What I read in February

Another good reading month—I’ll probably have good reading months until the lockdown is over, or at least until the weather is better. Maybe it’s coming, the sunrise is before 7.30am now and the sunset is after 6.15pm, but for now apart from my daily walk I’m still spending a lot of my time inside and so I’m still getting a lot of reading in. It doesn’t help (in a good way) that I have so many books I’m excited about on hold via Libby and so every time a new one comes in I can’t wait to read it. So for now we’re two months in and I’ve already reached nearly half of my reading goal for the year, and I’m not complaining. This is what I’ve read:

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The Wall.

I think we’ve all hit it in the last few weeks. The reason is obvious, and so is the timing. We’re coming up on a year of Covid and lockdown, we’re facing some of the worst weather that keeps us even from our fresh air and vitamin D, and we’re reaching the realisation that even this summer might not be enough time to give us the fragments of normalcy we hope to grasp for.

And yet it still feels like there’s more to it. I’ve heard it from so many people, friends in all countries, all situations. Those who have lost their jobs and those who are working away from home. Those who have already received their vaccines (jealous!) and those who have no idea if they’ll even be on the list this year (hello). Even friends in New Zealand, where post-Covid life looks almost the same as pre-Covid life with a few more QR code check-ins, have noticed it.

Some people have hit the wall sooner than others. Some are doing what they can to stave it off—I sleep well, drink lots of water, walk almost every day, and yet the wall is still in front of me, my toes still bashing against it when I move to take a step.

This piece by poet Donna Ashworth really resonated with me the other day:

I’ve been having trouble sending or responding to messages, whether in direct conversation or through releasing them into the world via this blog. My anxiety tells me people won’t understand, but I know we’re all in the same boat. And when the flood of words comes, we’ll accept them with open arms.

We must remember that we are not alone. Although of course I don’t want any friends or strangers to find themselves up against the same wall as me, it helps to know that it isn’t a personal wall; it’s not a barricade just wide enough to keep only me from moving ahead. A wall that is wide enough to hold us all back is a wall that has plenty of space for cracks and fissures if we know were to look for them. It helps to know that we can still knock it down together.

What I read in January

Another month of winter, another month of lockdown, and my reading year got off to a bang with a wide variety: a reread of an old favourite, a collection of poetry, some YA, some contemporary fiction, my first ever romance novel, and more. Here’s what I read in January:

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Crohane in my own 5k

In Ireland we are currently restricted to our own 5km radius from home for exercise due to lockdown rules. Unfortunately, we live on a fairly busy and not very interesting main road, so our walking options are limited. We had to get creative. So we took a look at this website to see what might be in our 5km radius that was worth exploring.

Crohane mountain immediately caught our eye—in fact, it catches our eye every morning because we can see it out the back window. However, despite looking at it from afar his whole life, Steve had never hiked up it, and of course neither had I, so off we went on Saturday morning.

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Two days on the Mekong: taking the slow boat from Thailand to Laos

Taking the ‘slow boat to Laos’ is a Southeast Asia backpacker classic, and also a misnomer. The boat actually starts on the Laos side of Laos/Thailand border, so technically you’re not taking it to Laos.

However, it’s still a must-do when you’re in the area and heading to Luang Prabang.

You can book a trip from anywhere in the northern region of Thailand, with many starting off in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai and booking a package that takes them all the way onto the boat. We decided to make our own way across the border and spend the night before the boat journey in the tiny Laos border town of Houayxay. We took a bus from Chiang Rai across the border, and then teamed up with some other travellers for a tuk-tuk to Houayxay.

A note: I know it’s been almost a year at this point since I was in Southeast Asia, but time has been mostly meaningless for the last 10 months and I still have stories to share. Hopefully this will be helpful to people who are planning their travels for when the world is open again, and entertaining to everyone else in the meantime.

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Thirty, flirty, and just about hanging in there

I started this blog in 2012, just before another milestone birthday (my 21st). I’d shadowed an Ithaca College and Park Scholar alum at work on a trip to New York City and one of his colleagues had recommended I start a blog as a good source of writing samples to show potential journalism employers. I immediately jumped at the idea.

I’d already had years of blogging experience on various platforms (xanga, blogspot, livejournal, and tumblr) by that point, but I wanted to have a little spot on the internet to call my own. This was back when a lucky few were able to turn blogging into a full-time living before it all moved to Instagram (I’m not knocking influencers; I just don’t have the fashion sense or budget), but I was never interested in that.

I just wanted a place to write without the constraints of an academic essay or the AP Stylebook (as much as I dearly love both). I had lofty goals: at least one blog post a week (something I still have yet to achieve in any year so far; perhaps 2021 will finally be the year). The journalism didn’t stick, but the blog did.

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