~ The Art Of Change ~

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

Service Stations – are they a relic of the recent past?

Posted by carolom on July 17, 2015

I was driving along a road that I had travelled many times  during the 10 years during that  I worked in the area.

As I neared Gino’s  service station where I bought my  petrol and ice creams in summer ( and didn’t mind paying a few cents more  when the multi-national petrol-supermarket chains began opening nearby), I was aghast to see this:

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“Oh no..they got Gino”
Convinced that this local grass roots, no frills business man had finally been beaten down by the corporate giants, I stopped my car and stepped over the flags that reminded me of a crime scene.

Poor Gino! He gave such great service. I will miss him (even though I hadn’t filled up my car there for years, he was still the Village mechanic).

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Gino gave such great service he was always booked and people who had moved out of the area would even bring their cars back to him, such was Gino’s reputation.

We didn’t care that everything looked like it needed a coat of paint or that his hands were deeply ingrained with oil stains when he handed us our change. They were working hands! No robotics in Gino’s workshop!

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I looked at his familiar sign, grey clouds framing the simple words and felt a sense of loss that was totally disproportionate to the moment.
Except of course if you are a community worker who has been watching  the Village crumble over recent times as supermarkets stomp on the corner store and community organisations fall victim to budgets and politics, the Village Green now a carpark so to metaphorically speak.

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Gino, we will miss you and your workmanship guarantee.

Perhaps I should set up a facebook page where your loyal customers can gather and share memories of the many years you looked after their cars, seeing toddlers turn into young adults and pull up in their P plate cars to fill up at the local servo…

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As I walked solemnly towards the door I had walked through so many times, fully immersed in sentiment and not-very-nice-thoughts toward the corporate world, I saw a sign on the door.
An eviction notice?
Letter to my customers?
Details of how to pay outstanding accounts?

I stepped closer to read it…the flags making a slight flapping noise, the sky becoming ominously darker. I could see the word Closed and wondered “where did Gino go”….

This is what it said:

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Gino!! You’re back!! I was so worried!

I walked back to my car after this 10 minute funeral for a business that has  just gone on holidays and had not in fact suffered a fatal heart attack by the corporate giants and drove away thinking about those first three letters in the word assumption.

And  where Gino might have gone on holidays…to Italy?…I hope his family is okay because you never know, elderly parents and…and..

Moral of this story: Always make sure the facts get in the way of your good story…

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There is a Coloring Revolution Happening & Very Good Reasons Why…

Posted by carolom on June 13, 2015

Have you noticed how many articles and news segments, facebook posts and blogs have appeared in the last few months about the phenomenal rise in  coloring books for adults?

I have and I’m thrilled that the best kept secret in women’s personal development is now reaching audiences far and wide! I have been creating Mandalas and coloring sheets  for women for over 20 years and have seen the tremendously positive impact of coloring first hand!

To celebrate the launch of  The Big Girls Little Coloring Book I thought I would share a few of the things that I have learnt about the why  part of Coloring for Women and some of the reasons we are seeing such a meteoric rise in coloring books for adults.

1.Coloring is therapeutic. In the words of one of the women in our prison group “I’ve met a lot of psychiatrists and therapists and counsellors who want me to talk about the things that happened in the past but for me, sitting with the coloring book is one of the most peaceful places I go to”.

Coloring a pattern or template is similar to walking a labyrinth. The lines that are followed create a meditative state and within the conformity of those lines, like the labyrinth, the mind and body enter into a soothing meditation that is not confined to or bound by the pattern that is being followed.

2. As children we were very connected to our coloring pencils and often received a coloring book as a gift. In kindergarten we were coloring all the time and then, sometime around junior primary, our colored pencils began to take  a back seat to learning processes that were not so much concerned with creativity   as  academic performance. Many women never found their colored pencils again…until now!

Women are now reclaiming their colored pencils and returning to the fun, relaxing enjoyment of coloring.

3. Many women are tired and exhausted from participating in  you can have it all and are now holding down full time jobs as well as running a family full time, pursuing studies and in amongst it “all” are tired, restless and feeling disconnected from their creativity.

Coloring creates a peaceful, personal space that is a form of open eyed meditation. Breathing slows down and  the rhythmic movement of the pencils is akin to a mantra that slows the mind and stops its restless chatter.

4. Women experience a great sense of connection and community when they come together to color in circles. This is especially relevant for women who say they are tired of socialising in public  spaces and are looking for a return to the Village and the sense of community and belonging  that is at the heart of conversation about when the world was a much more simple place.

Gathering in small circles creates a trusting, innovative space where young women and older women can gather. Where we can meet up with friends, make new ones and share food, stories, creativity and laughter together.

These are just a few of the reasons why Women’s  Coloring books and Coloring Circles are on the rise.

The Big Girls Little Coloring Book has 21 Mandalas, each accompanied by an Affirmation poster with a thought provoking message.

It has been a pleasure and a great honour to create a coloring book for women that covers topics such as the power of the mind, the nature of patterns in our life and how to tap into that deep well of creativity that we knew so freely and easily as children and, for many women, are re-discovering again through the pages of coloring books for grown ups!

I am deeply grateful for the women in domestic violence shelters, prisons, community health and healing groups who have shared their stories, told me what works and what doesn’t work for them and allowed me to create coloring pages that are like a small labyrinth, a place where the rhythm of the lines and the focused movements of the hands,  slows down the busy mind and breathe deeply as the pattern unfolds.

Posted in Community, Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Autumn is the Perfect time to let old BeLeafs go…

Posted by carolom on May 30, 2015

As the seasons change Mother Nature releases the old growth and over the coming months the plants prepare for the new growth that bursts forth in the Spring.

We all have old growth, old ideas and beliefs  that could be released…

What are the BeLeafs you could be letting go of today?

    

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Give Me The Courage of a Mouse.

Posted by carolom on January 2, 2015

Give me the Courage of a Mouse

I heard my cat Junipurr rustling in the dry leaves by the back door. It was the sound of Cat Chasing Mouse so I went out and ordered him inside.

I didn’t want another of the spoils of  Junipurr and Purrly’s hunting to arrive on the door mat. Their hunting is instinctive. I get that and equally it is my instinct to protect mice and birds and lizards from the deeply coded jungle instincts of my well fed domestic cats who play with small animals and birds with the same kind of cruelty that humans delight in when they make the bulls run or roosters fight one another for no reason.

When I am able to intervene successfully, Mouse always runs as fast as she can whether it is back to the nest and her babies or to the foreign soil of the garden next door I will never know. I just see her run and I cheer her on, a sense of satisfaction that I have liberated a tiny little animal from the jaws and claws of the lions.
Mouse’s world is no less important to her than my own. She lives by her wit and skill in a garden fraught with tigers and lions and panthers ready to pounce on her day and night. Sharp metal mouse traps, poisons and bait, night owls and frightened humans who will kill her in an instant. This is the world that she is born into.

I bent down to see Mouse hiding under the leaves, her body heaving with a palpitating heart and her back leg covered in blood. It was a distressing scene and I knew her terror was equal to that which I might feel if I was attacked by a pouncing giant or trapped in a corner with no escape.

I moved towards her and saw that she was not in a very good state at all so I picked her up to bring her inside where my husband would euthanise her rather than have her die slowly from her wounds . Despite her injuries she pushed against my closed hand with the strength of a small lion, all the while her heart, which was now close to the palm of my hand was pounding in terror. In a deft twist of her body she lunged at my finger and bit it sharply, jumping to freedom as I recoiled in pain. It wasn’t a big bite. Can a Mouse  ever really make a big mark?

It was enough to free her from my gasp and she ran into the vegetable garden.

I don’t know where she got her energy from as it was apparent when I picked her up that she was critically injured with a stomach wound.

I have learnt over the years to accept that there are limitations to the difference I can make for a suffering animal or a struggling human being so I didn’t pursue her into the vegetable garden. In spite of my best of intentions I will never be able to transmit a message of safety and protection to a wild animal, big or small, so instead I transmitted a prayer for her pain and I let her go.

The rustling leaves told me she was on her way to her freedom and I walked back inside, past Junipurr who had moved on to the effortless task of getting my attention for his breakfast, the wide eyed hunter now replaced with the purring, tail wrapping choreography of a cat who will never have to hunt for food to survive.

My encounter with Mouse had impact and occupied my thoughts over the next couple of hours. She was so strong and determined in the face of what must have felt like my second attack after the cat struck her with his razor claws.

In the few seconds she was in my hand, I noticed how perfect her own claws were and how her limbs were not so different than mine with her perfectly formed legs and hands that grasped at my skin to push me away.

An hour or so later I imagined her laying in the garden dying a slow and painful death so I decided to see if I could find her and return to my first plan of bringing her inside to be euthanised.
I found her straight away.

She hadn’t run very far into the garden at all. In fact she was only a few inches away from where she jumped out of my hand.

She was laying on her side, eyes closed, covered in ants. She must have died shortly after her escape.

Her stillness enabled me to see the extent of her injuries and truly, I could not see how she was even able to move let alone fight with the strength and fierceness that made me recoil and release her.

I picked her up and stroked her head as I carried her to the flower bed for burial.

I told her she had been amazing.

She died on her own, no doubt in enormous pain and blood loss but she truly gave her survival her all.

I was able to look closely at her tiny little hands and the perfection of her face, her magnificent rope like tail and in her I saw the courage of a lion and the fierceness of many of the women I have met in domestic violence shelters who continue to fight, even though the battle is with an enemy far bigger and physically stronger than she will ever be.

I dug a shallow grave next to the mint patch and placed Mouse down gently. I thanked her for taking me away from my computer and the technology that so often removes us from the world of animals and nature and death and victories and into the realm where to have the courage of a Mouse is a thing to be proud of indeed.

She was a hero of mythic proportions.

She fought both the jungle cat and the human-giant and I am honoured to have been the one to lay her to rest.

Give me the courage of a Mouse and I would consider it an honour of equally mythic proportions.

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Posted in Animals, Letting go, Lifes Stories, Metaphor, Mouse | 2 Comments »

The Virus. An Australian Story.

Posted by carolom on November 18, 2014

The Virus is a representative story. Though names and some of the details have been changed for narrative purpose, it is a true story.

I have updated the original blog post in response to the SBS series First Contact

The Virus. An Australian Story

I was 5 or 6 years old a migrant child of parents who were swept away from the sooty chimney towns of Britain’s working class north by the promises of a bright new life in a young country. A country brimming, spilling and erupting with outrageous opportunities for people, white people, who dreamt of owning their very own land. Australia.

We were the ten pound package , government assisted chance of a life time Brits who flocked in their thousands to these shores and landed like sparkling white seagulls that squabble amongst themselves as they fly in kindred form. Noisy chattering seagulls on the look out for the best morsel they can find.
Some have said seagulls all look and act the same…

Poms they called us, the latest flock of new arrivals following in the footsteps of the convicts and our sea faring ancestors who came to seize new territory in a land that was not young at all.

Big skies, wide streets, pupil dazzling light Brand new asbestos houses far removed from the tall sooty terrace flats cramped side by side back Home.

We staggered wearily, eagerly into government issue houses that nestled expectantly in the middle of tiny little paddocks. Neatly sliced quarter acre blocks that beckoned the new arrivals to seed a brand new life and sow a future far removed from the misty grey land where the sun rarely shines.

This was The Lucky Country and we thought that we were very lucky indeed! There was much to learn and many new things to see and for awhile my migrant child’s world was consumed with more space new friends, big school, new sounds, interesting sights and beach time delights.
In fact we were so immersed in our new life we were utterly, completely, mind numbingly oblivious to the Land where we were living.

That is when the virus struck.

I remember the day it happened.Unlike those silent viruses that sit invisibly on taps waiting to hitch a ride on fingertips that brush past lips this insidious, relentless, sickening parasite travelled effortlessly upon the breath transmitted upon invisible sound waves elusive in their source, the destination always the same.

It was very hard for young children to escape a germ such as that! I was standing by the milk shed when the virus struck.

Its current host was a plump red freckly boy called George. He was no doubt named after a king, an uncle or grandfather back Home .

The kids called George names like dot-face and carrot top.
Giggling and laughing, George entertained us by pulling faces and joining in the fun. His best friend stood with us, Peter Green, an Australian boy who was fond of saying “we go back 6 generations“, even though he didn’t really know what it meant.

His father said it all the time so it must have been important.

Peter was teaching George the real Australian way

We were standing in the cool shade, a rare find across the sweltering expanse of the asphalt playground when the virus emerged and the first cross infection occurred. In a loud voice that announced his cockney origins wherever he went, George sang out four words in the mocking tone of a confident child: “Dirty coon, rotten baboon” Four words that speared my consciousness and left a tender wound, a vulnerable space to host a virus that I was too young to fight.

Georges words invoked contempt a voracious contempt that swept through the crowded school yard as quickly as it took to catch one another’s breath. I followed Georges eyes and saw the object of his loathing.
Curly haired Lindy and her little brother Jimmy the Aboriginal kids. The Blacks

Lindy and Jimmy stood out from the sea of white faces. Shiny black birds surrounded by vicious seagulls. They stood holding the eyes of their attacker whilst holding tightly onto one another’s hand. Jimmy leaned towards his big sister terrified that the big kid with the flaming red hair was about to lunge and squash him then and there.

They were the outcast kids the Abo’s who were never ever invited to play our games. Peter smiled at George approvingly and one or two others snickered our way the virus twisting itself across children’s faces annihilating the anti-bodies of innocence feasting upon the collective enjoyment of someone else being teased.

This particularly robust virus had its own language.

After coon followed different words boong-boong –that’s the noise they make when the bull bar hits them. Before long other children joined in the heckling until a bubonic plague of racist torment swamped us all in its vitriolic grip.

That was the day I learnt a new A, B C. The uniquely Australian alphabet. A. B. C.

Abo
Boong
Coon.

This was the alphabet I was infected with as a child.

In the lucky country. A magnificent land older than the mountains with secrets winding back through time. Something terrible occurred. A virus was unleashed long before our little family travelled to the down under shores.

What became of Lindy and Jimmy? Innocent children who were called half castes, treated as out casts.
Removed from their Mother, kidnapped before her very eyes.
Thanks to the power of forgiveness and decency and common sense, strong medicines for curing the malaise of toxic tongues and the virus that leaves many deaf and mute and blind, Lindy and Jimmy and I became friends.
Precious friends and together we are all in recovery from the virus that strikes so many innocent children down. UnityinCommunitySistars2

Posted in Aboriginal, Australia, Australia's abuse of human rights, Carol Omer, Racism, racism in australia, Reconciliation, Relationships, Sorry | Leave a Comment »

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

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

Carol Omer www.Carolomer.com

I have worked in Domestic Violence shelters in direct service delivery and on management boards for over 20 years. One evening in the early days a resident and I were sitting in the group room of the shelter. The walls were full of the kind of posters often found in d.v and homeless settings. Say no to domestic violence posters and statements that challenge abuse and injustice were the words on the posters lining the walls.
There were hepatitis pamphlets, images that represented ill health, struggle and poverty and they were there because they were considered to be educational and necessary for the women. Staff believed residents and outreach clients should be able to see the information in front of them at all times. Pamphlets and fact sheets that had words like trauma and stress, abuse and violence written on them in bright letters were on the wall by the door where women came and went throughout the day.

The woman I was sitting with looked around the room and said: My life feels completely messed up and I look around and see these images and words  and it just makes it all feel so much worse. It’s like it’s everywhere. I’ve never been to a place like this before. Seeing that word violence over and over freaks me out,

I saw the setting from her view point for the first time and took her observation to our staff meeting.

Through our discussion over several staff meetings we came to realise that not only the women who live at the shelter but the women who work there are exposed to pain and trauma based imagery and deficit oriented messages day in and day out.

Was our shelter warm and welcoming, colourful and bright or was it sterile and covered in words and messages that highlighted trauma, pain and the struggle?
Had we considered creating visual images that let women of all cultural backgrounds know that this was her place to unwind, relax and reflect or did our setting look like a government department with warning posters and issue-oriented material on the walls? No we hadn’t.
Would we want to live in this environment at the worst period of our own lives? Would we feel comfortable and at home there considering we would be living amongst and sharing space with strangers? We decided that no, we wouldn’t be warm and comfortable in our group room or the kitchen area as they were covered in issue related words and imagery and none of us had the word violence or abuse in the communal spaces where we met with friends and family in our homes to share food and stories together.

We noticed we had a sexual abuse hot line magnet on the fridge which we later found out was traumatic for some women to read every time they opened the door to get milk. The words “violence” seemed to be everywhere, on pamphlets, on hand outs, on the white boards.

Where were the word’s for Peace? They weren’t there!

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 life should not to be and replaced them with inspirational images and uplifting posters. I created a World Peace Begins at Home poster which had exactly the same message as say no to violence but with a very different emotional and visual impact.

We were, for the first time considering what messages the walls and the furniture and notice boars were sending to the women who came to our shelter.

The front entrance area no longer had a list of house rules, they went into the information pack in the drawer. We redeveloped the space with the words A Peaceful Welcome inside of a glass painted Mandala  on the front window.
Our counseling areas were transformed into peaceful, inviting spaces. We consciously created an evocative, tranquil setting in what was once an issue oriented, high profile violence focused shelter.

We also had to acknowledge we had created a very Euro-centric space that had very little cultural diversity or language representation so w e re-named each of the units “Peace” in seven different languages to demonstrate a commitment to muli-culturalism rather than offer token gestures that made space available for diversity but only within a European context.

We had the words placed on plaques that were visual and educational, with the country of origin along with the word for Peace.

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 space. It was an image that spoke to all women from all cultural backgrounds and didn’t require English literacy to transmit the intention.

What we learnt from that pivotal situation is that placing violence related images and literature and issue based words in front of people who are assessed as in need of education and support is  often just adding to the existing problem of a negatively saturated experience rather than acting as a vehicle for change. It was a turning point moment for our team and was the catalyst for a huge cultural shift.

Staff who work in domestic violence settings do not need to be seeing the deficit based words every day of their working lives either. Neuroscience research shows that we are all impacted by the sights we see and the words and sounds we hear daily.

Confronting images and statistics and abuse phone lines often don’t have the impact as intended, they can unintentionally add to an existing landscape that affirms the negative and disregards the positive /aspirational content when it comes to many public awareness campaigns.

We relocated issue based information into brightly coloured folders so that it was accessible but not visually repeating the negative, stressful wording every time someone walked past the notice board. The notice board became a place where women’s art and affirmations and culturally specific images were displayed.

The subliminal impact of the environment was one we had not previously considered but we were now becoming very attuned to the setting and culture we were consciously creating.

Over the next few years our once issue-saturated shelter transformed into a place that was inspirational, evocative, creative and highly educational. Our new in-house culture was grounded in the assumption that people who want to make changes don’t need to see the language of violence and trauma before her eyes and as staff we also chose not to repeatedly see words that evoke a sense of trauma and misfortune, instead we focused on aspirations and possibility.

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

Women who were highly agitated and still fully immersed in the crisis 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 affirmation and inspirational gallery. We had meditative music and culturally diverse play lists to add to the ambience of the room.

Our group room became a community space. It was no longer a setting that was driven and created by staff intentions but by what the women wanted to create and share.

This single step revolutionised the sense of community and connection at the shelter because we encouraged the women to create the space and atmosphere by contributing to the environment rather than simply sitting in the one we had created for them.

If the women who work in domestic violence shelters and the management are not open to creativity and creating a new culture of positive imagery and a welcoming meeting space, residents will not feel comfortable to explore their own creativity and sense of place in the shelter either. The service will feel like an institution rather than a Women’s place of healing and possibility.

Creativity and visual imagery was at the core of these sweeping changes and the staff and management had to be open to creating a new culture that can be messy and uncertain during the transition phase. It was a challenge for some of the team to change some of our core practices and values but eventually we also allowed ourselves to engage with creativity in the workplace during staff meetings and staff training events at a much higher level than ever before and this had a profound impact on our work – life balance practices.

I encourage all of us who work in women’s shelters, prisons and community health and settings to take a look at the walls and notice boards ask the questions:

1.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, issues and trauma based messages that affirm the negative to try and create the positive?

  1. Could I place the information about pain and struggle and injustice and trauma based counseling into colourful, engaging folders and make space for an inspirational, uplifting invitation to change and empower community and connection instead?

Look around at your shelter / community house and ask yourself “Is this a place that is both professional and inviting or have we fallen into the government department trap of creating impersonal spaces that do not reflect the creativity, courage and unique cultural experiences of the women who come to live here for awhile?

I offer the World Peace Begins at Home b/w template  freely for workers in shelters and community settings and prisons who are interested in beginning the process of creating uplifting art and imagery in communal areas and would like to offer the women in residence the chance to create with their hands and tell stories and share information using creativity..

It was the first of the inspirational templates I created after the resident of our shelter highlighted the uninviting, clinical space that we had inadvertently created for her.

World Peace b:w

Peace

Posted in Creativity, Domestic Violence, Peace, Personal Development, Shelter, Sisterhood, Staff Training, Transformation, Women | 2 Comments »

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:

https://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 »

 
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