My Miscarriage

Content Warning: pregnancy, birth, miscarriage, messy words about it, sadness.

Today I had a miscarriage.

I’ve never had one before so I wasn’t quite sure what was happening.

At 6am I went for a run with Big Daughter. Then  I drove Bella to school. On the way there I started cramping. At first it was regular annoying period pain cramps. But then it got to be so much more. I got home, popped ibuprofen and lay down, hoping it would go away. It didn’t.  The cramping intensified so that it was gut-wrenching spasms. Like somebody was kicking me in the lower back. With steel capped work-boots. I couldn’t stand up straight. Walking hurt. I thought I was having the worse menstrual period pain in the history of womankind.

I cried. A lot. I screamed into my pillow. Real loud. My daughters were scared for me. They brought me an ice pack. Then they Googled psycho period pain and what to do about it – and brought me a hot pack instead. Nothing helped. I was scared.

I’m going to die. I need to go to the hospital. But how am I going to get there? It hurts so bad.

Then I remembered I was in Samoa and I was twice as scared. Because even though the hospital has been upgraded and there’s lots of great people working there, I’ve never actually had any medical procedures done on me in Samoa and the terrified dying fia-palagi woman inside me REALLY wanted to be in New Zealand at that moment.

About an hour into it, I realized it wasn’t just a period from hell. There was something else going on. Because then I wanted to ‘push’. I haven’t experienced childlabor for seventeen years but today, it hit me with a vengeance. Reminding me why having a baby is a horribly bad idea - that usually is extra horribly bad right when you’re actually trying to ‘have’ that baby. I pushed and something came out. Immediately, the pain stopped. Then I threw up. A lot. And passed out on the bathroom floor in a pool of throw-up and blood.

The daughters called their Dad to come home right away. He came. He lifted me up. He helped me go shower. He got plastic gloves and fished out the little messy something, put it in a plastic container so I could take it to the doctor. I didn’t want to look at it but I also didn’t want to flush it away. He cleaned up the mess and disinfected the bathroom. He hugged me. He was the calm, steadying strength I needed. In that moment as he capably waded through blood, vomit and tears, he was the most beautiful and beloved man I have ever seen.

I still wasn’t sure what had happened to me. Even then. Because a miscarriage should have been an impossible thing, because as far as I knew, I was not pregnant. And I was not pregnant, because:

A. After Baby #5, I had  a tubal ligation where a surgeon didn’t just clip and tie my tubes, she cut and cauterized them. Not only that, I was not pregnant because

B. I’m also on the contraceptive pill. For health reasons and not contraceptive ones, because see reason A, I cant get pregnant because I’ve had a tubal ligation.

The doctor reminded me that there’s a 1% chance you can still get pregnant after a T.L. That it works for 99 women out of 100. So it was indeed possible that my messy something was a miscarriage because I could be that one woman out of a hundred. And after looking at the contents of the plastic container, she was pretty sure I’d had a miscarriage. But she said, its also possible that my messy something wasn’t a future baby, but it could have been other things like corpus luteum cyst’y things or some other technical words I cant remember.

Because I’m me and I see funny where there isn’t any, I told Darren this happened because he has  Ironman-Engineer-Builder sperm that can build connecting bridges between cut tubes and ovaries…OR he’s got sperm that can leap across chasms with Ironman determination. He didn’t think that was funny. (I thought it was hilarious myself.)

I drove home from the doctor and I was many things.

I was relieved. So very relieved.

I was grateful for Darren and my daughters helping me through.

But most of all, I was sad.

I’m forty-two. I have five fabulous children who bring me great joy. Because carrying them and giving birth to them almost killed me (and them) four times over, I was happy to take the doctors recommendations and have a T.L. I’ve known for seven years that I would never have any more children and I was fine with it. I looked at other parents chasing after toddlers in grocery stores and at tired mothers trying to feed their wailing babies – and I was grateful that my wailing baby days were over. I went to the movies with my Big children, talked books with them, chatted feminism and religion with them – and I was grateful to be the mother of nearly-grownups who I could be friends with. I hugged Bella, laughed at her wacky jokes, admired her fierce spirit and bold Bella’ness – and I rejoiced in every minute because she’s my last ever baby and everything she does and says is extra special and amazing. Not once have I wistfully wished I could still grow a baby. Instead, every day, I give thanks for the sacred blessing of being a mum to five rather fabulous people and I’m happy there aren’t going to be any more.

And yet, today I had a (probable) miscarriage, and I am sad. I’m not sure why.

I’m sad that there was a tiny hope of a baby and now there isn’t. Maybe even sadder because I didn’t even know there was a flicker of hope, so how can you properly mourn and miss something you didn’t even know was there?

I’m sad that me and Darren will never have that shared-new-parentness again – that indefinable, tangled link where he holds my hand as I long to die because it’s been twenty hours of pushing and hurting and puking and the baby’s stuck and labor has stalled and they finally decide to do a C-section because I’m a loser wimp and I can’t push anymore and he sings to me while they cut me up in a theatre crowded with strangers and I’m in shock and shaking with terror and with cold and I focus on his voice and he guides me to a place of peace. Where we pray for a newborn in an incubator to please make it. Where we tag team  through late nights of baby feeding and diaper changing and talk in hushed tones about what kind of personality will this child have?

I’m sad that my body couldn’t hold on, couldn’t nurture, couldn’t endure. Is it guilt? Or more the reminder that this body that once worked so hard to create life and then grow it and birth it – is getting old, malfunctioning, shutting down and packing it in? From the first baby to the fifth, I’ve always known that in spite of my abundant child-birthing hips – I am not ‘made’ for motherhood. From hyperemesis to prenatal depression to pre-eclampsia and emergency premature C-section deliveries, every baby was a reminder that I shouldn’t be pregnant and of how weak I am. Especially when well-meaning relatives compared me to other “strong Samoan women” who worked every day of their pregnancies, pushed a squalling ten pound baby out in two determined huffs, and then went back to Superwoman duties the next day. So yeah, I was always the ma’i one, the somewhat broken one. But still, I was valiant and I persevered and I held on and I did it, dammit. I made babies and kept them alive and they’re perfect, even though they had a shitty start. But today? I couldn’t keep a baby alive. Or even a hopeful messy something alive.

Even if it wasn’t ever going to be a baby, today was a jarring reminder that my birth-mother potential is gone. That there’s something broken in that mysterious place inside me where life-creating and baby-growing happens.

Even though I didn’t want to have any more children and I took decisive steps to make sure that I wouldn’t – I still got pregnant. But I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, or healthy enough to stay pregnant.

And while I’m relieved, I’m still sad about that.

 

Sonny Bill Williams Meets Daniel Tahi

Those of you who have been hanging out here with me since before I published TELESA, will know that this picture of Sonny Bill Williams may have been the inspiration for certain key scenes in the book where Daniel Tahi emerges from various water features.  (I can neither confirm nor deny that this picture was pasted in the working Word file document of TELESA for reference at various points in the writing process…)

AsonnyBill

And that time at Samoa College when Leila sees Daniel on the rugby field with a t.shirt tied round his head cos it’s sooooo hot outside?  Possibly came from this pic. Just a very slight possibility…Tattoo? Check. Abs? Check. Sweat? Check. Smile? Check.

asonnybill4

And if you imagine this is night-time and photoshop in some stars, and black sand spangled with silver moonlight…and an ie faitaga, and cut out all the other people bombing this pic – then this could MAYBE be Daniel walking towards Leila on their beach wedding night.

asonnybill3

Which is why, when my Little Brother told us he was coming to Samoa with the NZ All Blacks team as part of their security detail – I was alight with a BRILLIANT idea. How cool would it be to give Sonny Bill Williams a copy of TELESA  and get a photo of SBW holding his TELESA book?! (Which he could then take home and give to his wife- because somehow I doubt he wants to read a Young Adult romance novel that has a few too many descriptions of Daniel Tahi’s rippling muscles…I mean, the dude has his own muscles, why would he want to read about Daniel’s?)

This was it, the perfect opportunity to get my book into SBW’s rugby-player-model hands. And maybe explain his very slight, very miniscule connection to Daniel Tahi. This was destiny!

For some odd reason, my little brother didn’t agree. He called and when I asked him if I could come visit him at the hotel and CASUALLY bump into SBW so I could gift him my book, my brother said, No.

“But why not?” I whined.

“Because our job is to stop people from harassing them. Not let them in.”

“But I’m your sister,” I argued. “I don’t want to harass him. I’m not dangerous. I’m not a stalker. I just want to give him my book.”

“No,” he said. “And if you come down here, I’m going to pretend that I don’t know you.”

“I’ll yell out your name,” I threatened.

He wasn’t moved. “The security team will drag you away and I will tell them that I aint never seen that woman before in my life.”

I was really feeling the sibling love. #Not.

Then my lil brother came over to say hi to everyone. I plied him with chocolate cake and ice cream. Lots of hugs and smiles. Then I asked him if – instead of me cornering SBW at the hotel and throwing TELESA books at him…”how about YOU give him my book? Tell him your sister is an author and its a present!” What a fabulous idea.

“No. I could get fired,” said my brother.

But I am crafty and sly. “I have a better idea. When it’s your turn to look after Sonny Bill Williams, you can be reading my book. Then in a lull in the activities, you can exclaim real loud with excitement and say ‘Wow Sonny, this book is so fabulous! You should read it.’ Then you give it to him. Real subtle like, see?”

This time the Hot Man joined my brother in shaking their collective heads with a look of befuddled disgust. “You’ve obviously never worked as a security, have you?” said the Hot Man. “You ever see a security bodyguard reading a book while they’re on duty??”

My brother laughed as he repeated…Wow Sonny, this book is so fabulous! “Who says that? You expect me to say ‘WOW Sonny’ to one of the All Blacks??”

Everybody laughed.

But I was not deterred. No, no. Because a meeting between  Sonny Bill Williams and Daniel Tahi is DESTINY DAMMIT.

“I got another idea,” I said. “You wait till you’re all on the plane back to New Zealand. Make sure you’re sitting near Sonny Bill Williams. You start reading Telesa, then you can pretend to be confused, and you lean across to him, point out one of the big words and say, ‘This is a hard one. How do you pronounce this word bro?’ Then you lead in to a conversation about the book and before you know it, he’s dying to read it.”

“NO,” said my brother. “NO.”

Even second servings of cake and ice-cream couldn’t change his mind.

I was rather bereft. Whats the point of having a brother work security for the All Blacks if he can’t foist your books on unsuspecting rugby players?

Then the historic game happened between the Manu Samoa and the NZ All Blacks. It was a very exciting game.  I was overwhelmed by national pride and patriotism which  took me by surprise actually. It was so intense that I may even have yelled for someone…ANYONE to please rip Sonny Bill Williams beautifulness to pieces.  I didn’t care anymore that his tattooed arm and six pack may have lent themselves to Daniel Tahi’s creation. Nope. He was the enemy along with all the other All Blacks. And the Manu Samoa represented everything that is fierce and fabulous about Samoa.

I was sad when Samoa lost. And incredibly proud too.

I wrote my feelings on Facebook…

So proud of  Samoa and to be Samoan. From the months and weeks of preparation, to the welcome, to the game, to the moving words of Alesana Tuilagi at the close. From every village that flew Manu Samoa AND All Blacks flags, to the Womens Komiti that wove fans for the NZ team, to the hardworking crew that co-ordinated everything behind the scenes…and so many more. Malo lava to all those who made it happen. Thank you for reminding us why there truly is no place on earth like our beautiful country.  And to the shamahzing players of Manu Samoa – thank you for fighting hard from start to finish. I know nothing about rugby but it was quite satisfying to see key All Blacks players getting taken down and smushed on Samoan soil!

Then I messaged my brother – Don’t worry. I don’t want to give Sonny Bill Williams a copy of my book anymore. In fact, NONE of the All Blacks are allowed to even breathe on my book, let alone read it.

I’m sure they’ll all be devastated to hear that. #Not.

BUT if anybody is friends with Mrs Sonny Bill Williams, could you pleeease ask her if she’d like to read a thrilling novel inspired by Polynesian mythology – and possibly a little bit of her husband’s tattooed arm? Thank you!

Big, Brown and Barefoot

Today I wanted to kill a taxi driver. My sister. And a gas station attendant. In that order.

In my Scarlet Lies Series, the main character is a Samoan woman called…Scarlet. By day she works at a bakery and by night she’s a secret blogger at a blog called, BIG, BROWN AND BAREFOOT. In book one, Scarlet goes home to Samoa for her little sister’s wedding and all sorts of messed up family drama begins to unravel. Here’s one of her blog entries…

The day began innocently enough, with no hints of the murderous rage that would follow. My sister, the bride-to-be, was going to meet her beloved husband-to-be at the cake store so they could finalize details for the splendiferous creation that would feature at her wedding. I offered to go with her because I love her dearly and want to spend every minute I can with her on this journey she is taking to the altar.

Okay, I lie.

I offered to go with her because I was hoping to ‘bump’ into the Best Man. I wasn’t going to say anything on the blog about him, but OHMAGOODNESS, I have to tell someone!

The Best Man is beautiful. Think of Jason Momoa. (As we all know,  I do that often.) But then, add some Alcide from True Blood, and a little bit of Hugh Jackman from Wolverine and that dude from Spartacus, and you begin to get a hint of the complete spectacular package that is the the Best Man. But he’s not only beautiful to look at and sigh about, he’s also funny and smart and not a jerk-face. Which is rare, because as we all know, most beautiful men come under the jerk-face classification.

So, I was a supportive Big Sister and accompanied Bridezilla to the cake design store where we met the Almost Husband. And yes, o happy day, the Best Man was there. My lady parts burst into song. I’m thinking , a Bruno Mars song maybe? Or maybe a classic Gregory Abbot jam like Shake you Down? Either way, I was singing a lusty tune and trying to keep it contained.

He said, “Hello.”

I wanted to say, I’d like to tear your shirt off and lick you all over. But I didn’t. I said “Hello.”

I was frantically trying to think of something deep and meaningful to say. Something that would make his man parts sing ( or whatever it is that man parts do when they’re happy.) But then I was interrupted by arguing. My sister and the Almost-Husband were fighting. About cake.

“You said you liked the frangipani and the waterfalls. You told me they were a great idea,” said my sister.

The Almost-Husband shook his head. “No, I said I was sure that whatever you came up with, it would be great. I said, I trusted your judgement because I didn’t really care…”

“You don’t care?!” said my sister. Her voice was climbing.

“About the cake. I said, I didn’t really care about the cake. Stop putting words in my mouth,” said the Almost-Husband angrily.

“So if you trusted my judgement, then why are you hating on our wedding cake design that I chose?” sister demanded.

“Because that’s just it. You didn’t choose this. Since when did you want a cake with thirty-six tiers, five extensions, three champagne waterfalls, and I don’t know how many flashing disco balls? I thought the original twenty-four tiers was bad enough.” The Almost-Husband turned to me and the Best Man and shoved a folder at us. “Look at this. Have you ever seen anything so monstrous?”

The Best Man took the folder and together we gazed for a minute at the artist sketch rendering of the cake. With accompanying ten pages of detail drawings for all the special features.

“Oh wow,” I breathed. “It’s got two miniature castles made entirely out of marzipan and spun sugar. One for the Princess and one for the Prince.” It was a battle to keep the awed horror at bay. It reminded me of drawings we did as a kids where we filled our pages with an eruption of curlicues and bows, diamonds and trailing ribbons, fireworks and hearts – absolutely everything we could possibly think of to make our dream castle the bestest castle ever.

The Best Man was studying the folder intently with me. “Are those swans? On the champagne lake?”

“Yes, they’re swans. They mate for life. They’re symbolic,” my sister jumped in.

“I’m not having swans sitting on a pink champagne lake around our wedding cake,” announced the Almost-Husband. There may have been an F word in there somewhere. It’s the first time I’d heard him say bad words, or disagree with my sister and I had to give him credit for being so brave.

“You said the cake was up to ME!” shouted my sister. Now, she was in full fury mode.

“But it wasn’t up to you, was it?” the Almost Husband shouted back. The boy behind the counter at the cake store was looking uncomfortable. He didn’t look old enough to be around adults who are in love and screaming at each other about cake.  “This cake, all this crap on it, all the tiers – that was your aunts’ idea, not yours. They told you to put all the extra stuff on there. I am sick and tired of your family controlling everything about our wedding. We’re the ones getting married. Not them. No swans on the cake.”

My sister burst into tears. “That’s the real issue here, isn’t it? You don’t want to marry me. You don’t want to mate for life. You hate my family and you don’t love me.” After that dramatic announcement, she ran out of the store, got in the car, revved the engine, reversed with a few screeching wheelies, and then drove away.

The Almost-Husband was shocked. He ran after her. “Wait, come back. That’s not what I meant.” Then he got in his car, revved the engine, reversed with a few screeching wheelies, and drove off after her.

Which left me and the Best Man still at the cake store. Neither of us with a ride home.

So we decided to share a taxi and waved down the first one that drove by. I was rather excited to be alone in a car with the beautiful Best Man. All kinds of tantalizing thoughts were dancing through my mind as we got in and gave the driver directions.

Our taxi driver was a very old, very sour looking man. He was hard of hearing because I had to repeat my directions several times. The crazy loud volume of the pulsating car stereo probably had a lot to do with his decaying eardrums. He also had interesting taste in interior design. The seats were covered in thick, matted fake fur and there were leopard print floor mats. You could barely see out the front window because the dashboard was lined with stuffed animals and there were old CDs dangling from the rear-view mirror. He was committed to cleanliness, or at least the smell of it, because there were five air fresheners in the car, like the kind you find in public restrooms. After two minutes I rolled the window down so I could lean out and breathe deeply of the dusty air because the overpowering stench of disinfected apples was giving me a headache.

The Best Man leaned over to shout in my ear. “This is interesting décor. Are all Samoan taxis like this?”

“A lot of them are,” I said as I fought the urge to pat his face. Look but don’t touch!

“There’s no meter,” the Best Man observed. “How do we know how much the fare is?”

“He’ll tell us. There’s standard fares for different areas of town. Let me do all the talking because they usually charge palagis a more expensive rate.”

We were distracted then by the fact that our taxi driver was a bad driver. He drove in fits, stops and starts, going faster when he should have gone slower, swerving when he should have gone straight.

He drove hunched over the wheel as he muttered to himself and stared at the road ahead. A three-legged dog was making its way across the road and instead of slowing down, he sped up and swerved to try and hit it as the dog nimbly skipped out of the way. A narrow miss. A cackle of laughter. The man was a maniac and I was glad the Best Man was stuck in the cab with me.

Then we started up a hill. The taxi made some ominous sounds, shuddered and sputtered and came to a halt in the middle of the road. The driver swore loudly and then turned to us. “Ua pe le ka’avale. The car is dead.”

Because we couldn’t see that for ourselves.

I asked him what was wrong with it. He said, it had run out of gas. But there was a gas station around the corner and we could push it there. Then he sat there and waited.

“He wants us to push the car to the gas station,” I explained to the Best Man. “It’s up the road and around the corner.”

We got out and the Best Man wanted to know why the driver wasn’t coming to push. “You should take the wheel.”

“Why? Because I’m a woman?” My feminist self was at war with my delight at being treated with palagi gentlemanly concern.

The Best Man had the grace to look rueful as he floundered about for some suitable words. “No, because I don’t want to see you out in the hot sun pushing a taxi up the street. Because I don’t want you to hurt yourself before the wedding. Because he’s stronger…”

I laughed. “I’m twice his size. Pretty sure my Beast self is going to be way more helpful to you than him. Come on, let’s push.”

We pushed that stupid taxi up the hill, in the blazing sun, while cars drove by, some beeping their horns in annoyance that we were taking up so much space on the road. It was hard work. It required all the muscles I don’t have. And some that went to live in a retirement home already. By the time we reached the gas station, both the Best Man and I were drenched in sweat.

The taxi driver got out and shuffled into the convenience store while the Best Man asked the attendant to “fill it up.” The driver came back with a bottle of orange soda and the droplets of coolness on the glass taunted me. I was dying for a cold drink but my purse was in the car my sister had driven off in.

“That’ll be one hundred tala,” the attendant said to the old man who shrugged and pointed at the Best Man.

“Ask the palagi to pay for it,” the taxi driver said.

I told the (crazy) driver that his taxi didn’t belong to us and we weren’t going to pay for his full tank of gas.

A long swig of soda and another shrug. “I’ve got no money.”

It was time to get Beast mad. I stood there and yelled at the old man about how I was going to report him to the police for trying to rip people off and how it was his responsibility to provide a service to his passengers and didn’t he watch the Prime Minister’s speech on television where he told the nation to be extra friendly to tourists because they bring lots of money to Samoa?

The gas station attendant interrupted me with a frown. “Eh sis, le mafaufau! You can’t talk like that to him.”

The old man smiled with rheumy eyes and a gap-toothed smile. Because he was old and in Samoa, that made it inappropriate for me to yell at him. Or kick him where it would hurt the most.

The Best Man asked, “What’s the problem?”

“The driver won’t pay for the gas. He said he’s got no money.”

The Best Man didn’t yell or stamp his foot. Like me. Instead he said he would pay for it and the driver gave me a sneering look as he taunted me. Ha, see! Told you the palagi would pay for it!

But when he pulled out his credit card, the attendant shook his head. They didn’t take credit cards. Only cash. Or cheques. What did he think this was? America?

The Best Man said he’d seen an ATM on the way up the hill. He would run there and get some money. The attendant was hostile. “Who’s gonna pay the bill? What if you don’t come back?”

“I’m staying right here. Of course he’s going to come back,” I said.

The attendant looked at me and then at the Best Man. Doubtfully.  He was not convinced I was a woman worth coming back for. But short of calling the police, he didn’t have much choice so the Best Man took off down the road. For a brief moment I did have a flash of doubt…what if he never comes back?!

But the beautiful, smart and funny Best Man once again proved he was not a jerk-face by coming back with a handful of cash. He paid for the gas and because it seemed silly to get into a different cab after we’d filled up this one – we got back in and continued on the uphill journey home. By then I was seething. And not even bothering to try to look pretty anymore. My hair that I’d woken up at five in the morning to iron, was a bushy freaky mess. The foundation I’d been dumb enough to apply was wiped all over my shirt sleeves in smears of brown from where I’d tried to wipe the sweat off my face. I’d taken off the cute platform sandals that had seemed like such a good idea that morning and I was nursing the blisters on my feet. Whatever spicey connection I had hoped to have with the Best Man was out the window as I recited a list of swear words in my mind on the drive home.

Oh well, at least the day couldn’t get any worse, right? I couldn’t possibly hate the taxi driver, or my little sister, any more than I did already, right?

I thought wrong.

When we got to the house, the ancient evil taxi driver charged us fifty tala for riding in his cab.

“Are you kidding me?” I raged, ready to rip his head off. “There’s no way we’re paying you for this ride. Not after what you put us through, and not after we put a hundred tala worth of gas in your stupid car!”

But the Best Man stepped in and paid anyway. Because he said, it was the quickest way to get out of a bad situation. “Don’t worry about it,” he said to me as I complained all the way into the house. “It’s only money and we made it here. That’s what counts.”

We walked into the kitchen to find my sister and the Almost-Husband sipping lemonade under the fan and laughing with my aunties and cousins. Looking totally, perfectly in love and beautiful.

“There you are,” said my sister. “Where have you been? What took you so long?”

The only reason I didn’t pick up a chair and hit her over the head – was because I was too damn tired to.

Get your e-copy of Scarlet Lies and Scarlet Secrets from Amazon.

Talking is Terror

I had to give a talk in church yesterday. You’d think that because I give lots of speeches in lots of places, that therefore it must be old news for me now. A walk in the park, a meander on a beach… Ha.

Here’s me and my thought processes from yesterday.

5.45 am – Oh sh**, have I overslept? Did church start already? No? Whew.

6 am – Only three more hours to go. I better get dressed. Tell the Hot Man to get his kids up and ready. We haven’t been to Sacrament meeting in three months but today, we can’t be late.

7am – I’ve narrowed it down to a black skirt and a MENA top. Cant go wrong  with a MENA right?…wrong. These flowers make me look more gigantic. My butt is huge in this skirt. Nobody will listen to a word out of my mouth because they’ll be too busy thinking about how gigantic I am. Get changed.

7:15 – This dress doesnt fit anymore. Stupid dress. I hate you. Get changed.

7:30 – Right, I’ve squeezed myself into Spanx and a puletasi. Looks good. Right? Yes? No? Yes.

7:45 – Straighten hair. Need to wear it down so face doesn’t look so big. Hot Man wants to know why am I straightening my hair when time is running out? He needs to get out of my space before I lose it. Can’t he see I’m a nervous wreck?

8:20 – Ohmagoodness I can’t breathe properly. It’s this Spanx. I’m dying. I can’t wear this.  I can’t give a speech when I’m all squished like a sausage about to explode. Get changed. Put on…black skirt and MENA top. The Hot Man sees me change AGAIN, but knows better than to say anything. Bella asks, ‘isn’t that what you were wearing in the beginning?’ Go away. I need to read through my talk one more time. One more time. One more time.

8:35 – We better go. We’re gonna be late. Children get in the car. WAIT THE HELL UP! WHAT ARE YOU WEARING BOY?? Little Son has on a pair of pants that are way too small for him. He’s all wannabe wounded and confused, ‘Whats wrong? I always wear these.’ What’s wrong? He’s so tall now that the pants don’t even touch his ankles. And his bum is about to bust out of the seat. He’s gonna sit down in church and his pants are gonna rip and we’ll all have to look at his bum because you KNOW this boy never wears any underwear. He’s walking like  his boy bits are all tied up in a steel vice. That’s how tight his pants are. WHO LET THIS BOY WEAR THESE PANTS DAMMIT?! You need to change boy. He’s whinging that he’s got ’nuffing else to wear‘. I’m not interested in his sob story. I will leave him at home with the dog if I have to. Doesn’t he understand I have to give a speech in thirty minutes? Big Son gets his brother an ie faitaga. We all go to the car. WAIT! I need to pee. Or puke. Or both. Either way, I have to go to the bathroom. Then we leave the house.

9:05 They’re already singing the opening song and saying the prayer. Bishop beckons for me to come sit on the stand with the other lady who’s speaking. I can’t. I feel hyperventilation coming on. I need to pee. Or puke. Maybe faint. I have to go to the restroom.

9:10 I’m still in here. Reading my talk one more time. One more time. It’s nice and peaceful in here. Breathe. Breathe. Do the yoga thing. Okay, you got this Lani. Your hair looks nice, nobody will notice this black skirt makes your bum twice as big – because they will be distracted by the MENA flowery top. What if they hate your talk? Doesn’t matter. They’re not allowed to throw rocks at church. If everybody hates you after this, you can just never come back to church here again. It’s all good. Breathe.

9:15 Go sit down on the stand. Have the bread and water. Say a prayer.

9:20 Panic. Racing in my chest. Sweat. Trickling down my back. I want to jump up and run to my car. Flee…flee…flee! Look at the distant mountains outside. Focus on the clouds and the blue sky. Yoga breaths. You can do this. You’ve given speeches in NZ, Australia, Hawaii, Utah, American Samoa…at universities, schools, literary festivals, Stake Conferences, Regional conferences…you got this. Say a prayer.

9:30 The other woman gets up to say her talk. There’s a sharp pain in my chest and then a spreading numbness down my arm. I’M HAVING A STROKE! SOMEBODY HELP ME I’M HAVING A STROKE!

9:50 She’s still talking. Lots more pages left in her speech. There won’t be any time left for me. Maybe Bishop is going to tell me to wait till next Sunday to give my talk. I wanna be sick. How can I go through this again next week? No, please I have to say my speech today. Now. I feel dizzy. The audience is looking hazy. I’m gonna fall off my chair. I’m fainting. I know why this is happening. Why there’s no time left for my speech, why the other speaker is taking all the time. Because God doesn’t want me to give my talk. It’s a sign. He hates my talk. If I get up there, I’m gonna be struck by lightning. That’s how badly God doesn’t want me saying all this rubbish I’ve got written on these papers.

9:55 She sits down. It’s my turn.

I give my talk. There’s no lightning. I don’t puke. Or faint. Or fall over. Nobody throws stuff at me. My butt is still gigantic but it’s okay.

I survive.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels this way about public speaking? How do you survive?

 

Destroying the Family.

Last week, the United States approved the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide, joining twenty other countries (including Britain, NZ, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Ireland…) My Facebook feed exploded with reactions. Many positive and celebratory. Some not so happy. Others prophesying doom and destruction for us all as a result. I shared the news with my rainbow happy face, as a faraway ally here in Samoa. I have since received messages ‘gently’ reminding me of all the scriptures…the prophets…the doctrine…that tell us homosexuality is wickedness and marriage equality is an attack on the family.

Because I don’t have the time to reply to every ‘loving’ messenger, because I’m tired of diplomatically explaining myself, and in the interest of full disclosure – I’m blogging my thoughts on this issue, as a Mormon woman ie a member of the LDS Church.

I don’t know why some of us are born heterosexual and some of us are born lesbian or gay or transgender. Just like I don’t know why some of us get to be black. Or white. Or brown. Or whatever.

What I do know is that we are all children of Heavenly Parents and made in their image. I have dear friends and family who are LGBT, including a couple who have been together for 20+ yrs and are raising their precious children. Recently the law in their state was changed and these two strong and loving women were able to finally get married and legally formalize their family. It was incredibly humbling for me to be able to long-distance witness their joy and celebrate with them. As I looked through their beautiful marriage photos, I thought about me and the Hot Man and our wedding day a long time ago. Sure there was some opposition to our marriage because we were very young and my parents worried we hadn’t known each other long. ( They also worried I would end up ‘dropping out of university and be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen…) But those minor speed bumps in our road to marriage were nothing compared to what my friends have endured, and many other couples like them. The harassment, the venom, the discrimination, the hate. I cannot begin to fathom the hurt and heartache that many LGBT individuals experience from a young age as they try to find a place in a world that so often tells them they can’t belong. That there’s something wrong with them.

 The Hot Man and I have been married for 20+ yrs and we have five children.  The love that my friends have for each other and for their children is NO different, no LESS than the love my husband and I share for each other and for our kids. We believe that families can be together forever and that the definition of ‘heaven’ – is of course, being able to live eternally with those we love. I know our Heavenly Parents want  that kind of celestial forever family and forever love for all their children, not just the heterosexual ones.

In our church we revere the family and treasure it. For my friends, being able to marry and have all the legal rights that go with it – is a way for them to further strengthen their family. I know God smiles with love on that. This is a church of on-going revelation and I’m hopeful and prayerful that current doctrine/policy will soon change on this.

Amen from me.

P.S Everyone is of course entitled to their opinions and the passion and commitment to their beliefs. I always welcome comments on this blog, even if they don’t agree with me. Please keep it respectful and courteous. Also, if you’re Mormon, then you should be aware of the following BEFORE you comment (because I’ve already been fielding enough Mormon messages to anticipate certain things.) -

1. While I’m no religious scholar, I have read all four standard works and I’m currently the Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward. You don’t need to tell me what scriptures to read, or suggest that my views are because I must ‘lack knowledge’ of the Bible/church history. Or because I must have missed that talk in General Conference…

2. I’ve been to the temple. Many times. So you can hold back on the condescending messages regarding ‘when you go to the House of the Lord, you will learn blah blah and understand fully blah blah.’

3.  I’m not a recent convert. I’ve been a member all my life. Not always  a very good one, but I’m trying. I’ve served in just about every capacity that a woman can serve in this church. Everything from Nursery Leader to Stake Relief Society President to the Public Relations Committee and more. So cancel the messages about milk and meat and whatnot.

Pray for Happy Periods

So we’ve been trying in our house, to take the YUCK out of menstruation. Make periods NOT shameful, NOT secret, NOT dirty and NOT horrifying.

We give em the biological facts, we talk about various bodily functions openly and without hushed whispers, and we try to generally talk about the menstrual cycle in a positive way.

I dunno. Maybe we’ve overdone it tho. Because Bella’s sister got her period for the first time and when it was Bella’s turn to say the family prayer, she asked God to please,

“Bless my sister’s period so it will be a happy and fun one. Bless her so the period wont be really sore and she can still ride bikes with me. And especially bless her period so it wont leak everywhere and make a big mess. Amen.”

The Hot Man gave me a What the heck was that?! look behind Bella’s back. The kind of look that says accusingly, What have you been teaching our kids?? Hello??!!

Because thats what every teenager wants, right? – For their 7yro kid sister to pray about their period at the dinner table. Really loudly. In front of everyone.

How do you handle periods in YOUR house?

Brown People Don’t Read. Much. (The Follow-up)

A while back I blogged my bitterness about (among other things) Whitcoulls Books NZ (politely) rejecting my TELESA book for their stores, in a blog called, Brown People Don’t Read. Much.  I shared my hurt and #Loser tears with you – and you were all very encouraging and sympathetic. I’m sure you all joined me in muttering bad words under your breath every time you walked past a Whitcoulls store and maybe you even baked cookies for every independent awesome store that was bold enough and diverse enough to have TELESA on their shelves. Thank you.

Fast forward a few years and there’s a very slim possibility that Whitcoulls and I can be friends. But I need YOUR help. Whitcoulls is calling for people to submit their three favourite books and three favourite authors so they can tally the Whitcoulls Top 100 Books. Voting closes this Sunday 28th June, 2015. Books that make it into their Top 100 will then be stocked and displayed in all their stores throughout NZ.

I’m asking you please, to vote TELESA and/or SCARLET LIES into the Whitcoulls Top 100. Also please consider voting other Pasifika authors and their books into the Top 100. Authors like, Albert Wendt, Sia Figiel, Sieni A.M and poets with  book collections like Selina Tusitala Marsh, Konai Helu Thaman, Karlo Mila, Audrey Brown Pereira, Leilani Tamu, Ruperake Petaia… I’m  tired of walking into NZ big bookstores and NOT seeing our stories. Do they think we don’t read? Do they think we don’t write? Or perhaps they think what we have to say and the stories we have to tell, are not good enough?

It’s highly likely though that they just don’t know about our books and just how many people are reading them and WANT to be able to buy them from their closest bookstore.

It’s time to change that. It’s time to take Pasifika stories into Whitcoull’s stores nationwide. (I think Daniel Tahi is shamahzing  enough to be in Whitcoulls, don’t you?!)

Here’s the link to the –  Whitcoulls  Top 100 Site:

Please vote, please share.

(Oh, and I was rather rash and fia-dramatically announced on Facebook that if a book of mine made it into the Top 100, I would “laugh maniacally, dance the Macarena in front of the nearest Whitcoull’s store while yelling, HA! TAKE THAT WHITCOULLS!” Of course I didnt mean it because that’s childish and so very un-cool, right?! Now some are threatening to hold me to my words and they want video YouTube evidence of such a dramatic celebration. So IF we crack the Top 100, I’m inviting all of you to come and participate in a Macarena flashmob with me at the nearest Whitcoulls…With a dreadful incentive like that- how can you resist voting?!)

From BROWN PEOPLE DON’T READ. MUCH

I understand that it is something of a risk for a store/distributor to take on my book. There are no other Pacific authors writing in the Young Adult genre.YET. So how are stores supposed to know if there is a market for such a book? Perhaps the traditional book industry believes that brown young adults don’t read much.

As an ex-English teacher of Pacific youth, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to get our young people to read – and enjoy it. To some extent, the book industry perception may be right then. But maybe, we all would read more if there were more books available that we could connect with? And more ‘brown’ books we could actually access easily. I can’t even buy a novel by world-renowned Albert Wendt from Whitcoulls here in NZ and he’s the mostest famous-est Pacific author on the planet. I can’t get a Sia Figiel book from anywhere either. I don’t know about you, but I find that disgusting. When literary masterpieces of Pacific fiction can’t get on the mall bookshelf, what chance does an easy fantasy read of Pacific storytelling have?

The international response to the Telesa e-books has shown that yes, there is an audience who wants this kind of reading material. And no, it’s not just brown people reading it either.

* But publishers, distributors and stores are not going to know this unless they can see the numbers. The cold hard facts. The stats. They need to see Telesa and other books like it rank on the world bestseller lists… Only then will they be willing to publish more of our stories, distribute them, put them in libraries and schools worldwide and even make movies about them. This will not happen  as long as we are content to keep quiet and not make our buying, reading voices heard…

 

 

Sex Conversations

So this is the kind of chat that occurs when you’re writing a romance novel. And you’ve been married for a kazillion years.

Me – “I need your help.”

Him – “With what?”

Me – “What’s it like having sex in the bushes?”

Him – “What?!!!!”

Me – “Scarlet and Jackson in my new book have sex at the plantation where its hot, dirty, sweaty and there’s lots of bugs. I’ve never had sex at the plantation. Got ideas how I can make it shamahzing?”

Him – “Why are you asking me for?” #befuddled

Me – “Because you had lots of sex before you met me and Im sure you had some out in the bushes somewhere.”

Him – “If I did, I cant remember any of it. Making love to you is the only sex worth remembering.”

Auuuuuuu! Nice one. #bonusPointsFor TheHotMan

Me – “Thats really sweet dahling, thank you. But seriously, I need some plantation-sex ideas.”

Him, exasperated – “But I dont have any!” Then he offers a sly suggestion, “We could go have sex in the bushes at a plantation somewhere. Y’know for book research purposes…”

Me – “Ewww yuck. Get real. Im not doing it in any forests or plantations with centipedes ready to bite me. Getting scratched by vaofefe. Sticks and leaves and dirt going where they shouldnt. Strangers creeping up on you.  Who in heck wants to have uncomfortable bushes sex when they can stay home and have perfectly fabulous sex in a bed? Ugh.”

Him – ” So why are you writing Jackson and Scarlet having sex at the plantation?”

Me – “Because its a romance novel and imaginary people have wild imaginary sex everywhere. Even in the bushes at the plantation.”

He doesnt look convinced so I add, “You wouldnt understand. You’re not a writer.”

Him – “You’re right. I’m not a writer. I do have lots of plantation sex ideas though. Guess I’ll just keep ‘em to myself now…”

And with that enigmatic #HaHa thought, he walks away. Taking all his #plantationSex ideas with him.

Dammit.

(If you want to read the plantation sex chapter that eventually came about, then you’ll have to read Scarlet Secrets After reading Scarlet Lies first. Get them in ebook format from Amazon today.)

Confessions of a Violent Nature

I have a problem. I’m brutally violent and vicious. In my mind. I didn’t always used to be this way. It’s gotten worse now that I’m old’er. Once I hit forty, baaaam. It was like the gloves came off and all pretence at being nice went out the window. In my mind.

I’ll give you an example. Bella gets in the car after school today and tells me she’s scared of Satan’s aunty. Who the hell is Satan’s aunty. And why is Bella worried about her?

It seems a girl in Bella’s class told her a scary story about Satan’s aunty – a woman with three eyes and no arms who stands at the school gate and waits to grab you. (I don’t know how she’s supposed to grab you if she has no arms, but maybe she’s got excellent use of her legs?) Why does she want to grab you? Because she wants to smear blood all over you and take you to Satan.

I tell Bella that’s a ridiculous story and she shouldn’t be listening to little girls who tell ridiculous stories. Bella says she’s still scared. I tell her – tomorrow, you go tell that girl she’s a big fat liar and if she tries to tell you anymore scary stories then you punch her in the face.

I’m not kidding. I really do want her to punch someone in the face. There was a time when I would have advocated for kindness and understanding but not anymore. Thankfully my kids never listen to me. I have the most non-violent children I’ve ever met who insist on praying for people who are mean to them. Where on earth did they get such an outlandish idea from anyway?

But it’s not only Satan-story-telling children who incite violence in me…

There’s a radio announcer who drives me up the wall with his inane commentary. He talks about stuff he knows nothing about and for some strange reason, he thinks he’s funny. He also thinks women everywhere adore him. He says sexist stupid things on the radio and I can’t stand him. I turn the radio off whenever I hear his voice. I want to run him over with my truck. Okay, maybe not literally because I don’t want to be a murderer, but symbolically speaking? Yeah, somebody needs to run him over with a truck.

There’s a woman at church who is the self-appointed spiritual fashion police. She tells men when their haircuts are offensive ( to God. Because she’s his mouthpiece.) She fidgets with boys’ ties and tells them how to fix them properly – even if they’re not her sons, grandsons or even second cousins twice removed. She buttons up women’s tops in case their wicked breasts leap out and smack someone on the face. She tells you when your skirt is too short, your dress is too tight, your sleeves are too scandalous, your lipstick is too red and your hair is too slutty. (Did you know that hair could be slutty? Me neither.) I want to throw things at her. Maybe a chair? Okay, a bit much…maybe a piece of chalk? Fine…some dead flowers then. (It is church after all.) Either way, she’s got me seething to throw something.

My tolerance levels on social media have also taken a nosedive. I used to strive to be pleasant, patient and practise kindness and longsuffering to all. Not anymore. I am deleting, unfriending and Blocking people left, right and center now. And laughing maniacally as I do so. (It’s very liberating – you should try it!) It’s amazing how many complete strangers think that being ‘Friends’ on Facebook gives them the right to message you with a lecture about how you should act/talk/think and what articles you should and shouldn’t share online. I used to engage with such helpful busybody people. Now, I give them the proverbial finger, throw in a few choice words and then DELETE.

I have a list of people who I want to hit over the head with a frying pan. Or vaporize with a laser gun. That alone is an indicator of my violent nature.

Am I the only one who has such a list??

 

 

Scarlet Secrets Release Day!

The second book in the Scarlet Series is now available in ebook format from Amazon. Thank you for your patience and encouragement!
Talia Brown of Talia Design has created another beautiful cover for me, along with the help of Penina Joy Photography and Donna Toailoa’s lovely hands!

image

Scarlet Secrets

What you can’t say, owns you. What you hide, controls you.

Scarlet knows the truth of these words all too well. As the stress of a family wedding builds, her resolve to be a #GoodDaughter wears thin and toxic truths begin to take their toll. Scarlet’s epic humor carries her through everything from (more!) forbidden croquembouche, to uku infestations and melon-like wardrobe malfunctions, and more of her family’s barbed idea of love. Sometimes you just have to laugh through life’s pain, or else you’ll cry your heart out. Right? Can Jackson be the strength that helps Scarlet break through the lies? Or will her secrets destroy them?

Experience the tropical heat, humor and heartache that is Scarlet’s trip home to Samoa.Do not read unless you can handle scorching scenes that contain passion (fruit) at the plantation, too much dessert and lots of (Jackson’s) caramel deliciousness. This is the second book in the Scarlet Series and follows on from Scarlet Lies.

Click here for the Amazon link to Scarlet Secrets, available now for $3.99. Scarlet Secrets

If you havent read book one yet you can get it quick from Amazon for $2.99.
Scarlet Lies

Enjoy!