Samoa writer

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?!

 

 

 

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.

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.

Taking Your Clothes Off

jasonBack

I’ve been kind of quiet on the writing front because I’ve been working on three different projects and unsure which one was going to be done first and ready to release. I’m thrilled to tell you that one story has basically got me falling in love and if all goes well – this next book will be out in the next few months. This novel doesn’t have a title yet but it’s a blend of contemporary romance and women’s literature, and most definitely NOT for children or young teenagers. So, no it’s not a TELESA Series novel. (That’s coming later in the year, I promise.) I’m having a lot of fun writing this one because  I can identify with the characters in very different ways from TELESA. There’s a strong brown female lead (of course), she’s got a sarcastic witty way with words (which means I’m laughing a lot as I write her scenes) and she struggles with very complex relationships with her very opinionated, very dysfunctional family. She’s in her mid twenties and goes to Samoa for her little sister’s wedding…which leads to all kinds of drama. This novel is giving me the opportunity to explore conflicted sibling relationships, the dynamics of sisterhood, AND all the wacky wonderful ways that we Polynesians organize our gigantic (nightmare) weddings. And, because it’s a love story…of course, there’s a hot male lead. Or two. Or three. (This character has me brown-girl-blushing when I write some of his scenes..) Anyway, enough already. I just wanted to share because I’m excited about this next book. And I haven’t felt this way about my writing in a long time.

A piece:

The parking lot is crammed with cars. But no people. I’ve chosen my time well. They’re serving dinner and nobody in their right mind would be missing out on their chance to attack the feast on array. The night air is a welcome relief from the sticky confines of the crowded hall and I take a moment to breathe.

Aaargh, my feet are dying in these stupid shoes. And the fat squeezer is impeding my circulation in horrible ways. I throw a cautious look over my shoulder. No-one’s around. I slip my shoes off and hobble over to stand on the grass, wriggling my toes in the cool wet greenness. Now for the torture girdle. I move into the shadows, put my hand up under my dress, a squirm, a wriggle and then an unpeeling of Spanx, down…down. The greedy fabric doesn’t want to let go of my fat folds and it hurts to drag it down my legs and step out of it. A quiet exult, “Yes! Free at last.”

“Isn’t that my job?”

His quiet voice from somewhere behind me has me leaping a few feet into the air with a muffled shriek. “What the freakin’ hell are you doing, creeping up on people like that?!”

He’s standing there with his hands in his pockets, moonlight glinting on the silver grey elei shirt. And the gleam of his smile. He’s laughing at me. I want to scream at him again but I remember I’m holding a crumpled piece of spandex. I quickly hide it behind me. “What are you talking about?”

He walks closer and I back away, bump into a tree. Can’t move any further. Dammit. He’s standing right in front of me now. Close. Too close. I’m breathing heavily and trying to stop my guilty chest from heaving up and down in such an obvious fashion. This close and he smells delicious. Doesn’t this man ever smell bad? Why just for once, can’t he stink? Of stale BO? Garlic? Onions? Old socks? Cigarettes? Please…And then he brings one hand up to lightly brush loose strands of hair away from the side of my face and I can’t think about smelly things anymore.

Because all I can think about – is him. Everywhere, all over me.

He leans in to whisper in that raspy tone which sends delicious shivers through me, “Taking your clothes off. Isn’t that my job?”

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.

“Your sexual abuse is disgusting and has brought shame on our family.”

Three weeks ago I wrote an article about rape and sexual abuse in Samoa which was printed in the Samoa Observer, posted here on my blog and shared on various online sites. It was written in response to a national religious leader in Samoa and his comments on rape/abuse but it addressed  widespread views held by many.

In the article I identified myself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This was the first time I have spoken about this outside of my husband and children. Writing about it in such a public forum was terrifying. I cried when I wrote it and publishing it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Thousands of people read that article and within minutes of it going live, many women were writing to thank me for voicing that which is too often silenced in our communities. They wrote to share their own experiences of rape and abuse, and to engage in dialogue about ways to fight this problem. I wrote from a place of anger, pain and healing to raise awareness of a widespread issue and it’s incredibly humbling to realize that by doing so, others have been able to speak out about their own personal survivor journeys. Thank you to all those who sent messages of support and those who bravely shared their personal survivor stories. We are all empowered by your strength and resilience.

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly),  not everyone was happy with my honesty and directness, my ‘fiapoto’, le mafaufau and ‘le fa’aaloalo’.  Including a few members of my own family. My father called from Samoa to offer his support, along with my older brother, but others are angry about why didn’t you tell us before and how does this make us look?  One condemned my disclosure as “disgusting” and “bringing shame on our family.” I can only assume they are angry, hurt and confused – and rather than directing that anger at my long-ago abusers, or even simply at the horrible fact that this happened to their daughter, their sister – they have chosen to direct it at me. The last few weeks haven’t been easy but I can look at that article and say from a place of inner peace – Im not sorry I wrote it. I stand by those words. I can say:

My hurt, my healing, my voice – is more important than my family’s reputation.

For those of you who are Samoan (or any kind of Pacific Islander!) you will know how difficult that sentence can be to say. How almost impossible it can be to believe. For us; family…family unity… name…reputation… appearances…privacy… are EVERYTHING. It’s almost sacrilegious to prioritize the individual, the ‘needs of the one’, over ‘the needs of the many.’ It can be seen as the epitome of selfishness. Which, I believe, is another huge contributing factor to why rape and sexual abuse is so prevalent in our Pacific Islander communities as is the silence about it. Because when it does happen – too often, the victim is shamed and silenced so that the family will not “suffer.”

(Fijian/NZ writer Tulia Thompson wrote an excellent article reflecting on ‘Pacific Communities and Rape Culture’ and I urge you to read it for discussion on reasons why people “don’t tell”.)  Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying that rape/abuse are only a Samoan/Tongan/ Fijian/Pasifika/etc problem. It’s an everybody, everywhere problem that crosses all ethnic, cultural and socio-economic lines.

I agree with Tulia that one reason why some men rape and abuse women and children – is because they think no-one will ever find out, their victims will never tell and so they will never be held accountable for their actions. Too often, this is exactly what happens. We don’t tell anyone because we are afraid. We are ashamed. We are silenced. And, sometimes, even when we tell – we are ignored, berated, belittled and made to feel like it was our fault. The more that we DO speak out about our experiences and find validation and support from family, friends and community, then hopefully, we can work together to stop abuse from happening.

Every survivor’s story is unique and every survivor’s struggle to heal, to ‘keep it together’ and keep moving forward – is different. I’m grateful for my husband and children who have been a source of strength for me on my own journey. Motherhood has given me great insight. For example, I could not forgive myself for “allowing myself” to be assaulted at age seven – until I had a seven year old daughter and truly comprehended her innocence. If anyone hurt her, I would never blame her or hate her for not fighting back. So how could I possibly keep hating my 7yr old self for that?

In Darren and my Fab5, I have found empathy, compassion, and support. It’s my hope that we all can give the survivors we know and love – the same.

Fa’afetai lava, thank you.

There’s many useful resources available online for those who would like to learn more about this issue. I’ve provided a few links below but there are tons more.

*It can be a shock to find out someone you love is a rape/abuse survivor. For insight on what you can say and do to help your loved one – Tips for Friends and Family of Survivors

*Get the facts – Common Myths about Child Sexual Abuse

*Self-Blame and Survivors – No it was not your fault.

* A list of support networks/organizations for survivors in NZ. – Victim Support.

* The overwhelming majority of rapists are not strangers that attack you in a dark alleyway. They are partners, husbands, friends and acquaintances. Get the facts. – Overview of Partner Rape 

The Mata-Lulu Model

This writing thing has given me the opportunity to have some pretty awesome experiences. Like get DietCoke drunk in E.L James hotel suite  in Kansas City with a fabulous group of women writers. Ride to a book launch in Sydney, in style in  sleek low-rider cars and have specialty cakes and donuts made #TelesaStyle. Go back to my old high school Samoa College and talk dreams and books with young people that these books were written for. Meet some of my Pacific Lit idols, chat with them and learn from them. Be hugged by a twelve year old girl who’s read all four Telesa books…”eight times each. I can quote whole sections for you. Because of your books, I love reading now!” Read stories and English homework assignments from high school (and University) students who have studied my books. Receive photos of #TelesaReaders in the Armed Forces, who have taken their books with them on deployment to Afghanistan. Do the first ever in history, author book signing at Otara Market, and be overwhelmed by the alofa, Pasifika creativity and spirit at its very finest. Get handwritten letters from women in Nauru, thanking me for my books and for lighting their writing fire, sharing their poetry with me.

Okay, I could go on and on, but the purpose of this post is to scream about a fantabulous experience I had in Hawaii. ( No, not the Point. No, not late night missions in search of Diet Coke with LOTS of ice. No, not Sunday drives through epic scenery. No, not endless boxes of donuts. No, not the Polynesian Cultural Center. No, not bookChat with Tahitians.) – All that stuff was equally as fantabulous but THIS blogpost is about something else. Or SOMEONE else.

Her name is Jenn Lemalu Meredith. She’s from the same village as me in Samoa but we didn’t really know each other until our blogs collided two years ago. She’s a supermum who lives in Hawaii. And in between finishing her Masters, being the megaBankBoss at her work , raising her family and blogging – she started a photography business a while ago. You can see her work here: http://www.jennphotog.com/

http://www.facebook.com/JennLemaluPhoto

Jenn has been a vital supporter of the Telesa Series from the beginning. She was one of the first people to volunteer to read the Telesa book and put her review up on Amazon. She’s been a #DanielTahi  and #JasonWilliams advocate with her friends and networks AND she’s made me laugh along the way with her FB and Twitter conversation. (and she was NOT happy with what happened with Jason…) She was a key part of the Hawaii Organizing team for my recent trip and had me do a glamour photoshoot with her.

What did that entail? First, she brought her wickedly talented makeup/hair artist, Chantel Kiana Suaava to the house and had her do magic with my sad face and hair. (no easy task, let me tell you…) There’s a reason why my nickname at school was ‘MataLulu…Owl-Eyes, MataOmo’ and its not because my eyes are stunning ‘midnight pools of beauty’. Ha. #WhatDoesTheOwlSay?! ….Chantel was up to the task though and was able to do HarryPotter type wizardry so I basically looked nuthin like myself.

Then we dashed to two different locations for the photos. My Hawaii-Sister Janice Faitala was the very patient assistant who never once rolled her eyes or said bad words. ( ok, she may have thought them silently…or texted them to her bestie but hey, she was the epitome of diplomacy and friendly support, so for that I thank her!) Jenn makes you do all these really weird and painful poses that require a certain amount of fitness and athleticism…okay, I lie. She makes you stand still, kneel, bend, smile, angle your head a certain way, stick your butt out, squish your boobs together ( in my case, non-existent butt and boobs) and smile some more. But because we all know I am incredibly lazy and possess not the slightest bit of fitness or athleticism, I was rather out of breath and faintly dizzy and sore after all the posing. In other words, I would never cut it as a supermodel. *sigh* (Yeah, because I’m not athletic enough. That’s the ONLY reason *wink, wink, nudge nudge*) But Jenn was very professional and encouraging and patient with my whingey, whiney, unfit self because the woman is a genius photographer and can make wonderful things happen – even if her subject is whiney and unathletic. (And matalulu.)

It was a huge relief when the photoshoot was done. Yay! Jenn rushed off to be with her family. Me and Janice rushed off to eat a well-deserved lunch in some air-conditioned comfort. (Sidenote random story…we were reeeeally sweaty by that point, so the priority was the coldest air-con we could find. We walked into four different food places and then walked out again because their air wasn’t cold enough. In Taco Bell, we went so far as to allllllllmost order food but then I wasn’t convinced it was the coldest option available so we left again. Janice was rather embarrassed, “The poor service lady was waiting for our order. I felt bad walking out on her.” I waved my hand at her worries, all fia- blase, “Aagghh dont worry, we’ll never have to see her again, so its okay.” Then 4 hours later, who did we meet at the book signing that night? The lovely friendly woman from Taco Bell who asked, “Were you in Taco Bell today? I recognize your beautiful necklace!” And Janice gave me the #IToldYouSo look…#sorry!! Blame it on stunning necklaces from my mums shop Plantation House!)  Anyway, I spent the rest of the weekend wishing I didn’t ever have to brush my hair or wash my face again…wishing I could just walk around forever looking like a makeup guru worked on me everyday…. *dreamySigh*

Then Jenn showed me  the photos.

I’m a writer, so I’m supposed to know lots of words for every feeling and every occasion. But I’m just gonna shut up and let the photos speak for themselves.

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Thank you Jenn for a memorable experience. Now I have visual evidence that even a matalulu non-athletic girl can take some decent photos.

Now I’m back in New Zealand, back to reality…as I scrub two weeks worth of sludge off the shower walls, and reflect on my fun all-too-brief fling with glamour photography!

Why I don’t take my Kids ANYWHERE

There are some parents who have jam-packed activity schedules for their children. Every day. All the time.  They go to art galleries…museums…rock climbing…harp lessons…wildlife reserves…kayaking…wine and cheese tasting…flower arranging classes…skydiving…snake pit dancing… They take them everywhere and their children have lots of fantabulously exciting and intellectually stimulating experiences. I don’t actually KNOW any of these kinds of parents personally, most probably because they are far too busy taking their children everywhere to have a spare moment to talk to me. Or it could be because such parents would never deign to be friends with a loser like me because:

I don’t take my kids anywhere.  (Heck, I don’t even go anywhere myself. The cave is a scintillating place to be, why do we have to go out for?!)

But that’s because the few times that I do try to take them somewhere…really irritating things happen.

I decided to take the three daughters to the library. Sounds simple enough, right? Ha. First drama erupted when Bella decided her regular shoes were just not good enough to go the library in. ‘I want sparkly glitter shoes. Why don’t I have any pretty shoes?’  A five year old having a fashion crisis meltdown  is a horrible thing.

Then the trio couldn’t find an overdue library book. Much searching and yelling ensued. Much messing up of an already messy house was involved in this hunt for the elusive book. Bella cried because she couldn’t find it. Big Daughter snapped at Little Daughter because “its all your fault the book is missing. Why didn’t you take better care of it?” Little Daughter cried. Then Big Daughter asked, ‘Why don’t we just tell the library we lost the book and pay for it?”

“Do you have money to pay for it?” I snarled.

“No.”

“Well, then don’t make such ridiculous suggestions. Get out there and FIND THAT DAMN BOOK!”

After thirty minutes of emotional upheaval, the book was found. Hallelujah. We traipsed downstairs and got in the car. Which is when I noticed my car registration had expired. Just fabulous. The library parking lot is always riddled with parking cops, eager to hand out tickets and fines.

‘Don’t worry,’ the Hot Man said. ‘Go pay for the registration online and print out the receipt. You can put it on the dashboard when you go in the library.’

I went inside. I got online. I paid the registration. I tried to print the receipt. But I couldn’t. Because the printer had run out of ink. Just fudging fantastic!!!!

I went back outside. I slammed the door behind me. It didn’t make me feel any better. This day sucks. Who’s dumb idea was it to go to the library anyway?

For one tremulously wonderful moment, I contemplated cancelling the trip. Telling them all to ‘get out of my car, go inside and watch TV and don’t talk to me for the rest of the day. Not if you want to live…’  I thought about how crappy an ordinary thing like going to the library can be when one leads a messy, disorganized life like me. Those OTHER parents who take their kids everywhere can do that because their kids have sparkly shoes, they have a special shelf for library books so they never get lost (probably bar coded and GPS tracked for extra organizational wonderfulness points in heaven), their cars are ALWAYS registered on time, and their printers ALWAYS have ink in them (with extra cartridges stored for emergencies. Like the Zombie Apocalypse.)  This is the problem with taking my kids out of the house. It’s a reminder to me of what a loser parent I am. Why am I even bothering?!

But then I looked at three hopeful, patient, excited faces. In the car. Waiting. Anxiously. Because I never take them anywhere. Because a visit to the library is about as exciting as their lives get.

So I took them to the library and resigned myself to getting a ticket. What the heck, every other annoying thing has already happened…ticket me! Come on, do it!

And you know what? We had fun at the library. In spite of all my dark threats, there was no overdue fine to pay because little kids books don’t get fined apparently. Everybody got lots of books. All three of them found friends from school to talk to and look for books with. Bella played games and did puzzles. And I watched them all and asked myself, ‘Why don’t I do this more often? Its nice in here…’

Oh – and we finally caught a break – and didn’t get a ticket.

That night, I sat and read library books to Bella. She snuggled in beside me, listened avidly, laughed at all the funny bits and made me read the best books twice. Then she said, ‘Mama, this is so fun. I love you.’

Which of course had me all choked up on equal amounts of happiness, love and guilt.  And promising, yes I will take these children to the library more often. Possibly to the park. Maybe even rock climbing! (yeah, lets not push it. Keep it real Lani.)

And resolving to get some blasted spare ink cartridges for the printer, never be late with my car registration again, buy some sparkly shoes for Bella, and DON’T LOSE ANY LIBRARY BOOKS.

How about you? Please tell me I’m not the only one who dreads taking kids places?