children

Are You a Sex Ninja?

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There are those who like to boast about their sex adventurous selves. They get busy on planes, trains and buses. Skyscrapers, ski lifts and roller coasters. In stadium crowds, nightclub dancefloors, and public swimming pools. (Eww) They revel in being Sex Daredevils…
We did it up against a tree while we were mountain hiking!’
‘Oh yeah? Well we did it hanging off the side of a cliff UPSIDE DOWN while we were abseiling, so there!’

Oh puh-leeeaze, you bore me.

Sure, people who get their thrills sexing it up in various exciting places simply because ‘we’ve never done it HERE before!’ …have some great death-defying (not to mention shame-defying) sex and yeah, we could all do with a few more death-defying moments in our lives… BUT you know who really deserves our awed admiration for their sexifying skills?

Sex Ninjas. People with kids. People who must overcome extreme odds and excruciating adversity (i.e the company of children) – so they can get busy.

Ask any couple with children living in their house, particularly young children – ‘So how do you manage to still have a sex life when you’ve got a crying baby that doesnt sleep…a toddler who keeps coming to sleep in your bed…teenagers who stay up half the night playing XBox…?? Sex must be impossible for you two!” Sometimes they will snap at you “What sex life?? We dont have one.” (And then you must offer to babysit their children immediately so that poor couple can go out and have sex enjoy a romantic date.)

But other times, a couple with too many children will give you a wise look and say, “Ahhh but nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough…we find ways to make it happen…” Listen and learn young grasshopper…listen to the Master…’

These people – are Sex Ninjas. They have mastered the art of quick quiet sex ( in cupboards, showers and garages)…urgently satisfying encounters when babies are sleeping or children are watching a Disney cartoon…secret sensual meetings in cars parked in the driveway (praying the neighbors dont call the police)…They can find fireworks in a laundry room and blow your mind in a kitchen amidst dirty dishes. (Daayum, dont you wish you could do that? I myself cannot ignore dirty dishes in favor of mindblowing activities.)

For Sex Ninjas, ‘anytime anywhere’ must be their mantra – the unpredictability of children dictates it. They have no time for all that Cosmopolitan stuff about #GettingInTheMood and #SettingTheSexualTone. Ha. Those things are like fluffy bunnies and pink cotton candy – cute if you can have them but not essential.

Not only that, Sex Ninjas are so dedicated to their craft that they can soldier forward and complete their mission – even after being interrupted by a puking child with a sore tummy, the smell of smoke as a teenager burns the dinner, or two feuding siblings banging on the bedroom door demanding their parents referee their battle.

When Sex Ninjas get the house alone to themselves – the most earth shattering things can happen because that time, space and privacy is so precious and strange to them. Heck, just being able to do it in your own bed is so exciting that rollercoaster sex just cant compare. The same happens when Sex Ninjas get a weekend or a holiday away from their children. That couple at the next table who cant keep their hands off each other? Probably Sex Ninjas who have successfully escaped from their prison wardens children. Cut them some slack. Buy them tickets for the nearest roller coaster.

In conclusion, Sex Daredevils are very nice to be with – if you are planning on spending a lifetime on roller coasters, planes, trains and buses…in nightclubs and stadiums…and abseiling down mountains UPSIDE DOWN.

But if you’re planning on letting some children live in your house then I recommend you find a Sex Ninja. And learn how to do the wild thing together in cupboards, showers and garages. Even better – find a Sex Daredevil and introduce him to the ways of the Ninja. It will require much training, mental and physical exhaustion, and most of all – that indescribable thing called LOVE (because let’s face it, the only reason why you would WANT to still have sex with someone when you are knee deep in diapers/poop/tears/dishes/laundry/XBoxArguments- is because you reeeally love ’em)

So yeah, the path of a Sex Ninja aint easy.

But it’s worth it.

(Or so they tell me. Im still an ASPIRING Sex Ninja-In -Training…)

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Unforgettable Hot Nights. At the Beach.

I hate going to the beach. I love looking at the beach but despise sitting there…hanging out there…and most definitely, the mere thought of LIVING there.

Why? A beach is sandy. Dirty. Hot. Sweaty. Often bug-gy. And you have to lug insane amounts of stuff to be able to subsist there for a day. Or two. Especially when you have too many children like I do.

But the definition of ‘mother’ is ‘One who endures unpleasant experiences for and on behalf of one’s offspring.‘ Like childbirth, poop, vomit, bloody boob breastfeeding and sullen looks from sullen teenagers.

And camping at the beach.

Big Son came home for midterm break from Uni so the family voted to spend Easter weekend at Tafatafa Beach. We packed lots of gear, with extra Diet Coke so I could be nicer and patient’er. And set off on a grand adventure.

To my surprise, the first ten hours were glorious. We met up with awesome friends who were also camping for the weekend. There was much laughter, conversation, consuming of assorted snacks, BBQ and drink – all while relaxing in the shade under the swaying palm trees.

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The demons swam, kayaked, dug holes, built castles, played soccer and tried fishing.  It was a most enjoyable day. When night fell, we made a bonfire so the demons could toast marshmallows and then they played games and told stories in one of the fale’s. It was a most enjoyable evening watching the sun set over a silken blue-black sea.

Wow, this beach thing is actually fun! Maybe I am a camper after all.

 And then it was time to go to sleep. On a foam mattresses on the ground in an open fale, in a mosquito net, with the sound of the ocean right outside. The tide was up and so waves were washing the steps of our fale. The children were exhausted and so they went straight to sleep, dreaming happy dreams of sandcastles, fish and water fights. The Hot Man was exhausted and he went right to sleep. Everybody was tired and everybody went to sleep.

Except for me.

I couldn’t sleep because of the sand in my bed, the sly ninja mosquitos that had made it into my mosquito net and the BLASTED SOUND OF THE OCEAN right outside our fale. That ocean just wouldn’t shut up. Waves kept coming in, making swishing sounds, running out and then swishing back in again. Then a dog sleeping under the fale added to the symphony with growls and snarls at invisible things. Then it started raining and it beat down on the tin roof, making an awful racket. And I was swatting at mosquitos, sweeping away sand, muttering at the dog to GET LOST, and trying to ignore the noisy ocean.

This is why you hate the beach, remember?!

At 3am, I was still awake. Miserable. I woke up the Hot Man.  “I have an idea.”

He was not happy about being woken up. “What?”

“Why don’t we go home?” I said. Hopeful and artificially cheerful.

“Yeah, we’re going home tomorrow.”

“No, I mean – let’s pack up and all go home right now.”

That woke him up for sure. “Are you out of your mind?! It’s three in the morning. It’s raining out there. We cant pack up in the rain. And everyone’s asleep.” He tried not to hiss too loudly at me.

“But I’m not asleep,” I pointed out. Helpfully. “I cant’ sleep in these conditions. I’m miserable. I want to go home.”

The man didn’t bother replying. He went back to sleep instead. Leaving me to count waves and mosquito bites and dog growls – all by myself. Hatefully. Miserably.

The next morning was glorious. The sun came up, the rain went away and we made pancakes and bacon for breakfast. The children swam and fished and kayaked. I chatted and laughed and consumed snacks with awesome friends. The beach was bearable again.

Until the moment of dread came. The cooler of ice and Diet Coke ran out. It was time to pack up and go home – where I had a newfound appreciation for my bed (with no sand in it), my bedroom ( with no mosquitoes in it), my house (with no growly dog underneath it), and the peacefulness of our mountainside home (with no noisy ocean washing the damn steps all night).

Maybe that’s the true beauty of going camping? – It makes you more grateful for your cave, no matter how messy or small or crowded.

What did I learn from this?

1. Tafatafa Beach is glorious. Clean, safe, golden sand, great bathroom facilities, excellent water supply and nice fale’s to stay in. If you want to spend the day or night at a beach, then I highly recommend you go there. I give it FIVE stars for beach fale fabulousness.

2. If you don’t like sleeping to the luxurious lilting sounds of the ocean? Then don’t go camping at a beach fale resort. Same goes for…if you don’t like sand…and stray mosquitos… Stay home and have no adventures. (just read about other people’s crazy adventures)

3. If you’re planning a beach camp, definitely go with friends. Especially friends with children the same age as yours so they can play all day and have a blast – without your input. Leaving you free to chat, read, sleep, fish and drink. Without our fabulous friends, I would have called it quits waaaay before 3am. I would have insisted on packing up by lunchtime. Thank you Daniel and Hanah, Mark and Luisa AND fabulous children. You rock!

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The front view from our fale.

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Freeze Your Family for Easter

This conversation just happened.

“It’s the long Easter holiday weekend. I’m looking forward to our camp at the beach with the kids, aren’t you?” he asked.

“No. I’m not,” she said. Actually, it was more of a ‘she snarled.’

Surprise. “Why? What’s the matter? It’s a holiday! Time to relax and enjoy family time,” he said. Still clueless.

“Are you kidding me? I’ve been at home with four children going on four straight weeks now. First, they were home because the pinkeye epidemic cancelled all the schools, then it was time for school holidays, then two went back to school but the other two have runny noses and an ear infection.” (pitch and tone of voice getting louder…higher…screechier…bordering on manic)

“Oh,” he said. Subdued. “I see.”

But she’s not done. Hell no. She’s still going. “I don’t think you DO see. You leave the house everyday. You only have to be with these demons for an hour or so at the end of the day. I have to listen to them, referee them, organize them, clean up after them ALL FREAKIN DAY. And when I lock myself in my cave so I can write, they keep knocking on my door, pestering me. Wanting to breathe my air. I hate this.”

He listened. He  pondered. Then he had a bright idea. “I understand. You need a break. Why don’t you go out for the day on your own, leave them here with me?”

“No. I don’t want to have to go somewhere else to be happy and alone. This is my cave, my space. I hate going places. I want to breathe and think and savor my space by myself. Right here,” she wailed.

He had another bright idea. Because he’s a decent man and he does try. “I’ll take them all out for the day and leave you on your own. How about that?”

“It’s Easter Friday. There’s nothing open in Samoa today. Where are you going to take them? What are they going to eat? What are they going to do? All day?” she demanded.

“Don’t worry. That will be my problem. You can just sit in your room and ummm… breathe your air…talk to imaginary people in your stories…or whatever it is you need to do, without anyone bothering you.” He was trying extra hard to be helpful and hopeful and understanding.

Too bad it didn’t  work.

“Nooooo! What kind of a mother would I be if I kicked all my kids out of the house? You can’t take them and just wander the wilderness all day – because I want the place to myself. That would mean I’m selfish and horrible. Its the holidays. I should have fabulous activities planned for them. A good mother would think its fun to be with her children. I don’t want to be a bad person.”

He was well and truly bewildered now. “So what the heck do you want then?! I don’t get it.” He threw his hands up in the air. “Having us here is driving you nuts. But chasing us away makes you a bad person? You can’t be the worlds best mother AND want to get rid of your children at the same time. It doesn’t work that way. What do you want?”

“I want a freeze machine. So I can zap them like Han Solo in Star Wars. That way I can have them all at home with me but keep them in cold storage. Just defrost them when I want a hug. Or need them to do the dishes. Totally painless of course.” And then she mused on that happy thought for a while.

While he was horrified. “You want to freeze your children?” Then an even more dreadful thought. “And your husband too?”

No reply.

“Whaat?” He shook his head in disbelief. “Who does that? Who even thinks of stuff like that?”

Who indeed. ..

Please tell me somebody, somewhere in the universe – has frozen thoughts like this? #BadMother conversations like this one?!

 

 

 

Don’t Shame Us. Don’t Shut us Up. (How to better support and empower a survivor of Sexual Abuse.)

This blogpost needs a content warning for rape, abuse and swearing. And it’s really long.  

Since writing publicly about my abuse four months ago, I’ve had to deal with a myriad of different reactions – many positive, some negative, and a few downright horrible. Some of the fall-out from my writing caused shockwaves that I didn’t anticipate and a few personal relationships in my life didn’t survive. I’ve had to do a lot of self-care to cope. I went back to therapy (YAY! for awesome therapists who help you make sense of stuff), put my novel on hold, spent time with my amazing sisterhood of friends (YAY! for the compassion and wisdom of friends who help you navigate the storms of life), focused on my little family and getting the Fab5 settled into their new home and schools, prayed more, and treasured being with the Hot Man more. (When he wasn’t running/swimming/biking…)

Life is back on a more even keel for me now and as I reflect on the messy last few months, I’d like to share some examples and insights of HOW we can support and empower survivors of sexual violence when/If they speak out about their experiences. This is very important to me, and not just because I am a survivo

Fourteen years ago, I was a teacher in a Samoan high school. I’d made it a habit to include abuse awareness in at least one (if not more) of my class discussions/topics, every year, for every group of students I taught. Part of the discussion would always include the encouragement to seek help if they were being abused, to not keep silent. That year, a young woman responded by writing an essay for my eyes only – about the fact that she was being raped at home by her brother in law. She’d told her mother and gotten slapped in the face for her “cheekiness”. This student wept in my office and pleaded with me not to tell anyone. Not the police, the Principal, her parents, no-one. I arranged for her to meet with a local therapist but she wouldn’t go because of fears her family would find out. I badly wanted to report her abuse, to get her away from her family. But at the time, there was no Support agency for young survivors and I’d heard horror stories about how the system in Samoa was failing young people in similar situations – families that beat and rejected their children who made the mistake of asking for help. The situation weighed heavily on me and after many meetings with this young woman, I chose to honor her request and do nothing.

I’ve regretted that decision ever since. Regardless of the inadequacies of the Samoa justice system, I failed that young woman and I’m ashamed I didn’t do more. I’ve often wondered what could I have done differently? Every time I write about this issue – either directly via my blog or woven into one of my novels – a part of me seeks to atone for my failing, and hope that somehow, in some small way, my words can help someone out there who may be in a similar situation as that former student.

Encouraging people to speak out about their abuse is one thing. What we DO with that and how we respond is another. I’ve made mistakes in how I support and empower the women in my life regarding this issue and I’m still learning how to be a better ally and advocate.  I’m guessing we can all do better and be better at this. Which is why I’m sharing the following –

What you should (and shouldnt) say or do to an abuse survivor. (According to Lani because everyone’s experience is different and so these may not be true for others.)
1. Don’t get angry and confrontational, demand, “Why didn’t you tell me?!” 
It can take an incredible amount of courage (and pain) for a survivor to tell someone, anyone – about their abuse. Many keep silent for years about what was done to them. We battle feelings of shame and fear. We worry what people will think of us if they know the truth. So it’s not helpful to react with accusing questions. You may be shocked by their disclosure and you’re hurting because you love them but you need to deal with your hurt/anger separately and not rage at the person. THEY are the survivor and their feelings and safety should be your priority. I had people react with anger because I’d never told them about my abuse – it hurt their feelings. Because they didn’t agree with the public way I chose to talk about it – it embarrassed them.  For them, my abuse was buried under a mountain of their angst.

2. Don’t victim-blame.  “Why were you at that party?…Why were you in a car with him?…What were you wearing?…How were you dancing?…Why didn’t you fight him?…Did you scream for help?…How many beers did you have?…” It doesn’t matter what a person wears, how late they are out, where they go, how loud they laugh, or even how much alcohol they consume – it is never their fault if they are raped. I have friends who have been assaulted and then had to deal with questions like these, from family, friends, police and doctors.
3. Listen with your heart and offer validation. My abuse article was read and shared by many people who then used social media to discuss the issues. Some of them said things like this:  “How do you know she hasn’t made this up just so she can get extra publicity?…She’s probably just trying to sell more books…So typical for a celebrity to say she was abused…Yeah, if she really meant it, she would name her abuser and take him to court…Even if it’s true, why would she talk about something so private unless she wanted attention? She’s only trying to further her career by being open about something so shameful.”  Yes, people really do say things like this about, and to, abuse survivors. There are some people in this world who really do believe that a woman would invent a rape/abuse experience for attention. ( Because yeah, everyone wants to run out and buy a Young Adult romance novel the minute they find out it was written by a woman who was sexually violated when she was a kid. I always feel that way about child rape, don’t you?) And yes, it makes you famous when you go public with child abuse. So “famous” that for a while, everywhere you go, it’s like you have a brand stamped on your forehead, a flashing neon sign: “VICTIM HERE…SOILED GOODS…DAMAGED… CRAZYWOMAN WHO WON’T SHUT UP ABOUT YUCKY STUFF…” And sometimes, people aren’t sure how to talk to you, and can’t look you in the eye because the whole thing makes them uncomfortable and its so triggering perhaps, for their own experiences and issues. So they avoid you. Or call you a liar. Or try to make you shut up. Anyone who’s spoken publicly about abuse can tell you that it’s not fun. It’s not the kind of attention anyone wants.

Many survivors have spent a lifetime questioning their  feelings. Repressing their memories. Some  have spent years pretending that abuse never happened. So when they finally are strong enough and brave enough to admit it, to themselves and to others – please don’t doubt them. Don’t shame them. Don’t shut them up and shove them back into the darkness. Some of us aren’t seeking retribution or that elusive thing called ‘justice’. It’s not about WHO abused us, WHO didn’t protect us better, and what should be done to those people. We just want to be listened to. We just want to be believed.

4. Don’t try to dictate a survivor’s journey of healing. An example – a journalist that I didn’t know, contacted me via Facebook, asking if I would do an interview with her network, about my abuse etc. I’d already done several interviews with journalists that I have worked with in the past, people I was familiar with and felt comfortable about talking to on a very sensitive topic. I didn’t want to do any more media so I politely declined this woman’s request. She wasn’t happy and accused me (among other things) of only wanting to discuss the issue in forums that I could control. Like that was something bad. I’m disappointed that a female journalist would try to pressure/bully me. I made the mistake of assuming another Pasifika woman would have more empathy.

It’s vital that a survivor feel safe and empowered. She knows what it’s like to not have control over her body, to be violated and manipulated. Never pressure a survivor into talking about her experiences. Let her disclose information at her own pace, in her own space and time. Let her decide how she wants to proceed, what she wants to do next about the abuser etc.  Trite advice like, “It’s in the past. We don’t need to talk about it.” and “You need to forgive him/her so you can heal and get over this” is not only superficial but also offensive.

It’s amazing to me how some people think it’s okay to tell a survivor how she should feel. One friend said, ‘You’re so angry these days. You should stop being angry.”  Another friend said, ‘Why do you have to let people see your hurt? You should keep it to yourself. It’s making people uncomfortable.’ My response to them? I’m not here to make you feel comfortable and I won’t deny my feelings so you can keep pretending that abuse doesn’t happen.

The thing is – some days, yes I’m angry. That I was raped. That I thought for years it was my fault. That I believed for the longest time it made me damaged goods. I’m angry there isn’t more support for survivors in Samoa, particularly for children. I’m angry when teachers perpetuate rape culture and tell my daughters they need to cover their shoulders so they wont tempt boys to sin. I’m angry when people who are supposed to love me, continue to treat my experience with contempt, dismissal and avoidance.

Other days, I’m just sad. That I carried this secret burden for so long and let it shadow my life in so many ways. Sad about how it has impacted on my marriage to a pretty awesome man. Sad for survivors who continue to suffer in silence because they haven’t got the support networks I’ve got, helping them to heal.

Then, other days, I’m happy. Grateful for the healing my faith offers me. Exuberantly happy that I’m not afraid anymore. I used to think my abuser was watching me all the time, standing outside the window waiting to see if I would tell on him – because then he would hurt me. I truly believed that, right up through my twenties and early thirties. When I finally wrote about it and told “the world”, I broke free from the fear he’d chained me with. I rejoice in my strength and give thanks for the love of a patient partner and truly fabulous children. On a good day, I give thanks for being a woman, and glory in my fierce, fiery (often chaotic) creativity.

I get more happy days now then sad, angry ones and I’m able to be more at peace with all that has happened. But I will never give up my right to feel whatever I need to on this journey. As one survivor expressed it –

I will talk about MY abuse when and where I want to. I will be angry as much as I need to. I will grieve for as long as I have to. I will be happy, how and when I fucking well please.

5. Be kind and compassionate. (A little obvious I know but trust me, some people need it spelled out for them.) Apart from the negative stuff detailed above, I received many messages of support and encouragement. Extended family wrote to share their love and concern, some apologizing that they had been present in my childhood and never knew what was happening. Friends called to listen, laugh and cry with me. Some brought me love in the form of homebaked delicious treats. Total strangers shared their own stories of abuse with me and thanked me for being a voice for that which they couldn’t share themselves. I’ve been so moved by the wave of kindness I’ve received. Darren and the Fab5 literally kept me alive in my darkest moments in the last few months of mess, with their love and support. A couple of examples from outside the family, that stand out for me:

*A boy I dated over twenty five years ago, who I haven’t seen since, somehow read my blog and wrote to express his gratitude for sharing my story. He has daughters now and this issue is such an important one, he said. He went on to add, “I’m sorry I didn’t know about your abuse. I’ve been trying to think back to when we dated and remember if at any time, I may have done something or said something to you that made you feel uncomfortable or hurt you in any way. If I did, please forgive me.” Considering that we were fourteen back then and “dating” in Samoa meant we only saw each other at church and exchanged notes – his sincere message meant a lot to me. If your partner is a survivor, she will need buckets of your patient understanding, especially when it comes to intimacy in your relationship. Some days she’ll be totally fine with everything your sexilicious self has to offer her. But other days, she may not even stand to be in the same room with you and your touch may make her physically ill. Therapy can be a big help for both of you. Respect for her boundaries is key.

*A beautiful niece said, “I didn’t know that happened to you Aunty. I’m sorry. I love you and Im so proud of you for what you wrote.” That’s it. No long speeches, nothing flowery and expansive. A few simple words is all it took for me to feel validated, loved and empowered. Her words made me cry. Especially when contrasted with the utter wall of silence…or the spewing vitriol of others – who I thought would offer compassion. When a loved one tells you her story, and you are at a loss how to respond? Keep it simple. Tell her you love her. “I’m here for you. What do you need from me?”

*I went to an Awards dinner in Auckland and a TV3 journalist/news presenter who I’d done an interview with before, was the MC. At one point in the evening, he came to our table and was introduced to everyone. He complimented me on my blog. People wanted to take a photo and so he stood between me and another woman. The photographer told everyone to move in so we’d all fit into the picture. The others obliged by moving closer together but then the man turned to me and hesitated. “Is it alright if I put my arm around you and move closer?” he asked politely. I said yes, so he moved for the photo and then asked me again, “Is this alright?” That’s when it hit me. He was being mindful about my comfort level with people getting in my personal space, especially man-people. He’d read my blog about abuse. And possibly my blog about hating social greeting hugs and kisses. At first I was mortified by this realization. I felt like I had that neon sign on my forehead: FRAGILE and DAMAGED.  For a frantic moment, I wished I’d never told anybody about my abuse. See Lani, now everyone thinks you’re a freak!  But then, I shoved that remnant of shame away because there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have clear boundaries for one’s body or personal space. I shouldn’t be embarrassed that I don’t like random people hugging or touching me without permission. That man’s simple act of courtesy and respect for my boundaries and my experience, was an empowering thing for me. A reminder that being a survivor is not something I have to apologize for.  Thank you Mr Campbell.

Supporting a survivor isn’t easy sometimes, especially if you have your own unaddressed issues with sexual violence in your past. Knowing this, helps me to be more understanding about the people in my life who haven’t been able to walk with me on this journey. It’s my hope and prayer they will find the strength to seek the help they need to deal with their own painful experiences.

I’m grateful for the support and understanding I’ve been given from so many different people. May we all strive to be better allies to the survivors in our lives and better advocates for their empowerment.

(I’ve used the pronoun ‘she’ throughout this blog post but only in a general sense because as we all know, boys/men  and fa’afafine are raped and abused also.)

Im Not Ready For the Rapture

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Confession time.
1.I’ve never been to a REAL concert.
2. I really enjoy Eminem’s music. The poetry and raw power of his lyrics, the story behind his rage and hurt and passions, and the journey you take through his music from the ‘beginning’ to now.
3. I wrote quite a lot of TELESA to Eminem’s music. And some of it even helped me get brave enough to publish my book after so many agents refused to even read it.

So, a while back when I first heard Eminem would be doing a concert in Auckland, I reeally wanted to go. The minute the tickets went on sale, I leapt online and bought two. I went with the most expensive tickets they had…because I figured, this would be a #onceInALifetime opportunity. And I wanted the nicest, bestest seats in the house so I could enjoy the concert in the nicest bestest way possible.

In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I thought i was buying tickets for actual seats. I may even have had delightful visions of plush chairs…attendants serving Diet Coke in sparkling glasses…in other words – a hazy rainbow glasses picture of the super cool seats at the cinema.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

You have my permission to laugh. Go on, let loose with the unbridled mirth at my ignorance. Because my family sure hasnt held back on the mockery.

Because it turns out that there is no such thing as plush seating at a rap concert. Or tuxedo-garbed attendants escorting you to your reserved seat and bringing you delectable appetizers on a silver platter.

Especially not when the concert is being held in an outdoor stadium park. On the grass. In rain or shine. And I have bought tickets to the “Lose Yourself Zone.”

“That’s the mosh pit. A jam packed zone of hardcore groupies who line up for hours beforehand to get as close to the stage as possible,” explained the Hot Man.

“Dude, people are gonna be dancing, crowd surfing and getting high in there!” hooted my Little Brother,” who works security. “You do realize its a crazy mess in that zone?”

“You’ll probably get wasted on the alcohol fumes alone. Or buzzed on everyone else’s drugs,” Big Son added helpfully. I dont want to know how he knows these things. Or why he thinks its so hilarious.

“Mum, you wont like it. You hate it when people touch you and get in your personal space. But you’ll have to be people-squished for at least six hours at this concert,” said my daughter. “You’ll be the one telling people to please get away from me…youre stepping on my toe…thats my hair youre tugging…GET ME OUT OF HERE!!” Everyone agreed that I wouldnt make it past the first half hour before the “nasty sweaty writhing crowd” drove me nuts and I would have to pretend to faint so the security could grab me and chuck me out of there “like a sack of potatoes…” *cue more laughter*

Indeed everyone seemed to find the thought of me going to Eminem in the Lose Yourself zone – to be laughable. When I shared my excited news on Facebook – everyone thought my account had been hacked. (my feelings are quite hurt by that actually…Am I THAT uncool? THAT boring? THAT predictable? That its completely incomprehensible to imagine I would ummm…crowdsurf at Eminem’s Auckland party?!)

Of course, all the mockery just made me even more determined. “Well, I dont care what you think, dammit. I’m going. And I’m gonna have a kickbutt fantabulous time, so there!”

Today I got the event checklist in my email. And reading through it is giving me an awful gnawing worry inside…

Because the gates open at 3.30pm and if you want a good spot in the zone then you need to go there early. And line up. And then wait. And wait. Because Eminem doesnt come on until after 9pm. And sure.theres other acts on before that but (another confession) – I have no clue who they are and while I’m sure they’re lovely – I kinda only want to see Eminem.

Because (more confessions) – Im incredibly lazy unfit and I dont see.how Im going to be able to stand upright for 10+ hours straight.

And because I really do loathe dislike strangers getting in my space and the thought of being surrounded…crushed…jostled…smushed…by that many people for that long? Well, Im feeling ill just writing this sentence about it. Aaaargh.

There’s two more days to go till the Rapture.

And I dont think I’m ready. To lose myself with a kazillion thousand other people.

Maybe I should just watch him on YouTube.

Shhhh…dont tell my family Im having a mild meltdown of nerves tho. Then they’ll KNOW their suspicions of my uncoolness were dismally correct…

Countdown to Independence Day

Theres twelve more days until Big Son goes away to university. This makes me sad. Because I will miss him desperately of course, but also because then I will be stuck with all these other children – as my very bestest babysitter in the universe runs away to a life of independence and freedom from childcare servitude. I frequently wail, “Son please dont leave me with these demons!”

And he shrugs and says, “Theyre your kids, not mine. I cant stay here forever.” Such a sad truth.

So in the meantime I resolved to spend lots of time with Big Son doing a variety of fabulous activities. Whether he wants to or not. So that he will be convinced of his mother’s fun awesomeness and WANT to come home soon to babysit four demon siblings. All the other children are in school for most of the day so its perfect timing.

I took us to a wonderful place called TOUCH OF SAMOA for one hour long foot massage treatments. (I highly recommend it. Immaculate, beautiful, peaceful and very reasonably priced. ) Big Son whined and whinged the whole way there. Because he’s never had a massage treatment before and he was convinced he would loathe it.

But it was heavenly and he stopped complaining. Ha.

Then we went to lunch for his favorite. Sashimi.
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And because its not enough to just have fish for an appetizer…then he had grilled fish as well.
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(I impress myself with all the healthy eating choices Im making since I got here. If Im not transfigured into a lean mean healthy machine very soon then theres something wrong…)

The good stuff didnt stop there. We got starfruit vineka from the market (because the cheery persuasive sales girl said, “Suamalie! Very sweet. Very good.”)
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Only they were the sourest vineka Ive ever had the misfortune to taste. So much for ‘very suamalie!’ Thankfully we also got pineapple.
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Which WAS very suamalie. Especially delicious with LiHing powder from Hawaii (thank you Janice!)
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After all that, Big Son went to the gym and I went to work where Im starting to like the novel Im working on. The story is taking shape, the words are flowing and the characters are coming alive. Here I am – hard at work… (with not a lamington or donut in sight…) If all goes well with this book it will be released in April.
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Today was a good day. A day where i was grateful to be a mother. Thankful to be living in Samoa. Blessed to be doing work that I enjoy.

How was YOUR day? What are you grateful for?

Lets Punish Pregnant Teenagers in Samoa

I’m angry – about schools that expel teenage students who get pregnant. Access to education is a necessity for every child, and a young woman in this situation has an even greater need for education as she is about to become a parent and teacher to her own child. A pregnant teenager needs a supportive learning environment – not to have the doors of that learning environment slammed in her face. Way to violate basic human rights Samoa…

Samoa prides itself on being a Christian country “founded on God.” I fail to see where Christian principles of love, compassion and “judge not that thou be not judged…” – fit into a school’s morally indignant stance as they argue that a pregnant student “sets a bad example to the others…and we cannot condone her choices blah blah.” Yes – because allowing a pregnant girl to waddle among you so that the other students can see up close just how fun it is to grow a baby AND try to study AND (most probably) endure the gossipy, cruel and snide treatment of many…is really going to make all the other teenagers want to run out and have wild, wicked sex IMMEDIATELY.

And yes, because none of you school administrators or teachers have ever engaged in “reckless” or “morally questionable” behaviour before, and now know how important it is to have compassionate, supportive people around you to help you move forward and deal with the consequences of your choices.

And lets not forget that thanks to the disgustingly high rate of sexual abuse, incest and rape in this country – its a very real possibility that the pregnant teenager you’re punishing, didnt have a choice in how that baby got there in the first place.

If it was consensual sex, then I wonder- are these schools kicking out the boys who also chose to have sex? If one of their male students is the father of the pregnant teen’s baby – does he get expelled too? Not that it would make any of this less reprehensible – nobody should have their access to education denied because they made a baby.

And lets be clear – thats why the pregnant student is being punished. Not because she broke school rules on ‘having a boyfriend’ or because she violated some moral code of conduct by having sex. Its purely because she has made a baby (with 50% contributing participation from someone else.) I’ve been a teacher in Samoan high schools and I know there are many young people choosing to have sex. (Not at school and not in front of everyone, thankfully…but theyre doing it.) Those students are not getting expelled. They still get to have an education. Schools arent branding them with a scarlet letter and casting them out. No, its not sex that gets you expelled. Its pregnancy.

Which makes this a woman’s rights issue. And a developmental planning issue. And a national educational goals issue. Not to mention, a contraceptives-access issue and a reminder of how important good sexual health education is; in our schools, churches, villages and families.

MESC (the government ministry responsible for education in Samoa) needs to formulate a clear policy that addresses the issue of students getting pregnant. It should be illegal for any school to refuse access to a pregnant teenager. Not only that, it should outline strategies for schools on how they can be a strong support system for young mothers so as to best ensure they stay in school throughout a pregnancy and then complete their education once they have a child. I had my first child at a young age when i was at university – so I know how hard it can be to have a baby AND go to school. But it can be done, WITH the support of school admin and staff, friends and family.

All of us know a young woman who got pregnant a whole lot sooner and earlier than she planned – and tough choices had to be made about school. Maybe she’s a friend, a cousin, a sister, a daughter. Maybe that young woman is you. All of us know its not an easy road but there’s a lot we can do to support, empower and uplift each other. Denying a woman equal access to education because she’s pregnant is discrimination, pure and simple.

We can do better than this Samoa. We have to.

Fun and Games

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This is what children do when there’s no Xbox, Disney Channel or Cartoon Network, broadband and the PSP batteries are dead…

Actually, correction – this is what they do when they are “dying” suffering from abundant- technology withdrawal and their mother is sick and tired of hearing them whine about how bored they are, so she buys a pack of cards and snarls, “Stop being pests before i spray you with Mortein and go play nicely!”

What activities did YOU do when you were a kid and electricity and internet hadnt been invented yet? Okay, so maybe youre not as prehistoric as me…but seriously though, what fun stuff did you get up to that didnt involve TV etc?

There’s Samoans everywhere.

So we’ve officially moved back to Samoa after a three year stint living in New Zealand. (Although its a bit misleading to say we have lived in NZ all this time because in actual fact the Hot Man has still been working in the hot, humid land. And Ive been home so many times that its like I never left.)
BUT just for the sake of this blogpost lets agree that I’ve been resident in NZ for three years, during which time, I published five books, ate lots of lamingtons and developed an allergy to sunlight.
Last week we packed our worldly belongings into a shipping container, got on a plane and arrived at Faleolo Airport on a sweaty, rainy Friday night. An airport where Little Daughter went to the bathroom and scuttled out to whisper “It smells in there!” Shhhhh!
The Hot Man met us and drove us to our new home for the next six months, a lovely house sitting on the Palisi mountainside. A house where Bella ran outside excitedly onto the deck to look at the stars and I yelled a warning -“put some shoes on in case you step on a centipede!”
And she replied, “What’s a centipede?!”
Oh my poor child…you have so much to discover about this land…
We’ve been here a few days now and slowly unpacking and getting settled. We have no phone line and no internet at the new house which means the Fab5 are suffering painful withdrawal symptoms. And I have to suffer listening to them whinge “Im so bored! When does the Xbox get here? Can we go to the beach?”
Im glad our family is learning how to be unchained from technology BUT it means I have to write blogs on my phone – which explains all the errors.
An overwhelming reason though, why Im glad we moved here, was demonstrated when we took Bella to the store. She exclaimed (very loudly), ” Theres SO many Samoans everywhere! Why are there sooo many Samoans here?”

Ummm, because we’re in Samoa? Oh, and just in case you didnt know, you’re Samoan too.

Yes, if nothing else, we’re here so that our children will have no doubts about who and what they are.
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Hello Samoa! – the view from our deck. The view i will be writing my next book to, once school starts and i can get rid of these beloved children for a few hours every day.

When your Six Yr old Wants a Boyfriend.

Some conversations with a six year old just NEED to be preserved for posterity.

This morning, Bella was feeling wistful. “I want a boyfriend.”

I was horrified. “What!? Why? You’re too little. You don’t need a boyfriend.”

“You have Dad. I want my own boyfriend,” she replied indignantly.

I tried to be understanding. “But why? What do you want one for?”

“Because a boyfriend can clean the house for you and help you do all your work. Then you won’t have to do any jobs. If I have a boyfriend I will have a super helper to do all my work.”

“Whaaaaat?!” Where did this child get such an idea from I wonder?

But she’s not done. There’s more. ” And I will get a clever builder boyfriend so he will build me a play house and a playground and a castle with a slide and a movie theatre in it. And he will snuggle me whenever I want him to. And go clean the house whenever its dirty.”

I am speechless. I think this child is making an overly astute observation of me and the Hot Man’s relationship.