Reason #101 Why You Should Come To Samoa

The seafood. It’s fresh, delicious and very reasonably priced.

Today we went to the Fish Market in Apia. Which was an undertaking in itself because it took me awhile to find parking and then those Demon children of mine kept wrinkling their noses and saying loudly, “Eww it smells bad here!” Totally making us look like spoilt brat “fia palagi”s to all the fish sellers and assorted fish buyers. (Thank you to these patient and accomodating guys who said, ‘sure you can take a photo of our fish’ even tho we didnt buy any from them. #rockstars)
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Once I’d hissed at the children to “shush up your mouth”…we then bought a fillet of mahi mahi – which is what we had gone to the fish market for. But then we got distracted by some other things.
Like trochus things. “Giant sea snails,” said Bella authoritiatively. #fiapoko
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Eels. “Can we buy one?” asked Little Son. I said no. Theyve got too many small bones. My dad would bring home faiai fe’e (eel baked in coconut cream) every Sunday from the village council meeting because it was a special treat reserved for the high chief. But I didnt like it then and I dont think I’d like it
now…
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Pretty fish all in a row.
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And ocotopus! I love faiai fe’e and the Demons have never eaten octopus so we bought one for twenty tala from this super nice man who let Bella poke and pinch all the octopus on the table.
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Then we went to Lucky Foodtown for some herbs…fresh coriander, parsley, spring onions and lemongrass. We scored some freshwater shrimp that had just come in from mountain streams inland and then we were ready to cook a seafood extravaganza feast.
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I put one section of the fish in the freezer for another day and used the other for oka.
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Oka.
Ingredients
Fillet of fish (as fresh as you can possibly get it.)
Limes
Onion
Spring onions
Salt and pepper
Cucumber / Tomato / Bell peppers (as you prefer.)
Coconut cream. Freshly squeezed is nice but the canned variety is still pretty good too.
1. Chop your mahi mahi fillet into cubes.
2. Drench in lime juice. Add diced onion.
3. Marinate in fridge for 30min.
4. Add coconut cream. (We only had the canned variety.) Stir.
5. Add spring onions, diced cucumber. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Can also add tomato and bell peppers. (We like ourselves simple tho so we can focus on the flavors of the fish, lime and coconut cream better.)
6. Chill and enjoy.
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Curry Coconut Shrimp
Ingredients
Whole, unshelled shrimp
Virgin coconut oil for cooking
Onion
Crushed garlic
Crushed ginger
Chilli (if u like spicy)
Curry powder
Coconut cream
Salt and pepper
1. Wash fresh shrimp in water. Cut off heads if you prefer. (We cook the shrimp whole. Lots more yummy juices and flavor that way.)
2. Heat frying pan and add virgin coconut oil. Cook chopped onion, garlic, ginger. Some chilli if you like it hot.
3. Add whole shrimps. Stir. They will cook fast. Add curry powder and coconut cream. Stir. Season with salt and pepper if preferred.
4. Serve immediately. Extra good with fa’alifu taro or fa’i.
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Faiai Fe’e (Octopus in Coconut
Cream)

Ingredients
Whole octopus (and its ink)
Water
Coconut cream
Salt and pepper
Onion
1. Wash octopus, being careful not to lose all the inky juice.
2. Cut off each tentacle and dice.
3. Squeeze ink and juice from the body
/head into same bowl with the chopped
octopus. Stir.
3. Empty all into pot. Add enough water just to cover octopus. Bring to a boil. Stir.
4. When flesh is tender (about 30min slow boil), drain half the liquid. Add coconut cream, diced onion, spring onions.
5. You can now either continue to simmer on stovetop until the liquid has
thickened to the consistency you like
OR you can transfer to a casserole
dish and bake in oven for 30min. Either way its heavenly stuff.

When we were done cooking we bought some fa’alifu kalo (taro cooked with
coconut cream) from the front of Mariyon Store for seven tala and then invited the grandparents over for dinner. Everything tastes better when you know just how fresh it is and you’ve cooked it yourself so that it’s gone from ocean and river – to the plate.

What’s YOUR favorite seafood dish?

When I was in Love With Capt Von Trapp

Last night we introduced Bella to ‘The Sound of Music’. Which meant I had to sit there and watch it too, of course. Leaping to my feet often, to burst into song, so I could show these children how I know ALL THE WORDS to ALL THE SONGS.

So what if  I don’t sound like Julie Andrews, so what’s your point?! I know all the words and even lots of the super cool moves and that’s what matters. Dammit.

I hadn’t seen it for a long time, maybe not since I introduced Maria and the Von Trapps to Big Son and Big Daughter when they were little. It all came rushing back to me though, especially my girlhood crush on the formidably handsome Capt Von Trapp. Yes, I swooned over Christopher Plummer back then. So suave, so controlled, so severe yet bitingly sarcastic and funny without meaning to be? And hiding a tortured, lonely heartbroken soul…*sigh*. The scene where he sings Edelweiss is enough to make even the most hardened cynic melt into a puddle of romantic tenderness. My ten year old Samoan girl self daydreamed of that special moment sometime in my future when a tall, dark and handsome (grouchy) admirer wearing epaulettes,  would play the guitar and sing to me of the Austrian national flower. (which would be an obvious metaphor for his love and adoration for my brown girl adorableness. Of course.)

Hey, maybe that’s why Daniel Tahi plays the guitar?! #revelations

Maria and Georg’s love story was my first introduction to that age-old trope of the mean male love interest who was mean because of some horrible scarring event in his past, and the transformative power of the love of a ‘good’ woman. Can’t get much more ‘good’ than a singing nun after all. But yes, The Sound of Music was the epic romance of my childhood and Georg my first romantic anti-hero.

However, watching it as a forty year old is a little different from being entranced as a kid. This time the Baroness wasn’t the horrible manipulator that she was thirty years ago.  This time the feminist is me cringed when Georg was an absolute jerkface to the Baroness – a woman who had patiently wined and dined him, endured his prickly (rude) manner, gotten to know his seven children (instead of running a mile in the opposite direction) and was going to marry him (even though she was filthy rich and didn’t “need” a husband to provide for her in that almost medieval time of patriarchy.)  And after months, possibly years of dating, he breaks off their engagement and five minutes later he’s with Maria in the gazebo, telling her how much he loves her.  Really Georg?! Really? How fickle you are with your severe charms! Say no Maria! Run for the Alps Maria! 

Okay, but then I was like, yeah, run away Maria so Georg can ask ME to dance the Austrian folk-jig with him in the courtyard …

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So maybe I’m not so enlightened after all. Or maybe that’s the sign of a truly great movie? It can still con sweep people away, forty-five years after it’s original release. Even after I googled Von Trapp and discovered that Plummer didn’t even sing Edelweiss in the movie…it was dubbed.

How did the children find the movie? Bella was rapt. (As were all the other children.) But unlike her corny romance-addled mother, Bella wasn’t captivated by epaulettes, guitars and sternly gorgeous naval captains. No, she and her sisters, had lots of questions about WHY the Von Trapps had to run away, why were the soldiers after them, what was happening in Austria? Which led to discussions about the Nazis and Hitler and the Second World War. How are you people even my daughters?! hello, what about the REAL issues, what about Christopher Plummer?!

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What movies defined your childhood?

 

 

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!
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