Travel Blog: Vancouver

This past weekend, I took a trip to visit some friends in Vancouver and to see a concert. The trip started out a little rough with some severe winter weather causing some major delays leaving Kelowna.

To make the best of it, I went to have lunch at the White Spot in the lounge and there I shared a table with a man working in a similar industry as my own. We chatted about music and working in the tech industry. We had some similar former co-workers and he invited me to check out his company in case I was interested in changing jobs.

I finally made it into Vancouver around 7pm and my lovely friends picked me up from the airport. We had an awesome dinner at a ramen place. I tried Japanese curry for the first time and loved it. Afterwards, we went back to their place and they showed me all the pictures from their Japanese trip and shared their stories. They brought be back a very cool travel cup from the Osaka Starbucks.

The next day was spent hanging out, listening to records, doing some shopping at Daiso, and watching old animations. It had been forever since I had watched Atlantis and Road to Eldorado. I somehow managed to polish off a bottle of my favorite red wine in the process.

The next day, I headed out to check into my hostel and hang out with a different friend for the afternoon. We had a lovely chat over some nachos at my favorite pub, Malone’s. After which I headed back to the hostel to get ready for the concert only to find out that the band that I had been looking forward to seeing had been denied entry to the country and would not be performing that night.

I was so bummed out that I didn’t even want to go see the other bands performing. At which time I met a man from Boston who was looking for a nice place for dinner. I asked him if he didn’t mind taking a trek out to Commercial Drive. Since he had no idea where that was, I went with him and we had dinner at Stormcrow. The rest of the night was spent drinking, playing a card game about news headlines, and talking politics between Canada and the United States. So what started out as a bummer of a night turned into one of the most memorable conversations with a stranger I have ever had.

The next day, I took the Skytrain back out to YVR which was way smoother than taking a taxi and a hell of a lot cheaper too. I ended up there early so I just watched some downloaded episodes of Aquarius that were on my tablet.

I am happy to say that I enjoyed flying with Faire Airlines and I will likely be flying with them in the future. I am even looking at flying out to Toronto on them in the future.

~ Clara D. Munro

Confessions of an Undiagnosed Learning Disability

I have had trouble articulating how I feel into words for as long as I can remember being able to write. I struggle with spelling and grammar. I just can’t remember the order in which letters go in unless I write them out a million times and even then, I am just remembering the pattern in which I spell out the letters. It comes from what is likely an undiagnosed dyslexia and dysgraphia. Trust me when I say that 90% of the words I write often have a little red line under them.

For a long time, I was embarrassed to show anyone my writing because of my fear of them discovering my flaw. I was actually ashamed of it. Everyone else I knew what so much better at grammar and spelling that it made me feel like I was somehow defective. Don’t even get me started on reading aloud or mathematics. If my ability to write was bad, you should have seen my math scores or listen to me try to recite poetry. I distinctly remember a time in high school when I was asked to read Shakespeare aloud and it was a train wreck. Hard to believe that I was any good at choir because I had a hell of a time remembering lyrics. The tune was easy but the lyrics would always get messed up. Somehow, I managed to ace music but barely pass subjects like math and English. I have been resistant to improving my basic grammar and math skills but I decided that it was time to change that.

I have enrolled in the adult basic education program at the Okanagan College for the summer sessions. I am just waiting on hearing back from the school to get more details. Last year, the government declared that all adult education classes are now free. There are a few things that I would like to re-learn: English Grammar, Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. I fully intend to get a better understanding of all of them.

Why am I doing this? For one, I am bored. For two, I don’t have enough saved up for collage yet. I have also been out of the school game for almost ten years now and I have a feeling I need to remember how to be a student again. I figure, it can’t hurt to improve my knowledge of the foundations of education. If I do return to university to pursue further education, I want to know that I am at the top of my game again.

In preparation for this, I am looking into seeking assistance for how to strength the visual and kinetic skills I need to cope with my dyslexia and dysgraphia. I took a little online test from the point of view of a parent who has concerns about their child’s apparent learning disability. I was brutally honest about the answers to the survey about my experiences from both childhood and symptoms I still suffer from today. In doing so, I was able to find some clarity about what I have been struggling with for the last thirty years. I have noticed that there are not a lot of resources out there for adults learning to cope with dyslexia and dysgraphia, so if you know of a resource, I would appreciate the help.

Clara D. Munro

Role Model

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I was about fourteen years old when I started watching the X-Files for the first time. The show was already two seasons in and my family didn’t have cable, so we had to get a friend of the family to record the show on VHS and lend it to us each week. This was all before the age of on demand internet streaming, of course. During that time, I fell in love with the characters of Mulder and Scully and the overarching mysteries of the story. I even came to love the Smoking Man and his tragic loneliness. I found every book in our library on the show and deep read into the conspiracies once I did gain access to the internet in 1997.

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The character of Dana Scully (portrayed by Gillian Anderson), was the first female character who I considered to be a role model. She was an independent, career driven woman. Although she made career choices that her family didn’t approve of, she still followed them. She didn’t come off as butch or tomboy, she managed to still stay feminine while keeping in male dominated professions (medical doctor and FBI agent). I think that if I had continued to follow her example instead of getting distracted by fluffy shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I might have been a bit more dedicated in my career.

When I left high school, I had no idea what I wanted. I thought about archaeology because it combined two things that I love, history and science. I ended up with a degree in history but by the end of my studies, my academic effort was less than subpar. I am not sure what happened to my passion to success, it might have been depression or possibly that I didn’t find that school what a challenge to me. It’s easy enough to regurgitate facts and figures for a test but I found that I wasn’t great at writing essays. I bet if I went back now, that would be a different story.

With the recent release of new seasons of the X-Files, I am watching the series from the beginning. Now that I am an adult and in the same age range of the characters in the show, I appreciate Dana Scully more than I did as a teenager. She is an intelligent, practical, and rational woman (except in regards to religion). She lets the facts dictate her understanding and findings. I think that because I look up to Scully so much, I have become more skeptical in my views on politics, religion, and science. It’s not that I buy into conspiracy theories but I do read every news story and research article with a grain of salt. It’s because I studied history and learned to question every document for both bias and motive. Between my training in sociology and history, I have learned to become skeptical about everything. I still want to believe (I had that poster on my wall for years) but I know that belief is not enough by itself and a certain amount of facts and figures is required before I can take any leaps of faith. But Like Scully, I have a spiritual belief that adhere to. I know that many of my belief cannot be completely supported by science but like Scully, I still have faith in them.

The strength in Dana Scully’s character lays not with her skepticism or her devotion to her partner, Fox Mulder, but in her feminist pragmatism. From her determination to not be overlooked simply because she’s a woman or her willful desire to do things herself, Scully is an inspiration to women who want to be seen as equal to their male counter parts. While Scully is a pretty woman, she’s not too pretty. Her beauty lies in her intelligence rather than in her appearance. She doesn’t play up her looks and in early episodes, she quite geeky looking. Later on, as fashion for professional women starts to look less Murphy Brown power suites and more clean cut famine business casual, Scully takes on almost a softer looks. It’s like she cares more about being comfortable rather than trying to keep up with the boys. Her shirts are never too revealing and her makeup is subtle.

Watching the show from the beginning, I realise now how much of an impact Scully had on my own feminist ideals and my choices as far as my indepence goes. I never wanted someone to look down on me simply because I am a woman. I never understood why men would think that just because they are men that it gave them a right to think of women as lesser or at the very least, less capable. When I am met with someone who does have this ideal, I get angry at them and my respect for them disappears. The same thing happens to me when I meet women who think that men are lesser. All and all, I just want everyone to be on the same playing field.

I made the choice a long time ago to put building any kind of a relationship second to my own passions. I left long term relationships when I felt like I was going to get trapped in it. I have even sabotaged perfectly good relationships because I didn’t want to end up married or with children. When I tried to change directions with this, I found that I didn’t actually want to be in a relationship with anyone and that I didn’t want to do the normally get married and have children path that so many other people take. I am perfectly okay with being single and driven to my own career.

It’s easy to let yourself become wrapped up in work and in daily routine; it’s harder to allow yourself to open up to the commitment of a relationship or to raising children. My last relationship said that I would be good as a mother but I don’t think I can commit to that at this point in my life. At thirty five, I want to be focused on myself and on my life. I barely give myself room to be with friends or family and when I do, I limit my time with both. The longest relationship I have been able to commit to, is the one I have with my dog, Dexter. His life is in my hands and I barely feel that I am responsible enough to handle that at times. I can’t even imagine taking on a child and raising it to adulthood at this point.

I haven’t finished the X-Files, so I don’t know what Scully’s fate is but from what I have seen of her, she remains true to her character and is still an inspiration to me and if I could be so lucky to live with such integrity and passion in my life, that maybe one day, I too will be some one’s role model.

~Clara D. Munro

My Never Take It Off Vow

I recently came across an idea for helping to keep yourself accountable to your actions or promise of action. It showed up in my life as a product from a company called “Never Take It Off” that partners with artists to create limited edition jewellery, like bracelets and necklaces.

The purpose of these bracelets and necklaces is to come up with a promise to yourself, put on the item, and then leave it on until it either breaks or falls off. They can be things like, “I will not have another drink while I wear this item,” or, “I will make sure to follow my dream of being ______.” Essentially, this is not a new idea. It’s similar to tying a string around your finger in order to remember to do something. It’s like an expansion on friendship or WWJD bracelets.

@nevertakeitoff loving the @thejulietsimms snowflake bracelet.

A post shared by Clara D. Munro (@wildmoonwitch) on

I picked up one of the snowflake bracelets designed for Juliet Simms, a singer who I started listening to this summer who has a kind of Americana sound to her music. She came in second on the Voice at some point, which is pretty cool. She’s also totally independent and works hard for everything that she’s earned. I’m actually pretty inspired by her. The reason why I picked up one of these braceletes was because I wanted support the artists and the causes that Never Take It Off support. I know that I could have made one of these bracelets myself but that wasn’t the point. I purchase it during the holidays as part of my way of giving back and giving to myself.

So, here’s my “Never Take It Off” vow:

I vow to not sacrifice practice for procedure.

Meaning, I will continue to keep practicing, keep improving, and keep following my dream of writing and recording music.

~C.D.Munro

 

Social Media Detoxing

About ten days ago, I started removing social media apps from my devices. I have successfully removed Facebook from my phone and tablet. I think of this is some kind of detoxing that’s going on. I would totally delete my Facebook account if it weren’t for the fact that I use both the groups and messenger to organize with people. Facebook has managed to totally integrate itself into our lives.

I know that the groups feature for Google+ is better than Facebook but getting people to move over to it will be like pulling teeth. I don’t think I have ever used the messaging feature for Google before. If I could just import all my Facebook contacts into it and hybrid over Facebook, I would.

I have also removed Instagram from my tablet because I really just need it on one device, not all of them. I have found myself logging into the Facebook website on the tablet but I spend less time on there because it’s so clunky on the mobile web browser. I have found that I spend more time on other apps like Pinterest now. Mostly when I am finding myself needing a distraction from what’s going on.

Tablets, smart phones, computers, and TVs are all built to keep us distracted. I of course own all four of these now. At least with my TV, I just use my Chromecast and I cut the cable cord years ago. I have been re-watching The X-Files from the beginning. Strangely, it’s the X-Files that’s having the impact on my to cut down on my time spent on social media. Watching episodes from the 90s about people who lose their lives to time spent watching too much day time TV or surfing the internet kind of punched me in the gut. We have been worried about too much electric time for over twenty years now. As a teen during the birth of the mass consumer use of the internet, I should know better.

I may take the final leap to rid myself of Facebook this year. I have been dancing with it but I will need something else to use to organize the groups that I have been using Facebook to manage. I think that it’s crazy that I have been using Facebook for over ten years now. Given how fast other social media platforms died off, it’s almost unheard of to have one like Facebook still around.

I will keep you posted on how I progress on this decision.

~Clara D. Munro

A Chemical Romance

It was early 2011 when I started my love affair with the band “My Chemical Romance’ (MCR). I remember the moment it happened, I was looking up the recent tour dates that another band I enjoyed post, Neon Trees, and they announced they were going on tour with MCR. I was instantly not impressed, these shear amount of times I had been forced to endure “Welcome to the Black Parade” while working at Subway was enough to make me never want to listen to any other song by the band. Furthermore, MCR had a bad reputation for promoting self harm and suicide.

Let me stop you there, right now, I am certain you think that I hate this band. Retrospectively, I was being completely unfair in my judgement of the band and their music. I did my research after the fact and found out that not only were the rumors false but the band actually supported their fans in their struggles by sharing their own stories of dealing with depression and PTSD.

Back to the story, I decided that I wanted to see Neon Trees anyways, so I set out to listen to MCR’s newest music. I wanted to know exactly what I would be getting myself into once I got there. I have been to enough shows to know that the you shouldn’t judge a band by its radio plays.

That’s when I watched the music video for “Na Na Na [Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na]” and the follow up video for “SING”.

There was some kind of magic in those two videos because for the first time, I was really listening to the music and I understood that there was something more interesting going on with it.

After that, I had to listen to the whole Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by My Chemical Romance. Thus began a love affair that would last until the spring of 2013 when the band decided to call it quits on their career. After only getting to see them perform twice and a strange encounter with the leader of the band in a clothing store, I was left wanting more and knowing that I would never again hear my favorite song played live again.

There was a moment during an MCR show when you knew these was something special happening in the room. Something that I had only experienced once before at an Angels and Airwaves show. It was like a hush fell over the crowd as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. Like you were standing in the eye of a hurricane and you knew in the next moment something big was about to happen. MCR played their shows like they were telling you a story about their music and about their lives.

Music has transformative properties to it and when you experience it in a live setting, you walk out of it a different person than when you walked in, if you let it. Between the sound, lights, and performance on the stage and the excitement of the crowd, the whole thing sweeps you up and you get lost in it. It’s highly addictive, maybe even more so than substances. My Chemical Romance had that perfect mix of darkness and light to their stage show, pulling from their entire collected works and experience. No two shows were the same and you never knew which side of the lead man you were going to get that night.

Eventually, I came to love all of MCR’s music and respect the members of the band as individual artists. The front man, Gerard Way, came out with his own work after the band ended, as did the guitarist, Frank Iero. I actually met Frank a couple of years back in Vancouver where he signed my Epiphone Wilshire Phant O-matic.

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When I first learned that MCR was calling it quits, I felt like something died inside me. I know that sounds dramatic but I can’t help that’s how I feel. I felt like I was being let down in some way. These men whose music had come to mean so much to me, I felt like they were giving up on something some people only dream of coming to in their lives, even for just a moment. My desire to make music died with that band, my own momentum just came to a dead stop, like a ship without wind in the middle of the ocean. Even though members of MCR have taken steps to make more music on their own, the magic that they had is broken up into pieces.

It took me a really long time to even look at my guitars again. It has only been recently that I was able to process that grief that the break up of MCR inadvertently caused me. I don’t blame the band for their choices for their own mental and emotional health, in fact, I support them %100 all the way in moving on with their lives. I found comfort in that support and moved forward with my own dreams.

~Clara D. Munro

Media & Device Addiction

I have never been one to think of myself as any kind of addict, certainly not one in regards to substances at least. I have always taken a sense of pride in being able to say no to drugs, drinking, or smoking. That’s not to say that I have never used any of these, I just didn’t feel like I needed it.

Lately, I have been noticing a different kind of addiction, that of my constant use of devices and social medias like Facebook and Instagram. It’s not that I have been posting like a madman or anything but I have found other things that are quite disturbing with my use. I have a constant need to check for updates. It’s the first thing I do before I get out of the bed in the morning and the last thing that I do before going to sleep.

I have done a bit of moderation in regards to my use of my devices and social media, I have removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone. I didn’t really use Twitter anyways but I did feel the need to clear out the notifications from it. I went the whole weekend without Facebook on my phone and I noticed that I was looking at my phone less in the morning and evening as a result. My next step will be to remove Facebook from my tablet too. I have kept Instagram on my phone in only for its capacity as a an app for sharing photographs. I will likely remove it from my tablet though.

Ever since my vacation, I have been feeling like I need to cut away from device use. I have started wearing my smart watch less and less. I am even contemplating selling it since its become almost useless to me. I don’t need to be as analytical about the time I spend being active. I don’t need a little device to make me feel like I am actually working out. I have better things to spend my energy on.

I know that this is a bit of a turn around for me since I was such an advocate of smart devices for so long. It’s not like I am saying that we should all get rid of our smart devices but I just think that I need to pull back on my use. I get so annoyed when people are on their devices during social events that I should be the first to start putting mine away.

I have been tempted to disengage from Facebook altogether because of this addiction but I also use it as a tool to communicate with friends and family. It’s because of this that I have kept the messenger on my phone but removed it from my tablet. To be honest, the Facebook main feed is basically dead, it’s a tool for advertising and the spread of memes and misinformation. Instagram is almost just as bad, I wish that it had never been taken over by Facebook. I feel that Facebook has ruined what instagram was, a social media for sharing photos and that’s it.

One of the reason I started blogging was because I saw how empty my social media posts were. I could see others trying to connect by the use of the written word on their social media but with the lack of space available and the thoughtlessness put into their words, they often come off as rude, insensitive, or misunderstood. I take the time to write out my blogs in advance in a document before I post them. I check them over for context, language, and behavior. It’s kind of like being a self censor. I sometimes miss some important editing when I read over them but I catch them later and update the posts. I am not so worried about typos or grammar as some might be but I do my best to try and get my point across. I find that with the limitations of social media, I don’t spend the time to do that and often I come off as misunderstood, I hate it when that happens.

The one thing I don’t want to see my blog used for is airing out dirty laundry. I had been using it as such during some emotional turbulence that I experienced last year. I have gotten to the point lately where if when I write something that I don’t feel does anyone any good, I delete it. I get the therapy of writing it out and then the additional therapy of then deleting it. It’s like editing your soul and getting rid of the crap that doesn’t need to be there. That’s what I am doing by acknowledging my device and social media addiction and find ways to resolve my use of them.

~Clara D. Munro