Does Your Kid know how to Sell Stuff by the Road? Mine Neither.

Those pumpkins I told you about? They’ve multiplied. They’re taking over the world that is my wilderness front yard, having lots of pumpkin sex and popping out lots of pumpkin babies. We picked eighteen honey-gold ripe pumpkins yesterday. How in hell are we going to eat eighteen pumpkins I ask you?

Staring at piles of pumpkins (and not getting excited about eating pumpkin soup) – gave me an idea. I told Bella how me and my siblings used to sell stuff by the roadside when we were kids.

We sold my Big Sister’s clothes and high heeled shoes when she went away to college. All the workers in the University kitchen up the road had a ball buying her abandoned possessions. Never mind that my poor sister hadn’t wanted her precious treasures sold.

My Number One little sister sold moso’oi coconut oil – that she’d had the patient gardener make. Peka dried the copra on a woven mat in front of her house. Sio made the oil from it. Then he climbed the moso’oi tree and picked golden flowers to soak in the bottles of oil. When the oil was fragrant with moso’oi, then my sister would instruct him to carry a table to the road so she could sell Coke bottles full of perfumed oil. And keep the money. Everybody marvelled at her entrepreneurial spirit. (Otherwise known as her talent for exploiting the local labor force.)

My Number Two little sister tried to sell assorted books and knick-knacks. She offered my little brother five dollars to carry a table and all her (rubbish) knick-knacks to the road so she could sell them. Then she only made five dollars. My brother was happy. Clearly Number Two little sister did not have a very good entrepreneurial spirit.

Sometimes we sold pieces of Peka’s chocolate cake. Or mangoes and passionfruit from yards that weren’t ours. Sometimes we tried to sell ripe crab apples that we’d picked from the trees across the road from our house. Funnily enough, nobody wanted to buy any. Probably because they could walk across the road and pick up a handful of (free) ripe crab apples off the ground.

Ahhh the memories! Yes, my siblings and I had lots of experience with operating roadside stalls during our childhood. I suggested to Bella that she sell pumpkins by the road. Her face lit up. “I could get plenty money!”

Hmm, possibly. “What would you do with it?”

“Save it so our family can go on a holiday to the Gold Coast,” she said.”

I don’t think eighteen pumpkins are going to take us to the Gold Coast, BUT it’s a start! Plus I figured, this was an excellent opportunity for my children to get some entrepreneurial and moneymaking (and saving) experience.

Then Bella turned to her Dad. “You have to build me a little shop by the road. So I can sell pumpkins.”

Bella’s Dad didn’t look very enthused.

“You don’t need a shop. All you need is a table to put pumpkins on,” I said.

Bella frowned. “But the sun is very hot.” The light of an idea. “Aha, I know. Dad you can just make me a roof so the sun won’t burn me. I can sit under it.”

Bella’s Dad glared. At me. The woman responsible for the pumpkin-stall idea in the first place. “I’m busy Bella. I can’t build you a roof.”

Bella thought very hard for a few minutes. Then another bright idea. “I can sit under the umbrella!” She turned to her big sister. “You can hold the umbrella for me so then I can sell pumpkins. It will be so fun. I’m gonna go make a sign.”

Bella’s sister didn’t look happy about holding umbrellas and selling pumpkins by the roadside. Perhaps it’s uncool in her teenage world to be shading one’s little sister from the sun and watching her sell garden produce? “No thanks, I don’t want to help. I have lots of homework,” she said.

Bella wasn’t discouraged. “Alright. I will do a stall by myself.”

Bella’s Dad wasn’t happy. “I don’t want my seven year old standing at the road by herself. What if somebody steals her? Or runs her over? She needs an  adult with her.” Then he went to work. Because of course he was too busy to go stand by the road with his child. Because he had to earn money so we didn’t have to eat pumpkins for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Which left just me. Awww hell no! I got lots of very important things to do besides pumpkin selling. Like finishing my book. Like looking for more Jason Momoa pics to aid in the finishing of my book…y’know how it is. #BusyBusyBusy

I said, “Bella! It’s too hot to sell pumpkins by the road. I have a better idea. Why don’t you go play X-Box? Leave these pumpkins for another time…”

The child was easily distracted and disappeared to play Minecraft. That whole ‘teach your child to be an entrepreneur and money maker and money-saver’ thing is SO overrated anyway.

But if you want to buy a pumpkin for five dollars? Please come over.

Is Your Wife Eating all Your Food?

Is it just Samoans who like to comment loudly on peoples appearance, specifically their weight? When someone hasnt seen me in awhile its always, “Ua e lapo’a” ie you’re so fat!

It goes the other way too, they tell my Ironman athlete husband “Ua e ma’i?” ie you’re so thin you look sick. Do you have AIDS? (yes people really say things like that) They also tell him he shouldnt run so much because its bad for him, especially at his age.

And then when we are together somewhere, the more wittier people will laugh and exclaim, “Is your wife eating all your food?!…Doesn’t your wife cook enough food for you?”

And 9 times out of 10, the people making these observations are twice as large as I am. And telling the Hot Man he looks sick – when they are battling diabetes, high blood pressure and other health problems related to poor diet and lack of exercise.

Is this a “thing” in other cultures? Why do you think its a “thing” with us Samoans? Has it happened to you?

Words for Writers – yes Im looking at YOU!

I went to American Samoa and met many lovely people, including a 12yro girl whos writing a story on Wattpad. Its a Young Adult work in progress about life, love, school, relationships and family. She explained apologetically that ‘its only my first book and not very good’. How long is it? “Only seventeen chapters.”

Here’s what I said to her and I repeat it for all those with a writing dream, who are “only” writing something little…not very good…long way to go…etc. Especially other young Pasifika writers, poets and artists.

“To be writers, we must write. Regularly. With a goal. It helps if we have an audience in mind. You’re only twelve years old and yet youve already written SEVENTEEN CHAPTERS for a novel?! Not only that, you’ve made your writing public and accessible so youve cracked the massive obstacle which holds many wannabe-writers back – we are afraid to let people read our writing.

By writing regularly, (even if youre not sure its any good), you are developing an essential writing habit, training yourself to write consistently and towards an end. Also, you already have followers for this story, people who are bugging you for the next chapter and who are ‘hooked’. That means you are learning to write each instalment with a mini conflict that has some resolution and also contributes to an ongoing major conflict that makes a reader NEED to keep reading. All important skills and essential for writing novels and TV series scripts… I havent read your Wattpad story but I’ve been listening to you at the dinner table, tell us about the characters and DAMMIT I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!”

It was a pleasure to spend time with young Pasifika writers like Yasminna and her sister Karlinna who writes poetry, to see their enthusiasm for learning, storytelling, One Direction and for life in general. And valuable to be reminded of some writer basics.

Nobody writes flawlessly. Especially not at first. But we must not let that stop us from writing. It doesnt matter how young or old we are, we should start now to build a strong writing habit and write our way to better and better stories.

There are many avenues out there for sharing your writing and (forcing) yourself to be accountable to an audience. Start a blog on a free host site. Join a free story writing site like Wattpad. Post them on Facebook, link to them on Tumblr. Insta pic your poetry and put it on Instagram. Enter the Tusitala Samoa Observer Short Story Competition.

To new Pasifika writers out there, we need you. We need more stories written about us, by us and for us. Its incredibly empowering to read fiction and be able to see ourselves, to see people who look like us, from places and cultures that we can connect with. But remember, that doesn’t mean our stories need to be ‘traditional, heritage-laden, or village-based’ and ascribing to some rigid definition of what ‘Pacific Literature’ is.

We are also urban, contemporary people.
We are young women like Lauren, studying film in Salt Lake city, the first in our family to graduate from high school.
We are fashion designers in California like Isabella, making Telesa inspired art and much more, telling stories through fashion.
We are entrepeneurs like Tamiano, managing art n fashion stores at age 23, writing poetry on the side in between business proposals.
We are teenagers in NZ like Sade, who can speak Japanese and audition for Spoken word workshops in South Auckland.
We are actors and grad school students in Hawaii like Jo, telling Bus Chronicle stories on Facebook, and challenging culture and stereotypes on stage (and getting fired from our dayjobs for it.)
We are grandmothers in wheelchairs in Utah like Ko, who want to write stories in Samoan about the homeland for children.
We are mothers in Australia like Caroline, writing our first novel in between work and raising five children.
And yes, we are 12yr olds in American Samoa like Yasminna Lutu-Sanchez, writing stories on Wattpad – 17 chapters and counting!

I love Kathy Jetnil Kijiner’s words on this subject – “there is no one way to be “Pacific.” There is so much more to our identities than the coconut trees ocean navigation canoes and tourist destination (although those are integral factors for sure)…” Kathy is a poet from the Marshall Islands. You may have seen her present at the UN session recently on climate change and you should check out her blog here

Just as there’s no one definition for what makes someone a Samoan (or a Tongan, a Tokelauan, or whatever) – there’s no one definition for what makes a story ‘count’ as Pacific Literature. I’m the author of eight books and counting. Including a contemporary fantasy paranormal series where a girl bursts into flames when she kisses the boy she likes…a women’s lit series where a 30yro plus-sized heroine is a little obsessed with Jason Momoa and takes on all her familys taboos about sex and talking about child sexual abuse. I’ve also written stories for children that are used in the NZ schools reading curriculum…a historical record of a three country natural disaster…and an erotic romance written under a pseudonym.

Thats the beauty of storytelling. Theres no limit to the scope of our storytelling reach and we certainly shouldnt allow ourselves to be bound by fear that our voice isnt “Samoan enough”. Or doubt that our cultural authenticity is lacking.
We are in many places, living many lives, and telling many stories.

May we always have the courage to share those stories and the commitment to take them from the spark of an idea – all the way to their triumphant fiery reality as novels, poetry, performance art and more.

Why the Tusitala Writing Competition is Exciting News for Pacific Writers

Calling all Pacific Writers, aspiring writers, storytellers, anybody with an untold story within…theres a competition just for you.

Theres only a few more days left to enter the  Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition. This is an exciting new initiative aimed at generating Pacific stories and helping to nurture our Pasifika writers.

Deadline – June 1st 2015. Email submissions encouraged.
Entry – Free
Eligibility – Must be 18+. Resident of a Pacific country/island state. (Includes Australia, NZ, Hawaii, American Samoa etc)
Stories must be under 5000 words and original unpublished fiction on any topic.
Stories can be written in either English OR Samoan.
Judging will be done in three regions – Samoa, Aust and NZ, Other Pacific Islands.

Awesome cash prizes of $1000USD for each region and then an overall winner will be chosen from the regional winners.

For more info check out their website: Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Comp

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I have personal reason to be a great believer in a competition like this. Twelve years ago I was working as a high school teacher and dreaming a quiet little writer dream. The National Univ of Samoa partnered with SamoaTel and the Samoa Observer to sponsor a short story competition. I entered, typing the last word on my story at 4pm on the due date before rushing up to the university to submit it. It was exhilarating to finally submit a story to a contest and actually write my real name on it. That feeling alone, of being a ‘real’ writer, even only for a day, is one I’ve always remembered. Then I got very busy with being pregnant and going to New Zealand to have my emergency C-section baby, born at 28 weeks size and tiny enough to bath in a cake mixing bowl. I forgot all about the competition. We had just returned home with our new baby when the organizers called to invite me to the prizegiving that night. They said I’d won a prize so ‘please make sure you attend’. I thought it was an Honorable Mention, or maybe a ‘Nice Try’. Or a ‘Beautiful Handwriting’ certificate…  I was blown away to find that I’d won First Place in the competition, carting away a brand new computer as my prize. That competition was a turning point for my writing dream. It’s when I first dared to imagine that maybe, just maybe, I could write stories worth reading, stories worth publishing.

I know that a competition like this, can mean the same thing for many others out there.

I’m honored to participate in this competition as one of the judges and grateful to the fabulous team at the Samoa Observer for organizing it. There is a hunger worldwide for our stories and we need more of them told. The incomparable Albert Wendt said, “We must write, paint, weave, dance, sing and think ourselves into existence. For too long, others have done it for us. We must tell our own stories.”

Good luck everyone. I can’t wait to read your stories.

Five Ways to Protect Your Writing from Zombies

My writer nightmare is about losing words.  Am I the only one whos paranoid about this? I cant imagine the soul crushing despair of working on a book or a project for months on end and then having it all wiped out because I accidentally hit DELETE. Or because a nasty bug ate my computer. Here’s my list of things I do to avoid that apocalypse.

1. When we go somewhere – I hide my laptop in odd places in the house in case of robbers.
2.  I carry a usb stick with me everywhere with copies of everything Im working on in case the house burns down and the computer goes up in smoke.
3. I created a storage email account and regularly email myself updated copies of writing work in progress in case somebody steals my purse with the usb in it.
4.  I have a Dropbox account and store impt files in there too.
5. I regularly save everything onto a backup hard drive. I hide that hard drive in different random places. Then I forget where I hid it..but its still a good idea!
Things I Havent Done but I Probably Should.
1. Get a safety deposit box somewhere like in the movies. Leave instructions for it in my will. (Which I dont have. Because Im too busy/lazy/young to make a will dammit.)
2. Dig a hole in the ground, line it with waterproof stone and store files in it. Maybe a hole on a hill like Cumorah…
3. Go hardcore and tattoo info and entire books all over my body like that cute and clever dude in Prison Break.

What do you do to backup your files and save them from robbers/viruses/fires/earthquakes/zombies? Please share your ideas!

Scarlet Secrets

Scarlet Secrets cover (420x640)

An update and an apology for the awesome readers who have been looking forward to Scarlet Secrets – we’ve had a few hiccups in the file formatting process and so it cant be released today. I’m heading off to book events in American Samoa tomorrow so I wont be able to work on it till I get back. Will let you know as soon as its live on Amazon. Thank you for your patience!
In the meantime, enjoy the first chapter and check out this great cover from Talia Brown.

SCARLET SECRETS

My phone rages its ringtone. It’s the most inopportune time for it to be talking to me.

Not now.

Not while I’m pressed against the most beautiful man I’ve ever been fortunate enough to be pressed up against. And he’s kissing me. Like he’s only now discovered the wonderfulness of kissing. Tasting me. Like I’m a full-bodied wine and I must be savoured. Slowly. While he ponders the vibrant range of wonderfulness that is me.

He pauses, “Your phone is shouting at us.”

“Just ignore it,” I murmur against his lips as I try to be sly and slip my hands inside the waistband of his jeans. I’m on a mission. This man has blown my mind and shattered all my defences tonight – but insists on abiding by an (admirable) code of conduct which dictates a gentleman should not have sex with a (mildly) intoxicated woman. Even if aforementioned woman is doing her utmost best to convince him otherwise.

A growling kind of laugh as he captures my wannabe-skanky hands, “I think you better answer that.”

He walks us both to the still-open car door and waits while I grab my annoying phone. An involuntary shiver in the ocean breeze because thanks to Jackson’s determined efforts earlier to get inside my stubborn bustier, it’s in bedraggled tatters now and I’m effectively topless in the moonlight.

“You’re cold,” he says quiet and low as he wraps his arms around me, holding me close. “Come here.”

I love the feeling of being in his warm embrace so when I answer the phone my voice is floating in swirls of cream on a chocolate milkshake. “Hello?”

It’s Beyonce. “Girl, where are you?” she demands.

“Out. With Jackson. We went for a drive.”  I’m trying – and failing – to hide my elation. I can’t wait to tell Beyonce all about my night…later. When Jackson isn’t listening to every word of our conversation of course.

But she’s not in the mood for happy buzz. “Naomi and her Princess crew were looking all over for you. She’s not happy you disappeared. And the Party Bus has left. Gone to take everyone home. Without you.”

This is bad. I say some swear words, and Jackson raises a curious eyebrow.

“Where does she think I went?” I ask Beyonce.

“I told her you went home. But then she called your house.”

“Nooooo!”

This is getting worse. Much worse. “Did she wake up my mother?”

“I don’t know,” says Beyonce. “She talked to somebody. About you disappearing. And about you not being at home.”

More swear words. Now Jackson is looking really worried.

“That witch,” I exclaim. “Is she trying to get me in trouble?”

“All I know is she ain’t happy,” answers Beyonce. “Because you’re a kaea big sister and an even worse Maid of Honor who didn’t do her part for her Princess night.”

Just great. I guess our sister-bonding moment had been obliterated from Naomi’s memory in her rush to be mad that I had blitzed out of her hen’s night.

As soon as our phone conversation ends, I am rushing Jackson to get us out of there. “We gotta go. You have to take me home right now.”

“What’s wrong?”

I wave him over to the driver’s side  as I leap in the passenger seat. “Naomi’s gone home without me. If my parents realize I’m not with her then all hell will break loose.”

I’m trying – and failing – to piece together the bodice  of my octopus top and Jackson takes pity on me and gives me his shirt. “Here, put this on.”

I give him a grateful smile as he reverses and begins speeding back to town. A shirtless Jackson chauffeur is a beautiful thing…

“I don’t get it,” he says with his eyes on the road. “Why would it be a problem if you and your sister come home separately?”

My voice is muffled from inside the shirt as I tug it over my head. “It’s not that.” My face pops out and I pause to get a good sniff of Jackson’ness from the soft fabric. “It’s if I’m AWOL and alone, out at night, with a man, up to no good. Grounds for immediate termination for breach of chastity rules.”

“Aren’t you and your sisters a bit…adult for a curfew? Or for…” he hesitates, choosing his words carefully, “a parental chastity belt? I mean I’m sure Troy and Naomi have…been there, done that.”

I fake a scandalized tone. “How dare you even imply that! Of course my sister hasn’t done the wild thing with Troy. Or with any of her exes. According to family lore and all the aunties, Naomi’s untouched. Unblemished by the evil touch of the male species.” I can tell he’s confused, so I lose the sarcasm and add, “Or at least that’s the illusion we all adhere to. Not only for Naomi, but for any single woman in Samoa. And to maintain the status quo, you need to abide by certain codes of conduct. Which means you don’t let your family find out that you’ve gone for a drive in the dead of night with a man. Because then it puts them in the uncomfortable position of having to admit to themselves and more importantly – to the world – that their daughter, niece or sister, could be having sex. And liking it. Everybody would rather believe you’re a virgin. Unless if you get pregnant,  then the illusion is ruined.”

And unless you have an abortion and everybody in the country finds out about it.

Jackson doesn’t look convinced. But he’s trying. “So the appearance of this certain kind of morality is more important than the actual practise of it.”

“For most people. The hardliners are people like my father who have made it their life’s work to preach this stuff and get people to practise it. Everybody else just cares that their family’s rep doesn’t get damaged by your skanky behaviour. And if their rep does get trashed, then they have to take public measures to atone for it.”

“Like what?”

“Did you meet my cousin Tiana at the 21st birthday party? She’s the one who sang the Wind Beneath My Wings before they presented the gigantic wooden key.”

Jackson nods. “Oh yeah, that one. Great voice.”

“Notice her hair?”

“Hmm, no. What about it?”

“Cut real short like  Halle Berry? Except not as chic as Halle Berry?”

“She had short hair. I remember that much.”

“It used to be long down to her waist. Her mother hacked it off with a kitchen knife while some of my aunties held her down. Happened the second day I got here. I didn’t see it. But I heard the yelling from their house next door.”

“What? Why?”

“They found out she’s got a boyfriend. A taxi driver who brings her lunch and they disappear for long drives.”

“But she’s not a child, or even a teenager. Is she?”

“She’s twenty-five and her pay cheque feeds half her family,” I say. It sounds bad when spoken out loud and seeing it through the eyes of a foreigner makes it look even worse. “But she lives at home, she’s unmarried and her actions reflect on her extended family. Cutting all her hair off is a public way for the aiga to brand her as a wrongdoer so that everyone knows the family doesn’t agree with her choices and they’re trying hard to be virtuous and good.”

I reach up as unobtrusively as possible and tug at my mane of bush woman hair. Reassurance. A mental flinch from the sharp remembrance of that long-ago day and a hair-cutting experience of my own.

“That’s Samoa for you,” I say in throwaway fashion, anxious to get away from a topic that has become my own personal minefield. “So I need to get home. I may be drunk but not enough to throw caution to the winds.”

Jackson’s frowning at the road ahead as we make the turn into my neighbourhood. “I don’t like to make judgements about somebody else’s culture.” A shrug. “Maybe it’s because I’m looking in from the outside and I need to learn more. But yeah, it doesn’t quite make sense to me.”

It’s my culture and it doesn’t make sense to me either.

We drive along in silence and then slow as we near my house. It looms tall and gleaming white in the darkness and our overly vigilant dogs start a raucous baying.

“Stop here. Turn off the car,” I say in a whisper. Even though nobody else can hear me anyway. “I’m gonna get out and walk the rest of the way.”

“No, wait up. It’s dark. Let me walk you,” he says as he jumps out of the car to come stand by my side.

“It’s better if you don’t,” I say in a furtive hush. “Go on. I’ll be fine. All I got to worry about is getting bit by my own dogs.”

“This is crazy,” says Jackson, frustration evident in his voice. “I’ll come in and talk to your family. Explain we went for a drive, got to talking, lost track of time, apologize for bringing you home late and making them worry…”

“Are you stupid!?” I hiss. Then I feel bad when I see how taken aback he is. Of course he’s not stupid. He’s just not Samoan. I try to tone down my aggression. “You’ll only make it worse. Trust me.” I try to crack a joke. Because what better time to joke then before you get ripped to shreds by your own relatives. “If they see you, my family will be forced to defend my honor – which is really their honor. They’ll wake up all my boy cousins sleeping in the back house and they’ll have to beat the crap outta you.”

I see his doubtful look in the light of the streetlamp. “You mean like Paulo and the other boys who went to the beach with us? Those cousins? The ones who are all in Troy’s readymade groomsmen pack?”

“Yeah, them.”

“They’re cool. We got along great at the beach. Paulo’s already asked for my shoes when I go. I don’t think he’s going to be beating the crap out of anybody. I’ll talk to them. It will be fine.”

He’s standing outside my parent’s house, shirtless and worrying about me. In that moment, as he’s dishing out rational thoughts that make no sense in my Samoan context, he’s so naïve. And so outrageously beautiful that it tugs at my insides.

I could be happy with this man. Like, really happy. I could make space for him in my messed up messy world. Share breakfast crepes and berries with him on a Sunday morning…we would read the newspaper in bed and do the crossword together. Then pop out to meander through the local craft market. Like palagi couples do in movies…  

 Dangerous thoughts require flippancy.  I don’t want him to suspect I could be harbouring such deep and meaningful thoughts inspired by white people chick-flicks. “No. This holiday wedding sex flirt thing we got going on?” I say, “we don’t want anybody to know about it. It’ll be our Samoa fling secret, ok? Neither of us will tell anybody and neither of us will ever talk about it again.”

And then I’m striding as quietly and as quickly as I can in my ridiculous heels, without a backward glance. Can’t worry about him right now. Not when there could be an irate force of religious wrath waiting for me inside. Thinking of that possibility makes me wince and I look back at where Jackson is standing. He’s watching me go with a careful frown on his face.

A hushed whisper as he calls out, “Message me when everything’s okay in there. I’m not going to drive away until I hear from you.”

Inside the house, Aunty Filomena is waiting up for me. “Oka Scar, I worried about you!” Seeing the question written on my face, she rushes to add, “Leai. Your parents didn’t wake up. I answer the phone when Naomi call. Then when she get here, I help take her upstairs.”

Of course. Naomi wouldn’t have wanted the parents to catch her wasted. I wilt with relief. The rocket fuel cocktails had saved me.

“She sleeping,” says Aunty Filomena. “And I wait and wait for you and I scared where you are. Soon I wake up Paulo to go look for you. I think to myself, what if you are hurt? What if some bad man take you?”

She doesn’t berate me, demand to know where I’ve been and who I’ve been with. She’s the one aunt who wouldn’t leap to the immediate conclusion that I was out being a pa’umuku. The one aunt who instead worries I’ve been abducted or attacked. The concern in her eyes fills me with guilt. I hug her. “I’m sorry I made you worry. But you shouldn’t. I’m all grown up. I’ll be alright.”

She pats my back awkwardly and sighs, “Oi aue Scar, you a good girl.”

Words she’s said to me a hundred times over as we were growing up. Words I never paid much attention to. But here in the dim quiet of the kitchen, I see them for what they are and what they always have been. A precious affirmation of her unconditional love.

You a good girl. You be a good girl.

Her way of saying, I love you. Her way of telling me she believed in me. Hoped the best for me. The realization stuns me in the way that only 3am half-drunken clarity can.

I’m a good girl. Worthy of love. Worthy of happiness.

Words I haven’t believed in for a long time now.

“Hurry. You go bed,” she urges me. “Don’t make noise. I will lock the house.”

I look at this diminutive woman who was a quiet constant presence in my childhood and I want to say something. Lots of things. Like, I love you. Like, thank you for loving me the way my own mother couldn’t. Didn’t. Thank you for running to pick me up when I fell out of the vi tree and broke my arm, thank you for not telling me off for climbing the tree in the first place. Thank you for bringing your mat and sheet to the hospital so you could sleep on the floor by my bed, so I wouldn’t be scared, so I didn’t have to go to the dirty toilets by myself. Thank you for making frangipani ula and being the only person in my family to come to my school prize-giving when I got second to Dux in grade school and had to dance a siva in front of everybody with the girl who came first. Thank you for making my favorite flying saucer spaghetti sandwiches so I could look forward to the after school snack everyday. Thank you for crying when Mother hit me with the salu. Thank you for always smiling delightedly when Mother dressed me in a new outfit, for clapping your hands and saying, ‘Oka! Very nice. Very pretty.’ Even if I wasn’t.

But I don’t say anything because it would probably embarrass her. Make us both uncomfortable. That’s what palagi people do. Bluster and blubber about their feelings while we eat ours. Or shout them out loud when we’ve had too much Vailima. Or show them with fat envelopes at funerals when the person is dead and can’t hear you anyway.

So instead, I go upstairs to my room. Naomi’s already asleep so I tiptoe into the bathroom and message Jackson -  All good here. Thanx.

He messages back immediately – Which one is your room?

Me – Why?

Him – So I know where to address my Romeo speech.

I laugh in the quiet – Don’t you dare. Our pack of killer dogs will get you.

Him – I hath charms to soothe the savage beast.

Me – Oooh you know Shakespeare! (plagiarist)

Him – If Shakespeare doesn’t work, I know Terminator: If it bleeds, we can kill it.

Me – Ha that’s not Terminator. It’s Arnold in Predator.

Him – I was testing you.

Me – Why?

Him – I only have holiday sex flirt flings with women who can quote Schwarzenegger correctly.

Me – So did I pass the test?

Him – Yes. But there’s a problem.

Me – What?

Him – I don’t want to have a holiday sex flirt fling with you.

Reading that is like someone kicked me. Before I can process his message fully, the phone  vibrates with another message.

Him – I want more.

I want to type, WTF??? But I don’t. I message him nothing.

There’s the sound of a car starting up. I go to the window and peer out, in time to see Jackson drive away.

He wants more? What the hell does that mean? More what? More cake? More Oliver Twist soup? More of who? More when? Why would he – or anyone – want more from me? With me?

I tumble into bed, groggy thoughts still trying to untangle meaning from his words and from the whole night, start to finish. My last thought before sleep hits me – Do I even have more to give? Am I capable of more?

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If you haven’t read book one in the Scarlet Series, get it now from Amaon, only $2.99 for the ebook. SCARLET LIES

You’re Invited to My Birthday Bash

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To celebrate my birthday (yay Happy Birthday to me!) SIX of my ebooks are on sale for 99 cents each for the first time ever. Limited time only. Sale is on Amazon only and you dont need to own a Kindle to buy them. You can download the free Kindle App to your phone of computer and then buy the ebooks.
I’m proud of each one of these books which were a challenge and a joy to write. I hope you enjoy them and please share the news with friends and family who are looking for a new read!
Thank you!
Click on the buy link and it will take you to the Amazon listing for all my books.
Buy Books

http://www.amazon.com/Lani-Wendt-Young/e/B005BK5EXM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

French Toast is Essential for Lazy Parenting

I am infamous for making my children eat breakfast foods for dinner. (Im not sure why this is a bad thing because hello, cereal is an incredibly balanced food group all by itself and when you pour milk on it, its like a three course meal right there.) I think it came about because I make my children cook dinner. A lot. And it just so happens that breakfast foods are usually easier to learn how to make. So along with cereal, we have French toast or scrambled eggs and toast or koko rice or pancakes or sausages or an omelet for dinner. And our other go-to specialty is a can of tuna and some rice. These are all things that my children know how to cook. And so far, theyve been happy and I ( of course) am very happy.
Because I am a busy lazy woman and I dont have time to mess around in the kitchen for hours on end.

My children were fine with this lazy dinner arrangement because they probably thought everybody ate like this. Everybody’s mother told them to open a tuna can or crack a few eggs for dinner.

Then Big Daughter went to live with her aunty in New Zealand. The first night there, her uncle cooked  lovely meal that didnt have cereal in it. The second night there, her cousin cooked a lovely meal that didnt have scrambled eggss in it. The third night there, her aunty was cooking a lovely meal that didnt include french toast when Big Daughter asked, “Do you cook meals like this every night?”

“Yes,” said her aunty.

“So its not just because you’re celebrating a special occasion or because you’re having a visitor come for dinner?”

“No,” said her aunty. Then her aunt (my big sister so she’s allowed to say stuff like this…), said “I am not like your mother. In my house, French toast and scrambled eggs are a breakfast food. In this house, we prepare proper dinners. We dont open cans of tuna to eat with rice. Or make you eat cereal at dinner. Oh no.”

This was an earth-shattering realization for Big Daughter. All the heavens were singing with this direct revelation from above, that CEREAL IS NOT FOR DINNER…NEITHER IS FRENCH TOAST…

She immediately got on her phone and messaged me. “Mum, did you know that in Aunty’s house, they dont have french toast for dinner!? They cook proper meals every night.”

She even sent me a photo in her excitement.
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“Look at auntys cupboard! And look at all these fruits and vegies we are going to make into a nice dinner!”

So then Bella said to send her a photo of our dinner.
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“Look! We’re having French toast. And tuna! Do you miss us?”

For some strange reason, Big Daughter is not missing our fabulous meals at all.

But I have a plan. Today I saw a delicious French toast recipe and Im going to make it for dinner Correction, I mean, Im going to show it to Middle Daughter so she can make it for dinner.
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Big Daughter’s gonna be envious. I’m sure of it.

Gender Violence in a Haircut.

I just reported a Facebook video for violent abusive content. If I knew who to call in that country, I would report the people responsible to social services/child welfare. 

A Pasifika family posted a video of them cutting off a young woman’s hair as punishment for her disobedient (possibly promiscuous?) behaviour. They also posted a lengthy condemnation of the teenage girl, who has since run away from their home – saying that they took her in after she left one family because she was being abused, they were kind and generous to take her in, shes lucky they didnt beat her, asking for people to share the video so she will be further shamed, and telling the girl to return so they can beat her properly. And “Im f@#&*^/ mad at you blah blah…”

The video has had thousands of views with comments ranging from “Thats nothing. You should have beat her…” to “Shes lucky she doesnt live in Samoa, she would be a bloody mess by now and have all her head shaved…” to “I remember when that happened to me. Shes lucky your family treated her so well…” to “I feel sorry for your family having to put up with a girl like that. You should have beat/hurt/smashed/really taught her a lesson. Sending your parents love.”

The practise of cutting a womans hair to shame her for (usually) her sexual choices and behaviour is an example of violence against women. When its combined with social media, the scope of the shaming is multiplied many times over. This is called cyber-bullying and its a crime.

We have a high suicide rate, especially amongst our young people. I’m horrified and sad that none of the eager rabid commenters or video viewers seem to have considered the very real fallout that posting AND sharing a video like this, might have on the young woman in question.

There are other, better ways for a family to teach and discipline a ‘difficult’ troubled teenager. It’s my hope that this girl will get the support she needs.

I dont care if its ‘our culture’ for elders to use all kinds of violence on children and youth. It’s immaterial if you were beaten as a child and “look at me, I turned out okay!” Abuse is a crime and we need to stop making excuses for it. Violence against women in the form of hair cutting/ shaving is an example of how both men AND other women, attempt to control and subdue, shame and silence.

For all the excited viewers and commenters getting in on the action by throwing their own stones of condemnation – I ask you to consider the target of your pack mentality, a teenage girl who could surely use some compassion right now.

Please share – have you or someone you know, ever experienced this practise of punishing a woman by cutting her hair? Its common in Samoa and I didnt realize that Tongans also practise this?