For the Rest of Your Life

RIP Nana Bea

My one year old runs her fingers over the tattoo on my arm.

I remember when the tattoo artist said, “It’s still professional. A long sleeve dress shirt will cover it.” I wasn’t concerned with that back then. That was a tattoo I got at a shop on Merrick Blvd in Jamaica Queens. It was shortly after my 23rd birthday. I was excited about it because I finally knew what I wanted to honor my grandmother with.

My Nana Bea was a wedding and party coordinator. She spent a lot of time in her balloon shop. My aunt Darlene was the assistant manager. We worked closely in that business, many days a week, side by side. My grandfather would often have my cousins Jason and Tyson do push ups in the back. He would “toughen them up.” All the while Nana would groom us young women for running a business. I had so many “cousins” as young black children often do. Family wasn’t designated by blood. There were friends of family, neighbors, and extended family who all worked alongside us. We turned bare rooms into magical wonder lands. We made dreams come true. We built memories.

You see, my grandmother wanted to be successful.  She wanted to be a staple in her community.  She wanted a legacy.  She loved her children and took great pride in the accomplishments of her grandchildren.  I used to listen to her brag to her clients and suppliers about articles and poems I wrote. She kept our pictures near her cash register. This was best way for us to spend time with her. We worked to learn and earn money but we also worked to be close to her.

We ate vanilla ice cream, Pepsi or ginger ale and plain potato chips on breaks. These were big treats to me because my parents kept healthier options in the house. Those were some of her favorite things. Sharing them with her added to its sustenance. They were items she could eat quickly, on the go, so she could get back to work.

As Easter approaches I remember Easter baskets with big mylar balloons with my name on them. Inside was always chocolate, bubble bath, lollipops, and a stuffed animal. She never missed an Easter or birthday. We always knew what the business meant to her but we knew even if she showed up at 9pm, she’d be there.

She’d come over in her white minivan with my grandfather at the wheel with goodies. She was warm. She was always smiling. As an adult sometimes things get fuzzy. My Nana Bea passed when I was 19 years old. She died right before Thanksgiving. I wish I’d asked her in all the time I had with her, what it was like to be a woman of color with her own business. I wish I asked her what sacrifices she had to make. I wish I knew what she’d do differently. I would love to see how’d she react to social media and how quickly information and advertisements travel now. I remember dressing the store front windows for the next holiday. It was an honor. If she picked you to help dress the store window or put up a new display it meant she trusted you artistically to make her look good. Recently someone asked me, “Who encouraged you growing up?” It was always my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother wanted us to be reaffirmed in our beauty and she called me Princess my whole time with her. My maternal grandmother wanted me to feel intellectually confident. She helped with school assignments, establishing routines, and life skills.

Those of us who have tattoos are often reminded we are wearing veritable choices. We will have these pieces of art inscribed on our bodies for all time. I love my balloons.  Everytime I see it I see the smiling face of Beatrice. I feel myself standing in that building with confetti and broken clips (that held the latex balloons in clusters) on the floor. I remember the taste of Tiger Pops. I hear the older girls telling stories about the young men they were dating.  I hear music. I hear arguing. I feel her curly hair. I smell her lotion. I remember rummaging for the sharpest scissor to curl the ribbon with. We would decorate baby shower chairs with toole and silk flowers. I can hear her yelp when she’d burn her finger on a glue gun and then keep going until the job is done. I see my faded balloon tattoo and I see love in all of its wholeness. Imperfect. Mine.

By:Shaun Liriano

Exciting News !

Come 2020 I’m bringing back my poetry workshops!  I was a contract creative educator for Queens Library in 3 locations in the past and I loved it.  I have been praying on it and it’s time to start teaching some young hungry minds again. For information on booking please fill out the contact form below or DM me on IG @ShaunLProductions

Please view my how-to video on YouTube “Writing Process for the Super Busy” https://youtu.be/a3J8X0EaLtM

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Leading a Brainstorming session on a group poem at a Jazz Concert October 2018

Dear Santa from the Middle Class Kid

Dear Santa,
I’d leave you some milk and cookies but a quart of milk is about $1.52. I can’t bake the cookies because the oven is broken. Besides, milk is in the recipe for cookies.  I’d go to the store but Mom says there’s no gas in the car. We didn’t get a tree so I hope you know where to put the gifts. Although,  I wonder how you will get in because we do not have a  chimney. 
I’m not looking for any sympathy or special treatment. These aren’t excuses. I just didn’t want you to think I was lazy and put me on the naughty list. Despite the circumstances I think I was pretty nice.

By:Shaun Melissa Liriano

In the Palm of My Hand

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When I was young, growing up in the Catholic church,  we loved Palm Sunday.  We would sit in the church pews during the sermon and make crosses out of the palms. We would give them to older people who didn’t know how to make them. We would search the church floors for them after service.  We would sword fight with the longer ones. We would make trades with them. It was like getting a favor or a party bag at an event.

What I always personally liked was the symbolism it brought.  It was a physical reminder that Easter was coming.  Easter was always awesome for MANY reasons:
1. You get a brand new Easter dress.
2. The music in church is always good because EVERYONE comes to church on Easter, Christmas and Mother’s day.
3. There was usually an Easter Egg hunt for the church youth.
4. Theres a level of celebration that is insurmountable.  You’re happy because of new life. New beginnings. Spring.  Joy!

And of course you’re preparing yourself for the possibility of the return of the Savior. Now thats the part that kind of gets lost in all the fuss. 

Christian or not you have to admit that the story of Jesus is interesting and relevant.  Palm Sunday he had friends,  admirers, and I even dare to say he had fans. The people who lined up to watch him perform miracles were the same people lined up to see him tormented,  tortured and eventually killed. He was betrayed by the people he gave his life to protect.

Today started off rough. I woke up tired.
I had an appointment at the mechanic for 9am.  My car sounds like a spaceship right before liftoff and I need to remedy that before my annual inspection.  So being that I snoozed the alarm multiple times and defeated the purpose of setting it, I had to FLY!!!

I grabbed my kid, put her in some sweats, popped a bottle in her mouth, threw on my grey “day off sweats”, ate a granola bar and drove as fast as I could while on the mobile phone and cleaning the junk out my car as well. After I left the automobile I realized I needed a ride home. I’m usually a great planner but I wasn’t today. Im not a fan of buses and I had house slippers on and my hair was in a big poof. I looked absolutely nuts. While im walking towards the cab station,  a woman coming from a church service hands me a palm. I thanked her, handed it to my daughter and kept walking. Watching my 10 month old look at the palm and maneuver it in her small hands brought back memories and got me excited. 

We came home to clean the house, open the blinds, crack the windows, organize, read together,  eat,  sing, and just enjoy preparing for new life!

No matter what/who you believe in, hope is universal. Grab a little of it and stretch it out and add water and smear it all over your face!! Tie it around your waist and adorn yourself with it!! Throw it at people like a water balloon and watch it break through their despair and drip down their doubt!!

May you be blessed,  touched and transformed this Easter!  Orrrrrrrrr…you can Shutyamouthandcallmeugly

By:Shaun Nickens

A Day OFF to Get Back ON Track

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I am the princess of procrastination.  I am the dark cloud of doom, often preparing myself for the worst.  I am emotionally charged.  I am a quick decision maker.  I sometimes explode to prevent from imploding.

The converse is also true.  I sometimes categorize explosion as communication.  I’m easily affected by others moods but only because I care. The bottom line is because of my character traits/flaws I have to “reset” from time to time. The one benefit of my job is I get a weekday off.

Today I was my usual rushed self. Ripping and running.  Hustle and bustle. I got pulled over last night about a broken headlight. So I went to Pep Boys this afternoon and resolved that issue.   I went to CVS to return some impulse buys and replace them with necessities.  When I’m completing my errands, I always have my 5 month old with me. The poor thing is in and out of the car seat.  Ashamed, I admit that not all time spent is quality. I intend to change that.

I got a text from a long time friend last night that read, ” Uncle _____ died.” I couldn’t even respond. After the air returned to my lungs I decided to call. Another young life. Another good person.

Life pulsates. It throbs. For some of us it is aggressive.  Its carnal. We can hear our clock ticking and we are offensive in an attempt to gain (or regain) control. For some of us, we need reminders. We only say “I love you” when someone is sick or dying. Some of us let life boil and then evaporate.

I found a park site near the local town hall. Its beautiful. There is something about being outside on a hard wooden bench. My daughter and I stared at the ripples from the fountain.
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I can often identify with nature.
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I wish to stand out from the rest. I want to be noticed.

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My heart almost busted open with excitement to see my daughter so full of intrigue. So young. So attentive.  So easily satisfied.  Its not hard to build a connection with your children.
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The gazebo was perfect for a picnic. Perfect for a wine brunch with your significant other. It was perfect for a 30 minute lunch break. It was the perfect spot for a writer, a lover, a hater,  an artist, a bourgeois “time-out.” It was perfect for anything.

I want the shutyamouthandcallmeugly.com family to know its time. Its time now. A wise man once said to me, “get up or give up.” I didn’t appreciate it at the time. No matter how harsh it is, its true.  Accept that you cannot control everything.  Have Faith!  Love HARD! LOVE TODAY! Take time OFF so that you can get ON point!

By Shaun M Nickens

Mothers Morning Reflection

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I’m laying in bed next to my 5 week old baby girl.  Sure I could have put her back in her crib after her last feeding and diaper change but I love being close to her. I’m still working on the detachment thing.

A mosquito bit me twice while I was burping her and I went into an immediate frenzy. Funny thing is I didn’t get upset because I got bit but because I was afraid the mosquito would bite my daughter. I hunted it and killed it. It now rests in peace on the sole of my Old Navy flip flop. Let us bow our heads…

I do at least 3 loads of laundry a day. It’s a never-ending cycle of filth. I’m  going grocery shopping in the am to get cake mix because I promised my two year old step daughter that we could bake this weekend. 

I eat only because I know I have to nurse and have some energy for my family. If I get to choose between rest or food…rest wins hands down.

I want to finish everything I’ve ever started. I want to be better than I’ve ever been.  I strive not for public acceptance but to be my daughters’ heroine.  I’ve become a woman who can be relied on. I’ve become a woman who can be trusted. I’ve become a woman who can be admired. I’ve become a woman who can be a loyal partner. I’ve become a woman who can provide.  I’ve become a woman…

If you are a mother in the ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly family,  stand up! Stand up in your t-shirt and panties, in your granny robe, nude, in your spit up stained pajamas,  in your nursing bra,  in your lingerie,  and take a bow. I salute you. I salute your sacrifices. I salute your class. I salute your maturity.  May you be encouraged this morning.

By : Shaun M Nickens

Hope and Homeostasis

When I was young my father would take me to the park often. We would do all the fun things you do at the park but I distinctly remember him walking on fences. Kids would gather round to see my father walk on the fence surrounding the playground. I always felt so proud and cool because no one elses father could do that. My father was 6’2″ 180 lbs. Tall and lanky, walking casually across the fence like it was your everyday sidewalk. Everyone would stare and couldn’t help but smile.

When I think back to those times now, I think about the figurative artistry of that trick. My father spent his whole life doing a balancing act. My significant other told me today that he believes most men struggle between their innate basic desires and the need for family and companionship and stability. It’s an internal pull, a tug of war, spiritual warfare. It’s a psychological counsel deliberating over your future and your body just does what it’s sentenced to do.

My dad balanced. He was an ex military man. A Navy man. He’s the one who taught me how to iron my school uniform, how to turn corned beef hash into a meal and how to make a bed properly. He taught me how to re-seal and cement our front porch every summer and how to cut the lawn. He taught me to skate and ride a bike. How to maneuver a motor scooter and hang on to the back of his Triumph motorcycle.

My father struggled with everything else though. I know now that he could have been more connected and more mature as a husband, a son and a brother. He could have been more disciplined as an employee. He could have sacrificed a little bit more for the people in his life who believed in him and had sacrificed so much for him. He could have been more reliable. He tried to be a good father and to his credit, he still occasionally tries but it seems as though he was only good on that fence.

When your children grow older, they require the same maturity and selflessness as everyone else in your life. They require something better than balance. In my experience, love is involuntary. You may make a decision at some point to be with someone, or stay with someone, or to take care of a child. However, when you love someone in it’s true form, it’s uncontrollable. It escapes all logic. It takes over. Start by balancing. You must end with total submission. You don’t have to forget about who you are. Your identity can stay in tact. I believe that you must accept new aspects of who you are. Everyone has layers. Some layers you shed like an exoskeleton and you leave them behind.

What im suggesting is a balance beyond balance. I’m suggesting an ego-less equilibrium. Homeostasis of humility if you will. I am only suggesting this because I believe in the return. There are multiple moments when you must choose a side of the fence,stand on solid ground and dare to enjoy it. Everything in your life is a gift. I believe even struggle is a gift because it defines your determination and your ability not to be devoured by life.

My father taught me many things. Unfortunately, some of them were about the repercussions of weakness. Some lessons were learned through observation. Some of his actions taught me how not to be and what not to tolerate. No matter what…that fence trick was very impressive in it’s time. Ironically, my dad only fell when he was on the ground.

Happy belated fathers day. Learn how to balance your balance.

By:Shaun Nickens