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

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

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

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

Walk Through

I’m thinking of lines to transform minds for generations

They thinking of clever Instagram captions

Flamboyant poses and libations

All I know is the status quo isn’t working

So I’m collecting reparations

Give me your intellectual property

Or I’m taking it

I’ll file my own report at the police station

Money ain’t enough

Gotta keep a remarkable reputation

Street cred ain’t enough

Need more than being a hood sensation

Meditation ain’t enough

You can’t just be great in your mind

At some point tangible success is all that’s left

After you grind

-Shaun Liriano