Turn story into play with a creative content creator

diy kids gameWelcome to play! Invite a creative content creator into your child’s life and watch the magic happen! Who needs video games, anorexic dolls, and regimented craft kits when kids have so many stories ripe for exploration and invention. mary poppins carpet bagA creative content creator isn’t a babysitter or a simple craft coordinator; our specialized skill set opens imaginations and turns story into a personalized – ridiculously fun! – physical reality. Continue reading

Committing to the novel when your body knows the real story

writing a novelWhen you’ve exhausted all avenues of procrastination, when you’ve done the dishes, called your mother, cleared your inbox, and cum until your wrist aches… all that’s left is you and time, locked in a stalemate. This is the moment of courage, of faith. Why write a novel? Why put yourself through the torture of trying to communicate an intimate kaleidoscope reality, an entire world, through the blind stick figure middlemen of letters on a page? This cannot be a choice, because if it were, no novel would ever have been written. Story pushes up from somewhere deep, deep within our bodies – our words are only the tiny penis tip of our creation.

Words. Like icebergs, they hide the danger of their true momentum far beneath the surface of the screen. Words, such failingly inadequate tools of translation, trying desperately to bring two brains into harmony, two viable worlds into parallel, if only for a few hours. But this is enough. It has to be. Because it is all we have.

Our office I.T. man just caught me crying at the reception desk, a smile on my face, but tears rolling freely down my cheeks. He caught me playing with words. I can feel my story rising, but my bones won’t give it up so easily. I’m sweating in sheer liquid terror of commitment. This is National Novel Writing month and the pressure’s on. Time taunts me from my wrist, the corner of my computer screen, the phone display. Its old dare is full force in my ears…. Come on, come on Cymbria, take me, use me to hold your story away from your body long enough to share.

I am not a coward. But maybe I am. Maybe that’s why my story is so hard. My body knows the truth, that once I commit to the novel, there is no other way. Why write a novel when immortality is a lie? Trends tease, then take it all away. Computers crash and books burn. Why write a novel? Because it is not a choice. It is an act of desperation. One story standing brave before the Tiananmen onslaught of our oblivion. It is the physicality of our body’s deepest truth, and hope. We can try to mute it, tamp it down with drugs, drama, or alcohol. We can lie to ourselves and say it won’t mean anything. Or that nobody will care. Money? In this age of cheapened, transient words, money is a mockery of motivation.

If you’re already writing this November for NaNoWriMo, I am in awe of your bravery. My own novel is taking me on a far longer journey – damn it! We want to connect, to time, to ourselves, and to others – it is our most primal want. If words are your tool of connection, you have no choice. What do I want? I want magic, like the first hot breath of a BJ, I want to feel my readers wanting everything I have to give them, and then wanting more. Because in the end, want makes time real, and this is all we have.

Can’t get no satisfaction? Dare a storied life!

office head bangingMonday. Shit. The alarm goes off and the world ends. Click here to read with rockin’ Rolling Stones soundtrack. Sure, I’ve got big wet n’ sloppy gratitude for warm sheets and a job. In terms of human history – let’s not kid ourselves – you and I are living the dream baby, living the dream. So why do so many of us feel nothing, NOTHING, when we get our paycheck except the low gut burn of wasted time?

Most brains are tuned to the group story, unconsciously incorporating trends, established creeds, and authorities into a prefrontal construction of falsified independence. It’s the survival evolution of a social species. A rebellious primate who won’t follow the rules is ostracized until it slinks off into the forest to die, miserable, confused, and alone. What do we do with our own rebels? What happens to those of us whose brains tell us we’re doing something wrong when we follow the crowd?

We fake it. We grind through our current paradigm’s efficiencies – a muted world, misted over and untouchable. To compensate for the emptiness of a life lived as someone else, to FEEL something, so many of us spend years hidden away in secret gardens that slowly, insidiously, destroy the core soul we’re trying to protect.

But we live in a magical age. Globalization through communication has revealed an endless variation in viable worlds. We are free to chose the life that feels most real. But there’s a catch. We are a social species. No escaping the fact. Every human, rebel or not, is a collaboration. We need love to survive. Stray too far from the pack and the unconscious pull-back can lead to all kinds of mental/physical suffering. It’s a cruel irony that some of the most biologically rebellious brains are also the most sensitive.

Balance? How can we rebels be our most congruent selves without ending up alone in the forest? I propose a storied life, a personal scripting rooted in unrelenting compassion for our own coding. Let’s fill out life’s left brain efficiencies with right brain dramas. Let’s load our day-to-day with sensory touchstones, moments when we can be fully present, whole, and alive. If it’s not authentic, don’t force an emotional response to the group story. Just let it go. Pooof! Like I said, it’s a magical time.

Love. Take your system back down to the surface of your skin and start from there. Be your own ambassador in the world. Chin up, no guilt, no shame. And if head banging at the office makes your Monday come alive, then by all means, go ahead get the party started!

Halloween craft recipe: Ghoulish gummy dessert

gummy dessert recipeTrick or treat? This storied Halloween dessert idea delivers both, with a subversive twist. Because what’s any holiday without a little sex and death served up to the table?

halloween devil face maskThe man with the neon kindergarten funland tray is not Tom’s brother. Can’t be. Tom has never seen the familiar face twisted into such a mischievous grin. The devil horn headband – lent by one of three darling nieces sitting at the dining table with Tom and his wife – completes the disguise.

“The treat is the gummies and the trick? Well girls, you’ve got to go hunting to track down your prey,” explains their uncle, setting down the tray.

One tiny pink hand reaches out and grabs a gummy mouse right out the nearest snake’s mouth. Then bedlam! Streamer and ribbon and sugar everywhere! The hunt, the competition, the strategy, the deliciousness!

Tom ignores the mayhem. His total focus is on the two other adults at the table. His brother and his wife. What’s this feeling? Jealousy? Fear? All the joy of her children is being channeled into his wife’s eyes, her delicate quivering nose; her small pink rosebud mouth is half open in ecstasy. There is another hunter at the table. All history rewrites itself, swirling under the tsunami of this new ordering. It all makes sense to Tom, everything – suddenly, horribly. And he sees on his youngest daughter’s face that same terrible grin for the second time tonight. Too much the same.

gummy dessert trayGhoulish gummy recipe:
Assorted predator/prey gummies (Bulk Barn)
1 roll green streamer
2 yards/meters green ribbon
Serving tray
Tin foil or plastic wrap

Cover tray with foil or plastic. Add streamer and ribbon – be as messy as possible! Cut slits in snakes’ mouths to hold prey. Distribute gummies, hiding half between layers of streamer. Happy Hunting!

How to stop sweating the small stuff… once you’ve already started

angry womanTragedy, like blame and Brunelleschi, is so often a matter of perspective. Ever wonder why it’s so hard to be rational about stuck lids, traffic jams, and computer crashes? These paradigm dependent annoyances are essentially arbitrary; it’s the timeless universals triggered deep in our limbic brains that cause all the huffing and puffing. So how can we tame our reptilian responses and learn to follow Miranda Kerr’s (who better than a supermodel to guide us plebs) most recent life advice and stop sweating the small stuff?

Let’s take a classic example – wish it was hypothetical. Two days ago I turned on my office computer and discovered that an entire chapter of my work-in-progress novel had vanished into thin… into… if I knew where, even metaphorically, I’d be ahead of the game. Instantly, I felt my whole body reacting: sweaty palms, nausea, teeth gnashing rage… the works. My prefrontal cortex couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I knew my only hope of regaining perspective on this paradigm pitfall was to engage with my system as a whole.

Exercise in Engagement: How to stop sweating the small stuff… once you’ve already started

1) (Optional) Begin to loosen paradigm associations/restrictions by performing a quick sense scroll mindfulness meditation – preferably, but not necessarily, in paradigm neutral territory (aka nature).

2) Identify the universal human theme that has been triggered. Since I was already blasting my way through the 5 stages, it was easy to identify ‘loss’ as my emotional theme.

3) Since our brains already process our lives through story, it’s only logical to make use of storytelling as a practical psychological tool. Determine the historical/geographical/situational paradigm that best fits your body/brain’s current system state reaction. My reptilian brain tends to be a bit of drama queen, so my go-to paradigm for almost any piss-off is medieval London during the plague years – not exactly the swingin’ sixties. Story a situation that truly reflects your emotional state, thereby acknowledging your initial reaction with respect and permission. What are the sights, sounds, smells? Characters? Dialogues? Really push it.

4) Take your universal theme into an entirely different paradigm and a story that would warrant an emotional reaction on the opposite end of the spectrum. Play around. Journey your piss-off through time and space to find multiple comparables. Someone stepping on a clay pot I just made in a Roman pottery kiln. Losing my latest obsidian spear point… and finding it again. Change the ending. This is your story. The purpose is to flood your brain with conflicting sets of information to clear the stage for conscious re-framing of your initial circumstance.

5) Return to your own paradigm and decide how big of a deal this really is. I do mean decide. By respecting your initial reaction, and giving it the neural space to temper through alternative storytelling, your thinking will be directed towards a more neutral, rational objectiveness. Any novel necessitates rewrites, so this is just an inevitable part of the process – plus, I’ve still got the handwritten draft. Also, because you’ve loosened your associations, certain paradigm privileges will start to peek through. My office’s air conditioning for one!

This entire process can be performed in under 5 minutes and can save, not just your composure, but your whole day, not to mention more than a few marriages. By some sweet miracle of storytelling come to life, the next morning I found a hidden typed hard copy of my lost chapter in a place I swear I’d already double-checked. But something tells me I’ll be storying new troubles back to the ol’ Thames before the week is out. Must be a human or something… sigh.

Start your weekend early with a DIY office cottage

DIY cottage projectDesperate for the weekend? Stuck in an office? Just like the sod houses of early prairie settlers, your best chance for survival is to get creative with what you have on hand. office storage roomAll you need for this DIY cottage project is a well stocked office storage room and a boss who’s open to a bit of out-of-the-box(es) problem solving – at least on Fridays. Because sometimes the only way to escape an impossible situation is to story your way out…

“Well, dear,” says my realtor, “you told me you wanted a cottage property that’s easily accessible from work, and with your budget, I really think this is the best option you’re going to find.”

I’ve always tried to see the best in a situation – although a few exes might disagree – but, although charmingly designed, this sad little shack isn’t exactly screaming sunshine and sailboats.

“But it’s only twenty feet away from my office door,” I complain. “What kind of vacation is that?”

My realtor, a middle-aged firebrand with a forehead as immovable as her shellacked bob, isn’t one to give up easily, on youth, 80s style eyeliner, or a sales pitch.

office cottage“But look at all the features!” She points out relevant bits of recycling as she enumerates. “Bubble wrap window for light and built-in entertainment, foam paving stones – so soothing to the sole after a long workweek. You’ve got an end-of-roll doorknob, decoratively staggered tube fencing, garden area with overhang and canopy, and just look at that darling slanted roof.”

“What happens when the wolf comes and ‘blows it all down?” I can’t resist asking.

She ignores my sarcasm and plunges on, “And talk about environmentally green construction, this cottage and its landscaping are made exclusively of unaltered found materials.” (author’s note: because I had to put everything back exactly as I’d found it… sigh)

“Double vanities?”

“Not quite, but the public washroom is just around the corner, opposite the office utility closet.”

“Fantastic.”

“Seriously, Cymbria, for right now, for today, this is as good as it’s going to get.”

I know she’s right. That’s the worst of it. So I do what so many of us have gotten in the habit of doing when offered only a scrap instead of the whole – I take it.

Humanist Public Restroom Architecture – How to design a toilet for ‘actual human beings’

Humanist novelty toilet designAfter the glacier floored, architectural dreamscape of Blank Canvas Living’s Antarctic inspired public restroom, I have no idea what to expect from the offices’ West corner facilities.

“You’re certainly dressed for it,” says Dr. C, as she leads me through the maze of corridors on the 10th floor.

I know this detour is making me late for my own job rolling paper on the 6th, but the anticipation of adventure is too strong to resist. We stop in front of a solid metal door, painted army green and accented with row upon row of rounded rivets.

“There’s only one toilet in this one,” Dr. C explains, “and no windows. In the midst of the collaborative madness of war and industrialization, we can forget who we are – one human, one moment in time. Our processes are not mechanized, nor should they be. Our bodies are sacred and should be celebrated. Take your time, I’ll be waiting right here.”

The door takes all my strength to open, then slams shut behind me with a BANG that jolts my nerves into combat readiness. The room is small and closed, a tight box of ridged green metal with artificial light coming from bare humming tubes wired (crudely) into the ceiling. To my left, near the back wall, is a strange industrial object – all gearing and quietly rotating circular components – which spins slowly to reveal a hidden sink, like the prize in a Chinese puzzle box.

And to my right… is the most human toilet I’ve ever seen! It’s curves are unexpected, fleshy, and warm, despite the smooth, cool porcelain. I can’t stop myself. My hand involuntarily reaches out to touch the molded torso that extends seamlessly from the tank back. The seat swings open, invitingly, and I take my place beside the lovely bum. Drawn by an urge even more primal than my body’s function here, I draw my fingers down the shallow dip of her spine and follow her curves with the caress of one human exploring another for the first time. Nobody’s watching; I smack her lightly on the cheek.

This is intimacy. This is indulgence. Heck, this is fun! My mind begins to churn. If this is really possible, really happening, what other processes can be transformed? Suddenly, for the very first time, pants down and mind spinning, I know exactly who I want to be.

I heave open the heavy door and relish its BANG behind me. “Dr. C! I want to do it. I want to be part of this! You don’t even know it, but I was born to work here.”

“Of course you were.” She doesn’t seem at all surprised to see me so red cheeked and excited. “I knew it the moment I met you. Well, my dear, welcome to Blank Canvas Living.”

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

How to turn your morning commute into an impromptu S&M adventure

I find Doctor C waiting for me when I get into the office this morning. Our receptionist appears utterly entranced by my friend’s glowing – today it’s coral – smile.

“I was thinking about what you did to do those dishes,” says Doctor C (I’d told her about my trick during one of our elevator chats), “and it gave me an idea for another assignment – if you’re interested.”

As if she has to ask! We step into the hall and she gives me the details. She wants me to use my storying technique to give a Blank Canvas Living client a new perspective on her grueling daily commute. And since it’s the same client who was thrilled with my bondage themed sketchbook cover design, I know exactly what angle to take…

*********************

Transit. Transition. How do you measure the space between A and B? Time. And we only have so much. Why devalue these precious minutes by dragging A and B closer together with handheld distractions? Are we really so terrified of giving up control and letting our senses direct our attentions? What happens when we submit to the moment?

The bus hits gridlock at 7th Ave and 4th Street. Ms M despairs. Her toes are already tingling painfully, pinched between the black leather straps of her high heels. It’s hell mornings like this one when she’s almost tempted to wear runners to the office – almost. What’s the point of trying to looking sexy when every other head is bent in reverence over tiny bright screens? They’ve chosen their distractions, and she, even with her stellar legs, apparently can’t compete with wi-fi access.

The bus jerks forward and Ms M teeters dangerously. She reaches across the aisle and grabs onto a second rubber strap handhold to center herself. She knows people don’t usually double up like this, but then again, people don’t usually wear 5 inch heels on public transit. The spread eagle position makes her feel immediately conspicuous, but no one looks up. She reaches both hands through the loops and twists her wrists to wrap the rubber tight to reduce the play. May as well go all the way, she figures, and lets her fingers hang free, her new handcuffs keeping her stable. The bus jerks again, with surprising violence. Pain shoots through her shoulders and she glares at the driver in his rearview mirror.

He’s smiling at her wickedly. Bastard! But then she realizes why. She’s locked herself into an impromptu S&M session and now he’s the one taking it all the way. Ms M feels her face flushing bright red. The other passengers, with their sensible shoes and iphones, disappear. The driver winks at her and she grins back. Her pinched toes become part of the game. She bends her knees to give over control of her body to the mercies of the driver. He pumps the gas and jams the brakes, taking obvious delight in watching her reactions.

The other passengers begin to look up to see what’s changed. Then the bus stops too quick, dead. The driver’s face goes white in the mirror. He’s hit the car in front.

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

When doing the dishes becomes an archeological dig

I hate washing dishes. No really – HATE. Coded with a somewhat masculine quirk, my brain is not designed to compartmentalize anything other than Sex/Love. All else falls under the blanket of Life – no enviable Work/Play distinctions that bring comfort to so many when faced with life’s daily bargaining of attentions. All is the exaltation of existence, blemished only by the hell tedium of repetition – where sex, perhaps not so ironically, is the only action worth repeating.

Forced to resort to somewhat extreme – stepping away from our theme here – decidedly unsexy actions to cope with the practicalities of life, I find myself wondering if I can apply Blank Canvas thinking to this latest spread of dirty dishes…

A story opens, and I dive in hands first…

*********************

With a PhD in early 21st century residences, and more than a decade of field experience, our archeologist can’t believe she still gets stuck on dish duty. “Yah yah, women have come so far – bullshit,” she grumbles while brushing off the fine layer of sediment that covers the Northside counter of the perfectly preserved kitchen. Like much of ancient Rome and New York, this home has been buried under centuries of rebuilds and is nearly intact.

What she notices first is the organization of the artifacts: pots on the left, cutlery collected in a large Tupperware (perhaps left to soak), plates stacked by size. A theory springs to mind… Maybe the inhabitants tetrised (‘verbed’ in mid-2100s) the spread to make it less intimidating. There are no other dishes on the shelves, and notably, no dishwasher. “Maybe they hated doing the dishes as much as I do,” she wonders out loud in the still, linoleum floored cave. “Maybe they left them as long as they could – and then time ran out.”

But who lived here? She catalogues each plate, cup, pot, before taking scrapings of preserved food residue, then scrubs them clean for museum storage and possible future display. There are two distinct condiment patterns: some plates have sauce smeared all over, while others show evidence of little dried pools. The latter eater taking more than he/she needed, keeping tastes separate, and taking little dabs; the former mixing the flavourings with the food, or perhaps simply finishing with flourish.

There are more archeological clues. Some of the casserole dishes (and even Tupperware lids) show the same saucing patterns as the plates. Our archeologist considers this proof of her procrastination theory – that once the plates ran out, other surfaces were sacrificed. Most interesting are the dish gloves, the rubber made brittle by time, but still clearly the largest size available. A couple perhaps? A large woman and a smaller man (the dabs)? Two men?

Or a small woman and a Viking man (finishing with flourish), the gloves bought with the hope of compromise. The dabber would be the tetrisiser, but the gloves would better fit the man. Our archeologist steps back, arms dripping with suds. “And like so many compromises,” she muses, “the truth of any theory is proven only when time runs out.”

*********************

I step back, pink gloves dripping. What she can’t see – the archeological evidence long since re-sauced – are the interm loads my Viking washed while waiting for me to man up and take my turn at the sink. And so with one (albeit epic) load of dishes, my faith in an entire branch of science is shaken to the core.

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