Let’s Get Cheesy

I’ve decided to post the things I’m grateful for this Fall…

The colors of crimson, cocoa, evergreen, sand, and rust surround me in open fields. They close me in like a child shutting their lunchbox lid before the bossy kid comes to trade. I’m safe in here. I’m hidden. I’m protected.

The temperature is always just right. The rain is never too heavy. The sun is never too hot. The wind is never too fierce. I can meet with nature at any time of day and be greeted with an all welcoming environment.

They remind me of my childhood. Red light green light…1 2 3. “Helicopter helicopter” they shout and they Jump as high as they can. Jump rope, manhunt, tag, Simon says, all they need is each other. They make musical notes with their mouths and bend their bodies backwards under a broomstick and play limbo. They need no cords. They need no buttons. One blows bubbles and the other one pops them. One belts a song out like a 90’s R&B one hit wonder. The other dances. They draw dreams in driveways and ask me not to wash it away. I let God and the rain decide when the ground will be black again.

Pieces of my tribe

Pumpkin spice latte’s and apple cinnamon candles bring a little luxury to my day to day. Jack-o’-lanterns dress my doorstep. Autumn leaves wind down my railing. Chrysanthemums await on the patio.

Liberty Park, Queens
Photo by Shaun Liriano

This moment that I share with a ceiling fan, a flickering light, lavender scented pillows, and the moonlight coming through my open blinds. I am thankful for this moment. I can hear my youngest daughter snoring in her toddler bed. I feel accomplished with the execution of today’s activities. I’ve managed in the best way I could and I know my best is enough. My lower back may be sore, my feet are sick and tired of me but my HEART is full. I can express to decompress when so many people wish they knew how to expel the feelings that overwhelm them. I bleed voluntarily and breathe intentionally and for that I am grateful.

By Shaun Liriano

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

Whats Your Malfunction?

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I received a letter from the Schomberg Center For Research in Black Culture.  They thanked me for my regular contribution and support. They also enclosed a survey about ” The Future of Black America.”

I breezed through the questions effortlessly (but who made me an expert on black people?) As I read each question about education,  progression,  current challenges, I answered honestly.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’m the right person to submit that feedback.  Obviously,  I’m aware of the issues if I’m already a supporter. If I’m on your mailing list then I’m receiving the necessary information. Shouldn’t we be trying to get feedback from people who dont have easy access to the issues?

I would imagine it would be more prudent to send mass mailings. I would imagine a guy in jeans with hundreds of surveys in a big bag slung over his shoulder.  He should walk up to random people of color and give them the survey to complete on site in real time. Its like blatantly saying, “Hey! What’s your malfunction? ”

I am sometimes offended by the misrepresentation of blacks in places of esteem and the jaded picture of us painted by media.  A week ago there was a report on New York 1 that more black women have had terminations this year than live births.  All I could think was “why are we highlighting black women? What are our counterparts of other ethnicities doing? This is not a ‘race’ issue! PEOPLE are broke and unemployed and scared to start families!”

I read a great book recently called “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.” The author notes the three elements that she thinks define the title: vacant esteem,  ever present anger and racist socialization. (P184)

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With statistics like the one blasted on New York 1 and the continued statistics on the prison population (ex: The inmate population was eighty five percent African American in 2004.)  Present day we still make up 12% of the general population but 1/2 of the prison population. 

Just as a bonus…” 1 in 56 men of Hispanic origin are behind bars (p103.)
Just in case you thought you were exempt from bigotry and intolerance! Yea you over there! 😉

So if someone came up to you questioning the issues of your presumed ethnicity? If they asked you questions that offended you but showed you statistics you couldn’t deny and asked you to be a part of the solution. ..
What would you do?
Most stereotypes are either magnified or exaggerated truths. Some are completely manifested by fear. 

So you..
Yea you over there…

What’s your malfunction?

-Shaun Nickens