When Your Husband Runs Away From You


I used to say that the only way I could ever get a holiday from my Demented Domestic Goddess duties – was to get pregnant. Because then I would have to go live in New Zealand for a few months before and after the baby busted out because I have a small problem with sustaining an alien lifeform (I nearly die every time.) A rather extreme way to get a little ‘me-time’…

Now, the Hot Man is our resident ‘Demented Domestic God’ for a few months and he’s decided to cross a few things off his bucket list while he’s at it: a triathlon and a Half-Ironman.  So in between laundry and dishes and making sure everyone brushes their teeth – he also bikes, runs and swims a lot. It makes him very tired. And a little grouchy too because he has to reach a certain weight so he can’t eat what he wants to.

He’s been doing a fabulous job with the Domestic Duties though, making it possible for me to write lots. ( And eat lots…) Until he tells me that he has to go to Samoa to run in a half-marathon and get some training done in the humidity there. He’s going away for ten days, he says. So I can acclimatize, he says. It’s essential preparation for the Half-Ironman in August, he says.

Okaaaay, I say.  So he makes his flight bookings. Excitedly.

Then he tells me, when he comes BACK from his half-marathon, he has to go BACK to Samoa nine days after that so he can do a triathlon there. And be there for another ten days. So I can acclimatize, he says. I can’t do the Half-Ironman later in the year if I don’t do this triathlon first, he says. You know the roads there are very different from here in NZ, I’m taking my racing bike so I can get used to the terrain there, he says. We don’t want me to have any accidents in the Half-Ironman, he says.

No we don’t want that, I say.

So he makes his flight bookings. Gleefully.

I watch him pack all his gear. The bike, the protein powder, the carbo bars, the energy gels, the shoes. He’s excited and I’m excited for him. For the most part. It would help if he didn’t look so damn happy about the thought of escaping from us and the laundry and the dishes and the making of school lunches…

I wish I’d won the lottery  so I could afford to go with him. (Actually purchasing a lottery ticket would probably have been helpful with that.) I wish we didn’t have five children who needed looking after so I could go with him. I could drive alongside him while he runs on the road, blasting encouraging music, throwing water at him – all while I eat panipopo from Siaosi’s shop. While he’s recovering from his event, I could be meeting up with my girlfriends, Kristin and Kathy  for sundaes and gossip at McDonalds. ( okay, so we’re too old to be ‘girlfriends’ but you get the idea…) What a shaaamahzingly awesome trip it would have been. If I had gone.

But I didn’t.

Because I’m not the one who’s an athlete. Because I’m at home with the five children I gave birth to just so I could go on ‘holiday’ each time. And get a break from the rest of the children.

I’m such an idiot –  what I should have done  – is take up running. And run AWAY instead.



Mormons are Satan Worshippers

Somebody asked me the other day, “how come you don’t blog/write about being Mormon? Are you trying to hide it?”

It never occurred to me that anyone would construe my NOT blogging about being Mormon as an attempt to ‘hide it.’ Just like, it never occurred to me to blog about my Mormon-ness purely for the sake of telling my five blog followers that I happen to be Mormon. I mean, does anybody care -what religion an author/blogger is? I know I dont… It drives me nuts when people discuss the Mormon symbolism in Twilight…or debate whether or not Stephanie Meyer is a ‘good’ Mormon because of what her sparkly characters do. Do we know what religion JK Rowling is? Do we care?

But I digress.

In the interest of full disclosure, I shall blog once and for all about my religion. Yes, I am a  Mormon – a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints otherwise known as the LDS church.  My parents are also Mormon and they tried their bestest to teach us and raise us according to LDS gospel principles. Some of us frequently run amuck but we’re all trying, learning, falling over, and getting back up again. I now try to raise my own children as ‘decent’ Mormons – and mess up more than I succeed – which is why NOBODY should ever see my blog as an example of a “good Mormon Mom Blog”….*ducks head in shame*

Some of you may be wondering, what’s a Mormon?  I could quote you a list of doctrinal descriptors and belief statements and direct you to the nearest missionary near you…but instead, Im going to do what I do best – and relay a waffly, possibly humorous, potentially offensive story from my salacious past.

Once upon a time, when I first started “dating” the Hot Man (as much as a young couple in Samoa could ‘date’…) someone in his family was very happy. She said, “What a good choice! Mormon girls are good girls. Lani is a good girl!” She said this because Mormons (supposedly) do not have sex until they’re married, don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t go to nightclubs, and don’t wear revealing clothing. I will neither confirm nor deny at this time, if all those things were true of my nineteen year old self because my teenagers might read this blog and we all know how dedicated they are to seeking out evidence of their parent’s misdemeanors so they can justify all of THEIR stupid choices... I will however say, that IF all those things were true of me, then, in her opinion, that made me a far superior choice compared to SOME of the girls the Hot Man had been going out with. (Naming no names…pointing no fingers…)

So yes, the Hot Man’s mother was very happy we were dating. But then we got married. And a year or so later, the Hot Man decided to get baptized and become a Mormon. My mother-in-law wasn’t so happy then. Especially when her son – much much later – became so committed to his faith that he went to the Mormon temple. She didn’t like it one bit. “I heard that Mormons worship Satan. They don’t believe in Jesus…they’re a cult…they do strange sexual things inside those temples…there’s a man wearing a horned mask talking to the Devil in there…” I guess she only liked nice Mormon girls when they dated her son. Not when they married him and took him over to the Dark Side of the Force.

Which is why, it was beyond hilarious to me when she came to ask for my help one day…with composing a prayer. Yes, that’s correct. She had been assigned to recite/say the prayer in her congregation and wanted me to write one for her. Why me? “Because in your church, everybody prays all the time, even the little kids can say their own prayers. Only the priest/pastor says the prayers in our church. And besides, you’re a writer so you can write something nice for me to pray.”

Anybody want to guess how tempted I was to open my prayer writing with: “Dear Satan…o blessed forked tailed one”?

But I didn’t. I composed a nice prayer and she was very happy with it. And the Hot Man was very relieved I chose not to address the Dark Lord.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

The End.

What do we learn about Mormons from this story? (according to Lani anyway) Let’s separate fact from fiction.

1. Family unity is very important to Mormons. We believe that families can be together forever in the “afterlife” so it makes sense then that we would want to build strong families and actually LIKE the people we’re stuck with by familial ties. Tolerance for other people’s beliefs is also important (and keeping your cool even when others think you’re an acolyte of Lucifer.)

2. Contrary to exciting rumors, Mormons do not have more than one wife ( at a time.) We are not polygamists. The Hot Man is only ever going to be married to me. (Until I get hit by a bus and then he can choose another wife from a list I have lovingly prepared for him.)

3. Practising/active Mormons live by what we call the Word of Wisdom which is a guideline for healthy living. We don’t drink alcohol, coffee or tea. We don’t do drugs or smoke. We’re supposed to eat a diet that’s heavy on the ‘harvest of the field’ – grains and vegetables/fruits and light on meat.

4. We do believe in Jesus Christ. And  frown upon worshiping Satan.

5. We have a Law of Chastity and try very hard not to have any kind of sex unless you’re married. (doesnt always work but one can only try) We’re also supposed to dress in a modest fashion. Which works better for some than others. Big Daughter hates to wear skirts above the knee while I adore them…

6. We go to church for three hours on Sunday. We don’t have full-time clergy. Everyone is called upon at different times to serve in a particular ‘job’ ranging from being the Bishop to teaching Sunday school to being a Youth Leader. Right now, I’m a teacher in the women’s organization called Relief Society and the Hot Man is a leader in the Young Men’s youth program – so he gets to do fun stuff like take teenagers on hikes and do yard work service projects.

7. And yes, we are rather good at praying. (So if YOU ever need a prayer composed, ask a Mormon to help.)

My faith is important to me and super-helpful as I try to be a wife and a mum. I don’t actively try to put my spiritual beliefs into my books or my blog but because they are an essential part of who I am – then I guess some of it is going to find its way in there somehow!

BUT if I ever see a critical essay written on “Mormonism in the TELESA Series”, I’m going to vomit all over it. And call on the Dark Lord to set it on fire.

You have been warned.

I am Enough.

I blinked and 2012 streaked naked through my life, my messy house. And then it was gone. Just like that. Hello 2013!

Right, so I’m going to do something revolutionary (for me) this year.  I am not going to start the new year making a list of all the things I hate about myself and how to fix them. Lists for how to be prettier, nicer, smarter, skinnier, friendlier, wiser, neater and all the other kinds of stupid’er things I’m supposed to be in fantasy land. Ha. I am NOT even going to make any fitness and weight loss goals. I am not going to commit to running in any 102km relays. I am NOT going to visualize how happy I will be when I lose twenty pounds. Or get boob implants. Liposuction. A nip. Tuck. Botox. I’m not even going to waste a single minute cursing the science research/medical industry that wont invest money and effort into devising a pill that gives you instant boob implants, liposuction, plastic surgery and botox. A painless, simple, cheap pill. I’m not going to knock down Jenny Craig’s door the minute they open after the New Year holiday for cardboard food I will hate eating. Or buy an insanely overpriced gym membership to a gym I will hate going to.

No. Not wasting a breath on any of that crap this year.

Because this is the year that I turn forty thirty-six. I am not a simpering, eyelash-batting, breathy-voiced teenager freaking out over acne and wondering whether some cute boy likes me. And I am not a self-obsessed, self-possessed, party-going, table-dancing, skank mini-skirt wearing twenty-something year old either. Or a people-pleasing yes-kid starving for affirmation.

 I am a WOMAN, dammit. A 5″10, CENSORED pound woman who’s given birth to four children and tried to stay sane while raising five. A big, brown Polynesian woman with big hips, bold thighs, and lush curves in unwanted unexpected places. I’ve got centipede pattern stitch scars across my non-existent ab’s from triple c-sections. And whispered tiger stripe stretch marks everywhere else that tell their story of baby growing. Breasts that have nourished life – and bled for it. Arms that have rocked a crying child a thousand times, a thousand nights. Hands that have labored over chocolate cakes, kids homework from hell, hair braiding, kids’ eczema, cleaned up puke, poop, paint and parties, given hugs (and yeah, maybe these hands have pinched naughty kids a few times too…wielded a salu…possibly)

 I am a mother with a loud voice who can laugh with her children, cry with them and fight for them.  I am a wife with a patient heart who knows how to love through the good, the bad and the ugly times. I am a daughter who knows that the best way to love her parents – is from a distance – with carefully constructed fences of self-built self-worth. I am a sister who’s made mistakes – and is learning from them. I am a teacher who knows how to make learning a journey of discovery with her students. I am an author who writes Pasifika love stories – and loves it.  I am blessed. I am grateful.

I am all these things and more. I am me and I am not going to waste time on trying to be anything different. This quote from a very wise woman, Marjorie Hinckley is perfect, “We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are.” I think I am finally ready to stop trying to prove myself.

This year, I will not be driven by self-loathing. This year I will endeavour to incorporate into my life – more of those elements that uplift, energize and inspire me. For example, I hate running (and dieting). With a passion. But I love love love dancing. (and eating.) With a passion. This year I’m going to sign up for fun stuff like Hot Hula and also finally learn how to tango. (hopefully the Hot Man will agree to sign up to be my Antonio-Banderas-dance partner!) I’m going to make the time to prepare the foods that I love and take a cooking class so I can stop eating cans of tuna for dinner followed by three different kinds of cake (since thats all I know how to make with any kind of skill…) Bring on the seafood extravaganza menu!

I want to (finally) learn to swim. Go to a Coldplay concert. Meet up with fabulous author friends at the RT Convention in the US. Write more books about lots of luscious, bold Pasifika women (and beautiful hot guys…of course) Take the Fab5 to Disneyland. Get my NZ driver’s license so I can actually drive OUTSIDE West Auckland, see more of New Zealand with my family.  Get out of my hermit cave more. I will try new things and search for new experiences that will bring joy to my life and the lives of those I love.

My resolutions for 2013? To be fierce, fiery and bold – in person and not just on paper. To love better, dance and laugh more. To be content with me.

To say, ‘I am enough.’ And mean it.

What do you hope for from YOUR 2013?

106 Minutes of Sexual Intimacy

I always suspected I was a bad mother/wife/woman. And now I just had it confirmed. Some scientists  ( with nothing better to do with their time than find ways to make me feel bad), did a study on “What a Woman’s Perfect Day Would Consist Of.” And the results? Went a little something like this –
106 minutes of sexual intimacy
82 minutes of socializing with family and friends
78 minutes of relaxation with friends and family
75 minutes of eating with family and friends probably
73 minutes of prayer and/or meditation
68 minutes of exercise with friends
57 minutes of phone time talking to friends
56 minutes of shopping
55 minutes of watching TV …..and so on.

I read this and I’m like…are you out of your freakin mind? Is that really what you women out there in the world of scientific studies want, dream of, lust for and long for? You’re REALLY coveting 106 minutes of sex/intimacy? Please tell me you just said that because your Significant Other was looking over your shoulder when you filled out the nosey-poker form? And are you HONESTLY wishing for socializing with your kids, your family, your friends a close second? Or did you just write that because it would earn you points in heaven?

Because if this list looks like what YOU would write – then I’m a very bad woman. And very very alone in my bad-ness.

Because MY idea of a perfect day would go something like this…

1. Wake up to a completely empty house. Redolent with quietness. Because everyone has fed themselves, dressed themselves and taken themselves to other very important places , very far away. Like school.  Or the planet Mars. And they didn’t leave a mess either. They all made their beds, washed their own clothes, vacuumed the house and scrubbed the shower. Because they’re super-wonderful like that.
2. Go to a cafe and eat breakfast. An omelette with mushrooms, ham and tomatoes. Lots of maple syrup.  The Hot Man can come to breakfast too. (But he cant have any of my omelette. He would order waffles with ice cream. So then I can eat some.)

Then in no particular order, I would do any/all the following…visit a spa and have a massage, manicure, pedicure. Read a book, by myself. Write 5,000 words on my latest project. By myself. Bake cookies, by myself.  MAYBE go to lunch with a friend or two. Drink Diet Coke, by myself. Listen to Eminem, U2, Phillip Phillips, Norah Jones and stuff like that, by myself. Go water walking at the pool, by myself.  Go to a movie. Eat a chocolate lamington.

And yeah, I guess I would also engage in “Sexual Intimacy” – BUT NOT FOR 106 MINUTES – because I don’t care how amazing sex is, that’s just way too long to be naked and sweaty and acrobatic. I mean, get real, a zumba class is only 50 minutes of cardio. And I find it difficult to be smiley and look alluring and remember to breathe for that long, all while contorting one’s body to music. Without falling over. (And that’s WITH clothes on.)  So, sex can be on the list but it wouldnt be number one on there.

My ideal day would also include my children. In there somewhere. Like maybe a few blessed minutes before they go to sleep. Like when they’re already fed, dressed and have done all the dishes and their homework, then we would read stories together. One hug, One kiss. And then ‘Good Night!’ The Fabulous Five are most fabulous when they’re going to sleep.  My ‘perfect day’ doesnt look much like the scientific study.

No. Because I’m a freak who likes her personal space. To herself. Which means, I dont want to spend the bulk of my ideal day WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Not even people I love desperately. An ideal day would have lots of good food, good books, good music.

And most of all, SPACE. Lots and lots of space. Just for ME. To wallow in. Dance in. Delight in. Get drunk on.

Like I said. I’m a bad wife. Bad mother. Bad woman.

Clearly, I’m going straight to hell. I hope they have isolation cells for people like me.

So whats high on YOUR list for YOUR perfect day?

A Night of Illicit Abandon – Walking on the Wild Side

A fit of fizzy flightiness overwhelmed me this weekend.  I was consumed by this insane desire to be like those people who bungy jump, sky dive and buy clothes that are NOT on sale. I felt like living dangerously and walking on the wild side.  Where did this strange feeling come from? Maybe it was because the week had been crazy busy – I Telesa chatted with  a Pacific Lit class at Auckland University on Monday, took kids to the dentist on Tuesday, wrote furiously on Wednesday, did an interview for the TVNZ Good Morning Show on Thursday, and gave a talk at a church women’s conference on Friday. (Or maybe it was because I ingested way too much caffeine via Diet Coke overdosing to assist me with all my speech writing and interview-prepping…)

Either way, I said to the Hot Man, ‘ooh, lets be spontaneous and exciting!He looked wary. ‘And do what?’

I said, let’s run away from the children and live it up all night! Dancing on tables ( or around poles), jumping off the Sky Tower, ordering not one but TWO desserts….all crossed my mind.  I  found a super fabulous overnight special for a lovely hotel in the city situated in the midst of restaurants, night clubs and assorted wild times venues so that we could do exactly that – ‘live it up all night’  (The mind boggles at all the possibilities in that phrase it up all night…)   I was ready to live dangerously.

But the sad fact is that a woman with five children can never really live dangerously without excruciating planning. And massive atonement for the overload of guilt one feels when one abandons said children. Soooooo before I ran away, I had to :
1. organize baby sitting
2. purchase extra groceries in case there was a famine while we were gone
3. Check that torches and radios had batteries, candles had matches, smoke alarms were working, all windows and doors had functioning locks, and every child remembered the emergency number and tsunami escape route   – in case there was a natural disaster, fire or influx of housebreakers while we were gone.
4. Remind Big Son and Big Daughter about paracetemol, asthma medications, treatment for spider bites, choking, accidental ingestion of too many cookies.
5. Rent DVDs and XBox games galore from the store so they wouldnt cry/be left bereft/sink into the depths of despair upon my departure.

I had a faint moment of panic when I remembered that we havent actually made a will yet and what if we both got killed in a motorway crash on the way to the hotel? Or what if the hotel got taken siege by terrorists and we were blown to bits because Bruce Willis couldnt save us? It was too late to get a will done by then so I had to let those dire thoughts go. Bad mother, bad mother – irresponsible enough to have so many children and NOT get a will done.

And finally, before we could run away for a night of illicit abandon, I insisted we take the children on an all-day fun outing. One that involved a trip to the local marine world and hours at the beach. Sand, sun, water, and fish’n’chips.Fun, fun, fun. Only then could I indulge in my fit of fizzy flightiness, chucking clothes in a bag and run away.

It was 5pm before we finally left. The hotel was lovely. We enjoyed being childless. (cue fireworks and glitter cannons here) We had a delicious dinner at a lovely restaurant. We finished eating. And then the Hot Man said, with forced joviality,  Right where shall we go dancing first?

Then the sad truth hit me. I was really really really tired from hanging out with those children all day and being kind and loving and patient and joyful for such a long time. I was kinda sunburnt from the beach. My feet hurt from walking around the marine place. I didnt want to go bungee jumping off the Sky Tower. Or dancing on tables or around poles. I couldnt even order two desserts because I was still full from fishnchips from Mission Bay. I didnt want to squeeze myself into my ‘dancing on table and around poles’ attire, I just wanted to veg out and space out in ginormously comfortable pyjamas. And did I mention that I  was tired?

But mostest of all? I missed my children. And my house. And my own bed. And my own shower. And my own living room. And my own fridge.

I said, shamefaced. ‘Actually, I want to go home. I miss the kids.’

And the Hot Man said, shamefaced. ‘Yeah, me too.

Conclusion?  We must be really old.  Or just really boring.

I am resolved – next time I am possessed by a fizzy fit of flightiness, I wont exhaust myself first by taking the children out on an all-day excursion of happiness. No. I will be heartless, cold and cruel, just walk out that door and slam it so loud that I will drown out the YOU CRAPPY LOSER MOTHER! sirens blaring in my head. And then nobody will be able to hold me back from the dance tables and I will order not one, not two, but THREE desserts, because I know how to live dangerously, dammit! 

We used to know how to be exciting and fun people, honestly!
(Is that edge of desperation in my voice convincing you yet?!)

Fifty Memories of Samoa for Fifty Years of Independence

Flags flying in Samoa for Independence. Photo by Leone Samu.

Today Samoa marks the 50th anniversary of achieving Independence. For me, the story of Samoa’s last fifty years is also my family’s story because my parents were married in 1962 and they celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary this year as well. My parents chose to stay in Samoa and raise their six children there, even though the lure of distant shores was strong. My mother came to Samoa from New Zealand, as a very new, very ‘refined’, very beautiful young bride ( wearing white gloves no less), and thankfully for us children – never left. One of the greatest blessings in my life, has been the privilege of being born and raised in Samoa – by parents who have always worked hard to strengthen their marriage and value their family above all else. I pay humble tribute to the land that nurtured me and to the parents who love me. Thank you. Here’s fifty of my favorite memories of growing up in Samoa. There’s a million more for each one listed and of course, each of you will have your own unique list!

1. Weekends at Lefaga, staying in a house on the beach. Spending the day in the water (after doing all the assigned chores of course), showering at a rusty tap by the mangrove swamp, playing cards by kerosene lantern, going to sleep with the sound of the ocean (and mosquitoes), waking up and doing it all over again.
2. Reading Narnia books while sitting in a mango tree. Sticky sweet juice on your face. Hoping nobody finds you and gives you chores to do.
3. Getting dropped off at the Nelson Public library for the entire afternoon – the only place I was allowed to go all by myself when I was eight years old – and not worrying that a psycho child abductor was going to grab me. Really nice librarians bending the rules and allowing me to borrow twenty books at a time.
4. Hot German buns. Deliciously sweet, caramalized coconut insides.
5. Classroom monitor duty, sweeping classrooms with a salu-lima. Trying to tell naughty boys what to do because I’m just boss like that. (and because I was class captain. Don’t mess with my power…)
6. Finding excuses not to play softball. Or netball. Because everybody shrieks with laughter when you make a mistake. And yells at you when you’re awful. Samoa never believed in ‘every child’s a winner on the field’. If you sucked, everyone told you.
7. Glutting yourself on whatever fruit is in season. Making a basket with your shirt and filling it with mandarins. Or passionfruit. Or crab apples. Running really fast to escape the security guard. ( We lived on an agriculture Univ campus and students had fruit orchards everywhere which we weren’t really supposed to be helping ourselves to.)
8. Hoping the neighbor’s dog wouldn’t bite you.
9. Hoping your own dog wouldnt bite you.
10. Picking frangipani so we could make ula for Culture Day at school. Sap sticky fingers, sore from all the careless needle pricks.
12.  Sunday Toona’i at my grandfather’s house. Getting to eat all the food that our palagi mum refused to make. Chop suey. Oka. Pisupo floating in oil. Taro.
13. Saturday morning cartoons at my grandfather’s house because we didn’t own a television and he got TV stations from American Samoa.
14. Eating red baked lopa seeds. Making a mess with all the shells everywhere.
15. Eating sugar cane. Making a mess with all the spit up, chewed out mouthfuls.
16. Eating lolesaiga. Making a mess with all the leftover seeds. Our mum getting mad everytime she stepped on one by accident.
17. The whole school practicing for hours in the sun everyday so we get our sasa JUST RIGHT.
18. Being in the B-group for Samoan language with all the palagi kids because we never spoke Samoan at home, because my Dad believed that English was the language that would take us places. At the time – he was right.
19. School detention for being late too many times. Mean prefects making you weed vaofefe prickle grass in the blazing hot sun. While they stood in the shade and watched. (So unlike Daniel who cuts grass BESIDE you when you’re suffering through your punishment.)
20. Traipsing around after my big brother while he catches eels at Lefaga, using an empty plastic bottle, suctioning them out of their hiding places in the lava rock pools.
21. Practicing our lines for White Sunday. ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.’ Papa getting annoyed because the Mormon kids ( us) were really bad at memorizing scriptures.
22. Driving real slow everywhere. Stopping to allow really big pigs to meander across the road.
23. Swimming at Vaiala at least three nights a week. My Dad throwing me up in the air, silver spray scatters.
24. Ice-cream cones after swimming. Sitting in the back of the pickup truck, wet and wrapped in a towel, feeling like life cant get any more perfect than this.
25. Hot pani popo from Schwenke’s bread shop. Rich, creamy and delicious. The tall cute boy serving behind the counter who I’m SURE had a crush on me because he always gave me EXTRA coconut buns. (yeah, you know it. Twelve years old and getting free coconut buns with my smile. Woo hoo!)
26. The heady fragrance of golden mosooi flowers.
27. Dancing the siva all the time. Getting called on to be the taupou every time my Dad had some kind of village matai event because the REAL taupou of the village ( aka, my big sister) was at school overseas. Somebody needs a taualuga? No problem, ‘Lani, go siva.’
28. The dreaded report cards. The parent’s responses, ‘You only came first in THREE subjects? What about the other two?’
29. The high school socials. Held in broad daylight. Everybody dressed up with no place to go. Dancing in the school hall with sweat trickling down your back and teachers breathing over your shoulder.
30. Taking empty Coke bottles to the store so we could buy PK chewing gum.
31. Eating eleni and hating it. Even when its cooked a million different ways by our Martha Stewart mother. Eleni fishballs with sweet and sour sauce. Eleni ‘meat’ loaf. Eleni baked with aubergines. Yuck.
32. Three hours of church every Sunday. My little sister giving her Sunday school teacher a heart attack, telling her ‘I’ve decided to be an aethist.’
33. Evening lotu prayers at Papa’s house. Every night. The roads closing. All traffic forbidden from six to seven because everybody is supposed to be at home. Singing hymns. Praying. Reading scriptures. Or else you get fasi’d.
34. Visiting Great-Aunty Ita who named me, who tells everyone, all the time,  that I’m going to do amazing things  – become a nun, marry a pastor, or be a lawyer.
35. Visiting Great-aunty Ita who named me, always without my mother, because Aunty Ita called her a ‘daughter of pigs’.
36. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer at school. Every morning. Every day.
37. Working in our mum’s shop every day after school . All day Saturday. Getting paid one tala for our troubles. Rushing to blow it all on lolesaiga. Or a fizzy Fanta in a glass bottle.
38. Reading books while we’re supposed to be working in our mum’s bookshop every day. Missing it when a stealer grabs three of Mum’s silk-screened t.shirts and runs out the door. Getting told off by our mum for being slack shop security.
39. Being scared whenever Evaliga came into the shop in her colorful assortment of draped fabrics and a red turban on her head. She would sit and read a dictionary for half an hour, muttering to herself while we wondered what we would do if she decided to take it. Fight Evaliga? Hell no. Breathing a sigh of relief every time she left the store. Without the dictionary.
40. Buying all the coconuts from Maria – the little girl who lugs a basket of them into the store everyday. Making her sit down. Giving her some snacks. Wishing you could pay for her school fees. And then regretting it a little bit when she comes back the next day with another basket AND three friends who all have baskets of cabbages to sell as well.
41. Being a ‘young adult’ and going dancing at the clubs – the Playground, Margreyta’s, Evening Shades and even the Mt Vaea. Our favorite DJ, Corey Keil who always played the bestest sounds.
42. Having your boyfriend get hit on by very boisterous, very bodacious fa’afafine. Hoping he’s not interested because daayuuum how can you compete with such splendors of fashion and dance?!
43. Planting a massive vegetable garden with your brothers and sisters. The nuisance of having to weed and water it everyday. The wonder of eating fresh golden corn on the cob once everything actually grew.
44. Buying a plate of BBQ from a roadside stand. Chargrilled mamoe, a chicken leg that seeps with redness, saka fa’i, and a dollop of potato salad. Loving it.
45. Peka ( our babysitter/Nanny, our other mother) crying those rare times our mother smacked us with the wooden spoon. Telling our mother she was never coming back to work again.
46. Feeding chickens and collecting eggs every day. Being scared of the psycho rooster that charges at people, wanting to scratch your eyes out.
47. My Dad doing the dishes with the lights turned off because he didn’t want anybody to see him from the road. Because ‘it’s very shameful for all of you if people see the matai of the family is washing the dishes.
48. My Mum lending her creative flair and fierce drive and determination to community service groups. Organizing stunning fundraising events for the local IHC. Dressing up as Zorro to ‘kidnap’ the bank manager in broad daylight and hold him for ransom. Wearing a fluffy skirt to dance the cancan on stage with eight other women. Lip synching ‘Jump for my love’. Whatever my mum does – she does with style.
49. Making my little brother push me around in the wheelbarrow while I give orders to the little sisters as we make scarecrows to put in the yard. Which never scared any birds. (Nobody told the Samoan birds they were supposed to be scared of raggedy clothes hung on sticks.)
50. Waking up early on Independence morning to go watch our big brother and sister march in the parade. Eating homemade cinnamon rolls and drinking Milo in the darkness while we wait for it to start. Getting our ears and hearts blown to bits by the 21 cannon salute as another year of Samoa’s Independence begins.
  Happy and blessed Fiftieth Anniversary Samoa – and my Mum and Dad.

Women who Sanction and Encourage Domestic Violence

In the past few years, we have opened our home to several different women (and their children) who have needed ‘refuge’ from their abusive partners. And I’m not talking about the ‘He said my butt looked big in this dress and hurt my feelings...’ kind of abuse. I’m talking about : punches in the face, knocking out teeth, hitting with a steel chair, breaking of bones, abuse of children, bruising, choking, threats to kill/maim/punish, smashing of furniture and property etc.The kind of abuse that has been ongoing for years. All of these women had little or no faith/confidence in the police and legal system to protect them. “He’ll kill me if I go to the police…” Some of them did not want to report their abusers because “I love him…I don’t want him to go to prison…He’s very sorry…He’s going to change…He’s the father of my children…etc” I have reported their abuse to the police and had these women conceal their bruises and deny everything when the police come knocking.

Of these women, only ONE went on to separate from and then divorce her husband, effectively ‘getting out’ of the abusive situation. She has gone on to make a ‘new’ life for herself and her child, having little or no contact with her former partner. The other women went back to their relationships.Are they living happily ever after? In spite of all their attempts to pretend otherwise – their partners are still violent and heavily influenced by alcohol and possible drug abuse. One of the women we have never heard from again and sometimes I wonder if she’s even still alive.

But this is not a post about how awful men can be to the women they “love.” Or how sick and twisted a problem like domestic violence is. How prevalent it is.  No. That would be beating a dead horse. This post is about the women who sanction, encourage and enable domestic violence and abuse. The mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, grandmothers of the abusers and their victims. Because let’s face it, the majority of these men have been raised primarily by WOMEN. Yes, they all go on to make their own choices in adulthood, but what are we doing and saying as mothers/sisters/in-laws/friends etc that adds fuel to that fire of violent stupidity that says “It’s okay for a man to hit his partner.”

Here’s some examples of comments I have heard uttered in complete seriousness when confronted with this issue. All of these made by women.

* “He’s like that because he doesn’t have a son yet. When she finally has a boy then her husband will settle down and treat her better.”
* “I’ve told her so many times that she needs to make sure his food is ready for him when he comes home. He gets angry because he’s worked hard all day and she doesn’t make his dinner.”
* “She nags him all the time. If she just learned how to keep her mouth shut then none of that stuff would happen.”
*”It’s her job. She spends too much time at work and the family suffers. He doesn’t like her job, that’s why he hits her.”
*”Every couple has problems. It’s none of our business how a man treats his wife. We can’t interfere in his family.”
*”My son was never like that before he married her. She makes him so mad.”
* “She’s too weak, that’s why he treats her like that. She doesn’t fight back and stand up for herself. I told him he should have married a stronger woman.”
* “Oh that bruise is nothing.That’s not abuse. I don’t know why you’re complaining. You should see what my husband does to me. And you don’t see me running to the police.”

So to all the mothers, sisters, in-laws, aunts and grandmothers out there – what are you doing and saying about domestic violence? What are you teaching the men in your circle of influence about how to treat the women they love? What messages are you giving to the girls/women in your circle of influence about how they should treat the men they love and how they should expect to be treated?

Domestic violence. It’s not a man problem. It’s everyone’s problem.

Who’s the BOSS? Well, its not me.

Me and the Hot Man were having a discussion about our daughters. And what kind of relationships they will have with the people they will marry one day. (Because yeah, that’s what lame parents do. Sit around and discuss their children all day.) I said,

“The most important factor will be our example. Our children can see what kind of a marriage we have. They can see how we communicate with each other, that this is a partnership of equals. I don’t boss you around. And you don’t boss me around. We share leadership in this relationship.”

Sigh. Isn’t that beautiful? And I meant it. And I believed every word of it. And I wanted to pat both of us on the back and hi-five our awesomeness because we are just such the coolest couple on the planet. Bonus points in heaven!

The Hot Man said, “Excuse me? What did you say? What rubbish! Ha! You boss me around all the time. You’re always telling me what to do.”

I was sure he was joking. But he wasn’t smiling. He looked incredulous. Disbelieving. And he certainly wasn’t doing any hi-fiving of our marital awesomeness either.

I said, “Darling, what do you mean? I never tell you what to do. In fact, most of the time, you do the exact opposite of what I wish you would do. We negotiate and discuss everything. I’m not bossy.”

The Hot Man called our two teenagers into the room. “Son, your mother just said that she and I share leadership equally in this family. She said she never tells me what to do. Is that true?”

Big Son laughed. Incredulously. Disbelievingly. Hysterically. “That’s a joke right? She’s kidding, right?”

I didn’t think anything was funny.

Big Son said, “Mum, you’re always telling Dad what to do. Even my friends notice. When they come over they say Far out man, your mum is like the BOSS. She like, rulez your Dad.” Whoa!’

The Hot Man then asked Big Daughter. “What do you think? Does your mother tell me what to do?”

I glared. The kind of glare that says think very carefully about your answer because your happiness in my house depends on it. Big Daughter answered hesitantly. “Umm, yeah. She kind of does. Not all of the time. But pretty much most of the time. Sorry mum, but it’s true.”

The Hot Man was triumphant. “See!? Even your children know it. You wear the pants in this family. Just be honest about it and face the facts.” He shook his head. “And there you are, trying to tell us that we’re so equal and share leadership…ha.”

I said. “Whatever. Those kids don’t know anything about anything.” I told them to go away. Immediately. Go scrub a floor. Wash a dish. Climb a tree. (And we’re never having any of their stupid friends over at our house anymore either. So there. So there.)

And then I said to the Hot Man. “I never tell you what to do. Ever. You have to stop talking such rubbish, do you hear me? And you need to tell your children that I never tell you what to do, do you hear me?”

And he smiled and said. “Yes Lani. There you go again. Telling me what to do.”

I give up.  According to these people who live in the same house as me, I’m a bossy, controlling, woman who always tells her husband what to do. Shoot me now. No bonus points for me in heaven.

But maybe, just maybe – that’s why this is such a HAPPY, SUCCESSFUL marriage. Because (supposedly) I tell everybody what to do.

You are happy, aren’t you honey? I can’t hear you? Speak up now!

Who’s the boss in your house? Do you think you share leadership? Maybe you’re living in fantasy land. Try asking your kids what they think. Go on, I dare you.

I Hate the Hot Man.

Life’s just not fair. This is the Hot Man EIGHTEEN years ago. (With a mildly attractive young woman at his side.)

And this is the Hot Man NOW. Is it just me – or does this man look pretty much the same? Hello? Did we not live through the same number of years over the last two decades?!

The mildly attractive woman is missing from the picture because she aint even MILDLY attractive anymore. Thank you very much to – five children, gravity, three c-sections, donuts, demanding toddlers, clingy pre-schoolers, smartass teenagers, stress, wear and tear, the Y2K bug, that one disastrous experiment with chemical hair straightener, the greenhouse effect, global warming, more donuts, sleepless nites, exercise procrastination, inflation, acid rain, the cancellation of Brothers and Sisters, an excessive amount of baking, abs that seem to have lost their elastic, deforestation, pollution and soil erosion in the Kalahari Desert. This list does not even begin to fully encompass the causes of the mildly attractive woman’s decay and decomposition. Needless to say, there is incredible injustice at work here. Why is the Hot Man so ‘well-preserved’?

He’s too hot-skinned to be a vampire. Maybe he secretly belongs to the Wolf pack?

Either way, I hate him. It’s just not fair.

The Christmas Fight

I grew up in Samoa. There were six of us children. Our father is Samoan and our mother is a New Zealander so we grew up with a western/British flavor added to our tropical island Christmas celebrations. Christmas is about family and inevitably as the day draws near, I am reminded of my family Christmas traditions and celebrations – and what I can learn from them and carry on with my own children. May I present…the Twelve Days of Christmas Traditions.

The Christmas Fight. It’s a stone cold fact that the Christmas season can be a conflict-ridden one. Stress levels can be riding high, there’s angst as Xmas wishes war against budget constraints, and a home is crowded to incendiary levels as alllllll your children are home for the holidays. Growing up, our home was no different. Our parent’s celebrate their wedding anniversary on Dec 15th and so without fail, they usually have a domestic bliss squabble of some kind around this date and then we six must tiptoe around their silent treatment for a few days.  Usually its because my father hasn’t paid tribute to the anniversary in a Wife-approved manner. As in, “Perfume?! Chanel No5 AGAIN? Can’t you ever think to buy me anything else?”and “Orchids? What on earth possessed you to think that I would want four orchid plants for my anniversary? You know they won’t stay alive for very long!”  Thankfully, their scrap always clears up in time for Christmas Day, leaving the home filled with joy to the world feelings. It took her a few years but finally my mother figured out how to fix this problem of having a husband who could not read her mind and decipher her deepest wishes. She buys her own anniversary present now. This year it was a baroque pearl necklace (which to me, looked suspiciously like a string of warty slugs – but then I am a very unrefined and uncultured woman who thinks Kmart is the height of shopping bliss). And a delicious pair of sky-high pink platform shoes. I was coveting those shoes in a very Biblical way. My mother is 70 years old. She rocks. I am hopeful that I can walk in such shoes by the time I’m 70. Because I tried them on and fell over.

Christmas Tradition Message? Don’t get married just before Christmas. It has the potential to put a damper on your future family festive celebrations. Me and the Hot Man celebrate our anniversary on Dec 26th. Much better. And everyone knows the Boxing Day sales are amazing places to buy that perfect anniversary gift (for one’s self.) This year I’m getting me a delicious pair of pink platform shoes. Only roof-high ones though. I’m not as cool as my mum. Not yet.

So – what causes Christmas season tension in YOUR house?!

Yes, post Christmas Day, this will be my skanky feet walking past. Happy anniversary to me!