Dear Inglis

Dear Inglis,

There are so many things that will be different now that you are gone; no longer will I be greeted by your big head and your wagging tail when I go to mum and dad’s house; no longer will I be followed into the guest room where you will inevitably sleep on the floor next to me if I had to crash there; and no longer will I fuss about what to buy you for your birthday and for Christmas.

This will forever be my favourite photo I captured of you.

When you looked up at me with pain in your eyes as you took your last breaths on this earth, I have never felt a heartbreak worse than that. You were the love of my life. You are the love of my life. I always said that no matter whom was thrust into my life, they couldn’t compare to you, because no one would ever be as happy to see me as you were. And to see you go to sleep for the final time has completely destroyed me. I knew that you were in pain, and the only thing worse than seeing you fall to a final sleep, would be to see you try to get through every day as your body slowly succumbed to the cancer that had eventually brought an end to your happy, full life.

I still remember when we first got you as a little innocent puppy, and I thought I could get in before everyone else did, and I called you Zelda, even though you were a boy. I even tried to call you Zelda after we had officially named you Inglis Cronk Slater Smith just to see if you’d respond, and you didn’t. You were too clever for my little shenanigans.

Never too good to sleep on the bed.

And then you grew up, and you were an absolute rascal. I wondered if those flappy ears on that big noggin of yours were just for decoration; you would do things that would irritate us, and you knew it would irritate us, but you’d do it anyway. You would bark at nothing, and I would open the door to tell you to be quiet, and you’d look up at me sheepishly, knowing that you were in trouble. But as soon as that door was shut again, BARK BARK BARK.

I wouldn’t exactly call you the smartest dog in the canine species as well. You wore that participation award at puppy school with pride, probably because you knew deep down that you wouldn’t be as smart as the other dogs. I often compared you to the stereotypical jock of Hollywood high school movies: big, handsome, athletic, and stupid as hell. The permanent look on your face told me “I’m Inglis, I’m hungry, do you like food? Because I like food. My name is Inglis. Did I mention I like food?” I’m glad that of the few things that you retained in that beautiful big head of yours, you learned to do your toilet business outside, as taught to you by my handsome Border Collie x Kelpie, Stumpy.

My favourite thing about you was when you would know if you were in trouble if I used your full name. Inglis Cronk Slater Smith. I said it so many times when I was angry at you that it just slipped off the tongue so effortlessly. But you knew when it was a simple ‘Inglis’, you were in the clear, and you would waltz on over with a smile on your face.

Actually, no. My favourite thing about you was how you would know when I was upset, and you would fight tooth and nail to get to me and lick the tears off my face and give me as many kisses as you possibly could just to show that through all the heartache and pain I may had faced, you still loved me. And that was enough. And it really was. I’m just annoyed it took me a while to see that.

“Can you hurry up so I can eat my damn cake, please?”

Often when someone refers to someone as “the love of their life”, they go on dates, right? Well, we did that. In the last weeks of your life when I was housesitting to look after you, I would order in food – and not share with you, regardless of that look you gave me – and we would watch movies on Netflix. Remember how much you liked How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? I don’t think you left my side when we watched that. However, you weren’t so keen on Christmas With a View, which I don’t understand, because as your owner, you should’ve adopted my liking for terrible Christmas movies.

Some people may haven’t been as happy to see me as I would’ve liked, but you always were. And when I saw you in the last minutes of your life, and you saw the tears flowing out of my eyes, with your last ounces of energy, you raised your head and licked it away, because you knew that I needed your comfort at that moment more than I’ve ever needed it before.

Whenever I hear Don’t Stop by No Doubt, I won’t think of how it’s one of my favourite all-time songs; it will serve as a reminder of our bond. I remember it so clearly, as if it were yesterday; I held you in my arms, and belted out those Gwen Stefani lyrics, and watched in amusement as you tried to squirm out of my hold as I potentially rendered you partially deaf with my horrible singing voice squealing.

I will always love you, my baby.

In your last moments with me, my baby, I could tell you knew what was going to happen. Your eyes were red and sad, because you knew you would be saying farewell to me and to the rest of your family. But we couldn’t let you live like that, my big boy. There was no way we could do that.

But what I wouldn’t give to wake up and see you on the floor next to me, laying on your back with your paws in the air, with your mouth drooping; or to see you look at me sitting on the sofa, and then you would place one paw on the couch, as if to ask me “So can I come up there and sit with you?”; or to just give me those kisses that I needed so much when I felt as broken as I do now. I really need those kisses now, Inglis, but I have to make peace with the fact that I will never get them again.

Rest easy, my beautiful baby boy. Tell Stumpy I miss him, and now I hope you can enjoy all the rope games, and eat all the chocolate guilt free like I do, knowing that it can’t harm you now. You have been the most beautiful, loyal and caring dog, and anyone who has come into contact with you over the years is that much better off having known you.

I love you so much Inglis Cronk Slater Smith, and I will never forget you. You will always hold a special place in my heart.

With love,

Noah/Nikki xoxo

Happy 35th Anniversary to My Parents!

My parents are honestly couple goals.

On this date 35 years ago, my parents got married. And what is amazing about this is that each day, they fall more in love with each other. If you hear that old trope that “marriage ruins relationships”, then let me be the one to tell you that is false because my parents are living proof of this.

This was taken exactly two years ago, when my sisters and I crashed their anniversary dinner. What legends.

In their time together, they’ve had five children, – one obviously better than the other and I am definitely talking about myself here – countless amounts of homes, about five dogs (correct me if I am wrong), and one hell of a journey together.

As a sort of present to them, and a way to celebrate their coral/jade anniversary, I gave them both a quick questionnaire to answer about the other. Here is what they had to say:

Mum
1. When and where did you meet dad? How old were you and how old was he? He was 14 and I saw him at a basketball game. I was 16.
2. What was your first impression of him? Didn’t think much of him.
3. When and where was your first date? At the movies on Queen Street in November 1976.
4. What did his parents think of you when they first met you? I never met them (when we were dating).
5. When and where was your first kiss? At the movie.
6. How did he propose? What was his first reaction? He proposed on the step of my house in November 1982.
7. What were your first thoughts when you saw him at your wedding? Grey. He was wearing grey.
8. How many kids did you plan to have? At least two.
9. What is your favourite memory with him? When Toni was sitting on the bed, she was sitting on the bed in her white dress and it took his breath away.
10. What is your favourite thing about him now? He is the most handsome man in the whole wide world.

Dad
1. When and where did you meet mum? How old were you and how old was she? Newmarket in Auckland, New Zealand. I was 16 and she was 18.
2. What was your first impression of her? I had no impression.
3. When and where was your first date? Movie on Friday night in Auckland city
4. What did her parents think of you when they first met you? I’m not too sure. They were very open and friendly.
5. When and where was your first kiss? The movie in Auckland on our first date.
6. How did you propose? What was her first reaction? I asked her in front of her home. She was happy.
7. What were your first thoughts when you saw her at your wedding? I’m getting married to her.
8. How many kids did you plan to have? No real number.
9. What is your favourite memory with her? In the temple when we got married and had Toni and Stacie sealed to us.
10. What is your favourite thing about her now? Her support for me and the family.

Besides some slight miscommunication on question one (looks at dad), and also I’m pretty sure both of their favourite memories together was having their fifth and final child, they are truly the most perfect couple! Happy anniversary mum and dad! I love you a bunch!

– by Noah La’ulu

#LauluCruise2017

I only just realised that I hadn’t written about my first cruise ever. Tl;dr – it was amazing.

Along with going on an amazing six-week holiday with Miss Kate, I had another holiday to go on only a few months later. Daddy wanted all of my family to get together and go on a family holiday – our last official family holiday was in 2011 – so not only was it going to be a great bonding experience for everyone, but it was going to be my first time going on a cruise.

On February 14, my family and I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, ready to spend the next eight nights on board. Not only was my immediately family attending – myself, my two parents, two brothers, two sisters, two sister-in-laws, a niece and a nephew – but we also had extended family and other friends with us, so in total, there were about 30 of us on board.

Instead of going through my days in chronological order and listing what I did daily, I’m just going to tell you everything I had done on the cruise in general.

First of all, it’s important to mention for anyone with a beating heart that food is free (with the exception of some specialty restaurants, but honestly, why would you pay to eat when almost everything else is free)! The only time I ever paid to eat was when I ate at Johnny Rocket’s, which was only a $7USD surcharge fee, and then everything on the menu was yours for the taking.

Each morning, I would go to the Windjammer Marketplace for breakfast, which is the Explorer’s version of a buffet. I can’t tell you about the variety of foods they had there for your first meal of the day, because I only ever ate hash browns and croissants; if I was feeling a bit adventurous, I’d chuck a tub of yoghurt on there as well.

While everyone in my family were free to do whatever they wanted during the day and night, we always got together at 6pm in the Sapphire Dining Room for family dinner. this was the Explorer’s version of fine dining. I’m not a fan of fine dining, really; I prefer a burger and fries over some overpriced salad that takes up a quarter of the plate. But God damn, the Sapphire Dining Room was outstanding! The food was great – and there was always one or more choices for vegetarians – but what made this dining experience really great was the service. My family had the absolute pleasure of dining with our waiters Ikomang and Imade, two lovely gentlemen from Indonesia who spared no expense in making sure our time with them was always 11/10.

The types of activities on board cater to everyone also: there is trivia and gallery viewings for the more introverted; there is ice skating and rock climbing for the physically adventurous; and there’s karaoke and outrageous game shows for the attention hogging types (me). I can’t even begin to describe the amount of fun I had on board, from playing putt putt with my nephew and niece, to playing as Novak Djokovic on Virtua Tennis in the arcade, the Explorer of the Seas had almost limitless amounts of activities to do. There were also different shows available, with ice-skating extravaganzas taking place on the ice skating rink, and broadway style shows in the Palace Theater. And if you were confused as to what you wanted to do that day, they gave out day sheets for everything that would be running that day.

I can’t speak for the other types of rooms available on board, but my two sisters and I shared a room with a balcony – because we can’t not have fresh air in our room. How gross. The room was pretty small, and the bathroom and shower left no room for me to effectively shave my legs, but when you consider the amount of time you would actually be spending in the room as opposed to everywhere else on the ship, then it was worth it. My sisters had the double bed whereas I had a hidden bunk bed that appeared from the ceiling. Great use of space, Royal Caribbean!

The island visits were also amazing! On my cruise, we were able to visit two countries and three islandsNouméa, New CaledoniaMystery Island, Vanuatu; and Maré, New Caledonia. Nouméa was beautiful in its own different way; it wasn’t what I expected it to be, but then five minutes down the street, it was… if that makes sense. My siblings all had ice cream from this place – which they said they had imported from France – and said it was the best dessert they’ve ever had, so there’s that? (I opted not to buy anything because why would you when the food on the ship is free). Mystery Island was actually paradise: the ocean was crystal clear and had this amazing shade of azure blue that it looked like I was staring at a postcard; the natives who visit the island to greet tourists were so adorable and friendly and had several goods and services for sale; and the sun was beaming down on the island as if we were the only place on earth. Admittedly, I didn’t get off at Maré, because I was too damn burnt from Mystery Island and everything hurt everywhere.

And finally, if you have read this far, there is the nightlife on board (yes there is nightlife on a cruise). Depending on which drink package you get – if you even choose to get one at all – then drinks on board can either be pricey, or already paid for.  The alcoholic drink package, which is around $45USD a day, guarantees virtually unlimited alcohol for the entire duration of your cruise. I suggest that if you’re a big drinker, or even if you can go through at least five cocktails a day, then this package is for you. The Explorer had several options for you if you were nocturnal or just liked a good night out – there was the casino (don’t ask me about it, I have no idea how to gamble other than playing Blackjack terribly), the Star Lounge (which was like a fancy music-playing bar) and Dizzy’s (the nightclub). Having experienced the latter two, I can say that the nightlife on the cruise was pretty damn good. And when Dizzy’s shut, you were free to head to the pool deck where the drinks would continue until the early morning.

The people you meet on board are pretty amazing as well, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll take some friends away from your short trip. Everyone… meet my new little brother Alex.

Oh, and there was also a gym on board.

If you’re interested in doing a cruise – or you’ve done one with another company – I highly recommend cruising with Royal Caribbean. It was a pleasant 10/10 experience for everyone in my family, and I am more than excited to do another one with them.

– by Noah La’ulu

Yes, I Am High-Maintenance and I Deserve To Be

Here’s how I turned an intended insult into a huge compliment.

For those that know me well, then you would already know the fact presented to you in the headline. And for those of you who don’t, let me catch you up to speed in the quickest way possible… I am precious: I physically cannot stay at hostels (3.5 stars are my absolute minimum for accommodation); if you don’t reply to my message within five minutes, I’ll be the first to complain about it, and will effortlessly flood your phone or inbox with messages until you do; unless it is cosplay or pop culture accessories (love my Harley Quinn Puddin’ choker), I refuse to wear jewellery that isn’t from Tiffany & Co.; and sometimes I call my father at work just to see what he’s doing.

I am high-maintenance af, and others have picked up on it. Some may intend it in a nice “but we love you anyway” kind of thing, but some people mean it as a form of insult, as in I need to change the way I am to suit them. I admit, being high-maintenance or needy isn’t necessarily a great quality to have, but I am proud of every intricacy of my personality, whether that is being bashful, loud, blunt, or high-maintenance.

As I sat down and thought to myself why others view me that way, I realised that when people call me high-maintenance, it is actually a huge compliment to my parents and their efforts in raising me to the best of their ability.

Thanks to two individuals, these siblings have lived a great life, including the addition of two sister-in-laws.

Contrary to what some may believe, when I was first born, my family didn’t have a lot. We usually wore hand-me-downs (FACT: I still have a jumper that my sister wore when she was in high-school so-and-so years ago), and we lived in a small three-bedroom house with seven humans and one canine, but I never saw the financial struggle that my parents must’ve faced, because to me, I had it all. I had somewhat loving brothers and sisters who each year grow closer and closer together; I had food on the table every morning, arvo, and evening, with plenty to spare for tomorrow’s leftovers; and we had a load of board games and a couple of gaming consoles that kept us kids entertained for days.

My father is Samoan, so we practice a tradition called “fa’a Samoa” (which you can learn more about at this link), which is loosely translated to “The Samoan Way”. I might not be completely familiar with the practice, but what I do know is that in this Samoan tradition, you give everything you have to family and friends, even the shirt off your back if you have to – especially in important times like funerals and weddings. While we weren’t rolling around in our riches, my parents often gave everything they had and much more to different family and friends, whom we often had over for dinner several days a week, to the point where I was accustomed to having up to 20 people at my dinner table on a weekly basis.

My father and mother raised me well, and gave me everything that I needed and most often, what I wanted. That is why, several years later as a 24-year-old, I can safely say that I deserve to be high-maintenance, because my needs were always met as a child, and my desires were given to me should I be deserving of them. My parents afforded me the luxuries of staying in nice hotels and enjoying the finer things in life.

So the next time someone tries to take a shot at me by calling me “needy” or “high-maintenance”, I am going to turn around and thank them for acknowledging the stellar job my parents did with me in raising me to be the man that I am today. And I am not ashamed of it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go straighten my seven-coloured-hair, because I can’t go out in public unless my hair is straightened and styled to the left.

– by Noah La’ulu