For all our different Samoan Superheroes

Mase – Our very own Samoan Superhero and Losi the Giant Fisherman
Publishing Assistant + Advisor

Our Mase had come home from school a little wired which was nothing new. He completed his after school routine of uniform off, favourite after school clothes on, lunchbox on the bench before pacing around the house until he was ready for the daily recall of his latest obsessions. 

Superheroes were on today’s agenda.

Facts about Spiderman and Optimus Prime came first. I took my usual position on the couch next to him as he re-enacted scenes and lines from his favourite books and films in real time. My job was to listen, answer rhetorical questions and ask many more for Mase to enlighten me with all his superhero wisdom. 

Then out of the blue came a surprising question, ‘Mum, why don’t we have Samoan superheroes?’ I took a moment to search the corridors of my mind for an answer. 

‘We kind of have Samoan superheroes but they were around a really long time ago,’ I replied. His eyes lit up and a light bulb went off as he reminded me about Tales of the Moana, a cartoon series about Polynesian myths and legends that had brought to life the Polynesian God Tagaloa and Mase’s favourite, Losi the Giant Fisherman. He jumped up off the couch and took on Losi’s spirit as he splashed about in the ocean bravely catching fish for his human friends.

I marvelled at my son who was in his Losi zone without a care in the world. He carried on as Losi, a mischievous giant and son of Tagaloa who brought taro to earth. But as I watched Mase dart around the room he suddenly broke character and walked over to the fireplace mantle where a siapo hung from a canvas. I stayed quiet and quickly looked away at my phone to pretend I was occupied as he quickly glanced at me from the corner of his eye, Mase’s usual signal to stop watching and let him be. 

Now because I’m a nosey mother and wanted to make sure the brand new glass covered gas fireplace wasn’t accidentally kicked by Mase, who isn’t always aware of his body movements, I watched him through the camera on my phone. 

I observed Mase as he slowly scanned the siapo from right to left. Then he raised his palm and gently pressed it onto the siapo letting the aging fibres brush under his hand. It was as if the siapo was speaking to him. It was a beautiful moment, watching him connect with our culture in this way. I quickly took a snapshot of the moment with my phone to share with hubby before Mase took a deep breath, almost summoning the strength of the siapo, to say, “Mum … I’m different. I know I’m different.”

I was taken aback by the sharp turn of direction in events. I repeated what he said aloud to get hubby’s attention in the other room, my bat-wife signal for hubby to come immediately because for most of his life, our Mase had basically lived in his own world. We learnt how to best manage aspects of his Autism to help him and us cope with the real world as an ‘āiga and we never felt that he was ready to be told about his own diagnosis of Autism. But as our ten year old son stood in front of me, I knew in my heart that he was letting me know in his ‘Mase way’ that he was now ready.

His father entered the room as Mase returned to his seat on the couch and he held my hand squeezing it as his reminder to focus on the words that would come from my mouth. He talked about finding it hard to focus on boring things and that he just really liked what he liked. That he liked being alone and that we don’t have to worry about him because he, “likes it that way.” But as always he broke the ice when he mentioned that he was still wanting to audition for, The Voice, and that he didn’t care if he didn’t get chosen because he likes his own voice and will keep doing concerts for us. Both hubby and I smiled at his cheeky personality that always shone through the black and white tape that held his world together.

We talked about other differences he noticed about himself. Even his observations of other classmates. I spoke about my own differences and hubby talked about the journey we as an ‘āiga went on to learn more about his differences which led us to this thing called Autism, emphasising that it is our differences that make us all unique and special. 

“Just like Losi!” Mase blurted out with wide eyes. 

I laughed and agreed, emphasising Losi’s gigantic differences and how his actions changed our world by bringing taro to earth. A smile stretched across Mase’s face as he jumped to his feet excitedly announcing to us, “So if I’m like Losi, then I can be a Samoan superhero too?” I laughed out loud and gave Mase a huge hug saying, “Okay Samoan superhero what’s the first thing you want to do to change the world?” Not really expecting what he would say next.

“I want to tell the world about Losi! … Then everyone can know about our Samoan superheroes and how they’re different too!” His whole body lit up on the spot. My book publishing mind automatically switched on. It rotated through the 6 book projects that were already in motion for the year, reminding me that our Mila’s Books schedule was already completely full. But looking at the excitement of my son combined with the spirits of our ancestors coming from the siapo, my heart responded with, “Okay, but only if you help me?”

Mase grabbed his large drawing book and skipped over the pages of Sonic the Hedgehog, Bumblebee and King Kong to a fresh new page. We brainstormed all the important parts of Losi’s story that he could remember, the kind of pictures he wanted in the book, cover colour schemes and of course the length which he said, “Tales of the Moana episodes are not long mum so not too long.” Fast reader it is then, I thought to myself.

Then I did some further research about Losi the Giant Fisherman and realised that there are different versions. I shared this with Mase, whose directive was, “Include them all!” Followed by a gorgeous smile that I couldn’t say no to. The idea of making it a pick a path book was born, and when shared with Mase he said, “Four stories in one book that’s even better!” 

Next I went to work writing. Mason gave feedback at each step giving a thumbs up or in one chapter a screwed up face telling me to, “Make the words easier mum,” followed by, “Don’t worry mum I’ll make us some taro for all our hard work, Losi would like that!”

Then there were illustrations based on Mason’s initial briefing. I filled in a few gaps for clarification and the final image of Losi came back instantly getting Mase’s approval. For Mase it was simple, decisions were easy and his mind was set. I, on the other hand, had a few questions –

Me: “Mase, Losi is the most handsome giant I have ever seen! … But do you think a giant from a very long time ago would look this handsome?    

Mase: “Losi looks great mum! He should be handsome because us tama Sāmoa are handsome,” followed by a model pose.

Me: “Okay why don’t we make the pictures on the inside colour instead of black and white?”

Mase: “No mum, give people a break from colours because it sometimes hurts people’s eyes like how noise hurts my ears sometimes.”

Me: “What do you mean change the letters son?

Mase: “Like make them bigger so it’s easier to read and use the normal little ‘A’ not the weird looking ‘a’.

Mase naturally became my publishing advisor, wanting waves made from the`~’ button on the keyboard he had recently discovered as chapter header images to connect back to Losi’s love for the ocean and taro leaves on the pick a path pages so that it wasn’t “too boring.” 

It took us four weeks to complete the book and the final part was deciding what the dedication should be. So we returned to the initial brainstorm we did in Mase’s big drawing book and circled a few key words. Then we were able to sum up our little project which not only supports our Mila’s Books mission of creating stories that help all our tamaiti be seen, heard and valued but also our Mase and his ongoing journey with Autism as a growing tama Sāmoa –

LOSI THE GIANT FISHERMAN – Launching 2nd of April in celebration of International Children’s Book Day and World Autism Awareness Day.



Lockdown Lowdown

Here we are again. Level 4 lockdown ‘bubble life’ as we know it is becoming so familiar and I am one of those people who fully welcomed the break from the world outside.

On top of the usual busy life of being a mother, wife and Samoan daughter, I wrote seven stories that were released in May this year. It involved so much time and energy #BeforeDuring&After because when you’re working to ensure our Pasifika stories are in the spaces they need to be, it’s not just write the story and then sit back and relax #OMGifOnly. Then amongst all of this I was being commissioned to write stories and complete advisory work in schools, AND we moved house where we completed #Chehooo renovations, because in my mind there is no such thing as impossible – but there is definitely such a thing as crazy #RightHereYall

So the first half of 2021 has already felt like an entire year has flown by, and is why I had promised myself an early Christmas break this August which would help me to slide into ‘chill mode’ for our final book of 2021 #TamaSāmoa.

Then Delta arrived, saving me from myself because to be honest, I probably would not have had a break and just kept on going #AsPerUsual.

I have never been good at just stopping. I even remember having so much energy as a child and would get so frustrated and borderline cry from being bored – but not in front of my Islander parents who would have really given me something to cry about LOL. Now as an adult this non-stop energy has manifested in my life as always being on the go, to keep on going, then going further … until I can’t go on anymore – which I am so used to challenging because I am a serial ‘Do-er’, forever preparing, organizing and thinking about what needs to be done which to me, MUST be followed through because my OCD/undiagnosed ADHD & Asperger’s nature can never leave anything unfinished or un-promised. Then when I’m really on a roll the fiabots kicks in and I start feeling like I’m invincible #NoSleepNeeded because by this stage I turn into a machine – like an AI robot with tunnel vision programmed to GET THINGS DONE. This is of course until I hit my kryptonite wall having spread myself so humanly and mechanically thin that my mind and body shuts down and forces me to stop.

And like so many, I know the benefits of stopping, having breaks and the importance of looking after yourself. But why is it so difficult to abide by our own self-care rules? Having had two weeks of level 4 lockdown reflection and meditation I have come up with 3 theories –

First theory: Self-care was not really modelled in our lives growing up. I think about my parents growing up, dad worked during the day and mum worked at night, always making sure someone was home for us kids. There was no holidays or family vacations, Dad even worked 14 hour days with mum working two jobs at one stage. So from a young age, my parents had no choice but to keep going and by the time we were teenagers they filled their spare time with church. So they never really stopped or took time for themselves. No such thing.

Second theory: Patterns, pathologies and cultural values. Education was big in our household growing up and early on I realized that for my parents, success in the outside world meant achieving at school. The more I achieved, the happier my parents were. So I took this as a sign of how to gain approval and love as a child. By doing things, and doing them well, I made my parents happy but then after making them happy, I wanted more of this #NewDrug and without me realizing it at the time, wanting them to be proud of me led me to chasing over-achievement status.

This addiction was solidified by Dad who always praised our achievements and hard work, but ending his comments with something like, ‘But it would have been nice if…’ Like the time I was runner up to Dux at College and after a teacher congratulating my parents, my Dad’s comment was, ‘We’re really pleased but there is always room for improvement.’ My Dad’s standards and expectations back then were #Hardcore and he eventually relaxed when he realized his girls got their degrees and would be okay in life. Then there was Mum who was the original do-er and problem solver – for family, friends, work, church, random strangers even. Girlfriend was nek level. She would always tell us, ‘What goes around comes around,’ and to talk straight, don’t talk sh**, to ALWAYS do what you say you’re going to do and DO IT RIGHT. Something that has stuck with me.

Next was being Samoan, where tautua #Service is one of the golden rules of our culture. If you do not serve your parents, family, church it is basically a sin that reflects on your entire aiga #family. Being selfish and self-serving is unacceptable. So this just reinforces the lifelong duty of service and selflessness that you are born in to and the inherent feeling you have to give of yourself, your time and energy because this was what my parents modelled and just what good Samoans do.

Third theory: How much does society really value self-care? I remember working fulltime and calling in sick, after going 500% for a couple of months at this particular job. Then within the hour I received a phone call from my boss asking me how sick I really am and if I could just come in. This happened regularly. And when I was younger – I would. The harden up and get on with it attitudes in our workplaces to meet deadlines, outcomes and deliverables doesn’t allow for, ‘I really need some time and space,’ or ‘My mental health and wellbeing are suffering at the moment.’ Which I’ve always found crazy because people are a business and organizations biggest asset. So when we feel supported and good about ourselves we are much more effective, creative and productive overall.

But there is hope. Look at some of the world’s professional sports stars who were recently in the spotlight regarding their mental health and stepping down from major events because of it, highlighting the importance once again of self-care. Reminding us all that today’s generation are already positively taking the right steps to change societal attitudes towards self-care and mental health and wellbeing #OurTurnNow.

Since I know what I need and why I haven’t been able to give it to myself #WhatI’mUpAgainst, I’ve figured out all that’s left is: Breaking the cycle. My plan has included taking the first steps of making self-care a priority and just stopping – because this is when I get the chance to think about the good and the bad, gain clarity, feel and heal from things that are otherwise blocked out by the ‘busy-doing-ness.’ It also gives me the space and time to REALLY listen to myself – to trust and know what I need. And this lockdown, my mind and body have needed to just stop.

So as a recovering non-stop addict, I know it will take work to make it a routine part of my life to stop and I have been trying to make the most out of this time in lockdown – which includes rehearsing how to say leai faafetai #NoThanks and not feeling guilty for not meeting people’s requests or demands. This is why in preparation for what God and the Universe has instore for me for the rest of the year I am working on a much healthier addiction of boundaries with work and a new pursuit of happiness that can only be found with self-care. Simply embracing this moment of pressing pause in lockdown.

2021 Choices, Chances & Change.

This is THE year.

A phrase we all say to ourselves, at the beginning of each year really. But after the crazy mixed bag of lollies year we all had last year, I do feel that this will be OUR year – for more choices to be made, for more chances to be taken, for more changes and growth to happen.

This 3C’s formula became the basis of my teaching career quite early on. I remember making the conscious choice to be an agent of change in my classroom. I identified what I could control, then I made choices, took informed chances, accepted and created opportunities which led to student progress and achievement – positive change.

Continue reading “2021 Choices, Chances & Change.”

The Teine Sāmoa Project.

Teine Sāmoa was originally published as an MG/YA ebook during the New Zealand lockdown in May 2020. The story follows the journey of cultural identity and discovery of four junior high school students, their families their teachers and, most importantly, anyone who has ever faced the challenges of being a teine Sāmoa.

The paperback edition of Teine Sāmoa is now being launched on the 10th of October 2020 and will not only include the original Teine Sāmoa story, but also study questions for students, making it a rich Pasifika literacy resource that is able to be integrated into Intermediate and High School English programmes – a first of its kind.

The final part of the paperback edition is the Teine Sāmoa Project, an important space created for our own brave and beautiful stories to be told, which is further explained by the following excerpt from the book

Continue reading “The Teine Sāmoa Project.”

Talanoa with Tupe #OrianaTV

I’ve had an interesting ride on my journey as an author so far and today’s new and exciting adventure was being taped for a new Pasifika television show called, Talanoa with Tupe, which will air on Oriana TV next month #PacificFree2airTV

Each milestone or special event I’ve reached in my life was always shared with my mother #BFF via our traditional goss sessions afterwards, so here’s today’s debrief

Continue reading “Talanoa with Tupe #OrianaTV”

Teine Sāmoa (ebook) Lessons

How did you publish Teine Sāmoa? What steps did you take? What did you learn and what are your next steps? These are some of the questions I have been messaged, emailed and asked from teachers, students and supporters of my recent ebook, Teine Sāmoa. And because sharing our learning for others to win is just the island way #MorePasifikaAuthorsNeeded here are my top 5 lessons from Teine Sāmoa so far –

Continue reading “Teine Sāmoa (ebook) Lessons”

#SLW2020 Learnings Part 2: The ‘knee on the neck’ effect.

To be honest, like many of you, my Samoan language week ended with a heavy heart over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

That video. The injustice. No words could explain. Or Justify any of it.

But not to my surprise many still are. Trying to explain and justify it all. And is probably why social media and all the keyboard warriors seem to be mirroring the rioting and protesting happening in America, online at the moment.

I can see why so many of us have been affected by this one event.

Continue reading “#SLW2020 Learnings Part 2: The ‘knee on the neck’ effect.”

#SLW2020 Learnings Part 1: So what now?

Is it just me, or was Samoan language week on another level this year?

Busy with Teine Sāmoa and our Mila’s My Gagana Series promotions, I couldn’t help but share my new discoveries with educators, principals and interviewers.

It just seemed like everywhere online something was happening, someone was sharing, people were showing and some of us were launching things that were all in support of promoting Samoan language, culture and identity.

Continue reading “#SLW2020 Learnings Part 1: So what now?”

Is it just me, or was Samoan language week on another level this year?

Busy with Teine Sāmoa and our Mila’s My Gagana Series promotions, I couldn’t help but share my new discoveries with educators, principals and interviewers.

It just seemed like everywhere online something was happening, someone was sharing, people were showing and some of us were launching things that were all in support of promoting Samoan language, culture and identity.

Continue reading “#SLW2020 Learnings Part 1: So what now?”