Pandora’s Box

Back in the dark ages, in the dim, distant past when I was married, my husband bought me a very luxurious black leather briefcase to celebrate my birthday the year I got a big promotion.

Thirty years later I still have that briefcase and while I no longer carry it around with my sales catalogues and business cards, it does hold some very special papers.

These days I call it Pandora’s Box. It’s filled with old journals and copies of letters and emails between my ex and I when we were going through the meaty part of the break up. All the gnashing and wailing. All the justifications and arguments. All the pitiful pleading.

An open briefcase filled with papers.
Emails, letters and journals chronicle this difficult time of my life.

Declarations of love on Sunday where superseded by obscenities by Wednesday. I have trawled through it a few times with different effects on my psyche. In the Wine and Wedges days, (circa 2012) when things were fresh and we were still in each others lives, I would dissolve into a heap of misery and have yet another glass of wine!  I would look for clues as to when and where I could have ‘fixed things”. In more recent times, I have vowed to create a big bonfire on the beach and dance around the burning ashes with glee.

Recently, I went through the stack of double sided sheets again.  I started to put them back into chronological order to make better sense of them, thinking to myself there must be some blog-able gold in here somewhere! I could write a very murky expose about the demise of a relationship over a long period of time with all the indelicacies that would conjure up. But no, I am not that type. This post is about as tacky as I am prepared to get.

I was pleased I could read all the wretchedness and despair with a dispassionate eye. I came away feeling vaguely amused and not at all sad. I did however tsk-tsk  at the time it took us to take the final plunge. The time we both wasted trying to patch the hull of our Titanic. But still we came out the other side and I for one am stronger.

Much of the writing is over the top emotional dribble. Streaming consciousness on overload!   But some is gold. Of course, most is contextual and obviously a reply to  now forgotten conversations. The papers cover the time from November 2006 – late 2008. At that time,  I was in the middle of completing a Masters degree and I must say my vocabulary was much wider than it is now. I seem to have gotten less eloquent!

Now, when I talk about my divorce and my ex, I report that it was a relatively amicable separation and that we can still talk to each other in a civil tone. Reading back over this huge body of work, reminds me that it was really a death by a thousand cuts but some of those were bloody big gashes.

IMG_3871
A briefcase full of memories.

I am not going to spill the proverbial beans. I am not going to write that  tell-all expose, but here are a few of my favourite lines, some of the passages that amused me. They are all from my words not his.

...I had other things in my head but they are like shadows now and I keep losing them…

…as I read back over this, it is only part of what I wanted to say and I feel like I can never explain. It’s all the chicken and the egg story. I am not sure where the seed came from but our life has been covered in lantana. We are still underneath it somewhere but now it’s too late to clear it away. I stand here knocking on the door of your heart with the weed killer! …[oh dear!]

…I can not explain… once you get caught in the turning lane you just end up going with the flow….

Ten reasons why I like you…

….  10. You like watching the same daggy TV shows, you don’t like John Howard, you have a compatible outlook on world politics, religion, the relative merits of free range chickens and social justice. [chickens were a theme even back then!]

….

a photo of an email about ontological security.
I used to know what all this meant! And be able to joke about it!

Maybe one day I will get around to that bonfire. But for now I think I‘ll keep Pandora’s Box with it’s oversized memories to remind me of a once passionate time of my life. One that I don’t want to relive, but a time that  changed the course of my life irrevocably.

You never know, when I am ninety I might just write that steamy expose!

If I won the lottery.

a photo showing several lottery tickets

I have a confession to make.

I am a gambler.

I spend $AUD18 a week buying Lotto, Powerball and lottery tickets. Every week, when I go to the newsagent to check my tickets, I have that little knot of hope sitting in my belly. Maybe this time?

The $18 per week is the sum total of my gambling vice. I figure I can afford it and it’s a bit of fun so I don’t feel too guilty.  I can justify it easily. I take a packed lunch to work every day. I don’t buy coffee every day. If I did, that would be  $19 per week for the coffee alone! See! The lottery tickets are a bargain!

I have, of course, spent more than I have won. My daughter tells me I buy lottery tickets because of my working class background. Apparently, rich people don’t buy lottery tickets. They gamble in more respectable ways like the stock market or horse racing.

I don’t want to win a lot. $3 or 4 million would be plenty! I certainly don’t want to win one of those super Powerball prizes of $30 million or more! Of course, if I did, I wouldn’t be handing it back, but I don’t need it.

I don’t want to live an extravagant life. You know from my previous blog posts that I try not to be a thoughtless consumer. I just want to be able to quit the day job so I can write, travel and take photos!

I don’t want a buy a mansion with a pool or a pool room for that matter. I don’t want a Maserati. I don’t want to fly first class.  (Hang on a minute, maybe that’s one thing I do want!)

I want to win just enough to pay off my current mortgage, buy a small investment property that I could rent out as a source of reliable income and then have enough spending money leftover for a relatively comfortable and creative life. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

a handwritten note calcualtedhow much I need to win in the lottery.
How much do you need?

Let’s see: with the mortgage out of the way and keeping my living standard at its current level; with a life expectancy of 30 more years, allowing for two overseas trips per year, a new car in 10 years, and a bit of a contingency fund for new appliances and furniture when the current ones wear out or break – how much do I need? A few calculations later and not allowing for inflation or interest earned, I figure I need $2.8 million. Therefore,  $3-4 million is an appropriate goal.

I just need to win!

EASY!

 

Don’t worry, IF I did win the big one, I have it all worked out. I will buy a number of properties that I would rent to lower income families for a very moderate rate. These people would be strugglers. The people Australians call “Battlers”. Honest, hardworking folk who are being left behind in this current housing market.  There would be a catch to their lower rent, however. They would need to agree to volunteer for a community organisation for a negotiated number of hours per week. The time would be dependent on their other responsibilities but they would need to have a regular commitment to being a volunteer. They would do good. They would feel good.  I would feel good! I would need to hire some people to make this happen because I would be too busy writing, travelling and taking photos!

…. and I’d take my mum on a cruise! A long one!

A row of deck chairs. I am lying on one of them
Welcome Cruislings

Fingers crossed!

Decisions, decisions.

In a recent blog post I announced to the world that I was going to Broken Hill in far western NSW, for a one year secondment. I was looking forward to it as an exciting but safe adventure. It’s with a slightly heavy heart that I now announce to all and sundry that I have decided not to go to Broken Hill because there’s a new man in my life.

He’s three and he’s my grandson.

When I made the decision to go and accepted the offer, my daughter was visiting Australia but was planning to return to her home in Israel. I thought I would need something to distract me and this seemed perfect.

It seemed like a SMART goal

S – specific

M – measurable

A – attainable

R- relevant

T- timely

It had everything going for it in this respect. It was for a defined and specific purpose that was relevant to my current career. It was attainable while offering an appropriate level of challenge and it was time restricted.

Over the last 2 months, my daughter has decided to stay in Australia for good. We talked about me still going and she declared “it’s your decision but I’d like you to stay”

My decision…. yes it is but it’s laced with so many possibilities. I want to go but if I do I will miss my family. I will miss being here as my grandson becomes more verbal and makes up all those funny little sentences. I will miss pointing out hapclapters as they fly overhead and I won’t be able to get excited about planes or trucks.

If I don’t go I will miss out on a once in a career-time opportunity to do something very different. I will have to disappoint the people who were relying on me coming and I will have to tell the person who was so excited about filling in for me they can no longer step into the role.

Family has to trump work so I am staying.

I had to make a few tough phone calls but now it’s done I feel better… more at ease which tells me I have made the right decision.

Now 2019 is a blank slate for other possibilities….I’ll come up with some other scheme to keep this old chook busy!

They times they are a changing!

The idea for this post came from two separate encounters with my daughter. Firstly, when we were watching a YouTube clip about the launch of Apollo 11 and the subsequent moon landing. I was recounting my memories from this day and how exciting it was. I told her how my school had to borrow TV’s from a local department store while other classes walked  to neighbouring houses to watch this momentous event.

The second conversation arose when I offered her a spare ironing board I happened to have in my garage.

She laughed  “Ain’t nobody got time for ironing” she quipped.

It made me think how things have changed in my own lifetime.  Changes to how we live our daily lives are not as dramatic as a moon landing but have made a big difference. Here is a list of ten things I remember from childhood that don’t happen anymore.

  1. The milk man:  Many boys had their first part-time job jumping off the back of a milk truck to deliver milk to each house. If your family was well off, you could get exotic things like yogurt[1] delivered too. The milk would come early in the morning and was left at the front gate. (For the most part gates have disappeared too). The cream floated on top in a luscious layer that the magpies enjoyed if you weren’t quick enough. Bread came later in the day. Unsliced white loaves wrapped in plain translucent paper. No plastic, no bread ties. At Easter you could pre-order hot cross buns for Good Friday. (Only Good Friday not from two weeks after Christmas) These days you can get all your groceries delivered by the big chains but their are no longer “milk men”.
  2. Coppers, mangles and twin tub washing machines. Our laundry was outside in a separate building to our house. It had a bare concrete floor and the weatherboards were not lined on the inside, so it was freezing in winter and hot in summer. It was, however, pure luxury compared to the across-the-road neighbours, the Marshes, who didn’t even have a concrete floor – just swept dirt. We even had electricity! There was a single tub washing machine with a mangle. The mangle being two rollers that squeezed water out of the clothes. I can still hear my mum cursing when the clothes got stuck in the mangle and her warnings to keep our fingers out of the way. In the corner, there was a gas fired copper. The copper – literally a copper tub, was heated with a gas ring. You’d fill it with water and boil your clothes, especially whites. Later, we had a twin tub where the small washing tub was side by side with a separate spin dryer.
  3. Sawdust on the butcher’s shop floor. That smell still reminds me of fresh meat.
  4. Fashion for little girls
    • the pleated kilt-like skirts with a plain white bodice top worn with hand knitted twin sets.
    • wearing an extra pair of knickers over the top of your tights to hold them up
    • elastic garters to hold up your socks.
    • The hair bobbles that whacked you in the head if mum slipped while trying to put them in
  5. Having your hair cut short and washed with kerosene when you got nits. (Not me thankfully but a friend if mine!)
  6. Making bread crumbs and minced meat with the old hand cranked mincer
  7. Making cordial from flavoured syrup and sugar on Saturdays.
  8. Hearing (and smelling) mum scrape the toast in the morning because it would always burn as well as the sound of the toaster doors being opened with a squeal,
  9. Having to turn over a record after 25 minutes and then walk carefully on the wooden floors when it was playing.
  10. Drinking soured milk in 1/3 pint bottles at school  after it had sat in the sun for a couple of hours.

I could easily write another ten. One that pops into mind straight away is taking undeveloped film to the chemist and waiting two weeks to get back 24 pictures of nothing but blur!

I obviously don’t have photos of these things although the images of the beaters is mine. The washing machines are from the Net.  I still have a beater like the one in the photos and actually prefer to use it to an electric mixer. It’s quicker!

How have the little things in your life changed since childhood? Add a comment below.

[1] The fact that yogurt was considered exotic is also an interesting sign of days gone by.

Is childhood anxiety on the rise?

A closeup shot of a leaf with dark and light green stripes

Childhood in the 1960s

Growing up in the 60s, I would describe my childhood as free range. By this I mean that while I was well cared for, I did not have much close supervision. This was not unusual for the times.  Provided we told our parents where we were going and what we were doing they just let us go and do it. We would stay outside all day, in all seasons. In wet weather, we would play inside and dress up our dolls and build whole new worlds.  We played under the house building mud pies in the dirt with little regard for the spiders that hung from the joists above our heads. We were happy and active.

I don’t remember our parents organising any of our activities. We worked it out for ourselves, although we had to ask for permission to watch TV or when we wanted a sleepover.

Water fall shot with a slow shutter.

We’d play on the street with all the neighbourhood kids. Someone would yell out “CAR” and we’d scamper aside and let the traffic pass and then continue with the game of cricket or soccer. Once again, I don’t remember any parents around to tell us to be careful or to watch out. There was a mix of ages from Will and Micky who were the oldest right down to pipsqueaks like me who were five years younger.

I obviously survived, although I did have a few near misses[1]. Once when my brother and I were playing at the beach and I got caught in a rip. Some fellow scooped me out of the surf and took me back to my mother who was sleeping on the sand. In her defence, we weren’t supposed to be swimming!

I remember slicing my foot from toe to heel on a  rusty water tank we were using as a slippery dip. The most vivid part of this memory being the bloody little foot prints I left on the road as I limped home.

In kindergarten, I was walking home from school on a rainy day splashing in puddles when I got stuck in a big open drain with the water rising around me. And the nearest miss, when I was at my best friend’s cousins’ place swimming in their pool and one of the older kids bombed me. I had to be dragged to the surface after someone realised I hadn’t come up yet.

A bee forages for pollen on a bright yellow aloe flower

Modern parents are more involved but at what price?

More recently, parents and carers are more involved in directing the activities of their children. Dance lessons, after school tutoring, training for sports, pre-organised play dates. All structured time. I guess this is mostly because many parents and particularly, mums, work away of home and scheduling is necessary. You can no longer pop next door and know that someone will be home.

Is adolescent anxiety on the rise?

If you ask me if anxiety and depression and other mental illnesses have increased in the 26 years years I have been teaching I would give an emphatic YES.   Is my perception backed by evidence?  I notice it more and more but is that because as a school leader, I am more involved in that aspect of schooling? Today alone I spoke to three families about their anxious and school-refusing children.  The quick research I did in preparation for this post, indicates my perception can not be supported evidence.

Some articles say there has been no increase in the prevalence of anxiety disorders, while others refer to an “epidemic” and crisis of mental health issues. The problem is that data collection relating to childhood anxiety has only started in the last 10 – 15 years. We don’t have a clear picture on the anxiety levels of past generations because it wasn’t measured or reported  so we cannot accurately compare. We simply don’t know. We have no good base line data. Anxiety levels might be higher or they could even be lower.

Round ball like seeds pods against a bright blue sky

 

While my hunch is not supported by hard evidence, I have first hand observational data – even if the sample size is very small –  that some kids, especially girls around 14 – 16 can not be separated from their phones. I have had girls crying and begging to be suspended from school rather than hand in their phone after using it inappropriately in class time. Their fear of losing that point of contact is palpable. They quiver and become faint.

Is there a link between the use of smart phones and the apparent increase in anxiety?

Probably?

Has the shift in care practices made a difference to childhood happiness and health?

Maybe…

The practices of 50 years ago may be seen as neglectful these days.  At school we often discuss helicopter parents – those who hover constantly over their children and the more notorious lawn mower parents who sweep ahead and mow down any obstacles in their children’s path. Of course, all parents want their children to be safe and not be hurt, teased or bullied but has the pendulum swung too far? Are today’s parents stopping their children learning valuable lessons and denying them opportunities to  be resilient and self reliant? Are they creating anxious kids by accident?

I think so.

The Australian Government report into childhood anxiety does state the following:

It might be tempting to blame increased screen time [for anxiety] and access to information via the internet that didn’t exist in previous generations….

The presence of screens is not necessarily something that’s going to create anxiety. Social media, unfortunately, is a huge factor. Particularly in primary school.[2]

Further, parents of anxious children can exacerbate the issue by protecting their children too much. When I am dealing with anxious kids I usually find an anxious parent not too far behind.

If a child is worried about going on a school camp, for example, it can be tempting for parents to accommodate their wishes….[and let them stay at home]

‘What keeps anxiety going is avoidance,’ … ‘If you stay away from situations you’re nervous about, the child will never learn that she can handle it, and that actually camp can be fun.[3]

Once again it would seem like the middle ground is the place to be. We have to keep children safe, but not so safe they are scared to stretch their wings.

More information on childhood anxiety

There are some good articles available on the topic if you’d care to read more.

This one about teens and social media from Harvard is an easy and informative read.

https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/12/social-media-and-teen-anxiety

For a very in-depth look at the situation in Australia – have a look at this 2015 Australian Government report. (You will need to click on the link that is on that page to download the PDF)

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-m-child2

And the Young Minds Matter website – in particular, have a look at the Snapshot of Findings Video.

https://youngmindsmatter.telethonkids.org.au/


 

The images are meant to be calming, natural scenes to help keep you rested!

[1] My mum will kill me when she reads this! Of course, it’s from my stand point and with my version of events! Artistic licence DLT!

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/childhood-anxiety-australia-report/7214886

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/childhood-anxiety-australia-report/7214886