Reminder to Self: Perfection is Unobtainable

Hey friends! I know it’s been a short time since I’ve last written a post. Life has gotten the best of me as of late. I have been sick, first with a cold, and then with a stomach bug which seems to be going around. School has also been stressful lately as I am currently enrolled in a course where I am overwhelmed with assignments, and just trying to juggle my time between coursework and other life responsibilities.

I am a perfectionist. I try to do and be the best at everything. I am very competitive and I do not like to lose. I try to juggle everything at once and I overload myself with too much. I make a list of goals and instead of doing one by one, I try to do them all at once. I would like to refer to one of my favorite books, The Great Gatsby. Often times I feel like Gatsby searching for something I will never obtain. In my case, I am not searching for love like Gatsby, I am trying to obtain perfection. With my competitive nature and my constant need to be or do the best, I make myself sick. I do not handle stress well either.

So for this blog post, I figured I would discuss the importance of self-care and handling one goal at a time. It is quite simple for us to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily routines. We run through the list of things we need to do as soon as we wake up. Or at least I find myself doing this. Sometimes I’m not even out of bed yet and I am already worried about the long list of tasks I need to complete.

Sometimes life can really get the best of us. It is hard to remain motivated especially when we face failures or adversities. This is why it is imperative for us to always remind ourselves of how far we’ve come and how much we have accomplished. It is easy to look at the things we have not done as opposed to recognizing what we have done so far. We have to give ourselves a much needed break once in a while. We have to make sure we are practicing self-care.

During this pandemic, I have been struggling with maintaining a positive mindset as others have as well. I think it is important to take time for ourselves. On top of trying to to tackle everything on my to-do list, I have been wearing myself thin with trying to do a lot for everyone else. I rarely make time for myself. I have made the mistake of putting my health on the back-burner for quite some time now. I have not listened to my body or what my mind or soul needed.


I recently got back into a consistent gym routine and I look forward to going everyday now. I have given myself a break with school-work and by that I mean that I try not to do all my homework all in one shot. I space it out and pace myself. I try to fill my days with what I like to do. I also have been trying to engage in more self-care by caring for myself more. I have started a new skin-care routine, I try to treat myself to mani/pedis, and I take time to do things I enjoy like reading, writing, or watching a favorite show on Netflix. I also like to shop so sometimes I treat myself to a shopping spree. I have noticed changes in my mood and overall well-being when I have chosen to focus on myself. I have been more positive and feel more like myself.

I am focused on my health & well-being. I want to make sure I am making myself a priority. It’s like the saying goes, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” I still try to remain kind and help others when I can, but I’ve listened to what my body needs right now. That is to take better care of myself and to stop trying to obtain perfection in everything I do.

It is okay to make mistakes. How else would we learn? This will not be a long blog post, but I want to end on this note. Sometimes we have to stop and remind ourselves that we need to cater to our needs. Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. We have to be selfish with our time, energy, and focus. If we invest our time on something and we are not profiting in any way, shape, or form we should re-evaluate where we are focusing our time.

It is okay to have goals and want to tackle them. But we should remember that things take time and as much as we may want certain things to happen, life happens the way it is supposed to. So I guess what I’m saying is focus on you, your health, well-being, and what makes your soul happy. You only get one life. Set realistic goals and expectations and take things day by day. You are doing the absolute best you can. Believe in yourself.

Until next time friends! 🙂

Blessings,

Ms. Dakota

The Future Is Unpredictable, Live For Right Now

Hey guys. I’m back again with a post. I’m sitting here at work, bored and hungry, and figured why not put up a blog post to use my time productively? It seems like I’ve been getting the bulk of my writing done at work. But whatever, I’m not complaining. Writing gets done when it gets done.

I opened my Instagram up for the first time after not having it for like 6 months. I needed a break. I’ve grown apart from social media and only use it now to keep in contact with loved ones or to share my work with the writing community. I really feel like social media is too heavily relied on and many people take it too seriously. I get it. We live in a time where social media is how people communicate, it’s how people grow their business, cool. I can understand that. But, what I do not understand is why people are so caught up in their phones. There are so many other ways we can spend our time like moving our bodies or feeding our brains.


We can be here today and gone tomorrow. Life is flying right on by. I came across an Instagram story recently and found out someone I knew from my high school years had passed. It’s devastating to think about because she was my age. We often take time for granted because we think we will have more of it. We are wrong. We should spend more time with our loved ones and use our time wisely. Imagine what you could do with the time you waste scrolling through social media? I’ll admit that I’ve done this and I’m not trying to come off as a hypocrite for doing so. However, I wanted to put up this post and explain why I’ve changed and how I’ve matured. I used to spend lots of time on Snapchat or Instagram or Facebook. I thought putting your every move on social media was the new cool, whether it was posting your meal, or the day you had at the gym, etc.

The last 2 years or so have been a whirlwind and over the course of them, I’ve done lots of self-reflecting on my past mistakes, who and what I want to become, and the goals I still wish to achieve. I’ve lost many people over the years. People I loved and deeply cared for. I’ve lost family members, friends, and people I thought would be around for much longer. I believe in the value of a moment and creating memories with those closest to you. I don’t care for materialistic items or how much money one has. I care about creating life long memories. I’m not trying to get too depressing here, as this is meant to be an uplifting post, but when we all go to the afterlife, wherever that is for you based on your beliefs, what do we take with us? The memories or all the cars, purses, jewelry, etc. that we bought?


I’ve put my faith in people and have been let down. I’ve been vulnerable and loved people as best I could. I’ve been beaten, bruised, and defeated. I’ve faced countless adversities and have had people turn their backs on me. But I managed to rise through it all. I overcame my adversities. I am a fighter. This is how I was raised. To go in for that last round even when you don’t think you can.

I’ve held grudges. I have let years go by without talking to people over something they did during our childhoods. I’ve spent months even years not speaking to friends over minor arguments we had. We are human. We feel things. I feel things very deeply and that could be a good and bad thing.

But if there is anything we can learn from 2020, it’s this. The future is unpredictable. We can be here today and gone tomorrow. So I leave you with this.

Cherish your loved ones. Hug them. Let them know you love them. Be kinder. Don’t hold grudges. Forgive people so you can allow yourself to find peace. Work towards your goals. Use your time wisely. Call your parents often (I moved out at 22 and still call my parents everyday). Check in on your loved ones, especially during the pandemic. Do lots of self-reflection. Meditate. Focus on your health & well-being physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Life is too short to be unhappy. I know this sounds like a total cliche, but it’s the best I’ve got right now. Tomorrow is unknown. Do your best today. Live in the now. Plan for the future yes, but live for right now.

I am still learning. I am improving. I am evolving. No one is perfect. I still struggle with doing some of the things I’ve mentioned above. But if you try to do and be better, this is what counts.

Well friends, that is it for this post. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your week!

Until next time,

Dakota 🙂

Back From My 2-Month Hiatus: Self-Reflection During The Pandemic

Hi there! Well, it’s been a while since I’ve last posted. 2 months total, I believe. What can I say? Life is busy. School demands lots of my time. I needed to take a break from my non-essential work and focus my time & energy where it was most needed. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You think your blog is “non-essential?” I know I have my followers and I appreciate you guys more than you know, I really do. Thank you for the support through it all. You guys are the best, especially the writing community on twitter. One of the best groups on social media, hands down. I’m sorry I’ve been absent. But this post will explain a little more of what I’ve been up to the past few months in quarantine.

So I live in Charleston, SC and everything pretty much opened back up. We have to wear masks of course, but it’s been pretty laidback. People are extremely happy to get out of the house again. I know I am. I’ve gone back to a gym routine and I’ve been spending as much time as I can with my pup, taking him on walks & doggy play dates. (He needs to get out of the house too, he’s a breed that loves to be outside.) He is a German Shorthaired Pointer and for those who do not know, those are hunting dogs. DJ is super hyper, playful, loves to jump, chase squirrels, frogs, and bark at birds.


It is safe to say many of us have gone through various obstacles and things have just been rough to say the least. Almost like we feel like giving up. This pandemic has led to a whirlwind of emotions. It has been a full-time job trying to maintain overall health & wellbeing. At first, I was content with staying home. I felt like it would give me a break, allow me the chance to spend more time with family, and just unwind a bit by taking time to do self-care. Well, how quickly that all fell apart. I started to realize I was more stressed out, I felt like a bird locked up in a cage who just wanted to be set free. I missed interaction with friends and just enjoying the outside world. We often take everything for granted and realize how fortunate we were when it is taken away from us. My fiancé and I quickly learned we needed space from one another. My pup even realized things changed because he was in the house more. My fiancé works from home & I go to school online. So you can only imagine what it was like being around each other 24-7. I think other couples can agree they have felt the same.

When quarantine first started, I made a promise to myself to do everything I always felt I didn’t have time for. I would learn American sign language, read & write more, and just learn a new set of skills like maybe another language, etc. But motivation has quickly fizzled out. Some days I’m productive and others I can barely roll out of bed. This is okay. Our bodies and minds need rest. We don’t want to take on too much at once. I think that is my issue. I try to do everything at once and I burn myself out. I’m still learning how to pace myself.

Although I’ve been facing my own obstacles, I’ve done my absolute best to check in on friends and family to make sure their mental health was okay. But I cannot say they did the same for me which is extremely disappointing. It is always those closest to us that let us down the most. There have been days during this pandemic that I have felt absolutely defeated and hopeless. I do, however, want to thank those closest to me who have reached out and checked on me. That is what true friendship is all about. I’ve made sure to call my parents everyday since they live up in NY.

I think of it this way, “not receiving a message is also a message.” It is totally understandable this pandemic has impacted many people across the country, but taking 2 seconds out of your day to text a loved one to see how they’re holding up really goes a long way. I give people the benefit of the doubt and come up with so many ways to defend them, thinking of why they could possibly ignore or not send a text. But there is no way to explain or defend someone who is just being a crappy human being.

This leads me to my next point. You can be civil. You can try and maintain relationships with people. You can communicate until you’re blue in the face. And somehow it is never enough. I’ve learned over time that I’ve been watering many dead plants and by that I mean, I’ve been trying to salvage one sided relationships with people. I believe in any relationship whether romantic or a friendship, it is a TWO-WAY street. It takes two to tangle. One hand washes the other. Okay, you get my point. With this said, toxic is toxic. It has hurt me to cut so many people off, but it is for my health and well being. And you know what else? I do not owe anyone explanations for my decisions. They are entirely my own and I am justified in making them.


I’m still learning. I’m still evolving. Growth is an ongoing process. I am not perfect. I try my best. I learn from my mistakes. I try to be the best version of myself that I can be.

My fiancé and I talk about this often. He always asks me, “how come you do not try to be more social and make friends?” He means this in the kindest way possible, don’t get me wrong. However, here is my explanation. I am at a point in my life where I am very selective with my time, energy, and my selection of “friends.” I’ve had to cut off family members for the sake of saving my sanity. So I have absolutely no issue with admitting that yes, I do not have many friends, but that is how I choose to live my life. I choose to have few in my corner. I would rather sit with 3 genuine and sincere friends than at a table with 100+ people who I do not even know the names of. My fiancé is very personable. So am I. But it takes a lot for me to consider someone my friend.

Especially during this pandemic, I have learned a lot about people. I have seen who is truly there for you and who is not. I have gone months without talking to some of my closest friends. I’ve spoken to others almost everyday. Like I said, it takes two to tangle. Therefore, I’m done reaching out to those who do not even see if I’m okay. I do not waste my time nor should I have to. The crazy thing is once you stop reaching out, it is the same people who have the nerve to say you don’t reach out or talk to them anymore. Yes, because of YOUR actions.

It has taken me a lot of time, energy, patience, and emotional roller-coasters full of tears, yelling, and depression to get to where I am today. I have worked hard to get to where I am now. I have gone through the wreckage to reach the level of peace and tranquility I try to maintain in my life. And when people disrupt that balance, they can no longer be a part of my life.

These are very trying times. I’ve found myself to be a ball of stress in a constant state of panic and anxiety. But I have found ways to cope. I go to the gym. I write. I spend time with those I love. I’m trying to be better. But it is a process. I cannot expect everything to be how I want by tomorrow. Things take time. But the harder we work towards something, the more we appreciate it when we get it.

I will end this post on the following note, it is not about the destination, but about the journey. I hope everyone is staying safe during these times and finding ways to stay productive. I know it is hard some days, but I promise, if you get up and go do something like exercise or take a walk, you will feel a whole lot better.

Not sure when my next post will be since life is hectic at the moment, but I will try and write again sometime soon!

Until next time,

Ms. Dakota 🙂

The 7 Tools You Need To Overcome The Fear Of Writing Non-Fiction

Hey there! Glad you guys are here. This post is one I thoroughly enjoyed writing. Hope you guys enjoy!

Whenever I ask other writers what genre they prefer when given the choice between fiction and non-fiction, they always seem to choose fiction, without hesitation. I wonder why this is. The realm of fiction allows one to explore their imagination and create a world much different than reality. Writers who write fiction look forward to forming these creations which could be described as ‘escaping the mundane realities of the world we live in,’ at least how I like to describe it.

I love both fiction & non-fiction, but I always preferred non-fiction. My love for non-fiction really began when I took a non-fiction workshop during undergrad. The entire semester we studied how to write in this genre and we edited a piece we would present on the final day of class. When I read my piece to the class, I could see the power my words had. I do not recall what exactly I wrote about, but I received applause by both my professor and the other students. That is when I really began writing more pieces about my life and experiences.

Now you must be thinking why someone would want to read about the life or experiences of another if they are not a well-known author or celebrity and even then, the material may be uninteresting or boring. If you look at my blog, you will quickly realize that most of the pieces I have submitted are creative non-fiction. Here is why. I have dealt with certain traumas in my life and writing about them allows me to heal, to forgive, and to find peace. When I write non-fiction, I enjoy bringing light to issues people may not necessarily think of.

I wanted to give you all the inside scoop on how to tackle this genre without fear. Buckle up because you are in for an interesting ride.

Writers tend to think unless they have dealt with a severe trauma or have an experience others would want to read about, you have no reason to write in this genre. You are wrong. It is like that saying, if you write, you are a writer. You do not need that stamp of approval from being published to claim you are a writer. Same applies for non-fiction. You can literally take any topic or experience from your life and create something worth reading. The thing that requires the most time for me is determining the topic and how I want to approach it. But once I have the topic, it is quite easy for me to begin writing. Below I will highlight some helpful tips to get you started.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com
  • #1: Choose a topic to write about. When writing non-fiction, you have to write your story in such a way that even if the reader has the slightest doubt in their mind they would not relate to your work, you have to give them a reason to. Not to be cliché here but think of writing a piece about a horrible break-up you endured. This probably would not be something I would write, but I am merely using it as an example. This is a general topic an audience would gravitate to because 9 times out of 10, other people have endured this as well. You must evoke some sort of emotion and allow the reader to relate to you in some way, shape, or form.

  • #2: Next step I usually do is make list. I list everything associated with that topic. The main idea, how I felt, what I saw, what I heard, what I smelled, what I touched, who was involved, the outcome, so on and so forth.

  • #3: Next step once you have your topic picked out and your list made is to decide which perspective you want to tackle. Most of my pieces are told in 1st person which most people assume is what writing non-fiction entails. However, I like to experiment with other POV’s. For instance, I wrote a piece about an illness my cousin was diagnosed with. To properly tell the story, I interviewed several people to get all the information I needed. I interviewed my cousin, her mother, her father, her grandmother, and I included my POV. Each person told their part of the story. However, other pieces I have written have been stories about my life but told in 3rd person. ‘She felt this, she did that.,’ etc. Writing non-fiction should not mean rejecting certain aspects of writing. If anything, non-fiction can offer you the same amount of flexibility if you have the right tools.

  • #4: Writing a piece of non-fiction can also allow you the opportunity to fill in some blanks with a made-up scenario. So, going back to that break-up example. Let us say you wanted to write about your brother’s break-up with his girlfriend and how it led him down a rabbit hole. If he did not provide you with the information, you can do with this as you will. You knew the topic would be about the break-up and your brother’s depression. However, you could be creative by forming your own reasoning for their separation by filling in the blanks of what you think happened. I read an article once in my ‘how to write non-fiction,’ course textbook from college. A professor had written about the same things I am currently writing about. He said, you are not always going to have the facts or information you need for each aspect of your work. This is when you take the information you do have and put your own spin on it.

  • #5: Non-fiction requires lots of ‘show don’t tell.’ It is quite simple for writers to get wrapped up in a description of how the character felt. However, these are the opportunities when writers must really allow readers to put themselves in the main character’s shoes. ‘Show’ them what happened on that day your dad finally left the house and your mom struggled to make ends meet. ‘Show’ them the look on your grandmother’s face as she laid in the hospital bed clinging to her last breath. You get the idea. I do not want to get too depressing here.

  • #6: As I mentioned previously, evoking emotion is the most important thing you can do. Whether you are aiming to make your readers understand your pain, or your happiness, or the overwhelming feeling you encountered when you took a full course load of college classes, emotion is the driving force for this genre, in my opinion.  

  • #7: I believe writing non-fiction is like layering a sandwich. Now hold on. You probably think I sound crazy but hear me out. The first slice of bread is your opening, your one shot at drawing in the readers. I have asked several writers and most of the responses were the same. “I don’t like reading non-fiction because I don’t enjoy reading about someone else’s experiences.” My first response to that would be, if you are a true writer, you read when you are not writing, and you read anything and everything to learn as much as you can. I think to improve in writing fiction, one should also read non-fiction. The middle of the piece is the most important, layering on the ham and cheese, etc. This is the core of the piece when readers want to know what the MC endured and why, etc. That last slice of bread seals the deal. You want to close out the piece leaving the readers either wanting more or scratching their heads asking questions. I am that type of writer who will draw you in with a great opening and leave you unstable with the last line I write. I want to make sure my readers know what I am feeling. This is my strategy.

Writers tend to think non-fiction is daunting and they do not enjoy it. But I believe if writers took the chance to understand what it takes to write in this genre, if you’re just willing to put in the time and give it a chance, you can learn to enjoy writing it.

There is not much to it. This is my process and I hope this post really sheds some light on how overlooked this genre is. If I can inspire more writers to consider writing in this genre, I will feel extremely accomplished.

As always, feel free to comment on this post, email me: msdakotawrites@gmail.com, or tweet me @msdakotawrites on twitter. I always love to hear how this post has helped you or any other feedback you wish to provide.

Until next time,

Dakota 😊

Moving Forward

I was taught at a young age that being strong meant big muscles and hitting the gym every day. Little did I know as I got older mental, emotional, and spiritual health would be more of a focus. How can someone go to the gym if their mind just isn’t in it that day? We are not motivated to move or get out of bed. We all have those ‘off’ days and this is okay. Self-care is of the utmost importance.

I let go of lots of dead weight over the years. Lots of friends, family even, and relationships I thought were good for my health and I was wrong. I was blind. I just wanted acceptance and that social interaction. With all the experiences I’ve been through I have come to realize that if someone or something is weighing you down or is not allowing you to grow, making you feel inferior, this is unhealthy. I would rather be alone than in bad company.

I was burning in the fire and everyone stood by and watched. Instead of grabbing my hand to help me out, they threw more gasoline on the fire. I was choking and could not breathe. The smoke was too much to bare. Why was no one helping me? Why were they all just standing there?

But that’s the thing, right? You have to trust the other person with your heart, and you are taking the chance to be vulnerable. You show them every aspect of yourself and they take advantage of that. You choose to surround yourself with a certain crowd and you expect them to be the ones you trust most. And they often turn out to be the ones who break you down. In my experiences, I have been holding myself back for so long. Letting go of certain goals and wishes that I so badly wanted because someone else told me it was a waste of time. Or I would speak about something, my passion seeping through my words, and they would respond with a mere, “Oh that’s cool,” or “Can we talk about this later?” This whole time I have been searching for validation from others, I did not see that I am my own person, I should not feel guilty for wanting something or feeling like it’s merely a waste. I have chosen the wrong people to be in my circle. Jealousy is often the root of this issue. They do not want you to be better than them. I have quickly learned that you need to surround yourself with people who challenge you and want the absolute best for your future.

I am trying to reconstruct myself. I was so influenced by social media and other girls and society’s rules. I thought I needed to be what everyone else needed to be.

Everyone has tried to change me. Tried to make me act differently or think differently. Why can’t I just be myself?

All this time I have wasted allowing others to tell me what to do.

I refuse to live a mediocre life determined by someone else’s vision.

I choose to make it extraordinary, as in the words of Robin Williams.

Happiness Is A Choice

For so long, I have placed my happiness in the hands of others. Not feeling secure with myself at times, I have depended on those around me to give me the answers I needed. To somehow make me feel better. To somehow relieve me of things I’ve been feeling. I have overcome many obstacles on my own, many behind closed doors. I have fought long, hard battles no one has had the slightest idea of. If I have made it this far, then why am I still relying on others to bring me this sense of happiness?

I have been left disappointed. Left out in the darkness. Left like some form of garbage. People have ridiculed and belittled me into thinking I am less than. That I am not worthy. That I do not carry this strength in my soul. That I am not resilient. You are wrong. You do not know everything I have overcome and you certainly do not have the right to tell me otherwise. You were not there when I had to pick myself off the floor convincing myself that if I take one more step forward, that’s all that matters. The people I have surrounded myself with have made me feel inferior and that is not the way I want to continue to live.

Why have I sought the stamp of approval from others who do not understand me or my passion? What drives me, what motivates me, and why I choose to stand back up each time I have been knocked down. I have let these people get the best of me. I choose to say, no more. I am learning to be secure with myself. What I choose to do in this life is a decision I make for me and no one else.

Everyone will always have something to say. You will always be given negative feedback. But this I say now. I refuse to allow other’s opinions or arrogant comments get the best of me. I choose to stand tall and keep pushing forward. I have asked other people for their opinion on how I should live my life and I have let them win for so long. They have had power over me and I was willingly giving it to them. Handing it over on a platter.

These same people who have provided their opinions are the same ones who are not in my corner for my successes whether big or small. They have not seen the blood, sweat, and tears I have put into my work. They have no right to judge me or where I am in life. They can no longer have a say because I choose to put a stop to this.

I choose strength. I choose resilience. I choose to pursue my goals and dreams, continuing to climb the ladder to the top without this stamp of approval from everyone else.

Happiness is a choice. You cannot pay to find it. You cannot expect someone else to bring it to you. You decide if you want to wake up every morning with the will and the drive, the passion, and the security within yourself that you will be okay. I choose to allow myself to be free. I choose to disconnect myself from the negative and the miserable people. I choose to surround myself with positive and like-minded people who challenge the best parts of myself. You are only as successful as the people you choose to keep in your circle.

Do not allow others to dim your shine. You are meant to shine bright.

Modern Day Hero

I was in the first grade when it all happened.

It was a typical day for me as it was for everyone else too. I remember it being a crisp morning in the Fall. The leaves on the trees were a plethora of colors and I remember the crinkling sound they made when I walked to the car. The chill of the morning air greeted me as soon as I opened the front door. My mom packed my backpack making sure I had all of my materials and homework. She filled my power-puff girl lunchbox with my favorite snacks which were usually gushers, fruit-roll-ups, or fruit snacks. My Catholic school uniform was always clean and ironed. My mom did my hair differently every day. She made sure I wore my jacket and we were off.

Our teacher, Mrs. D, greeted all of us as we entered the classroom and made sure we were all present as she took attendance. She began explaining what we would do for the day. I had my friends Brittany and Chelsea who I would often get in trouble for chatting with. I always looked forward to snack time. My mom would make sure I ate breakfast before I left the house, but I was a hungry kid. My best friend Brittany and I had matching hello kitty necklaces and that marked how important our friendship was. Our mothers hung out a lot, so we ended up becoming close. We would show them off to our classmates every morning like, “Hey guys, look what we have!”

I would often doodle in my notebook while Mrs. D had her back turned. Back then, we had those desks with the tops that would lift up and you could put all your materials inside. I would put my snacks in there and I was always organized with my pencils and crayons. Mrs. D was big on neat penmanship. She would have us practice every day. She would write sentences on the board and we would have to practice writing them in our notebooks. Even as a 1st grader, I wanted to have the best handwriting in the class. I could smell the aroma of lunch being cooked in the cafeteria. I think that day it was chicken sandwiches and vegetables. It was about 9am.

Chelsea would slide me notes from pieces of paper in her notebook. One of them read, “Do you think Scott is cute?” Circle yes or no. I circled Yes with an exclamation point and a smiley face and slid it back to her. Mrs. D often caught us in the act but that did not stop us. We were sneaky.

We would have our snacks at around 10am or so. It was about 9:45 and Mrs. D told us we could have snack time 15 minutes early. Thank goodness I thought, I didn’t eat my morning oatmeal, instead I snuck it to my dog when my mom was getting ready for work. She wanted me to grow big and strong, so it was oatmeal every morning and I hated it.

During snack time, we would trade snacks. “Hey Eddie, you want to trade me your goldfish for my fruit roll-up?” Mrs. D would monitor this because there were certain allergies, she needed to be aware of. There was a list posted in the front of the classroom with of each of our names and our allergies written next to it. She would give us the head nod and we would trade our snacks.

We would move from our desks to the big round tables on the carpet right next to Mrs. D’s desk. When we were done with snack, we had to clean up after ourselves, push our chairs in, and return to our seats. Now it was time for math, my least favorite subject. As Mrs. D started her lesson on our multiplication tables, I was distracted by the loud voices coming from the hallway.

Mrs. D was standing in front of the blackboard when she got called to the door by the teacher across the hall. We were busy taking this time to talk to one another, but the whispers seemed serious. There was a shift in Mrs. D’s mood. She covered her mouth with her hand and her eyes widened. It seemed like the halls were getting crowded with teachers and school staff now as they peeked their heads out their doors to get in on the conversation.

“Chels, what do you think is happening outside in the hall?” I asked.

“Not sure, I’m just waiting for recess.” She said.


Mrs. D came back to her desk. She held the chair in front of her like her legs were about to give out. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply. She clapped her hands three times like she always did when she needed to get our attention.

“Class, I have some very terrible news.” We all silenced our conversations and looked over to her.

“We just received news that there has been a terrible accident in the city.”

I used to go to the city with my parents a lot to see Broadway shows, eat pizza, and explore. I loved it.

“Your parents will all be coming shortly to pick you up.”

As excited as we all were to go home, we were all confused as to what was happening.

“All I ask is that you stay calm and remain in your seats. Finish eating your snacks and when finished find an activity to do. Please keep your voices at a low level and when parents arrive, I will escort you to the front office. While I do so, Mrs. J will be monitoring you guys. We will combine classes with Class 1-202 who will be joining us shortly.”

I thought to myself, Mrs. D’s husband works in the city. I remember because she spoke about him often and how much they loved each other. It would make us all happy that she was happy. I hope he’s okay, I said to myself.

I practiced my writing while Brittany and Chelsea worked on coloring pictures.

“I can’t wait for my mom to get here,” Brittany said.


It seemed like each of my friends were getting picked up one by one. I was of the last remaining few. I walked up to the front of the classroom. Mrs. D and Mrs. J were sitting side by side at the front desk.

“Mrs. D, when will my mom be getting here?”

“Your mom is stuck in traffic, honey. She is trying to get here as quickly as possible.”

I thought to myself, she didn’t mention my dad. Where was he?


It turned out that the remaining children whose parents did not arrive by the ringing of the last bell had to be escorted to the gymnasium to wait with the rest of the school. The announcement came over the loudspeaker. Mr. G, our principal announced, “Attention all teachers, please escort your remaining students to the gym until parents arrive.” He repeated the same thought.

Brittany and Chelsea had left much earlier in the morning. I was scared. I had finished all my snacks and I was hungry. The pit in my stomach was grumbling and I was trying not to think about it. I packed my book bag and placed it on my back. Felt like I was carrying the world in that bag at the very moment.

I sat in the gym with Justin, Mrs. D, Mrs. J, and the remaining 3 students she had left. The gym was basically empty and there was still no sign of my parents. It was almost 3pm. Mrs. D started making phone calls to parents to see if they were in-route.

“Teachers, if certain parents have not arrived, we will be making arrangements shortly to have a school bus take them to the home of their emergency contact,” Mr. G announced. In this case, that would be my brother and I had no idea where he was either. I almost forgot teachers needed to go pick up their kids too. I felt lost. Mrs. D tried to keep us occupied by playing Simon Says and I Spy.

Finally, at around 3:10pm my mother arrived. She rushed into the gym searching for me. I stood up quickly and waved my hand.

“Mom, I’m over here.” She jogged over.

“Hi,” she said sleepily. She sounded like she had been crying. Mrs. D gave her a paper to sign stating I was picked up by a parent and taken home safely. We left the gym. My mom was rushing towards the door and she held my hand too tight. We walked down the long hill to the car, she got me into my seat, and buckled me in.”

“Mommy, what is going on? Why didn’t you pick me up sooner?”

“Mama, I tried getting here as fast as I could. I was stuck in traffic because they had the bridge closed.”

“All my friends left, and I didn’t know where you were.”

“Listen,” she said. “There’s something I have to tell you and I want you to be strong, okay?”

She continued. “You know those two identical, tall buildings we had seen in the city when we went to see Aladdin on Broadway?”

“Yes,” I muttered.

“Two airplanes flew into them today and now they are no longer there.”

“What!” I yelled.

The confines of this safe little bubble I was living in would burst with the next sentence that escaped her mouth.

“Daddy went down there to help rescue people. That is why I’m picking you up.”


The next few hours were a blur. Daddy did not come home until about midnight. I tried staying up with Mommy, but as much as she pleaded for me to go to sleep I could not. I needed to know if my dad would come home.

It was way past my bedtime, but Daddy finally made it home. His clothes were filthy, and he could barely walk. He looked as though he had worked for days with no sleep.

I ran towards him to give him a hug.


The next couple of days school was closed. Mommy didn’t go into work so she could stay with me. Daddy went to the city every day that week to help find survivors.

I had seen the clips on the news even though Mommy did not want me watching. The buildings had went up in flames and shortly after collapsed. You saw papers flying everywhere and the scariest part, people jumping out the windows to save themselves from the fire that engulfed the buildings.

You heard sirens and the many people yelling for their loved ones.

Each day that week, I barely slept. Mommy let me sleep in her bed.

I would fall into a light sleep, wondering if my dad would ever come home again.

Defeating The Odds, Coming Out On Top

Kenzie’s Mom:

I walked into the hospital. The long corridor to the set of elevators seemed never ending. It was the same routine. Ground floor elevator to the 3rd floor. It was always an unbelievably long wait and it would make me anxious. I was exhausted. My legs could barely carry me. I ran home to shower after the many nights I had spent in the hospital with her. I totally did not understand how I was still awake. Everything from getting out the shower to getting to the hospital was a complete blur. I don’t even recall getting in the car.

I wait for the doors to open when I reach my floor. The next shift of nurses had just started their rounds. When I arrived at her room, I saw her father standing outside. He had papers in his hand. He was looking down at them and did not see me walk up. I place my hand on his shoulder and ask him what the papers were for.

He waited a moment. He sighed then inhaled, “They want me to sign papers saying to not resuscitate.”  

I froze. “What!”

“They gave me the papers today. It isn’t looking good. They’re saying she will not wake up from this.” He composed himself well, but he was never good at showing his emotions.

“She is not even 22 years old; she has a lot of fight left in her!” I yelled.

He sighed again.

I saw red. I went to choke him, and I remember my hands being around his neck, but I do not recall after that. The hairs stood up on my arms, my blood was boiling, every breath I took felt heavy. I was fuming. Angry. I could not believe what I was hearing. You are supposed to be her protector and you were going to give up, give in, and let her die? I remember feeling his heartbeat pulsating through the veins as my hands squeezed tighter around his neck. I had been here night after night trying to bring her out of this and he was just going to let our daughter be taken away into the unknown.


Kenzie’s Cousin:

I remember when we were kids with the crazy hair and the dirty knees from playing outside. We would talk about the world and what we wanted. Me with my long braids and you with your crazy curly hair which was hard to control. Grandma always had a tough time with taming it. We would play with our dolls and watch cartoons and get sugar highs on candy. We were innocent. We didn’t know much other than the four walls of Grandma’s apartment. We would do our homework together and stay up until 5am watching George Lopez. Grandma would come into the living room and ask if we had slept and we would look at each other sleepily and laugh. All the laughter because we were so tired. I would talk about my dream of being a writer and you loved it. You were always my biggest supporter. You would tell me about your dream to go to college and start a life you would be proud of. We would talk about our princess weddings and how many babies we wanted. We would get lost in conversation and forget the world. How easy life was then.


Kenzie’s Grandma:

I prayed. Every day. Every night. I would go to the chapel inside the church and light candles. I was mostly alone when I went. It was quiet. Silent. Calm. Even when my mind was not. My granddaughter, she’s always been a fighter. I refused to believe that this was it. This would be the last time I would hear; I love you grandma. The last time she would hug me or give me kisses on the cheek or talk about everything you could possibly think of over a cup of coffee. This could not be it. I did not want to believe it was. I spoke to God and pleaded with him not to take you from me. I begged.


Kenzie’s Dad:

I signed the paperwork that would basically let my daughter die. The weight of that decision ate at my soul, my entire being. My hand held the pen and I almost forgot how to write my name. My hand was shaking, and my head was spinning. I was seeing a blurred room.

When you are not breathing on your own, it is hard to say if you will ever come out of that state. I often wondered where she was. If she was drifting off somewhere and was seeing a white light. I sat there for hours that I lost track of counting and I would watch movies. I would hold her hand. I would talk to her and sit in silence.

The day I signed the papers was the same day I saw a rage in my ex-wife like I had never seen before. She leaped forward and grabbed me by the neck. I felt her nails digging into my skin. I felt my heartbeat in my ears. Her face was red and the vein on the right side of her forehead looked like it was about to pop. I tried to de-escalate the situation, but I knew she was disappointed and angry.

As a parent this is the worst nightmare. To see your child clinging to life right before your eyes and you are useless. You cannot do anything but wait and I’m no good at that. I get anxiety. I was depressed.

I thought back to a conversation my daughter and I had in the living room one rainy afternoon.

“Dad,” she started off. “If I ever get sick and all I have are machines keeping me alive, please do not resuscitate. I do not want to live that way. That is not truly living, and I do not want to be a burden on this family.”

What does a dad say to that? I did not have the answer. I sat on the couch as my body stiffened listening to the dripping sound of rain against the window.  


Kenzie: Year 2016

I was experiencing the worst type of headaches. I was tired, itchy, irritated, and had red blotches on my pale skin. I went to the doctor. The first one prescribed me a cream which only made my skin irritation worse. I went to the second doctor. He cut into me with a sharp blade without putting me on anesthesia. I yelled at the top of my lungs to release the pain I was feeling. It felt like he was tearing the first layer of skin off my body. I could feel the every movement of the blade as he moved it from the top down. I wanted him to stop. The pain. The screams. I did not want no more. My mom stood there terrified of what she was observing. The man was crazy. He did all of this to see where my skin irritation was coming from. I have never used the word hate in my life, but I hated him. For what he did to me and the domino effect that he had started. I had a bad infection and the wound he caused never healed properly.

Time went on with an undiagnosed issue. No one could tell me what was wrong with me. I felt like everyone was failing me. All these well-paid doctors and they couldn’t tell me what my body was experiencing? My skin would itch so bad, I wanted to claw it off. I was sick all the time and I did not want to be around people.


Kenzie: Flashback to 2003

We sat in my room and we did crossword puzzles. You would write stories and I would do homework. Grandma would always be cooking in the kitchen and the aroma of food was always present. It would travel down the hallway and seep through the bottom half of my bedroom door. It was my favorite part of the day. My nose greeted by those sweet scents. We would eat our Now and Later candies and we would talk about what it would be like to be a grown up.

“I want to have a big wedding and have lots of dogs!” My cousin said with the biggest grin on her face.

“I want to have kids in the future. I think that’s what being a grown-up means.”


Kenzie: Present Day 2020  

I look back on the convo with my cousin that day as we sat in my room with the tv blaring loudly in the background. Grandma was cooking again. We were so sweet and innocent when we talked about dreams. And how I wanted kids. How quickly that dream was stripped away from me the year of 2016. I had lost all hope.

When my illness was finally diagnosed, along with it came the cold-hearted truth that knocked the wind out of me when I heard it. I remember the doctor refused to speak to me. He would always go through my mother like I couldn’t speak for myself.

“She will not be able to conceive children.” He told my mom.

I wondered what I did to deserve this.


Kenzie: Year 2016

My illness got worse as time progressed. After everything had happened, I still had not seen the worst of the pain. My skin was eating itself and I could not stop it. The one of many doctors had removed parts of my skin. I was now raw flesh and bones. My skin had turned black and it needed to be removed. The infection was taking over my entire body. I was being eaten alive. At this point, I was unable to move. Everything had to be done for me. I was being moved to and from and given baths.

This one day I never thought I would experience more pain than I already had. They carried me into this depressing room where a hose hung from the ceiling and swooped down with the flick of a switch. The nurses took the hose and sprayed me down. My body was on fire. Burning from the inside out. I screamed until I couldn’t anymore. My flesh was tender and open and this stuff they washed me with was making a sizzling sound that I could hear every bit of.


The next wave of chaos came when I was diagnosed with depression. I did not have the will to live anymore. I could not see the point in it when I was living in hospitals. And I would not be able to have kids. Everything was being stripped away from me one piece at a time.

When I was asked if I was afraid to die, I shook my head no. This was not my fear. I was afraid to live a life monitored by nurses and constantly hooked up to machines and constantly having people determine my next move which consisted of medication after medication. I did not wish to be a burden on this family anymore.

My body was falling apart. I could not eat, drink, walk, hold down any food or water, and I had people transporting me since I did not have the use of my legs. I could not control when I needed to use the bathroom and would often find myself saturated in my own urine.

It got worse. No shocker there. The doctors had overdosed me on antibiotics which caused my case to worsen. There was inflammation in my intestines, which in turn traveled to my heart and I went into a coma.

You know that white light that they tell you about? I did not see it. I was in this dream state. I could hear people speaking to me and I wanted so badly to open my eyes. I wanted to move. Do something. I was talking to my body. Telling it to move, telling it to breathe, telling it to do something.

My body was failing me. My liver was shutting down and my kidneys refused to work properly. I was placed on dialysis. I was not breathing on my own and I was connected to machines. I was monitored regularly by nurses and doctors, fed, bathed, and transported like I was some form of luggage.

It was the longest week for my family. They did not know if I would wake up. Everything I had been through and everything I had endured did not put out the fire in me. I managed to start breathing on my own. They removed the tubes.

When I finally woke up, the doctors told me I would have to re-learn how to do everything. I was in a wheelchair until I learned how to walk again. I went to therapy. I was trying to get my old life back. The one before all of this happened. I was homeschooled. Even though things were still shitty, they were looking up. I was making recovery.

I guess my mom was right all along. I did have that fight in me.


Kenzie: Year 2019

The headaches came back a few years later. I could not hold down food, I was vomiting constantly, and I could not go into work without feeling ill.

What do you know? We were back in a hospital. I prayed for the best but knew there could be a chance that my illness came back. They ran tests and did bloodwork. We were there for hours and the anxiety was piling on. I just wanted to know if my illness made an appearance again. Two hours later, the doctor came back into the room and asked my mom to leave. I asked if she could stay. The next thing he said hit me like a pile of bricks.

“Do you know you’re two months pregnant?”

I started crying almost immediately. I could not believe what I was hearing. My heart was so full. They said the next step would be to get a sonogram. I was scared, excited, and nervous.

When I saw his little face on that screen, I could not help but smile. I had a convo with the technician about my fear of this not being able to happen.

When the sonogram appointment was done with, I remember looking at my mom when we left the room.

I said to her, “I am going to be a good mom. I can’t wait.”


Time went on and my belly was growing. Sadly, my condition had came back to visit during my pregnancy. I was on bed rest for a bit.

But the day came. I was going to give birth. My baby boy would come 8 days early. I was in excruciating pain as I was in labor for over 24 hours. They gave me 2 epidurals and I would have a natural birth. My baby did not want to come out. The doctor had to use a vacuum to suction him out.

When he finally made his arrival, there was a tear in his lung, and he needed to be rushed to the NICU. He stood in the NICU for 4 days. He recovered quickly and began breathing on his own. We were able to bring him home.


He is now 1 years old and he’s such a happy baby. He’s spoiled rotten and he loves to laugh. He enjoys watching ninja turtles and he loves to eat but doesn’t like pumpkin baby food. I buy him lots of toys and shower him in hugs and kisses. Everyone who meets him is so delighted to be greeted by such a warm and loving baby. I was able to bring him into the world and that has been my greatest blessing.

My recovery was a miracle. And my baby was a miracle. I could not have asked for a greater blessing in my life.

My illness pays me a visit here and there, but I have my baby by my side now to remind me of my strength and to remind me I’m here for a reason; to be your mama.

Ongoing Battle With Loss

You were rotting away in the hospital, and what were we doing?

Celebrating Christmas Eve.

What type of people were we?

He stood with you as the ventilators breathed for you. He was bone tired. You could see it in his face. The lack of food and sleep had gotten to him. He refused to leave the hospital as much as we begged him to. He did not want to leave your side. He wanted to be there when you finally took your last gasp. You did not look like you.

I remember my mom asking me if I wanted to go into the hospital room to see you. I do not like hospitals. It’s the same aura of sadness in each one. The same overwhelming smell of Clorox. I had seen the insides of too many during my childhood, as I had to sit there helpless watching certain family members wither away. You were one of my favorite people on this planet and I did not want to see you in that state. My mom took my hand and led me toward the room. Before we entered, she said, “This may be the last time you see her, so say your goodbyes.”

How many times did I need to go through this? How many people did I need to lose?

I did not even know what to say at that point because I felt like I was talking to a stranger. That was not you.


How could a family even celebrate a holiday when someone was in the hospital fighting for their life?

I was angry. Everyone went on about their evening like nothing was happening. It was like two different worlds. Everyone gathered around the tree to exchange gifts. Every fiber in my body wanted to scream. I did not want to be there. It was like we were pretending. Pretending to be this happy family when we were all in fact broken.

The tree was situated in the living room and surrounded by the sofas you all sat on. The dining room table was full of food. I thought to myself how can anyone even eat right now? People were laughing. Telling jokes.

Are you all mad?

I would have traded all those gifts under the tree for your recovery. But that isn’t how it works right? People are taken from us when God thinks it’s their time and we must accept it? For someone who grew up in a Catholic family and attended Catholic school, I always felt like I could not decide for myself what I wanted to believe in. It was kind of forced upon me. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in God. But I’ve been angry. I’ve wanted to yell and ask why he had to take my loved ones from me. One of the people who showered me in love since the day I was born.


People went in for second and third plates of food. Kids ran around the house playing hide and seek. The adults were on glass number 5 of wine. Christmas music played in the background. I felt like my body was there, but my mind was not. I was floating around this house. I wanted to yell and break something.

How could you celebrate and drink and laugh? Was I the only one who loved her?

My head was spinning; my mind cloudy. My disappointment was boiling to the surface. My legs managed to carry me to and from, but I did not feel like myself. I felt like my soul was back in that hospital room with you.

The host of the party gathered everyone around the table, asked everyone to raise a glass, and made a toast. I thought, this is insanity.

Then the phone rang.

I stood there by the foot of the mahogany table and watched the expression on her face shift from a smile to something serious.

She did not even have to say anything. I knew it.

You had passed away.

I was mad at the world. Mad at all of you. You all stood here pretending to care. I had spent most of my childhood days with her. Where were you guys then? You gathered around at this god forsaken party to celebrate a holiday without her here. If you loved her, you would not have indulged yourself in alcohol and plates of food.

Why didn’t you spend time with her when she was still herself? Why didn’t you call or come visit? Life is hard enough already, don’t make it harder by being phony. I was angry. I felt like no one cared. Not one single person.

That’s how it works right? People do not care about you when you are alive and well but will gather around your casket at the funeral and speak about how loved you were.

Bullshit.

Where was the time to grieve? Where were the tears? The sadness?

This was supposed to be family?

I went outside. I needed air and to rid myself of all of you.

Savior

It was your 80th birthday and it was the first time I had ever seen you cry.

The family gathered around the dinner table in your apartment, not sure how we all managed to fit in there, but we made it work. We had family come up in from Puerto Rico. We all knew the disease would grow worse so we threw you this party while you were still you. You were not big on celebrations or gifts. My mom did not listen. She invited everyone and they all came. This showed how loved you were and how influential you were in our lives.

My mom bought you a vanilla cake which you loved. You sat at the head of the table. You wore a blue shirt with white polka dots. Your hair was brushed back and your nails polished. You sat with your hands in your lap under the table and you were looking down. I don’t think you liked the crowd very much. We all stood there taking pictures, but I didn’t. I stood there watching you; your every move. I kept thinking to myself, “Abuela, smile, it’s your birthday.”

I wish I knew what you were thinking in that very moment. You knew you were not yourself and you did not want your family to see you like this. I wanted so badly to take your pain from you and wish the sickness away. Everyone knew it would progressively get worse and we all wanted to savor our time together a little while longer. The doctor had given the prognosis and told us you would have moments where you would come in and out. You would shift back and forth between memories.

We sang you happy birthday. Certain family members said a few words and there was not a dry eye in the room. We shared laughs and tears. Our cousin from Puerto Rico wrote a story about you and how loved you were.

It was silent as she spoke. She paused during certain points to catch her breath and hold back the tears she knew would form. The words she spoke were full of warmth and love, but even still, they did not capture the woman you were and the influence you had on this family. I do not think any words can really do you justice, Abuela.

Then it happened. You raised your hand from beneath the table and you covered your eyes. You were crying. You were overwhelmed. Were you sad? Happy? I wish I knew.

This memory has been etched into my brain. I had to make sense of it, listen to my instinct, and write the story.


Such a cruel disease for the strongest, kindest woman we all knew. The Alzheimer’s ate away at your mind, body, and soul. With each bite it took more of you. Your ability to walk, your ability to eat, your ability to talk, your ability to embrace us in a hug and tell us you loved us. Your body grew thinner and colder. And with each passing moment, you were losing yourself and becoming weaker. We did everything we could to keep you here with us.

We would never be the same without you and I think we all have been a little broken ever since you left us.

But you gave me the strength. You taught me how to be strong even when I feel like my feet cannot carry me anymore. How to keep pushing forward. How to have faith that these dark times do not last.

You saved us all.