On Gardening Leave

Is "Gardening Leave" the same as being "Put Out to Pasture"? If it is, should we be worried? Or happy? 

Us back then!

Us back then!

Four years, three months ago, Curtis and I moved to Trinidad from Indonesia. Seven years before that we'd moved to Indonesia from Houston. 

The day after April Fool's Day, loaded down with 6 suitcases, 2 carry-ons and lots of memories--especially of our dear Trini friends--Curtis and I boarded a plane bound for New York, and whatever comes after. . . 



Why we were New York and not Houston or somewhere else Bound?

Several years ago, while my Creativity Group (or the GGs as we called ourselves) was working through The Passion Test, I came to the realization that I wanted-needed-a base, a home, a nest of our own.

So, we went searching for that nest and finally found one in a seaside village of Westhampton Beach on Long Island. It met all our requirements--the requirements of late mid-life: Withing 2 hours of an International Airport; good doctors, hospital, within walking/biking distance to all the necessities. 

If you're wondering what "Renovation" means, this sums it up... sans the theatre/romance/fun subplot.

If you're wondering what "Renovation" means, this sums it up... sans the theatre/romance/fun subplot.

A better/worse/more realistic example...

A better/worse/more realistic example...

Our Vene Mange "Mini Band" won 3rd place in Carnival 2016

Our Vene Mange "Mini Band" won 3rd place in Carnival 2016

We proceeded to make the nest our own

And then,  little more ours . . . 

Fast forward three years. . .

We knew this day would come. Curtis's Trinidad & Tobago Work Permit expired on March 31t. We'd  been planning for it. Working toward it. We thought our builder was too...

This morning, as we were meeting with the electrician to decide where we should position the lights, outlets, switches, cables and wires needed to complete this reno, with detritus from our six suitcases & 4 carry-ons scattered throughout our crowded "nest" Curtis got the call we'd been expecting. As of today, Curtis is officially on "Gardening Leave," whatever that means...

Am I nervous? Excited? Scared? A little worries? Sure am!

Here's one thing I've learned these 4 years in Trinidad:

Trini hearts must beat with the rhythm of the steel pan. I'm sure of it when I see Trini's move and when I hear them speak. Sentences blend and bounce, ending with a upturn, a lilt. I try to recreate the accent but mine comes out sounding leprechaun.

Even courtesy greeting to passerbys dance. No quick, curt "Hi," or nod of the head. Joggers sweating and puffing their way up steep Lady Chancellor hill this past Saturday morning sang out, "Mornin' Mornin'" "G'day! G'day!" just as they had every other day. Morning greetings, regardless the age of the speaker,  come twice.

Curious about the origin of this charming greeting custom, I'd looked it up when we first came to Trinidad. I recall something about how the custom stems from back when servants manners better be above reproach. (Although when I searched just now for that reference, I couldn't find it.) 

I asked a Trini friend about the two-call greeting and she said she recalled her grandmother saying it was about not risking being considered rude. "Trinidad is a small community," she explained. "If you're not related to someone, you know someone who is. If it ever got back to our family that we hadn't been polite, hadn't greeted someone properly, we'd catch the devil. Better to say it twice and be sure to be heard."

Knowing this charming custom grew out of fear--fear of losing one's position or risking punishment--a "Better safe than sorry," mentality, should, I suppose, make me enjoy it less. On the contrary. I think there's something to this idea that if one has something important enough to say once, we should make sure it's heard. And if that means saying it twice, sing out!

So now, today, with Gardening Leave (and whatever it entails) about to begin, we're taking a cue from our Trini Friends:  We're Ready! We're Ready!


"Gardening Leave" Playlist

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Be Mindful What You Wish. . .

Adages are busting out all over. To quite Phoebe Figalilly’s theme song, “so many splendid things keep happening!” Most significantly, my children, Max and Lexi are growing—have grown—into adults! Max married Michelle this past September; Lexi is engaged to Ryan, preparations are underway for their wedding this November; and Max and Michelle recently announced that they have a baby on the way. I’m going to be a GRANDMOTHER!

Aging aside, any/all of these wondrous events are enough to keep one awake at night…hence this post which comes as part Announcement, part Revelation and part Cautionary Tale:

I’m in New York at my first ever SCBWI Mid-Winter Conference where it is all about writing and books. In yesterday’s roundtable session, I brought a picture book manuscripts I’ve been obsessing over for about a year now to be workshopped. It’s about an excited sibling awaiting the birth of a new baby in the family. Afterwards, the writer seated beside me asked about my books: “Have you written anything I’d know?” A question that is flattering. . . and humbling. “I’d know” translates as “a book that’s sold a zillion copies or won a major award.”  I was floundering wondering how to answer when my eyes fell on her baby bump. First I thought: “So that’s why you liked my story. . . “ Then an Ah hah!: If you haven’t read them, you should—and buy them, too, because you and your mother are my intended audience:

As this morning was dawning, it dawned on me that each of these joyful, life changing family events I’m enjoying now came after a “brilliant, inspired, must-write-it-right-now” story idea struck. I’m not talking about a little “oh this will be fun” idea, either. I’m talking capital letters kind of IDEA that pulls me to my chair and holds me there captive, obsessed and loving the process. Which lead me to pose the oft posed question: Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?

Stories—even picture books—take a long time. The manuscripts for Your Mommy was Just Like You and Your Daddy was Just Like You,  had to be written and revised, and then sent to my agent, and then sold to the amazing Susan Kochan, my GP Putnams' Sons editor, and then sent to David Walker who created the art, and then published—years! Back when the notion of Max being a “grown up” was just wishful thinking. As for this “little” story I had workshop, I’ve been tinkering with it for over a year, long before Max and Michelle tied the knot. It’s as though, on some cosmic level, my story IDEAS portend the future—cue Twilight Zone theme.

Which led me back to another book, one I read and worked through with the GGs, my creativity group, The Passion Test, by Janet and Chris Attwood, a guide to finding and achieving your goals based on the “Laws of Attraction.”

As anyone who knows me knows, I have song snippets in my head and these snippets, while often a source of irritation as they loop---day and night, night and day—these lyrics often also, and perhaps cosmically, point me toward the point of my ramblings. Oddly this morning, instead of song, (which is especially strange on this of all days as last night I went to bed with my noggin humming with Gershwin classics as Lexi and I had gone to Nice Work if You Can Get It with Mathew Broderick (a camp, delightful 20's style musical that have everyone in the theater smiling and humming along)  a joke came to mind:

A love-smitten little boy and girl are sitting side-by-side on the steps. With cartoon hearts swirl around his head, the boy grabs the girl. “I get what I want when I get it!” he demands, repeating words he’d heard a TV hero say. Evading his puckered lips, the little girl pulls free, telling him: “You’ll get what I got when I get it!”

Okay, maybe there’s nothing to all of this. Maybe it is just me trying to make sense of my largess and rapidly changing status (I don’t feel old enough to command the title “mother-in-law” much less “granny”). Be this as it may, it seems an excellent time to play it safe and revise another adage:

Be careful (make that mindful) what you wish [or write], you just might get it!