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.”

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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…

Under the muumuu – A woman and her addictions exposed

walmart muumuu

“I’m lost.”

If these words are yours, own them. Wear them. Go to Walmart and buy the widest, ugliest muumuu you can find. Take it home and drape it over your naked body. Be brave. Look in the mirror and see your true reflection. This is reality. This is what your brain has done to your life. There is no shame here, only pattern and practice. This is habit, addiction, and insatiable desire…

“I’m so sorry,” says the woman trying to squeeze herself through the doorway of my Blank Canvas Living Creative Counselling office. She’s wearing what’s got to be the most horrifically unflattering muumuu ever created.

“Don’t apologize,” I tell her. “The only thing you have to be sorry for is, quite frankly, that awful muumuu. Why on earth would you do that to yourself?”

“I’m lost,” she says, and bursts into tears. She’s in the room now, but she can’t even sit down. There’s some unspeakable bulk, all sharp corners and clinking sounds, writhing under the synthetic pink and orange atrocity.

“You’re here now, and that’s huge. Not as big as that muumuu, mind you, but major non the less.”

She gives a weak smile at my even weaker joke and looks at me expectantly. This is how it always goes. There’s this idea that I’m going to make some diagnosis and write a prescription or trace some emotion back to its pattern of childhood origin. But that’s not the way creative counselling works. I’m not here to waste anybody’s time. My job is to strip the problem down to the story and brain habits that are causing it. And I know this woman’s not going to like what I’ve got to ask her to do.

“Take it off. For the love of gawd,” I beg her, “take off that hellish thing so we can see what we’re dealing with.”

“What?” She says, giving me a worried look. “Seriously? But I’m not wearing anything underneath.”

“Good, all the better. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to be perverted or anything. Just trust me on this.”

She fusses and fidgets, delays, protests, and delays some more, but I won’t let her off the hook. Finally, with infinite reluctance, she takes off the muumuu and drops it on the carpet between us.addiction woman illustration

Bottles of white wine, cases of diet coke, cigarettes, tabloid magazines, 12 boxes of Peek Frean cookies, television remotes, Facebook screens, automatic negative thoughts, phones waiting for calls from bad men… the baggage is a tonnage of habit and addiction. The woman’s body is creamy and lovely at the center of it all, but her face is red with shame. She won’t even look at me.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispers, “I never realized how bad things are, how much I’ve been carrying around. It’s ugly isn’t it?”

“Not near as ugly as covering it up with that gawd awful muumuu like you’ve given up on yourself. Look, if you’re brave enough to show me your body and brain like this, then you’re brave enough to change it. You don’t need all this shit. I can give you a new language and way of maximizing your humanity without needing to rely on external emotional regulation. I’m not talking about yoga rituals or 12 steps. I’m talking about a way of real-time dialoguing with your brain’s perception of reality. You just leave that muumuu with me and I’ll transform it into a tactile demonstration of what this process is all about. Sound like a plan?”

“This isn’t some new-age-y bullshit, is it?” She asks. I can’t blame her; I’d be suspicious too.

“No bullshit. It’s already saved lives, including mine.” I leave her curious as I go to find her another outfit to wear home.

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Sandwich to Salad Week Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

The happy ham and egg salad

What is joy? One brief moment of sensory/emotional bliss? Extend the moment retroactively through time with this ‘happy ham and egg salad’. This flavour preview lets you enjoy the raw exquisite anticipation of what lies just out of reach – the weekend. But this salad is more than its emotional garnish. ham and egg salad ingredientsIt is no mediation, no compromise. There’s no lettuce filler or mere hint of ham. This is not a Subway sandwich lying to your face with false promise of satisfaction. This is today. This moment is all we have, all we are. Let’s make this lunch as pure an indulgence as we possibly can. As this 5 day meal plan revolution draws to a close, let’s celebrate with a firework explosion of flavour, colour, and texture. Exalt! For you (and your taste buds) have survived another week at work!

The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad
2 boiled eggs
50+g sliced ham
1 yellow bell pepper
2 small tomatoes
2 large white mushrooms
1/2 cucumber

Chop all ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle with your happiest dressing – perhaps some ‘Punny Mustard Vinaigrette’?

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

Sandwich to Salad Week Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad

The solar powered spinach mushroom saladThere is no universal perfect salad. It’s one of the hard truths of our existence, that perfection is, ultimately, an individual experience. But what human can deny the exaltation felt when the first rays of sun burst through a cloudy sky? The shared emotional warmth of a sudden sunbeam is as universal as we’ll ever get (besides death and sex – but they’re a little harder to work into a salad). Spinach, even when garnished with an asteroid belt of mushrooms can leave even the most dedicated salad explorer pining for Subway – the horror! But add a yellow centre of sunny corn and sunflower seeds and behold… The 5 day sandwich to salad meal plan revolution bursts back to life. Alleluia anyone?

The solar powered spinach mushroom salad
1/2 can corn niblets
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 boiled egg
4 large white mushrooms
1/3 cup baby carrots
1 large handful spinach
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Chop all (larger) ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Top with corn and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with your favourite dressing or what could be your new fave ‘Punny Mustard Vinaigrette’.

The 'everything but the kitchen sink' salad*BONUS* There are moments in life where to push forward, we must throw everything we have into the mix, our skills and talents, our hopes and dreams, our seeds and beans. This salad is one such occasion. As in life, we put it all together and pray it all works out for the best. And when the leap of faith tastes as delicious as this salad, we are reminded, with sweet relief, that our complexities give flavour to our greatest experiences… and our greatest selves.

The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
1/3 can assorted beans
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
25g sliced ham
2 large white mushrooms
2 small tomatoes
1 seranno pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 small handful spinach
(or lettuce – or heck, both!)
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Thinly slice seranno pepper. Chop all (larger) ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Top with beans, seeds, and your favourite dressing.

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

Sandwich to Salad Week Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad

bean and bread saladIndulging in this salad demands a certain smug hubris. Ha! You say as you look around at your coworkers with their sad little muffins and phallic shaped plastic bags marking them as slaves to Subway. You, like that perfectly groomed businessman on the elevator, can claim a well deserved self-righteousness, because halfway through this 5 day meal plan revolution you have found the secret, not to wealth, not to power, but to pleasure without consequence (provided your system can digest beans discreetly). For you have crawled out of the sensory deprivation chamber of so many celebrated celebrity diets of grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. You have created for yourself a flavourful multilayered orgasm of textural ecstasies. Yes Yes YES – so green, so nutrient packed, and so damn good.

The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
1 small whole wheat dinner roll
1/3 can assorted beans
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 serrano pepper
3 large white mushrooms
1 medium tomato
1 handful spinach
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Tear roll into croutons. Thinly slice serrano pepper. Chop all other (large) ingredients into bite-size pieces. Top salad with beans, pumpkin seeds, and drizzle with day two’s ‘Punny Mustard Dressing’.

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

Sandwich to Salad Week Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette

Cobb salad This cobb salad is so much more than just an awkward literary ‘pun’ch line. “The lowest form of humour” leads to a highly tasty form of a classic recipe. Corn, ham, beets, and eggs are just the ‘beg’ining of a salad that your coworkers will be begging you to share. Click Here to catch up on day one and read the story behind this 5 day meal plan ‘salad’vation from Subway. But be warned! In keeping with our high-brow-lunch-low-brow-humour, your own brows might be raised by some mildly ‘sub’gestive nudity.

The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’
1/3 can cubed beets
1/3 can corn niblets
1/3 cup baby carrots
50g sliced ham
2 boiled eggs
1 yellow bell pepper
1 handful lettuce
2 large white mushrooms
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Chop all (larger) ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Top with beets, corn, and pumpkin seeds.

Punny mustard vinaigrette
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp canola or olive
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 tsp tsp yellow mustard
1 tbsp liquid honey
pinch of salt

Combine ingredients and shake, shake, shake!

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad