Bella’s Shop is Open!

Just a quick note to say that I finally figured out how to put Buy buttons on here and upload a bunch of stuff from Samoa that you may like. In other words, YAY WE HAVE AN ONLINE SHOP!!!

What’s it called? It was supposed to be some deeply symbolic and thought-provoking name, but Bella insisted it be called Bella’s Shop. So there you go.

What does it sell? Books. Real ones (as opposed to digital pretend fake ones haha.) All of my titles (of course) and then any and all books I can get my hands on written by a super Samoan. I’m particularly interested in getting local writers and poets up on the shop. So you can get Audrey Brown-Pereira’s second poetry collection ‘Passages In Between Islands’,  Nina Netzler’s collection ‘Counting Her Gold’ and soon I hope to get poetry books from Rev Ruperake Petaia, Enid Westerlund, Momoe Malietoa Von Reiche and more.  Also listed are Sieni A.M’s novels, ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ (warning, you will CRY!) and ‘Illumine Her’. As well as my all-time fave, ‘Girl in the Moon Circle’ by Sia Figiel.

But the book that’s literally FLYING off the shelf, is this tiny pocketbook guide, ‘Say It Easy in Samoan’. It’s a nifty handbook of everyday phrases and words, and a great way to kickstart your Samon language for only $6.00 NZD. Bella loves it, so it comes with her #BellaStar rating of approval – its basic and easy enough for kids, but let’s be honest, some of us adults could use it too. Its the most popular item in store – I just packaged up EIGHT copies for an order from a grandmother in Hawaii buying them for her grandchildren. We’re working on making a similar pocket-book of Samoan proverbs and their translations and meanings. Watch this space!earringswThe shop also has vibrant language posters that are good for kids learning Gagana Samoa. And lots of jewellery and accessories from Plantation House. There’s beautiful coconut earrings from the Savalalo Market too.

So you can be assured that when you buy from Bella’s Shop, you’re buying Samoa-made products and supporting (us) local artisans, writers and poets.

Got any suggestions for what YOU would like to see (and buy) from Bella’s Shop? Leave a comment below and be in to win ONE gift copy of ‘Say it Easy in Samoan’.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You are not alone, you are loved.” Pasifika LGBTI #OwnVoices Series

“I reached a point where I could no longer tread the water of lies; I could no longer maintain the facade; I could no longer be an imposter to myself. I was alone in the vast ocean of lies I had formed, and I was drowning.”

This is the third in the #OwnVoices Series here on my blog where I share the stories of Pasifika LGBTI from around the world. Phineas Hartson wrote to us from Sydney Australia, and Princess Arianna Auva’a in American Samoa. It takes courage to share our stories in a public forum and I’m grateful for all those who are willing to participate in this series. Today’s guest is Penehuro Williams, who lives in Las Vegas Nevada. I’m extra buzzed to welcome him because Penehuro is my cousin – and not in that vague way that we Samoans are often #cousins (where you have to recite a complex family tree of extended branches to find the link…) – but super close cousins, as in his mum and my dad are siblings. Having said that, Penehuro and I have never actually met in person, so I was thrilled he accepted my invite to come on the blog.

Penehuro was born and raised in American Samoa. He joined the US Air Force in 2009 right after high school and was a meteorologist with them until he got out in 2015.  He now works at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). He’s also going to school, majoring in cellular and molecular Biology.

This is his story.

Penehuro .

I distinctly remember the moment I first thought to myself that I could be gay. I was about 8 or 9 years old, and was walking to my 4th grade classroom one morning when the thought made its grand appearance in my head. It was a peculiar thought – one that made my heart beat rather swiftly – but it was not unwarranted. I was not like the other boys in my class; most of my friends were girls, which was odd at that young age where boys and girls seemed to stick to their own gender; I did not enjoy sports, which nearly every other boy in my class did; and, most importantly, I developed an attraction for a particular boy in my class, an attraction that eventually became my first crush. I do not know how I came to learn of the word “gay.” At the time, I do not think I fully understood what the word entailed. What I did understand of the word, however, was enough to know that it was taboo – a topic discussed in scandalous whispers by adults behind closed doors; it was different – not something seen in the everyday bustle of life; and most importantly, it was unnatural and hence, inherently bad.

With these definitions of the word “gay” in mind, I spent the next 6 years suppressing this unnatural part of me. And it was not until another 5 years had passed that I began to achieve self-acceptance. Overall, it took 11 years of internal struggle before I finally began to love myself.

Growing up in American Samoa, where strong, cultural values and an irrevocable faith in God are foundations of society, I had more than enough reason to stay in the closet. The biggest reason was fear – fear of being unloved, fear of being disowned, fear of being an outcast, and fear of rejection. These fears motivated me to consciously adjust my mannerisms to convey a more masculine appearance – sit up straight, keep your head up, widen your stance, cross your arms. I figured if I was more like the other boys my age, the less suspicious I would seem. Every day I woke up in the morning, and just as natural as it was to brush my teeth and get ready for the day, it was second nature to smile and lie through my teeth to everyone around me. After years of practice, the lies eventually became such a part of me that they fell from my lips as seamlessly as the rain fell from the clouds. And like a constant downpour of rain, the lies accumulated, gradually building in a pool of water around me. Eventually I reached a point where I could no longer tread the water of lies; I could no longer maintain the facade; I could no longer be an imposter to myself. I was alone in the vast ocean of lies I had formed, and I was drowning.

My life line came in the form of a beautiful and intelligent girl I met during high school. We connected over similar interests and over time developed the best of friendships. During my sophomore year, I decided to come out to her. Something in me compelled me to open up and to let her in. I anxiously awaited the entire day, getting more nervous as the hours dragged by. Finally, at the end of the school day, I asked if she wanted to accompany me to the library because I had something to tell her. When we finally found a quiet table and sat down, my heart was just shy of beating right out of my chest; never in my life had I been so nervous. I was so nervous, in fact, that I could not speak. I could not bring myself to say out loud the words that had been eating me up inside since I was in the 4th grade. I resorted to grabbing the nearest book, flipping to a random page, and began pointing out the letters instead: I… A… M… G… A…. But before I could finish, she jokingly said, “You’re gay?” and laughed, obviously thinking that it was some kind of ruse. My response was utter silence. And in that silence, I broke. Tears streamed down my face and dotted the book I was using. I looked up, expecting to see some form of disgust or admonishment, but instead was met with a pair of warm, teary eyes. I do not remember what all was said after that point. The only thing I can recall is the overwhelming feeling of relief that swept through me that day. She accepted me exactly as I was, and by doing that, she saved me from myself; she saved me from drowning in the lies I had so easily become accustomed to; she saved me with a hug, with love, with friendship, with understanding, with an open heart and an open mind. Out of all the amazing and wonderful things she did for me that day – things I cannot even begin to describe – the most important thing she did was give me hope.

The newfound hope I received  invigorated me to find, heal, and build myself – my true self. I was able to leave high school happier and more content than I thought I would ever be. And when I joined the United States Air Force, serving across the continental United States and abroad in Europe, I found even more hope in the widespread acceptance from my fellow airmen.

Contrary to the fears that plagued my 11 years of internal struggle, the reactions I have received thus far have been overwhelmingly positive. This is not to say that I have not had my share of negative reactions. About a month ago, I attempted to donate blood but was rejected due to my sexuality. It was a harsh reminder that despite recent accomplishments made in the name of equality, there are still every day aspects that can render one feeling like a second-class citizen – rejection is definitely one of those aspects. And that rejection is one of many.

Diversity is one of the many beauties of life, and through it, people will have a variety of views. Many people, from close family to strangers, have and will continue to disagree with my life. Armed with a repertoire of Bible verses, a lack of understanding, and maybe even an ignorance to understand, people will criticize and judge as if I am not my own biggest critic; as if I did not spend little more than a decade tormenting and trying to understand myself; as if I did not spend years begging God to change me; as if I did not become so distraught that suicidal thoughts were regular occurrences. My sexuality is as much an innate part of me as the very flesh and blood people see, and I can no more willfully change that than I can the color of my eyes. Ultimately, I have worked too hard and for too long that, quite frankly, no amount of criticism, prejudice, hate, or ignorance will ever put me back to those miserable years I spent in the closet. I am happy.

So to the young boy or girl struggling to come to terms with his or her sexuality; to the young boy or girl navigating the complexities of adolescence and puberty, struggling with his or her gender identity; to the young boy or girl who does not fit the social norms of society; to the young boy or girl suppressing an identity out of fear; to the young boy or girl who may be drowning in his or her own pool of lies, desperately gasping for a breath of understanding, know this:

 You are beautiful, you are not alone, and you are loved. Courage comes in many forms, and by simply existing and dealing with struggles most people will never encounter, you exemplify a form of courage. In all honesty, your struggles may not disappear entirely. Someone, somewhere, will always dispute your truth. And that is fine, because your struggles are not entirely yours. They are shared amongst hundreds and thousands of people across all oceans, over all continents, and from all walks of life. Though the world may seem immensely harsh and cruel, there are people out there who support and believe in you.

My name is Penehuro Williams, and I am one of those people.

Posted in PACIFICA, Pasifika LGBTI Own Voices Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Library Fantasies.

Confession – we were living in Auckland when the Telesa books were first published. The library was my happy place when I was a kid, namely the Nelson Memorial Public Library in Apia Samoa. So its always been a dream of mine to see my book on the library shelf – so I kept going to the library closest to us in Auckland and searching for Telesa. In a very  SUBTLE NONCHALANT IM-NOT-A-WEIRD-1ST-TIME-AUTHOR kinda way.

The day it came up on the computer log was a happy day…BUT I still couldnt see the books because they were always out. Yes I was happy people were borrowing them but frustrated because I WANT TO TAKE A PICTURE DAMMIT. I even contemplated sneaking in some copies from home so I could place them in a strategic prominent place (where REALLY AWESOME POPULAR BOOKS go 😜) and then take a picture…

Dont worry, I never did that. And I never did get to see my books on the shelf at the Henderson Waitakere Library *sad sigh*.

But since then, fabulous readers have indulged my #authorDream and sent in pics of my books on their library shelves, from libraries in NZ to Australia to Hawaii to Samoa and more. And every one of them – makes me happy. Thank you! Please keep them coming.

Libraries and fabulous librarians have been awesome supporters of me and my books over the last five years since Telesa first came out. Both community AND school libraries have not only acquired my books, but also hosted book signings and author talks.

Libraries rock.
image
This beautiful shelf of (awesome thrilling hugely-in-demand books auuuuu 😎)  is in Otara Library. 💜

image

Northcote Library, Auck

image

Book signing at a school library in Sydney Australia.

image

Kelston Girls High School in Auck NZ

image

Victoria University Library, Wellington NZ


image

Lefaga High School library in Samoa has Telesa.

Does your library have my books? Please send me a pic!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Restaurant Critic.

The Hot Man got a dinner invite from a visiting steel supplier rep from NZ. “He invited my wife to come too,” he said.

Eavesdropper Bella jumped in, “Did he invite me too?”

“No,” I said. “Why would he? He doesnt even know you.” I never get invited anywhere. No way am I sharing my dinner out with my 8 year old.

Bella was not deterred. “When he meets me though, then he will be happy to know me and take me for dinner.” Because she’s awesome of course. “You should just take me with you.” Then she added a qualifier. “But NOT if youre going to Pinati’s for dinner. If youre going to Paddles Restaurant then yes Im definitely happy to be your guest. OR Amanaki restaurant. And yes to Scalinis.”

WTH?? This child with no job and no money is a restaurant snob. We are definitely doing something wrong here. When her big siblings were her age THEY pleaded to go to McDonalds.

Parenting fail.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fa’afafine means Freedom.

This is the second piece in the #OwnVoices series here on my blog where I invite Pasifika LGBTI friends and family from around the world to share their stories. The first article was from Phineas Hartson, a Samoan living in Australia. This interview takes us to American Samoa. I first knew Princess Arrianna Auva’a as a dedicated reader of my YA Telesa Series. Then I got to know her as a brilliant actress, model and performer, an astute businesswoman, a fierce advocate for fa’afafine and LGBTI rights, a passionate writer AND  then a potential US Army recruit. I’m excited to welcome Princess to the blog!

11407163_1089932774350079_4803939623418747998_n

About her identity. Does fa’afafine = transgender?

Fa’afafine to me is my identity. I know I was not born biologically a female. But I do not feel like I am male, despite the fact that my genitals scream another story! (LOL, OH WELL). But being Fa’afafine, actually being a proud Fa’afafine is who I am and what I am. It defines me in this world. The word ‘transgender’, although sometimes I identify myself as that when speaking to an outside audience (The English speaking audience), comes with a lot of struggles, pain, fight, hurt and so on. Fa’afafine defines me in a beautiful way. It ties me to my culture. It ties me to my people. With the identity of fa’afafine it comes with acceptance. Fa’afafine to me means ‘Freedom’ to express myself’ and my Freedom to live freely and happily. I am not being suppressed. I am not being turned away. I am not being shut out from anything! Being Fa’afafine has it’s advantages, If I am denied anything being a female, then I can switch to being a male. If I am denied that by being a male, I can jump in as a Fa’afafine.

About growing up in American Samoa…

I was born in the beautiful islands of American Samoa, at the LBJ hospital in Fagaalu and was raised here.  My family and my while life was based here in Tutuila, in my Mother’s family from Malaeloa. My Father is from Falealupo and Vaoala, in Samoa. I grew up under the wing of my Grandmother. A very strict mean, yet very loving woman, that has her culture, her village, her church, and especially her family as her priorities. You can only imagine how that was. Feaus at every moment of the day! My mother was all about school. Reading! She was tough on us, her kids, about reading. She made sure we always read something daily and she had to make sure we were on top of our school work. Then you have my Palagi Grandfather that worked everyday, was a bit laid back, and loved to take us, his grandkids for beach adventures.

Growing up, I knew something was different about me, but then seeing that my brother was the same way as I was, I didn’t really think anything different about it. I was feminine. I LOVED to steal my sisters’ Barbie dolls as if they were mine and play with them and at the same time, I was in love with sports. Weird combo, I know! But playing sports was my release. I played Little League baseball and then to major league tournaments around the island. I played American football with the village boys on our family field and rugby when I finally understood it. I was always picked, because I was super fast. One thing I was grateful for, was that I had my brother, Hawley, that grew up with me. We shared a lot of things. Things we both did not understand, but we both helped each other out by answering our own confused questions.

My family somewhat understood us. Of course no one agreed with my behavior at first, but they did  not love us any less.  I was often teased by my guy cousins. Name callings, and being mocked about something I did not understand. But they were also protective of us against the outside bullies and the teasing. I guess it was only okay for them to tease us, but no one else. (I didn’t get the mentality then! I still don’t get it!) Now, I am my families Princess. FULL support with anything I do. FULL support with anything I ask for. My Mother and Grandmother are my biggest fans and supporters. So are my aunts that are like my mother’s too. They all shop for me. Encourage me. Protect me, and defend me (Sometimes they defend me although I am acting a fool, or have acted a fool). My parents have accepted me, They pray for me. All they want for me is my happiness. As any parent in their right minds would want for their child.

About high school in American Samoa… 

Every Fa’afafine had some moments of being teased in high school. So did I. But little stuff like, ‘Vae masoa, fia keige, faafafige…’ But never anything major. My classmates are my friends. Close friends actually. After 12 years after graduating, whenever we get together, we act like we’re in our teen years as if time has never passed us.  I was never looked down at because I was different, but I was befriended and loved because I was special and unique. I was Princess. Throughout all my years of High School, I never thought the need to change my name to a girl name. I was very comfortable with my given name. I was the Co-editor for our School year book with a dear friend for two years. I was very active in school activities and a proud supporter of my class activities. I loved high school even more when my brother attended the same school as I did. In fact all my siblings and I attended Leone High School in Leone, home of the Mighty lions! I’ve dated the love of my life, THEN. I’ve fought in high school. I’ve bullied, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I’ve done it all. Just like any other regular teenager! I’ve made some life long friends and also life long enemies.

About the need for role models and mentors

I didn’t have any fa’afafine mentors or role models.  I came into the transition lost as to what to do and how to do it.. I had no guidance. I was clueless to the whole lifestyle. My fashion role models were my grandmother at one point and my mother. I had to find myself, catch myself, and walk myself through. My aunty, Maxine Tuiolemotu helped me along the way with a few tips here and there. Then when I fully came out and was of age, the Polynesian Goddess, Shevon (God rest her soul) herself swept in and took over the whole transition process and guided me along. I was a late bloomer into the whole Fa’afafine world. As I mentioned earlier, I had only my brother to fall back on with our conversations. I never looked up at anyone. Most fa’afafine were transfixed with the whole pageantry systems. They were very into the whole ‘who is who’ thing. I was lost. I had no idea what hormones were. I had no idea what the pageant system was like. I attended my first Fa’afafine pageant at the age of 18. In jeans and a shirt.

I believe having a positive role model growing up helps with guiding one as we transition. The help and guidance makes things easier. My help came when I met my friends, who are my sisters now. I am grateful for all my aunties and friends that helped me through the process then and now.

About the stereotypes…

Nothing bothers me more than the mindset of people who think we’re all about the fun, flare, glitz, glamour and games. That nothing hurts us. Here is a big surprise people, we’re human, just like the rest of the you that occupy this world. The stereotype still lives and I know it will continue to. There are some here that still don’t know and understand why we are who we are

Most often, I think people compare us to Ford trucks, We’re built tough. I can undertand why that perception of us is widely conceived. We weren’t born tough though. The experiences we go through from a young age until the day we decide to live our lives and express to the world who we REALLY are, make us tough. The walls we build are to  protect ourselves. Our defense mechanisms were created by the obstacles we have to jump over through the years. We are accepted in our culture and society, but there are still things and people that limit us, including ourselves.

About marriage equality in American Samoa…

My stance on marriage equality is that we as humans deserve to be treated equally in all aspects of the word, EQUAL.  Many Samoans are against the same sex marriage issue because they do not understand it. Many use  religion as their defence which I find hypocritical. That an Island so filled with corruption, divorce, adultery, stealing, and so many other sins would  immediately jump to the Bible for defense against what they do not understand and what they do not know.  It’s ridiculous.  But it didn’t surprise me.

I’ve had a lot of negative feedback on my fight for marriage equality, even from my own grandmother. Members of the Society of Faafafine in American Samoa even stood opposite of what I was fighting for. Not all, but most.

Most that supported the cause were doing so in support of their family members, friends, and supporting what they know on the issue.

About the Army…

I am currently training to join the U.S Armed forces.  I have always had the dream to join, but I lacked courage. I have been afraid  of losing myself in the process and during my time of service. I’ve been searching for years on end to find myself, and now that I fully understand who I am and what I am meant to do in this life, I deem myself ready to accept the challenge.

I now realize that, it’s not what I wear and out on myself that makes a person. I am not who I am with my appearance. I am me, with what and how I put out to the world.

My mother is my biggest motivation. I want to help her. I want to be able to give her the world or at least travel the world.  She inspires me to keep climbing higher and to keep grabbing on to more stars.

The support I have been getting, the prayers, the concerns for my spiritual and mental well being, and concerns of “What about your hair?”, and “how will you cope Princess?”, have been overwhelming in a heartwarming way. I am truly touched by the outpour from friends, family, and the community as a whole. The only obstacle that I have faced so far, is myself. I keep putting things up, I keep procrastinating. I am honestly excited about this new journey which I hope and pray I will be embarking on soon. The challenge of the training actually excites me. Am I scared? Of course, like hell I am. This is something completely new to me. Especially from a lazy person that loves to sleep more than anything else in the world. Over all, the challenge will hopefully change me for the better. The mental and spiritual prepping have been great. The physical training so far has been painful but it is pain I have to endure. The whole training is more mental than physical. It is all a mind over matter challenge. With my 30year old body and 17 year old beauty, mental ability of a 60 year old, I pray to be ready!

Advice for other  fa’afafine, especially the younger generation…

To my faafafine sisters young and old, be true to yourselves. Find yourselves. We will never find true happiness  if we are not happy with ourselves. Accept yourselves for who you are. You and only you will be your best you. No one else can live your life. No one else can find your happiness but you.

Love is a beautiful thing. Do not let one piece of a broken heart stop your heart from beating. Love songs are written to be sung, so a grieving heart can feel it’s pain, mend, and love again.

Final words…

Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a bad thing. The unknown can be a great thing. If we are not going to build anyone up or help with their climb, do not write them off or bite at their try. Live your life. Find your love and find love. Be successful. Be great. Be humble. Find happiness. Create a peaceful world not only for yourself but for the people around you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How an Addict Copes without their Fix.

I had wild n weird sugar withdrawal symptoms today. The shakes. Jittery hands and dizzy brain.

Which surprised me because I’ve been so busy making yummy #eatClean meals that I havent had the time or stomach space to miss my sugar fixes of…cookies, a lamington from Mynas store, a sugar donut or german bun from Luckys Foodtown, a thick crusty peanut butter n jam sandwich, a bowl of sweet granola WITH extra sugar added!

You dont realize how hooked you are on refined sugar and processed carbs – until you cut them from your life.

Which is why I love my breakfast ice-cream. Think of it as an extra thick, extra whipped, extra delicious smoothie. Reduce the liquid and pile on the fruit and vegetables so it has the consistency of ice cream. Then eat quick – and get brain freeze. Its worth it.

Last week I chopped and froze an assortment of local fruit and vegies in individual sandwich bags. Easy to grab and make for breakfast.

image

Every morning I start with the juice of one niu (young coconut), then add the frozen pack. I have different variations – theres an endless variety of options. Today I made one with all frozen bananas, esi (papaya), soursop, mandarins, lime, laupele and threw in some fresh basil at the end.

image

It was beautiful. Like a tub of divine sorbet but with a creamy richness from the coconut and the bananas. It was so good that I was forced to share with my children who decided Mum’s “special ice cream” was special enough for their refined tastebuds.

Other variations to blend with a niu are:
* Reeses Dream – frozen bananas, esi, grated Koko Samoa, a spoon of peanut butter. Gives you the perfect blend of chocolate and peanut butter.
* Tropical Delight – frozen bananas/esi/mandarins/soursop/carrots/pineapple/laupele/kale.  Add 2tbspns of raw oatmeal. Juice of a Tahitian lime. Or two! Filling and fabulous.
* Pina Colada – frozen bananas/pineapple. 1/2 tspn vanilla.

Im not a vegetable juice person so I only put vegetables into my smoothie ice-creams that dont have a strong taste. A vegetable with a higher water content is usually going to have a strong taste thats hard to mask. Thats why I dont put cucumbers or celery into my smoothies. Yuck. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, laupele, lettuce, brocoli etc are good ‘tasteless’ vegies. I like eating raw carrots so lots of em go into the mix. I read that zucchini doesnt have a taste in a smoothie so Im going to try it. Im also slowly experimenting with fresh herbs. Cautiously because Im still a little freaked out by the concept of a HERB with my fruits!

As a hardcore sugar addict whos cut out processed foods and refined sugars – a breakfast fruit and vegie smoothie is perfect. It gives me a hit of good sugar and it tastes like ice cream so it cancels out the dessert craving. And I can disguise lots of vegetables in there. Living in Samoa with all its fresh fruit and coconuts is great for smoothies. Especially when you make the most of fruit thats in season and put in the time to chop it all up for freezer smoothie packs.

Whats YOUR favorite smoothie combo?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

I’ve been struggling with rubbish health issues over the last two years. Everything from killer anemia to a mutant uterus to inexplicable fatigue to photodermatitis to a foggy brain that cant seem to process stuff easily to being a bloated whale all the time to WHAT THE F IS WRONG WITH MEEEEEE???!!!

Doctors have proposed several different things and some stuff has helped while others havent. I’ve seen one specialist and am seeing another one next month about possible auto-immune disease. The worst thing about it all tho, is the not knowing what exactly is wrong. Its frustrating and makes me feel helpless. For a control freak like me – thats not a good thing! I want answers! I want a gameplan! I want a list of THINGS TO DO SO I DONT SUDDENLY DROP DEAD.And I want them all now!

So Im taking back some control of this mess. Instead of just waiting for a diagnosis, my little sister suggested “let food be thy medicine”. She’s a pro nutritionist (and pole dancing chemical engineer) so she knows what she’s talking about.

Food for healing, food for nurturing means eating “clean”. Im also aiming for including lots of anti-inflammation foods, cutting out red meat and going easy on dairy products. To help me be more accountable and because Im excited about making this work, Im going to be sharing my attempts (and failures) on here. If youve got any good tips, please share them!

Day One
A trip to the market hunting for fruits and vegies that I will actually eat. No point wasting money and fridge space on things that look good on the nutritional scale…but make me want to throwup. That means those purple things? Isalaelu (eggplant) are a YUCK NO. Everything else? Good.
image
Fish is a fab clean food. Especially when its super fresh here in Samoa. I got some tuna fillets from Lucky Foodtown, soaked them in lime juice (Tahitian limes from the Tauese drive thru market) and then grilled them with a sprinkling of black pepper, paprika, cumin and rock salt. Green beans are a fave vegetable of mine, and I particularly like them covered in grated cheese…but I made do with a generous squeeze of lime. Added mushrooms cooked with onions and garlic and lunch was complete!
image
It was actually delicious and surprised me by being so filling that I could hardly finish it all. Or maybe it was the ten glasses of water I’d consumed??

#DayOne of #eating Clean was a success. I felt good. And theres something quite satisfying about shopping for fresh ingredients and cooking your own food – without a single label or box or packaged processed thing in sight. The control freak in me? Rejoiced.

What did I learn from day one?
1. Fish is my friend. Its quick to cook and relatively easy. Blessed to live in Samoa with lots of fresh seafood.
2. Bulking up my plate with vegies that I actually like is a good way to enjoy my food and not feel like this is suffering.
3. Lime juice makes everything taste nicer.

Bring on the rest of my (healthy) life!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“I love you – no matter what.”

I’m honored to have Phineas Hartson as a guest on this blog in the first of a new series of guest-posts from (what the palagi would call) our ‘LGBTI’ Pasifika community. This is an #OwnVoices series. I first ‘met’ Phineas via her powerful and honest writing online as she shared insights into her experience as a fa’afafine living in Australia and more recently, her journey of transition. Last week, she wrote a particularly poignant piece about her father and I asked if she would be willing to share on this blog. Her response – “If it can inspire other parents to just Love their children and children to just trust their parents than my job is done…”

FB_IMG_1460106753414

My name is Phineas Hartson.

I was born the second son of Mr & Mrs Matautia T Hartson. My mother passed away in 1995. I have four sisters and a younger brother who died only a few days old. I have a growing set of nephews and nieces with one grand nephew. Not forgetting the hundreds of extended family all over the globe.

Me and my Mum when I was four.

Me and my Mum when I was four.

I was born Fa’afafine. My story is not that unique in the Samoan context.

I wasnt raised “Fa’afafine” I was just Phineas, a sensitive, intuitive, feminine little boy who loved to sing, dance, draw and daydream, who had an affinity with animals and who loved his family more than Life itself.

I was born and Educated in New Zealand, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a failed attempt at being a High-school Teacher.

I was accepted into Law school in Sydney and became the first Samoan Fa’afafine to be admitted to the Australian bar as a Solicitor. However this blessing came with long-term unemployment. Being open came at a price.

But last year I was very fortunate to be given full time work as a solicitor at the Central Coast Community Law Centre as an open trans woman.

As a young adult, I identified as Fa’afafine, even though I tried to distance myself from “it”, lost in the bland, black and white landscape of New Zealand in the 80’s. The only option available I thought was “Gay”. Being “Fa’afafine, was unheard of in my small country town and the word “Transgender Woman” wasn’t even in my vocabulary.

For years I thought “Gay” was me, until the break up of a long term relationship last year which brought me to the realisation that I had been living as a Woman for years and that I was not Gay.

So at 49, I decided to live my life as the real me, the life that I had suppressed for many years. Suppression that resulted in harmful addictions and dark thoughts of suicide.

A few weeks ago, I sent a letter that I had written months earlier detailing my transition from male to female, to my Dad. I added a photo of my “new” self and waited.

Last night, I received a Facebook message from my youngest sister in Samoa, “Ring Dad”.

I told her, to tell Dad that I would call him tomorrow.

Now my Father is 85 years old. He’s also a Pastor of a Evangelist Christian Church.

The next day I rang home in New Zealand and after a few rings I heard Dads familiar voice answer the phone; “Hello?”

I said “Hi Dad”, as I always did.

Without pause, my Father said that he wanted me to hear these words directly from his own mouth; through tears and emotion, he said “Son, I Love you…”

He said he Loved me unconditionally,  “No matter what…”

My soul rejoiced.

My Dad said that God had given all of us free will in this life and he said to ‘be happy living my life and not to worry or listen to anything, anyone else said.’ He had heard secret whispers from within the “extended” family, but had waited to hear word from me.

We talked for 30 minutes about how I didnt want there to be any secrets between us and talked about my thoughts of suicide last year because of not living my authentic self. He told me “don’t ever think those thoughts”, that I am never alone and that he wanted me to be happy. I told him that I was “Very Happy now!”, the happiest I had ever been in my whole life.

During our conversation I told my Dad that I loved him and it was because I loved him, that I wanted to include him in my life: knowing everything, about my life, the good, the bad and the ugly.

We talked about my late Mum and how she had changed my Dads life, giving him a wonderful life and children.

My father told me that he supported me and that he knew that my sisters supported me too. I told him that I felt the same way too.

I am now over flowing with Love for my Father and my siblings right now.

Three simple words set me free “I Love you” the chains of self doubt, pain, fear, dissolved in an instant like salt with water.

I feel now, I can achieve anything, knowing that I have my Father’s Love.
I’m very lucky to have this Family. Very lucky.

Thank you God! XXX

My parents. My Dad is holding my oldest sister in her polka dot dress. I wasnt born yet but I Love these old photos.

My parents. My Dad is holding my oldest sister in her polka dot dress. I wasnt born yet but I Love these old photos.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Deadpool, Vampires and Hats in Samoa

I recently developed sun poisoning, otherwise known as photodermatitis, meaning Im allergic to UV rays. (Maybe Im a vampire?) Which makes life in tropical sunny Samoa a bit tricky.

It doesnt even have to be direct sunlight. I drive the kids to school in the morning and if its not raining, then by the time I get back home, my arms are covered with an itchy red rash from the sunlight thats come in through the windscreen. I sit in the shade when I take the kids to the pool and my face is stinging and swollen like I’ve poured nail polish remover over it. It doesnt help that Im also allergic to most sunblock lotions and face creams. The worst episode thus far, happened in NZ last month. The entire top layer of skin on my face peeled off after first puffing up so badly that, according to my rotten children – I looked like Deadpool. Minus the mask.

My wonderful family are full of helpful suggestions for what I should do to avoid exposure to the sun.

image

1. An umbrella hat. Was the Hot Man’s brilliant idea. Like this one in the picture, only much BIGGER. Thankfully, he has yet to find one in any stores here in Samoa.

image

2. A Deadpool mask – Because as Big Son said (with much excitement), “Since your face looks so much like his, it makes perfect sense that you would go all the way and wear his mask!” Perhaps with this matching hat?

image

3. Wear a veil. An elei lavalava wrapped around my face. And another one to envelop my body like a tent. – This was my idea. But i tried going for a walk draped in flowing lavalavas and nearly expired from lack of oxygen, and heatstroke. And the Hot Man said I looked like Evaliga. So I chucked that idea.
4. Never leave the house. Go nowhere. Wait for the Apocalypse. – While this is my most preferred option, its impossible because I have children who cant drive themselves to school, or take themselves to sports or beaches, or forage for nuts and berries and hunt for wild beasts to eat. (Theyre rather useless, these children. Eh.)
5. Wear big hats.

image

This is now the most attractive option. I have wasted a disgusting amount of time perused Pinterest looking for hats and I’ve come to certain conclusions.
A. Hats make you look skinny. (I have yet to see a single fat woman wearing a hat on Pinterest.)

image

B. Hats make you look cool. Elegant. Chic. As we all know I aspire to be all those things. Plus, hats make you look richly bored and vaguely weary of the trivialities of life. Like, you dont have time or energy to worry about the little things. Just LOOK at this woman and her hat. Does she look like a woman who’s worried about what to put in her kid’s lunchbox? Or when she last scrubbed the toilet? Or whether or not she has enough Doritos to make it through the day? No.

image

C. Hats cover lots of stuff you dont want people to see. You got a bald spot? Wear a hat. You havent brushed your hair for a week? Wear a hat. You got a face thats had the skin peeled off by sun poisoning? Wear a hat! Even better, you can use your hat to ignore people. See this royal Princess in the pic? You cant even see her face. You can use your big hat to pretend that you cant see people. Or to hide your eye rolling when they say something stupid. Your big hat can even conceal you saying lots of swear words if necessary.

I am now on a mission to acquire amazing hats that will make me skinny, elegant, cool, chic, flawless and that will allow me to hide from people, or roll my eyes and swear at them as needed. In the meantime, Im trying my best to stay indoors and only venture forth when the other vampires are out and about.

P.S If youve got any experience with photodermatitis, I would love to get your tips for keeping your face intact. Or suggestions for where to get a great hat?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bella Wants a Baby.

Bella is devoted to insect repellent and refuses to leave the house without it. Today I found out why. – Because she wants to have a baby. (Don’t worry if you cant see the connection. I couldn’t see it either. We are only mere mortals struggling to catch up with an 8yro’s leaps of reasoning and fantastical thought.)
Me – What do mosquitos have to do with babies?
Her – The TV news said that Zika virus can make babies not grow good in your tummy.
Me – But you don’t have any babies in your tummy.
Her – Not yet. But I will one day. And I want to be a good mum so I have to make sure I dont get Zika because it might hurt my baby. (Duh)

I reassured her that the effects of Zika on a pregnancy (supposedly) only last for 2yrs so she doesn’t need to worry because she won’t be having (ANY SEX) any babies for AT LEAST twenty years. She didn’t look totally convinced because hey, I’m not a TV news announcer, or a doctor, or a Zika scientist. I’m only her mother. Who’s a dreadful planner. I don’t know what I’m doing next week, let alone next year. The only thing I’ve planned for certain about my day tomorrow – is that there will be Diet Coke in it somewhere. While this child?  Is already taking steps to prep for her future babies.

So then I asked her the million dollar question. – “Why do you want a baby anyway??!! Has this child learned nothing from my whinging, ranting and complaining?? I thought you said you want to be a engineer builder like your Dad? And go exploring in the Amazon with your friend Violani? And be a vet and look after sick animals in the jungle?”

She gave me that sigh look, the one that said, Oh mum you’re so clueless. Then she said – “Of course I’m going to do all those other things. I can be a mum and a engineer and explore the Amazon and a vet. You’re more than one thing, aren’t you?”

Well, that shut me up right there.

Then she finished with – “I want a girl baby. Because I want to love her, and hug her and talk to her like what you do with me. You’re happy being my mum.” A suspicious look. “Aren’t you?”

And in that moment, all of me – even the complaining bits – was in complete unwavering agreement. “Yes, yes I am happy.”

“Good.” And off she went to slop on some more coconut oil insect repellent.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment