Have we all gone mad?

Healthy choice general tso chicken steamerBefore every revolution there is a tipping point, a fine line in the sand that heralds the inevitability of a cultural paradigm shift. Fanatics are rebranded as leaders, and past leaders as fools. Today that line was crossed, not tiptoed over, but jumped across with both feet landing solid on the other side, no turning back.

‘General Tso’s Spicy Chicken Healthy Choice Gourmet Steamer’ – The name of today’s lunch provided more of a mouthful than the paltry 300 calorie, sodium loaded, mockery of sustenance contained inside. Now, I’m a woman habituated to a culinary culture that has us all walking around with salt-licks hanging around our necks. And I’ve been desensitized to the inhumanity of chemistry lab ingredient lists. I can overlook the fact that out of the 73 words appearing in this “Healthy Choice” ingredient list, 35 of those words – including all available forms of parentheses ([{}]) – are dedicated exclusively to “cooked seasoned chicken chunks.” Whatever.

As we become further removed from the growing and processing of food, we are also being increasingly separated by physical barriers. More layers to tear through and discard in the form of packaging. This is more than poetic metaphor – this is f*&^ing ridiculous!! The packaging on ‘General Tso’s Spicy Chicken Healthy Choice Gourmet Steamer’ has crossed over into the kind of cultural exaggeration on par with Marie Antoinette’s sky high wigs and WWE wrestling. Has the whole world gone mad! One use, 300 calories – cardboard box, thick plastic bowl, inner plastic steamer tray, plastic sealed top… is nobody else seeing the insanity here???

general tsoThe average human would have to eat a whopping 7 of these ‘Gourmet Steamers’ to meet their daily calorie requirements. Which, beyond cost and nearly doubling our daily sodium needs, would create a mountain of trash big enough to completely bury poor General Tso and stop him from ever objecting to this appalling (on so many levels) bastardization of his namesake.

Our wastefulness has officially crossed over into the obscene. We jack ourselves up on caffeine with single serving cups/lids/stirrers/sugars/creamers. And bottled water!! Buy a f*&%ing filter people!! Convenience, once a glamour, has become an insatiable. We guzzle energy with a gluttony that would make Caligula blush for shame. I live in Calgary, Canada’s pick-up truck capital, and am constantly dodging out of the path of these behemoths. They harness the power of hundreds of horses and thousands of pounds of metal/rubber/glass, but the only load I ever see them hauling is a few inches of penis and a couple of fleshy nuggets riding shotgun below. There certainly can’t be any brains on board!

I am no fanatic, but maybe I’m fool enough to believe that we can all be heralds to this cause. The madness has to stop. I pledge to forward this post to ConAgra Foods, the makers of ‘General Tso’s Spicy Chicken Healthy Choice Gourmet Steamer’, one week from today (Aug. 7th) along with the total number of Likes and Comments received on this blog post (and the same post on Blank Canvas Living’s Facebook page or Twitter). Let’s join hands and jump over that line together, and into the bright new paradigm beyond!

UPDATE (Aug. 7th): As promised, I’ve forwarded this post on to ConAgra Foods and will keep you posted as to their response. Thank you for all your likes and comments!

UPDATE (Aug. 15th): I’ve posted ConAgra’s response in the comment section below. In rebuttal: If the only available solution to a problem is one that has destructive consequences, in this case to the environment, I think we really need to ask ourselves if we have defined a problem worth solving. In this case the ‘problem’ was choosing a material for a one-use microwave safe steamer tray. Do we, as a society, really ‘need’ a one-use microwave safe steamer tray? And if we, as a society, decide that the answer is “yes,” then maybe the root problem lies within the very nature of that society. Which I believe, is the definition of a problem worth solving!

Modeled by Barbie – How to turn Walmart’s ugliest Muumuu into sexy DIY loungewear

diy barbie clothesI bring out the adult-size version of this catsuit inspired muumuu transformation to show my Blank Canvas Living Creative Counselling client. She’d been brave enough to strip off her Walmart muumuu to expose her addictions, and braver still to hand over the epically unflattering pink and orange synthetic protection in hope that I could show her a different kind of comfort.

Last session, she was enthusiastic in her adoption of the new language of addictions – glamours, insatiables, and be-all-end-alls – and ranked her own obsessions according to this novel nomenclature. We discussed how these words open new patterns of positive brain associations and allow more space for change. But now, faced with a different life dangling in front of her on a thin wire hanger, chest wraps (two long narrow strips of fabric for wrapping around the torso) pooling on the green carpet, she looks more than a little dubious.

suspicious face“Is this really part of the treatment plan?” She asks, her expression and voice the definition of incredulous. “You want me to join Cirque du Soleil?”

“For goodness sakes, no! This is about transforming your perception of an object – in this case a protection – that you think you know, and taking that change out of the theoretical and into the physical world. This is about embracing a whole new definition of comfort. Rather than making yourself invisible by hiding behind your learned glamours and insatiables, we’re going right back to a genetically coded human glamour – swaddling! This DIY bodysuit can give you that close womb feeling of being held when you swaddle yourself with the chest bands. You can change the wrapping pattern to play with your body to let its secret curves surprise and sustain you (and your most intimate relationships) rather than layering on artificial distractions and escapes.”

barbie clothes patterns

Note: The basic pattern pieces shown above can be adapted for any fabric or body (or doll) size. From top to bottom: sleeve/top (cut one), fold sleeves along horizontal dash line and sew to vertical dash line; leggings with bootie (cut two), sew as per leggings; chest wrap (cut two), sew onto angled front-neck of top and attach back of top to leggings.

“So let me get this straight,” she says, “dressing up like Comic-Con Stripper Barbie is going to help me stop drinking and waiting for calls from bad men?”

“This is to get you back in touch with your body and start opening up more creative avenues of perception. The real hard-core brain work comes later. Funny you should mention Barbie clothes, though. I actually thought the ultimate sex kitten would be good place to practice. And don’t worry about your body not looking like Barbie’s, or Adrianne Curry at comic-con. But I can promise you that you’ll be amazed at how your body will respond when you start to get your glamours in gear. So do you want to play?” I put down the hanger and pull two dolls out of the canvas bag behind my chair.

She takes the brunette with all the grim, ceremonious reluctance of a subpoena. But before long her and I are laughing and joking as we compete for who can come up with the most risqué-chic chest wrap variation.

“You know what,” she confesses with pink cheeks and a naughty grin, “this is actually really fun.”

This is a Story Thread post – Click to read more…

A new language for understanding addiction

addictionThe language we choose to use has incredible influence over our perception of reality. Every word is linked into an ever evolving neural network of associations, concepts, and emotions. Meaning is culled from these maps, which are culturally driven yet far more flexible than one might think. Addiction, habit, compulsion, rock bottom – these are dangerous, helpless words. There’s no way out of ‘compulsion’, and ‘rock bottom’ is a bleak, cold, lonely place. The idea that we have to reach it, the bottom of the well, before we regain our right to the word ‘choice’ means that we are forced to do real social and physical damage before admitting defeat and winning control. Brain chemistry is the author of these words. They feel so right, so real. That’s why we use them. Withhold satisfaction from an addict and their brain spirals into an unbearable chemical panic. This panic dictates its intentions to our prefrontal cortex, as to a willing, eminently obedient 1950s secretary. Our impatient limbic boss says, “You know what I want to say, Honey. Just put it into your own words and send it off.” Our words. Our choice. Glamours These are the things that make make life worth living. We ‘get off’ on them. Take them away and life dims to survival. We are genetically and culturally predisposed to our glamours: in how we are coded to metabolize nicotine, or the density of our D2 dopamine receptors, or what Disney taught us about love. These glamours, some innocent, even healthy, and some decidedly not, are then triggered by personal experience, be it the red lipstick of our favourite movie star or first hit of cocaine. Humanity needs its glamours. Biologically, desire drives our movement through time. Without it we, quite literally, will cease to breathe. Even the most hard-core guru will agree. Beyond our base appetites, our glamours are our sparkle and armor against the inevitability of suffering and death. But sometimes a glamour will slip past our conscious control to become… Insatiables Birth is not moderate. Death is not moderate. Life, therefore, is not a moderate act. By their very natures some of our glamours can biologically begin to stretch our appetites out of proportion, especially when we use them to cope with an immoderate world. Our dopamine baseline and receptor density can change. With food, the hormone leptin can throw things out of wack. Anything can become a pathological obsession: Diet Coke, cats, clutter, gin, sex, reality TV… anything. An insatiable is something we can’t get enough of and its pleasures begin to overshadow all others. We make choices that always somehow circle back to satisfy our cravings. Romantic love is an insatiable, but while it chemically evolves, some insatiables risk becoming… Be-all-end-alls This is the end-game. When an insatiable becomes a be-all-end-all, we live our life in service to its mastery. Nothing else matters. Take it away and life looses its last hint of luster. It is our all, and by its exclusion of all else, without intervention, will end all. Our brain wants only this, all the time, whatever the cost. It is the only appetite worth satisfying. Chemically, it owns our motivations and our reasoning. But it is not rock bottom. It is an honest moment with our soul, an acknowledgment of circumstances. It is the moment of choice – our destruction or the originating glamour’s destruction? One must end. Changing our language opens up a new neural network of more empowering associations, concepts, and emotions. And by doing so, it also opens up new paths of treatment. Choosing the right variables/symbols is always the first step towards balancing an equation. I promised my Blank Canvas Living Creative counselling client, who was brave enough to strip off her muumuu and reveal her insatiables, that I would show her a different path and guide her through change. Come join us on the journey. This is a Story Thread post – Click to read more…

Save major time and money with this grocery list template and bonus online flyer trick

Time saving grocery list templateOverwhelmed by choice, the modern hunter/gatherer can easily fall prey to the psychological manipulation of 21st century grocery stores. Arm yourself! In a retail environment specifically designed to seduce you into following its lead, this grocery list template will let you get in and out without succumbing to temptation or be paralyzed in the produce aisle. I’ve been there, bag of carrots in hand, caught in a moment of near existential angst – “where do I go from here!?”

Click Here To Download Grocery List Template

Stress, existential or otherwise, causes us to think with our limbic/emotional reactive brain. Use this structured list to guide your rational brain gently through the aisles. The vegetable section is given the largest space on the template to give a direct visual cue to load up on soil born succulence and minimize less healthy items. Yes, there are some cravings that demand satisfaction, but you can’t seriously tell me you woke up dreaming about that jumbo bag of novelty gummies on the endcap of aisle #3.

*BONUS* I saved $45 at the checkout the first time I used this trick! Most grocery store chains now post their weekly specials flyer online. Write these sale items into your grocery list template before you fill in the rest. With the sale items on the page in front of you, you can then build the remainder of your grocery list and Meal Map (details in an upcoming post) around these foods.

Follow these links to your find grocery store’s weekly specials:
Sobeys * Loeb * Safeway * Loblaws

Don’t see yours? Links to other Canadian grocery stores can be found at Smartflyercanada.com. And if you’re looking for links to American stores Click Here.

Whatever you are doing at this exact moment is exactly what you want to be doing

office cartoonI know you don’t believe me, especially if you’re tied to a computer when it’s a cartoon beautiful day outside or you’re just about to do the dishes. But think about it. Your brain is an incredibly efficient piece of equipment. Its network of neural linkages is structured according to genetics and interwoven according to experience. You think you have to go to work. You think you have to do the dishes. But if you didn’t want to, you wouldn’t do it. Plain and simple.

Our rational mind, our prefrontal cortex, is essentially in service to our limbic system. This reptilian, emotional center is the influencing force on the parameters of our logic and ensuing rational arguments. Brain scans show that a decision can be predicted up to 7 full seconds before our conscious minds become aware of the outcome. Consciousness is the gatekeeper, and final reasoning checkpoint before we act. Self is the entire system acting together.

Your alarm goes off… “Oh gawd I don’t want to go to work!” So why do you get up? You want to maintain and support your social relationships. You want to get your paycheck so you can keep your house and enjoy the security and pride of ownership. You want to keep your car so you have the freedom of travel and mobility (I happen to be a renter who takes the bus… sigh, but the same theory holds).

Addiction and trauma can skew the system, and if you find yourself saying “I don’t want to be doing this but I can’t stop,” what you can do is stop kidding yourself. If your dopamine/reward system is getting-off on a behaviour, well, that’s the very definition of ‘want’. OCD is another example. If your limbic fear control is overreacting, it will, ever so desperately, ‘want’ relief. Own that want. I know the word gets a bad rap in our culture, but there should be no shame in admitting the truth when it can give you the power you need to start making real changes in your life.

Admitting that your adopted value system and priority scale dictate your decisions, and not some external taskmaster forcing you to keep plodding away on some determinist treadmill, will help put your world back into your hands. Changing the language that traps us in our logic loops is the first step in the challenging process of changing those worlds.

Two-part DIY belt transforms into full set of bondage gear

diy bondage gearBring home the Wild West with this easy to make two-part DIY belt that converts into a full range of bondage gear: handcuffs, legcuffs, hogtie cuffs, gag, and collar. Having this naughty, ever so stylish, secret bound round your waist will let you schedule your own rodeo events whenever, and wherever, your fantasies take you. Why pay for admission to the Calgary Stampede when all the best rides are just a hogtie away? Let the cowboys keep their rope for tying up cattle and lassoing unruly cowgirls. Animals like you and I know that Western bondage is best played with furry cuffs made from nylon webbing.

DIY bondage suppliesSupplies for this easy artistic bondage DIY project:
1/2 m fabric (Walmart short pile cow print faux fur shown)
1 1/2 m 25mm (1″) brown nylon webbing
2 black nylon side release buckles (25mm)
2 metal rings (1 1/2″ diameter)
safety pins/lighter/thread/scissors/sewing machine (or hand sew)

DIY Instructions:
1) Cut nylon webbing into 4 equal pieces and adjust lengths with safety pins to fit desired submissive’s wrists and ankles. See pic of how cuffs will work and measure accordingly. DIY bondage instructionsMake sure you leave enough excess webbing for belt (when both cuffs are buckled to each other end to end).

diy bondage handcuffs hogtie demo2) Securely sew webbing as marked by safety pins. Cauterize ends of webbing with lighter, being careful not to melt surrounding webbing.

3) Cut 4 rectangles of fabric – 4 inches wide with lengths determined by webbing between buckle and ring + 1/2inch hem allowance on either side. Hem width edges, fold over, and sew wrong sides together along lengths. Turn right side out and slide over buckles to cover webbing.

4) Practice changing BDSM sex toy modes according to the illustrations and pictures in this post. Just like training for any rodeo or bondage technique, practice makes perfect!

Important Notes:
-If you want to switch domination and submission roles, or go out to find new limbs to bind, you can use the pictured figure eight cuff variation to accommodate an infinite variety of wrist and ankle sizes in these homemade furry handcuffs and legcuffs.
Soft DIY bondage handcuffs and leg cuffs

-For the latter variation, and belt configuration, fabric tube can be pulled over buckles for style and comfort.

-Fabric tube can be rolled in over itself if bunching occurs in belt configuration.

-Play safe! …but not too safe ~wink.
calgary stampede beltdiy bondage furry handcuffs legcuffsdiy bondage furry cuffs hogtieddiy bondage gag and collar

Inside the process of how story and math change our world

historical geniusesHeisenberg’s uncertainty principle applies equally to particles, parabolas, and prose. To describe – which is the common goal of any story or mathematical formula – is to influence the object of observation. Our reflection of reality becomes our measure of the world. isaac newton caricatureBut while Heisenberg’s electrons were thrown off course by photons, the change in our reality is essentially rooted in perception. And because perception is our brain’s only way of interacting with the universe, a change in perception equals a change in our world.

Truth is variable according to our experiences. Our experience of ideas, concepts, and proofs come together to pattern our perception of the truth of our reality. ernest hemingway caricatureWhen not individualized through direct sensory exposure, this ‘experience’ is communicated to our neural networks through a language of symbol: story through words, math through numbers. Both math and literature humanize a universe fraught with chaos by translating it into patterns of information compatible with the structure and function of our brains.

The only difference between story and math is the path of emotional access. Both words and numbers are symbols loaded with meaning and expectation of pattern of connection (eg. sentence structure/ B.E.D.M.A.S.). albert einstein caricatureHowever, words have broader associations and are linked with emotions that, when activated, open and extend our logic parameters to create new suspended realities. We can choose to incorporate these new worlds into our own (The Globe and Mail, religion, this post) or simple abandon them when we get to the last page (fiction, Calgary Sun). Mathematical symbols have a much stricter pattern of expectation that, upon entering the brain, must first be vetted by the logic system in our prefrontal cortex before giving us an emotional response/release in the form of soothing contentment (eg. simple beauty of E=mc2), or that sick feeling you get in your stomach when a formula turns out to be bullshit (eg. string theory… don’t get me started!).

virginia woolf caricatureInterchangeable except for path of emotional access, every story and mathematical formula use a shared humanized language of symbol to communicate novel patterns of perception that, if adopted as truth, change our world.