Darius the Great Deserves Better

Intro.

Darius’ life has changed since visiting his grandparents in Iran:

  • He’s part of the varsity soccer team
  • Darius has a great internship at a tea shop going for him
  • Sohrab is only a Skype call away
  • Darius and his dad are connecting again
  • Landon is Darius’ first boyfriend!

Darius still has depression, but he’s doing much better. He finally feels like he’s supposed to be Darius Kellner.

But just as everything seems to have fallen into place, just as he’s sure that he’s got everything he could ever want, little things start to fall apart:

  • Sohrab isn’t answering his Skype calls
  • Dad goes away on a business trip
  • Darius grandmothers come to visit, but he’s not sure they even really like him. (It’s just so hard to tell)
  • He’s sure he likes Landon, he really does, but then he starts hanging out with his former bully Chip Cusumano, & now he’s not so sure about anything anymore

Thoughts on Darius the Great Deserves Better

This is one of my favorite YA books series. I loved the first book, Darius the Great is Not Okay, and recommend it to anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to have depression. Or, if you’re like me, and live with depression, it’s nice to see depression accurately depicted through the eyes of a teenager.

Darius is one of my favorite characters. He’s funny, smart, nerdy, and just wants to live his best life. He sounds like a real, normal teenager. (Writing good characters is tricky, but Adib Khorram pulls this off effortlessly. He makes writing seem easy, which is a sign that he’s a good writer.)

In this companion to Darius the Great is Not Okay, Darius’ life is finally looking up. As I’ve mentioned earlier, he’s got a lot going for him: a good job that he loves, he’s reconnecting with his dad, and he has found a niche at school where he feels comfortable being himself. He has a first boyfriend, Landon, and stays in touch with his good friend Sohrab regularly. But as the school-year progresses, he starts to question whether he’s really has everything he really wants.

I personally really enjoyed the character development in this. I liked the addition of Darius’ grandmothers, and the dynamic of him having to balance having a boyfriend and discovering that he maybe likes Chip instead. (This is actually a good thing, because Landon begins to pressure Darius, wanting to have sex with him when Darius isn’t so sure he wants to connect like that with Landon.)

This was another emotional rollercoaster, one that I would definitely ride again. I’m really hoping that there will be a third book in the wings.

Thanks for reading,
Meghan B.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get Well Soon: My Recent Hospital Stay

Update!

Get Well Soon: My Recent Hospital Stay

  • March 17th: I’m admitted to the hospital due to a bowel blockage

  • March 19th: I undergo surgery.

  • March 20th – 23rd: recovery from my surgery.

  • March 24th – 25th: home/running around doing things like getting a COVID shot & a haircut.

  • March 25th – 27th: back in the hospital for inflammation/vomiting.

  • March 27th – April 1st: home again! I’m able to eat real food & not get sick!

March 17th, 2021

I knew something was wrong while I was eating supper with my parents: I felt a slight pain in my lower abdomen. I also didn’t feel very good while eating, either. Hours later, I lay awake in my bed, feeling nauseous. Finally, after going to the bathroom several times and not throwing up, I did. The pain in my intestines didn’t go away, either.

My mom and I briefly debated on who to call, then called the ER. They said I should come in. After some X-rays and blood draws, we had an answer: I had a bowel blockage.

This was not the first time I’d had a blockage: In my twenties, I had my first issue with my intestines. Thankfully, it resolved itself. But now, just 17 days after my 30th birthday, I was having the same problem.

I was admitted around 4-4:30 AM, after getting an NG tube put in. If you’ve never had an NG tube, let me tell you, it’s not a pleasant experience. You know the gagging sensation you get from moving a toothbrush too far down your throat? It’s like that, only it’s a tube going through your nose and down into your throat to your stomach.

I threw up when they put it in, because you have to swallow the tube that your body is vehemently trying to reject.

I actually had to have a second NG tube put in, several days later, because the first one had something wonky going on with it. So, I’ve survived not one but two tubes down my nose and throat.


March 19th, 2021

Two days later–it feels much longer in my memory–I was being prepped for surgery. I took a shower for the first time in several days, cleaning myself up, but not shaving anything, before my surgery. I had my first ever COVID test, which to my nurse’s credit, I barely felt. Thankfully, it came back negative.

Every nurse and doctor I’ve encountered in the hospital were kind, understanding, and helpful. It didn’t matter if it was 2 AM or 2 PM, everyone I came in contact with were extremely kind and willing to help. It’s made me realize that being a nurse or a doctor is more than just helping people, it’s about treating people who are going through a rough time with the same level of respect and kindness–night or day. Everyone I met treated their job like it wasn’t just a job: I felt like I truly mattered to those nurses and doctors, that my predicament was looked at with care, just like any other patient in the hospital at that time. It’s about treating people with humility when they need it the most. It’s about making sure that people are comfortable when they are uncomfortable or in pain.

I’ve had a major surgery before, back when I was 14 ounces and a month old. I had surgery to correct the necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) that was harming my intestines.

What causes NEC?

The best explanation is some kind of injury to the inside lining of the intestine that then allows bacteria to travel from inside the intestine into the bloodstream.

http://www.necsociety.org

The treatment for NEC is as follows, which ultimately lead to my surgery to remove the dead intestine:

Standard treatment for NEC is to stop all feedings, place a large tube through the mouth into the stomach to keep the stomach empty, start antibiotics, and check x-rays of the abdomen at regular intervals. If the baby has signs that the intestine is severely injured, surgery is necessary to remove the dead portion of the intestine. In severe cases, the entire intestine may be dead and when that happens the chance of the baby surviving is very low.

http://www.necsociety.org

The surgeon who preformed my NEC surgery on me basically said, “If the baby lives,” meaning that I had a very low chance of surviving the surgery. I was extremely lucky, thanks in part to a shunt put into the back of my head. I also had incredible doctors and nurses to look out for tiny me.

Now, at 30, I was going to remember (to some extent) this particular surgery. It was a little nerve-wracking, but I didn’t feel scared. I was prepped for surgery, signed papers, then taken down to the waiting area where a kind nurse visited with me. We talked about Togo, the original hero to deliver the medicine partway to the sick children of Nome. We watched some YouTube videos on it, and even the trailer before I was able to go into surgery.

I honestly didn’t mind waiting. I had learned to be patient by then in the hospital. I mean, what else did I have to do?

I remember being moved onto the surgery table, and placing my arms on either sides of the table on little arm-rest thingies. It was about 3:30 PM when I looked at the clock. The last thing I remember was looking up at the bright operating lights.


March 20th – March 23rd, 2021

The next four days were spent recovering from my surgery. I finally got my NG tube out my my nose and throat on Monday, the 22nd. It was a happy day, because that meant that I could try to drink liquids, which I hadn’t really had, for about 6 days. I’d had fluids from the IV in my hand, but only a few swallows of water when I took my meds every day.

When I got to drink grape juice, it tasted better than any juice I’d ever had. The food I got to eat later on that night was delicious–soup, toast, easy things like that–but I deleted it from my phone. So, unfortunately, I don’t have the pictures anymore.

I was discharged around noon on March 23rd. After spending a week in the hospital, I was kind of used to staying there. I was excited nonetheless to go home. I got to eat lunch, then was wheeled downstairs while Mom got the car.

I got to hold my balloon and my flowers from my grandparents.

Mom ended up needing to go back to the hospital, because we’d forgotten my meds and my jacket. I just chilled in a chair reading/looking at my phone/petting Bentley and Charlie while I waited for her to return.

I also got some more flowers from one of my mom’s friends.

I was finally home! It felt great to be back in my own bed, although I didn’t mind the hospital beds.


I wasn’t quite done with going to the hospital.

After getting the first part of my COVID shot, and getting a haircut, I was struggling to keep anything down. I’d eat something easy, like beef bouillon, and then a few hours later I’d have thrown it all up.

We went back to the hospital on March 25th. I was admitted again, because there was some inflammation happening in my intestine. It could’ve been due to the COVID shot affecting my body, my surgeon later told us.

So, I stayed in the hospital for about two days, then went home again.

I still haven’t watched the latest Blue October show, but I plan to do so soon.

After a visit with my surgeon, Mom and I were reassured that the healing of my intestine would take time. I just needed to make sure I stayed hydrated, and if I didn’t eat for a while, that was okay.

Thankfully, my body has slowly reverted back to normal. I’m able to eat actual food and keep everything down. This has only happened a few days ago–Murphy’s law–shortly after visiting my surgeon on Monday.

I’ve had a very eventful birthday month to be sure. I didn’t expect that any of this would happen, but I don’t mind the extra time I get to stay home and recover.

I’m looking forward to finishing my fantasy novel and finish reading A Deadly Education, which I started reading in the hospital. I finally learned an easier way to knit the herringbone stitch, which is a textured knitting pattern. I love it!

Thanks, BHooked!

Thanks for reading,
Meghan B.

My Love for the German Language

Good evening, everyone!

Over the past few years, I’ve discovered German metal bands, and they have fueled my passion for the German language.

Rammstein has rock/electronic vibes, and writes powerful music you can jam out to in the car (or in your room).

Eisbrecker writes with a little more nod to Germany’s dark history, with the knowledge that in making these connections, you can help stop the past from happening again. Eisbrecker also turns German children’s nursery rhymes and songs into metal songs. I mean, that’s badass, right there. And a good way for me to learn German.

How did this language obsession start?

Easy: with one of my favorite adult novels, A Little Life. Jude knows German, French, and Latin. He’s one of favorite literary characters.

Also, one of my very good friends, Alex H., took German. So I’ll occasionally shoot him a text in what sliver of German I know, because why not? It’s fun!

I’m no Tolkien by far, but I do have a healthy interest in my German heritage. (I am also English, and a smattering of other things.)

But I’ve come to appreciate the power of words in other languages. There are things (phrases) you can say in other languages that can’t be expressed in American English.

I also love picking up on the meaning of words in German. It’s a lot of looking up the translations and memorizing the songs by good ol’ repetition–which is actually something I enjoy doing with music, by the way. I think it’s something to do with my autism and how my brain works.

I mean, that’s how I’ve memorized the original Broadway production of Les Misérablesand all of Blue October’s songs to date. It’s one of the (yes, slower) ways that I memorize things I’m passionate about.

Unlike my partner Rory, I do not have an eidetic memory, and tend to forget things or draw a blank on stuff. (Which is totally normal for me.)

German is a beautiful, rough-sounding language to me, especially since I’ve matured and know more than just Holocaust history–although knowing that particular part of German history is very important.

Someday, I want to go to Germany. (And England, and Japan, and Switzerland…) I want to experience different parts of the world first-hand.

I’m excited to hear different languages in their native countries, too! It just sounds like so much fun.

Thanks for reading,

Meghan B.

What do you need to know about yourself today so you can create your best self?

I snagged this journal prompt from the podcast “Writing Your Best Self”.

I need to know that I am strong and brave. I’ve recently been in the hospital for an intestinal blockage and am on the mend! I’m doing so much better than I was last week, when I was admitted.

I need to know that I am kind and sympathetic towards others. I genuinely care about other people, which helps me in my work life while I’m cashiering at my local Target. I feel for people when they are having a bad/tough day. I love it when I can brighten someone’s day at work or in my personal life by just being myself.

I am a highly sentimental person. Films like UP reminds me of the love my grandparents had for one another. Films like Max & Mary remind me of the power of friendship, as well as forming a life-long bond with someone who started out as a complete stranger in a telephone book. Anything Winnie the Pooh makes me cry because “the guys” were some of my first, most dearest, friends. (They still are.)

I am a very loyal person. I will never cheat on someone I’m in a relationship with because I don’t have it in me. I stand with and champion people who are seen as “different” because I believe that being different is what makes us more interesting and more caring towards others. Our differences make us unique, in every good way possible. If everyone were exactly the same, our world would be very boring indeed!

I’m an introvert who likes to be an extrovert from time to time. I love to hang out in my room, but I also love to hang out with my friends and family. I enjoy sharing the books, movies, and music I love so much with others.

I’m a dog lover. I have two sweet golden girls at home, Bentley (11) and Charlie (1). They are very funny at times!

Lastly, I am a creative person. I love to write, read, and knit. I’ve taken up bullet journaling again since last year and am really enjoying my new minimalist layout. Creating new characters and worlds are things that come to me naturally, since I’ve been writing for over ten years. Some ideas work, while others fall through. This past year, I not only finished writing a sci-fi novel, but started a fantasy/urban fantasy book. I’m on the last chapter of my fantasy novel at the moment. I’m looking forward to completing it when I get back home.

How would you respond to this journal prompt? Let me know in the comments section.

As always, thanks for reading!

Meghan B.

Les Miserables

“Another Story Must Begin”

This is one of my favorite plays. I’ve memorized all the songs, and know the story quite well. But one thing was missing: I hadn’t read the famous book yet.

A year ago now, I embarked on what was to be an epic journey: reading the translated English version of Les Miserables. Despite my obsession with the play, I’d never read the book until now.

The story is simple: a desperate young man tries to steal bread to help save his sister’s dying child. Jean Valjean gets caught, sent to prison, and endures hard labor. 20 years later, he’s on parol, and scrabbling to find a place in the world. In despair, he begins stealing. One day, a kindly bishop offers him food and lodging. Jean Valjean is shocked by his generosity, but steals from him in the end. The police catch him, and return him to the bishop’s house. Here is where the bishop offers Jean Valjean his expensive silver candlesticks, as yet another sign of his generosity. “You must use this precious silver to become an honest man,” the bishop tells Jean Valjean. (This is a line in the play.) Jean Valjean literally has a come to Jesus moment afterwards, perplexed by the bishop’s kindnesses and his religious advice.

Jean Valjean then vows to use the candlesticks to become a better person.

Similarities

What astounds me is how closely the play hits all the important parts of the novel. The most important scenes from the novel are in the play.

What I don’t mind leaving out are all of the long tangents and commentary that Victor Hugo presents throughout Les Misérables. A couple of them were kind of interesting–like the bit about wanting to start a second revolution–but most of them seemed to drag on forever. I ended up skipping the tangent about the sewers of Paris–that got gross pretty fast.

Overall, the important bits from the novel are in the Broadway play. Which is impressive, considering how much Hugo goes into depth about things.

Final Thoughts

The beauty of Jean Valjean’s story is that he tries to do the best he can to become a better person. This is mirrored in the play, and expounded upon in the novel.

Jean Valjean learns how to love an orphaned little girl named Cosette, after promising her mother on her deathbed that he would care for (and raise) her little girl. He also becomes the Mayor in a town, and does his best to help remain honest about his past identity as a convent.

In a moment of despair, Jean Valjean questions the kindly bishop’s words and generosity. But, after bargaining with God, he comes to realize that he must change in order to adhere to the bishop’s words: “You must use this precious silver/to become an honest man.” Meaning that he must use the candlesticks to better himself.

Les Misérables is a story of a life lived by performing good deeds. Les Misérables is a sad story at times, but also full of hope and love.

And of course, the music is amazing.

I’m so glad I finally read this classic novel!

Stickers, Stencils, & Washi-Tape, Oh My!

I’ve finally figured out how people have such lovely habit trackers in their bullet journals: they use stencils or stickers. I’m still somewhat new to everything bullet journal, since I’m getting better only recently in my bullet journaling.

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Real Life

Wallace is a Black, queer student attending a Midwestern university. He’s “at odds” with everything in his life: his (vastly) White peers, and his friends. Wallace hasn’t escaped the trauma of his youth; he’s gone straight from Alabama to college. Here, he’s singled out because he’s Black, because he’s not straight, and because he’s made himself distant with everyone around him, for personal reasons. But, over a weekend, this changes. Wallace must confront his trauma and becomes an individual among his friends (as well as telling some of them what he really thinks). This is a novel “of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost” (from the dust jacket).

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Saying Thank You to my Characters

Intro

For the past 11 months, I’ve been working on a fantasy/urban fantasy novel. My main character Judeaus (Jude for short) is the upcoming ruler of the realm Tarlimain. He’s readjusting to his life in his parents castle after a traumatic event. When his aunt and uncle and their adoptive son Desmond show up with the rest of their traveling caravan, Jude falls in love with the handsome young man, especially after Des saves his life. The two, though new to their relationship, end up traveling to the city together, embarking on a world-changing view for Jude, who has never been outside his home. When trouble arises in the city, when Jude is confronted with enemies old and new, he must rely on his inner strength, and his budding magical abilities, to save himself.

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20 Things I did in my 20s

Birthday Girl Backstory

March 1 is my birthday. I can’t believe I’m turning 30! (Squeals.) The big 3-0 isn’t just another number to me, it’s a testament to surviving a very premature birth. I was lucky because I had only a few things go wrong because I was born so early. I was supposed to be born in the summer. Instead, I came 24 and a half weeks early.

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I’m a Pear Shape Now, But a Happy Pear

I’ve always been a skinny girl. I say girl because lately as a woman, I’ve started gaining weight. One of my medications, which does cause weight gain, has done just that: caused me to put on some pounds. When I say some, I mean a steady rapid increase of 50 pounds.

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The Best Thing

Is going to a friend’s house & seeing how they’ve changed. How her voice is getting higher & her hair is getting longer. The best thing happens when you’re snuggling, talking about nothing in particular, just before you fall asleep. The most stressful thing is seeing your fiancé fake-run around the house with a very sharp pocket knife, saying stuff as he “runs” around. I love seeing him smile, being able to hug him in real life helps. You’re the best thing, besides dancing. I’ll miss you tomorrow.

MBB

2/21/2021

Dear Jude II

Dear Jude,

I miss your cleaning. I miss hearing you trot out arpeggios on the piano in the middle of the night, when you can’t sleep, when you can’t quite grasp reality. I miss your cooking. I miss the sound of your voice, even when you’re angry. I miss the looks you shared with Willem; I miss you looking at the rising sun at the office. I miss your smile, hidden behind your hands. I love the sound of you singing in German. You’re one of the smartest men I know. Can I give you a hug? Would you like to go for tea sometime? I miss the sparkle in your gorgeous green eyes. I love how ruthless you are in court, how you glue everyone’s eye’s onto you. Don’t let the old bastards (your legs) get you down. I love the way your hands move across the keys of a piano, how they finely chop onions or carrots. You’re the most sensitive person I know. Don’t worry, JB was right: It will get better.

Love,
M

The Book of Longings

I am Ana. I am the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth. All my life, longings lived inside of me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night. That my husband bent his heart to mine on our thin straw mat and listened was the kindness I most loved in him. What he heard was my life begging to be born.– pg. 3

Ana

Ana is a normal girl living in Sephoris, listening to her aunt’s stories and recording narratives about the women in the Torah.

Ana longs to be a woman with a voice; she even puts her sacred prayer in her prayer bowl: “When I am dust, sing these words over my bones: she was a voice” (pg. 11). She wants to be someone who is heard and remembered, that her voice, as well as her writings, will live on long after she’s passed.

Her fierce aunt teaches her how to become her own person, and to revere the women in the Torah.

Then she learns that she is going to be married to a man she doesn’t know, and certainly doesn’t like.

Ana’s life changes once her betrothed dies. Relieved and overjoyed, she only wears the mourning clothes for show.

Her life changes again once she meets Jesus, a stonemason who is clearly devout. She is at first curious about this man, then falls in love with him. They end up marrying, and Ana goes to live with Jesus and his family.

Jesus

Jesus begins to preform small miracles, as well as what I will call acts of kindness. He helps the lepers into the pool to bathe, and begins to form a following based around his beliefs about God. As he decides to leave his home to further create outreach for his ministry, Ana is left behind, and left excluded from the tales of Jesus of him preforming further miracles and practicing his ministry/what he teaches.

Final Thoughts

The story is limited, unfortunately, by telling the story of Jesus through the eyes of Ana. I feel like, while I know the story of Jesus, it would’ve been interesting to hear his take on what’s happening to him as he formulates his own ministry.

This is my only major critique of the novel. That, I guess, and the pacing. It takes a while for you to really get into the story, and then the novel itself is lackluster for large, exciting plot-lines.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Book of Longings, it just wasn’t my favorite novel by Sue Monk Kidd. I have The Secret Life of Bees, and am eager to see how the book matches up with the film.

I really appreciate, however, a woman’s perspective on Jesus, especially when women aren’t the narrators/writers of Jesus’s life in the Bible. Yes, women are mentioned in the Bible, but they aren’t the center of the Bible. They are put second in a world where men are put first. So, I enjoyed the perspective and Ana’s fierceness very much. I loved how she wrote poems and composed literature on the women of the Torah, giving them the credit and credence that they deserve.

If you like novels about religious figures, this book is something you should at least try. Even if you’re a practicing Christian like me, I say that this book helps give you something to think about in terms of women, the Bible, and who it’s written by and how this could have been different if women had been allowed to write the Scriptures alongside their male counterparts.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Little Fires Everywhere

In Shaker Heights, the Richardson family lives a comfortable life. They rent out their rental home to Mia and her daughter, Pearl. Mia and her daughter turn out to be interesting people, someone Mrs. Richardson can’t stop thinking about. She begins to obsessively hunt for clues about Mia’s life, determined to find out more.

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In Shaker Heights, the Richardson family lives a comfortable life. They rent out their rental home to Mia and her daughter, Pearl. Mia and her daughter turn out to be interesting people, someone Mrs. Richardson can’t stop thinking about. She begins to obsessively hunt for clues about Mia’s life, determined to find out more.

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#weekendcoffeeshare: Jan. ’21 Edition

#weekendcoffeeshare: January ’21 Edition

January was a hopeful month for me. Here’s some highlights:

  • Blue October came out with a new album last year and it’s fantastic.
  • I let my sister knit a bit of the blanket I’m working on.
  • We have a new president of the United States!!
  • Trump is banned from social media, which makes my life even better.
  • I bought some new yarn, & am working on my own Fisherman’s Rib blanket. (Fisherman’s Rib is where you’re knitting into the stitch below, so it makes this nice thick ribbing overall. It’s a very fun piece to make & actually easy to knit!)
  • I created a new bullet journal & finally found a method that works for me. (Yay!)
  • I got engaged to the love of my life, Rory James. He and I have been together for six years & make a pretty good couple if I do say so myself.
  • Mom and I organized & cleaned out my desk. It looks so clean & organized now! (Thanks Mom!)
  • My sister Abbie got the vaccine!
  • Charlie girl celebrated her first birthday. May she have many more golden years to come. (She’s our golden retriever puppy.)
  • Overall, everyone is doing well & staying healthy at our house.

Keep washing your hands, socially distancing, & please please please get the vaccine when you can.

Have a fantastic February everyone,
Meghan B.

pics

From the blog knittingplugged
Taken by Melinda, Rory’s mom. Left to right: Rory, me.
Charlie, the birthday girl.
My new bullet journal on my desk.