreams and goals, I found that my Keys are “Time and Space.” To make my dreams come true, I just need “Time and Space.” I’m still working on creating and reserving that time for my efforts. And I definitely could benefit from carving out the space needed. Nothing comes just by wishing for it. You have to plan and then work for it.

I do love that I took some of my Facebook efforts and motivations for other people and turned it into a project and community. If you’re not already following Daily Movement Prompts, you are invited to check it out. I post on that blog, sometimes with pithy quote images, other times just with conversations and thoughts about intentional movements. They’re not always daily, but I do my best. There’s a Secret Group on Facebook associated with the private community. Contact me if that’s something you might like to participate in. 

My artistic pursuits have expanded beyond the framework of SCA-specific research and efforts, although my love for history and re-creation has not waned. I just also love to spin modern fibers with some very modern (invented!) techniques. I’m also now madly in love with thinking about indigenous techniques from the people in the Andes mountains, especially techniques passed down from before Pre-Columbian western contact. I’m indebted to Abby Franquemont for her Backstrap Weaving intensive class at PlyAway2, and cannot wait to spend additional time in both the modern textiles community and the indigenous weaving techniques.

Where Will I Go Next?

There are publishing plans in the works for our home business for my Sweetie and me. I have dance and activity plans for my body and will need to figure out what that means to be an athlete in my 50s when my next decade arrives. And my big dream is to travel. I want to travel for teaching dance. I want to travel with my Sweetie’s teaching opportunities. And I want to travel (both local and worldwide) to see friends and family, and really enjoy this amazing planet we’re on. There might need to be employment refinements to afford me the opportunities for travel. But I’ll have my eyes open.

And I’m hoping to remember how to share my travel missives again with my friends and family. So you might be able to expect to see more blog posts again. 


Responding (or Not) to Body Shaming or Cat Calls


Someone posted on a Facebook forum, describing a humiliating experience she went through today. While bicycling (and then locking up her bike), a gang of young men made increasingly aggressive cat calls and noises at her. She usually finds it easy to ignore them, but it disturbed her more today. She wrote to the group partially because we can empathize and maybe we might have advice on how she could have handled it differently.

My response apparently struck a chord, because just a few hours later, it now has DOZENS of “likes” on Facebook. I thought maybe some of you might like to consider this, too. Here’s what I wrote to her.

Here’s the thing: NONE OF THAT WAS YOUR FAULT. It’s not your fault they taunt women. It’s not your fault they taunt fat women. AND THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ANY REACTION YOU CHOOSE. You get to choose what you do. Regardless whether you walk away or turn and face them or say something or not say something, YOUR CHOICE IS NEVER WRONG. We’re not to be blamed for walking away, or being silent, or speaking back, or speaking up — because the confrontation was never about us. **HUGS**

Remember, what matters most is that you get a chance to take back YOUR CHOICES from the pressure of society or family or friends or media or strangers. It’s entirely up to you if you want to smile, or if you want to exercise, or if you want to travel alone, or if you want to pursue a specific career or education, or if you want to be in an intimate relationship, or if you want to change relationship status, or if you prefer to be alone at this time, or if you want to eat this instead of that, or if you prefer to…. You see my point?

While there might be limitations in your life that are outside your control whether that’s a medical condition or a learning disability or a minority status that affects your very day-to-day existence, and others may have privilege that you don’t have access to, what you DO HAVE is personal autonomy. There are many decisions which are *entirely yours* to make.

And if you ever need an ally to support you, please feel free to consider asking me to be there. Because it’s very possible I would be honored to be there to support your right to make your own personal choices.



Movies Recommended


In my original post, I admitted I’d never seen Blade Runner and then I took recommendations for movies I should see. In six hours alone, I received a *TON* of recommendations. Here’s the sorted list with duplicates removed and the titles sorted into “haven’t seen, won’t see,” and “already seen” categories.


…that have been recommended (currently 213 titles or franchise/series)

  • 1984
  • 2 Smoking Barrels
  • 50 First Dates
  • Across the Universe
  • Addams Family — all the movies with Angelica Houston
  • The Adjustment Bureau
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (anything by Terry Gilliam really)
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
  • African Queen
  • Agora
  • August Rush
  • Akira
  • Aliens
  • Amelie
  • American in Paris
  • As Good as it Gets
  • Assassination Bureau
  • Atonement
  • Babette’s Feast
  • Baraka
  • The BandWagon
  • Batman Returns
  • La Belle et la Bête (1946)
  • Bicentennial Man
  • Big Fish
  • The Big Sleep (1940s version)
  • Big Trouble in Little China
  • Blade Runner
  • Blast from the Past
  • Blow Dry
  • Boondock Saints
  • Bringing up Baby
  • Brazil
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s — might have seen part of this
  • Casablanca
  • Chef
  • Chocolat
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Clash of the Titans (original)
  • Clear and Present Danger
  • Cold Mountain
  • Court Jester
  • Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
  • Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Dancing at Lughnasa
  • Dangerous Beauty
  • Don Juan de Marco
  • Dracula (Bram Stoker’s)
  • Easter Parade
  • Empire of the Sun
  • The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — oooh, I’ve wanted to see this
  • A Face in the Crowd
  • The Field
  • The First Wives Club
  • Focus
  • The Fountain
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral
  • Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers — I’d have to pull the list of these
  • Frida
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Frisco Kid
  • The Game (with Michael Douglas)
  • Gaslight
  • Glory
  • The Godfather
  • Gone With the Wind
  • The Great Escape
  • Harlequin
  • Harold and Maude
  • The Harvey Girls
  • The Help
  • Hero
  • His Girl Friday (almost anything with Cary Grant)
  • The Holiday
  • Holiday Inn
  • Hope and Glory
  • House of Flying Daggers
  • House of the Green Dagger
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 days
  • Ice Age — any of them
  • Idiocracy
  • If
  • The Illusionist
  • In & Out (Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck)
  • In Bruges
  • In Her Shoes
  • In the Line of Fire
  • In the Name of the Father
  • Indiana Jones — need to see which ones I missed, I’ve seen I think the first one and maybe most recent
  • James Bond — need to make a list and possibly watch them all in release order. (not sure if I’ve seen any of them or not)
  • Jason Bourne — any of the Bourne movies
  • Jerry Maguire
  • Kate & Leopold
  • anything with Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi
  • King Kong (the one by the guy who did the Lord of the Rings movies)
  • Kingdom of Heaven
  • Kung Fu Hustle
  • The Lady Eve
  • Lady Jane
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Legend — not sure if I’ve seen this or not
  • Legends of the Fall
  • Leon the Professional (Director’s Cut)
  • Less than Zero
  • Like Water for Chocolate
  • Lion in Winter (O’Toole, Hepburn)
  • Little Women (Kate Hepburn)
  • Love Actually
  • Madagascar — any of them
  • Major League
  • Maltese Falcon
  • Mama Mia
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth
  • Master and Commander
  • Meet Joe Black
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • Merry Christmas Mr. Laurence
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil
  • Millers Crossing
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  • Mission Impossible — any of them
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Moonstruck
  • Mongol
  • Mr & Mrs Smith (2005)
  • Mrs Brown
  • Much Ado About Nothing (the Kenneth Branagh version) — maybe I’ve seen it?
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon version)
  • My Holmes
  • My Left Foot
  • Mystery Men
  • Nanny McPhee
  • Neverending Story
  • Ocean’s Eleven — not sure if I’ve seen this
  • Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Oscar
  • Out of Africa
  • Peggy Sue Got Married
  • Phantom of the Paradise
  • Philomena
  • The Pianist
  • Pitch Perfect — not sure if I saw this or not, need to check. maybe?
  • Pride & Prejudice (the 1995 mini series)
  • PS I Love You
  • Quadraphinia
  • The Quiet Man
  • Ran
  • A River Runs Through It
  • Robin & Marion
  • Robin Hood (Errol Flynn)
  • Roller Ball
  • Roman Holiday
  • Romeo and Juliet (Zeffirelli’s)
  • Sabrina (1950s version)
  • The Saint
  • Samsara
  • Scent of a Woman
  • Schindler’s List
  • The Secret of Roan Inish
  • Secretary
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Shanghai Noon (Jackie Chan)
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • Shirley Temple, anything with ST in it
  • Silk Stockings
  • Silverado
  • Sinful Davey
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Six Days, Seven Nights
  • Sling Blade
  • Snatch and Lock
  • Something Wild
  • Soylent Green
  • Stardust
  • The Sting
  • Stock
  • Straight Talk
  • Strictly Ballroom
  • Summer Stock
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Surf’s Up
  • Take the Lead
  • Tampopo
  • Tank Girl
  • Thomas Crowne Affair (original with Steve McQueen)
  • Time Bandits
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • Titus
  • To Have and Have Not
  • Total Recall (the original)
  • The Tourist
  • Transcendence
  • Tron (original or reboot)
  • Troop Beverly Hills
  • Twelve Monkeys
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • Undercover Blues
  • Unleashed
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Waking Ned Devine
  • What Dreams May Come
  • What Women Want
  • White Christmas
  • Willow — maybe I’ve seen this? or only part of it?
  • The Wind in the Willows (2006)
  • The Wind Rises
  • Winter’s Tale
  • Withnail and I
  • Wizards
  • Working Girl
  • Young Einstein

Movies that were recommended

…but I will NOT be watching (currently 6 titles)

  • Clockwork Orange — Nope, nope, a world of NOPE
  • House of 1000 Corpses
  • Kill Bill
  • Mad Max Fury Road — not really my type of movie
  • Pitch Black — or any of the Riddick movies
  • Warm Bodies — I don’t do zombie movies

Movies I have seen!

(currently 68 titles or franchise/series)

  • 300
  • Alice in Wonderland (Disney’s)
  • Almost Famous — I may have seen this
  • Airplane
  • Austin Powers
  • Blazing Saddles
  • Blues Brothers
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary
  • Cabaret
  • A Christmas Story
  • Clerks
  • Dead Poet’s Society
  • Deadpool
  • Devil Wears Prada
  • Dogma
  • Dune
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Excalibur
  • Fantasia
  • Fifth Element
  • Fight Club — didn’t like it. not my kind of movie.
  • Galaxy Quest
  • Grease
  • Groundhogs Day
  • Harry Potter — seen all of them 🙂
  • Highlander 1 — Dearheart, there HAS BEEN ONLY ONE!
  • How to Train a Dragon — seen all of them 🙂
  • The Incredibles
  • Inside Out (animation)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Jaws
  • Jurassic Park — seen all of them
  • Kingsmen (with Colin Firth)
  • Kiss Me Kate
  • Kung Fu Panda — seen 1 and 2, need to still see 3
  • Labyrinth
  • Ladyhawk
  • Life of Brian
  • Lion in Winter
  • Lord of the Rings — seen all of them
  • Maleficent
  • The Man From UNCLE (2015)
  • Marvel – I’ve seen *ALL* the recent Marvel movies. 🙂
  • The Martian
  • Monsters Inc — seen all of them
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Muppets — seen all of them
  • Night at the Museum — any of them
  • Nightmare Before Christmas
  • O Brother Where Art Thou?
  • Office Space
  • Pirates of the Carribbean — seen all of them
  • Practical Magic
  • Princess Bride
  • Real Genius – LOVED this!
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
  • Serenity — OMG, seen so many times, plus all of Firefly!
  • Shakespeare In Love
  • Space Balls
  • So I Married an Axe Murderer
  • Star Trek — seen all of them
  • Star Wars — seen all of them (although I might have missed II or III, in the prequels)
  • Three Musketeer/Four Musketeer 1973 versions
  • Up
  • Victor/Victoria
  • Wizard of Oz

ATS Homecoming 2016


The videos from the two shows are starting to pop up all over my feed, so I thought it would be worth it to collect them all in one place. As more come out, I’ll add them here.

(Photo credit at the top of this note: The Lone Wolves, picture by Alexandra Wolf)

Pre-Homecoming Party at Underground Nomads – January 12, 2016

Participant Showcase – January 15, 2016

Instructor Showcase – January 16, 2016

YouTube Playlist with all the YouTube videos collected so far (sorry, the vimeo and FB videos are not in the playlist):


Just Some Clarification


Once again, I spouted a wee bit on my own Facebook page, and then I thought a little (after the fact) about how I might have been perceived. So I’m going to take the time to write some clarification, because these things matter to me.

I wrote: By the way, any one is welcome to do whatever they want with their bodies. You can diet or not, exercise or not, have surgery or not, that’s YOUR choice. But for me? I will make my *own* choices and I have *specifically* rejected the default diet industry notion that my “after” photo is any different from my “before” photo. Just in case you’re wondering. Also? Best line of the weekend from #ATSHomecoming, when Angie Never told me how awesome it is when she sees “big belly gals” baring it all on the stage. Personal choice is personal — and I’m proud of my personal choices for me.

Now, before any more people tell me about how inspiring this is, etc. I need to possibly apologize to the friends of mine who *are* pursuing various changes in body size as their personal choice. I have friends who have had bariatric surgery. I have friends who are doing various shake programs or weight loss memberships or other diets, based often on a desire to change their body size. Know this: I do NOT think any less of you for any body or food choice you make. You are STILL lovely people I value and applaud and care for.

So how do I really reconcile my rejection of the diet industry and my love and support for personal choices? I think of it like having favorite or least favorites for flavors. Your choice to do XYZ about food/body size matters as much to me as whether you like the taste of chocolate or coffee or raspberries or pork or cheese or rye bread or licorice. I have no preference for which flavors you like. That’s a personal choice! For example, I hate the taste of licorice. I cannot stand the smell of hazelnut. I never want to eat a persimmon or a mango or an avocado. Does that mean I’m less of a person? Of course not. In fact, it means that if you like mango, I’m going to give you mine.

As I see it, my notion of “bad” foods versus “good” foods is COMPLETELY different from the articles you see pushing one food choice over another. You know what a bad food is? One that will cause you harm. Did you have surgery on your intestinal tract and you can no longer eat specific raw vegetables? Eating raw vegetables would be *bad* for you. It would cause you harm. Are you diagnosed with celiac disease? Then eating wheat gluten (and likely a host of other foods) would be *bad* for you. It would cause you harm. Do you have religious reasons to avoid pork and shellfish? Then eating shrimp and oysters would be *bad* for you. Do you have an old memory of a food served that made you sick in the past? Is that flavor disgusting to you now? Then this would be a *bad* food for you.

What’s a good food? One that you enjoy. One that you want to eat. One that is not going to cause you harm. Personally, when I’m served breakfast in bed, that’s a *good* food. (wink) Sometimes it might not be the food I would have picked out, but it was served out of love and affection, and that matters to me. Do I like the taste of poppy seeds? Nope. But when I’m served a meal at my friend’s house and the dinner includes Caesar salad with croutons (which I’m not a fan of) and poppy seed rolls, then I enjoy the meal made with love (and I can even sometimes pretend I’m not tasting poppy seeds).

So rock on, crouton — by the way, someone want my croutons? — and you pursue what makes you happy. If you are truly happier doing a shake program or a weight loss program, then you enjoy that flavor in your life. It’s not the flavor I enjoy, but that’s not the point. The point is I care about whether you are pursuing what flavors *you* like in your life. Because, by gum, I’m going to pursue the flavors *I* like in my life. (Bubblegum is a flavor I enjoy, btw.)

What are my favorite flavors in life? I’m a fan of the flavor of diet coke. Doesn’t matter what science article you have about the chemicals, etc. I like the flavor. I like the flavor of coffee, chocolate (dark, preferably). I like my chocolate without nuts. I hate chocolate and orange together. I love chocolate and cherry together. I like the flavor of pineapple (but I cannot eat it raw, it makes my mouth swell up). So canned pineapple is good for me, raw pineapple is bad for me (it causes me harm).

I also like the flavor of hard work in a dance class. I like the flavor of long walks, even if I have to walk slow. I like the flavor of pursuing fitness habits, even at my current size, without waiting to change body sizes. I like the flavor of smiling. I like the flavor of laughter. And I like the flavor of friendship with people who like things different than I do. I like the flavor of communication and understanding and a willingness to be different.

And I hope that helps with understanding me. Because being kind is a flavor that I’m very fond of.

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