Dance like everyone’s watching

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I hadn’t been to a dance class in a while. So I was really excited to walk into the dance studio again for JFH (Jazz, Funk & Hip-hop).

The class starts off with the usual 30 minute warm-up of dynamic stretches, dance moves and a (hard-) core workout that lasts an entire song. Hello, abs! We also do some walking. Yes, walking. But not the regular, right-foot in front of left-foot kind. No, my friends. This is a dance class. So we Strut. We Swagger. We channel our inner Chanel model and prance like we mean it.

The instructor (who is, by the way, amazingly talented and very JFH) tells us to imagine we have just spotted ‘a hottie’ in a club and are striding towards him. Hmm. I quickly come up with a more suitable analogy in my head. Imagine…….[insert your own fantasy].

Then it is time to learn the routine.

“This one is old-school,” the instructor says. Ooh, yay, I think, I wonder what it’s going to be. Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’, maybe? That’s old-school. Perhaps too old-school. Nelly’s ‘Hot in Here’? That would be a good one to dance to. 

She plays the song. It’s Timbaland’s ‘The Way I Are’. From 2007. “It’s really old-school,” she says again. “Don’t worry if you don’t recognise it.” I look around at my fellow dancers. How old are they to not know a song from 2007, which doesn’t feel like that long ago? A quick mental calculation reveals if they were 10 in 2007 and not yet privy to the delights of hip hop music, that would make them 21. Fair enough. And yikes.

I can just about keep up with the choreography. It is not easy to:
1. shake it like a polaroid picture
2. whilst simultaneously wondering if anyone is truly ready for this jelly, and
3. keep a hip hop face on.

I love the routine and almost feel like a back-up dancer in a Beyoncé video, or better yet, like Beyoncé. I have a slight issue with the lyrics, specifically the ungrammatical title and chorus but I do believe in artistic licence so tell myself that this is no time for the Grammar Police and can you stop analysing the bloody lyrics and just try to be a little more hip hop please?

The class runs over by a few minutes so there isn’t time for an official ‘cool-down’. As the instructor presses Pause on Timbaland, she says, “We’ll finish here, but please stay if you need to stretch.” And looks straight at me whilst all the 21-year-old dancers pick up their tote bags and stroll out of the studio. (It’s 9.30pm so I suppose the night is still young for them, whereas I am thinking about a nice hot shower and a mug of green tea.)

I could take offence. I could begin a downward spiral into a pit of  paranoia and despair. But instead, I call on my inner swagger and tell myself I need to stretch because I killed those moves.

So I plonk my 40-year-old leg up on the ballet barre and stretch it like I mean it. My hamstrings will thank me in the morning.

#40isthenew21

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Perfectly Cape-able

I spent a few minutes on my Facebook feed last week scrolling through the many posts written in honour of International Women’s Day. Perhaps it was more than a few minutes, but you know how it is: one minute you are being inspired by a Maya Angelou quote and suddenly, half an hour later you’ve taken a quiz on what your spirit animal is, opened and dismissed a 21 Day Total Goddess Workout and watched a TED Talk on breaking bad habits. Without a shred of irony.

Amongst all the references to the #metoo and #timesup movements, and the many, many stories about strong women breaking through barriers, challenging the status quo and smashing glass ceilings, I found this campaign by a software company with a focus on collaboration, people and consciousness:

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Axosoft’s #ItWasNeverADress campaign. Encouraging people all over the world to share their stories, continue to push boundaries and defy stereotypes. What a simple yet clever way of shifting perceptions and shattering misconceptions through one beautiful, empowering image. I’ve seen a few variations – the ‘dress’ is a lab coat, a graduation robe or, of course, a cape.

So yes, there is a Superhero in all of us. But no pressure. It doesn’t have to be a cape. If you want it to be a comfy dressing gown to spend the day on the sofa in, that’s what it is. If you want it to be a lawyer’s robe because that has been your dream ever since you first watched L.A. Law, or Ally McBeal, or Suits, that’s what it is. There are endless possibilities, and you don’t have to choose just one. Many roles, many costumes.

The point is, and I borrow the words of Paulo Coelho, that “people are capable, at any time in their lives,  of doing what they dream of.” If that dream is to change the world, wonderful. If that dream is to get through the day with a happy heart and a peaceful soul, then you’re my kind of Superhero.

We are all perfectly cape-able.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Puppy Love

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According to the Chinese zodiac (and all those Facebook photos of dog-inspired Bento boxes and dog-face Yee Sang), 2018 is the Year of the Dog. However, in our house, we are way ahead of the times. The Year of the Dog happened in 2017 because we somehow, after years of resisting, acquired a puppy. It was not an easy year. There were sleepless nights. There was the return to toilet-training without the back-up of nappies. There was the guilt of leaving her alone for any period of time. There was a chewed up laptop cable, gnawed shoelaces and a destroyed (and subsequently declared favourite) Beanie Boo toy.

Before we named her, someone told me we should wait to see if she was a ‘Grace’ or a ‘Muddles’. I’m not sure how many 3 month old puppies embody grace but this one certainly didn’t. She was a little explorer, burrowing her way into any nook or cranny, bounding up the stairs on her little legs and then getting stuck at the top because she was too scared to come down. She was energetic, affectionate and fun. We named her Dora.

I must admit, I was not entirely delighted at the whole ‘Let’s get a puppy’ idea. I thought we just didn’t need anymore Crazy in our lives. We were already at full capacity and bursting at the seams. But over the course of the year I learned a lesson. Some things are finite and cannot expand easily – a house, your time, your energy, resources. But other things, that cannot be measured, are limitless – like the capacity to love. And who doesn’t enjoy getting a hero’s welcome (and fervent licks) every time you walk through the door?

Aspiring to be as wonderful as your dog thinks you are can only be a good thing. And that’s how Dora slowly made her way into my expanding heart with her unconditional love, no-holds-barred emotion and infectious energy.

I’ve always preferred dogs over cats. As much as I admire a cat’s ability to loll about in a self-absorbed state of aloofness, a superiority complex just doesn’t inspire love. Give me generosity of spirit, enthusiasm and a wagging tail any day. So if I have to be one or the other, then I am definitely a dog person. I wonder why nobody asks you if you are a rabbit person. Or a hamster person. Or even a goldfish person. Or, come to think of it, a non-pet person. People have always been, it seems, either canine or feline. Dogs and cats signify two opposing sides, usually at war. Mutually exclusive. Dog people and cat people are considered incompatible.

But could we be both? Apparently we now can. There is even a word in the Urban Dictionary for a person who likes both dogs and cats. Are you ready?

Bi-petual.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

It’s Swings and Roundabouts

swing   Photo: Esra Güzel

The sun is shining. There are choices to be made. There is a lot of fun to be had. You can join in or sit on the bench. The swings will keep swinging. The teacup will keep spinning.

Sometimes you’re flying up in the air – ecstatic, loving the feeling, wanting to go higher, shrieking with glee. Sometimes you’re on the ground – giving someone else a push, lifting them up, holding their hand, or watching. If the ride is spinning too fast, speak up. Ask the Spinner to slow it down so you can get on or get off.

For some things you need a friend, or two, or three. For other things you go it alone. Look out for one another. Look out for yourself.

As you navigate the obstacles, you will probably fall. You may get hurt. It’s OK to have a little cry, but then get up and carry on. You may be given a helping hand and a kind word or you may have to become your own hero. A grazed knee, like a grazed heart, will heal.

There will be kids who are better than you at cycling, scootering, climbing, making friends. But there is enough fun to go round. So cycle, scooter, climb, make friends. It’s your adventure. Having fun is optional, but it is there to be had.

There will also be kids who look lost, or sad, or broken. Share your toys, share your fun. One day you may be that kid. One day that may be your kid. Kindness is contagious and worth spreading.

The park, your life, is waiting. Bring your scooter and a smile.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Very very very!

My 7 year old brought his Writing book home at the end of last year. I gleefully flicked through his Year 1 literary journey and stopped at this short story about a fidget spinner (that popular and controversial toy of 2017):

very

Ignoring the minor spelling and punctuation challenges, and partially removing the Mum Bias lens, this story has everything you could ask for. Excitement, imagery, intrigue, potential bloodshed. What worries me though, is that his lovely teacher crossed out what she saw as excessive emphasis on the speed of this fidget spinner.

Just one very is enough.

What???

First of all….if one ‘very’ is enough why leave two? But more importantly, I DISAGREE! One ‘very’ is not enough to describe the mental picture in his head. That blue fidget spinner was OUT OF CONTROL! One ‘very’ just would not cut it. One ‘very’ couldn’t possibly demonstrate the danger, the climax of this nightmare. We need more ‘verys’ in our lives, not less. Don’t hold back. Wholehearted emotion.

One day soon, he will know how to use words like extremely, exceptionally, terrifically, remarkably, mightily. (Perhaps from an online thesaurus like I just did.) But until then, he absolutely, definitely, must, must, must! use words in whatever way he chooses, to express himself. Yes, rules are rules, but artistic licence makes your words s~p~i~n off the page and explode in your face.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

3am

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When I was a child, I remember asking my father what it meant when a hotel was ‘5 star’. He could have explained the concept of ratings, the different criteria used, the process a hotel would go through each year to gain or maintain their stars. Accurate information, but unnecessarily so, and incredibly dull to a 10 year old.

Instead he said:

It means that if you want apple pie with ice-cream at 3 in the morning, they will bring it to you.”

As my eyes widened, so did my mind. That answer, to a child who was regularly lost in imaginings, was just magical.

It gave me another opportunity to imagine, to conjure up vivid mental pictures, to dream about all the luscious 3am desserts that were out there in the world, and to wonder about the people who were ordering them.

It got me thinking about all the things a hotel would have to do to be able to meet such a request: make sure they had enough supplies, never run out of ice-cream, have someone on kitchen duty all night.

It also (more recently) made me consider what, then, would make a 4 star hotel. Apple pie available until it runs out, perhaps? And then an alternative offering. What about 3 stars? Dessert of the day is peach cobbler and there is a room service charge after midnight. 2 stars? From midnight we have a limited menu. Sadly it does not include apple pie. Or any pie. We do have ice-cream but only strawberry. Take it or leave it. And finally, 1 star. The kitchen closes at 11 pm. Fend for yourselves.

It was (and still is) sweet, delicious food for thought.

So that became my definition of luxury for the past 3 decades. Apple pie with ice-cream at 3am. I never asked my father if he had ever ordered it but I don’t believe he would have. Whiskey, perhaps, but not dessert.

The fact is, I don’t want apple pie with ice-cream at 3am either. I don’t really care about the number of stars a hotel possesses. Don’t get me wrong, I love the finer things just as much as the next person. But the stars in the sky have always held more appeal to me than those on a hotel’s resume. You can’t write poetry about the latter. (Well, I suppose you could. There’s a challenge...)

I love my father’s answer for the simple way it encouraged contemplation. The concept of ratings by 3am dessert options is just another way to invoke my father’s mind into this life without him. To connect. To remember and smile.

I know, especially today on his birthday, that he is having a single malt at 3am or whenever he wants one. And I hope the number of stars are infinite up there.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Stop and smell the Rosé

I do like a good collective noun. Especially a surprising one. It creates an explosion of imagery and brings a group of otherwise nondescript nouns to life.  For example:

A parliament of owls. Owls being all wise, making decisions.  

A posse of policemen. Strutting about, like some kind of hip-hop crew.

A confusion of weasels. Weasels running around, dazed and disorderly.

A rhumba of rattlesnakes. Just imagine. Slinky snakes performing a hip-swaying Latin dance.

A flight of wine. Now we’re talking. A flight! This is wine that can transport you to a better place.

Technically (and Google-y) speaking, a flight of wine is “a selection of three to eight wines presented at a tasting. A ‘horizontal’ flight is one which compares the same wine produced by different wineries. A ‘vertical’ flight would be a selection of wine made by the same winery over a number of years.” OMG. Fascinating.

I stumbled upon this phenomenon in a beautiful winery in Tasmania. Not literally stumbled (I hadn’t had any yet). For those of us who have wine-commitment issues or get wine envy when someone else’s Pinot is better than ours, a flight of wine is the perfect option. Choose 4 different wines from a list and they magically turn up, presented in a specially designed contraption.

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Can’t beat the view through rosé-tinted glasses.

I’m almost certain this is not a revolutionary idea. People have probably been sipping on flights of wine in stylish wine bars and wineries since time immemorial. My experience of wine tasting for the most part has involved perching at the counter, going through the entire wine menu from top to bottom and skipping only the Chardonnay.

Because in my house wine o’clock begins shortly after whine o’clock (approximately 7.30pm), there is no delicate measuring of sippy-portions of selected varietals. Pour me a nice big glass and no, I don’t need to taste it first. I’ll be horizontal on the sofa with the Netflix remote control. Like a bed of sloths.

©2018 Seetha Dodd