New Zealand

When He Doesn’t Love you Best

A long time ago, the Hot Man promised to love me above all others. Above all else.

But that was before he got his Holden Crewman.

holden

But I must admit, it is beeyootiful. Im half in love with it myself…

When we lived in New Zealand, the Holden only got brought out of its sacred space in
the garage on weekends and special occasions. The Hot Man would drive it to visit family and do errands but we could never go to our movie date night in it. ‘Because someone might steal it. A two hour movie is a long time.’ And of course I NEVER drove the Holden because I’m a crappy driver. So I would drive my people-mover van and loved it. (That baby’s got sensors and cameras which made reversing and parking sooooo much easier.)

Then we moved to Samoa. We couldn’t bring my van but the Holden got a sacred space in a shipping container.
And then there was a slight conundrum. The Holden is the only family vehicle we have here. The others are for the Hot Man’s steel fabrication work. We cant get another van until some money falls out of the sky. And the Hot Man doesn’t want his Holden anywhere near a construction site. Which means, who has to drive his children everywhere in the Holden?

Me. The crappy driver.

He tries to be cool about it, but I know it gives him great anxiety, wondering every day if he’s going to come home from work and find his precious car with a scratch. A scrape. Smashed. I’m pretty sure he checks it daily. And the manner in which I take care of his precious car is one that causes him great concern . The local high school was having a car wash fundraiser the other Saturday so I pulled in and had them wash the Holden, thinking that the Hot Man would be pleased to see it so sparkly and clean. Ha. The man just about popped a blood vessel freaking out about it. “You let a bunch of strangers touch my car? What if they used abrasive cleaners and scratched the paintwork?” So now I drive a filthy Holden, because on a matter of principle, I am not worthy to wash it…

If I had any doubts of where I stand in relation to this car, they were dispelled this morning. The Hot Man was driving out in his work truck when he caught sight of me staggering under the weight of a box of books that I was lugging to put in the Holden. I put them on the hood of the car while I went to unlock it. The Hot Man brought his truck to an abrupt halt and leapt out with a look of great consternation.

Oh, how sweet! He doesn’t want me to carry these heavy books by myself. He’s thinking about how I have a weak back and shouldn’t be lifting heavy things. So thoughtful and kind. What a babe!

Such were my thoughts as this athletic Ironman machine of symmetry with abs of absolute fabulousness, came running towards me. *dreamy sigh*

But it was not to be. *Insert sound of scratched broken record HERE.*

He grabbed the box off the car and said accusingly, “How could you put that box on my car like that?! You’re going to scratch it.” Then he frantically studied the paintwork and wiped at it. Furiously.

“How could a box scratch your bloody stupid car?!” I asked. Incredulous.

“It’s the way you chucked it on there. I saw you. You threw it so roughly. See! It’s put marks on the car now. You have to be more careful…blah blah blah.”

Then he patted his car, said goodbye to it and drove away. Giving me one last resentful look.

Me and my weak back – that’s PERFECTLY FINE BUT NO THANKS TO YOU – watched him go. Amazed.

Then, when he was out of sight? I kicked the tires of the bloody stupid beautiful Holden. Take that, you spoilt brat of a car.

And now I have a sore foot.

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A Telesa Movie

The number one question I get asked by anybody who’s read my books (and by people who haven’t read them and have no plans to anyway because they hate romance novels with too many rippling muscles in them but they’ve heard rumors), is:

Are you making a TELESA movie?! *excited voice and hopeful facial expression*

My answer is always – No. I write books, I don’t make movies. And I’ve got no money, no rich financier or amazing producer contacts, so how in heck am I supposed to make a movie anyway?

And the person looks disappointed. Maybe even a little disgruntled. Sometimes because they reeeeaaallly love Daniel Tahi and want to see his abs on the big screen. Sometimes because they reeeeeeally love the kicka** Covenant Sisterhood and want to audition for a role. But most times, it’s because they reeeeealllllly love the Samoa that stars in the books and they’ve fallen in the love with the story and think it would make a great movie.  (Of course I agree with them on all counts.)

So this update is for those who ask me about a Telesa movie.

Last weekend, I went to New Zealand and it was fabulous because I got to attend my niece’s exquisite wedding, spend time with Big Son, eat too much ( so what else is new), AND I met with a producer who wants to option the book for a movie. She read the series at Christmas-time and thinks they would make great viewing. It was a thrill to meet with her and hear her ideas for the books and to see how much she loves them. Three years ago right about now, I was getting rejection letters every other day for this book, so I’m just so grateful that my novel is even being considered for big-picture-things.

Does an option mean there will be a TELESA movie?

No. An option is a contractual agreement between an author and a film producer/company, giving that producer the right to TRY and put together a film package (a script, team of directors, potential cast etc and most importantly, the finance to make the movie). The producer and the author agree on a set time frame for that all to happen., say…six months to a year. If by that time, the producer hasn’t been able to make it happen, then all bets are off and the author is free to grant option rights to some other production company.

This explains why I have not blasted Eminem and danced a celebratory dance on my rooftop. I have author friends who got their books optioned several times over and nothing ever happened. And I have a couple of author friends who’s books have been made into movies. An option is just that. A possibility…at war with impossibility.

But this whole journey has been just that for me. Holding on to childhood dreams of writing a book people from all over the world would read. Then allowing those dreams to carry me through the book rejections so that I could self-publish. The spark of possibilities burning brighter with every book launch and book signing I do, with every new reader who writes to tell me how much they enjoyed the books, every classroom that adds Telesa to their curriculum and every new library that puts this Samoan novel on their shelf.

And now here we are.

To all those who ask if there’s going to be a TELESA movie. The answer isn’t no anymore.

It’s maybe.

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…

Be Worthy

2013 PIPA Graduates. Photo – Letti Wickman.

A Keynote Address given at the 2013 Graduation ceremony for the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts, Auckland.

I’m delighted to be here with you young and restless graduates, and with your families and friends, as we celebrate your achievements. I stand in awe of you. Not just because you’re done and you’re graduating but because of the industry that you’re committing to. Performing Arts – nobody gets into that because they want to earn a lot of money. And it’s not an industry known for the guaranteed stability of a regular 9-5 job.

So, yes I am in awe of you. You’ve finished. You’re on top of the world. Excited, nervous, and possibly a little drunk on this moment that you’ve been working so hard for, for so long. That’s exactly how I felt three years ago when I finished writing my first novel, Telesa. Looking back over the journey since then, I’d like to share a few things with you that you may find helpful as you set out into the big bad world.

1.Don’t be afraid of rejection. Let failure be your fuel. It took me a year to write Telesa in between work and five children but that book was the culmination of a life-long dream. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to write stories that hopefully, people from all around the world would read. Telesa was rejected by more than 30 different publishers and book agents. They said, “there’s no market for a fiery Pacific romance.” (Not even for one with a boy as dalashious as Daniel.) I was tempted to chuck that manuscript in a drawer and forget all about it but this was my lifelong dream. You don’t give up on those. You don’t trash what you’re passionate about, the thing that sets your soul on fire. I turned to digital publishing on Amazon which is the world’s largest book distributor. My husband and I took out a mortgage on our home so we could print several  thousand books to supply the NZ and Pacific market. I’m so grateful I have a partner who believes in my dream enough to bet our house on it. That was pretty scary. But that’s what you do when you have a dream – when gatekeepers say no, you work hard and you give your all to carve your own gate way.

The support for these books has been phenomenal and so very humbling. I’ve done book events throughout NZ, Australia, Samoa, American Samoa, Hawaii and several in the USA. Telesa is a required course text at universities that study Pacific Literature and recommended reading in many high schools.  To date, the book that publishers told me would not have an audience – has been avidly read and embraced by thousands of people of all ages worldwide. And not just by Samoans and Pacific islanders. I get emails from palagi readers in America and Europe, asking me for the recipes to the yummy Samoan food, asking where can they learn more about our unique cultural heritage, asking for recommendations of places to stay, telling me “I had never heard of Samoa before, but now I can’t wait to go there.” My journey has shown me that rejection and failure are merely an opportunity to start again, in a new and wiser direction.

2.Be adaptable and innovative.  Be willing to adapt your dream, learn new things and work hard to make it happen. Especially in the face of failure. I’m grateful my novel was rejected so many times. Without that challenge, I would never have turned to digital publishing and now have the independence that comes from being the boss of my own book career. My dream was always to be an author but to realize that, I had to adjust my vision and be willing to go way outside my comfort zone. Before Telesa, I’d never read an e-book and I didn’t own a smartphone. The only thing I used the internet for was email and my blog. My children will tell you I’m technologically clueless – I can’t work the Xbox and I don’t know how to turn on the DVD player. I spent months reading books about digital publishing, hundreds of blogs and online articles about it, teaching myself how to format an e-book and do all the other stuff involved with self-publishing. I was blessed to make wonderful friends in the indie writer community who generously shared their experience with me. My clever sister showed me how to use social media. I had to become a cover designer, a businesswoman, learn about marketing and all kinds of stuff. Being a writer and publisher is hard work, but I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be a full-time writer and have a job that I love.

Each of you has made the bold choice to pursue that which gives you joy. That which allows you to do what you love – and get paid for it. Be prepared to go out of your comfort zone, take risks and work hard to make your dream happen.

3.Be strong enough to be vulnerable.  You will produce your most powerful work when you speak from your deepest hurts, sorrows, joys and passions. It is then that you will have the greatest impact on others. Whether it’s to make them laugh, bring them joy, uplift and inspire or to advocate for change. But to do that, to access what’s within, you must first be strong enough to be vulnerable. Because sometimes the stories you tell will be the stories that your family, and your community will want left untold. It is my hope you will be strong enough to stand by your work in the face of criticism and say, “This is how I think and feel – and I am not ashamed.”

4.Be worthy. I speak at many high schools and at one, a young girl came up to me after, “Thank you for coming to our school. Now I know that Samoans can write books, not just white people.”

I attended a book convention in Kansas City and a young Samoan man invited me to lunch with his extended family. He said, “I read anything and everything about our country. Your book gave us so much pride in our culture and in our people. I was so proud to be Samoan when I read it. You’re taking our stories to the world.”

A Tongan mother brought her two children to a book signing, aged 6 and 8. She said, “I want my girls to meet you so they will know a Pacific Islander woman can work hard and make her dreams come true.”

In California, a young woman studying fashion design based her entire final portfolio on the Telesa Series because, “These books inspired me to design for the goddess within. To honor my Pasifika heritage.”

A teacher in Nauru sent me her poetry – handwritten because she doesn’t have a computer. She wrote, “Your story motivated me to start writing again, the stories of women in Nauru.”

A soldier in Afghanistan sent a photo of himself with a copy of Telesa. “I get homesick and your book really helps.”

 A woman in NZ, wrote “I have made decisions in my life that halted my dreams of becoming a film-maker. But inspirational Samoan people like yourself give me the motivation to pursue my dream and make the sacrifices that are needed to fulfill the ultimate goal of becoming a Samoan film-maker.”

My dream was to be a storyteller and write stories people all over the world would enjoy. I never anticipated how my dream could help fuel the fire for other people’s creative dreams.

So what do I mean by “Be worthy”?

The incomparable Albert Wendt said of Pasifika, “We need to write, paint, sculpt, weave, dance, act, sing and think ourselves into existence. For too long, other people have done it for us – we have to tell our own stories.”

Each of you has a responsibility. You’ve been given the tools, skills, and resources needed to be a teller of stories – through film, music, dance, theatre and production. You cannot take that lightly. You must be worthy and live up to that responsibility. Every time a young brown teenager turns on the TV and sees a brown face that’s not in the news for being a criminal or a social welfare fraud – that young person is empowered. We are more than world famous rugby and football players. Every time we see and hear ourselves portrayed in diverse and meaningful ways in the media and in the arts – we are all empowered. When you go out there, you’re not just an individual flying solo, you take with you the stories of your family, the collective stories of your community. Because the cold white fact is that there aren’t enough of us telling our stories and owning them. There’s not enough of us in positions of decision making when it comes to the media and the arts. You have the responsibility to do that and be that. For one day, some young person can come up to you and thank you, “Now I know Niueans can work on television…now I know Tokelauans can be producers…Tongans can be broadcasters…Fijians can be actors…Samoans can be directors and playwrights… not just white people.”  And thanks to the power of digital and social media, the reach and influence of your story can go far beyond just us here, far beyond little New Zealand.  Think bigger. Dream global.

That feeling you have tonight of excitement, hope and celebration  – you hold on to that. That belief in the fiery potential of your creative soul – it’s precious. It will power you forward on your journey of unlimited possibilities and challenges. But be ready to back it up with hard work, a willingness to adapt and be versatile in an ever-changing industry.  Be fiery, be fierce and fabulous.

But above all – be worthy of the trust you’ve been given as our storytellers.

Sex-Breasts VS Milk-Making Ones

In this week’s Samoa Observer column, I get to talk about breasts. Yay fun!

“if breastfeeding is so good for everyone involved, then why is there sometimes an air of indelicate shame and discomfort about it in the ‘modern’ palagi country I currently live in?…The reaction to a woman feeding her baby in public as opposed to skulking in a dark corner (or toilet block) can sometimes range from awkward shifty eyes, to irritated muttering about indecency…”

Read the full article here: Samoa Observer

How to Be a Shaamaazing Parent.

The Hot Man was sad today. Bella had ‘Fairytale Day’ at school and her class was having a shared lunch. She had to dress up in her funnest fairytale clothes and take a plate of yummy treats to share with the class.

The Hot Man is new to this kind of thing. It’s 8am and Bella wants to know, “What am I gonna take for shared lunch Dad?” Panic mode from the relatively new to the job, SuperDad.

So I step in briskly. “No problem. Get a six dollar sponge cake from the bakery on the way to school.”

The man is relieved and off they go to school. He comes back decidedly less happy. “I felt like a loser. All the other kids had really nice plates of food. Homemade cupcakes, platters of sandwiches, pies, cakes. All these mums with their fancy dishes like this.”

acup

“And there I was with my pitiful cake from the bakery in a ugly box. Like this.”

cake-bakery-box-half-sheet-19-x-14-x-5-50-csI comforted him with nuggets of wisdom from my many years as a wannabe SuperMum. “It’s all about the presentation. I bet you some of those parents bought those fabulous treats from a shop and then beautified them on a plate so they would LOOK homemade. So they could outshine all you loser parents.”

He was unappeased. “Now I know why you would go all out baking things for Big Son and Big Daughter when they were little and they had to take food to school. I thought you were over the top with it but now I get it.” I am happy the Hot Man has seen the light. But then he adds, “You don’t bake anything for the younger three kids schools though. Ever. What happened?”

I got older. And wiser. Food is food. Kids don’t care what it looks like. I give Little Son a two dollar big bag of chips to take to school for HIS shared lunch day and he thinks he’s in heaven.

And I got tougher. I don’t care anymore what the other parents do or think. If some woman (or man) wants to slave for hours over an intricate, divinely inspired gourmet creation for their kid’s class shared lunch, then let ’em. And all the power to them. I stand in awe of them. And am happy to sample their fabulous food concoctions.

I, on the other hand, am far too busy doing other things that I’m good at. (Like watching an entire season of True Blood in one day. And eating a Dominos Shrimp pizza and hiding the box so the kids don’t find it when they come home from school and then have to eat cereal for dinner because their mother has been too busy watching True Blood to cook any food. Shhhh…don’t tell.)

No, after eighteen years of chasing after five kids, I hold this truth to be self-evident: a parent can’t be shamaahzing all the time…at everything… No matter how bad we want to be. And comparing ourselves to the cakes that look like these?

acake3acake

acake5Is just downright foolish. (And depressing.) Because if this is who you are on a cake plate –

imagesCASQQK18Then be smart and buy a cake in a box from the bakery.

And be happy to be shaamaaahzing at the OTHER stuff you’re kick-butt awesome at.

When Your Husband Runs Away From You

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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.

 

When Daughters Drive you Nuts

Sometimes, daughters can drive you nuts.

Big Daughter is a writer and a poet. She is a disgustingly intelligent child. I can even concede she is far more intelligent then I will ever be. (Not that I’m biased or anything. What do I know, I’m just her mother.) I am very proud of Big Daughter and grateful I can be her slave mother.

But sometimes, I just want to smack her up’side the head.

The Samoa Observer newspaper was doing a series of feature articles for the week of Mother’s Day where people wrote about their mums and what they thought of motherhood in general. They ran an article from Big Daughter. It was an insightful, clearly expressed, and very ‘mature’ piece of writing. (Not that I’m biased or anything.) If I were still in my English teacher days, I would have given it an A. I read her article in the Samoa Observer and I was very proud of her and grateful I can be her slave mother.

Then a few days later on, I just wanted to smack her up’side the head.

My Uncle – otherwise known as Professor Albert Wendt – was specially awarded and recognized at the recent Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. There was an evening of readings, music, and tributes to celebrate him. I took two of my daughters with me to the event. So they could have a culturally aesthetic and artistically uplifting experience. Broaden their intellectual horizons. Get their brain synapses zapped in a way that maybe Hannah Montana just isn’t zapping them?

We went. We listened. We clapped. Ten minutes in and Little Daughter was half-lying down in her seat. “What’s the matter with you? Sit up.” I hissed at her.

“I’m bored,” whined Little Daughter. I considered giving her the pinch of death. You know the one where you smile lovingly at your child for all to see – all while pinching their arm and muttering threats of dismemberment if they don’t bloody well behave? But then Uncle Albert came out on stage and she perked up immediately. Thankfully he was scintillating and funny enough that even an eleven year old didn’t need to lie down on the floor and take a nap.

Then it was time for the music. There was a glorious opera number which transported us all to heavenly places.

Except for Little Daughter. Who had her fingers stuck in her ears and her head down in her lap. I poked her. “What’s the matter with you? Sit up.” I hissed at her. Again.

“The song is so loud it hurts my ears,” she whined. “She’s not singing English. How am I supposed to like her song when I don’t know what she’s saying?”

By then, the ruse was up. There was no way ANYONE in the audience could possibly mistake us for artistically literate individuals or connoisseurs of the fine arts. Please forgive us, we are savages who never go to the opera.  I glared at my child and didn’t bother hissing. “Stop being rude. Sit up straight, be attentive and smile. Or you’re going to get it.” She didn’t need a translator, she knew what “it” meant.

The child behaved herself for the rest of the program. Then it was time to wait in line to  congratulate Uncle Albert and “mingle”. In a manner which denoted our good breeding and exceptional manners. Except someone forgot to tell Big Daughter that patience and something called a SMILE are essential ingredients for aforementioned breeding and manners. I chatted to people I knew from the TELESA publishing journey, took photos – and Big Daughter looked surly and mean. “Why do you have to talk to so many people?” she complained.

Little Daughter said hopefully, “Can we go home now? If we drive fast, we can still watch XFactor on tv.”  Koekiki oe e…

Then some lovely ladies exclaimed, “Is this your daughter Sade Young? We read her article in the Samoa Observer. Wow, such a great piece…blah blah.” They were enthusiastic and generous with their praise. I was happy for Big Daughter. Now she can see it’s not just me who thinks she writes good stuff! What nice people giving her positive feedback!  I beamed.

Big Daughter said “thank you.” With a surly, disinterested teenager expression. One that said, ‘I’m sooo bored listening to your chatter and I have far better things to do with my time. Like watch XFactor. Or taking a Hannah Montana general knowledge quiz.

I wanted to smack her up’side the head.

And so it continued throughout the night. Later, when I asked Big Daughter why she looked like a bored brat when she was being given compliments, she was shocked. “No I didn’t! I was shy.”

Little Daughter’s justification for (almost) passing out during the program was, “I think I’m too young to go with you to book stuff. It’s way past my bedtime. Next time, you can leave me at home.” So I can watch XFactor.

I went home and told the Hot Man I wanted to smack his daughters up’side the head. He said, ‘Don’t be silly. You can’t do that.’

There’s no hope for us. I’m apologizing in advance. If you ever meet my daughters in public and they seem surly / bored / disinterested. It’s because they are shy. Out past their bedtime. And I can’t smack them up’side the head.

 

 

 

 

Hedgehog Lies

Hedgehogs live in New Zealand. I didn’t know this until I saw one creep, creep, creeping across the driveway and over the lawn. A spiky little splodge with feet. I shrieked. The hedgehog probably had a mild heart attack. (But it concealed it well and carried on about its creeping business.)

The children were entranced. Bella followed it around the garden. Talked to it. (It was a rather snobbish hedgehog and didn’t engage in conversation with a five year old.) I did a quick google search and told them all not to touch the hedgehog because they had fleas. And possibly rabies. And maybe even were carriers of bubonic plague. (I didn’t need Google to tell me that. Everybody knows that it was the fleas on the rats that carried the plague. Hedgehog has fleas? DING – think bubonic plague. Its elementary Watson.)

The children listened to me and kept their distance. But I could hear them still talking to the hedgehog. Making friends with it from a distance.  Arguing about whether or not to give it a girl or boy name.  Bella asked, “How do we know if it’s a girl or a boy?” How do we know indeed…

I assumed my “Very Wise Woman” expression, “It’s a girl hedgehog.” But I couldnt just stop there. Oh no. I had to go and get creative.  “This hedgehog is a mummy hedgehog.  She’s got some babies back at home and she’s very tired of looking after them so the Daddy hedgehog is babysitting so she can have a holiday. That’s why she’s visiting our garden. She wants to have a break from all her rotten little hedgehog kids that keep pestering her all the time.”

Bella was impressed by my hedgehog’ean knowledge. (Let’s face it, sometimes, I’m so clever that I impress myself.) She was moved to compassion for this precious, hardworking Mummy Hedgehog.  “Ooh look mum, she’s resting in a ball in the leaves. Poor Mummy hedgehog. Everybody be quiet and let her sleep. She’s on a holiday from her babies.”

I went back inside, rather pleased with myself. Thanks to my wonderful creativity, my child cares for nature and all its creatures. She will probably grow up to be an environmental warrior. A champion for animal rights. I am so good at this job.

And then the hedgehog died. Just up and died on my back lawn. The children came back from school and there it was –  as dead as a dead hedgehog can be. Lying there on a pile of dead leaves. Not moving. Not snuffling about. Not creeping. Just dead. I poked it with a stick. Nothing.

Bella was unconvinced. “Maybe she’s sleeping.”

I didnt think so. “I’m so sorry Bella, she’s dead.” Maybe it was bubonic plague.

I got Big Son to quickly dig a hole and bury Mrs Hedgehog before she could start decomposing in front of us. Bella was sad.  Way sadder than she would have been IF her big-mouth mother hadn’t told her a fanciful tale of hedgehog babies and a hardworking, harassed hedgehog mum on holiday.

It’s been two weeks now since the hedgehog’s mysterious demise and every now and again, Bella looks out the window and says, “I feel sad for the Mummy Hedgehog’s children. I hope their Daddy is looking after them good.”

So now, what am I doing? Telling this child big fat lies about what an amazing husband Mrs Hedgehog has/had. “He’s the best Daddy Hedgehog ever. Plays with them, takes them all for walks, digs up special treats for them to eat. He’s the greatest.”

It is very tiring to construct such an intricate web of lies for one’s child.

What do we learn from this?

Next time I see a hedgehog walking up my driveway – I’m going to run it over with my car. And chuck it over the hedge. Real quick before any kids can see it.

End of story.

Being a Parent Sucks.

Sometimes it sucks being a parent. When they’re babies, you cant wait for them to get big enough to make their own food, see to their own hygiene and possibly massage your feet and tell you what a wonderful mother you are. Then they grow up and start thinking for themselves and you wish they were helpless infants again that did exactly what you wanted because they had no choice in the matter.

I’ve been super-stressing lately about Big Son. This is his last year of high school. I want him to be an academic MACHINE, churning out perfect A’s and slaying people left, right and center with his brilliance. I want him to be the first name they think of when its time for university scholarships. Heck, I want him to eat, breathe and sleep schoolwork and career goals.

But young adults have this nasty habit of doing whatever the hell they want. It’s very frustrating. Big Son says he wants to go to University and become a lawyer. But he takes a rather relaxed approach to making those goals happen. Sure he goes to school and does a bit of work here and there. But he aint living and breathing schoolwork. In MY opinion, he’s not very focused on his future at all. And we all know that my opinion is THE most important one around here. Dammit.

Two nights ago, my frustration went nuclear. I raged at Big Son about his sub-standard committment to his studies. Too much sport, too much girlfriend, too much texting. Not enough schoolwork, reading, and that foreign concept called, ‘Hard Work.’ “There’s only eight months left in the schoolyear and you don’t have a hope in hell of winning a scholarship! It’s time to get real about your future. You’re headed nowhere… blah blah.” The very worst of the academically-aggressive-fiapoto-psycho-Wendt Side of me had taken over of all semblance of common-sense and decency.  It was rather epic. He may have cried when it was all done. I know I did. I apologized. But the words had been said.

Yesterday we went to Big Son’s school for the Pacific Scholar’s Awards Night. He said he was getting ‘a something.’ I was feeling bad about my Tyrannosaurus-sized blow-out at him so I told the Hot Man we should all go as a family and support our son. ‘Even if he’s only getting a certificate saying he spelled his name right.’ We made a couple of ula lole ( candy lei’s). I had the kids dress up nice. ‘I don’t want the teachers to think we’re bush people. Wear your Pumpkin Patch dress so they will think we are refined bush people.’ Big Daughter complained because she had a Japanese test to study for. I told her to zip it and take her text book with her. That way people will think we’re EDUCATED global citizen bush people!

We went. Big Son got a certificate for passing NCEA. We clapped. We put his ula lole on him. Little Son whined through the keynote speaker’s address, When are we going home? I wanted to twist his ear but of course I didnt. That would only confirm our bush people status. We’re not that kind of bush people. We wait and twist their ear when we get home…ha. I gave Little Son that silent but deadly look. The kind that conveys mayhem and destruction and strikes fear in a whiney child’s heart. He was suitably impressed and there was no more whining.

Then they presented awards for 1st, 2nd, 3rd in each level. I mentally prepped myself not to cast envious looks upon the parents of children who WERE academic superstars. I will remain impassive and calm. I will not get mad that my son is lazy and unfocused. I will not throw rotten eggs at the proud parents of children who are not lazy. I promise.

They announced 3rd, 2nd. We clapped. Then they announced 1st. The Top Pacific Scholar. They said Big Son’s name. I was too stunned to even cheer CHOO-HOO like a proper bush parent should. Big Son got his award. It included one hundred dollars. My initial reaction to that was indignant on his behalf. A reaction that conveniently forgot that I’d just been lamenting his laziness.  Ohmigosh, he works his butt off all year and all he gets is one hundred dollars?! Couldnt they have gotten a company to sponsor a decent financial reward? Hello, in Samoa the top student at SamCo was getting $1000! The top student at RLSS was getting an all-expenses paid trip to the USA! I wanted to shower my son with hundred dollar bills myself, right then and there. Long, colorful strings of hundred dollar bills. (That I would then take back to the bank the next day. Because they were just for show. You know, to make all the other parents feel bad about themselves.)  Except I didnt have any hundred dollar bills. We had no more candy lei’s to put on him either. So we just clapped. (We are rather useless islander parents…)

Big Son smiled. A lot. He looked proud. Happy. The first thing he did was hug me and say, “See mum? Do you still think I have no hope in hell of getting a scholarship?”

A genuine bush people mum would probably have snapped, ‘Salapu!” And taken him home for some re-educating. But I often fail at being a bush people mum… I hugged him back. And tried not to cry. I was so very happy and relieved that in spite of his OUTWARD APPEARANCE laid-back approach to schoolwork – my son IS on track to achieving his academic goals.  And yes, I felt rather guilty about my epic lecturing. It was a good day to be proven wrong.

Teachers and parents congratulated our son. And us for being his parents. I smiled in a dignified, reserved manner. Befitting the parents of an academic superstar. Because of course, such an achievement is no big deal beause we are academic superstar/global citizen/refined people and this kinda thing happens all the time. Ho hum. So blase. Until Little Son had to ruin it by exclaiming really loud in a really unrefined way – “Its so awesome! You won a hundred dollars! What are you gonna buy?” I knew I should have left him in the car

When it was all done, we took the family to dinner. To Burger King of course. Like good bush parents. Where Bella hugged everyone and announced, “This is the bestest day ever. This is the awesomest family ever!”

And I told Big Son he could pay for it with his award money.  Just kidding son!

Sometimes it does suck to be a parent. And sometimes it’s downright fabulous.

jadepric