“The chaos comes with you,” simply stated my friend. -The Red Bench excerpt by Jacqueline Cioffa

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“As an artist do I need constant flux to create? How will I find words in the woods surrounded by trees and rotten cornfields? How will I find anything besides dying, wet leaves?

I cannot escape the volume in my head, the constant churning. The Jesus fucking Christ, turn it down chatter. I have been told to be patient. Wait for the drugs, the quieting veil, and the lavender calm to smooth out the ringing. My mind is full of death and black spots I’m sure, much like a stroke patient after a spell.

   “The chaos comes with you,” simply stated my friend. He was right. I am here, here am I. Sick and tired, tired and bullshit sick.

The blank paper waits and my hands navigate the keys and the thoughts go where they may.”

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-excerpt from “The Red Bench” by Jacqueline Cioffa

One, Two Buckle My Shoe

One, Two Buckle My Shoe

By Jacqueline Cioffa

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One, two buckle my shoe. I don’t know how other writers find their way into a story.
For me, it usually goes something like this. I hear a line in my head, a word, see a visual, and then the story plays over and over, until I release it onto the page. Its cathartic, sometimes it takes me back, some days it moves me forward when I am wallowing and can’t get unstuck. Most times, it’s just an honest, real interpretation of an emotion. I’m an emotional girl. Or, so I’ve been told.
I live with the image, words, sometimes for days, weeks, even months. Then, like magic or being possessed, I have to get it out. My fingers take over the keys; my mind wanders and dictates the thoughts, mulling it about until there is a clear picture. I see mere babies growing, learning the simple phrase, “One, two, buckle my shoe.” We are all preconditioned from the start. “Look at me, Mommy look what I can do. I can talk, walk and dance all on my own.” And we wait, for the love, the adoration, the pride on their faces. The loving adoration of a parent and their perfect can do no wrong baby girl. We wait, and then we wait some more.” Look Daddy, I dyed my hair red with a blond streak, I wanted to be different”. I got drunk in school, lashing out against the bullies, the in crowd, and the machine, desperate to be an individual. Daddy holds my head as I puke and strokes my hair, he tells the first lie. “It’s ok, baby girl, you are my princess, you are going to be all right.” And we wait, for the clap. Bravo, you are so smart, so beautiful they say. You are positive they mean it. You miss the roll of the eyes in frustration, or the bed time whisper and tears, “I’m so worried about her.” She’s too young to be this sad, so depressed, to be so oddly different. One, two buckle my shoe. I must conform to society, wear the same shoe, walk the same old boring old walk, say all the right things. I’m sad for the young girl, so miserably, visibly unhappy, in high school. I hate the way this feels; I take note that I am different. They say nothing, providing all the pleasantries and comforts of a supportive, loving home. I am so lucky like that. Maybe they knew all along, how horribly difficult things would turn out, how unusual I would actually become.
“It’s not her fault, it’s in her genes.” Oh my God, did they speak it aloud? She’s Mentally Ill. What?! One, two, buckle my shoe. I try to be normal, to please them, to see the admiration still on their faces. My daddy is gone, he died a broken man. Mental Illness got him, no matter how hard my mother fought. She did not win. We buried him in a grave and he has not yet come back. I wait for him. I still wait for him. In my dreams, during this sabbatical and these sick days, he hasn’t come. He can’t quite find his way back. One, two buckle my shoe. My mother has aged so. The bravest, head strong, caring, woman I know. Cursed in this lifetime to fall in love, make a family. One, two buckle my shoe.
With a baby daughter who would grow to walk in her father’s shoes. I didn’t mean it, as hard as I try, I can’t win. The Lunacy gene has taken hold of me, too. One, two buckle my shoe. I don’t care if I die see; the excruciating days are too hard to fill. I came back home. Home, to the safe, happy childhood home I once knew. It’s less happy now. There are fewer nursery rhymes. There are only mornings, where I wake shaking and take pills. Lots and lots of pills, I count. Ten a day, sometimes twelve. I don’t want them, fuckers one and all. I hide it best I can. Inside I am a ticking time bomb, shoeless, crying, screaming, I’m so sorry I didn’t make you proud. I gave it my best shot. I hide the pain, the fear, the paranoia, and the overwhelming anxiety the best way I know how. In the bottom of an old, outgrown, dated, and worn down shoe. I’m sorry, really so very sorry I never meant to lose my mind. I’ve always wanted to come back to you, to make my mother and father proud. I lie most days, I do. Sometimes that even makes me feel better. I can forget the ugly future that awaits.
I am penniless, wandering with no direction. One, two buckle my shoe. I end up in an institution or worse on the street. No one cares. They barely saw me before. You see, while my parents were busy clapping my way into adulthood, I saw it. The times they were preoccupied doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, getting on with life. They missed my first steps. Not on purpose, not without regret. I know they tried their best, I know they did. But, I’m still looking for that first and final clap. It never comes. I will always be out of step.
I drink Ginger with a bit of Ale to ease the relentless ad nauseam that is the day. It’s winter here. We have had an easy time of it. Today, the sun shines and I reminisce. One, two buckle my shoe. I can’t remember the full verse. I guess it doesn’t matter anyhow. I will ask my mother. No, no I must not. I must learn to walk on my own, however blistering and uncomfortable the shoe. The numbness fits.

originally published April 2012 brooklynvoice.com

"Because you, more than anyone I have ever known loved being alive." L.B.H.

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Lupe and I must have walked the loop at Hoopes Park a thousand times, or more.

In ten-degree freezing black ice, navigating lethal dangerous walkways (and fallen more than once), on grey-cloud, weepy wet gloomy days.

You name it. We’ve dredged through it.

It helps, ya’ know. The walk.

To free the brain from the pressure, dark and dangerous thinking.

Easing up, releasing the unrelenting anxiety.

When we walk past the white pristine house with the red door, I have to fight the urge not to run up and knock.

Or barge in.

She’s not there.

I know this to be true in my head, but my heart searches for her.

Missing every puzzle piece and all her silly ways. Her sage advice, too.

The water fountain, Buddha and Zen room she created, so proud to show me the space.

Her home with the red door is just a dwelling now, somebody else’s house we pass on the walk.

Suicide was never her choice, she just couldn’t stay.

I don’t believe there are coincidences, I choose to believe there are signs along the way.

L.B.H., I believe you threw me one today.

It’s the perfect sixty-degree, pretty blue sky day with sunshine peek-a-booing through the clouds.

Like a child playing hide and seek, giggly and covering their mouth to contain the excitement.

Just like a happy child, exactly like you.

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http://standagainstsuicide.org

Thanks for the Buddha, water fountain, precious memories and luminescent magic that was your life.

The Zen room has a new home, with me.

I’ll do my best to keep them safe.

I’ll do my best to keep you safe, using my voice.

I stand against suicide, because your life matters.

Because you, more than anyone I have ever known loved being alive.

You, and your gypsy-free spirit, brilliant, bold, courageous, compassionate, goofy, non-judgmental, all-encompassing, curious, big beautiful love would be walking right beside me.

You are.

I can’t see you, but I feel your presence in mine.

I did not forget.

2 days and eight years gone is too long.

You were, and continue to be forever loved.

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"I live for the mess, and it's all in the middle." Jacqueline Cioffa

This is my story.

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Boots and a bag, sherbet sunrise, an extended furlough at the beach, the Cove, side-trip to the bayou and the self-confinement of four walls inside a nowhere home (a whole lot of love, shock and awe, bizarre happens, heartbreak, joy, birth, rebirth, gritty life stuff). Dual realities co-existing in parallel space and time.

Bam we’re back to the boots and full throttle.

The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine are continuums; sagas and gatekeepers.

One cannot be without the other.

I know precisely how EVERGREEN starts and where the heroine/ narrator ends.

Everything else is a dust storm of blood, tears and sunshine.

Time to kick up the dirt, get chaotic and trust the ride.

I love the messy middle.

I live for the mess, and it’s all in the middle.

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“It’s a roll, rock and a break. Let her ride.” – Jacqueline Cioffa

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True gray with primary colors whirling all around

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I wasn’t going to write a sappy. I wasn’t. But, I jumped. 

My father was and always will be the great love of my life. It’s been seven years, the 5th of May. I know the date I was there beside him. My mom, too. I can’t speak for my brothers, nieces or anyone who had the good fortune to meet him. He taught me everything I know about kindness, loyalty, humor, respect, family and faith. His faith was unnerving, never wavering for one second. I was a hellion, a wild child and my dad never judged. He watched and waited to pick up the pieces. There are too many stories. One I remember vividly. I was 18, spoiled brat, came home drunk, puking my guts out. I don’t even drink anymore. My father cleaned me up, put me to bed and slept on the floor beside me. I can still feel him near, even if I can’t see him.

“Take care of your mother, be a good girl. I love you with my whole heart.”

Okay dad, I’ll try. Although I’m not sure I’m doing a bang up job. Her and I, we fight. Argue. A lot. Rarely agree on anything. I’d like to wring her neck. This woman, the person I call mom I aim to please. She wanted a cordless vacuum for Mother’s Day, not a fancy car, Dior or diamonds. Something useful with a purpose. That’s all. I’d be so lucky and well-adjusted to be more like her. The original, fearless warrior.

I’ve experienced the love of a father like mine, and a mother. Together, they made our family complete. Wherever you are Choff, I hope you’re winning and smirking that devilish grin. The heavens and the orbs are in your favor. It’s your time.

I have to go right on living. It’s rudimentary. Five-year old mathematics, numbers you live a whole life by.

I think they stink. Crap odds. I have to stay anyway, a while longer. I guess. The canvas resets to a stark sterile dove white, a color choice off a paint swatch. The happy, unhappy complicated family colors muted and wiped clean with the stroke of a paint brush. Obliterated by a sixty dollar gallon of paint.

I close my eyes and trust I will see them, the shade memories. I trust they were indeed real, trust they will remain to guide and comfort the remaining journey.

Putrid acid green, Pepto-Bismol pink, sherbet orange and garish gold marble swirls alive in the brain.

Life lived in increments and numbers. The numbers they never lie.

I hang crystal prisms in the bedroom window to capture the sunbeams washing over my face, remembering the weight and light of a kind of pure and selfless love.

It wasn’t perfect, I’m not deluded I know that.

Life was solid, a true gray with primary colors whirling all around.

And that, you can build upon.

Six feet of dock stretches out over a flat, refreshing cool body of water with no threat of jagged rocks, seaweed, or prey absolutely nothing that could hurt you.

With each breath we count, constantly weighing the risks, odds and numbers.

Me, I love to swim. I need to remember that more often.

Inside every jump right before you hit the water lives the dream and infinite possibility.

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Jellybeans and Bed Sheets

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From: Jacqueline Cioffa <choff777@aol.com>
Subject: jelly beans and bed sheets
Date: April 10, 2007 7:39:59 AM EDT
To: Jacqueline Cioffa <choff777@aol.com>

I wrote Jellybeans and Bed Sheets some time ago.

Time didn’t pause for me but the memories I still own.

Jellybeans and Bed Sheets

by Jacqueline Cioffa

Miami, the beach sand sun moon and stars. There is something about being in a tropical place, how the wind blows just right sweeping and swooshing your problems away. They disappear drifting magically out to sea. None of us knew just how special that time and living in that house would be. The house was white stucco, cool to the touch but so very warm inside. There was a fish pond and orchids dripping from the front porch. Crickets lived outside your window lulling you to sleep. Sweet jasmine and magnolia buds filled your senses and eased your worries, heightening your dreams.

We’d meet each morning around the coffee table to chat about our ridiculous mishaps and adventures from the previous night. Me, my bestie and partner in crime and the hipster Madame of this fabulous house. Rehashing the evening’s antics and plain old gossip over cafe con leche. There was usually some man drama, we were single and living it.

Except for the guys sharing the space. They were the older and wiser, they despised our escapades craving for sleep. Especially M, the obstinate French fitness guru who demanded clean living and regimen. Rice and chicken, early to bed.  At 8:00 o’clock not 8:01 he’d start the bitch and moan mantra, “go to bed.”

Nagging relentlessly until we caved or snuck out. For my BFF and I our days were filled responsibly with modeling gigs, lists and appointments but the Miami nights were saved for raucous. We took full advantage. Moe’s our usual hangout served the sweetest margaritas with an outside patio and flickering white lights under the sway of palm trees. Shooting the shit sipping a frozen drink was 100 proof worry free. The rugged, hard-to-look at owner would place the sacred sombrero on the most deserving head. There was little rhyme or reason behind the crowning of the red velour tassel contraption. We had our fair share of drunken nights with a sombrero dancing on our heads. It was stupid fun.

We half-smile now; because life is so drastically different. Back then living was void of anything heavier than ten pounds. Today there are tweens (well one), rescue dogs, blind dogs, aches, illnesses, misplaced dreams, mortgages and the mundane. For a short time, a blip really there was only sun and beach and smoothies and peaceful co-existence in an inviting pretty white house by the beach.

We clumsily made our way back to that house in the wee hours of the night (early morning), the mystic dwelling that knew our names welcoming us back. We swung open the front door and bam. Busted. The door was rigged, it had an alarm that chimed every time it opened and closed. DING DING DING DING DING DING. We whipped off our heels and tippy toed to our room trying not to squeal and fell sloppily into bed.

This night, this one night was different. When we laid down there was immediate screaming and belly roars out of our mouths. No matter how hard we tried; we couldn’t contain it. We howled so loud waking the house. We didn’t care because it was fucking hysterical. It was unforgettable. There were jellybeans under the sheets.  Completely unexpected, it felt like lying on firm and squishy, sloppy drunken pebbles. It was jellybean sweet, familiar. The boys put jellybeans under the goddamn sheets. Payback is, beautiful.

When I’m down, having a particularly crap day I call my BFF to reminisce about the pure bliss moments, precious blips.

We moved out and on, time didn’t stop. M died. Cancer. Fucking cancer ravaged his glorious sun-kissed, twelve pack body and mind greedily snatching him up. Time didn’t stop, how cruel. We left that house and our Miami by the shore and the sand under the stars, sun and smiling moon.

Revisiting the past only briefly, I see his face and hear his gruff voice.

“Go to bed, connasse.” I learned many things.

In that house by the sea lives my heart happy memories and him. He’s there, healthy, happy, strong, regimented and bronzed getting the last laugh.

Yes in that home we are together, carefree and alive surrounded by orchids, easy breath and a chill breeze.

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Sometimes I paint the walls the same hue trying to recapture the warmth of that house, cool to the touch.

 

"The potential for great stories is happening all around you." Jacqueline Cioffa – Author Interview

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Author Interview with Jacqueline Cioffa, author of “The Vast Landscape” and “Georgia Pine”

PRETTY-HOT.COM excerpt

“Do you have any unusual writing habits?I ‘write’ best when I’m doing something other than writing, walking the dog, swimming, listening to music, digging in the dirt. I’ll hear a word, hint of an idea or get inspired by something visual. I store the thoughts in a holding pattern in my mind. Sometimes it stays there for weeks growing and omitting until the character or idea becomes a full concept. Then, I type fast. Odd, but works for me.”

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“The potential for great stories is happening all around you.” Jacqueline Cioffa

THE VAST LANDSCAPE http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H3P51LS

GEORGIA PINE http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T270L88

@makeupmodelciti

Weather vane

You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass. – Timber Hawkeye

#DepressionAwarenessWeek

CRAZY, Now Get Out of my Head

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No matter how many times this morning I repeated I am in fact NOT full of hate, bitter, ugly, paralyzed with fear or consumed by the crazy, I could not reason my way out. I’m a rapid cycler, I’ve been hypo-manic for weeks and yes headed towards the inevitable come down, the hideous depression and the dark. Black nothingness is something I understand, the concept I accept and am accustomed to. It’s always there, lurking, stalking, circling a part of my DNA. No, I cannot wish it away or yank it out like an abcessed, putrid smelling decayed tooth. The crash and burn snatches the pretty pieces of me, my self-worth, joy, hope, strength, wonder. Yes, I’m constantly skipping ahead to the future, not in a happy-go-lucky way but trying to map the least destructive, less painful route. I don’t even understand what’s happening to me, which thoughts to trust or block so how could you?

My worst fear, the one that buries me like a sinkhole is that I end up alone with my crazy. On the streets or even worse, like my father who had no idea who I was in the end. His crazy consumed him over an agonizing amount of days and years. It is slowly and excruciatingly doing the same to me. Silently, while I am screaming inside. I realize I am not going to win this war, I understand that. So why bother writing books no one will read? Painting rooms in a house I will surely have to leave. Why bother? When everything and everyone I love will die and be taken away. Why bother when I will be left insane, why the fuck should I care? About anything. God doesn’t. I’m not sure how much pain one body can endure, I’ve had more than one soul can carry. Today, I do feel sorry. I am allowed. But wallowing is dangerous, heartbroken tears make my eyes puffy, my heart heavy and the guilt of hurting those I love too heavy to bare.

I didn’t start the day with bad intentions. Most days I pretend happy, hoping it will rub off. For you and for me. For my benefit that I am indeed strong enough to cope with this bullshit brain that never stops the whirring, annoying chatter. If I do end up in the streets, so be it. I’d best plan now, pick a pretty, warm corner where the sun shines with a soothing view. The bastard disease has not yet ripped away my imagination. No, not yet that’s all mine.

My BFF talked me off the ledge, the pity party granted until noon and that’s all. The number of hours wasted, screamed, cried and hurled accusations at my mother is more shame than I care to remember. I insisted to my friend (when my head controls the dialogue I CANNOT think, to say I become irrational is being charitable) that I was ‘happy’ once, a ‘free-spirit’ which she quickly shot down. “Who is this person you’re talking about, that wasn’t you.”

I’ve been pretending so long since before I can remember, I don’t even know me. The lines dangerously crossed in my mind.

I’m not going to write books, do anything anymore. Why the fuck should I?

I quit. Why fight when there’s no winning? I can’t battle an invisible disease. Well, you have two choices and one is true midnight black nothingness. The other, keep breathing.

Do not feel sorry for me. Do not dare feel sorry for me. I do not want, need or ask for your pity. I’m sharing this because these words, my most hurtful truths, this unbearable pain, the incomprehensible fear someone else out there in a parallel world might be feeling them too.

Don’t judge my crazy or put a label on it for your comfort.

I did not ask for this mind, it’s what I got.

Tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll feel better. I probably won’t given the logic and the statistics, but tomorrow will come with or without me.

Fear has never been a friend of mine. Fuck it. Onward.

CRAZY, NOW GET OUT OF MY HEAD.

I am writing.

truth always wins.

GEORGIA PINE

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