No. I don’t want to have sex right now.

Pop Quiz time. You’re married (or in a fabulous longterm relationship with your fabulous partner) who is a man. Your husband/man wants to have sex and you don’t. Does he have the right to:

A. Hit you. Beat you. Cut you. Hospitalize you.

B. Get mad and shout at you. Break stuff. Threaten you. Frighten the children.

C. Sulk and refuse to talk to you any more, until you start being a #goodwife.

D. Go have sex with some other woman.

E. Get drunk with the boyz and complain to them all about what a cold bi*** you are.

F. Find a quiet private room in the house somewhere and masturbate. Then re-join you with a happy smile.

G. Refuse to give you any of his wages for the shared family and household expenses and instead tell you to ‘look after your kids on your own. They’re your problem.’

H. Lecture you with Bible verses about the appropriate role of a woman and a wife. Ask the pastor to talk to you about how you can be a better wife.

I. Accuse you of having an affair with some other man, because why else would you be refusing sex with your husband? Start stalking you, going through your phone, telling you that you’re ‘not allowed’ to go anywhere.

J. Go mow the lawn, or go for a run, have a cold shower, indulge in a brisk game of rugby, a Zumba session – or any other kind of non-sexual activity associated with quelling one’s sexual urges. Then re-join you with a happy smile.

K. Force you to have sex with him anyway. Otherwise known as RAPE.

Put your answer in the comments. If you’ve got some other answers not included on my list, or experience with any other options, please list them in the comments too.

What prompted this pop quiz? A recent study carried out by the Samoa Family Health and Safety, found that 46.4% of Samoan women surveyed aged 15 to 49, had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Concerns about violence against women in Samoa were raised in the first State of Human Rights Report for Samoa that was released last week. The Observer newspaper quotes the report,

“The epidemic rates of violence against women in Samoa is a form of discrimination that comes about from the systemic undervaluing of women in Samoan society and their exclusion from decision making processes…many participants in the focus groups cited that Fa’aSamoa permits husbands to beat their wives…Evidence suggests that violence against women is socially legitimized in Samoa..almost 70% of the women surveyed believed that men have a good reason to beat their wives (including if she is unfaithful, doesn’t do housework well, or if she disobeys him.) …In the study’s focus groups, women often (humorously) responded that they were most often beaten when they refused sex.” (emphasis added by me.)

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Pat’s Dream Team

Next Saturday we’re taking part in the Samoa Perimeter Relay, this time on PAT’S DREAMTEAM. Our dear friend Pat Moors has Stage 4  H2 aggressive cancer and she’s having treatment in Utah. Our family is joining with lots of other families and friends to do the 105km relay from Sinalei Resort to town.

Even our girls are going to run and they’re excited! The Hot Man has been doing some training sessions with them in the afternoons and the enthusiasm is what every coach would want to see from their athletes Im sure.

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The pesky dog Simba keeps trying to join in and disrupting their focus but overall, the training is going well.

I’m sort of training. Ha. My official job will be photographer and social media boss on the day, so less running and lots more Facebooking and tweeting for #TeamPat.

If youre in Apia next Saturday 29th August, come join us. Wear something pink, cheer really loud when we stagger past, or even better – come walk with us. See you there!

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Telesa Movie Option Update

For those who have been waiting and hoping that a Telesa movie would happen sooner rather than later – some bad news.

I did not sign the contract offered by Multinesia, the company that wanted to option Telesa for film. Yes, they were awarded development funding by the NZ Film Commission and that vote of confidence from some of the best in the NZ film industry was exciting to see. But the terms of the deal offered meant that I would have had NO input whatsoever in how my book got adapted for film. I couldn’t accept that.

I have worked too hard and for too long on my Telesa Series – to then give it up completely to someone else to take it to the big screen. I may not know anything about film-making, but I owe it to myself, to my characters and to you my amazing supportive readers – to at least ensure that if Telesa ever goes to film (or television) that I will be able to participate in that process in some small yet meaningful way. How else will we make sure that Daniel Tahi is as dalashiously honorable on screen as he is in the books? Or that Nafanua and her sisters are as bada** and conflicted in action as they are on the page? There were other things in the contract offer that were also a factor but overwhelmingly and regretfully, I had to turn it down.

This was not an easy decision to make. I got legal counsel from my lawyer. I talked it over with Darren. And I was fortunate to be able to get great advice from experienced legends in the field like Witi Ihimaera and my dear friend Erika (E.L James). From all accounts, the film industry is a cutthroat one and I’m thankful for those who have been generous with their time and sharing their insight.

A very big Fa’afetai lava to Multinesia and producer Karin Williams for the option offer. It was humbling (and a huge thrill!) to have a producer as experienced and committed as Karin, fall in love with Telesa and believe in it enough to want to option it. We couldn’t come to an agreement but I have the utmost respect for Karin and I look forward to seeing more of her fabulous work on screen and on stage.

As for Telesa – I’m confident it will one day find the right producer and the right investors. Until then, please keep sharing the books and giving them your continued amazing support. I’m going to keep writing and I hope to have the next book in the Telesa Series out by December.

Fa’afetai tele lava and thank you,

Me.

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You’re Not Allowed to Divorce Me

I read about a study that says parenthood is worse than losing one’s job. Or the loss of one’s partner.  Now I’m usually the first person to yell about how hard parenthood is. I mean, let’s be real, I started this blog just so I could complain about how much being a mother sucked big-time. And for my (4) readers who have loyally read along from the beginning, be honest, you read my blog so you can nod and exult and say “yes! Dammit, that’s right. I’m not the only one who fantasizes about sticking my kids in a cryogenic freezer so I can get some peace and quiet for a day. Or a year.” Or so you can pat yourself on the back and say, “Daaaayuuum I guess Im not such a bad mother after all. Did you see what that woman Lani did to her kids today?!”

So yes, I wholeheartedly agree that having kids is a nightmare. They rip your life to shreds and then poop all over the pieces while you vainly try to assert some measure of control (and hygiene) over your life and your living room.

But worse than losing your partner? I don’t think so.

I mean, for one thing, if there’s anything worse than having three kids under four years old? It’s having three kids under four years old BY YO DAMN SELF because their father ran off. Or suddenly dropped dead. I recall many sleepless nights filled with crying, hungry, sniffly babies and turning to the father of the crying/hungry/sniffly babies, and telling him, “Whatever you do, don’t you dare divorce me or die on me, y’hear? You’re not allowed to divorce me or die until all these children are grown up. There’s no way in hell you’re leaving me with all these kids to look after on my own. Y’got that?!”

I’ve also been known to say, “If you have an affair could you please make sure it’s with a woman who’s filthy rich and has a big house? Because you’re taking all your kids with you when you go.”

In my defence, such demented words only pop out at the busiest most demented moments. Like when Little Son was obsessed with his own poop and liked to finger paint with it. All over the walls.  Or when Big Daughter was so stressed about having a baby sister that she would bite the door frame and leave toothmarks. Or when Little Daughter talked more to her imaginary  BabyCat than she did to us and if you sat too close to her, she would yell, ‘NOOOO! Don’t sit on Babycat! You’re killing her!’  Or when Big Son wanted to be in every school sports team imaginable, even though he was dreadful at every sport he played, so we had to go support his every game and cheer real loud and watch dreadfully boring game after game. The list could go on and on and on…

We have a deal, the Hot Man and I. He loves motorbikes but he’s not allowed to have a Harley Davidson (Or go sky diving, bungee jumping, OR shoot up any drugs etc. Not that he’s ever expressed a desire to do any of those other things but still, JUST IN CASE.) until he’s sixty-five. By then all his children should be done with school and have jobs. And be able to dress themselves, cut up their own food, and brush their own hair in the mornings without a screaming tantrum.  I guess he’s also allowed to divorce me when he’s sixty-five. But you won’t, right dahling? Cos you adore me and my weird ways, right?

This is why I have so much respect for single parents. They deserve to win the lottery every week and get accolades in heaven and on earth. You rock. I have the Hot Man to tagteam parent with and when the Fab5 were little, I also had my second mother Peka come to help with all the babies. But single parents have to hold on to their sanity 24-7 because there’s nobody to tap them out of the ring for an hour or two.

I’m not sure what the point of this blogpost is. Except to say I don’t agree with that study. It’s probably not relevant to my Pasifika-mum-ness anyway, because it’s a study of German couples in Germany and how they coped after having one kid. Raising them in a palagi world all by themselves with hardly any support. Which is a world of difference from a Samoan couple having one-two-three-four-five kids in Samoa. And being blessed to have lots of extended family support as well as the help of a wise, experienced mother-figure like Peka – who was way more patient with my kids than I ever was.

In conclusion, what do we learn from this blog?

The Hot Man is probably really looking forward to making it to sixty-five (one day) so he can own a Harley. (And possibly divorce me?!)

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The Beach Sucks.

The beach sucks. And jellyfish are of Satan. I want them wiped off the face of the earth.

If you know me then you know I loathe the beach. Its hot, sandy, dirty, far away, too much wide open space, and its got bugs and I have to actually go outside to get there. 

I only go to beaches under much duress and because Im making the EXTREME SACRIFICE for those (demon) children of mine who adore beachgoing. Because Im stockpiling #GoodMother points in heaven that will hopefully negate all those times when I tell them to ‘get away from me! Youre like a bad smell just hanging about that I cant get rid of!’  And those times when making their lunchboxes just seems like too much hard work so I tell them ‘I have a great idea, who wants a day off school? Why dont you stay home today and play XBox? Youre such clever children it wont matter if you miss today. Besides, you went every day LAST week like overachievers. Thats plenty!’

So yes, I am that wonderful mother who hates the beach but endures it for her children’s sake.

Lucky demons.

Yesterday we went to a beach (with fabulous friends) and my beloved Demons were stung by a swarm of jellyfish. Bella got stung first and it was scary and painful for me and her. I was envisioning brain haemorraging and/or cardiac arrest and calculating how fast her Dad could drive us to the hospital. Wondering if I could be tough enough to perform a rudimentary tracheotomy in the car as we navigated a winding road and lots of potholes…

Thankfully our fabulous friends who owned the beach house we were visiting, had vinegar and then hot water to help soothe the sting. So I didnt need to test my #ToughMum-ness after all.

But the other two kept on swimming with their friends, insisting that they were “staying far away from the jellyfish”. Yeah right.

Because I have children who are allergic to almost everything, they woke up this morning covered in red welts and hives from head to toe. They had to stay home from school and get doped up on medicine. They were sore and sad, and so was I on their behalf.

Im not happy about jellyfish that go around stinging other people’s (demon) children. Dammit.

What do we learn from this?

The beach is a horrible place. Its hot, sandy, dirty, far away, too much wide open space, its got bugs and I have to actually go outside to get there.
AND ITS GOT LETHAL EVIL STINGING JELLYFISH that attack little humans.

Good mothers dont take their children to places with evil stinging lethal creatures. So…..we are never going to the beach again.

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My Brother is better than Your Brother. Eh Dammit.

He’s the kind of big brother who takes you to lunch – so he can firmly (but kindly) tell you off about your overabundance of social media posts about Sonny Bill Williams. ‘What will your kids think when they read that one day?! Whats wrong with you? Eh, dammit.’

He’s the big brother who’s office you walk by hopefully when you’re at high school and on your way home – because he just might come outside and give you some money for ice cream. Or fries from Isa’s.

He’s the brother who wears the cool’est clothes and listened to the best’est music when you were a kid. The brother who could dance like no other, who all your friends thought was handsome and fabulous. The brother who wore spiked wristbands and floral Bermuda shorts and t.shirts that said DA MAN.

He’s the brother who – when you’re a new mum and trying to take your 3yro AND your newborn to church by yourself because your husband doesn’t go – stands outside your house and says real loud, “Give me the baby. I’ll hold her. You go get ready for church. Eh. Dammit.” Then he makes an effort to go to church with you (even if he doesn’t want to) so he can hold your baby while you go to Sunday School class. Because he knows that you’re on the edge of  quitting church altogether until your kids grow up and move out.

He’s the brother who lets you stay with him when you first leave home and go away to university and he wont let you do any cooking or housecleaning because he says, “Your priority is your schoolwork. I don’t want you to use chores as an excuse for failing and losing your scholarship. Eh. Dammit.”

He’s the brother who takes you out to the cool’est nightclub in town when you first leave home and go stay with him. And the next week grounds you for a month because you come home 20min after your curfew.

He’s the brother who looks after your second mum. Buys her groceries, checks her cashpower, takes her toonai every Sunday and sits with her, updating her on all his siblings while she cries and shakes her head.

He’s the brother who, when you get called to be Gospel Doctrine teacher, tells you “Don’t be too fiapoto. Don’t be all fia intellectual with your class. Teach with the spirit. Eh. Dammit.” Then he makes the effort to come to church once in awhile and check out your class. And roll his eyes when people say stupid things.

He’s the brother who helps unemployed youth apply for jobs. Tutors them and helps them with their uni assignments. Celebrates their achievements when they graduate, when they get a job.

He’s the brother who lectures your children when you don’t and who reminds you that it’s cold at night in Savaii and your son needs something warm for the hostel.

He’s the brother who brings your family roast chicken and salad when your sick with hyperemesis and sunken in depression, who sets the table, dishes out the food and tells your kids off about forgetting to say prayer. “What’s wrong with you kids, can’t you see your mum is sick over there on the sofa?! Pray. Eh. Dammit.”

He’s the brother who contradicts you on Facebook and when random commenters tell him he shouldn’t, he says, “You don’t know anything. She’s my sister. Stay out of it.” Eh dammit.

He’s the brother you name your child after. Because you know you probably would have quit church and stayed home with your pack of little kids a long time ago, if it weren’t for him.

He’s the brother who wont let your Dad drive to the airport at night because your Dad is 76 and his eyesight isn’t what it used to be. So he cuts his paddling training short and stomps down to the parents house so he can take over the car keys. “I’m taking you to the airport. Eh. Dammit!”

He’s the brother who’s brave enough to #talkStraightUp to your parents and siblings. Who’s strong enough to ignore your mother when she needs to be ignored. Who’s calm and confident enough to hold himself removed from the sister-fighting-drama that you so often engage in. “You all need to just stop being stupid. Eh. Dammit.”

He’s the brother who brings you Diet Coke and a bag of Doritos when he hears about your miscarriage. You even get a hug. “Here you go. Are you alright? Eh.”

He’s the brother who turns fifty today. Happy birthday Cam. Thank you for being an awesome big brother and an even better Uncle to my Fab Five.

Bella said, ‘Your heart is filled with magic!”

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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 labor 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.

 

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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…)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

 

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