church

A piano fell on my head today.

I was sitting in church looking around ( from the depths of the back rows where I always creep in and hide) when suddenly it hit me.

I’ve been coming to this particular congregation for a year now. A whole year. And I don’t even know who half of these people are. In fact, I dont even know who a QUARTER of these people are. There’s that nice elderly gentleman who always smiles and shakes my hand. Don’t know his name. There’s that cheery, beautiful young woman who never ever forgets to say hello to me and all my assorted rabble. Don’t know her name either. There’s that very kind lady who teaches my very naughty child and still hasn’t tried to run me over in the parking lot as punishment for raising aforementioned naughty child. Don’t know her name. There’s the Youth Leader who organizes super fun activities for my teenagers every week and ensures they get a ride home. Couldnt tell ya a single personal thing about her. Everywhere I turn there are people who have gone out of their way to be nice to me and my (far from) fabulous children – and yet, I have no clue what their names are. I wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a police lineup. Or nominate them as “people I would most like to survive the zombie apocalypse with”. Or ask for their help if I was locked out of heaven in the last days. Because I know zippity-doo zilch about them.

It was like a piano had fallen on my head. This is just not good enough.  I know I’m a hermit. I know I’m rather anti-social. I know that I have loser interpersonal skills. But after 52 weeks worth of Sundays with very welcoming, friendly, supportive and fun people – I should be better at this. But I’m not. Because I keep thinking that “I’m going home soon. I’m not going to be here for very long. This is not my REAL church/neighborhood/community. I don’t REALLY belong here. My REAL church/neighborhood/community is at home in Samoa.” So therefore I don’t REALLY need to make an effort. Because why bother?

I realize that I have to accept the facts. Right here, right now, I live in Auckland, NZ. And even though Im constantly plotting and conniving for ways to move home to Samoa next week, I have to deal with the reality of my NOW.  I need to stop moping and using homesickness as an excuse for (rude) hermit-ness.

You watch me. Next Sunday, I’m going to be a changed woman. The sign I usually wear that says, “GET AWAY FROM ME” will be left at home. I’m going to radiate cheerful friendliness, hug everyone and give them air-kisses. I shall smile more than a toothpaste ad. Engrave people’s names and faces in stone. Or at least write names down unobtrusively in the back of my scriptures. I will invite strangers to my house for dinner so that we can make friends. And have my new life’s mantra tattooed on my forehead – “Hi, I’m Lani and I know how to be nice. I promise.”

When I started writing this blog post about the New and Improved Me, I was feeling very enthusiastic. But now that I’ve reached the end of it, I just feel tired. The very thought of being cheerfully friendly is exhausting.

People like me should never move countries. Neighborhoods. Or church congregations. We should just stay in our caves, write books and invent people to be friends with.

Sleepless in Samoa hit a record 30,000 visits this month. Thanks for keeping me company! If you’re looking for a Fantasy Romance read about strong, fierce and proud Pacific women – check out the free sample of TELESA:The Covenant Keeper available on Amazon.

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I hate being married and having children.

When it’s time to get ready to go out. Anywhere where looking nice is required. Dinner. Church. Mall. Movies. Book function.

I don’t know about you, but I used to like getting dressed up to go somewhere nice. It took time, thought, planning and some angst, but it was fun. For example, a very long time ago, the Hot Man was still a stranger. Hot but a stranger. He asked me out on a dinner date. It took me two hours to get ready. Not only did I need to shower, pluck, tweeze, wax, style, apply makeup and test run three different shades of lipstick – I also had to prepare two different dinner outfits. Why? Because I didn’t know what kind of place he would be taking me for dinner. My little sisters teased “You better not dress up too flash, he’s probably taking you to the market for panikeke and a kekepua’a.” While I didnt really think he would be taking me to the Fugalei Market for dinner, I also didn’t want to be overdressed. What if it were a casual dinner date? So I came up with a plan. I would have two outfits ready with complementary accessories. When the Hot Man arrived, my sister would see how HE was dressed. If he looked formal and flash – then I would put on the little black dress, if not, the skimpy denim skirt and top…He showed up in a silk shirt and dress pants, bearing a single rose, and with reservations at the fanciest restaurant in town. QUICK, put on the dress, quick! Ahhh, the dramas of single life and dating. So frenzied, so frantic, so fun….

Now? I hate getting dressed up to go out. I can’t find my brush because Bella took it to style Dora doll’s hair. Sade nicked my tweezers and forgot where she put them. My favorite lipstick is a suspicious splodgy mess because somebody ‘borrowed’ it the last time they were playing dress-up…Big Son is hogging the bathroom and I don’t have time to luxuriate in a hot shower. Little Son keeps  coming into my room while I’m trying to re-arrange my hair 3 different ways to ask ‘have you seen Bella’s scooter?’ (Why in heck would I have a child’s scooter in my bedroom I ask?) And the Hot Man  is blinded by the eyes of love (and by the eyes of impatience because he’s sick to bits of waiting for me to get ready.) So he sits there and makes the most irritating comments of all – ‘Why are you changing your dress again? What was wrong with the other one? You’re going to straighten your hair now? You do realize that we have ten minutes to make it to church on time, don’t you? Do you have to put on makeup? You look fine without it. Now what are you doing?!’  Hello, does he want me to be an ugly, sloppy bag of a wife?!

And then I just want to scream at all of them. Go away and leave me alone!
And what makes it worse? When finally, I’m dressed, we all exit the building to get in the car and then I notice what my children look like. The two teenagers look svelte and refined. And clearly their svelteness prevented them from supervising the wardobe choices of the younger three. Bella has two different socks and shoes on. ‘We couldn’t find her matching ones and besides, she likes this style much better.’. Nobody has brushed her hair and I’m sure that’s a glob of bubblegum stuck in it. Little Son has squeezed himself into his favorite jeans – the ones that he can’t zip up all the way and I don’t want to look too closely because as usual, he has ‘forgotten’ to put any underwear on. Surprise. The Princess is looking stunning – in a bewildering array of colors…sequin belt, huge red flower on her head, pink ruffled skirt, orange top, a necklace made of xmas decorations. She is a Cyndi Lauper vision from the eighties

I look at this motley crew of fabulousness in all their glory.

And then I just want to stay home.

    Girls. We just want to have fun. And get dressed without a pack of pestering children interrupting us.

Let’s Throw Stones at the Bad Lazy Mother

Once a year our church has the children give the program. The children practise for weeks, reciting scriptures, singing songs and going thru little skits. (Except for my children.)  It’s the one Sunday you are guaranteed not to be able to find a parking spot when you come to late to church. (Like we did.) It’s the one Sunday when all the children are dressed in their sparkling white clothes and all the boys sport bowties. (Except for my children.)

Yes, the Children’s Sunday presentation is a beautiful event. Parents cry when their little ones say their parts. Mothers get that warm sense of satisfaction as their child raises their voice in song. Fathers beam proudly. Everyone is uplifted and inspired.

That is what Children’s Sunday is supposed to be like. And it used to be like that for us, way back when we had ONE, TWO children. But now? Now I have five children. And I’m old. And lazy tired. Busy. And I take a far more relaxed, non-stressed, un-freaked-out approach to it all. So I never got around to checking whether or not my three young children had learnt their parts. I left that to their church teachers. And when the trio told me, ‘We have to wear new white dresses,white shirts,a red bowtie for the program” I said, Don’t be ridiculous. We don’t have money to waste on that stuff. Besides, Zach will just ruin a white shirt by playing in the dirt and it will be ripped within a few hours. You already have nice church clothes. Wear those. And when they tried to protest, I used it as a teaching moment. Does God care what color clothes you wear? No, I don’t think so. As long as they are clean and modest. What is important to God? It ain’t bowties, let me tell ya!

We got to the church a teensie bit late. The carpark was full, we had to park on the garden. Inside, all the other children were already up on the stand and getting ready to start the program. They were a shining calvacade of angels. All dressed in white. And the boys had perfect red bowties. My husband looked at me in accusing horror. “They’re all wearing white! What about your kids?” I said, Does God care what color clothes they wear?! blah blah. He didn’t look convinced. I sent the children up to the stand. Zach looked very handsome. And very obvious in his blue plaid shirt. Zion was shinier than everyone else in her pink glitter top. The program started. Bella loudly shouted her line into the mike. (I didnt even know she had one. Who makes 3 year olds recite scriptures in church?!) But she yelled it no problem and I wanted to lead a stadium wave on her behalf. Zion sang a duet number with another little boy. She sounded amazing. ( So glad she doesnt take after me in the voice dept.) Zach was up next. Rocked his verses with confident ease. (Must have been the shirt…) And then Zion had to recite her part. She stood up, started eagerly…and then halfway thru she stopped. Abruptly. Stamped her foot. And exclaimed VERY LOUDLY into the mike,  “Oh darn it, I forgot my words!”

Heads turned to seek out the parents of this cursing child. I laughed. And sent Zion the biggest smile and most encouraging thumbs-up that was legally allowed in a place of worship. My husband gave me a look of accusing horror. (Dude, enough with the horror already. She’s your kid too.)  My teenagers cringed and gave me looks of accusing horror. “Mum, why didn’t you make sure she knew her part!?”  I said, “Why didn’t you? She’s your little sister.”  A teacher rushed to give Zion a piece of paper to read from. She finished her part and sat down. I was so proud of her. She wore a pink glitter top, she spoke, she stumbled, she swore, and then she got back up and carried on to the end.

So, was this event another example of what a bad lazy mother I am? Yes. Did my children still rock in spite of their loser mother? Most definitely. Will I try to be good next year and make sure my children are better prepared? Probably. But I’m still convinced that God doesn’t care what color clothes we wear. So there.

And I’m super grateful that Zion didn’t say, “Oh shit.” Like her mum does.
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Why you shouldn’t talk about guns at church.

Have you got one of these at your house?
The Hot Man has been avidly watching the TV series “The Walking Dead.” So have I. I shut my eyes most of the time but I have this horrible fascination with a show that tells us in gory detail, what happens when the world is taken over by flesh eating zombies. I hate it but I have to watch it. Because I’m doing research. Because this could TOTALLY happen. And when it does, I want to be ready.

We Mormons are food and water hoarders. We are taught that every family must have a good supply of essentials for emergencies. (Like when you’ve spent half the food budget on a new dress and you don’t want the family to be forced to eat grass. That’s a dire emergency. Bust open the canned goods soldiers.) I love the principle of food storage. It’s just another confirmation for me that I must belong to a true church because it wants us to be practically prepared for anything and everything. Including the Zombie Apocalypse. (Okay, the Prophet never said to store food because of zombies, but I’m a clever woman and can fill in the significant gaps.)

Which is why, one Sunday in a lesson about ‘Principles of Effective Food Storage’ when the teacher asked, What else should we have in our storage? I waved my hand, eagerly. Yes, Sister Young?

“Lots of guns. And lots and lots of bullets.”

There was a silence. The kind that reeked of shock, overlaid with embarrassment. The teacher smiled at me kindly. Like you do at a small child who just said a bad word by accident. Um, and why would we need guns in our storage for?

Duh. Isn’t it obvious? “Because when the world falls apart, not everyone will have food storage. They will be desperate for stuff and they’re going to do everything they can to steal your supplies. It’s going to be a mad war zone out there. You need guns.”

There was more silence. The heavily disapproving kind. The teacher didn’t smile. “Sister Young, I’m sure that in a time of great disaster, we will be willing to share with those less fortunate than us because in such times, it’s more important than ever to be charitable and loving.”

Flame, crash and burn Lani…I shut up. But I’m sorry to say that I was unconvinced by the teacher’s loving logic. Clearly she’s not aware of the possibility of the Zombie Apocalypse. And she hasn’t seen the vicious pushing and shoving that occurs when there’s only one tray of brownies left at a crowded church dinner…

I’m not giving up on the guns. I’m selfish, cruel and uncharitable. Me and my canned goods are going straight to hell.

I hope they let me take my guns.

You are nobody and have nothing of importance.

My parents are going to work in a certain Pacific island nation far away for 2 years. It’s a somewhat dangerous place. One where you shouldnt catch a taxi from the airport because the driver is likely to drive you to the bushes where a helpful gang will be waiting to rid you of every possession. And where they had a shoot out at the airport last week…something about robbers fighting over gold? I think. I said to my mother – clearly, you should not be taking any of your jewellry with you on this mission. She replied, ‘of course i will, just not the REAL stuff. ( Yes Im sure the robbers will pause to authenticate her jewels BEFORE they chop her arm off for them…) I told her you shouldnt wear any of your usual clothing. ( Because as anyone who knows my mother knows – she is Vogue magazine personified.) She replied, scandalized, ‘of course i will, but i shall aim for understated elegance.’ I rolled my eyes and gave up. And so she continued planning her wardrobe for life in a semi-dangerous place.
Last week, to be helpful, a friend who once lived in that country for 8 years as a single woman, wrote to my parents and sent them a list of ‘Tips for Survival’. They included the following:

1. At all times, you must strive to be as inconspicuous as possible. Dress, act and speak as though “you are nobody and have nothing of importance.” Obviously, my mother won’t last a day there. Understated elegance screams of conspicuosness and will condemn you every time.

2. Drive with all the windows up and all the doors locked. Park in places that will give you the quickest escape route. While driving, you must be mentally prepared to run down anyone who stands in the middle of the road and signals you to stop. ESPECIALLY, if they are holding a gun.
I dont know how they are supposed to be doing their job which will involve networking with lots of different people if they cant stop for them on the road. Maybe they can crank the windows open a teensie weensie bit and throw out pamphlets as they hurtle past? As they duck bullets?

3. Never go shopping at the market. People are always getting mugged at the market. If you want fresh produce, go with a group of friends to a certain weekly market organized by a certain religion. Drive there in a convoy of vehicles. Follow all the rules regarding driving as per item #2.
4. Never go anywhere at night. Stay locked up in your compound. Be aware that the most danger-laden task is that of getting out of your car to go open the security gate of your compound to either drive in or out. The gangs like to hide in the bushes and wait for the unsuspecting gate-opener.

5. Never forget that even though it can be a dangerous place, it is also a wildly beautiful land with wonderful people and you can be very happy there.

6. Focus on item #5 if you lapse following any of the rules and end up in a horribly sticky situation.

Needless to say, the list did not do much to assuage my concerns for my parents upcoming travel plans. Im trying to help my mother practise dressing “like she is nothing and no-one.” I have offered her all my clothes. In exchange for hers. (she said she’ll get back to me on that one.) And Im trying to find someone who can drive like Vin Diesel in ‘Fast and the Furious’ so they can give my mum lessons. I have serious doubts about her ability to run people over. Especially when theyre holding a gun.
Vin Diesel we need you!