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

The Shift

(Or The Fix, Part 2)

Window to the soul

You can’t:

Dig yourself out of a bottomless hole

Un-feel what once ignited your soul

Un-deal a card from your poker hand

Or breathe when your head is buried in sand.

But you can:

Weather the storm with a dance in the rain

Allow raw emotion to course through your veins

Accept that your power exists in today

Believe that your heart and your soul know the way.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

 

Monuments, Meals & Memories

On a recent visit to the Motherland, I ate like a local and took photos like a tourist. Here are a few of my favourites:

Flight path

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Intricate carvings on a Hindu temple

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Crouching Lion, Not-so-Hidden Dragon protecting a Chinese temple

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‘Nasi lemak’ – Malaysian Breakfast (or Lunch, or Dinner) of Champions. Authentic apart from the melamine banana leaf.

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‘Teh tarik’ – savour the condensed-milk-sweetened, frothy deliciousness of ‘pulled tea’.

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And then, the most beautiful thing I had seen in a while. A gift from my sister to our mother after my father’s passing. My parents in the 1970s. Captured and secured within a silver locket, so they may remain together although apart.

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Visits to Malaysia are good for the soul.

©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

To Brie or Not To Brie

I read a ‘Fun Fact’ the other day: There are 450 types of cheese in the world and 250 come from France. I wondered if the remaining 200 included that famous Aussie variety, the self-proclaimed yumminess that is Tasty Cheese. When I first saw this on the shelves of Australian supermarkets I almost tried to instigate a conversation: Oh, are you? Are you really?? Isn’t that for me to decide? The cheese was stunned into silence. But I was intrigued so I bought some. And then I discovered that it is just cheddar. Apparently cheddar is so popular over here that its real name is rarely used. Instead it is sold by strength: Mild, Sharp, Tasty, Extra Tasty (allegedly) or the delightfully named Strong & Bitey.

The thing is, I don’t need all those other cheeses from France. Just brie. Last weekend I found a way to make this exquisite cheese 10 times more indulgent than normal and I don’t mean by pairing it with a sweet Riesling. I didn’t think it was possible to feel guiltier about eating cheese, being ever so slightly lactose intolerant and almost completely in denial about it. The words of my doctor still ring in my ears: A little dairy is ok but you will probably not feel very good if you have a big piece of cheesecake.

So he never specifically mentioned cheese, per se. I proceed on a technicality.

I discovered that if you bake a round of brie in the oven, topped with some toasted honeyed nuts, it turns into heaven on a plate. Just look at this portrait of gooey perfection:

brie

Please forgive the bite-shaped cavity which was caused not by an actual bite (I’m no savage) but by a merciless cracker attack. In my haste to enjoy the moment I forgot to photograph this beauty in its whole, unadulterated form before we got stuck in. It was worth the lack of Insta-shots. Each mouthful was a combination of warm, buttery cheese, caramelised, crunchy walnuts and a lingering kiss of honey. Now that’s what I call tasty.

©2018 Seetha Dodd