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?

Pie-d Piper

This was still not all the pies
This was still not all the pies

Yesterday was Piemas. For those of you not familiar with the phenomenon, Piemas, it is a complicated holiday with a long and extended history. It is a holiday we made up about 7 years ago to celebrate the eating of pie, and other pie shaped festivities. Mmmm pie.

This year, I made:
2 chicken pot pies
1 blueberry pie from farmshare blueberries this summer
1 lemon merangue pie (which I just finished – it’s my favorite)
1 pecan pie
1 Nutella crack pie (because I had an empty crust and needed a filling and I had Nutella lying around – this was a digestive bombshell)

Many other people brought many other pies. We had a 1:1 pie to person ratio, with the advantage slightly in favor of the pies. There were, as always, many delicious and exceptional pies. There was much talking, and much game playing. There were 8.5 kids, but their chaos generation fields were overwhelmed by the tumult of Adults Eating Pie. There were savory pies, sweet pies, ice cream pies & boozy pies. In an innovation this year, I also served fancy teas in my fancy silver tea pot in fancy cups, which was really fun. There were new people, and folks who’d been around since the thought first occurred that Pies were important enough to merit their own darn holiday.

The whole thing was really fun, and I didn’t make it to bed until 2:30 this morning and I regret not a whit of it, and I’m so grateful to everyone who came and brought pie and ate it with me – except for Josh was was CLEARLY cheating at 7 Wonders in order to beat me that badly. And for those of you who couldn’t be here – I missed you. Next year.

The rabbit crawfish pie was amazing, and definitely made off with the award for most interesting presentation.

You can see full pictures of the festivities here: Piemas!!!

In the last 48 hours

I’ve made five pies, hosted about 25 people for Piemas, gone on the first walk of the spring, had five people spend the night, and woke up in the morning to discover my entry area redone.

Exciting! It would be even more fun if I didn’t have a nasty cold. I just hope that I didn’t share it with anyone. I washed my hands a gazillion times and covered all my everythings, so here’s hoping!

Anyway, you don’t get a real blog post. Instead, you get a picture post. In this month’s thrilling installment we have:

– Awesome cardboards spaceships at the table
– Silly boys on laundry baskets
– Thane playing Angry Birds with grandma
– Grey hanging around with some rapscallion
– Jessica, also associated with said rapscallion, and the combinations reading books
– Piemas
– A family portrait (because the last picture of all four of us was taken last spring)
– Surprise!
– Playing with the light settings
– First playground of the spring



It’s possible I should upload pictures more often, so that my uploads are slightly less schizophrenic. To which I say: pppffft. You’re lucky I take pictures at all.


Anyway, I have pictures for March and April, including lots of playground stuff, pretty much every nice day in the last 6 weeks, Piemas, grandma, Easter, and many silly faces by Grey (which represent only a small portion of the silly faces that have pictures taken).



The Marathon

Sometimes your schedule sneaks up on you. Husband gone for 5 days, no problem! Hosting 20 – 30 people for pie? Sounds like fun! Bring it on! Church every Sunday morning and Wednesday night? But of course! Regularly scheduled roleplaying game? I do love some Deadlands (this game in particular)! But then all of a sudden you look at your calendar, and you realize that these things are happening back-to-back-to-back-to-back, with no unscheduled or off days in between. Oops.

I’m just getting off of one of those. While I could outline exactly why I’ve been super duper crazy busy every single night for the last week and a half (and every day of the weekend), let’s say that last night at 7:30 was the first full hour I could sit down and do something non-productive in about 7 days. And booooy was I ready for it!

This was not all the pies
This was not all the pies

On the upside, most of the stuff I’ve been so incredibly busy doing was a ton of fun. I’m happy to report that Piemas was a success. (Of course, you’d have to be an idiot to have Piemas be a failure. Make pie. Have other people bring pie. Eat pie. It’s not rocket science.) There was, to my great surprise, a preponderance of sweet pies. I thought that the savories would be overabundant, but no. They went quickly. There were also, as will surprise no one who has attended any sort of gathering at my house, a number of games going on. We did a quick an innovative redesign of the kitchen layout to permit the epic 2.5 hours of Agricola in which I was fortunate enough to get my hat handed to me.
Alternate kitchen layout for Agricola
Alternate kitchen layout for Agricola

My only regret with these fake holidays I love so much is that I don’t get a chance to talk to all of my friends in as in-depth a manner as I would wish.

In other news, my job is going super duper well (I think). The analogy I’m using is that I’m like a plant that’s been repotted. I was root-bound in my last position. Switching jobs has taken me out of that pot, broken the old root ball, and put me in this new, larger pot. In response, I’m throwing out new growth from all angles. I love it. It’s making me super happy. In the three weeks I’ve been here, I’ve met probably 150 people, learned an entirely new programming language and paradigm (and delivered real code to production!), participated in oodles of meetings, done the voice-acting for a quarterly presentation for the web team (which, for the record, I am not on), asked an apparently high profile question at the Town Hall meeting when we met the folks who will be our new bosses, and been asked by the Sustainability Director if I’d be willing to be in a video employee highlight discussing the role sustainability played in my decision to sign on here. New people, new tools, new technologies and I feel like I’m thriving. Hopefully my boss feels the same way!

The boys are doing pretty well. This was not my finest parenting weekend. I keep telling myself that as long as the boys do get focused attention, are loved, and it isn’t the only way life works — that learning to entertain one’s self is not a bad skill to work on. Grey seems to mostly really like his new preschool. It has the ups and downs that relationships with other children do have. Someone calls him a name and he’s down in the mouth. He plays tag with a new friend and he’s jazzed. But academically it seems superior. He’s just so much more alert to the social aspects, that he’s bound to spot any problems.

The DS is usually restricted to car use only
The DS is usually restricted to car use only

Thane. Ah, my Thane! What a giggly joy you can be. How frustrated you are getting. This was a hard weekend for him. He wanted to play the board games too! (Note: dice are a fantastic choking hazard!) He wanted to be with me at all times. He wanted to be down, he wanted to be up. I suspect he really wants to get out of the house. The deluge of rain this weekend was not amenable to this.

Anyway, we’re all doing well! I’m having a fantastic time professionally, and my life personally is full full full of love, joy, friendship and board games. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Today is Piemas

The Saturday closest to 3/14, at 1:59 pm, is Piemas. This is a very complicated concept, but basically Piemas is a day dedicated to the eating of pie. For the purposes of Piemas, a pie is defined as a circular food object with at least one crust: so quiche, shepherd’s pie, cheesecake and tartes would all qualify. We usually have nearly equal number of savory and sweet pies. And basically we sit around all day and eat pie.

It’s a fantastic holiday. And it starts in about an hour. I made only four pies this year: lemon merangue, pecan pie (which is practically cheating it’s so easy), and two chicken pot pies which are in the ‘fridge to cook as appropriate. Everything is in readiness for a long day of dedicated pie-consumption.

Let the pie begin.


Eight years ago, I was a newly wed in a grownup apartment with a grownup job and a grownup husband doing the grownup thing for the first time. I had just turned 22. And being a grownup, I volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner for my extended family of inlaws. Having been raised in a Protestant-and-turkey family, I just could never quite get behind the idea of going to a restaurant for Thanksgiving. Still can’t, truth be told.

There was just one problem: I didn’t know how to cook. I’d never cooked a turkey before in my life. Thanksgiving day, with my new inlaws arriving, seemed like a bad time for a first turkey, especially since my mom (whom I had on speed dial) would also be busy that day. A second problem presented itself, however. Two people cannot eat a turkey by themselves and stay married. Since I was (am) fond of my husband, I invited a few friends over to help us eat it, and broke out my still-new wedding gifts to serve the turkey. I think there were 13 of us for that trial, or “mock” Thanksgiving. We had a fantastic time. We ate, drank, told stories, and celebrated together. By the time the evening was over, we decided we’d had so much fun, we had to do it again next year.

I ended up not hosting Thanksgiving for the family that year. I don’t remember why. But every year since, I’ve hosted Mocksgiving. It’s a huge annual event. People ask me about the dates months in advance. People fly in. (I have a friend from DC here now.) It even engendered a spinoff holiday — Piemas. (Which merits its own post in March at the appropriate time.)

Tonight is Mocksgiving Eve. Usually for Mocksgiving I make: 5 pies, a batch of bread, a turkey, 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, a significant amount of butternut squash, stuffing (in the turkey and outside) and gravy. (It seems like there’s usually something else too. I used to make salad, but no one eats it so I gave up.) It is potluck, so in addition to the vast amounts of food I provide, most folks bring something else too. There is a LOT of food. This year I trimmed down to one pie. I was going to make a lemon merangue too, but my crust collapsed (must remember not to use that pie pan for lemon merangue — this is the second time this has happened). On Mocksgiving Eve, I used to spend a lot of time panicking, cleaning, polishing silver (yes, I actually have silver), and er, panicking. Now that I’ve been doing this for NEARLY a decade, the panic is significantly diminished. I know what I’m doing.

As I sashayed around the kitchen, with a candle lit above the sink and my music in the background and the scent of yeast rising in the hot water, I felt very happy and where I belonged. I love Mocksgiving.

It occurred to me this year that this is one more way in which my children will grow up warped. Piemas is fine — it is a standalone. (Plus, there is no such thing as too much pie.) But after cooking for up to 30 people a week and a half before Thanksgiving, I’m in no mood to cook a proper Thanksgiving dinner. And since we have no family remaining in the area, we don’t usually end up doing, well, anything for Thanksgiving proper. I wonder how old my sons will be before they figure out that not everyone does Mocksgiving, and moreover, most people do more on Thanksgiving. They get the Thanksgiving experience, only a bit earlier and with a slightly less great-aunt-heavy crowd.

There is one thing I hate about Mocksgiving. It is a sit down meal. We all sit down at proper place settings at the same time and eat together at table. And it is inherently important to me that Mocksgiving be held in my HOME. Therefore, there is an upper limit to the number of people who can be invited. I think I topped out at 28. Twenty-eight people in your house is a LOT of people, in case you’re curious. But I have more friends than that. I invite more people than can fit because there are always people who can’t make it. But I hate hate hate sending out the invitations. I can never invite all the people I’d like to. I know there must be friends of mine who feel left out — maybe hurt — that everyone else is talking about this fantastic affair to which they have not been invited. I wish I could figure out some way that it wouldn’t happen that way, but I don’t know how to make that work. Ah well. Generally, I invite everyone I invited last year, minus people who haven’t been able to make it for a few years or whom I haven’t heard from in quite a while, plus a few new folks with whom I’ve become closer. The first few years I was able to throw it open to everyone who wanted to come. I miss that.

But the bread is made, the pie is cooling, the largest-possible-turkey is in the fridge. Tomorrow I will wrestle with it (cursing) in the morning. My friends will arrive with hugs and casseroles. There will be the hard half-hour after the turkey comes out when everything must be done simultaneously. My kitchen, immaculate at the moment, will look for all the world like a hurricane hit it. We will retell stories, contemplate our very full bellies, stay up too late, catch up on gossip and generally have a fantastic time. I can’t wait.

The attendees at last Mocksgiving

Table 1 - the Grownups table
Table 1 - the 'Grownups' table

The kids table -- I always ended up here. This year I think well be able to do one long table.
The kids table -- I always ended up here. This year I think we'll be able to do one long table.

We usually end up with one or two (or 13) desserts.
We usually end up with one or two (or 13) desserts.

What my kitchen looks like afterwards -- I believe this was the year the sink broke.
What my kitchen looks like afterwards -- I believe this was the year the sink broke.