>Obligatory Mother's Day Post

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I am not comfortable with the idea that parents should be loved and forgiven no matter what solely because they are our genetic reasons for being. I know some horrible stories about the way mothers have treated their children (my husband being prime example) but I know there are many people out their who miss their mothers and/or practically worship them, so I don’t want to tarnish their concepts of what Mothers are or should be or disrespect the relationships they’ve had.

I don’t even like breaking down the whole mother father paradigm and acknowledgment. We live in a society that includes families wherein children are raised by no Moms, two Moms, no fathers, two fathers, grandparents, neighbors, extended family, guardians, older siblings, the state, etc. etc. I don’t think this should preempt anyone from celebrating their parent of choice or acknowledging that they were or are amazing people, however. I think we should all celebrate the people we love, respect and admire anytime we can in whatever way we can and not wait for some predesignated day to do so.

Having said all that, I will also say this: I was fortunate to be raised by someone who showed amazing strength in a very difficult situation, who managed to provide for her children and survive a lot of hardship and thrive as a human being. There was always love and concern there for us as we needed, but there were also a lot of mistakes and pain, which happened because she is human and, despite what kids think of their Moms, they are not perfect. They make mistakes. They get scared and angry and hurt and jealous and petty some times, just like the rest of us.

I stopped needing or requiring my mom to take care of me at a very young age. Once I was out on my own, I was out and, despite a brief stint of unemployment where I crashed on her couch for a few weeks, I have never needed to recreate that dependent relationship with her again. I started treating my mom like an adult person a long time ago and this has not always sat well with her or the rest of my family. I call her on things that I disagree with, I am honest when I think she tries to interfere with my life without invitation or disrespects me or my choices and I have found some of her words and actions, if not unforgivable, at least unforgettable. But I will never forget what she has done for me and my family, the sacrifices she has made and the lessons she taught us through her words and actions. I will never forget how she welcomed my husband (then boyfriend) into my family without hesitation and showed him the love and respect and acceptance he didn’t get from his own parents. I will never forget how she has continued to put her children first, to her own physical and financial detriment, and taught me, above all, to value other human beings, always help another person when I can, share all my fortune with those around me and to do the best I can with what I have. My cleanliness and organization skills, my silliness and love of laughter, my strength in the face of adversity and my pride and respect in myself and who I am come directly from her influence.

No, I do not worship my Mom. We are not connected at the hip and I do not need her to navigate my life or hold me up when I am down. I see her and talk to her far less than I probably should, and I still get very frustrated with the struggle between us as I try to live my life as I see fit while she tries to suggest I live it elsewise. But I do love and accept her for who she is and what she’s done and she will always hold a special place in my heart for being the Mom I needed when I was younger and protecting and providing for us in our formative years, allowing us to safely grow to become the adults that we are. No, I do not need my mom to be who I am now, but I would never have been this person without her help along the way.

SO for that, I am grateful and say thanks.

Happy Mothers day to all those men and women who fill that role for children, friends and even pets…for giving your love, guidance and support to the people and animals who need it. And a big hug to those of you whose mothers are no longer here to celebrate the day with you – so long as you care for yourself and others and show compassion and love to the people around you, friend and stranger alike, you are honoring the very essence and nature of motherhood and those that filled that role for you at one time. There could be no greater gift or recognition.

>Green Day

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I don’t really care about St. Patrick’s Day itself one way or the other. Mostly because it’s a religious holiday and celebrates someone (who, ironically, wasn’t Irish) who is part of an organization (the Catholic Church) I don’t support or like, did things I don’t approve of (evangelized) and allegedly did something I don’t believe happened (drove the snakes out of Ireland.)

Having said that, I realize most of the people I know simply think of it as a day to celebrate being Irish, wear green and/or drink all day and night. SO, I decided to do some research and share a little bit about the Irish culture and my Irish family beyond Shamrocks and Big felt Green Hats and Beer.

The fact is, I come from a strong Irish heritage, was raised inundated with Irish music and (a bastardized version of) Irish history and culture (thanks to a slightly deranged, alcoholic, Be-Irish-or-Die father) and my siblings and I all have “very Irish” names. I’d love to list them here, but have learned that some people don’t like their names associated with my blog so I’ll err on the side of caution and not list them here (which is too bad because they’re pretty neat.)

Allegedly, our original last name was “O’Braoin” (pronounced “O’Breen”) and was Americanized to “Breen” when my ancestors came over to America (or so I’ve been told.) The name Breen in Ireland is derived from the native Gaelic Mac Braoin Sept that was located in County Kilkenny. From there they settled into neighbouring Counties, especially County Wexford. The Sept O’Braoin of County Westmeath also anglicized their name as Breen as well as the more usual O’Brien. (I found this info here.)

That would make these our family coat of arms:


My middle name is Padraic. According to Wikipedia this is it’s meaning and origin:


Padraic \p(a)-draic, pad-raic\ as a boy’s name is a variant of Paddy (Irish) and Patrick (Latin), and the meaning of Padraic is “patrician, noble” (Yeah, that’s me, all patrician-like and noble. I doubt anyone would want to be part of my aristocracy, or anti-aristocracy, as the case may be.) Padraic is not a popular first name for men and an equally uncommon surname or last name for all people. (1990 U.S. Census)

My first name actually has an accent mark (a slanting line called a síneadh fada [SHEEN-uh FAH-duh] or sometimes just “síneadh” or “fada”) over the letter “a” on my birth certificate. making my actual, legal name “Seán.” The mark is not really an accent mark, per se. It indicates the length of time that you pronounce the vowel. I was told this is because, in Ireland, “Sean” would be pronounced “Shane” without the mark over the “a” to give it a long vowel sound and make it “Shon.”

Here’s what google came up with when I searched for both “Sean” and “Seán”:

Sean \sean\ as a boy’s name (also used as girl’s name Sean), is pronounced shon. It is of Irish and Hebrew origin, and the meaning of Sean is “God is gracious”. (Oh, the irony)

Seán is a name originating in the Irish language. It is the Irish equivalent of the French Jean. Anglicisations of the name include Sean (without a fada on the a), Shane, Shaine, Shaun, and Shawn. The name Shane comes from the Ulster pronunciation of the name, whereas the names Shaun, Shawn or Sean come from the way it is pronounced in Munster, Leinster, and Connaught.

Although I never use the fada anymore, I was forced to use it all through elementary school and my father would send report cards, letters and any documents with my name on it back to the my teachers, “corrected” with the fada over my “a” and a stern comment about “getting it right.” There was never a shortage of white-out or humiliation in my house.

My Mom used to call me “Seany Packaridge” in a sing song tone (and still does some times. ) She also used to sing me to sleep with this little diddy:

Sean, Sean, the leprechaun lives in big old tree,
All the children look for him, toora-loora-lee.
Sean Sean the leprechaun do just what you’re told,
And, toora-loora-loora, he’ll bring you a pot of gold.

As I said, I grew up listening to Irish Music (one of only two types of music allowed to be played in our home, the other being country) such as the Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, and the Irish Rovers. For a long time, after we moved away from my father, I refused to listen to Irish music as it would remind me of him and I hated to be reminded of him and hated anything he liked (Irish music, country music, beer and wearing outfits consisting of bandannas, cowboy hats, homemade muscle shirts [white t-shirts with the sleeves ripped off] cut off plaid shorts, knee high dress socks and cowboy boots – all at the same time.) In later years, as an adult, I was able to move past that and listen to and enjoy some of the music again. (I even like some country music and will drink beer occasionally, but I NEVER warmed up to that outfit.)

We always had a large Irish flag displayed in our home. Ours was Green, White and Gold, which my fa
ther insisted was the true and accurate colors of the flag, as opposed to Green, White and Orange. However, a quick Google search reveals this:

Occasionally, differing shades of yellow, instead of orange, are seen at civilian functions. However the Department of the Taoiseach state that this is a misrepresentation which “should be actively discouraged”,and that worn-out flags should be replaced. In songs and poems, the colors are sometimes enumerated as “green, white and gold” in song, using poetic license.

A green flag featuring a harp was an older symbol of the nation of Ireland, (we had one of these in our house as well) which was adopted by the Irish Volunteers and the United Irishmen. A rival organization, the Orange Order, which was exclusively Protestant, was founded in memory of King William of Orange. Following the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which pitted the “green” tradition of the republican United Irishmen against the “orange” tradition of Anglican Protestant Ascendancy loyal to the British Crown, the ideal was to make peace between the two traditions and, if possible, to found a self-governing Ireland on such peace and union. This led to the current flag which utilizes the white to represent the uniting of the “Green” and the “Orange” Hence, this is the current flag:


We were raised to revere the Irish claddaugh and we all had claddaugh rings. The Claddagh’s design features two hands clasping a heart, surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown). Claddagh rings may be used as friendship, relationship, eternity, engagement, or wedding rings depending on the intention of wearer and, in the case of a gift, of the giver. I actually found one that had a triangle in place of the heart which I no longer wear because I lost weight and it kept falling off.

John F. Kennedy, the first Irish catholic president, was spoken of like a Saint in our home and his photo hung in every home we ever lived. We were taught to hate all things British and that the Irish Republican Army was a peacekeeping organization that was oppressed and to be supported and admired.

Wearing the color orange on St. Patrick’s day in my house was forbidden (which was fine by me, as I used to hate the color orange) although you could wear it WITH green and white so long as there was more green than orange. I now like the color orange and wear it frequently. Maybe it’s still some passive aggressive spite on my part. I have a co-worker who takes similar umbrage to wearing orange on SPD and, although I would not purposely wear orange today to upset her, I wouldn’t feel bad or guilty if I wore it incidentally…it’s not like it means anything to me.

Of my 4 siblings and my Mom, 3 siblings and my Mom embrace the Irish in our heritage and love all things Irish. Irish fests are attended, homes are decorated with various Irish symbols, St. Patrick’s day is celebrated with corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread and beer and 2 of my siblings have visited Ireland.

So that’s a little about what I was raised with and some actual facts about the Irish heritage and symbols I was able to Google up for you all. I am perfectly happy to be Irish – GAY and Irish (take that Mahattan SPD parade!) – and I enjoy learning more about the culture here and there and listening to some of the music. I am not a big beer drinker (except at bowling), never drink whiskey, I do not have an Irish flag on display in my home and I do not like the taste or smell of cooked cabbage. I do enjoy corned beef on Reubens , I do love me some potatoes and it just so happens Green is my favorite color (although you know I’m partial to the rainbow, too), but I married a Scottish man so I’d probably be unwelcome in my father’s home. (Well, I’d be unwelcome for being a homo first, but marrying another homo who’s not even Irish would be beyond the pale. )

BUT, I tire of the chastisement I face whenever I show up at work or in public on this day not wearing green (“You’re name is Sean Padraic and you’re NOT wearing Green? Egads!“) so I have learned to go with the flow and give the people what they want, giving a nod to my heritage in the most visible and traditional way I know: the wearing of the Green!

Shirt and Tie – Check!

Undies – check!
(Don’t look at these if you want to be surprised on Undie Monday next week…
I’m re-posting them)

Socks – pseudo check!
(I didn’t have green socks, just rainbow striped socks with green on them.)


And, finally, to propagate the one cliche and tradition I totally support and stand behind, If you see me today (or any time):

Kiss me! I’m Irish!

>Even scrooges have traditions

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Lest you all think I am some kind of Grinch-beast, know that the emotions and feelings I express here on my blog about the holidays are not shared outside of this electronic “purge vault.” In the real world, I put on my pretend smile and offer holiday greetings, partake of the treats offered and dress in the appropriate colors. I’ve even hummed along to a carol or two and will walk through the paces of the holiday until it all comes to an end. I’m not one to be a phony, though, so the struggle is in pretending to enjoy a holiday I really don’t. Jeffrey, however, does; so, if for no other reason, I do it for him (or try to, anyway.)

See? I wore red and green today!

Yesterday I wrapped the few inexpensive items I picked up for Jeffrey, when I got home, to place under the tree tonight when we get home from the great annual holiday debacle. I do enjoy giving him things to open Christmas morning, so that made me feel good.

This morning, I partook of the only holiday tradition Jeffrey and I have: we went to breakfast on Christmas Eve morning before work, something we have done for most of the 13 years we’ve been together.

This year we went to Miss Albany Diner, for the first time in a long time, and enjoyed breakfast and conversation with our friend Mark, Albany’s Cutest Waiter. We have not seen Mark in some time, as we have stopped going to breakfast on Saturday mornings with the old gang, given last summer’s brouhaha. There’s no way for us to return without it becoming awkward for everyone, so we gracefully bowed out of our weekly MAD breakfast ritual, although we do miss going and seeing Mark very much.

It was good to see Mark and catch up and to keep our one and only tradition going. As part of the tradition, we always leave a very handsome tip for the waiter or waitress who waits on us Christmas Eve, and it was even more enjoyable to do so this year in that it was Mark who was getting it.

Mark surprised us with two of these little Christmas trees which he made from pieces of cork, nails and aluminum cut from beer cans. He’s an Artist and has surprised us with handmade cards in the past and this was a real treat to get some of his handiwork this morning.

Mark’s homemade tree

After breakfast, Jeffrey dropped me off at work and headed home. He will spend the day with a friend from work at the house, wrapping gifts and hanging out, and then retrieve me after work so we can start the evening “festivities.” I will focus past it all to the moment we can return home to our festively lit, beautiful home and unconditionally loving dog and snuggle together, tiredly and probably buzzed, on the sofa in front of the fire enjoying the peace and solitude before heading off to bed.

Hope you all find your moments of peace and happiness and calm this weekend.

>The Most Dreadful Time of The Year

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Two days away from the big holiday everyone has been preparing for and squawking about since Halloween. I once again focus on December 26th when it will all be over for another year.

I made honest efforts to get into it (decorations, parties, music, shopping, egg nog, holiday specials, singing carols and even wearing red and green) and had a few moments of fun, but I can’t help believing those good moments were despite the holiday, not because of it. I’m just not a Christmas guy…sorry folks. I celebrate the every day moments and relationships and give gifts when it feels right and I want to, I don’t celebrate people in my life and buy and give gifts only when I’m told to by society. I don’t believe you can or should designate a specific moment of the year to be happy and loving and generous, and I don’t believe most people convey much of what the season is about anyway. There’s a lot of complaining and anger and rudeness and selfishness and hypocrisy and that’s what I see and hear all around me in spades this time of year. And, of course, I have no religious connection to it. In fact, that connection sours me even more. SO, I except that it’s a cultural phenomenon that I have to survive every year and get through it the best I can.

Still, I have kept my usual Grinch-ness to myself for the most part and have allowed everyone around me to revel in and attempt to spread the holiday cheer. I canceled a couple days vacation I had planned for today and tomorrow and figured I’d save the time for when I can use it better and, instead, work and help out my office by covering as best I could for the multiple holiday absentee employees. Not sure that was the best idea, but I’m stuck with the decision now so I just have to suck it up and get through the rest of the week. Besides, I needed the distraction. Tomorrow night is one of the single most stressful nights of my life and the dread has grown exponentially for a couple weeks now.

It’s Christmas Eve open house at my Mom’s house.

This event will involve almost all my siblings, their spouses and kids and many extended family members and “friends” – a house full of people I am estranged from, in various degrees, and see only once a year. I hate going and always try to wiggle my way out of it, but I have yet to succeed. Although I could refuse to go, I would be unable to enjoy being home as I’d be wracked with guilt wrapped in anger for being made to feel guilty and I’d have to deal with the fallout of ruining my Mom’s Christmas for not coming. My Mom’s passive aggressive and never screams or yells and rarely cries, just let’s you know in her almost inimitable way how your selfish act of refusing to put her happiness over yours is the single worst thing you could do to her and she will bear the emotional scars of such a betrayal for the remainder of her years. And she’ll convey this with a simple inflection when she asks, at some point in the future “So, how was YOUR Christmas?” I resent the manipulation and continue to struggle with my desire to walk away from all of it, repercussions and resentment be damned. I have slowly taken control of my own life and relationships in many areas but this is one of the final thresholds to be crossed. We have ended Thanksgiving, Birthday and Easter family celebrations, refused to take part in family vacations and I have taken control of exactly where when and how I spend time with my family, not the other way around. Except for Christmas.

Given that I am tired of going through this every year and feeling this way, I have decided this has to be the last year I put myself through this. After this holiday passes, I will sit down with my Mom and explain that it is my holiday too, that I have my own home that I spend hours decorating and spend lots of money to rent and maintain, that I have my husband and dog and friends and our own holiday traditions and treats to enjoy and that, although I love her, I can no longer give in to her manipulative behavior and spend my Christmas eve in her home when I want to be in mine I’m 39 years old, I have a life and I plan to live it and enjoy it as I see fit, without any influence from anyone else, including her. I will assure her that we will continue to spend time together and celebrate life and enjoy each others company throughout the year, but it won’t be on Christmas eve again, unless she decides to come enjoy the peace and solitude with us at Chez Breen, in front of the fire, cocktail in hand, dog at our side and the quiet hush of peace, happiness and contentment settling over us like a warm blanket.

So this is what I’m giving myself for Christmas this year – permission to stay home next year. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to like what I got me very much.

>Sing, we joyous, all together….

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In a continuation of our 2010 holiday events, we attended a “Holiday CD” sing-along party last night.

Our friend, Bill, is a musician (one of several in our group) and has a mini recording and remixing “studio” (aka spare bedroom) in his apartment. He invited everyone over to his place last night to record some holiday songs which he is going to edit and make into a CD for all of us. There were a good thirty people there and we sang in groups of 4.

Here is a shot of one of my groups singing “The Little Drummer Boy.” (We look so “We are The World Goes Bald” don’t we?)

L to R:
John, my hubby Jeffrey, Me and (seated) Ron (who’s also one of our teammates on the Blowouts.)

I also performed “Heat Miser/Cold Miser” with another group (that also included Jeffrey) and then me, my (co-cookie baking friend from last night) Tom, and our host, Bill, performed an X-rated version of “Little Drummer Boy” – re-dubbed “Little Hummer Boy.”

It really was a lot of fun. It will be very interesting to hear how we sound. If and when I get some sound files I’ll share with you here if it’s not too atrocious.

Last night was really just a sing-along. We’ve all decided next year we want to rehearse and harmonize and really make something awesome (Most of my friends are excellent singers, just another thing for me to be jealous of.)

It’s been a long week of late nights and I am looking forward to a quiet night at home tonight before my 3 day weekend starts, a weekend booked to the hilt with plans and gatherings. I’m fortunate to have so many friends and so many great things to do, but I need a boost of energy to keep up with it all.

>Cookie Night

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Well, we survived and the cookies came out OK. It was a LOT of work, but we had fun doing it (more the cocktails and the music than the actual baking) until we started getting REALLY tired. The last hour or so was just painful.
Tom and I discussing the plan

Mixing up some Peanut butter cookie batter

Tom preheating the oven

Me getting frustrated

Seriously, what is UP with my hand?

THAT’S what we needed…cosmos

The final product: 8 kinds of cookies, peanut brittle and peanut butter balls.
(We petered out before starting the Rice Krispie squares.)

My favorites (not baked, just assembled) reindeer cookies.

It was an experience I don’t look forward to repeating any time soon!
Too much work, too much time, and not enough cosmos :-)
BUT, Tom made it as fun as possible!

>Scenes from an Idle Eyes Holiday Party

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Just a few pics from our 2010 Holiday Party. I didn’t get as many pics as I planned and I didn’t get a picture of everyone there (Boo!) We had a bout 40 people. Here’s who made it on “film”:
Clyde

Jay
Pinky
Jay, Paul & JZ
Matt (Louie in the background)
Me (Robb and Louies in the background)
Fran
David
Charles, me and Ron
…without the apron this time…

Housemate Josh
Peter & James
Me wearing my gift from Mike & Louie
JZ, Jay, Mike, Paul
Robb & Louie
Patrick & Matt
Kyle
Sean, hubby Jeffrey, Kyle & Dave
Clyde scouting for food
Kyle & Tony
Matt & Jay
Kyle & Dave
Jay, Fran, Raffi & Sean
Jay & Fran
Kenzie
Peter & Louie
Amy & Rob
Mike, Me (and Patrick)
SNAGGED!

The end (until next year?)