What Papa Taught Me

Everyone that lives eventually dies, and that is the way the world works. Some deaths are more tragic than others, which is unfortunate. But some deaths, while still extremely upsetting, are long anticipated, and observing the process allows you to grow as a person. This was my experience with my great-grandfather, Nelson Dembs.

I have had a great year so far, but certain emotions have been overwhelming me. I am at a point in my life where certain questions begin to form regarding who I am and what I desire, and not knowing the answers to these questions has been difficult for me recently. I have always been a very deep thinker, but my mind does not stop racing when certain thoughts come into my mind. Recently I have been attempting to cope with this overwhelming whirl of feelings, by minimizing the depth of my thoughts. By trying to go shallow. In my heart this felt wrong because I knew that my mind was capable of so much more than thinking petty thoughts. I spent many weeks on my phone and online for most of my days, worried about things like social media, Netflix, obsessing about things that really don’t matter, and never truly living in the moment. I was not unhappy; I was numb. I just did not want to feel anything. Maybe this was right for me at the time; maybe I just needed a break from always feeling things so deeply.

But when my Papa passed away, my whole perspective changed. I had a special relationship with my Papa, even though he lived in Florida. I always wished that I could be with him. It’s so strange, because even though I am still grieving over his death, I feel that now he can always be watching over me, and he can now guide me through my life more than ever. The distance between us was hard for me, but now I constantly feel his presence.

Talking with my family about all of the amazing qualities of my Papa, and putting my own thoughts regarding my Papa together in my eulogy, brought me to the realization that my Papa lived a meaningful, fulfilled life because of his morals and desire to live. My Papa changed the world, and he impacted the lives of many, many people. He didn’t do this by keeping himself distracted with self-doubt or fear of not being liked or obsessing about how he looked or what he ate. He chose to live in the moment. Because he chose to live this way he was able make difficult and life-changing decisions– for example–he decided to hitchhike from Rochester, New York, to here in Detroit to provide a better future, not just for himself, but for every one of of his family members. He wasn’t thinking about the “what-ifs”, he wasn’t thinking about what other people thought about his actions, he just did it, and this courageous move of my great-grandfather is why my family is here today, and why I have a good life today.

My Papa lived in the moment, and he did not dwell on the past or the future. He once told my mom and my uncle, “There is sunrise and sunset, and this, right here, is the sunshine.” He chose to live in the sunshine.

Now that my Papa is watching over me, I want to live the lessons he taught me. He taught me to be resillient, through all of the personal and financial battles he fought throughout the years. He taught me the importance of family, and how I should enjoy my time spent with them as much as possible. He taught me to think of the well-being of others as well as myself, and to live for today.

As I begin winter vacation, and head off to Israel, I have really been to trying to limit my time on Instagram and Snapchat. This is because I can be happy and have fun without having to publicize what I am doing everyday, and I also don’t have to spend time on my trip checking up on what other people are doing. I want to focus living in the present, and I want to truly enjoy my time with my family, and to figure out how I may be able to help others. This is how I want to live now—in honor of one of the greatest men I have ever known, my Papa Nelson.


A Letter to My Mom on Mother’s Day


Happy Mother’s Day to not only my mom, but my best friend. I’m not just saying that, you really are my best friend, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am honestly the luckiest girl in the world to have you as my mother. I can fully be myself around you, and I never have to pretend to be anyone else. I never have to prove myself to you or keep any secrets from you. That’s because you remind me and demonstrate every day that you love me unconditionally, and I of course love you unconditionally as well. 

Since I’m a pretty quiet person, I don’t know how I’d live without someone who sometimes seems to know me better than I know myself. I can vent about anything I want with you, and I think you know every little detail about myself and my life. You are the strongest, most beautiful woman inside and out. Thank you for opening up about your own challenges in your life to help me with my own. You are a perfect demonstration of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and because of you I am thankful for the challenges I come across because you have taught me that they help me grow as a person. 

It’s hard to be a teenager these days. You help me get through the hard times. I’m sorry for my whining, bad moods, yelling, mean name-calling, selfishness, greediness, and I can go on and on about that bad things I do. But it’s all part of being 14, ya know? We love each other, though, no matter what. We are mother-daughter goals, even closer than the Gilmore Girls. 

Mommy, thank you for being the best mom and best friend I could ever wish for. You are smart, kind, beautiful, open-minded, wise, and overall a wonderful person, and everyone who knows you thinks the same.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

I love you unconditionally,


P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to all the other mom’s out there, too. You have a hard job and you do good work. xoxo

It’s Not All About The Things

 Growing up in a world that focuses on what one’s life looks like from the outside has evoked several issues in our society—one of them being a powerful emphasis on the importance of having many, many “things”. Growing up, I encountered several occurrences where I found myself begging my parents to buy me something. Whether it was a hoverboard, designer clothes, tickets to a Justin Bieber concert, the newest iPhone, or any of the latest fads, I somehow thought that having cool things would make me a cool person. Sure, I really love my iPhone and I LOVED the Justin Bieber concert, but I am really beginning to understand that, ultimately, having “things” is not what makes me happy, and that having lots of things really doesn’t matter as much as much as I once thought. 

I vividly remember thinking about this subject for the first time when I was nine years old. I was at a pretty high-end store, and I saw some girls my age taking clothing off of the racks, and throwing them at their mothers. I heard their moms say, “Oh my, this is so cute! Of course you can get it!” And the girls proceeded to make piles of clothes that they wanted to purchase. I looked at my mom and started to beg her to get me things, too. My mom reminded me that I really didn’t need anything, but she did allow me to pick out one shirt. I was happy, but when I realized the superfluous amount of clothing that these girls were planning to purchase, I began to feel very jealous. However, it was then that I observed something that stuck with me for all of these years. I saw how ungrateful they were acting. I watched as the girls stood at the cash register mindlessly laughing and joking with one another, not paying attention at all as their mothers swiped their credit cards to pay for their purchases that cost more than five hundred dollars each, and then I noticed that neither of the girls really cared much, and not one of them even said thank you to their moms. Something clicked in me… I realized that watching these girls ungraciously receiving piles and piles of clothes almost succeeded in preventing me from feeling appreciation for the shirt that my mom was so generous to buy me. We were next in line, and my mom and I walked up to the cash register to purchase my shirt. I turned to my mom, hugged her, and said, “Thank you, mom.” 

Later, I talked to my mom about my feelings and she helped me to see that it is hard for many people to appreciate “things” when they have so many “things” and when they tend to get everything they want. And that one day, someone is going to say “no” to those kids, and they may not know how to handle that.  

 I’m not saying that my parents don’t buy me things, because they do. They buy me plenty and I am very fortunate.  But because of how I was raised, I don’t get so upset when I hear the word “no” (well, ok…sometimes I do!) and I definitely have much more gratitude for everything that I do have. Now, having “things” does not matter to me as much as it used to. My parents are not very materialistic and would rather spend money on experiences that we will always remember, like really awesome family vacations. Personally, I love exploring new places and I would rather do that than spend a bunch of money on a meaningless shopping spree. When traveling, I get to see and experience new things and I get to bond with the people I love most in this world; my family.

 As I get older, I am learning more and more that when I buy things, they don’t make me happy. Being around people I love makes me happy. Doing things I love makes me happy. Learning things and living my life to the fullest makes me happy. Every single time I have gone shopping, I have taken notice that when I come back home, I am not a happier person. And even if getting something does seem to make me happy, the happiness is almost always short term.

Recently, I watched a documentary about minimalism with my family, and I think the concept is intriguing. It showed people who choose to live very simple lives with very few possessions. One thing that was said really struck me— they mentioned that the American dream seems to include that “having more and having bigger is better.” But, really, why would families live in these huge homes on these huge pieces of land that force them to be so far away from each other? I, myself, have often wished for a bigger house. Why is that? Because everywhere I look: on TV,  in magazines, online— EVERYWHERE— people associate the word “beautiful” and “ideal” with these enormous houses, and the big houses filled with lots of beautiful stuff implies that that the people who live there have lives that are perfect. 

The thing is, when we watched this documentary, we were at my cottage up north, which is very not big, and we were all snuggled up on the couch… together as a family…in our one room that has a TV. To me, THAT was perfect. Would we be spending this much time together, cuddling, if we were in a huge house? Probably not.

 I know that many people do love “things” and want big houses, and I am not here to offend those people. It’s just that as I’m learning more about myself, I am learning more about who I’m not. And I am not striving to live the American dream where bigger and more is better…I am striving to live my own dream— a life filled with less “things” and and an abundance of living, learning, simplicity, gratitude, happiness, and love.

Oh…and a lot more snuggling on the couch with my family.


For my whole life, I have had to fight emotional challenges. Whether someone made fun of me, I felt insecure, or I just had an awful day, I have had to put a lot of effort into coming out of these challenges and putting myself together again. I have never been a very confident or outgoing girl, so many of my thoughts and feelings stay trapped inside of me.

Being a thirteen-year-old girl, I tend to have negative thoughts about myself a lot  of the time. Society has created these standards that every girl is expected to follow, and these standards are not ideal for most girls. These standards just give most girls something that they feel they have to live up to that is not who they are. This is often why many girls lose who they are because they are trapped trying to be someone else. When girls don’t fulfill these expectations, they tend to feel bad about themselves.

However, why should people be encouraged to squeeze into the boxes that they don’t fit into? Why have these “boxes” been created in the first place? We should not be in boxes; we should be free. Free to be who we are, with no standards attached.

I have a hard time with this concept. I tell myself that I’m not good enough; that I need to fulfill so many expectations. I have insecurities just like every girl in the world does. So, here is a little request: When you see something that is imperfect about me, there is no need to remind me. Trust me, I know. I remind myself of my imperfections everyday. Half of the flaws I see are probably not noticed by anyone else. But I can tear myself apart because of the parts of myself that I don’t like, and none of this feels very good. I sometimes cry to myself when no one is watching, and I hope and pray that one day I will be “good enough”.
When I am reminded of my imperfections by another voice that is not mine, it can feel like digging into a wound that has been created long ago. When I hear a voice that is not mine repeat these words to me, my heart shatters. Someone else has noticed. Someone else thinks I’m not good enough. It must be true.

I imagine that I am not the only teenager who goes through this painful process.

I am getting there, though. I’m working so hard on myself and I’m learning to realize that no matter what mean words I am hearing, either from the inside or the outside, that I am good enough. I’m doing this by learning to focus on the parts of myself that I actually like instead of the parts that I don’t like.

Because of my own experiences, I am very cautious about what I say to others. One never knows what someone is dealing with in their personal life, or inside of them, even if it looks like they have everything figured out. Being kind to everyone is the best route to go. If you say a mean comment to someone, you can either ruin their happiness, or add more to their sadness. Kind words are so simple, but they can do so much. They can put a smile on someone’s face, someone who has been going through a really hard time. Even if someone is already happy, adding some extra kindness into their day can never go wrong.

I challenge you to be kind to one another and to be kind to yourself; why not try to focus on saying nice things to one another and to yourself, too, because one thing this world could really use more of right now is kindness. It can start right here with you and me.

xo Jilly

Thoughts at 2am

Who am I?
What is this thing called life?
And am I doing it right?
These questions are the cause for all of my life’s challenges.

I often get this tense feeling in my chest, and it almost feels like it is in my heart; my soul. I get into loops with people where I will keep finding a reason to be mad at them when they don’t have the answers I am looking for, and I get into loops of negativity when I am stressed or worried due to any feeling or uncertainty I experience.

It’s difficult for me to just go along with life without all of the answers in front of me. I think this is why I get frusturated with certain tasks, such as my homework and other things that I don’t understand right away. I feel desperate to know the answers to everything so that I can feel secure with myself and my life.
Well, I guess I have to remember that in life we are not always given the answers. Instead, we are given questions, and these questions are what lead us to live our lives. We actually have to go and search for the answers, which can bring us to important life experiences.

Which leads me back to the question…who am I?
And this question drives me INSANE.

I doubt anyone my age fully knows who they are, but the difference with me is that I don’t know how to be fake. I don’t know how to fake that I am all of the good qualities someone would look for in a good person, and I don’t know how to fake confidence or perfection or happiness.

However, this does not mean I am great at showing everyone who I am. I am bad at faking, but I am also bad at expressing. I don’t express the most important qualities of me to most people. I struggle to show that I am open-minded, extremely sensitive, and wise about certain things.

This is why I come off as an awkward freak. Because I don’t know how to fake that I know the answers, and I don’t know how to share the answers I’ve found.

Many think I am a funny person. I am always making fun of myself, and I kind of tease myself, probably for the fear that someone else will do it first.

I really am not like this though. Maybe “funny” is one of my qualities, but I am actually down to earth, insightful, and extremely sensitive towards others.

But am I?
I feel like I need to know the answers.
I don’t know what I want to do when I’m older, and I just don’t know why I was put on this planet.
It feels like a rush of anxiety throughout my whole body when I don’t know the answers, but then again, how would I live if I was given all of the answers?

Well, I am learning new things about myself everyday. I am slowly putting the pieces together.

I hope I get to meet all of Jillian soon, and I hope that I can learn to love her for exactly who she is.

New year, new goals

I cannot believe another year has gone by. 2016 has seemed to be a strange,  dysfunctional year for many people, including myself. Personally, I think I started the year confused, insecure, and as somebody who was just not me. I ended 2016 knowing so much more about myself, and enjoying my life much more than I did in the beginning.

Everyone was talking about creating new years resolutions before the ball  dropped to begin 2017. I think that creating new years resloutions is great, but not if those are the only goals you set the whole year, because in that case you won’t get very far.

I truly believe that what led to my 2016 ending with joy and 2017 starting on a high note, was that I set goals for myself throughout the year. I picked out a big goal, and each and every day I would assign myself small goals that would eventually lead me to a bigger achievment. I had very broad goals throughout the year;  I wanted to find myself, I wanted to be more thankful for what I have, I wanted to spend more time with my family, get good grades, etc. I knew that I couldn’t simply state that these were my goals, and then expect to acheive them. I had to work hard on myself. I had to remind myself daily of what I wanted to achieve. I learned that in order to get to those big goals, I had to remember them and take steps toward them every single day.

I started 2016 not knowing who I was at all, so I tried to brainstorm what I could do to get to know myself better. For example, dance classes were taking over my whole life. I had loved to dance in the past, but something was changing. I realized it was bothering me that I rarely had time with my family. Also, having so many dance classes made me very stressed out about school because I was too busy to study. Also, I had not tried a new activity in a long time, and I was more than ready to expand my horizons. In addition, I even found myself not enjoying dance as much because everything seemed out of balance. I decided to cut  way down on dance classes (from ten classes to just one!). I thought that doing this would help me to achieve several of my goals; finding more aspects of myself (exploring new interests), spending time with my family, and getting good grades. 

I also started this blog, which was something I really needed to do because I love to write, but I stopped writing for years because I had no time. My blog is helping me to discover thoughts of mine I didn’t exactly know I had. 

I started to read more, which is another interest of mine I wanted to add back into my life. I was also able to spend quality time with my family each night, and I was able to succeed in school while being less stressed. I have also been able to get involved in community service with my friends, which I am really loving!

My goal, or “new years resolution”, to begin 2017 is to just be a nicer person by going out of my way more often to help others, and to do things to make my own self happy. Once again, in order to acheive this I have to create daily goals to get me there. This year, I will always try to do “the nicer thing” in all situations, and I will try to perform acts of kindness just to put a smile on someone’s face. 

In addition to this, I will just continue to look for parts of myself that I may have forgotten and make other goals throughout the year to get me into the happiest state possible.

So, I think it’s great to make a goal to start the year, but I think it’s even better to be setting goals all the time. Try not to limit your goal-setting just to January 1st. I hope everyone had a great new year and holiday season. I also hope that 2017 will be an amazing year for everyone full of love and blessings and achievements. Allow yourself to learn and grow this year.



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My Papa Nelson, my inspiration.

Flaws Are Beautiful

I think that we can all agree that middle school is an awkward time in most peoples’ lives. We are all changing mentally and physically, and we are attempting to find our true selves. We may not yet know exactly where we belong or exactly why we were put on this planet. We are trying to find our real friends and our real interests. I, for one, am confused, lost, sad sometimes, happy other times, but mostly I am just trying to find my way down this really rocky path called teenage hood. 

I think one of the biggest problems in our generation is that we all hide our problems from one another. We want people to think that we have this perfect life with no flaws, and even during a difficult time like middle school, we pretend that we are totally fine, and that nothing feels weird or awkward. We post pictures on social media that show our perfect selves living our perfect lives. Something about this has felt really wrong to me. I have found that by hiding our flaws, we are making each other feel even worse about ourselves. This is because when we feel sad or lost, we believe that we are alone. We think that we are the only people that experience these feelings, but in reality, everyone does! We are all just doing a great job of faking it. We all say to ourselves, “Oh my gosh, look at them, look at their pictures, they have perfect lives” But, here’s the secret– no one does! We all just try to hide the flaws in our lives, but do you know what? The flaws are what help people connect and bond with each other! Knowing someone’s flaws can stop you from envying that person and you can start to see them in a more real way. I have experienced “hating” people because they seem so perfect, but I have learned that nobody is perfect; we all just feel the need to portray ourselves in that manner.

In addition, I believe that knowing someones’ flaws helps me to develop more respect for them. For example, when I truly admire a celebrity, and then read an article on a struggle they have experienced throughout their life, I automatically think, “Wow, their life isn’t perfect, and they’re not hiding their flaws like other people do. How cool!” In movies and books, I gain respect for characters because you see all angles of their lives; the good and the bad. We should be able to share all elements of our lives with each other, and we should not be ashamed of the flaws in our lives because we need to learn that flaws are included in everyones’ life no matter how perfect they may seem.

To conclude, do you want to change how you want to portray  your life? Are you ready to share parts of yourself that are the real parts, parts that you’ve hidden to keep your perfect self showing? This is how I started: I opened up to my friends about my insecurities, life problems, and things that aren’t neccesarily my favorite aspects of my life. Then, guess what??? They did the same!  And it has truly strengthened our friendships. I encourage you to not try as hard to fake a perfect life, and to accept the fact that nobody’s life is perfect. 

So, share a flaw with a friend! Try it and see what happens. They may share one with you. When I started to do this, my whole outlook regarding myself and others changed forever. We all became more real. 

Good Luck!

Love, Jillian