~ The Art Of Change ~

Art and Creativity as Mediums for Empowerment , Connection and Change…

Something you may not know about Domestic Violence Shelters

Posted by carolom on October 12, 2014

I have been working in domestic violence shelters for many years and recently something happened at the shelter where I was hosting the Art of Change personal development program.

 I have witnessed it  many times over the years and it can be summed up in one word.

Generosity.

We were getting ready to start, coffee cups filled, table ready with the art supplies and Mandala templates when a staff member came in with two large boxes.

“These have been donated. Take what you would like.”

Before our eyes a knitted rainbow appeared, scarves, gloves, knitted hats and teddy bears, lovingly stitched together by a group of women who care. The teddys are called trauma Teddy’s and are given as a comfort bear for children at the shelter who are coping with losing their home and the trauma of domestic violence.

The knitting volunteers care about their sisters and daughters and mothers in shelters and they care about their children.

I have seen this happen many times over the years.

Knitted blankets, baby clothes, donations of books, personal care products (thank you to the generosity of The Body Shop over many years) clothes and kitchen goods all make their way through the shelter doors..

There are the mobile creche volunteers who donate their time to women’s shelters so we can have child care during the groups and at Christmas time hampers, food vouchers and invitations to community Christmas parties.

Sometimes there will be tickets to a show donated to a shelter, cinema passes and  free gym membership because people who are in the community really want to make a difference and offering their resources is a way of saying:

 My heart feels for you, I want to contribute to  your recovery and quality of life  if I can.

At a women’s housing organisation their Christmas party event included a huge donation of electrical goods and household products from a company that put “action” to their vision of corporate contribution .

When I am invited to speak at forums that are often concerned with statistics and data and the current policies and funding issues,  I emphasise that in amongst those things  that define the every day business of a domestic violence shelter, there is also a profound demonstration that the media myth of our society as being uncaring and indifferent is simply not true. I have also met many men who contribute to the gardening, house maintenance, who offer their time as  Father Christmas and others who support their wives and partners who work in domestic violence shelters.

I was involved in a facebook conversation lately with a group of women who said they wanted to do something to assist women in shelters, they didn’t have much money, they march and write letters but they’d like to do something practical. I told them that one of the most inexpensive but much needed resources in women’s shelters are nappies and personal care products especially sanitary products . *Make sure to call the shelter first because storage space can be a problem for contributions that arrive in bulk.

Their response was immediate and generous.

These things make a huge difference in shelter settings as does  a packet of colouring pencils and  Mandalas for colouring  for women who are under enormous pressure and experiencing not only stress but a sense of confinement behind the locked gates of a safe house.

You may not know this about domestic violence shelters where, paradoxically women who have often been treated very poorly and are at great risk are recognised by others as deserving of love and care and nurturing and it is a very humbling thing to witness.

I just wanted to share this today because the image of that beautiful knitted rainbow  that spilt across the table and the smiles and joy of women who are sorting through so much chaos in the early days of leaving a violent relationship, was too sacred not to share.

 

The following poster is based on one of the Mandalas in The Big Girls Little Colouring Book . The medARTation colouring book for women book is available on my website. It has its origins in the art work I created for the Art of Change personal development groups in women’s shelters and in 2012, at the request of a small group of wonderful women, I created the book so that medARTation process ifs available for all women everywhere.

http://www.CarolOmer.com

This is the link to a previous blog post  #WhyIStayed

http://www.carolom.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/why-doesnt-she-just-leave-why-did-you-stay/

 

Women are our SiStars

Posted in Carol Omer, Community, Gratitude, Shelter, SiStars, Women | Leave a Comment »

Domestic Violence Shelter Walls as a Gallery of Possibility not pain.

Posted by carolom on October 9, 2014

I have worked in domestic violence shelters for over 25 years and  one evening in the early days a resident and I were sitting in the group room one evening.

The walls were full of the kind of posters often found in d.v and homeless settings including a cowering woman with a black eye and frightened child in Say no to domestic violence posters.
Hepatitis posters, images that represented ill health, lack and desperation in the guise of being educational and a preventative measure..The woman I was sitting with looked around the room and said:”My life feels completely f***ed up and I look around and see these images and words  and it just makes it all so much worse”.I saw the setting from her view point and took her observation to our staff meeting. We realised that not only the women who live at the shelter but the women who work there were exposed to pain and trauma based imagery and deficit oriented messages day in and day out.

Over the next few weeks we took down every poster that had the word violence on it and all of the images that presented how not to be and replaced them with aspirational images and uplifting posters.

I created a World Peace Begins at Home poster which had exactly the same message but with a very different emotional and visual impact.

 

World Peace b:w

The front entrance area no longer had a list of “Don’t Do” rules, I replaced it with the words A Peaceful Welcome inside of a glass painted Mandala  on the front window.

The Mandala portal at  the entrance point to the Shelter was now a warm and welcoming one rather than a rules and issue based message.

What I learnt from that pivotal situation is that by placing shock-factor images in front of people who are identified  by professionals to need education and intervention is  often just adding to the existing problem rather than evoking change.
Confronting images don’t necessarily have the shock-as-a-tool-for-consciousness-raising impact as intended, they just add to an existing landscape that affirms the negative and disregards the positive /aspirational content when it comes to many public awareness campaigns.

Over the next few years our once issue-saturated shelter transformed into a place that was inspirational, evocative, educational and grounded in the assumption that people who want to change don’t need to see their train wreck before their eyes, but will often respond to an alternate destination that can be reached if the right tools and support and a willingness to change are all party to the “call to action”.

Creativity is at the core of this change and the staff and management have to be open to creating a new culture that can be messy and uncertain during the transition phase.

As time went by I saw tired and over worked government workers melt down into the couches in our group room, look at the walls and the plants and say  “It feels really peaceful in here. Thats so unusual for a shelter”.

Women who were highly agitated still fully immersed in the criss that lead them to the shelter would relax and slow down within the group room which was enriched by having the opportunity to colour some of the art work for themselves and take the positive images and messages back to their unit to create their own wall gallery.

Over time  once issue-saturated shelter transformed into a place that was inspirational, evocative, educational and grounded in the assumption that people who want to change don’t need to see their train wreck before their eyes, but will often respond to an alternate destination that can be reached if the right tools and support and a willingness to change are all party to the call to action.

I encourage all of us who work in women’s shelters, prisons and health settings to take a look at the walls and ask the question “Are the words I am reading and the images I am seeing day after day creating an inspirational  uplifting environment or are the walls saturated in pain, issue and trauma based messages that affirm the negative to try and create the positive”?

I make the World Peace Begins at Home b/w template  freely available for  Shelters that are interested in beginning the process of creating uplifting art and imagery and would like to offer the women in residence the chance to create with their hands and step out of the business of the mind for awhile.

 

 

Peace

Posted in Creativity, Domestic Violence, Peace, Personal Development, Shelter, Sisterhood, Staff Training, Transformation, Women | 1 Comment »

Are we ready for Femenism?

Posted by carolom on September 24, 2014

 

Unity in commUnity CarolOmer

Emma Watson’s recent call to feminism as Goodwill Ambassador for  the United Nations was a well crafted, strong message for women and men everywhere. Emma  spoke purposely with the kind of passion and intent that changes lives. Her words were her wand and she cast a call for  change that has the world talking.  *See below for link to the video

I have worked in women’s homeless and domestic violence shelters for many years and encountered the stereotyped men haters who Emma refers to, as well as the wise women, passionate activists who take risks and create change and women who are so angry at so many things, they bring a lot of negativity to the table.
I’ve done business with  staff in women’s shelters who are a powerhouse for reform  and empowerment, equally as I have met staff who are so unresolved in their own angst and anguish, they create a toxic setting for others and manage to blame the patriarchy for everything.

One service refused to have a male cat on the premises. True story.

The purposeful, outraged feminist’s  who kicked down doors and revolutionised equality in the 70’s as they  followed in the footsteps of their ancestral suffragette’s,  let in the light even as their legacy cast a shadow over the perception of the term feminist. I honour them.

My point in highlighting the parallels and opposites in the feminism discussion is that many of the women I have met in women’s shelters,  both as residents and as staff,  are operating at a place beyond the feminist debate, beyond identification with a highly fraught and often very subjective definition and are making a difference in their world and in the larger world.

However they don’t  say I am a Feminist . They have chosen  not to enter into the debate and arguments and semantics that surround the term. Interestingly it is often the younger staff, the newly graduated social workers who seek to direct the conversations to the topic of “are we a feminist organisation” which often ends up at “does having a picture of an angel in the group room mean we are a Christain ogranisation and if so  we should also have a Buddha on the bench top and an image of the Goddess Hestia who looks after home and hearth in there too?”.

Emma Watson is a young woman who has chosen to use her fame and privilege to make a difference. I applaud her from my position where many  of the older women I know in women’s services networks do not need the identification of the term feminist to do their work in women’s empowerment and facilitating social change.

Many do identify strongly as  a feminist and I have sat through many forums over the years where the debate goes back and forth, taking up the time I would rather have committed to creating the personal development and empowerment art for our domestic violence group rather than enter into a debate that has now gone viral, as the tendrils of twitter, face-book forums, the round table of youtube and a billion blogs breathe life and form into a debate that many of us who work in women’s services are intimately familiar with.

Perhaps the heart and soul of what people consider to be the essence of feminism is what many women are already manifesting and creating in the world and the relentless debate that has magnified a million fold with the rise of the digital conversations  takes precious resources of time and energy that could be used in creating the change rather than debating the term.

Or not of course! No doubt the conversation circulating across the globe and bouncing from the satellites that conduct our technology  is adding to the next level of collective-consciousness we are evolving towards.

Many years ago I attended a forum where the speaker addressed the gathering of counsellors, shelter workers and grass roots agents of change with a sweeping accusation that if it wasn’t for the patriarchy, the world would not be in the mess that it is in.

I wrote this as a way to purge the toxic impact of sitting through several hours of anti-male rhetoric. Thank you Emma for the reminder that feminism is none of these things and for acknowledging our young brothers. I am a SheforHe advocate too.

…and perhaps I might be a Femenist too.

Sisters our Brothers are not all to blame:

http://carolom.wordpress.com/2007/03/24/sistersour-brothers-are-not-all-to-blame

Posted in emma watson, femenism, feminism, Warrior Women, Wisdom, Women | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Why doesn’t she just leave? Why did you stay?

Posted by carolom on September 14, 2014

Sistars2

We hear it said often, especially when there is a high profile domestic violence case in the media.

The air waves fill with outrage, calls to action, compassion and inevitably someone somewhere will say: “Why didn’t she leave?” and “Why did she go back?“.

Those of us who work in  women’s domestic  /family violence shelters hear her stories and witness her tears and sometimes are asked to be her voice at a time when just taking the next breath takes a huge amount of energy.

This poem is for those sisters who are living in domestic violence or have come through it and have had those words tossed their way :

Why didn’t you just leave?

I’m sorry I can’t hear you…

what did you say?

My ears are blocked and heavy

From  vicious words that have been  hurled my way

There used to be sweet words and promises

and whispered romance in my ears

I Now I find myself thinking

“Can ears become blocked with all those tears?”

Couldn’t you see what he was doing to you?

I once had a clear and beautiful Vision of the life

we  would live together

He held my hand when our babies were born

He was my lighthouse in stormy weather

I know that sounds corny but its true.

Each time he erupted into rage

it always finished with the deepest regret

I understood he didnt mean it because

He said “you haven’t seen the best of me yet”

And I believed him

But surely after those first few times you should have known he wouldn’t change?

By the time what I know now as The Cycle

had taken a hold and become our way of life

I couldn’t see the front door or tomorrow

I was so immersed in trying to be the right wife

My kids loved their daddy deeply

they still do even though he is  jailed

And what struck me when my sisters said “leave him”

Were three words- 

You have failed 

You have failed 

You have failed

Do you realise he could have killed you?

He once told me if I left him

there would be no more reason for him to live

He said he would kill us all and then himself

if I had no more love that I could give

It would be my fault. So I made sure to try harder.

He told me tales called “Theres Nowhere to Hide”

and no other man will ever have me

He put a pretty convincing case forward

he yelled it

as he turned around

and grabbed me.

I made sure to keep still and just nod. 

That sometimes worked.

But theres shelters and places where you could have got  help…

I had two friends come to my house one day

he wasn’t home

and I was glad

They came because they were scared for me

but I couldn’t hear them

and my vision that day was particularly bad

It was like they were in another place

even though they were sitting

right there in my kitchen

We all jumped and shuffled nervously

when he came home

You girls sitting around bitchen?

He said with his dangerous smile.  

And they left.

And he took my mobile phone off me.

I know it must have been hard but weren’t you worried for your kids?

My little boy was wetting the bed and

the school had called me in with

concerns for my girls…yet again…

but I just knew if I was patient

my husband would overcome his anger

and his pain

You see I knew that he had a lot of pain from his childhood.

Well good on you for finally leaving him. Were you happy with the sentence he got?

There is no place for the word happy in

any of what has gone down

My kids ask after him all the time

and I remember how he made me laugh

when he’d play the clown

Anyway, I’m finding it hard to hear you again

my heart is starting to race

Theres a thing I call The Fog in My Head

it clouds over my personal space

and it will quickly cover you

and the floor

and the door

Sorry, don’t think I’m being rude

Its just I can’t really talk about it any more right now….

 

 

 

Posted in Domestic Violence, SiStars, Stories, Transformation, Trauma, Why did you stay, Women | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Creativity! It is Oxygen for the Soul.

Posted by carolom on July 24, 2014

Without a Creative outlet our thoughts can go round and round, our stories grow old and dusty and the landscape  we live in becomes much smaller…Creativity is Oxygen

Posted in Creativity, Fun, MedARTation, Spirituality | Leave a Comment »

Sometimes it is the simplest things..

Posted by carolom on July 20, 2014

That make the biggest diffeence!

I was walking along “Dog Beach”, the beach where the most sociable, happy Dogs get to run free. I saw these 4 dogs run towards one another from different directions, wagging their tails like they were meeting old friends. Perhaps they were! Maybe they were locals wbho meet each other every day at 11 am.

Or perhaps they were strangers so filed with joi de vivre that they simply had to gallop along together for awhile..

Dog Beach

Posted in Beloved Pets, Dogs, Friendships, Fun, Joy | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Hissing Cat Dislodges Furr-Ball. Loses Customary Cool….

Posted by carolom on October 22, 2012

My girl cat Purrly, little Black panther with cat’titude has never accepted Junipurr the fluffy guy and has taught him to chase her by running whenever he comes within 20 feet of her.

This started when Junipurr was 6 weeks old – obviously a major threat given his size and fierce rrrroar…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other day Junipurr turned up in the kitchen unexpectedly and Purrly was so outraged she hissssssed fiercely at him. So fiercely she dislodged a furr ball!

Have you ever seen a cat hissing and growling whilst also barrfing up a furr ball?

Junipurr was fascinated and kept looking from me to Purrly with a kind of ” what thu” expression on his furry face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The moral of this story? Take a lesson from your “enemy” and chill out Purrly~Gurrly….

Posted in Cat Story, Cats, Humour, Junipurr, Purrly the Cat | Leave a Comment »

An Ode to Creativity…

Posted by carolom on May 11, 2012

*Dedicated to Dr Jean Houston in Celebration of her 75th Birthday. Teacher my Teacher we danced in your Mystery School Class Room and New Possibilities were born.
Thankyou from the bottom of my ‘art.

An Ode to Creativity:

I have been tantalised by Creativity

Titillated, tickled, tricked and traumatised

by Creativity

Creative impulses have exalted, uplifted, transported, supported, delighted

and  then simply disappeared!

I have been courted and caught

and taught by that Invisible Force

In fact Creativity often visited me in the night whilst I was sleeping

It breathed magic into the mundane and tragic into some old pain

as I tossed and turned in my bed

of nails

And then it left, just before I awoke

like a one night stand who crept away before I could discover his last name,

leaving my room sparkling with the cryptic presence of that which was both

delightful and desperate at the same time

~0~

On Full Moon time, Creativity was a brilliant orb, sending tides of possibility

crashing upon each and every neuron

or not

After all Creativity is a close cousin of

exasperation exaggeration and expectation

and not a predictable relative at that.

Alas pre-Moonstrual tension has been known to send the ungrounded Soul

into a spin of restlessness culminating by a kind of lunacy

ah what might that old Luna see?

~0~

On a warm summers day Creativity is a fuzzy peach on a purple beach

and nothing makes sense to senses on fire that are crackling with words like

incense and desire

timeless love that will expire

Room for rent in a Mind for hire

~0~

There was a time, during the on again off again stage of our relationship

when neither of us were truly committed

and  Creativity and I parted ways

I had a fling with Apathy, that promiscuous partner who seems to demand far more

than what is given

It was a dark day of the summer of discontent and Apathy kept me very  busy crying and sighing

oh how I yearned for Creativity’s tenuous embrace

But then I awoke one day – Yes THE Awakening

and I found that Creativity had glued itself to my lungs and & every breath was like a brand new  Thought.

I breathed a sigh of relief…

From those tumultuous days of high tides and low rides in an ocean of Creative  uncertainty

We have found a new place

We set up home together

We are – dare I say and tempt fate – Happily Married

Monogomous.

Tempted by no other  although Apathy has tried to come knocking once or twice.

Snug and perhaps some what smug in one another arms we have long passed the

I love you- I hate you- I can’t live with you- Can’t live without you phase that had us fazed

The illusions have passed and we have birthed

illuminations

ruminations and

consumations

brought to life so effortlessly

no longer relying on cheap red wine, that elixir of creative angst and discontent

a familiar friend when drama and chaos seemed like the necessities of a Creative mind and altered state

As a committed couple who have worked out our differences, we truly understand one another now.

Resilient companions we know each has our own season and cycle, brilliant fruits, breath taking foliage, prickled thorns and tenacious weeds.

A garden we are co-creating together no longer baring pitch forks ready to spar!

~0~

Contrary to The Secret that whispered & shouted to millions “I AM the Creator” in my life

I have been joyously, painfully, recklessly, relentlessly shown -at long last-

that life here on Earth is  a co-creative journey!

Sigh. I don’t have to do it all alone and make it all happen anymore.

I never did of course but thats what The Secret said.

And no longer do I  lobby invisible Angels

or thank them for not answering my prayers during desperate heart and troubled mind times

because I know that Creativity is the life force and it is in every cell of existence

as we inhale and exhale one another through the eons of Time

Indeed we are Creations born of Creator

here to Create

so I no longer wrestle with trying to create that which is not yet ready to be born

or trying to Create with all what I think I know

I simply immerse myself, bask, swim & luxuriate in the

Creative Flow.

~0~

Yes I awoke one day and Creativity had glued itself to my lungs

slid down through the tendons of my arms,

moved into the muscles of my imagination and

proposed to me.

Of course I said “I Do”….

Posted in Creativity, Jean Houston, Ode to Creativity | Leave a Comment »

Moving beyond Building Bridges…

Posted by carolom on May 8, 2012

During  almost three decades of working in human services, I have seen the term  building bridges gain  popularity.

Its a great metaphor. Bridges exist in all countries and transcend cultural barriers. The image of a bridge doesn’t require explanation.  The image speaks the intent. We are crossing over, transcending the distance between us, l am leaving my side of the banks and arriving at yours.

It isn’t  surprising that both the visual image and the language of bridge building has  become an effective analogy, a visual metaphor   for getting along with our neighbor, resolving issues and  walking into new territory together.

A few years ago I came across a symbol that captivated my attention and spoke to my ‘inner bridge-builder’ with a clear message that bridge building, no matter how well intended, has its origins in the dual paradigms  of separation and differences.

The symbol that stetched my perception is called a Mandorla. The word is Italian for Almond and that is the shape that is created when two circles over lap.


When we are developing a process that involves building a bridge, we are starting from a point of separation, figuring  out how to transcend the distance between myself and the “other” by seeking to unite two distinctly separated sides.

With the Mandorla we can see that  two whole and complete circles retain their unique identity and between them create a new, unified  space where those two circles meet. The place  where we are already connected.

This is the place where  we all share commonalities and experience our pre-existing connection.

We breathe the same air, we have the same needs for food, shelter and warmth. As human beings we share a mutal need for love, belonging, purpose and a need for meaningful stories and sense of place in the world.

These are core human needs that form the foundation of families and communities across the planet, regardless of the different cultural, economic or political circumstances of where we live in the  place we call home.

If I am running a workshop with young offenders in juvenile detention or visiting a rural Aboriginal Community for a womens camp, the Mandorla affirms our connection. I never enter into their community or communal space  wondering how I can build a bridge between us instead I show them my Mandorla poster (see below) and ask if we can spend a bit of time looking at where we are connected.

Once we get past the obvious we are all humans, a whole range of possible  shared experiences and commonalities come forth. You are left handed like I am  or  I like camping.. do you?’,  I share your same views on social justice…how can we make a difference together?

As we explore our commonalities we also look at how the space outside of the Mandorla, that large expanse of the two separate components of the intersected circles. This is the place where we learn from one another, a place where our differences are recognised within the experience and recognition  of our connection and not as somewhere we need to get to by crossing the bridge of our differences.

I created a poster for the ART of Change program  to  show my interpretation of the Mandorla.  I always show the poster with the wildly enthusiastic expectation  that when  people learn about the possibilities of Mandorla for the first time they too will have an ah-ha! moment and realise that the time we spend thinking about, talking about & building bridges  is time taken away from sitting  in the Mandorla of our connection & sharing in the joy of learning & growing together through one another’s Stories.

I came up with another way of expressing the Mandorla and it goes like this:

We are all the same within, regardless of which of the skins we are in!

Posted in Building Bridges, Change, Community, Creativity, Human Rights, Jean Houston, Journeys, Mandorla, Peace, Social Artistry, Stories, Transformation, Unity, Wisdom | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

He had a Vision & he knew he alone would have to make his leap into the Unknown…

Posted by carolom on May 6, 2012

This is a Story about a little cat with a Big Dream.

He knew there was more to life than the single beam he was walking on. So he walked forth with determination!

Alas at the end of his walk he came to a great canyon and he knew he had to make a decision…

If he did not cross over, he would forever remain on the shed most travelled…

So, like all catalysts of change who had travelled before him he leapt forth, keeping his eyes on the destination, ignoring the cold cruel concrete canyon below him.

Focus. Vision. Courage. These were the things that propelled him forth.

He landed safely, a little shaken but nevertheless happy that he had crossed the seemingly impossible divide.

Alas, once he reached his destination all was not what it seemed.

It was in fact a dead end. A flat expanse surrounded not by trees and balls of wool and fields of possibilities…

There was instead a thick concrete wall that prevented him galloping over the next shed shaped hill!

He was disappointed.       He miaow miaow miaowed in sorrow.

And his miaows attracted the attention of a young woman who was doing some traveling of her own.

Of course she offered to help him.

And at first he reached out to accept the help that she offered him.

But then, like Simba who has remembered something the Lion King  had whispered to him….

…he stepped back from her outstretched hands, determined to make this unexpected leap on his own, just like the first one.

It had given him assurance to know a stranger has offered to help him but he knew he had to refuse her good hearted offer.

“Please., let me help you ” she implored, her own hands now stretched open wide like a human trampoline, ready to break his fall.

“Please leave” he said “Go now…I must do this alone”.

So she left, a bit relieved truth be known as it had started raining and she had answered his miaw miaow miaow without her slippers on.

When she left he took a big breath and leapt forth…

He landed safely.

This had been a big adventure.

A day of taking risks, of contemplation and following Dreams.

A day rich in the kindness of strangers, the audacity to leap beyond the known.

And perhaps most importantly it had been a day when he realised that one cat /persons rubbish bin is anothers Victory.

Such is the nature of the ambiguity of Success….

That night he fell into a deep deep sleep, exhausted after the roller coaster of exhilarating possibilities and devastating disappointments.

And in his Dreams, he was back up on that beam, King of His Destiny. A little furry guy with the world at his paws.

His name is Junipurr. He asked me to share his story so that others may also  have the courage to follow  their dreams, to accept the kindness of strangers

….and to know when you must do what needs to be done without a safety net to catch you…

Posted in Believe in Your Dreams, Cat Story, Junipurr | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

 
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