Pork and Porcelain

In my youth this was the place to pull my god brother’s afro and kick him in the testicles. We would end up in a full out brawl on the living room floor. The TV blaring. In my house it was called “rough housing” but here my uncle would cheer me on. “Get him Shawwwneee!”

Then there was college. I’d come here with my canary yellow drawstring laundry bag. I could go home but here I was treated as a guest and a resident simultaneously. I’d walk into my godmother’s home and breathe in the smell of Chinese food. Everything was clean but also lived in. Here it was warm. I could go down to the basement and get a drink out the spare freezer. You’d smell tobacco and my uncle Will would be stationary watching some show that seemed ancient to me on his 13″ television. His man cave was humble. It was a laundry room and storage but it was his. I’d always announce my presence first. “Heyyyy I’m coming down. Aunt Jo said I could do a little laundry.” He’d scoff and then in a raspy laugh say, “If you don’t bring your ass on!” In the summer months everyone was here. My friends, my godbrothers and their friends. Their cousin moved in and he was the perfect addition to the family. My aunts would come over and make stuffed turkey burgers. The cheese would ooze out of them when you bit into them. The oil would drip down your chin. I don’t know how they could afford this revolving door of hospitality.

Now, I’m 36. I’m married with 4 children. I work full time as a claims examiner. We’re still “in the middle of a pandemic” but it’s like an eternal middle. I barely remember when it began and I don’t know when it’s going to end. I keep spare masks in the car and my pocket book. Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer in every room. I spray Lysol when the kids get out of the car. I vacuum the car once a week. There’s Clorox wipes for their bookbags and lunch boxes. We always take our shoes off at the door. I’m still working from home and caring for my toddler full time. Everything is always this mosaic. My life is like her artwork. It’s colorful but many of the lines connect and overlap. There aren’t many clear definitive lines. All I know for sure is there are no days off.

Yet, when I go to Aunt Jo’s the reception is still the same. My youngest god brother is still there and he’s a gifted cook. I walk in and listen to the vegetable oil crackle in the frying pan. He’s slicing cucumbers and seasoning them with salt and pepper. My godmother is on the floor with a flashlight and a Swiffer mop trying to find my son’s matchbox car. The girls are in my niece’s bedroom choreographing some new dance that they want to perform for us, quite the unworthy and exhausted audience. Nonetheless, they are sweating and we can hear the music and feel the ground rumble. My godmother just smiles. She doesn’t tell them to shut the hell up or stop before they break something. Their voices seem to bring her joy.

The kitchen is different. There’s some renovations being made. My bare feet do a little shuffle across the brand new ebony floor. I like new things. I call out to my brother in the bathroom, “are these floors marble?” He tells me they’re porcelain. I look down and examine the sparkle of the light. My feet seem to get lost beneath me. I’m sinking but I don’t mind.

The pork chops are done. There’s no rice. Rice is overrated. My godmother takes my plate and as I’m rounding up my kids and hugging everyone she tells me she’s looking forward to seeing us again. We were here two weeks ago.

I feel wanted. I can’t even find the words to say. A speechless writer. A mute poet. All I can do is wave and say “thank you.” I haven’t been in the basement since my uncle transitioned. Still feels sacred. Even more so now. I think I’d still announce myself. A sanctuary is a safe space and I’ll forever be grateful for mine.

By Shaun Liriano

Gotta Start Somewhere

I haven’t been able to blog. Everything hurt.

I can go out for drinks. Great distraction. I can get a workout in. Keeps me busy. I can play with my kids. Necessary escape.

Writing is my way of unpacking. It’s my way of healing and dealing with things. If I wrote about my father’s death, it would be real. I wasn’t ready for that. This thing that came quick and took away someone with such a huge presence…it would be real.

Motivation

A friend said he was looking forward to seeing what I could creatively birth from this pain. I’ve played with novel ideas and posted some poems on Instagram. I just truly feel like I’m in someone else’s body most times. My Daddy was diagnosed with lung cancer and he was gone two months later. Some days I still almost text him, then I realize he’s gone. It was surreal for everyone. We don’t even talk about it amongst ourselves. My paternal side faithfully does zoom calls and I can’t even sign in because I know his face won’t be one of the boxes on the screen. My skin hurts. I’ve learned to just walk around with a part of me hurting. To say I miss him would be a gross understatement. I even miss our arguments.

Today I rose before the sun. Prayed FIRST. I kissed all my kids and got going! I did two loads of laundry including blankets.

My busy two year old

I took my two year old for a walk. I’ve been productive at work. I made it to my meeting on Teams on time. I ate my turkey egg and cheese on whole wheat. My bed is made. I cleared voicemails and paid some bills. I filled in my brows and put lip gloss on just to take my kids to school. I’m tackling potty training with my toddler again. I listened to a podcast on minimalism. I’m trying.

If I’m not giving up…then whether this was great writing or not, it still had to be posted. I have to write just to live. Just to get through this. I have to start somewhere. I’m going to miss my dad’s comments on my posts. He even printed a few and kept them in a folder near his desk. I’m going to miss that feeling of making him proud. Sleep. Xoxo

By Shaun Liriano

Untitled

Photo by Fotoscapes.com

Song: Moving Forward by Israel Houghton

I’m tired of only posting pretty stuff. Today I laid out on the f******floor with a Spiderman blanket and a plain notebook. Things look so different from down there. I just literally laid my heavy heart down on the ground. Relief. Seeking warmth I just rolled up in the weight of my worry and listened to the heat come through the vents. If I curse am I a hypocrite? You taught me not to hold things in and to say them how I feel. I’m hearing gospel songs, “You make all things new.” You told me not to hold things in but I can’t just spill out all over the floor, the kids could slip. They don’t like tears, snot, spit and sadness in their food. So lately I’ve been holding tissues, paper towel or a t-shirt up to my face. Trying this new thing.

I call it the muffled scream wail-cry.

I kick my feet and try to force an internal combustion that no one sees. It turns into a weird growl. Then an inquisitive “why” as if I deserve to understand or question. You taught me how to spill out. She taught me how to pour in. Right now I just want to hold you and tell you it’ll be okay. Even if I’m not sure if it’s true.

Shaun Liriano 12/2/2020

Clean Your Life

What does that mean?

When I started putting my vision board together this year with a group of friends, I didn’t know why I cut those words out. Something about them screamed at me. Each letter grew two arms and reached for me to rescue them from the dated magazine they originated from. So I obliged. How could I leave them there?

Clean your life. I attempted my version of clean eating multiple times. I have our house cleaning on a schedule with apps, planners and reminders so everyone can chip in. The kids are rewarded for their chores. They practice goal setting. It’s quite beautiful to see. Does that mean the house is spotless? Nah. It is definitely warm, sanitary and inviting and that makes us happy. However, laundry has always been a thorn in my side.

In this house the laundry room was an explosion. I was too embarrassed to take a before picture. Recently, I purchased a sorter. I bought special detergents for the darks, oxy clean for the whites and all the stain removers and cleaners to make Martha Stewart and Snoop proud. I swept and mopped the entrance and put down a new mat. I’m still working on getting it just right but I’m happy with the results. What else in my life am I missing?

I spoke to my sister once and shared an experience that was unpleasant (to say the least.) She said, “I wish you wrote more about stuff like that on your blog. People can relate to that.” Isn’t it great when people give you those transparent moments? I always wanted this platform to be positive. I stopped over sharing years ago because I felt like my vulnerability was taken advantage of (we’ll save that for another post.)

I saw a college friend on my way to pick up my kids one day from school. We had a quick conversation in the middle of the street. A memorable conversation. He was open and kind and it seemed like we were back at the student activities center chatting in the cafeteria. Time passed hadn’t ruined familiarity. He talked about a tough relationship and the challenges of parenting and his career goals. When it was time to conclude, he mentioned this blog. He told me he was thankful I was still writing. He admired the fact that I could do it while juggling my other hats. I was astounded because I didn’t even know he was a follower. He doesn’t comment but he sees. I admitted I wished I was more disciplined. He assured me, what I have time to do is still impactful.

What if “clean your life” means, stop hiding the dirt? What if you can only help yourself and others by being completely transpicuous? I love all of my friends but there is something absolutely amazing about the person who tells you how they actually are when you ask. It’s cool if you legitimately are “fine.” I just really treasure my translucent friends and I treat them like the magical fairies they are.

Clean your life…

I have difficult days. I often sacrifice effort in one area in order to be exceptional in another. Parenting full time at any time is hard. Parenting during a pandemic is anxiety ridden and complex but I’m doing my absolute best. I cry all the time and I don’t think anything is wrong with that. I am also wary of people who cannot openly express all of their emotions because I believe when they do finally come out, it can be cataclysmic. I am an advocate for life coaches, motivational speakers, counselors and therapists. I believe we should normalize ALL health including our mental health and well being. I have an ill family member and I am actively forcing myself to be “normal” each day without thinking about the fact that I cannot support them in the way that I want to. I have wonderful parents and a consistently loving step father. My godparents are astronomical. They don’t ask questions and they are unwavering. I know whose team they are on…mine. I diligently work to be as good of a god parent as they have been to me. I am often creativity constipated. So having great people around me to motivate me and keep me accountable are a godsend. My husband is the first person I remember ever telling me, “Your best is enough.” I think most of our arguments are because he’s satisfied with the effort I’m putting in and I’m frustrated by not reaching my own ridiculous expectations.

What if cleansing was more like a mud bath? Can you be bare and cover yourself in what others may consider to be a mess just long enough to accept, maybe forgive and hopefully move on?

Clean your life.

-Shaun Liriano

They

I remember watching Claire Huxtable come home from work. She was an attorney. She would go into the kitchen and put on her apron. An apron! This Brooklyn woman with 5 children and a husband wore an apron after a full day of real work. I was flabbergasted.

I made my first apple pie today. I wanted to be like one of those apron wearing moms. A Pinterest mom. I wanted to be Claire Huxtable. I have an apron on my Amazon wish list. I wanted to bake a pie. I bought the ready made crust and the pie filling. So I cheated a little bit. I’m going to come correct next time. The recipe was from YouTube but I made a pie, damnit. I worked all my 8 hours and then some. Raised 4 kids who despise their remote learning days. I made a pie.

See, because they told us that good women cook dinner. Good women are humble and Faith filled always. Good women fold laundry. Good women don’t dance lewd. Good women wear aprons. Good women make pie. I don’t know who they are but I could swear that’s what they told us.

I think I made that sh$t up. I think “good women” are fabricated fantasy characters morphed in my mind. I’m blessed to know a lot of good women. They’re abstract. They’re powerful. They’re colorful. They’re freaking tired. Exhausted, not by your expectations but by their own. Baking pies and posting pictures of perfection. If you take the time to ask them how their day was, they’ll give you an honest answer. If you’re open minded and your guard is down, you’ll feel their heartbeat through your fingertips. They’re people battling myths. Most battles cause bloodshed, remorse, and sometimes defeat.

I made a damn pie. At first, because I really wanted to satisfy an ideal I created. I needed to prove something to myself. My kids LOVED it and that was gratifying. I just finished writing a screenplay and I’m happy I completed it. It’s registered. It’s a whole thing. I didn’t brainstorm on a page and then abandon it. It’s alive. Through a pandemic. Through social distancing. Through distance learning. Zoom birthdays. Masks. Stress. Fear. I wrote a screenplay and it gives honor to someone I respect. I am proud of myself.

One of the things on my dream board is a line that says “flowers always.” My husband has always bought me flowers. When I was young, my dad would give a rose to his mom, myself and his sisters. My mother would get a bouquet. In the past I wasn’t big on flowers but as I grow, I enjoy all beautiful things. I celebrated myself this evening in two ways: I made my first pie and I asked hubby to go pick up some flowers. He laughed and said ,”How do you know I wasn’t going to do that?” I didn’t know, honestly. I just know that maybe good women ask for what they want. Maybe good women don’t get out of the car until the song they like is over. Maybe good women leave the laundry in the basket for someone else to fold. Maybe they go to sleep when they’re tired. Maybe they throw pies in your face and laugh with you. Celebrate your wins better than anyone else because you know what it took to accomplish that thing. Ask for what you need and even what you want. I smell the pies you’re baking.

-Shaun Liriano

Highs and Lows

6082cb40891821e0262c6a5eba655867--mothers-love-mother-daughters
Ms Hulis Mavruk Black Artwork

I begrudgingly worked for a prominent insurance company for 2 years. It had highs and lows. I was taking a gap year from Stony Brook University.  However, in my twenties we didn’t call it a “gap year.”  There was no cute term for leaving school or taking a break from school.  I was tired of working 3 jobs and being a “broke college student” so I chased the money and I chose the industry that my mother worked in.   I liked the company when I first started but as time passed it became stale.  The main attraction to the position was the money I was making and the annual profit share.  On another note, I was in a relationship and admittedly I was more focused on that. Young and dumb, the man I was with at the time had a driving restriction.  Trying to literally be a “ryde or die,” I would pick him up in the mornings and bring him to work on my way to my job.  Some mornings it was pretty tight trying to get us both to corporate positions that both carried a dependability clause. That basically means…”If you can’t get your ass to work on time, you’re fired.”  I was on a written warning and on a rainy day/snooze my alarm 2-3 times day/traffic/ can’t find a parking space day, I arrived to work a critical 9 minutes late.  Well, it took a few weeks to notice but shortly after presenting me with an award for my call quality and after receiving a congratulatory email from my supervisor for being a “team player” I was called into the main conference  room. I remember feeling incredibly calm.  My supervisor and my manager told me they had no choice but to “part our professional ways.”  They asked if I had any questions and I told them I didn’t. I stood and shook their hands and wished them both an early Happy Mothers Day.

My mother isn’t big on “Hallmark holidays.”  Yet, being fired for the first time seemed more of a failure because it happened the Friday before Mother’s Day.  How in the hell was I going to tell her?  My parents got divorced my freshman year in college. When I left school, I moved back home with my mother and baby sister. We would lean on one another a lot. We sometimes would affectionately call our trio “The Three Musketeers.”  It had highs and lows. This was going to be a low.  My mom was reliable and responsible.  She was learning how to fit into a fairly new role.  I was supposed to be a help and not a hindrance. I felt guilty, careless, and ashamed. So I chose to omit my termination.

This is where there is some pixelation in my memory reel.  I don’t remember how my mother found out I was no longer working but she did. What I do remember is her acceptance.  I remember her reminder that this was a temporary setback and I would quickly find something else.  She didn’t remind me of all the sacrifices she made for my sister and I.  She didn’t shove private school bills in my face.  She definitely didn’t tell me I ruined her Mother’s Day.  She simply moved on.  Many of us can forgive but forgetting is the true challenge.  Many of us try to provide everything our children want and need but we have a cerebral calculation of every dime spent and every minute served. Parenting is about highs and lows. 

Thank you to a mother that came to every concert.  Thank you for buying patterns and sewing Halloween costumes and dance costumes.  Thank you for exposing me to Broadway plays.  Thank you for a standing hair appointment beginning at age 3.  Thank you for the lows too.  You taught me how to survive them.  How to be strong.  How to pray before I speak.  How to think with my heart and ignore the noise. How to ask for help.  How to try to come to terms with the things I cannot change and still don’t fully understand.  Thank you, Mom, every day.

 

By: Shaun Liriano

 

The Power Walk

“I have a trail I want to show you. Will you go walking with me?”

Admittedly I’ve put on a few pounds. The thought of walking didn’t sound as appealing as drinks and appetizers. However, my mother is a ridiculously busy person and we never get to spend time together so I accepted her invitation. She’s one of those people who “have it together.” The reliable conservative type.

“Maybe if I walk with her, her sense of order will rub off on me because I definitely didn’t get it genetically.”

When I got home from work, I informed my husband I was going for a power walk with my mom. I know him. He probably immediately envisioned old ladies at the mall with pink dumbbells in their hands with walkmans and black Sony headphones. He’s a runner. He runs at least 6 miles a day so walking makes no sense to him. When I came out the bathroom in my hot pink Miami souvenir t-shirt and my psychedelic Hot Soxx and tights, he gave me a quizzical look. “You’re not going to burn any calories. Why are you dressed like that?” I smiled, kissed him and the kids and left.

The truth? I was genuinely excited. I needed a break. Just a moment to decompress. An hour to reassess the tasks on my mental “to do” list. I have colleagues who “unplug” weekly. They do not tend to their phones, social media or personal email for a day or two. An old friend of mine has a rule that neither she nor her spouse can answer their cellular phones after 9pm. When the kids are asleep and it’s just the two of them it becomes time to unplug from everyone else and recharge their union. It sounds corny but there is validity to it.

“When I came here before, all these trees had no leaves. Some of the flowers looked dead like they’d never bloom again. Now they’re all green.”

The power walk was a physical reminder that life is just a meandering trail that we haven’t seen before. We don’t know what comes next. We can fret over bugs. Or maybe at night someone will jump out of the darkness and attack us. A tree branch may break and fall on your head. No matter what happens there is also a strong possibility it will be scenic, pedagogical and best of all you may find company so you don’t have to walk alone.

The older I get, the more I value the friend that will pray with you. It’s like singing your favorite song and someone just jumping on the hook and harmonizing with you. That’s powerful!

The trail may be unique to you but someone else has already walked it. Seek counsel from wise elders, mentors, or even blog communities. There are people who have been through what you’ve been through or they are going through it right now with class and ease. They’re making it look easy!! While you’re panicking, they’re strategizing and preparing for the next blow.

After the walk we went to Wendy’s (I did get a salad at least) but regardless of what I ate I felt lighter. I shed some stress. I was a little more content with the lack of control that humanity sometimes requires. It really was a power walk.

By Shaun Liriano

Keeping it 1000

Focus.

You can only catch one chicken at a time.

and my favorite…

Jack of all trades and master of none.

A person who is multi-talented or curious is often considered to be “flighty”, “messy”, “lacking focus”, or a “dreamer.” These are your liberal arts majors in schools.  These are your subway singers. These are your “professional students.”  They are always “finding themselves.”  What I’ve noticed is these people are exhausting to their loved ones.  Are you one of the aforementioned?  Well, have you ever been asked any of the following?

So what do you want to do with that?

Oh! So you’re a _____________now?

What are you going to do for money?

The questions are fielded towards you and what do you do?  Do you get defensive because they don’t “get” you?

There isn’t much I think believe I cannot do (thought and belief are different but that’s a separate post.) I’ve tried it all.  I’ve done personal training, martial arts, I took security guard training, I played tennis, I played chess in college my freshman year (although I wasn’t very good)…you get the idea.  The only two things that have been constant in my life are music and literature.  They pacify my inner baby.  When I enter that space, I am in another world.  I am in a safe cocoon of calm.  I am invincible.  I am untouchable.  There is no high like that of creating something and seeing the effect it has on others.  That connection is remarkable.  It’s a human relationship that allows you to alleviate someone else’s pain or share in their happiness. Although those are my constants, it doesn’t mean I am not capable of doing something else.

Your ambition is your double-edged sword, Shaun.

Currently, I am in a place of self exploration.  I am taking an acting class. It is freaking amazing!  I wanted to sharpen my stage presence as a poet.  I signed up for the class and it has opened doors of opportunity that I couldn’t have imagined.  I’ve met people who have been in the industry for decades.  The networking, the experiences, the tips, the tricks, the progression I’ve made is priceless. Now, I can create monologues with my free verse poetry and I personally know actors, playwrights, and venue owners who can bring my writing to life. The excitement I feel is so juvenile.  It is a childlike hope.

It is a childlike hope.

Sometimes people say, “let me keep it 100 with you.”  That means they are going to tell you the truth.  They are giving you 100%.  When someone is really trying to bring it home they may say, “I’m gonna keep it a thousand!”

They’re keeping it real.

Well, I’m going to keep it a thousand…

Do what you do, every day, to the best of your ability and with no apologies.  If you’re a genius, no one will understand what the hell you are doing.  You may be judged.  You may be called names. God willing your loved ones will support you and love you even in a state of confusion.  You can reward them later when you are successful.  You can write in a journal so they can read your thoughts when you’re dead. Whatever you decide to do is okay as long as its authentic.   Do not use monetary value to bring legitimacy to what you do.  There are people crying in mansions.

Check out what I found randomly googling one day:

3. A jack of all trades is a master of none.

This saying got cut short as well and originally said “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” Unlike what our version would lead you to believe, having multiple interests but not being an expert in anything could actually prove advantageous.

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/7-phrases-youve-been-misquoting

If you’re good at everything…do everything!  Kick ass at it.  Bust down doors instead of waiting for them to open. Make it hard to be ignored.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you.

The only way you can fail is by second guessing yourself and listening to the voices in everyone else’s head.  You can do this.

-Shaun Liriano

 

 

 

Don’t Complain

I remember when a good friend of mine was pregnant with her first child.  We are college buddies.  We were at an event for another friend of ours.  We’re standing by the bar (of course she wasn’t drinking) and an acquaintance looks at her blooming belly and begins a conversation about childbirth and the woes of being a mother.  This was a lengthy talk.  Our eyes grew wider as we listened intently.  This was many years ago but all I remember are the forewarnings vividly.

Oh you like to be cute! I see your nails are done. You won’t have time for that.

You’re lucky if you get a chance to eat!

This happens all the time.  Right?  A group of “seasoned mothers” with a “mother-to-be.”  We tell them about the hours of labor, the pain, what color your body part turned, what new smell you discovered…

When my cousin was pregnant with her son, another family member and I were “bragging” about the happenstance of being able to shave and shower in the same session without interruption.  Pregnant Cousin promptly responded, “You two sound like refugees!”

She’s right.

Today, I laugh about the awkward conversations amongst the mommy crew.  Its honestly all in comradery.  I don’t think anyone ever wants to scare the new mommies.  Motherhood is something to celebrate.  It is never dull, you are always learning, and you are consistently responsible for the experiences and growth of another human being.

One of my favorite quotes is by Kahlil Gibran:

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

There are days where I am completely exhausted from work.  Then it’s time to put on my “mommy hat.”  I have to do homework, clean, prepare food (or at least take it out the fast food bag,) run bath water, make lunches, read, pray with the kids, and then finally collapse and try to take care of myself. Like any human I get overwhelmed but I love my children.  I love doing arts and crafts with my step daughter, watching movies with my 3 year old, and having crawling races with my son (I always let him win.)  There are challenges and there are tests that I in no way could have been prepared for so now I just stay in tuned with gratefulness.

I read an article (http://nypost.com/2017/04/23/several-dead-after-house-fire-breaks-out-in-queens/)  the other day that floored me.  I had just finished arguing.  I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and it was too late to go back to sleep and try again.  I woke up an asshole.  I can admit it.  It happens to the best of us but I was saddened by the article.

Four children died in a fire.

I kept seeing the words flash across my mind like a scrolling LED message. What a sobering moment.  It was like God screamed “STOP COMPLAINING!”

STOP COMPLAINING

What would you do without these “little headaches?”  I have another cousin that calls them “freedom suckers.”  I am eternally grateful for the blessing of being a mother.  There are other titles that I am so proud of but that one has to be the best.

Finally, when I was pregnant with my daughter I remember a co-worker saying, “One day you will be alone with the baby and the baby will be crying and you will be crying and you two will just cry together and soothe one another.” Whoa!  I felt depressed but that isn’t necessarily a sad moment.  I know several mothers who have experienced that and it is a tremendous bonding time with your child. You both want to be heard.  You both probably don’t even have a specific reason for crying.  You both will provide comfort in a unique way.  Crying isn’t an expression of weakness.  Crying is how you bathe your soul.

Take a bath today.  Try not to complain. Enjoy every part of who you are.

-Shaun L