Lessons Learned from a Mountain.

Sometimes I have some really stupid ideas. Say some really stupid things. And then spend agonizing hours regretting them.

Today was one of those days.

Remember how I attempted to hike up the Palisi mountain when I first moved here? And quit a third of the way up? Well, we were out to dinner with fabulous friends from Team Ironheart and I happened to mention that climbing Palisi was on my list of #StuffToDoOneDay. Luisa and Hanah agreed they too wanted to hike Palisi #OneDay. Before I knew it, ridiculous words came out of my mouth. Like, “Hey wouldnt it be cool if we all hiked it together?! …and soooo fun if we hiked it this weekend?!”

Then somebody else said, “Okay but we shouldnt stop at the top of Palisi, we should hike across the ridge to the next mountain and go to Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave! Via the Scotsman’s Trail!”

And I said an even more ridiculous thing. “Yes we should!!” Yay.

So it was decided.

The Hot Man wasnt happy about my idea. He raised a number of different points. Like…me being really unfit. And anemic. And sick with a few other things. “Dont you think you should train a bit more before you try to climb a mountain?”

I didnt want to listen to him. Because I was so captivated by the fabulousness of my wonderful idea.

We set off at 6.30am in good spirits, walking from our house up to the start of the trail. I wanted to DRIVE to the start but some superfit person on the team said, “We should walk. Its not far.”
Five minutes up and I was thinking bad thoughts about that person already…and thinking, ‘maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all…’

Here’s a photo of everybody walking to the start. As you can see, Im waaay at the back. Hmmm…i wonder why.

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The trail up the Palisi mountain is a popular one for many. Lots of people hike up every morning and look very happy while theyre doing it.

I’m not one of those people.

We walked. And walked. Then we walked some more. I didnt feel so good. I also felt bad because my very nice teammates had to keep slowing down to wait for me to catch up.

“We don’t leave anyone behind!” they said.

I kinda sorta wished they were heartless selfish beasts so they would tell me to go home. But they’re not. And they didn’t.

It got to the point where the Hot Man had to help pull me up. While Big Son offered motivating commentary. “We’re nearly there. Just around this corner!” Big Son understood that the first law of motivational speaking is to always tell lies.

Finally, we made it to the top. General jubilation all around.

But the adventure was just beginning. It was time for the Scotsman’s Trail, otherwise known as Seti Afoa’s track.  

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The trail over the connecting ridge goes through dense tropical rainforest. Over boulders, down gullies, under fallen trees, up steep rocky climbs and then more trees and gullies and rocks. My exhaustion was replaced by unease at being surrounded by too much nature. Forest means snakes, wild boar, giant lizards, mutant centipedes and maybe leeches and ticks? I battled the irrational desire to walk around tapping two sticks together – to scare away the bears. (Bonus points to whoever can identify what movie I got that essential wilderness survival tip from…) I began to doubt the sanity of the whole expedition. Especially when we came to the rope climbing section.

Im too old for this. And too unfit. Too fat. Too tired. Dammit!

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But when youre in the middle of nowhere, there’s only one thing to do. Keep going.

By the time we reached the RLS gravesite, the sun was up.

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We consumed some energizing snacks, including delicious cupcakes baked by Luisa and Picnic candy bars supplied by Hanah.

Superwoman smiles on the trail

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The hike back was worse than the hike up. It was hot, the water was finished and my anemic self was shutting down. The Hot Man had to listen to me complain halfway down the mountain and then help carry me down the other half when I was too disoriented to complain anymore. I was reeling. At one point I had to lie down on the side of the trail.

Oh…just admiring the skyline…

I had only one lucid thought by that point.

‘This was a stupid idea. I will never ever try to do anything so stupid. Ever.’

The Hot Man further cemented this resolution by muttering repeatedly (as he lugged me along) -”Dont you EVER think of doing something so stupid ever again. Look at you, you know you could die up here! I told you this would happen!”

Considering that the poor man was carrying me downhill, I figured it best not to argue. Or try to assert my wannabe-superwoman’ness.

It took us an awfully long time to get home and I’ve never been so glad to see our front door. It gave the children a fright to see their mother being half-carried up the drive.Thank you Darren and Mark for ensuring I didnt die on the road. Thank you Big Son for lending me your shoulder. Thank you Team Ironheart for a most memorable adventure…

I’ve been lying down in the air conditioned room all afternoon and now feel refreshed enough to make this solemn declaration. May my blog
readers be the witnesses…

I Lani do promise and covenant, that I will never attempt any more adventures that require some measure of fitness and endurance. I will be mindful of my limitations and first train and prepare phyically and mentally before I commit to anything that takes me outside my cave.

Oh, and I promise that I will listen to my husband when he tells me climbing a mountain is a dumb idea.

A Message for the Twisted, Bitter and Violent Readers

* A while back, someone wrote a “critique” of one of my newspaper columns, questioning how could I possibly know anything about being a Samoan woman when “you sit in your air conditioned house with your perfect husband and your perfect children and your perfect life…”

I was angry. And gripped by the fervent desire to immediately write several blogs about how I have an imperfect life…-  how only ONE room in my house is air conditioned and I can’t turn it on very often because it eats up all the cash power and we then have to eat leaves and sticks for a few days so I can scrimp money from the food budget so we can get the power turned back on. And about every mean thing the Hot Man has ever said to me and done to me in our twenty two years together (the man is a BEAST I tell you. A cruel, chauvinistic heartless selfish BEAST!) And about how much these Fabulous children are really not fabulous at all because in actual fact they drive me up the wall and I often count the days, hours and minutes until they all move out and go to university/prison/theArmy/TheLandOfFaraway. Lots and lots of reasons why my life IS NOT PERFECT DAMMIT!!  An entire comparison of “woe is me…my life sucks so I am indeed qualified to talk about being a Samoan woman…” (Because everybody knows that a real Samoan woman lives in a bush hut and her husband beats her with a broom everyday…and everybody knows that only poor people in bush huts abuse their children…right?!)

* Another someone messaged to tell me that I’m a terrible advocate for women living with abuse and violence. “You don’t deserve to be a spokesperson for abuse survivors and domestic violence survivors. You’re not worthy to speak on their behalf.”

I felt like shit. Especially because this ‘someone’ is a person who’s supposed to know me well. Immediately I started going through everything I’ve ever done in my life that could possibly help me out in a court of law deciding whether or not ‘Lani Young is a Shitty Advocate for Women and Abuse Survivors.’  I needed evidence to prove my innocence. To establish my worth.

* Another someone bombed my Facebook page with curse words and threats, Eff-wording my family, my parents…calling me a “filthy molested whore” who needed to be silenced and have my words “erased”. They systematically went through all my posts over a 48hr period and plastered hate-filled rants all over them, slamming my Wendt family for being ‘mutt half-blood’ Samoans who have no titles…and more. The same person also set up several public FB pages – ‘Lani Wendt Young has herpes.’ and ‘Lani Wendt Young is the Dumbest Woman in History’.

I was afraid. For my children. What if this person lived in Samoa? What if they came across my children somewhere and screamed abuse at them, took out their twisted frustrations and hatefulness on them? I was even a little afraid for myself. What if this person is at the next book signing event I do somewhere overseas and they physically tried to hurt me? And yes, I almost wanted to cry because while I was prepared for people not to like my books or my blogs – I wasn’t ready for people to despise me and want to eliminate me for them and to possibly put my family’s safety at risk. I spent several days fretting over this, not being able to sleep because of this. NOT WRITING because of this. Not wanting to leave my house because of this. While the Hot Man told me to issue an invitation to the twisted, nasty anonymous FB troll “Tell him to come to our house and threaten us so I can beat the crap out of him…Tell him I would LOVE to talk to him in person…”

* Another someone went through this blog and wrote, “I’ve read nothing in your work that benefits a single person, or helps a developing mind. I could in fact use your written word, in print, to prove legal madness and deem you insane and a harm to others, that’s how bad your work is.” To give legitimacy to their argument, they went to a whole lot of trouble to create a fake email, ‘crazyWendtFamily@gmail.com’ and a fake url, http://smarterthanyou@gmail.com.

This time I laughed. A lot. Give that person bonus points for creativity?

This time, I’m done. Because I have finally accepted:

I don’t need to justify myself or my words to anyone. Especially not to random bloggers, keyboard warriors, or anonymous haters and twisted individuals who have nothing better to do with their time than create entire alter-ego online identities so they can chuck rubbish at other people. Not only that, I don’t even need to justify myself and my words to supposed friends and family who don’t like the way I advocate for the issues that have personal meaning for me and that impact on many others who are voiceless.

Cos here’s the thing. Do I have some strong “controversial” opinions about some “sensitive” difficult topics? Yes I do. Do I write and speak about them openly and publicly? Yes I do. Does it mean everybody has to like what I have to say? No, they don’t. But that doesn’t give them the right to try and shame / bully / harass / degrade / threaten me or my family. And I don’t have to be patient and polite and continuously smilingly diplomatic to people who are rude and obnoxious to me in public, private and on social media.

If you don’t like what I write about – then can I suggest some options.

a. Don’t read my work. Don’t download my books, don’t read my blog, don’t buy the newspaper if you see my face in it, don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll be happy and so will I.

b. Do read it. Then analyse what’s wrong with it and write a critique of the content like an intelligent, articulate person. I read those kinds of critiques and learn from them and am influenced by them. Not a pathetic criticism of my air conditioned bedroom and a cheap shot dig at how hot my husband is or how fabulous my kids are. Because let’s face it, he is hot. The man is a 44yr old elite athlete Ironman machine and he works his ass off to be a decent husband, father and provider.  And my children (while they can get on my nerves), are pretty fabulous. I work very hard at my marriage and at being a parent so I don’t need to apologize for what I’ve achieved together with my partner and my children – just to appease your envy.

c. Don’t send me private messages of loathing. Or make anonymous criticisms of what I write on my blog and in my newspaper columns. Instead, put that time to good use and go write your own blog or write your own letters to the newspaper. With your name on them. I don’t claim to be a perfect advocate for women and survivors of abuse, but what matters is that I’m trying to do something about gender violence, in my own small way with the tools that I have at hand. You don’t like what I’m doing? Then get out there and do something different to add your voice and your efforts to the advocacy efforts.

“If you are not also in the arena, getting your butt kicked – then I’m not interested in your feedback.” Dr Brene Brown.

Because at the end of the day, what matters is that I have the courage to own my beliefs and my feelings. I put my name on my words and I carry them with me wherever I go. My opinions have won me some allies and admirers, that is true, but they have also lost me friends and family, and sown dischord in relationships and settings that were once of great strength to me.

I have no time or patience anymore for the random haters. Either put up or shut up.

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And now that I’ve written allllllllllll that when I should have been working on my latest book, I realize I probably should have just copied and pasted this lovely message from that kick-butt awesome blogger woman Jody who I greatly admire over at ‘Fagogo mai Samoa’… She’s been having trouble with some anonymous rubbish throwers lately so she blogged this – (Click on it and go read it…)

Wee Message.

(Many thanks to Rebecca Luteru  in the comments for linking me to a fabulous talk by Dr Brene Brown, Daring Greatly, in which she quotes from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech on ‘The Man in the Arena’.)

 

 

 

A New Husband for Me

Went for a drive with the demons, parked outside a shop and I was busy telling the Hot Man he shouldn’t drink EIGHT Diet Coke’s in a single day because “you’re ruining your liver and you’re going to get sick and die”

He says, “Don’t worry, you will find another husband no problem.” Auuuu!

Then Bella leaps into the conversation very loudly, pointing at a random (raggedy thug’gish) man smoking something suspicious by the roadside – “He can be your new husband mum! That man there in the white shirt.”

The poor (raggedy thug’gish) man can hear her and looks confused. Say what?!

Before anyone can react though, Bella pats her Dad on the shoulder reassuringly, “Don’t worry Dad. When Mum dies I will look very hard, everywhere in the world for a very pretty, very nice lady for you to marry.”
So in other words, this child will chuck her mum to the nearest random unsuspecting (raggedy thug’gish) man she sees BUT she will travel the four corners of the earth to find a perfect wife for her grieving dad to ensure his happiness.

Ma’imau lou alofa.

How to Overcome Writer’s Block

When I wrote my first novel – in between work and children and church commitments – writing was my drug, my escape, my stress-release. I couldnt wait to write, stealing precious moments here and there to fiercely tap out a few more paragraphs and hustling my family to hurry up and go to sleep dammit! so I could write through the blissfully undisturbed night hours. If anyone asked me then about writer’s block, I would have said, ‘What the heck is that?!’

When I became a ‘full-time’ writer with a proper office and regular work hours – it changed. Subtly but oh-so surely. I had to go to writing work at 830am and knock off at 5pm. I could no longer write at midnight or even blog in the kitchen in between helping kids with homework, because I was supposed to WORK during work hours and focus on family when I left the office. I sat in my pristine office, staring at a blank computer screen, thinking, “I have to do this for EIGHT FREAKIN HOURS?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME??” Writing became work.

Suddenly, I discovered – Writer’s Block. It was awful.

The Hot Man gave me some advice. “You should do what I do when Im having a rough day at work. When I’m welding in the hot sun or excavating foundations and I’m hot and dirty and tired and I want to quit – I tell myself, If you don’t finish this work, then your children won’t eat. Your family’s survival relies on you finishing this project.” He gave me an encouraging smile. “Next time you’re in that office and you can’t think of what to write, just tell yourself, If I dont finish this book then my children won’t eat! Try it, you’ll see, it works!”

Although well-meaning, his counsel was not helpful for me at the time. (Gross understatement!)

I’ve since found some things that work for me when trying to write and FINISH a book.

1. Work on two books at a time
Allowing yourself to write two books at once means you can switch back and forth as you get bored or sick of one or the other. Or stuck. It also helps prevent you from getting obsessed n possessed by your novel. BUT dont book-hop and start 1, 2, 3, 4 different books every time one gets difficult. Writing a book is like committing to a good relationship. At first it’s new and exciting and the wonder of it all sweeps you away. Then familiarity sets in and some days are not as thrilling. At times like that it’s too tempting to dream up another BRILLIANTLY EXCITING idea for a different book and leap into the newness and wonder of that. Keep skipping like that and you’ll end up with a drawer full of incomplete adventures and unfinished epics.
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2. Write Imperfectly.
Too often we want a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter – to make total sense before we write it. We want it to be perfect. In my experience, this results in not a lot of words ever making it onto paper. When we give ourselves permission to write crap then we let the words and ideas flow. Time yourself if it helps. Put a stopwatch on for ten minutes and dont stop writing until the timer goes off. Write without self-evaluation or second-guessing the rightness or poetry of each phrase. Get up and stretch for 10min then set the timer for another writing burst. At the end of your day or writing session, go back and read what you’ve written.You will end up with probably ten pages of mess and of those, only five might be fabulous. But that’s five more pages then the zero you started out with.
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3. Recognize there’s no one right way to write a novel.
Some people plan out an entire series before they write their book. Others write chapter outlines before they start. Some write pieces at a time and get feedback from a beta reader as they go. Some wont let anybody read anything until it’s been published. Others dont like to plan and plot, instead they make it up as they go. I used to write haphazardly without a clear idea of where I would end up. I didn’t want to know the ending of my story because then I figured I’d be bored. That’s how I wrote the first two Telesa books. Then I experimented with planning and mapping ahead and tried that with the next two books. I just finished a novella which was totally planned out with chapter summaries before I started writing it. It was a different writing experience for me and had some definite advantages. When you are stuck on a project, try a different approach. Dont be rigid with your writing process. Be brave enough to try new strategies.
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4. Read. Voraciously. Make time daily to read a wide variety of books. It’s a great way to nurture your creative self. But more importantly, it’s the best way to see what works in a story and what doesn’t. Note how writers use dialogue, how they intro their characters, how they create tension and how they use different kinds of narration. When I read a fabulous story, I can get revitalized about working on my own novel.
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5. Know that writing is WORK.

It’s three years now since I got into this writer thing and seven published books later, I’ve seen the truth in the Hot Man’s long ago advice. Yes, writing is a creative act which requires a certain freedom and spontaneity. Nobody wants to think about deadlines, unpaid bills or book marketing and sales while they are dancing in flights of fancy or pouring out their tortured soul on paper. But the reality is that if you want to be an author of actual published material that real live people actually buy and then read – you need some measure of discipline. You need to accept that writing won’t be fun all the time. It won’t be happy happy happy, joy joy joy every day.

Like any other work, it’s going to suck sometimes. And other times, it’s going to have you on a writing high, when that story takes flight in your heart, mind and soul. When the words trip over themselves in a rush to be uttered. When your characters are so real, so incredibly complex, so breathtakingly flawed that they break your heart. When it seems nothing can tear you away from your story – not family, not food, not sleep. Times when you will read what you have written and it is as if you’ve never seen it before, it has never once lived in your imagination because it has a life and a magic all its own. You will read and you will say, ‘Daaaayuuum did I write that?! No way!’

Yes the highs are fabulous. But one must work steadily and work hard to reach those highs. When you remember that its not meant to be fun all the time, you will be better equipped to write through the blocks. Don’t kid yourself. Writing is hard work. Treat it as such.
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6. Write with purpose.

Writing deadlines and wordcount goals for each day and each week are helpful. Set a date for when your book will be finished. Get a cover artist to design your book cover and then use it as a motivator to finish the final chapter. Have dates with beta readers lined up so that you’re accountable to others for when that first draft should be done. Give yourself rewards if necessary…get a massage, dinner out, go to a movie or whatever. For when you hit 50,000 words or when you finish a proofread. Set clearly defined goals or else you’ll end up on a writing road that meanders along endlessly and goes nowhere.

Writer’s block happens to just about everybody and not everyone has the same obstacles getting in their story’s way. But it’s not impossible to overcome. What are your tips for making writing happen?

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What tips do you have for writer’s block?

You Can’t Handle the Truth!

I was invited to speak at a Youth Careers Evening where two of my Fab5 would be in attendance. In other words, the possibility of embarassing my children was very real.

Big Daughter’s advice – “Tell them about going on book tour and all the people that line up for you to sign their book. Tell them you work with gorgeous cover models and designers.”

I said, “But that only happens when I release a new book. As in once a year. The rest of the time Im sitting in my cave eating donuts and writing. In my pyjamas all day.”

Look of horror, “You cant tell them the TRUTH! Then they’ll know what a boring job you have and how uncool you are.”

The truth. It hurts.

Our PreNup Agreement.

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Saturday morning, when I should have been sleeping, I loaded up into a taxi van at 2am with the Hot Man and two other couples – Mark and Luisa Small, Daniel and Hanah Afoa – and drove out to Sinalei Resort at Siumu village to start the Samoa Perimeter Relay. Organized by the US Samoa Veteran’s Assoc as a community service outreach event, the relay is 104km of winding roads through coastal villages and rainforest and over the mountain pass of Le Mafa before heading back to Apia. Teams of six take turns carrying a baton from start to finish, with each person running approximately 5k, four times.

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Yes, after four years, I had been persuaded to do the Relay again. Even though I’ve been sick and miserable with some ongoing health issues, and even though I’d only done a couple of weeks of “training”. (Ha. If you count delightful walks along the seawall, admiring the sunrise, blasting Eminem and stopping often to take photos and Facebook - “training”, then yeah, I’ve been doing lots of that.)

What got me into that early morning van? The opportunity to do a sports event WITH my husband – as opposed to being the usual watergirl and cheerleader on the sidelines. Both Mark and Daniel are Samoan Ironmen with the Hot Man and all three of them have been training and competing together for the past year. The promise of some fabulous fun times along the way with good friends was also a huge drawcard.

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Before the female component of the team agreed to do it though, we had certain conditions and requirements. Especially as none of us are Iron athletes and only Luisa was a regular runner and exercise’r. After much discussion (over lots of drinks and dinners and family beach outings…) a PreNup Race agreement was negotiated.

Final team meeting. #AllSmiles

Final team meeting. #AllSmiles

   Team IronHeart PreNup Race Agreement

1. The purpose of the venture is FUN. And FUN only. At no point will the Ironmen impose their elite athlete standards and expectations upon us and our efforts. No matter how dismal they may be.

2. The goal of our team is to FINISH the race. Without dying. (Vomiting, crying and curse-words optional.) Therefore, the Ironmen will not get upset when other teams pass us on the route and leave us in a cloud of dust. The Ironmen will not get sad or angry or frustrated. No matter what. Even if we come in last. Even if the other runners who overtake us are senior citizens / sluggish non-athletes / running backwards.

3. The safety of the female component will be the Ironmen’s first priority at all times. They will put their lives on the line to protect us from: vicious Samoan dogs, gigantic angry Samoan pigs, little children who might throw rocks or say bad words at us (words like, “waaah, palagi valea!” and “aikae!”), heatstroke, dehydration and the possibility one of us could trip and fall off the mountain at Le Mafa Pass.

4. The comfort and happiness of the female component will be the Ironmen’s second priority at all times. They will sell their souls to ensure we travel in an air-conditioned van and have a delightful selection of energizing snacks. They will speed up and down backroads to get us to decent restrooms because everybody knows that a woman NEEDS to GO before she can run up or down a mountain, and we would reeeally rather prefer not to pit stop in the bushes. They will provide ice, water, Diet Coke, chocolate, cheerful banter and motivating music at all times on the journey.

5. And IF after all that, any of us women decide that running/walking a 5k four different times throughout the 12 hour period – is a stupid idea and “I QUIT DAMMIT.” Then her partner will run her sections for her. Without complaint. Or (much more likely) without cheering because it means the team will go twice as quick…

The Hot Man, Runner #1 with the mini light saber baton.

The Hot Man, Runner #1 with the mini light saber baton.

At 3.45am, the Hot Man started running the first leg. There’s no street lights out in the rural coast so the first five runners needed us to highbeam the road so they didn’t trip in a pothole. Fall over a snoozing pig. Or get hit by an early morning bus. It was raining and windy so everybody got soaked through pretty quickly.

Luisa - fastest fittest fabulous woman on #TeamIronheart

Luisa – fastest fittest fabulous woman on #TeamIronheart

Luisa was runner two and she was doing fine until a pack of dogs got excited and started barking up a storm. Her screams for help were so loud that we almost crashed the van in our haste to pull over and leap out to rescue her – except she didn’t need rescuing after all because the dogs were scared off by her fierce shouts and so she continued powering on through the darkness.

By the time the baton came to me for my first leg, the sun was coming up and it was a stunning dawn in paradise. Something funny happened to my legs after the first ten minutes and they hurt like hell. I decided then that once I got back in the van, I would inform the Hot Man that he needed to take over for me. I tried not to cry as I went up and down hills approaching Vavau and the bloody road just seemed to go on forever.

Just me and the road. A most beautiful place for a relay.

Just me and the road. A most beautiful place for a relay.

People in the village were starting to wake up and be up and about. Small children waved and smiled. Women sweeping cut grass by the roadside gave me sympathetic looks. Old men sitting in open fale called out encouragement, “Malo, fa’amalosi!” (But a grazing horse paused to stare at me with disdain.)  I suspect they all were secretly wondering, What the hell does this vale woman think she’s doing? Walking through here at 6am in her fia’runner ofu, carrying a baton, followed by a truck that has to crawl along at a snail’s pace for how many hours!? 

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Hanah, ready to run.

The day progressed with lots more of the same. Running, walking, thinking ‘this is a dumb idea…who’s idea was this?’, wondering ‘should I fake an injury so I can get out of running my next leg?’, and lots of laughing and commiserating in between turns.

The party van.

The party van.

Our van got messier and smellier and sweatier with each kilometre. The sun came out with a vengeance and I lived for the moment after each leg when I could climb inside the massive ice bucket on the back of the truck and have blessed relief for my feet and aching muscles. So grateful for Hanah and Luisa. They made the distance bearable and doable and fun’able. You should only ever do a long distance endurance relay with people you like and that make you laugh. Because otherwise, you could end up throwing yourself off a cliff to escape them. (Or pushing someone off.)

The best place to be on the relay - the ice bath!

The best place to be on the relay – the ice bath!

And through it all, the Ironmen lived up to their word. They ran extra fast when it was their turn. Walked alongside us when it was our turn, chasing away dogs and giving us ice water and sponges. They told us often we were fabulous (even if we weren’t…) and cheered effusively for our every step. At all times, they made us feel safe and supported.
Daniel shows (Lani) why he's an Ironman...who runs and NEVER stops.

Daniel shows (Lani) why he’s an Ironman…who runs and NEVER stops.

Mark - also known as #Flash.

Mark – also known as #Flash.

By the time we crossed the finish line in Apia, 11 and a half hours later, we were pretty much on an adrenaline endorphin fuelled high. (Okay, everybody else was.  I wasn’t. As runner number six, I was the last one to finish and every step was rather torturous. Especially since I had to go through town on a busy Saturday afternoon and have kazillions of people see me all funky, sweaty, nasty and looking suspiciously like a wildebeest.)
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Crossing the finish line with our team was a pretty shamaahzing feeling though.
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I love this pic of the Japanese Volunteers team crossing the line. Truly captures the elation!
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Then it was celebration time. Bring on the Vailima and Diet Coke!
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While I had lots of miserable painful moments along the route, I also experienced some highs. Samoa is truly a majestic land with so much to be awed by in both the natural environment and also the social cultural setting. One moment in particular stands out for me. Climbing a horribly steep hill and wishing I were somewhere else, the thought slammed me.
‘Look around you. See how beautiful and blessed this place is? You are strong enough and able enough and healthy enough to be walking up this hill on this glorious sunny day in Samoa. You have the support of a great partner who loves you and is watching to make sure that mangy dog up there doesn’t run out and rip your leg open. You have awesome friends in the van cheering you on, ready to laugh (and cry) with you when you’re done. Don’t waste this moment wishing it away, wishing to be somewhere else. Live in it. Savor it. Love it. Breathe it in deeply. Give thanks. Be grateful. Be awed.  But above all else,
Just be.’
Thank you to my teammates for a fabulous adventure. Darren Young, Mark Small and Daniel Afoa - special thanks for honoring the team prenup agreement and going above and beyond your #Iron committment to making us women the #Heart of the team.

Huge appreciation for the USA Samoa Veterans organizers led by Mark and Pat Moors, and all the volunteers that make this event happen every year.
If you’re a local and you haven’t done the Perimeter Relay, then what are you waiting for?! You don’t need to lose weight…be an Ironman…or train for two years straight. Get a team together, start walking and commit to a truly memorable experience. This is the third time I’ve done the relay and I’m not an athlete of any shape or form. Each time has been a unique learning and kickass fun adventure.
If you’re somewhere else in the world and wanting a challenging, thrilling reason to come visit Samoa, then definitely consider doing the relay. Whether its with your partner or some friends, I guarantee your relationship will be the stronger for it and you will get to experience Samoa in a truly awesome way.
Photos from Luisa Small, Lani Moors and the Samoa Perimeter Relay site.

When Eggs and Sperkle Make Babies

Parenting is a funny business. You start off totally clueless and that (poor innocent) first child is a guinea pig for your botched attempts to BE THE BESTEST PARENT EVER OR DIE TRYING.  By your fifth kid, you’ve kinda got your groove going and you think you know what you’re doing. But then you have a child like Bella and you discover that all the stuff you learned from screwing up raising the first four doesn’t apply to this one because surprise! – every child is different and God saved the very cleverest / wittiest / stubbornest / most creative’st / most demanding one for last. (When you’re old and tired out from the antics of the first four and you kinda feel like it’s time for a rest from all these parenting shenanigans…NOPE. Ha.)
Me and Bella spend a lot of time in the car as I ferry her to school and swimming and home. So we get to have conversations like this…
Bella – “If you’re a Princess, do you have to marry a Prince?”
Me – “No. Everybody should be able to marry whoever they want to. Even Princesses. Its about who you love.”
Bella – “How about if a girl loves another girl?”
Me – “If they want to get married then sure, they should be able to. Same if a man loves another man. Its hard to be married sometimes you know. So you better have lots of love or else you won’t be married for long.”
Bella – “How about if I don’t want to marry anybody? I just wanna be a Princess and stay with Dada and you forever?”
Me – “That works too. You don’t have to marry anybody if you don’t want to.”
Bella – “Somebody should tell Barbie that. She always has to marry the dumb Prince in the Barbie princess movies.” #AdviceForBarbie
#ReasonsWhyDrivingBellaToSchoolIsNeverBoring
I thought I handled that conversation pretty well, all things considering. I was calm, clear and cool. (Hi-five my awesomeness!) But Bella wasn’t done. She’d clearly been puzzling over it because today she asked me how two girls can make a baby? “You need a man to help make a baby don’t you? When two girls get married and want to have some children, how do they make them?”
I told her a couple could adopt a baby OR get some sperm from a nice man and the doctor would put it inside one of the women so she could grow a baby.
She asked, “what’s sper…sper...that sperk…sperkly word that you said? That a man’s got? Whats that?” Yeah Lani, what’s sperm? Define that for a six year old!
I said it’s the important useful stuff that a man makes in his body and he can share and give it to a woman who wants some, and she puts it together with her egg to make a baby. (How’s that for the beautiful facts of life?)
Which then led to a fascinated set of questions about what does a woman’s egg look like, is it like a chicken’s?
“Oh no, our eggs are much tinier and don’t have shells on them.”
Then the final fabulous question – “So does Dada give you lots of sperkle?” Aw hell…

“Oh look, we’re at your school now…we’ll have to talk about this some other time! Darn.”  #SperkleMe
I only hope she doesn’t go tell all her friends some messy version of my even messier explanation -  ‘You know how they make a baby? A woman cracks open one of her eggs and a man sprinkles sparkly sperkle all over it. And then it grows to be a baby inside the woman’s tummy. Isn’t that awesome!?”

Super-Powered Sprinting Senior Citizen

My seventy-six year old dad asked for new running shoes for Father’s Day. He walks and runs religiously 5 days a week and has been doing so all my life. Which makes him a superhero rockstar in my books because I’m not a Senior Citizen and yet I struggle to get out of my lazy cave and go exercise even once a week…
He said, “I got my old pair from the little store by the market. Only cost me twenty tala. You can get me new shoes there.”
I said “Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not buying you a crap pair of cheap shoes from the market.” I told him we would get shoes from a great local sports supply store where the Hot Man often gets his shoes.
 He said, “Okay, if you want to be extravagant. I guess you can go up to forty tala shoes.” #OoohFORTYTALA!!

We gave him his new Adidas shoes today and he shook his head in disapproval, “I don’t think these cost forty tala. I hope you took the price tag off because I don’t want to have a heart attack….you know I’ve had a quadruple bypass…”

He put them on right away and they matched his lavalava quite spectacularly.  After walking around in them for awhile, he was heard to mutter “Hmmm I wonder how fast I can run in these, ha.”
Methinks there will be a fabulous Senior Citizen doing some serious sprints tomorrow.
Happy Father’s and Grandfather’s Day!
adad4

 

The Best and Worst Public Restrooms in Samoa

atoilet

These lists are in no particular order.

The Good

1. Paddles Café/Restaurant, Matautu

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Flowers. Greenery. Working door locks. Bonus points for beautiful décor and color scheme.

Based on 5x dining there over the last 5 months.

2. Faleolo International Airport

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Flowers. Working door locks. Bonus points for pleasant and industrious attendants/cleaners who are always in there checking on upkeep every time I’ve been there. Bonus exclamation marks for the amazing transformation because the airport used to have smelly awful restrooms.

Based on too many trips overseas in the last 5 months.

3. Tafatafa Beach Fale’s.

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Showers. Mosquitoes esp at night but hey, it’s a beach, what do you expect. Bonus points for mirrors! In a restroom at a faraway beach fale operation!

Based on 2x day trips there and 1x overnight camp in the last 5 months.

4. Maninoa Beach Fale’s.

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Showers. Great water pressure. Bonus points for a stunning mosaic tile pattern and pretty windows.

Based on 6x day trips there  in the last 5 months.

5. Krush Café, Tanugamanono

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Flowers. Bonus points for  beautiful décor. And their liquid handsoap smells really really good.

Based on manyX  in the last 2 months.

6. Plantation House, Alafua

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Okay door lock. Flowers. Greenery. Bonus points for stunningly beautiful décor. Bonus hi-five for the proprietor who’s very hospitable and will let you use the facilities even if you show up out of the blue and don’t buy anything. (Full disclosure – she’s my mother, but I’m pretty sure she’ll let you use the bathroom even if you’re not her kid.)

7. Amanaki Restaurant/Bar, Sogi

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Flowers. Okay door lock.

Based on many x over the last 5 months.

8. Seafood Gourmet, Matautu

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper.

Based on friend’s recommendation. Gold star ranked for consistency over many years.

9. Sails Restaurant, Mulinu’u

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper.

Based on many x over the last 5 months.

10. Giordanno’s Pizza, Moto’otua

Top ratings for consistently clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Flowers. Bonus points for beautiful décor.

Based on  2x over the last 5 months. Also see comments.

11. Mormon (LDS) Chapels, Everywhere.

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. I concede I haven’t been to every Mormon chapel everywhere in Samoa but the ones I have stopped in, even in the rural areas are decent. If you’re out and about on the island and there are church people in a chapel, they will (probably) be nice about letting you in to use the bathroom. However, the toilet stalls in the LDS Pesega Gym have a tendency to lock jam and then your kid gets trapped inside and cries for help. (Based on Bella’s personal experience…)

12. Burger Bill’s, Vaitele

Clean. Toilet paper. Soap. Working door locks. Bonus points for attractive décor. Rather odd set-up where you enter one communal door and have to pass by the men’s toilets to get to the women’s. They’re separate facilities but I do worry about my daughters going to the restroom with this kind of set-up.

13. Mari’s Bakehouse, Tamaligi

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Flowers. Special mention or consistency.

Based on comments/contributors.

14. E & T Café, Savalalo

Clean. Toilet paper. Soap. Working door locks. Flowers.

Based on comments/contributors

15.  NPF Plaza Upstairs, next to Leon’s Restaurant

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks.

Based on comments/contributors

16. Tanoa Hotel Reception, Sogi

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. (Maybe smile really nicely at the desk receptionist and they’ll let you pop in and use the facilities?)

Based on comments/contributors

17. Manamea Hotel Reception, Vailima

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Flowers, Greenery. Bonus points for beautiful décor and ambience.

Based on comments/contributors

18. Milani Café, Apia

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks.

Based on 1x breakfast visit in the last month.

19. Pacific Jewell Café, Levili

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Flowers. Greenery. Bonus points for being “the cutest outdoor toilet ever” with lovely garden setting.

Based on comments/contributors

20. The Office Café, Apia

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Bonus points for abundant pump soap and pleasant décor.

Based on comments/contributors

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The Okay. But Can Do Better.

1. Apollo Cinemas, Apia

Reasonably clean - bearable. Often no toilet paper so take your own paper napkins. The door doesn’t lock on one of the stalls. Sometimes soap.

Based on many x over the last 5 months.

2. McDonalds, Apia

Kind of clean in appearance - but often smelly. (Hold your breath?) Toilet paper. Soap. Working door locks. Sad minus points for the decline in standards because McDonalds used to be our go-to toilet in town, always clean and sparkly. But not anymore.

Based on friend’s recommendation.

3. The Hospital, Moto’otua.

Recent renovations and new additions to the hospital complex have clean and well-stocked restrooms. Thank goodness because the hospital used to be infamous for it’s disgusting facilities (no toilet paper, missing doors on stalls, horrible stench AND meandering livestock and canines. See comments.) The new hospital buildings have lovely restrooms BUT sources advise there’s something wrong with the plumbing and so not only is there an unpleasant odour in certain sections of the hospital, but also the pipes keep getting blocked. In one ward, a security guard will inform new visitors and patients every morning that they are not to flush used toilet paper but place it in the rubbish bins provided. Because of pitiful pipes.

Hence the OKAY rating. Hopefully they get their system sorted soon.

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The Disgusting

1. Tang Cheng Restaurant, Vaimea

Dirty. Broken tiles and filthy toilet. No toilet paper. No soap. Awful stench made even worse by the large rubbish bin INSIDE the actual toilet stall  which is filled with kitchen refuse. Yes, that’s right, the kitchen staff are storing their rotten food trash IN THE BATHROOM. Sad minus points because I really liked their food and now I’ve seen their restroom, I will never eat there again.

Based on dining there last week.

2. Samoa Visitor’s Bureau Fale Restrooms, Apia

Dirty. Smelly. No toilet paper. No soap. Minus points for being so dismal when they should be setting a good example for anyone involved in the hospitality industry. This is based on a visit there over 8 months ago so I’m hoping it’s improved since then. Someone please go there and let us know!

3. Public Toilets, Flea market, Apia

Vomit-inducing filth. The kind that makes you think of the bubonic plague. Don’t go there. Ever. HOWEVER, I’m relying totally on horror stories from others for this recommendation so if the facilities have undergone miraculous changes then please let us know so we can change this listing.

Based on friends recommendations.

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* Disclaimer 1 – These are by no means exhaustive lists. Nor are they set in stone. As a friend (who used to work in the Min of Health and was overseeing health inspections in local restaurants) noted, consistency is often a problem, ie. one week the bathrooms will be clean and the next week they’re disgusting. So please don’t sue me if you visit a restroom on this list and it doesn’t match up to my rating. Likewise, if you’ve visited one of these restrooms lately and it’s beautifully clean, comment below so we can make a note.

* Disclaimer 2 - I’m not a hygiene specialist, neither am I employing any scientific methodology for rating a restroom. I’m simply a person who notices stuff and who thinks a decent bathroom is a necessity of life. Especially when you have five kids who will need to “GO” at the most inopportune moments. Your standards for a ‘good’ restroom may be very different from mine.  (See Disclaimer 4.)

* Disclaimer 3 – Obviously, my recommendations are based only on the Women’s restroom facilities. I haven’t been snooping into any Men’s bathrooms when we go places. So my observations could only be half the big picture.

* Disclaimer 4 – I’m a woman and so my expectations for a restroom may be different from a male perspective. A man can stand in place, flip it out and empty his waterworks. No part of his anatomy has to touch any part of the public restroom. A woman has to sit down to do what she’s gotta do, EVERY TIME, and so her need for a toilet to be CLEAN and sanitized is greater. A man often doesn’t require toilet paper. Or even a working flushing toilet. Not so for a woman, especially at certain times of the month. Which is why we also require trash cans in our restrooms for the correct disposal of various sanitary products.

I have yet to go to a restroom in Samoa that has a Parent’s Room for changing babies etc, and so most of us with infants also need extra clean spaces in our restrooms for this. It’s virtually impossible to take a toddler into a bathroom and NOT have him touch something. Or stick his hands in his mouth. Or (ugh) lick/bite the benchtop. All reasons why my assessment of a restroom’s hygiene, could differ from yours.

*Disclaimer 5 – Why in heck am I blogging about this? The lists came about as a result of a Facebook conversation all about the dreary and dreadful state of Samoa’s restrooms, and how the condition of a business’ facilities is a good indicator for what kind of standards they have for their kitchen and food preparation. If a restaurant/café/hotel has filthy restrooms, then one must face the very real probability that their kitchen is nasty also. If there’s a resource like this available in Samoa, then not only will we know where to GO when we’re out and  one needs to GO, but also, perhaps it will encourage businesses to up their restroom game. And be as vigilant in their kitchens – because we the customer care about this stuff and pay attention to it.

And then SHARE it.

*Please submit your votes and suggestions for this list so we can compile a (hopefully) helpful resource for visitors AND locals.

Lazy House-Whisperers. (Not BUSY. Lazy. Dammit.)

Big Daughter’s school called today. Somebody (ie. her parents) needs to come and get her report card. Because the school had Parent-Teacher interviews last week to give out the mid year reports and her (loser) parents didn’t go.

Alright, alright, let’s be honest, its not ‘her parents’ who are losers, its just her mother. The Hot Man is in the fulltime income earner role and I’m supposed to be the fulltime childcare giver and house-whisperer. Which means, if there are report cards to be collected and teachers to be spoken to, then I’m the one who’s supposed to get em.

But I don’t want to. I’ve been a mother for nineteen years to an assortment of children, and a school teacher for ten. So I’ve been to a plethora of PT interviews. And I don’t want to go to anymore of them. Dammit.

My theory is, I don’t need to go to Big Daughter’s interviews. She’s doing well in school. She just scored 120% on her English exam, how’s that for being an overachiever? These children  read tons of books and that more than anything guarantees that they’re getting a good education. We have scintillating and intellectually stimulating conversations about everything from male seahorses that have babies to the intersection of feminism, culture and religion.  I don’t have any questions for Big Daughter’s teachers, and they all said wonderful things about her in the last report card.

So I don’t see why I have to put on real clothes that haven’t been slept in, brush my hair, drive all the way over there, find parking (when I suck at parking), get out and walk all the way to the office (when I suck at walking), talk to people (when I suck at talking to people) and listen to them tell me my kid is doing good.

Okay, the truth is, yes, I’m lazy.

I told Big Daughter to just get the report card herself and bring it home. But she said the school wouldn’t allow it. She explained, “Everybody’s parents already came to get their kids reports. I’m the only one who didn’t get mine.” She sighed. “I made excuses for you.”

“Like what?”

“I told them you can’t come to the interviews because you’re a famous author and you,” she waves her hands nonchalantly, “have places to go, things to do, people to meet.”

I am flabbergasted. And horrified. “No!! You didn’t!? That makes me sound like a horrible stuck-up person. You can’t tell lies like that about me! I’m not famous and I have nowhere to go and no people to meet. What total rubbish.”

“I know. But I can’t tell them you’re in bed still in your sleep clothes at lunchtime, reading a book. Sitting in your room all day, eating.”

“Doing research,” I correct her. “Reading a book is very important research for a writer. Broadens her skills and shit stuff. And I’m not ‘just sitting’, I’m thinking and planning plot outlines. It’s work. Truly.” I stamp my foot. “Dammit Big Daughter, I already know you’ve done fabulous in school this term and I’m proud of you and I don’t need to get dressed properly just so I can get the physical evidence of your awesome work. Just tell them your mother is lazy. ”

It’s her turn to be horrified. “No! I don’t want them to think bad things about you.”

I throw my hands up in the air. “Oh, but it’s okay for them to think I’m a selfish ego maniac with a crazy busy schedule filled with social outings and jet-setter meetings with jet-setter friends, and I don’t care enough about my child to pick up her report card?”

Great. Just great.

You know what I’m doing later today, don’t you? That’s right. Slinking into Big Daughter’s school with my humblest, most apologetic face on where I will then grovel ask very nicely for her report card.