I invent holidays

I’ve always admired people with great intent for their lives, who know exactly who they want to be and what they want to do and pursue those clear visions with purpose and determination. I’m hardly unfocused or unaccomplished, but I’ve come to realize in my middle years that what I really am is opportunistic. I have a general vision for the kind of person I’d like to be and the kind of things I like to do. But what I’m really good at is seeing a hole – an opening – and then leaping into it to make my mark.

This year’s Mocksgiving

Most especially, with holidays. You all know my calendar of unique holidays. We have Mocksgiving two weeks before Thanksgiving (November 16 this year – mark your calendars). That was followed by Piemas, coming up next weekend. Then Flynn’s Fiery Feast, which is still forming but seems to have the theme of “we can’t make up our mind whether it’s inside or out”. These are not fake holidays, for all their provenance is known and created. I have heard many times that Mocksgiving is a true celebration of gratitude, friendship like unto family and tradition. (The mock, for the record, is not mock as in mocking. It’s mock as in trial run. It turns out you can’t rename holidays after 20 years of having them under one name.) These holidays have traditions and rules that guide and govern them just as any other holiday does. They even have holiday attire. (I have a great pie-themed dress! I still need a better Mocksgiving outfit.) There are things we always do, the community of shared experience, the stories of what happened last time we gathered. They are entirely real.

Me, in my Piedress, eating Pie

This gift of inventing holidays has a lot, I generally think, to do with the open-mindedness and joyfulness of my friends to indulge my flights of fancy. I’m hardly the only person on the block to have a traditional celebration. Around here, we also celebrate Oktoberfest and Vinterfest and other shared joys.

But what made me realize that this was, perhaps, my calling in life was when I managed to invent a holiday at work. Now, I didn’t do this on purpose (and I can’t go into too many details). But a while back I invited some colleagues to join me in an activity on International Women’s Day. And I gave it one of those great trademark Brenda names. (Eg. a cross between lame, descriptive and memorable.) I had no thought of making it an annual holiday, just like Piemas. But a goodly number of people asked me very politely (and persistently) if we could please do it again. So we just celebrated this last week, from the least to the greatest of us, and I realized. This is now a *thing*, with a tradition, and set of rules and memory of past celebrations. People refer to it by name, and look forward to it, and are joyful when it comes. All I had to do this year was set the date, invite people, and they came gladly and with alacrity with their offerings, like a joyful potluck. You know, like Piemas. Or Mocksgiving.

There are so many people in this world that our niches of uniqueness become ever more granular. I’m willing to share space with the rest of the world and the things that make other special. But I like being the person who creates the joyful holiday. I think I’ll lean into that one.

What about you? What have you discovered you somehow end up doing over and over? Are you a person who knows what they want to do and who they want to be, and does it? Do you have any holidays of your own creation?

#28daysoftshirts – Wrap up

The remnants

I really enjoyed the project of sharing the stories behind my tshirt wardrobe. I’ve been writing for a long time (this blog is over ten years old), and I liked the chance to share and engage daily, but with a low threshold for how much I needed to write. I did learn a few things about myself across the venture, which I am shockingly turning into more blog fodder.

1) I have a lot of tshirts
This is perhaps the least surprising discovery of the adventure, but I was actually rather surprised at JUST how many I have, especially since I just cleaned out my tshirt drawer when I moved up to the attic. I’m guessing a total of 40 tshirts is crammed in that drawer, and find it unlikely I’ll have fewer any time soon. That likely means – given that I wear tshirts on weekends and Fridays – that I wear each shirt about twice a year. I love novelty and variety, so that feels true!

2) My shirts are an interesting reflection of my interests and values
The top themes are: mountains, coffee, Tolkien, roleplaying, work. Those are not a bad summary of the things I am interested in, and that I am willing to share with others. I was particularly intrigued to see how much my love and longing for mountains was reflected in this wardrobe. I suspect that’s particularly acute right now, when I feel like my beloved mountains are a four month journey away on either side. March is as far as you can get from hiking and camping time, and it’s an acute lack.

But there are also some tremendous gaps not reflected in my collection. There’s nothing of the Medieval in my collection. Music is under-represented, especially the early music I love best. I was shocked to realize I don’t have a single faithful/religious shirt of the non-blasphemous nature. My faith is something important to me, and which I would want to share aright. But so much Christian paraphernalia signals exclusion instead of love. And pretty much none of it is funny. What I really want is a funny Christian pride-ally shirt. Is that too much to ask?

3) I’m terrible at taking selfies and didn’t improve
My usually excellent phone camera keeps doing this jiggly refocus thing. I wonder if I need to fix it or something. Also, I’m really not good at taking a flattering selfie that also shows shirt text. I guess the upside is that I’m comfortable enough with who I am and how I look to post 28 days of unflattering photographs?

4) My things all have stories
I somewhat knew this before, but it was particularly interesting to notice. I had invested meaning in each of these shirts. I had a story about origin, or what it meant to me. Some of the shirts that didn’t seem like they could possibly be important, like the Go Climb A Rock tshirt are actually layered with deep meaning and values. This isn’t just a tshirt thing: I could do the same with coffee mugs, objects on my desk at work… honestly, most of the objects I live with. I think that this isn’t a standard and normal way to engage with the physical world (although it’s obviously also not a crazy outlier). I suspect that could lead to some hoarding tendencies, so I need to work to preserve the story and only keep the worthwhile objects. I also tend NOT to keep things that don’t have stories, even if I like them in abstract.

What did you learn about me? If you did this challenge too, what did you learn about yourself? What things do you have that you could tell thirty stories about?

#28daysoftshirts – Bonus Day!

Friday is tshirt day

In a normal course of events, I wear my tshirt collection on Fridays. (My Monday – Thursday wardrobe is usually a slightly more professional blouse-type-garment.) So it seemed like a pity to have unworn tshirts and a Friday and not just toss in a 29th day of tshirts into the equation.

I got this tshirt on Bike To Work day last year – not because it was official swag (we got socks) – but because the Cambridge cyclists are SO EXCITED about people joining their ranks. They’re currently on internal mailing groups trying to convince people that a 10 mile each way 4 season bike commute with child carriers is totally do-able (because they do it). Anyway, this crazy crew was incredibly warm and supportive of my attempt, and one of them gave me this cycling-related tshirt as a bit of a celebration. It has a bike wheel in the middle, spokes up the size and a sprocket on the outside.

It’s also bright, soft and long and so I often wear it when I’m just looking for the #1 most comfy thing in my wardrobe.

Color: Bright blue
Fabric: Super soft
Front text: ALL POWERFUL

#28daysoftshirts – Day 28 Sigh No More

I’m sad to see this challenge come to an end – not least because I have 4 more tshirts I was planning on wearing, and probably another 10 that I wasn’t. So last night, when I went to a Mumford and Son’s concert, it was clear that I definitely did NOT need to get a Mumford and Son’s tshirt, no matter how much I like their music.

Mumford and Sons

Whoops.

Color: Gray
Fabric: Soft
Text: Mumford & Sons
Attributes: Throwback sleeve design and wings on the back

It was a fantastic concert

I needed to make today a two-fer to get in my favorite hoodie design. The hoodie itself has alas been washed too much to be that super soft I so prize in my hoodies (like stuffed animals). I also disagree slightly with the attributes. I’m not +9 speed. I think it should be +9 alertness, which is a more useful attribute anyway.

Backstory: In roleplaying/video games, you sometimes get magical potions that temporarily increase your capabilities. This hoodie is making the point that coffee is totally a magical potion that temporarily increases your capabilities. The font and pixelation make this seem more like an old school video game stat.

Color: Black
Fabric: Not as soft as it used to be
Text: (Picture of coffee)
+5 Wisdom
+9 Speed
+8 Energy

My favorite potion

#28daysoftshirts – Day 27 It cannot fail

I have a cunning plan

Today’s tshirt is dissimilar in theme from so many of my other geeky tshirts. This one is geeky about obscure British comedy shows, instead of my usual themes of mountains, roleplaying games and coffee. The show Black Adder has the youthful versions of the greatest flower of British tv comedy: Hugh Laurie, Rowan Atkinson, Steven Fry, Tony Robinson. It’s childish, profane and utterly hilarious.

And over and over again, the eponymous (and only not the stupidest person in the world due to the presence of his man Baldric) Edmund Blackadder hatches *amazing* schemes with the words “I have a cunning plan“. You would be forgiven, if t his was your only exposure to the word cunning, for thinking that cunning means “Incredibly stupid and impossible to have succeed.”

Color: Black
Fabric: Stiff
Front Text: I Have A Cunning Plan

#28daysoftshirts – Day 26 Goblin Dan’s

Goblin Dan

We host three big parties throughout the year. There’s Mocksgiving, Piemas (coming up!) and the newest made up holiday – Flynns’ Fiery Feast. I have to admit that this tshirt was inspiring to me for the theme of the Fiery Feast (otherwise known as a BBQ). We’re now thoroughly into the realm of “tshirts that need more explanation” and this one is a key offender.

With the back story on this shirt, we return to the world of Roleplaying Games and Dungeons and Dragons. In that world, there is a long running web comic called “Order of the Stick” which is a comic about a D&D adventure. It’s been running for well over a decade, but I haven’t read it in years. In D&D, one of the monsters is a hydra, and should you battle this monster, you should NOT cut off the very tempting to cut off head or the monster will grow a second one (and get a second attack), up to a certain number (I thought it was 7 but the comic text says twice the original number). In one particular comic, they find a hydra with no max head limit. They keep cutting off heads until it gets headbound and they have defeated it. Then an enterprising Goblin (Goblin Dan) then opens up a BBQ joint serving cut off hydra heads.

Again, I think it’s hilarious. But you really have to have read this comic series – and maybe this one particular comic – to fully get the joke.

But ah, the tag line! “Decapitated ’til you’re sated”. GENIUS!

I’m definitely feeling the pressure of the end of the week! I have like 5 more shirts I want to wear and a hoodie too!

Color: Black
Fabric: Stiff
Text: Goblin Dan’s All-U-Can-Eat Hydra Head BBQ Hut & Tiki Bar – “Decapitated ’til you’re sated”

#28daysoftshirts – Day 25 Let’s Go Climb a Rock

Go Climb a Rock

Three years ago this week I attended my grandmother’s funeral in Merced, California. The family-sitting-around-the-table time included a lot of stories about the trips up to Yosemite with the camping trailer and the four kids and even my great-grandparents. Our celebration of my grandmother’s life included the part in church (which was a huge part of who she was), and also included a trip up to Yosemite Valley – another huge part of her life. We just missed the firefall, but the weather was clement and we hiked up the sides of the valley past rotten snow and remembered stories of bears and cookies and pranks and times past.

My mom always had this t-shirt, a light heathered blue with dark blue trim, straight from the 70s. I still have it somewhere in a box. It said, “Go Climb a Rock” on it and I loved it. Climbing boulders at Yosemite was a favorite memory from my childhood too, although rarer than my excursions in the northern mountains. What a great commandment – “Go Climb a Rock”. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Just get outside and be a kid.

So on this trip, I bought a t-shirt of my very own that says this very thing, and remembers the four generations of mountain-loving women I come from.

Color: Orange
Fabric: Stiff
Front Text: Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service
Back Text: Go Climb a Rock

On the Yosemite trails
(My mom, my sister, my grandmother – I’m probably running ahead somewhere!)