Home is Somewhere, I’m Sure...

“The ache for Home lives in all of us, the safe place we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Maya Angelou

A recent conversation with a friend packing up her Mum’s house after her death had us unpacking the concept of Home.

Both my friend and I have lived in many places and neither of us own -at the moment- the much-desired mortgage, nor deeds, to our own bricks and mortar to call Home. As we dug further through our current circumstances and life experiences I blurted out

“…that’s why you’re on the run.”

…and that’s when the penny dropped.

At my last count, I have lived in 30 different abodes in different cities, different countries and in rural and outback Australia. This includes three homes in one year as an exchange student and four moves with the children in 5.5 months (including living in someone’s converted shed and a stint in a women’s shelter) in 2011.

Ironically, as a child I designed homes, drew plans and wanted to become an architect. And I had the grades and aptitude to be good at it too, until… (…that’s another story!)

What is Home? And why haven’t we found (or built) it yet?

“I don’t want someone to take my Home away again” she said.

There was silence on the phone as we both let these realisations sink in.

We had both stayed in relationships for our respective children’s apparent stability, and admittedly, our own. The false perception that having another adult in the house provides stability was an illusion into which we both bought, along with the half-acre block, insurmountable debt and ongoing turmoil.

Both of us had left our marital Homes in order for us to be safe.

This was a big ah-ha moment for me. I had rented many places, and each time I had bought a property, I had left for my (& my children’s) wellbeing.

Both of us are still on the run, neither of us currently in our forever Homes.

We concluded that Home can be anywhere and everywhere you feel safe. It often holds a sense of familiarity and nostalgia. Those sheets. That armchair of my grandmother’s. That ‘essential’ kitchen gadget I bought while on holiday.

We agreed that Home isn’t about the stuff, unless you make it. I’ve seen some really nice sheets in David Jones, and I didn’t really need that kitchen gadget I’d bought on the same holiday I’d been both ignored and shouted at in the street.

Home is nowhere geographical, unless you make it that either. I have friends and relatives who’ve lost everything in bushfires. They’ve rebuilt. And moved on.

Once we let go of the concept that Home is about the stuff, we’re free to create (and notice) how Home feels.

I hold my ideal house in my imagination. It’s somewhere my kids will feel comfortable walking in with their friends and kids. They’ll lob when I’m not Home. They’ll feel free to raid the fridge, stay the night, share celebrations and keep coming back. It has a view and a verandah. My kids may or may not have memories of the stuff. They’ll make cubbies with sheets and cushions wherever we are, and that’s where Home is… Where we feel free to be.

Wherever my children & I travel, we’ll know exactly where Home is because as Winnie the Pooh says,

“Home is the comfiest place to be!”

When you’re with the right people, Home is anywhere, and until I find the right bricks and mortar, Home is right here, and that is just perfect. For now.

If there’s nothing more secure than adaptability and resilience, then my children and I are as ‘safe as houses’!


As if Out of Nowhere an Oasis Flourishes...

If you want an oasis, start pulling up the weeds. Dig some more, and find the roots. You can plant more of the plants that you love. You can fertilise the plants that you love. You can prune and shape the plants that you love.

But unless you address the weeds, your garden will continue to grow into a tangled mess.

Those suckers use nutrients in the soil and take up space. You can spend all day pulling up the weeds you can see, and yanking at the roots... And guess what?

Tomorrow another weed will appear.
One that had laid dormant under the ground until you made space for it to grow towards the light.

Then you’ll pull that one up too. Because growth never ends. You can count the weeds or you can enjoy what is unfolding and how far you’ve come.

Like life, comparing your garden to someone else’s is futile because you don’t know what weeds and poisons they had to overcome before designing their landscape and planting their seeds and saplings. You can only create from where you’re at with the tools and soil/soul you have right now.

2018 was one of my worst years ever.
Or was it?

If my life in 2018 was a garden it would have looked like someone was digging a quarry with random piles of earth in parts and a complete quagmire in others.

Finally the seeming annihilation brought me to a point where I could see the foundations of beliefs that had brought me to these situations. My choices had lead me to here because I had either been unaware of any other options or that I deserved anything better.

In the words of an endearing yet unwitting mentor,
“sometimes life demands that you grit your teeth and either keep pushing on or invoke plans X,Y & Z.”

An oasis doesn't just grow out of nowhere. We’ve gotta do the work, pull the weeds, prepare the soil and invest in something that will thrive in that habitat.

As 2019 unfolds, those deep ditches provide a scene on which to prepare new landscapes. Landscapes which provide aspects and microclimates to sow new beginnings.

You never know what might flourish in that space where you just pulled that weed from. It might just completely change your outlook.


We will continue knowing family violence as long as...

For as long as judges, family lawyers, social-workers and psychologists are invested in maintaining the status quo and standing for the rights of adults, children will remain commodities in the family law system, and their physical, emotional & psychological safety is at best compromised, at worst, collateral damage in a system invested in its own prolonging, and we shall continue knowing family violence.

How do we address the vested interests of those in a self-perpetuating
legal system so reliant on families’ trauma and ongoing conflict?

As a society we are caretakers for the next generation(s) and we have a responsibility to do the best by them that we can.

Where there is no responsibility for the children’s well-being and there is a history of family violence, we have an obligation to insist adults’ rights to be involved in the children’s upbringing be earned. And regularly monitored.

To stop family violence, you have to know what it is. Family violence is anything that makes someone else in the family feel (physically, emotionally, psychologically, sexually or financially) unsafe. Threats, coercion, bribery, isolation, punishment -all popular parenting techniques- are part of the dysfunction.

It’s time to wake up. 

It’s time to question our conditioning in our homes and in society. How can we support vulnerable families instead of allowing the legal system to exploit them and spit them out the other side of processes that minimise their lived experience of violence? What pattern interrupts might change outcomes -for the better- for future generations?

How are you prepared to be part of a solution?

#stopfamilyviolence #bethechange

T'is the Season

T’is the season for tradition.
Because that’ s what we do.

There’s nothing like good ol’ tradition to perpetuate the status quo. Christmas and the end of the year brings us together for infinite catch-ups and sends many of us into a flurry of buying to give for the sake of giving something.We've all done it and we've all received it. The afterthought present. "Sh*t! What's in the present box? I forgot to buy something for ...."

The façade goes on and on and on.

T’is the season for get-togethers.
Because that’ s what we do.

We joke that Christmas brings out the best in people and that can be true. Strangers wishing each other a merry Christmas or Happy New Year as they pass in a street. And then there’s the flip side. The disfunction brought of expectation, judging and pigeonholing. We put on the face and whatever costume we choose to define us and show up to the gathering of people who know us best (or who we expect to know us best because they’ve known us the longest or they’ve known us through some hardship or other).

T’is the season for “what have you been up to?”
Why oh why would you want to do that?
You did what?

I’ve been working on a lot of projects at once in recent months. Some of which will never be mentionable beyond the vault of a solid friendship. All have had their challenges and forced me to question my priorities and values. Each time I have entertained someone else’s idea of expected outcome, life threw me another random issue to deal with.

Staring down the barrel of uncertainty in so many areas of my life in the same breath, forced me to make unexpected choices. Choices that others clearly, and vocally, thought were absurd.

But we’re taught to trust our peer groups or family. We’re vulnerable because we hope that they see us and trust they really understand us. That when life feels like utter turmoil we support each other. Isn’t that how support networks work? It’s well documented that many of the human needs such as the needs for power, intimacy, approval, achievement and affiliation, are all driven by the need to belong.

If you’ve felt it, you’ll know there’s nothing more lonely than being with people who don’t see you for all your worth. People who judge you based on validating their own choices.

Baumeister and Leary* state “in many cases, people seem reluctant to dissolve even bad or destructive relationships [...] The fact that people resist breaking off an attachment that causes pain attests to how deeply rooted and powerful the need to belong is.”

Where do you want to belong?

T’is the season for reflection. 
Of the past and the present. 

What if the season of New Year Resolutions was also one of owning our choices? T’is also the season for choosing.  You can choose to drop the expectations and decide how and where you belong.

* Baumeister RF & Leary MR 1995, ‘The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation’, Psychological Bulletin, May, 117(3), p497-529.


In the Age of Entitlement

Maybe it’s part of the human condition, to want more. Maybe it’s a reflection of our society, to compare and contrast. Over the last summer holidays, despite deliberately not showering my children with what I thought was “too much”, attempting to teach them to value what we already have as well as simple pleasures, and also that we don’t actually to have everything that everyone else has, they wanted more.

One fine day of weakness and feeling the latest thing the kids wanted was actually something they’d use a lot, I bought it for them.

The very next day they asked, “can we get a surfboard?”

A surf board we would get a lot of use with, but the request hit me. Enough was never going to be enough because there was always the next thing.

Was this a request, or an expectation from my kids?

There was much humphing from my kids when I said “no”, despite really wanting to say "yes", because I’d just learnt to stand up on a surfboard. Well, I didn’t feel I was up, but a surfer friends looked at a photo and commented “yeah, that’s up.”

Underneath the request for the surfboard, I felt the insidious creeping of entitlement and decided this needed to be addressed. Urgently.

Travelling and seeing young children who have pretty much nothing, play joyfully with what they do have, has influenced my parenting. Many house-moves has also contributed to my outlook of wanting to keep things simple and as minimalist as possibly with two active, creative children.

The world of entitlement is not exclusive to children. Was it the fairytales that brainwashed us? Entitlement pervades our society in people’s expectations of others. Often seen as “should-ing”.

You should.
He should.
She should.
Why don’t you?

I have recently experienced the displeasure of, again, not meeting someone else’s expectations. Expectations that weren’t communicated prior to the “shoulding”. Shoulding implies someone else’s choices are worthless or that they “should” do, be or choose something complying to someone else’s judgement.

Imposing a 'should' on someone is an aggression.
It is an attempt to control.

If the interaction isn’t a fair exchange, then what is it? The fair exchange may not be immediate, there is always give and take at different times within any relationship, but overall, repeatedly being drained of resources or energy is not a fair exchange.

In the age of entitlement, whether it's expecting someone should be a certain way, make certain decisions or provide something for you, the only way through is being responsible. Responsible for your own choices, reactions, and owning your intention. Everything else will fall in to place.

In my children’s books, my intention is to show children what control and disfunction looks like and introduce vocabulary and an example of a skill to deal with situations.

When you write your own fairytale, the ending will be better than all that other trite you’ve ever read about and allows a sense of inner freedom. Go on, write your own next chapter without the 'shoulds'. Let me know how it makes you feel.


This Journey We Call Parenting.

When you know better, you do better! Maya Angelou

This (photo) is the face of I don’t want to. The face of no choice.

A wise friend once said, “You get what you put up with.” He said it with a voice of experience. So I made some changes to what I was doing and walked away from a situation back then. And many other situations -and people-  since.

After a long, continuing journey of further suffering leading to more growth, I have learnt that it serves no one to put myrself last to others’ expectations or demands nor accept anything less than respect. What our children experience repeatedly becomes their normal. I struggled with what was becoming our normal and as my children challenge me constantly, I started questioning my decisions -even more than I was already beating myself up for previous decisions. When I decided that I too, deserve respect and to be to be heard, and that didn’t happen, then my path really did need to be the ‘highway’.

If I didn’t have a voice in my relationships, then it has served me to leave.

One way to change the world is to teach and model a new normal.

I often challenge my own normal.
Is this what I want or deserve?
No? Then I change it.

Putting up with it only perpetuates disfunction. Trite such as ‘work on yourself and everything will be better’ (in the same relationships), as ‘celebrated’ by the eternal happiness brigade, does nothing to encourage accountability nor responsibility for owning our own part in the demise of relationships. It seems life throws me in to situations to challenge the status quo, and what I’ll put up with. Intentionally or otherwise.

So I learn what I need to learn and move on. Sometimes life throws us stuff to either learn the lesson or teach others what we’ve learnt. I model what I’ve learnt to my children, as best I can at any given time.

Often I model it badly (in my head, that's what it seems).

Or maybe I’m just human. I’ve come to accept it’s OK for me to fail, even in front of my kids. My most important effort is to work through things and help my work their out their issues, focussing on resolution, while holding true to our standards of respect and negotiation.

What I do know is that children need to feel heard and honoured too. They know what supports them and what doesn't. Children deserve to have choices in their lives about what they should and shouldn't be made to do.

I have no nugget of wisdom to impart on this, I’m too busy dragging myself out of the gutter of self-judgement and analysis to tell anyone else how they should do it. If I did have something to say on parenting, it might be: just do what you do with love. And flexibility. And humour. Always humour - when appropriate.

We’re all in this together, let’s support each other in our growth and understanding, eh?

*Using the word ‘relationships’, I refer to all relating; friendships, relating with co-workers, as well as intimate partners.


Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet?

In the midst of a(nother) house-move, I contemplate where is our next home? And, indeed, what defines it?

In the packing of the things, I posted stuff to family members. Inherited stuff I realised wasn’t mine to guard or hoard, especially if I didn’t use it. I posted stuff back to people who had left it at my place when they’d come to visit. And I disposed of anything that wasn’t treasured or used regularly. Every day I donated bags of stuff to the charity shop.  Well, at least one bag, often a bag and numerous other items that didn’t fit in the bag(s).

Because the endless stuff doesn’t make it a home.

All the clichés, Home is where the heart is, Home is where you lay your hat etc don’t even scratch the surface of what home really means. In the recent doco Filthy Rich and Homeless, five wealthy people volunteered to live on the streets of Melbourne for 10 nights. Despite the experiment set for a finite period of time and the intention behind the TV show to highlight the plight of Homeless people, the very quick decline in the states of mental health of the volunteers was surprising. These volunteers had lights at the end of their tunnels of homelessness, and opulent lifestyles to return to after the experiment, but their psyches broke. They had support workers and health professionals check in on them, as well as a camera crew following them around. But there was something about not having a base, nor a lifeline to familiarity, even temporarily, that affected them deeply.

So what is Home?
Where is Home?

Is Home even a geographical location? Maybe the feeling of Home runs deeper?

What I aspire for my family is for Home being where we’re safe. Safe to make mistakes. Safe to say “sorry”. Home is where it is safe to grow. Home is a soft spot to land. Home is where we get to to have a voice and be heard. Home is where we work through things to resolve them Home is where we’re accepted for our imperfections.

But, it starts with self. If you can’t accept your own imperfections, and then project that something (or everything) is someone else’s ‘fault’, or complain about someone else without addressing them, then that’s not a safe environment for growth. And that is how Home is where the love is. Home is where you love yourself enough to own your mistakes and grow. To love yourself enough to leave when you’re stifled and there’s no other way through.  

There is always an autobiographical element I bring to my children’s stories, Peanut, on a mission to find his place in the world. So, are we there yet? In the finding of a new house to live, we’re here, exactly where we’re meant to be, even temporarily. I found Home is an inside job, not a just a physical locale, transient or otherwise.

Happy Home-coming!


Anyone can touch your skin. By Nicole S Kelly.


Willingness to share
And vulnerability

No one can reach so deep
One hidden
Under cloaks of mediocre expectations.

So common a game
Causing retreat behind layers of disguise
We start to believe
That this
is who we are?

Unveiling masks
Surmounting pretense
Digging deeper to find the person
I want to be.

Anyone can touch your skin
Only someone special touches your soul
Then even more courage
To let that someone


Last Minute Edit.

I am Goddess of last minute anything. One friend comments how often we have a conversation and I say something like "I completely turned it around!", usually at the last minute.

The book four illustrations arrived last week and coincidentally, I was working on another project with someone else and we were discussing how book four fit in to the series. I’m still wrangling with how to extract and describe book four’s lessons. That manuscript typed itself so easily & screams of being autobiographical, but what of the lesson(s)? I question if indeed there is a lesson or if it is pure whimsey and distraction.

In the book Peanut goes on a journey taking him deep inside the mushroom. He meets a couple of minor challenges, but nothing life-changing, and then he ends up where he was. Happy. Although he was already happy. His initial call to action was nothing more than his curiosity. But his curiosity didn’t get him in to any trouble as such.

Maybe the lesson is that sometimes the journey takes us on a tangent to show us something so when we come back to what we love, we appreciate it more. It’ll come to me.
Probably at the last minute.


Storytelling at Cowes Primary School

Today I had the privilege of storytelling to the grade 2s at Cowes Primary school. 
We discussed resilience, failure and strategies of handling big feelings like when "I feel like my body is going to explode" said one boy. 
We also explored why we wear bike helmets and why Peanut Monkey isn't wearing a bike helmet in the beginning of the story- well observed by one young lad!
Thank you for such an interesting morning and great questions grade twos!
Victorian school curriculum learning outcomes: 
VCPSCSE003 resilience: recognise that problems or challenges are a normal part of life and that there are actions that can be undertaken to manage problems
VCPSCSO005 relationships: practise skills required to include others and make friends with peers, teachers and other adults.
VCHPEP061 relationships: identify and describe emotional responses people may have experienced in different situations.
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#written by #NicoleSKelly and #illustrated by Bruce Rankin and Sophie Sirninger Rankin
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