This picture popped up in my memories today on Facebook and made me smile. Michel and I fought, a lot. He thought I was spoiled. I was. We argued, a lot. I’d only learn in time and the passing of years what he meant. I learned so many lessons from him. How to live a simple life, to love and respect nature, to take long walks everyday, (like ten miles burn your ass and legs walks), how to laugh at yourself and others, how to work out, how to eat clean, and how to be here now. How to love. People, animals, life. The basics. All of it. Sometimes when I walk the nature trails with Lupe I can hear him, “hurry up connasse” and so I pick up the pace. And thank god for the days spent in his company in the sun, the fondest memories that a person shares with you are the ones that sustain us. I do the dishes, make my bed and celebrate another year (however hard, tragic, and chaotic) around the sun. Lost loved ones leave open wounds that become stitches in our hearts, scar tissue and eventually leaving room to mend. To grow, and to learn. The heart expands even when broken by time and circumstance. Love lives on the wind that blows frigid and in an instant, Spring appears changing her course once again. Nature’s seasons were Michel’s happiest, simplest magical place and I am still learning how to be present like him. My New Year’s wish for you is that you never give up, even when the physical pain of losing a loved one or perhaps even yourself feels impossible, keep on pushing the boundaries, stripping away all the nonsense, the baggage, the noise, and trusting you will fill the empty spaces with love, and relearn to walk again. To die young is not the natural order but a life lived full, simple and serene is a gift to be opened with gratitude, compassion and humility. Go ahead make your mistakes. Like the worst, wildest fuckups you can dream. And if you’re lucky they’ll be a person, or persons who will challenge you to get up and walk tall again and again. The nostalgic pictures help us remember we were here, and life was good. I forget sometimes reverting back to that spoiled girl, only for a moment. And then I remember how lucky in love I have been.
I cannot walk through the grief for you. I would if I could.
I cannot cry the tears that pour like a fountain. I would if I could.
I cannot understand the pain, the weight, the fear and the messy emotions that consume your broken heart.
Grief is yours, and only yours.
The love never dies, no one can take that from you.
I would carry that burden,
I would if I could.
All that is beautiful in you, all the shared memories can never be erased.
They are sacred. They are theirs and yours, one intimate legacy.
And no one, not even life’s ugly tragic circumstance can steal them away.
Now, what would they tell me to do, to help mend your broken heart?
I would do anything, so I sit silent and wait with you for easier days.
When somehow, someday far and away from today you realize you are stronger than the pain, and the tears. You are tough, just like them.
Not today, no no no. And not tomorrow. Not even next year.
So, we wait in sorrow and silence for the seasons to bear the heavy load.
Time becomes the sweet and sad reminder of how very much you were loved.
The physical longing mysteriously grows lighter.
I cannot walk through the darkness and your grief. I would if I could.
The one thing I can do is be an ear, on solid ground, sitting silent with you.
One Times Four
The Cove, there was no other place Georgia wanted to be. She loved summers at the beach with her pops. Georgia pulled the rocker close to her grandfather’s, almost touching. She needed to be near, reassured by the sounds of his breathing. Side by side, gliding back and forth. She had nowhere to go, nowhere she’d rather be. Mostly, she rocked while he nodded off. He was her most favorite person. She refused a life without him. Georgia knew what was coming. Maxine wasn’t the only one with a gift, she didn’t brag. Her grandmother was a fading memory, but Georgia could still recall the tight squeeze of her hand. How overtired giggly they got when she tucked her in. Harry whispered secrets in her ear.
“Don’t let anyone make fun of you carrot top, freckle face, how you are. Someday, they will see how dazzling and pretty you are. Stand your ground, find something to believe in and go for it. Don’t look back. Don’t apologize. Be nicer to your mother, she was a free spirit once. She plain forgot. Make her laugh when she gets too serious. Protect and cherish your sisters, they’re what you got. At some point, you will be disappointed by them, even hate one or all. They might despise you, too. It won’t matter, your sisters will pick your side every time. I promise, that’s what families do. Your family, our family is bound by deep love and tradition. We are not quitters; we are backwards optimists. Takes a little longer, we get there on our time. I love that shared trait. We believe in our truths, once we’ve ripped them apart and examined the guts with a loupe. I’m dying baby, I won’t spare you, hide the truth. You won’t have to wonder where the hell I went. I adore you too much to leave you questioning my invisible parts. I love you right now, in this room, on this bed. You’re my big girl, so smart. I will miss bedtime tuck-ins, our secrets. Don’t tell your mama, she won’t understand. You have your grandfather’s eyes, and my cautious curiosity. Close your tired eyes, tomorrow we’ll go to the beach. Hug your grandfather when he gets sad. He’ll need you Georgia Pine, when I go.
Georgia looks at Harry through the puzzled eyes of an eight year old. Hush don’t be afraid, life is about coming and going.”
–excerpt from the book GEORGIA PINE
5.0 out of 5 stars GEORGIA PINE by Jacqueline Cioffa
GEORGIA PINE (Kindle Edition)
“An amazing read. The author weaves tragedy, love, family, suspense and disappointment into an amazing story. I have not read The Vast Landscape yet but after this, I know I’ll be adding it to my list of must read books. This is great fictional account of a tortured soul in the form of a fast-paced story painted with poetic scenes.
I was completely immersed in the story as the author switches from past to present. This is an engrossing read you will definitely think about long after you have finished it. An author who has poured her soul into creating incredible characters that are worthy of the big screen.” –Amazon Review
***I received a free book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.***
These Modern Ties
By Jacqueline Cioffa
You know what I despise sometimes?
‘Visualize your best life,’ social media posts. If only you meditated longer, dreamt bigger, brighter and better… a gulf stream, rolls royce and diamond solitaire would magically appear via Amazon. All your grandiose desires, jubilee shrieks and pixie dust sparkle whims before you and not behind. If I were a blonde, bombshell genie in a magic bottle… I’d obliterate global warming, nukes, little girls with shredded self- esteem, cancer, homelessness, poverty. Name it. Go ahead…make your wish. I’d stomp out every single injustice; I’d balance the scales.
Christ I hate when someone writes, ‘living their best life.’
It’s preposterous, deluded, and downright denial.
We are granted breadcrumbs of serenity; uncatchable, unmatchable, untouchable moments when life feels happy and snug. Calm and wonder overflow, and JOY is easily accessible. Perhaps. Yes, a few lucky upturned frowns sounds about right.
Time is spent de-cluterizing, looking back and leaping ahead. Humans are predictable. They prefer to skip past the hard questions. Me? I can’t seem to stop the verbal diarrhea, pondering, squirming and searching. Why don’t the scales even out? Why does the too young, too beautiful, sticky sweet new mother die? Her babes left to fend for themselves. Why do gray cover clouds mask the sun? Why is it mother knows best not to ask unanswerable, stupid, preposterous philosophical questions?
It’ll make you go bonkers, Crackle Barrel, cuckoo clock nuts.
I bet she that mom visualized her perfect baby bump life in pastel hues, fluffy white lambs and nursery rhymes. Dead dreams don’t exist, silly me.
Why? I sure as hell don’t know, but I’d like to. There are no answers when newborns know their mothers in passing, through birth canals, photographs and hand me downs. Someone’s misplaced, jumbled, embellished memories reminisced in haste.
Do not post some inspirational, bullshit quote without asking first.
Am I aware of the planetary spins, people hovering and circling around me? Did I attempt one kind thing today; did I go out of my way for a stranger? Did I do something good, something considerate without telling a soul? Did I do something for the JOY or the pain without running to boast on Facebook, Instagram, and the Twitter? Did I live behind a screen, inside the screen, was I that blind? Did I venture out to inhale the oxygen, to forget what felt safe and comfortable? Did I take risks beyond the pre-determined edges, color outside the lines, feel the rain and the sun on the inside? Well, did I?
Well, have you?
Have I been lucky? Damn straight. Have I been unlucky? That too. Do not say think positive; I might punch you. I fight to breath, to stay, to be alive. It’s hysterical; a dramedy. This life is not about me, and yet I take it personal. I’m a blip, a speck obliterated before the wind blows. I’m not complaining, but wait… hell yes I am. I not a Debbie Downer most of the time or even full fledged pessimist. I’m a realist, I’d surmise.
Close your eyes and listen if you’d really like to know about me.
To understand how excruciating and uncomfortable it feels to bleed under the skin. To smile through tears and forget the bad times…To declutter, debunk, and destroy the pain that comes from a chaotic, misfiring, and free-floating mind.
Do not suggest I try harder, or swallow my pride. Hey you, over there…look at the sunny side. What the fuck do you know? Tiny moments of happy are best lived inside the heart and eyes open wide.
I’m tossing them out the attic window. Since the beginning of time until tomorrow they’ll be teetering, tottering, balancing and unbalancing.
That’s pain. That’s JOY. That’s the high cost and the low maintenance.
And this is my honest-to-God get out of my face, in your face, best potluck shot.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll post a cheery, colorful, feel good quote.
Perhaps, maybe not.
One never knows.
How high the highs and low the lows.
These unfashionable, sufferable modern ties.
Still, it’s nice to see pretty colors and happy faces sometimes.
In His Boots
The mementos we hold on to, heirlooms we choose not to discard and throw away.
All the traditional, routine ways we try to live inside the memory of someone, some one precious, beloved. To feel them near in the physical awhile longer can seem foolish and nonsensical.
It’s ridiculous to think an oversized, outdated, uncomfortable pair of black boots with fleece lining and thick rubber soles hold any value, and yet.
I wear my father’s boots when I head out to walk the dog. It’s crazy, they’re too big and my heels slip and slide trying to find solid footing on shaky ground. It doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to be practical, or looking for some mystical answer or hidden treasure. The cold air smashes against my ankles and makes my toes curl. I don’t care; I like the deep freeze against my skin. The winter frost reminds me I am indeed breathing as snow creeps in and drips down my exposed limb. I suppose I could double up woolen socks, try to fill the void. Why would I? I tried that once, my feet felt cramped and uncomfortable screaming for some space and air.
To feel the empty, sit in the hollow spaces he once filled effortlessly makes perfect sense.
I don’t want to box up the boots, stow them in a back closet or even gift them away. I want to remove the black boots with zippers on both sides from the shelf each winter, and grin. Another season to make new memories together, him and me.
I will carefully set them aside for when the inevitable seasons change again, and wait for spring. I want something to look forward to.
His smile fades as time and distance creates a vacuum, the gaping, fuzzy recollection plays tricks on the mind.
Was it a false memory?
Did I pile into the back of his rusted, pickup truck for Blackberry ice cream on many a summer’s eve? Did we giggle and laugh until we peed our pants from the smell of horseshit? Did he lift me up on his shoulders every chance he got? Did his eyes beam each time he looked at me?
Did I hear the snores while he slept on the floor beside me when I was fevered? Did he count laps as I swam lifting my head from the water peeking to make sure he was exactly where I left him? I still do that sometimes, turn my head to the side expecting to see him instead of an empty chair. My reflexes and muscle memory are still intact.
Were there tears in his eyes the first time I left home and the last time we said goodbye? Goodbye for now, not forever.
Did he love me?
That, I don’t doubt. I don’t need a faded memory to feel his love in my bones and smiling under my skin. His grin is the brightest, fondest memory I hold. My heart and his are forever entwined.
Still, doesn’t make the missing any easier.
I wear his boots and trip sometimes.
That makes me smile, on the inside.
Someone asked me the other day when exactly did I begin to hate Christmas?
I couldn’t quite place the precise date when the cheery, bubbly, naive child stopped believing in the magic
Five, seven, ten?
Who’s to say?
It happened all at once, the snow globe blown out of proportion and super-sized colored lightbulbs scorch and burn
The neighborhood streets I stroll at night twinkle warmly while vanilla, clove and chocolate aroma fills the lungs I breathe deep
Are they happy I wonder? Are they okay? Are they loved?
Later dates rarely come or never right on time
I greedily want to hurry past Christmas Day and the sad memories missing the magic pieces I can’t reclaim even seconds gone by
Who drinks the milk anyway, does it get tossed?
I die each time I lose my mind, bits and pieces gone forever, and missing memories I shan’t recover
The spirit gets discouraged, wants to quit, to scream fuck it
What exactly are you hoping for when the future is not a guarantee?
Being alive scares the shit out of me, it’s the goiter in my throat and sugar overload tummy ache
I am terrified of being alone
I am terrified of losing my Christmas people and the only ones I have needed
I hate Christmas
There, I said it
I hate Christmas because it’s the in your face reminder of the incredible luck I have been blessed with and the over-abundant love and over-bearing souls
For them, I am more than nobody
I am worthy
I nodded and smiled, “no big deal.”
I am that Cioffa girl I thought to myself smiling proud
I hate Christmas because nothing stays the same, and life moves forward exactly as it should
I can see his beautiful smile, feel his goodness and understand he is here with me despite my doubts
Encompassing me in a safety bubble of the most spectacular pretty, plentiful colorful Christmas magic
We pretend smile and suddenly a baby’s giggles are infectious, and tiny flannel feet pitter-patter makes life less heavy and more manageable
Makes the magic real
I love the twinkle and sparkle of the lights, I will keep the starlight and the afterglowAs the reminder the magic lives in the light-hearted
Christmas, I hate you a little more and a little less
This is my Christmas wish to the brokenhearted
I hope your slumber is serene and the day’s beating heart comes tender, sweet and steady
I hope the joy finds its way inside your heart, hearth and home
“Snow Drifts” – excerpt from The Vast Landscape by Jacqueline Cioffa #vignette
The Gravity Imprint re-release, The Vast Landscape by Jacqueline Cioffa will be out soon!
“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.”
“Remarkably Well-Written Debut Novel”
“STUNNINGLY EMOTIONAL AND SOUL-GRIPPING”
“BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN AND DEEPLY MEANINGFUL”
Hands Off by Jacqueline Cioffa
I am not a patient person, no I am not. I bide my time, and busy myself with stuff. I should be writing, working, playing, struggling, worrying, and I am. I’m also waiting which is never good for an over active mind.
Yet here I am, hurtling forward going nowhere. Jumping ahead to anticipate the future. The past sneaks in, memories I cannot escape. They stick to me like a parasite drawing blood all around and everywhere I turn.
Can a five-year-old understand the meaning of true love?
I believed magic lived inside my daddy’s big, round, jovial belly instead of plain old spaghetti and meatballs. The sparkling lights on the Christmas tree, snowflakes stuck to the window, felt warm and fuzzy. Childlike wonder, tossing and turning the night excitedly awaiting the dawn and Santa. The yellow kick and go with the humongous red bow sat under the tree, brought raised electric hair of emotion. Spring couldn’t come fast enough, I’d be seven by then. A big girl, big enough to hit the streets. The alarm clock with the FM radio and ice cream cake at thirteen made me feel special. I believed that was L.O.V.E.
Seventeen came with an attitude, and a too expensive, fancy pink and white crepe silk al la ‘Dynasty’ dress complete with 80’s shoulder pads.
On to the first, real honest-to-God date. He was ‘hot-shit’ about town a decade older and he liked me. I had to beg, cry and cajole my parents to give in. They caved, eventually. High school was miserable. I left slivers of happy go star dust lucky behind, the lights flickered and dimmed. When the date with the man-boy got too steamy, I was the scared little girl way out of her comfort zone. I panicked, jumped, slithered, smoothed out the bougie fuchsia floral wrinkles and called home. My daddy was there in minutes, at 2:00 a.m. to scoop me up. No questions asked. It was easy to leave another piece behind.
By twenty I was a smart mouth grownup living on my own. I met a guy who said all the right things, bought roses, sweet treats and diamond rings. He promised to take care of me. I shrugged my shoulders, and believed the hype.
Until he punched me in the ribs full fist, split my lip and blackened my eye. Yeah it was real easy to let go of love, for good. Again. And again.
To discard myself like some frivolous afterthought, no good soiled trash. To give away yet another piece of my damaged soul. To give in, to give up, to give way.
What did I do instead?
I married the tick infested nuisance, to silence the noise despising every single thing about him. Stupid girl, you can’t wiggle your way out of white orchid floral arrangements, church bells, and silk crepe clouded visions against the skin. Too late to turn back.
The only good, kind, sweet, solid, funny man who never judged me walked down the aisle squeezing my trembling hand in his steadied way and whispered, “I love you.”
I let go.
How? Why? When?
I simply let go of his hand. I let go of his hand shaking and unsteady. I let go of his hand and mine entwined, for all the wrong reasons.
I plain forgot. I shut down, shut off leaving a trail of stale rice dreams behind. Crummy crummy, unholy crumbs for the birds. I let go of love, and walked towards compromise. The capacity, belief and desire to give away the sparkly pixie dust parts died with each passing step.
Thirty came and went, the dizzying panicked blur of regret. Poof. Dissipated, time wasted, more and more wasted time. Eyes closed, heart closed, mind closed, brick walls crushing down heavy on my iron clad lung and cement filled suffocation.
Of course I made feeble, wobbly attempts to come and go.
Weak, strong, strong, weak, nauseating and top spinning heartbroken. Time clouded by shrouded veil, dense fog illusion, and stowed away dollhouse dreams. Denial, muddied, muddled, shredded eight foot faded ivory train-wreck and vows long forgotten.
Pummel my face as hard as you can, I don’t care. The wet, warm blood feels warm and soothing dribbling down my chin and tastes oh so sweet, so much better than numb nothing.
I am alive and bleeding crimson red.
I can no longer want, ask, believe nor care about little girl dreams. I must pull up my big girl boy shorts and act like a man. The five dollar frivolous, white horse prince saviors, and romantic cowboy brass buckles, burr boot straps dead and buried inside little house on the prairie garish fantasies.
Ride along, move along, mosey along this is my dime store fantasy flick. I have no idle minutes left for regret, I’m riding shotgun.
Who needs some hot-shot, horseshoe, horse-shit, five o’clock stubble smooth talker on a Harley to whisk you away? Take the keys, turn the ignition, and drive. Don’t look back, don’t look over you shoulder, don’t ask and don’t give yourself away. Keep self-esteem in check, and your holy womanhood held high. Little girls, do not give your heart away. Keep it, share it, love it, dance around and around in twirly girly pretty sparkly shimmery circles. Your heart is not a bargain basement sale, it’s gold glitter and swirls of magic. The key to your heart should be kept close and cherished inside your tiny, innocent, girlie hands and extended, graceful feminine forever curious fingers. The lines and maps etched on your palms are forever yours to reach further, hold tighter and aim higher. The hands, funny face little one are yours to reach for the heavens, feel the tickle from a blade of grass, and massage away the rough, coarse granite experiences and, to understand.
To love with your fingers outstretched and wipe the tears from your eyes.
Your fragile, pretty girl pink hands were never meant to cover your face and hide, in shame.
There is something else, something better, something bigger, something precious.
There is something tangible to hold onto when you close your eyes and dare to dream.
There is something mysterious pulsating inside, that never lies.
Do not ever forget how safe the world felt holding the right, kind gentleman’s hand. And do not ever let go of the love.
Don’t forget to love the hands attached to the arms and a direct line to your heart. Love comes in many beguiling and bewitching forms, unloved is something different, something not whole.
Sometimes love is a jovial round belly filled with spaghetti and meatballs. Others, it’s quieting, stoic, stubborn, and unwavering. A mother’s illogical love that does not give up on you, and your trembling hands. Maybe, it lives inside the gasp of an unexpected hiccup or giggle, or the perfect timing of a handwritten note from a friend in the post with three simple words imbibed, thinking of you.
Sometimes, it’s finding your way home.
Sometimes it’s finding your way back home.
And sometimes it’s finding your own way back home.
That five-year old was wise.
She understood she held the key in her hands, never too tight and always close to her heart.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance” – Oscar Wilde