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

I Think You’re Doing Great

Cause I felt like it

Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.-Proverbs 28:18

I think you’re doing great…but what do I know? Seriously, these are tough times.

Do you remember when Covid-19 got real for us? March 2020. I had my 35th birthday. It was beautiful, humble, and my husband planned it perfectly. Fresh haircut and some blond highlights. I saw friends and family. I ate my favorite foods and had wonderful conversations. My mother bought me a gorgeous dress. Everything that sometimes validates us in our human form, was accounted for.

Except, that wasn’t everything that mattered. A week later God said, “Sit down, be still, be with your family, and focus.” Collectively we all did. We soon realized (I think), our plans were derailed and maybe that was a good thing. I believe we became more intentional with our friends. We have a higher regard for life (and death.) Some have been desensitized to mortality and some of us have been more severely impacted. No matter what side of the fence you stand on, we are still divided while all standing on the same ground.

This is not a post about Covid-19. This is about confidence and identity. This past year may have changed you and taken some things away from you. However, I think you’re doing great. Only you know what eco friendly, non-plastic bags you’re carrying. Only you know the contents and why those things still burden you or strip away at you. You can conquer that. You are not the summation of those faults. You’re great!

I tell my kids: Integrity is what you do when no one is watching you. It is a core value. That is a simple definition. It it not an easy practice to execute.

Whatever is challenging you right now, isn’t over. You have more work to do. You haven’t given up. You’re doing great. Let that be what ignites your next move and makes you grateful for your next breath. You are loved.

By 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

Dancer (Top 3 Things I Like About Poetry)

Sketch by Ric Richards

1. I met Poetry after I met Music. Poetry wasn’t promiscuous like Music. She didn’t try to appeal to everyone. She didn’t care if you liked her or understood her.

2. Poetry saved me. Swooped in and like a superhero. As a matter of fact, Poetry made superheroes look like security guards. She told me she could never be right or wrong. She told me we all have special abilities. She told me about Ravens and women rising and lover’s named Venus.

3. I like Poetry. The way you make a best friend the first day of school. It’s a sandbox friend. Our meeting was quick and natural and fun. I hope we’re together forever, blood sisters, bound by purpose.

If I

If I had Angelina’s lips
If I had Scarlett’s curves
If I had Nikki’s ass
Halle’s timelessness
Salma’s eroticism
Megan Fox’s eyes and
Tyra’s bone structure
Then I would be one hot boiling stew of mess.
The unique parts of me that make me beautiful would be discarded as excrement.
So I’m good.

By:Shaun Nickens

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I Woke Up Like This (shout out to Bey)

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I woke up worried about the zit on my cheek
I woke up thinking about the texture of my hair (never quite looks like the commercials)
Eyes not chinky, just swollen from crying

I woke up like this
Desiring to be
Flawless
But perfection is unattainable and quite unnatural
I woke up like this
Wanting wider hips and a smaller waist
With my mind churning louder than a ’98 corolla

I woke up like this
Exhausted from mommy duties the night before
Hands with calluses from making a dollar out of 15 cents

Barren uncharted land of passion and beauty within me
My tears irrigate it
I woke up like this
Unique and unmatched
Honest and exposed
Filled to the brim with flaws
Brilliantly authentically

Flawless

By SMN

Girl, Thats Not Your Booty, That’s Your Hip!!! (Challenging Accepted American Media Images of Women of Color)

I don’t care what she tells you.  I don’t care if she looks you right in the eye when she says it.  If she says she doesn’t check her butt out in the mirror before she leaves the house, she’s lying!  We’re all guilty of it.  Hair, skin, nails and booty.  At this point, I don’t even know what I’m looking for!  I’m 27 and I’m aware nothing back there is going to change.  I’m not genetically configured in a way that constitutes a big ol’ Nicki Minaj backside.  Shoot…it wasn’t in her genetic make up either!!!!  I can’t afford the shots and I heard the serum can leak into another  body part and you’ll get a fat knee or belly button or something. Ewww!  So at some point you have to be happy with what you have and be confident and innately sexy.  When was it determined that booty makes a woman sexy?

I remember sitting in an auditorium at Stony Brook University and listening to an informative speech about the story of Sarah Baartman  AKA “The Hottentot Venus.”  I was so moved I decided to do a feature on it with a youth group I worked with at a local dance studio.  We inserted a tribute to her in our annual black history show.  If you don’t know her story I’ll give you the edited version.  She was one of the Khoi people of South Africa.  She was a slave under British rule and she was sent to London in 1810 as a “performer” for “exhibition.”  She was exhibited because of her alluring aesthetic appeal in comparison to European women of that time and her physical features were considered bizarre.  She was the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not of her time.  After she died (allegedly of smallpox) her genitalia was displayed in a Parisian museum.  I was so hurt.  How could a human being objectify another human being like that?

I examine where we are present day.  I think about the images forced upon us by main stream media.  We are surrounded by booty!  Turn on the radio…what do you hear?  Rihanna’s “Cake”, Big Sean singing “ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass…”, or how about the contemporary version of the 80’s babies party anthem by Luke “I Wanna Rock”.  I’m showing my age but remember that song by 2 Live Crew “Pop That Coochie”?  We all know Sir-Mix-A-Lot “I like big butts.”  This has been going on for years!  We’ve been brainwashed by booty.  In a way I support it because there was also a time where curves weren’t accepted at all and we were sending the wrong messages with pencil thin chain-smoking models on our television screens.  However, there has to be a definitive line drawn.  This line has to be thick enough and bold enough to honor our heritage.  This line has to be thin enough and bright enough to be able to laugh at ourselves in certain circumstances.  Who doesn’t love the Thugnificent song from animated series “The Boondocks” entitled , “Booty Butt Cheeks?”

This line has to be transparent enough that we can step over it and around it when people of other ethnicities and cultures attempt to comment on the subjects that we think are exclusive to our own colored community.  Let me be clear…there is no topic that can be our own little secret.  So if it would offend you if your Caucasian brother or sister mentions a black woman’s rear end…maybe it shouldn’t be a topic of conversation for you either.  I need us to be able to recognize when things have gone too far.  I can’t shop for my 13-year-old sister anymore!  The shirts look like bras!  The shorts look like panties!  There’s writing on the back of the pants.  I’m alarmed as a sibling, let alone a parent.  I’m going to learn how to sew so she can wear clothes that actually cover and protect her body!

I was describing an outfit to a co-worker the other day.  I was telling her how I couldn’t wait to wear it because it accentuated my “curves.”  She said, “What curves?  You have no booty.”  I’m used to comments like this so I stood up and I did my best booty pose with an award-winning provocative smile.  She simply responded, “You’re so cute. Girl, that ain’t booty, that’s your hip!”  We all cracked up and then attempted to resume working with tears in our eyes.  As women we have to accept all forms of beauty and appeal,  we have to love ourselves because media will never give us accurate perceptions of what attracts a man to a woman.  We think in different ways, our feelings vary, and our self-expression will always be similar but never identical.  To any woman who struggles with body image and consciousness…love yourself (I don’t care how cliché it sounds)…or ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly 😉

-By Shaun Nickens

My Interview With Cinderella of When We Were Queens Skin Care and Cosmetics-DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH

When you come into When We Were Queens you will most likely be greeted with a huge smile and a warm embrace and a kiss on both cheeks!  Most people don’t even get that kind of treatment from their own family members!  In the store is drapery and colorful displays for the customers.  There will more than likely be a video playing from The Honorable Minister  Louis Farrakhan in the background.  There are books available for purchase, both urban fiction and self-help/instructional.  There are display cases with foundations, bronzers, eyeshadows, lipcolors, cleansers (for men and women), toners, moisturizers, and a whole heap of other products to enhance the aesthetic beauty you have.  The friendships, love, and community atmosphere in When We Were Queens will nourish the innate inner beauty you have!  Listen to this short interview with skin care specialist and award-winning makeup artist, Cinderella    

Listen to the story about how tragedy can sometimes motivate one for change…

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You want flawless and radiant skin? Its easier than you think!

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“Without God and you, we truly cannot survive”

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Dressed in my classic “get up and go” outfit, I interviewed Cinderella in black spandex tights, a t-shirt, my hair in a big poof and I was adorned in my favorite silver earrings that are almost the size of my head!  Boyyyyyyyyyy did Cindy have words for me :-o!  Stressing inner beauty as well as outer, Cinderella has challenged us as young women to “cover up that beautiful body”  and leave some things to the imagination!

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She has advice for running a successful business, finding a decent man, self-respect, and of course skin care!

Cinderella is available for Weddings, Makeovers, and Classes.  She is located at : 186-15 Merrick Blvd Springfield Gardens, NY 11413

Some services include:

Designer Eyebrows 15

Bridal Consultation 45

Prom 40

Facial 45+

Makeovers 50+

Stop in for any product and/or service and mention : ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.com or Diamond in the Rough and get a % off of your purchase!!!!!!!!!!!

By: Shaun Melissa Nickens