When You Can’t Escape Your (Dance) Obsession, Relent

Argentine Tango header

From the Series: Life on Dog Hill

I’m a baby all over again in the sense that I am learning something new. Something that takes a lot of time to become proficient, much less perfect. Something that can only be mastered through repetition. Something that fills me with a variety of emotions. Fear. Frustration. Doubt. Self-consciousness. And lots of excitement over the possibilities.

My new endeavor? Argentine Tango!

It’s been a slow seduction since my first infatuation with Argentine Tango (AT for short) in 2012 when I came across this video with Mauro Caiazza and Daniela Kizyma. Ou-la-la! Their video has since been put on top of half-a-dozen other songs, and it doesn’t matter what’s playing, the dancing is simply amazing.

A year or so later I signed up for my first AT class. It was a six-week introduction for beginners. My hope was that the twenty or so years of ballroom I had under my belt would give me an advantage.

After five weeks, I still struggled with walking backwards. Not to mention, this stuff didn’t look ANYTHING like what I’d seen in Mauro and Daniela’s video! I put AT out of my mind and went back to ballroom where I knew what the heck I was doing.

But a love affair had begun, and in the process of connecting with other ballroom dancers in the Daytona Beach area, where our family spends several weeks in the year, I accidentally stumbled upon an AT grand master. I didn’t know his expertise at the time; I was simply looking for a dancing outlet. One thing led to another, and I was in Dutch Schouten’s studio learning AT. I took one class with him and decided, once again, to stick with ballroom.

Walking away didn’t stop me from devouring YouTube videos of AT and perfecting my Pandora station with my favorite AT artists like Astor Piazzolla, Ricardo Tanturi, and Alfredo De Angelis. I was, truth be told, smitten. So much so that last month I found myself back in Dutch’s Daytona Beach studio for an intensive immersion. Our two-hour sessions over the course of a week-and-a-half convinced me that I couldn’t resist the dance any longer.

I returned home and rejoined TangoUtopia, where I had started learning the dance 18 months ago. I attend their twice weekly prácticas, and recently signed up for a three-day workshop.

When I dance with partners well-versed in AT, their first comment to me is, “Ballroom?” I’m working on unlearning the aspects of ballroom that don’t lend nicely to AT. The good news is, at least I can follow — sort of.

It makes me proud to put myself bravely out there to learn something new. Not only am I modeling what I teach through coaching and writing — don’t let the fear of imperfection stop you — I’m learning a new artistic expression to music.


I may never be able to dance with my crush Mauro the way Daniela does, but I can at least aspire to this hot stuff!

What are you resisting? What would it take for you to put aside your doubts and embrace it?

Sheila Callaham is an author, motivational speaker, and life coach. Her forthcoming book, “Living Joyfully: Moving Through Fear to Find Your Happily-Ever-After” will be released later this year. 

No, Son, Moratorium Does Not Mean More!

sheila callahamFrom the Series: Life on Dog Hill

It’s been a wonderful summer filled with a wedding, an engagement, travel, and extended family time. But as August comes barreling to its end, I’m thinking about back to school for our 13-year-old son, Ryan.

As we headed into a local sports store to buy cleats for the new football season, he rattled off about a dozen other things he “needed” in preparation. When I suggested a moratorium on his spending, he got excited.

“Do you even know what that word means?” I asked.

“It means spend more, right?” he replied, smiling brightly.

“Hardly. In this case, I’m suggesting we temporarily suspend your spending.”

Ryan argued my misuse of the word. “Mom! Listen to the word… moratorium: mor as in spend more. Atorium as in auditorium. Spend big.”

He did have a point. Unfortunately, it didn’t support the true root of the word.

“Good try, dear,” I began, “but you should have stayed in first year Latin since that’s where this word originates. Moratorius (“delaying”), moror (“I delay”), and mora (“delay”).”

Ryan was not amused. His first semester of Latin last year was a sore topic, so he stretched his long legs and outpaced me to the back of the store to look for his cleats.

To be fair, I’m sure I didn’t know the meaning of the word moratorium at 13. In fact, I’m certain that I first came to understand and use it in college when I was studying American government.

The Hoover Moratorium was issued by U.S. President Herbert Hoover on June 20, 1931, to put a one-year moratorium on payments of World War I and other war debt. The 15 October and 15 November 1969 moratoriums called for general strikes in an effort to bring the Vietnam war to an end. The day before the 15 November Moratorium Day, 40,000 people gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue, parading single file toward the White House, each carrying a placard naming a dead American soldier. By the following day, half a million demonstrators had gathered across from the White House in protest.

I frequently use words that I think will stretch my son’s vocabulary. I’m not so sure he appreciates it now, but someday he will. I imagine that the first time he uses the word successfully to convey a temporary suspension of activity, he’ll smile and remember the time when he tried to tell me it meant more… a LOT more.

Want to expand your middle schooler’s vocabulary? Here are a few sly tips to help your early teen learn to use words you deem valuable, without causing them to stomp off in frustration.

  1. Provide a short vocabulary list to family members living in the house. Insist they use each of the words every day when speaking to said middle schooler. Offer monetary incentives such as a $30 gas card for every week they use all of the words in a direct conversation with the middle schooler of note. If that doesn’t work, refuse to cook or do laundry.
  2. Tell your middle schooler that you are struggling to meet a deadline for your first article to appear in a major media outlet. Tell him that getting into to this venue will assure your forthcoming fame and fortune (emphasize fortune). Ask him to help you find another word that means suspend temporarily.
  3. Buy your own gaming console, hide it in your closet, and when your middle schooler thinks you are retiring for the evening, sign on to his favorite online game and join his team (don’t forget to disguise your voice). “Yo, Dude, like I think we need a moratorium on like killing people or something. You know, SUSPEND killing for a while and just race, man!”

You can thank me for this great advice (or make your recommendations) in my comment box below. As for me, I’m headed to the closet to sign onto Grand Theft Auto….

Need Happiness? Take this 14-year-old Boy’s Advice!

Sheila CallahamI’ve been writing about the mental and emotional benefits of practicing gratitude for years. I keep coming back to this topic because so many people don’t realize the powerful internal shift that can result from expressing authentic gratitude. If you’re not feeling as happy as you would like, practice an attitude of gratitude, and you’ll quickly see the positive difference in can make in all areas of your life.

Need proof?

I recently came across an amazingly inspirational short video about 14-year-old Jonathan Pitre, who suffers from a painful and debilitating skin disease known as Epidermolysis Bullosa. What makes Jonathan so incredible? His attitude of gratitude for each day he has and to his family for their unwavering love and support.

You shouldn’t think about what you don’t have, think about what you jonathan_pitredo have. Think about all the happiness around you. Think about all the love, not all the negative stuff. Think about the positive stuff and you’ll be a very happy person.

–Jonathan Pitre, aged 14

At 14, Jonathan’s wisdom runs deep. In his motivational messages to the world, he’s speaking the same true that any life coach will tell you: practicing gratitude is the most powerful and life-changing practice of all.

The beauty in expressing gratitude, even for the smallest thing, is that it builds upon itself. Still not convinced?

I can’t think of a better role model than Oprah to explain how this works. Click here to watch her short video What Oprah Knows About the Power of GratitudeIt’s only a few minutes, go on, have a listen!

Interestingly, a Berkeley report indicates that scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at better understanding the emotional and mental impact gratitude. They’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:

•Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;

•Higher levels of positive emotions;

•More joy, optimism, and happiness;

•Acting with more generosity and compassion;

•Feeling less lonely and isolated.

It’s so important to recognize the aspects of your life that are going right. The feelings associated with gratitude are linked directly to love, and we all know that love makes the world go around.

Only you can change how you feel. Start with looking around you and acknowledging all the good.

What can you be grateful for today?

Sheila Headshot_SideSheila Callaham is an author, motivational speaker, and life coach. Her forthcoming book, “Living Joyfully: Moving Through Fear to Find Your Happily-Ever-After” will be released later this year.