Breaking up with celebrity gossip

imageCelebrity gossip is to women what sports are to men. We live the hunt vicariously, for love, for the revenge body, for the perfect shoe/bag combo… and just for the record I was on “Team Jen.” There’s no shame here; I delight in relational dramz as much as the next gal. It’s just how our brains are wired. Those silly boys tease us while they’re out there literally losing sleep over whether some other dude gets a ball in a hole – way to go buddy, way to go. Continue reading

Rebranding a Marriage: Writing a mission statement

mission accomplished weddingIn our age of extended courtships, the wedding is so often seen as the endgame – “mission accomplished!” But marriage is just the beginning. Writing a marriage mission statement will help keep the story of your marriage on track, goal oriented, and inspiring. This installment of Blank Canvas Living’s ‘rebranding a marriage’ blog serial is all about laying down a clear path for bringing your dreamy ‘why’ vision statement into reality. Continue reading

Rebranding a Marriage: Writing a vision statement

golden circle marriageAfter doing all that wedding paperwork, you may as well get on the same page. Writing a marriage vision statement will help keep your shared ideals front and center as the living room is slowly overrun by golf equipment – last count 53 clubs plus bags and accessories – and/or when your wife gets laid off and commits to writing – a vocation as lucrative as golf is cheap. Continue reading

Rebranding a Marriage: Change the game this Valentine’s Day

valentines symbols loveMarried to a man? Congratulations. They’re really quite durable and can put up with a heck of a lot. And it’s always nice to have something warm and solid to lean against whilst one ties one’s shoes. Married to a woman? Double congratulations. Through the grace of our exotic majesty you are invited to bear witness to the sublime… and that’s just before breakfast. Continue reading

Funerals, peas, and a red lipstick kiss goodbye

red lipstick kissWhen my grandfather’s heart stopped this past spring, he used his one last moment of decision to kiss my grandmother goodbye. In a church full of black, she wore her favourite deep red skirt suit to his funeral. She curled her hair, coordinated her makeup, and stood tall and graceful in a scene of unimaginable bravery. Theirs was one of the true great love stories, sustained over half a century by affection, faith, courage, and generosity. There would be space and time for grief, but my grandmother chose that day to celebrate the life and love of her extraordinary man.

What came as a shock to us all, especially to my strong, beautiful grandmother, was that there would be only five short months of space and time before she too would pass – the very day before what would have been their 60th wedding anniversary. Neither would have to spend an anniversary alone. My own extraordinary man and I celebrated our 10th anniversary this August. I’ll always be grateful to my grandparents for offering their unconditional love and support when we got married just 5 short months after meeting.

I wouldn’t tell anyone what I was planning for my part of my grandmother’s eulogy, only that I was bringing a prop. I knew was already taking a risk with my leopard print leggings, but since she’d once showed me a snakeskin print tunic/pants outfit from the back of her closet, I figured I was in good company. When it was my turn to speak, I took a step to one side of the pulpit and up at the front of the church, in full view of friends, family, two Reverends, and the entire congregation, I carefully applied a good thick gloss of bright red lipstick.

Appropriate? Sure! We all laughed, and then of course, I completely fell apart describing how my grandmother always used glamour, not as a mask, but as a celebration of the way she saw the world – and her family – full of promise and wonder, and worthy of the very best she could bring to the table.

Peas and mushrooms recipeIn a literal sense, what a table! Using the delicious and ingenious strategy of cooking healthy dishes (like their famous peas and mushrooms) they teamed up to keep their love story alive and well far past its genetic due date – telomeres be darned! This Thanksgiving weekend was the family’s first without our dear Matriarch and Patriarch. While the gift of the Quebec cottage they built with their own hands will stay with the family (thank heavens!), their Ontrio home, with all its comforting smells, sounds, collections, and textures, is being dismantled for sale. And individual objects, once separated from their context, begin to lose their meaning.

I am a woman who lives through her senses (through rarely common-sense), and this Thanksgiving I gave thanks to my grandparents the best way I knew how. I made their magical peas and mushrooms (my version above). My kitchen was filled with the smells and tastes of tradition. I added some sauteed onions for some next generation flair, and melted in enough butter to have horrified my grandmother. But time stopped for those few hours, and the unfathomable concept of loss was made tangible. Grief took a physical form, as it had with my lipstick, but in doing so became a celebration.

This morning, my man slept through 5 snooze alarms and by 6:30am I was ranting at him for risking being massively late for a 7:30am dentist appointment. Seeing his pensive face (because who likes going to the dentist anyway), I caught myself. To lighten the mood, I threw a sock at his head from the 3 day old pile of unfolded laundry on our bed. He whipped it back and it got me right in the neck! But when the mock battle subsided, I lifted my face to his, closed my eyes, and waited for our sacred ritual – because you never know how much time you have. Gone was the warrior with impeccable aim, here was a husband, giving his wife a kiss goodbye.

New hunter/gatherer theory on why men love watching playoff sports

jonathan quick la kings
Kopitar’s got the puck, passes to Carter for a sweet little one-timer – Elliott never had a chance – Kings score!!

The man beside me explodes off the couch with a terrifying “YAAAAAAA” Viking battle cry of testosterone madness that shoots me straight into an adrenaline panic. Fight – give him hell for freaking me out? Or flight – escape to the kitchen and (relative) safety of doing the dishes? Or try a new game this playoff season and turn this moment into an impromptu anthropological study…

Note: I love sports… PLAYING THEM! Don’t let my blonde ponytail and figure skates fool you, I’m competitive as hell and I’ll battle you into the boards until I get the puck or until one – or both of us – is bleeding. But men seem to get the same high from just watching tiny figures frolicking around on a screen. Ya, I know there are some women who get off on it too, just like there are some women with gigantic natural tits who authentically enjoy the taste of beer, but those genetic hybrid freaks should stop reading this and go out and mate with the head honcho at the local pub and leave the rest of us to our jolly gender generalizing.

Ok, so for men to get so passionate about playoff sports, two things must be happening in the brain:
1) Ongoing sensory engagement
2) Ongoing emotional involvement

hockey brain notesI get out my notebook (once a nerd always a nerd…sigh, and to take a picture of said nerdiness is, I suppose, taking it to a whole new, almost scary, level) and ask my male specimen some very scientific questions about his hockey viewing experience – on the commercials of course! In contrast to my own ever shifting tunnel vision, he describes being able process the entire screen’s on-ice action as a whole, while keeping track of who’s who and what they might do in present/upcoming plays. He also has the rules and play history on automatic recall. Hmmm.
watching sportsIt’s generally accepted (because what’s any theory without some good healthy generalizing) that for hundreds of thousands of years humans lived in small groups, with men mostly chiefing, warring, and hunting for meat, while the women gathered edible vegetation, reared the children, and maintained the social structure of the tribe. Starting with this evolutionary background, let’s identify the commonalities across three similar planes of ‘man reference’ that could produce the two brain prerequisites noted above and account for our test subject’s (ok, my test subject because I’m sure not sharing him, not even for science!) qualitative viewing experience: the plains of Africa, a medieval battlefield, and the LA Kings slaughtering the St. Louis Blues in game five…

Man reference plane commonalities:
1) Ability to track herd/army/team as an entirety while picking out weak links and anticipating individual/group behaviours
2) Sustained sensory/emotional involvement to maintain motivation towards final kill/win/goal
3) Death (or death of team’s season by elimination) must be risked for brain to warrant such high caliber emotional/attentional involvement/payoff
4) Strong allegiance to specific tribe/king/team through shared history and/or ancestry – loyalty engages emotion and motivates risk taking
5) Auto recall memory for history of success and specific rules of the hunt/battlefield/game help ensure repeat kill/victory/win
6) Short term goals (emotionally and physically) important to overall victory: multiple spearings lead to enough prey to feed tribe, multiple skirmishes/battles lead to overall war victory, multiple goals lead to ‘best out of 7’ and next playoff round

Reality TV face-offThus, the mystery is solved. Men love watching the playoffs because they are men, evolutionarily speaking. We can now apply a similar formula to explain to my horrified man specimen, why, as a woman, I’m helplessly unable to change the channel whenever I ‘accidentally’ click myself into The Real Housewives of Vancouver.

The ‘I want sex tonight’ steak sandwich

steak sandwichThis sensory loaded sandwich is more than food porn come to life, every bite subliminally suggests what’s on the menu for dessert. And this meaty, two-hander recipe is no one night stand! Mushrooms (vitamin D), olive oil (monounsaturated fat), cauliflower (indole-3-carbinol), and beef (zinc) are all foods known to increase testosterone levels in men. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a sandwich is so much more.

To make two sexy steak sandwiches…
1 baguette
1 large hefty steak
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 red bell peppers
2 large jalapeno peppers
olive oil
salt/pepper
Note:  no garlic or onions for obvious reasons

Cheese and cauliflower white sauce…
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cauliflower (steamed and puréed)
1 cup of your favourite white cheese (grated)

Prepare classic white sauce – stir in cauliflower and cheese. Roast and peel peppers to add colour, heat, and a fleshy, oh-so-slippery, subliminally suggestive mouth feel. Sauté mushrooms in olive oil for rich earthy taste/texture. Grill (leaving a hint of pink in the middle) and slice steak. Divide baguette and spread wide open to receive layering of deliciousness. Slather indulgently with cheese and cauliflower white sauce. Devour, and be devoured. Then read the inspiration story below…

sexy steak sandwich

“Got a man?” My question catches the fuming redhead off guard.

“If you can call him that – and do you know what shit he pulled just…”

Pandora’s box is opening right in front of me – I jam the lid down with what I say next: “Wait, just wait, hear me out. We can sit here and you can unload all over me and maybe you’ll feel better, but I sure won’t. Or, you can shut up and we can get at the truth. When we stripped down just now, I couldn’t help noticing your bra and panties, pink lace – hot stuff. And there’s only one reason why a woman with such sexy underwear would be so absurdly angry and frustrated – you were gnawing on a chair leg when I walked in for goodness sakes! Obviously, you’re not getting laid.”

She grunts, nods slowly, and grunts again. My mind is racing; the idea is taking on a distinct shape… and flavour. Talking won’t fix anything here. Telling her that ‘when you do nice things for people they tend to do nice things for you’ would probably earn me a punch in the face. I’m just thankful her arms are still tied behind her back! I can let her in on a basic human logic, that ‘if you act like a psycho black hole of negativity people most likely won’t be jumping up and down to have sex with you’, but her level of bitchiness is most likely genetically encoded.

I’ve got it! A way to get that woman some lovin’ without destroying my soul in the process. It’s subversive, sure, but show me a psychological intervention that isn’t. She’ll be doing something caring and personal for her man (under the guise of subliminal science) and strengthening him to deal with her insanity at the same time. Perfect.

“Ok.” I say, with renewed authority. “We’re going to change back into our own clothes, and then I’m going to do some field testing. There will be an envelope with the results waiting for you in the Blank Canvas lobby tomorrow morning. Follow the ‘recipe’ for success inside – exactly – and you will get action tomorrow night. I guarantee it.”

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How to survive a woman who threatens your universe at the atomic level

universal photocopier“I’m pissed off.” The red haired woman states the obvious, with equally obvious venom.

I think I hate her. The realization is sudden, visceral, and acute. My stomach has made up its mind. She presents as an archetype I’ve spent my life avoiding eye contact with in high school hallways and grim office elevators. Not that I can’t come around – I’ve done it before – but the photocopier she did battle with earlier has my sympathies. And now that I’ve sacrificed the sleeves of my sweater to her jury-rigged straightjacket, there’s no turning back.

“I can see that,” I say. “Three minutes, will you give me just three minutes?”

“You’ve got a captive audience, girl.”

Swallowing her ‘girl’ with quiet martyrdom, I take her ever so gently through a 3 Minute Sense Scroll Mindfulness Meditation – my go to innovation that has helped my own brain rewire to focus its attentions, engage with the environment, and emerge from internal constructs/conflicts.

“There.” I breath deeply, feeling quite relaxed myself. My perception of my client is momentarily softened and compassion is awakened by my reconnection to self. “Are you feeling a little more grounded now?”

“No.”

The word is spit with a certain – yes I’m certain – gleeful malice that hits me right in the gut. How could any brain resist such a powerful tool? Must be out of spite. But why would any mind fight its natural craving for balance and peace? Her death stare is unrelenting, and now she’s fidgeting in her straightjacket and stretching my sleeves more and more by the second. I’m appalled by her total disregard for another person’s property. The photocopier becomes personified in my mind, poor thing. I empathize with its jamming now that the gears in my own head are locking up. And here she is traumatizing something else that doesn’t belong to her. Bitch.

“Shit.” I say. To which she looks triumphant. Drawing a blank in the face of such hostility, I reluctantly serve the cat her cream: “So why don’t you just tell me what’s pissing you off.”

I see her mouth open as she sucks in not only all the air in the office, but all available energy too, extending her vacuum to rob our oxygen atoms of their very spin as they’re drawn into her black void of negativity. I swear my eyeballs bulge and the overhead florescents flicker and dim as their photons are stretched and dragged screaming, tearing, into the abyss. Only a black hole or an angry woman can disrupt the space-time continuum – I know this, just ask my husband. But I could never match this wild haired force of nature. Sleeve assault aside, this woman’s utter disregard for the room’s atomic balance leaves nothing even remotely sustaining for me. Bitch.

“Wait!” I cry out, all hard-won professionalism abandoned. “I have a better idea.”

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