A Bag is a Bag, or Not 

A Bag is a Bag, or Not

When your fifteen-year-old knock off ‘Balenziaga’ bites the dust, you cry a little. (Canal Street, NYC score, I had two of them. One orange, and the green). I love, love, loved them. When the bag’s ‘leather’ literally starts peeling at the START of your fancy vacation, and your friends relentlessly make fun of you…what they didn’t understand is how loyal and practical that bag had been. How many gazillion trips it got you through, and how it was the PERFECT travel accessory for years, literally irreplaceable. I didn’t care that it was an imitation at all, un phased by their giggles, and teasing. I am mostly non-materialistic, but when your bff delivers a gorgeous black leather replacement to your hotel room (her hotel), you’re grateful for the stunning, kind gesture and surprise. She has in fact gifted you with many, many irreplaceable, gorgeous designer bags over the years that you will never, ever part with. So, green ‘Balenziaga’ knock-off reluctantly it was time to go, bye-bye, see ya for good.

Our international travels, memories, trains, planes, buses, automobile, subway rides and adventures together will remain fondly forever in my heart.

I was NEVER embarrassed by you, okay slightly annoyed when you were literally loosing your pleather skin.

I don’t need fancy, material stuff…but all the cherished fond memories, those I’ll keep. And the friendships, well they are priceless and irreplaceable.

 

Waiting on Oprah: Never Quit Your Dreams

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Waiting on Oprah

I close my eyes and can almost see the perfect fairytale life I envisioned in my wildest dreams.

Dear Fantasy (Oprah), “I feel that I am a very fortunate person …”

I was fifteen. Fifteen, gawky, wickedly uncomfortable in my so called ‘model frame.’ Somehow fifteen was the perfect age to concoct wild fantasy adventures and the fastest way out of a stifled, small town. There was a kaleidoscope world waiting for me, exclusively.

Strangers, intoxicating places and new faces I ached to see.

I guess Oprah never received the letter or maybe it got shoved to the bottom pile. There were one billion other worthy dreamers, perhaps more worthy than me. Maybe it got filed away, who’s to say?

I barreled ahead out on my own and concocted the fantastical dream anyway.

I had my picture taken, a lot, wearing expensive, sequined designer gowns. I lived in far away lands. Swam naked in cerulean silk seas with infinite sparkling black diamond sandy beaches. I stood atop glaciers touching the clouds where the landscape was breathtaking white, and the earthly humans invisible below. It was lonely and cold, and I felt nothing but numbness. Decades and decades past, I was stuck bone cold.

I could no longer picture my paralyzed, frozen feet on solid ground. Be mindful, careful, and specific before dreaming.

I woke up. No longer a child, no longer a pretty pawn, no longer me, no longer an identity, just a jumble of misfiring neurons.

I had freedom, for a time. Airplanes, buses, pre-packed duffle bags ready, lavender mister, passport, baby pillow became the two ton heavy, overweight baggage. I could not lighten the load no matter how much stuff I discarded. The heavy barred down on my brain, burrowing deep under my skin.

Change is so excruciatingly difficult when you’re living the dream.

Oprah never told me dreams can shift, that there can be more than just the one.

Or maybe, I wasn’t listening too busy running scared. Maybe I had to live through the dream to get to the here and now. Maybe I grew up, a little. Maybe the dream plain wore out.

Shivering, dizzy from submersing my head in the clouds surrounded by foreign tongues I did not understand, the physical me grew bored and misplaced. I dined on spicy and sweet, savoring cuisines that were taste bud delicious yet soured the stomach.

I was grinding, squirming, picking, pinching awkward, drowning inside the fifteen-year-old expired notion of bliss. I think when one is asking for a dream, one must be specific.

I’m sure being kicked to the curb no longer the prettiest, youngest, skinniest ‘photo op’ of the day did nothing for my already damaged low self-esteem and defunct, busted aspirations.

My life has been filled with love. Looking back and forward, my life has been filled with love.

That must be the first thing I cling to while reminiscing. My life has been filled with heart swelling, shattering, terrifying, emotional, easy breezy, destructive, goose-bump alive love.

The heart is a muscle it cannot possibly feel yet it does. Bizarre but so blazing sun, crescent moon, silly stars, perpetual movement sea elements comforting.

I am loved; even on the days I forget how to love myself.

It has not been easy, my middle, it’s been split open, fractured; please God let me end the crucifying. That, and all that mess that is my life are for a different tale. Perhaps when we have a little more time.

I’m back home now. I’m not fifteen anymore. My dreams are simpler, quieter, not half the screaming loud as before. Home, that’s what I’d been missing all along. Not the physical dwelling perhaps, although that helps joggle the mind.

Sensory memory.

The giddy anticipation of my mother’s White Shoulder’s perfume, her lips brushing against my forehead, the charms on her bracelet jingling and dancing on her wrist. Giddy elation alive.

“Go to sleep, sweet child of mine.”

I’d pretend sleep, twisting and squirming awaiting her return. Back from a well deserved evening out way past midnight to stroke my hair in the dark. I was sugary five not smart mouth saccharine EMO fifteen, not biting sarcastic know it all twenty, not disillusioned complacent crazed thirty, not even bitter shattered fragmented forty.

I was five.

I was living the dream.

Dear Oprah, “it’s okay.”

I think I’d like to give this living thing a shot, keep the next dream nestled close.

Readily accessible in my front not back pocket.

Dreams change.

And me, I am transitioning.

I’m not waiting on Oprah, not this time.

This dream is waiting on me.

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Training Wheels and Little Blond Curls #StolenMoments

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From time to time you’ll see Stolen Moments show up on the blog. Words forgotten and misplaced, poetry, anticipatory memories, prose, joy and sorrow, pensive emotion, random and not so random thoughts scribbled in tattered notebooks. To not forget but remember the precious, fleeting stolen moments in time. I’m a writer trying recapture on paper how it feels to be alive.

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Training Wheels and Little Blond Curls

Jacqueline Cioffa 1998

Oh little girl

Stop for a minute

Let me enjoy your youth

Your radiance

The sheer innocence of fearlessness

Can I ride with you just one more time?

On your bike with training wheels

Let me float free on your back

As you learn to glide without safety wings

Don’t fret and don’t be afraid

Your youth will never leave you

She’ll grow on with you

As you and I both grow up

Drowning by Mouse

Woke up to a flooded basement (only a little), and a head that feels like it’s in a vice-grip. I have taken half a Benadryl, Alka-Seltzer and Flonase with only marginal relief.

Not matter what’s happening or how shitty I feel, my personal summer goal is to swim every single day.

And, it only counts if I get my head wet. Duh, everybody knows that.

Don’t they?

Went to the gym and for a dunk even the asshole mouse floating past, more like sunken did not stop me.

It would have thwarted my goal day three, if I had seen it. I might have passed out.

Can you pass out in water? Huh, I’ll have to google that.

Mouse??? I DON’T DO MICE. Let me be clear, reiterate, I DO NOT DO MICE.

“MOOOOM!!!!” 

I’ll spare you the yuck factor and unpleasant bloated, furry black pink tail imagery. Squeak. Eek.

Yeah, no. I will not go down that easy.

Drowning by mouse.

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I am somebody’s child, you know. Jacqueline Cioffa #mentalillness  

I never cared much about looking back when I was young.

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I could not wait to leave this house, this town get out and experience stuff. You know the obstinate dreamer looking for bold adventure. It worked. I ran. I ran fast and far, and kept running. That’s the funny thing about developing a serious illness, you are forced to re-prioritize. Becoming insane in the middle of Manhattan did not bode well for me or the strangers that crossed my path. The fancy friends eventually grew tired and gave up on listening to the paranoia, illusions of grandeur or understanding the enticement of pretty pink and shiny purple horses or the flickering lights of the carousel. Ones you can’t dismount or runaway from or dismiss, like the mania and depression you can’t out run. Round and round you go, in perpetuity. There are worse things than glaring evil stares when dancing alone in a Radio Shack in Harlem. There are even worse things than sitting on the floor in the middle of Rite Aid, Gatorade in hand, sobbing because you don’t know where you are, why the room is spinning or if you’re going to hurl from the strobe light storm happening inside your brain. There are even worse, more horrific things than why you’re all alone sitting on the cold, dirty floor. You are sure there are. You watch the news, bad shit happens. This bad to you, you’re not so sure.

Mortifying, that’s what mental illness is. Ruthless, ugly, hide your face in shame from the judgmental, fearful stares. The noise level in NYC is just too high. You can’t stand when passerbys brush against you, the subway screeches to a halt, or the taxis whizzing past. The bright yellow hurts your eyes. You can’t see. You can’t hear. You cannot process the incessant, relentless buzz, hums and whirring noise.

S.T.O.P.

I am somebody’s child, you know.

I am somebody’s child, same as you.

I used to love the Carousel screaming and running towards it, arms flailing like the happy carefree girl I once was.

What I can’t figure out is what the hell I’m supposed to do? Now. With this.

Some people are addicted to the mania jonesing for the next high, the visions, euphoria.

No, no, no.

Not me. I’ll take the black hole depression and blasé every single time. It’s quieter and peaceful alone in the dark. Except for being skinny, that part of the mania I’ll keep.

There’s only one thought to trust, one way to save yourself.

Maybe, maybe if you go back you might find your way.

Safe passage awaits.

Home.

Maybe I’ll breathe easier there.

Maybe the familiar, childhood home might save me.

Probably not. It’s my best shot.

You see, I don’t care if I live or if I die. I know that sounds harsh, exaggerated, self-indulgent but it’s not.

I only care how I live and where I’ll die.

I’ve been asking my mom about her mother as far back as I can remember, cataloging the information in a deep, pooling reservoir of serenity where I could reach in calling on the stories to be soothed.

I have tidal waves of memories, and ripple effects of love stored in my brain.

My grandmother, May, died in her sleep before we could meet. Fifty-three is too young to leave, she was barely getting started I bet.

I know some things about her. She liked to fish and the solitude of being on the water. We have that in common.

She drank a Manhattan every night after work. She was a baker’s daughter, my mom still makes her molasses cookie recipe at Christmastime. She loved her husband who’d get sick, (like me) and then better but never quite the same.

“Don’t bother your father,” the phrase handed down to her own daughter.

May worked in a plumbing shop with him, raising her children to be responsible, gentile and hardworking.

It was a simple, honest life.

She liked to dance, but didn’t go out often.

She loved gardening, planting roses and peony  bushes.

Did you know it takes peonies a full year to bloom? 

Maybe May knew while planting the seed, her heart full of family.

An invisible string from the heavens touching mine, her orb a sweet- scented blushing pink.

Maybe she knew, probably not.

She’d adored diamonds like me, wore an outrageous sparkling solitaire with facets that shimmer and catch the light on my finger. I only wear the precious heirloom on special occasions or when I’m morosely blue. It makes me feel pretty inside, close to her.

“You never told me I looked like her,” drilling my mother with yet another ten-thousandth question.

She nodded, “it makes me sad and happy at the same time.”

Home, a place one doesn’t fully outgrow and never truly leaves behind.

But home, this home however much I am the failure for needing to return is where I would like to live and how I would hope to die.

Not necessarily the physical dwelling, but the contentment feeling and serenity of a happy place inside.

Surrounded by love. Less alone.

Unencumbered by the weight of heavy living.

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“Legacy can feel heavy, sad or even sweet-smelling at times. I am the gatekeeper of this home, but not the original keeper of the key.”

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"This story was quite the ride it was raw and full of emotions, doubts, mistrusts, fame, love and it was like following a train wreck as it goes down the track." Reader Review

what a ride….TheVastLandscape_Ebook

4 stars Amazon

“This story was quite the ride it was raw and full of emotions, doubts, mistrusts, fame, love and it was like following a train wreck as it goes down the track. Harrison the female lead character, in this story refers to herself in the 3rd person throughout the book, which I do not see often. I would say it is not the type of story I read often but it was engaging and kept me wanting to see what happened, as her life and priorities changed. The author has a great writing style, which is straight forward and honest. I see there is a sequel to this story.” Amazon Review

Light of Orbs

3

Do you believe in signs? I try. I want to. Some days they’re impossible to ignore.

I have a funny kind of feeling we’ve been here, lived this place before.

Maybe not in the same order, geography or circumstance. I don’t know, maybe not at all says the practical parts to me.

I’m pretty sure we won’t remember.

I’m quite certain the people I have loved deeply, who have loved me fiercely remain infinitely an existential part of my spirit.

One can hope.

Then again maybe I shouldn’t believe in this world, but a different one where pain tastes like cotton candy, death is celebrated with dance and joy, planes don’t crash into the side of mountains but glide on love. Heinous evil, racism, hatred, fear, greed, guilt are words no longer recognized or used in our vocabulary.

“We are made of star stuff.” Carl Sagan

I love that quote, it represents the fortuitous impossibility we are.

I look for them, the signs.

I do.

I can’t help but want them to be true.

Truth is universal, truth always wins.

The signs help make sense of the free-floating chaos swirling over, above, under and straight through us.

“Humans presume their orbs are unique, very different, when in fact they are not, they remain very much the same. The only variants are in shape, color and size.” – Jacqueline Cioffa

The quotes, imagination and creative worlds they live inside.

The orbs came yesterday in the form of magnificent, silver-light reflection shimmering atop the ripples of crisp blue waters.

I felt serene, almost happy.

I searched ‘orbs’ for a quote from “Georgia Pine” on my Kindle.

Funny, OTB came up instead.

Not funny at all, not to me.

My dad was a lover of the betting the horses and frequent OTB visitor. Like almost daily and I shared his great big, gambling fool heart.

The best of me lives in the orbs I have known and the signs, well…

The signs might not always be there, the sun will eventually die and burn out.

I am predestined to be star-dust set free.

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Carl Sagan 

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

County Cork Kildare

My grandfather came to this country when he was twelve years old from County Cork, Kildare in Ireland with five brothers and two sisters in tow. He was twelve years old. Despite an eighth grade education he found a trade, worked hard, prospered and made a whole life for himself.

He married a strong, loyal, capable German girl, a baker’s daughter with five sisters and two brothers from solid stock.

They’d have three sons and their firstborn, a daughter. They named her Ellen.

Family came first, tradition followed and love was omnipresent.

I adored my Papa, being one of ‘his dollies.’ He stood 6’2″ I had to crook my neck to look up. He had silver white hair and a gold tooth that sparkled when he grinned.

Sunday outings were our special time. I felt goosebumps alive to be riding with him in his shiny Cadillac with power windows.

He placed a green carnation corsage in the fridge on St. Patrick’s Day. One for me and one for his Irish baby girl, Ellen.

Without tradition, legacy, family, there would be lackluster stories to tell.

There would be no Black Irish girl falling hard for the larger than life, mesmerizing Italian man.

Their stories would paint mine with enough adventure and adjectives to fill blank pages and pages.

Legacy is a lofty word and weight to carry.

Pride, respect, honor are terms I inherited with no borders.

Storyteller, moments retold, stored and catalogued through cracked pictures that hang on the walls.

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Ellen go bragh

for the love of a dog

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Wouldn’t it be lovely if kindness, loyalty and showers of affection were our biggest faults?

Wouldn’t it though?

It would be awfully, awfully nice.

It is lovely in the company of my shadow.

The spirit animal who teaches me patiently and without judgement

the crazy curious inexplicable mystery that is uncomplicated love.

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For one glorious moment I forget, all the exhausting complicated human parts.

I’m free. On the walk.

I don’t care how I look on the outside,

neither does she.

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