The smell of coffee in the morning

A cappuccino in a green cup.

When I first started writing, I was part of a Writers’ Group. We would get together once a month for a “meeting” hosted by members in turn. We would discuss our own projects, give some constructive criticism to each other and generally give support and encouragement.

At the end of each two-hour meeting we would have a fifteen-minute creative writing challenge based on a prompt suggested by the host.  I wrote this short fictional piece in response to the prompt to write something from  the point of view of a single sense. This one is based in the sense of smell. I have only done a light edit. Not bad for a fifteen-minute burst in my opinion! I might go back and have a go at the other senses as well.

The coffee welled up inside my head. Deep, rich earthy and warm. It smelt like a morning. A late morning, but a morning no less. It was time to get up. Time to start the day.

I pulled back the sheets and the raw aroma of the previous night’s sex wafted up from the linen. Sweaty, slightly fishy, not yet unpleasant. I thought about the time we had spent entwined in each other’s arms. Hesitant at first, then with reckless abandon that seemed embarrassing now in the coffee rich morning. He had smelt of rum. Rum with coke. Sweet, spicy and heady. The very thought of it made me quiver again.

The hot water took a long time to emerge from the tap. The chlorine, pungent and clean, drowned out the fresh citrusy bursts from the soap. It was like this in the winter. The chlorine did not have the energy to evaporate and clung to the water like a silver coat; lazy and slow.

I washed the sex away reluctantly. It had been a long time. A long time since I had smelt a man on me and in me. I lingered a little longer than necessary on the folds of my body and began to relive the passion.

The knock on the bathroom door snapped me back to the now.

Oh, that’s right! I wasn’t alone this morning. Not like the years of mornings that strung together in an endless stream before this morning. That’s why it smelt like coffee! There was another somebody in the house and he was making the coffee. Deep, rich and earthy.

How would it be now that the beer goggles were smashed by sobriety and the harsh winter light.

In my mind, I always saw myself as 27. That was a good year. Slim, tanned, lithe and strong.  But 27 was 27 years ago. A marriage ago.

What would I say? How would I act? This was worse than the first time! At 15 I had all the confidence of a goddess who bestowed precious gifts on the lucky. Now it was I who felt lucky – that this rum-soaked man had seen me despite the invisibility cloak of menopause and maturity.

I slid the door open a crack. There he was, coffee in hand, in trousers but no shirt. He was older than I had thought. Grey speckled hair, his skin half a size too big for the muscles underneath. But he smiled and his eyes shone. He handed me the coffee. He looked awkward and shy.

“Have you finished? He asked pulling a face “I have to pee!”

That’s how it was going to be – relaxed and friendly. I remember this. It was a start. Perhaps there’d be more coffee in the mornings.

 

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!

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