Becoming Irish

What is it about the Irish? The other day I caught a very brief part of a program on NPR discussing Irish immigrants in America, and the persecution of the Irish population that occurred, giving rise to “Irish need not apply” signs. I’ve mostly only seen those signs in bars, and interpreted them to mean because the Irish were always so stinkin’ drunk, they shouldn’t even bother applying. Ha!

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. The day that half of the American population loses their mind in an alcoholic binge while dressed in every piece of green clothing they own, topped off with deely boppers, flashing glasses, and a green feather boa.  Everyone wants to be Irish or claim to have a single cell of Irish blood in their bodies.  Why is this?

Is it the need for Americans to identify with some sort of ethnicity or heritage beyond our own embarrassing, shameful culture we have created since we first landed on this continent and chose to forget who we were and where we came from?  Or is it because we love bangers and mash and think the Irish brogue is kind of cool?  I don’t get it.  I really don’t.  Yet we all seem to fall victim to this green spell.

I worked part-time in an Irish guest house for nine years, owned by an American with a last name that began with O’.  There were a few genuine natives from Ireland  who worked at the inn, and they were a damn good time, the whole lot of ’em. The customers were just as rabid about laying claim to some piece of Irish lineage as any drunk on St. Patrick’s day.  They signed up in droves for the Irish tours that happened year-round to our sister inn in Athlone, and came home even more rabidly “Irish” after six days on the Emerald Isle drinking pints of Guinness, buying Claddagh rings, peering over the cliffs of Mohr and flirting with the locals.  I even managed to find myself one of these tours, and spent the better part of it exercising my own Irish heritage by remaining extremely drunk, cracking sheep jokes, and rolling in the green green grass with one of the locals.

What is it about the Irish?  Ireland feels very primitive. It is extremely, extremely green.  The landscape is idyllic; the homes painted in an array of bright colors that stand out against the  bleak stone walls, green fields and icy gray rivers.  The locals are extremely friendly and witty; everyone seems to be musically talented or possess a singing voice, and those pub stools are so flippin’ cute  (and so much closer to the floor, should you take a spill and find yourself on it).  It’s as if the Irish know something we don’t know; they possess a pleasantness about them and a sense of calm and whimsy that simply can not be achieved by uptight stressed out Americans. Or maybe I’m over-analyzing it and mistaking my observations for a national permanent buzz.

As it turns out, I can lay claim to being Irish.  My great-great grandmother supposedly emigrated from Ireland to the United States.  Her name was Kate Cullen (more likely Cullough or some variation thereof).  I know almost nothing about her except that she had a son named Richard Spear, who married a German woman named Isabelle Kiesow, who gave birth to a daughter named Ellen Spear, who married my Welsh grandfather Howard Jones, who then gave birth to my father Tom Jones, who sired me. My grandmother would tell me stories about her grandmother Kate, and her Aunts, the Irish nuns, but there were no real paper trails, no cookie crumbs, no ability to trace this woman back to Ireland.  I don’t even know who her husband was.  I only know that she hailed from County Cork, and she gave birth to a long-line of alcoholics. I hate to be cliche, but that’s one part of my lineage that remains strong to this day.

My grandmother passed away a few months ago, and I miss her dearly.  She was really the only grandmother I ever knew, and the keeper of the stories. She wasn’t much of a drinker, being addicted to valium and all as she was, but she certainly had an Irish wit and vim and vinegar about her. At her funeral, I finally met Great Great Grandma Cullen for the first time.  She looks like someone I could get into a bit of trouble with.  Slainte!

My great great grandmother Kate Cullen.

My great great grandmother Kate Cullen.


The Year of Doing All The Things I Always Say I’m Going to Do But Never Do……

My blog.  My first blog (well, technically, my second since I blogged about my Dad dying here).  My first blog entry.

It’s the year 2015, and in addition to having a therapist, ten different social media accounts, and a few pair of skinny jeans, one must certainly be blogging.

I used to write. I used to write a lot. For no one in particular, actually, other than myself and an online pen pal.  I have historically kept journals about my life, since the days of being ten years old, back when journals were known as “diaries”.  I kept it up in high school due to an English class requirement from Mrs. Greschner, and elected Creative Composition in college over business writing; a class filled with brilliant writers and a T.A. who used to bring us wine even though we were underage.  I like getting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper.  At one point I may have even been one of those romantics who dreamed about a career as a writer; a journalist, a travel writer, a novelist….  It’s probably best I didn’t choose that career path, since most of those writers have joined the ranks of the unemployed and are now trying to make a living by blogging and freelancing by writing digital headlines that begin with “A Mom picked up her kids from school and you won’t believe what happens next!”  The extent of my own writing career now involves board meeting minutes and lengthy Christmas letters.

Back in 1998, I was obsessed with an inspirational writer named Sark, and spent many nights and days procrastinating at work, whiling away my time reading message boards, chatting with creative women across the globe, and mailing out postcard fairies.  It all seems so cheesy now, many years later, but back then I was 25, full of hope and dreams and had not yet had my soul eaten by the sad reality of middle aged life and the realization that maybe this is as good as it gets, it wasn’t cheesy. It was inspirational. It kept me alive with hope.

It was on that message board that I met Windy City Wendy, a digital pen-pal who would become a real life friend that I would see live and in the flesh every five years or so.  Wendy was an inspiration, and remains so to this day.  Wendy was one of those people who gave life to the cliche “do what you love and the money will follow”; or how about “find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”.  Wendy wrote.  And wrote.  And wrote.  And she followed her passion.  And eventually her persistence and love of writing led to a career in words. You can follow her in her latest adventures at Dear Wendy.  Me on the other hand, I kept writing in my journals, a new one for each year of my life, and honing my craft at drafting corporate minutes.

But there remains in me a desire to write to a broader audience.  To “blog”, even though I despise that word. To release my thoughts to the universe, aka the internet.  I don’t really know what I expect to gain from this process, other than a therapeutic way to purge my brain of the constant thoughts that are swirling in my head.  I am not even certain what I will write about in the days that come; I only know that I have a need to write.  Not necessarily a passion or a desire or a longing; just a need.

And so it is that in the year 2015, which happens to be the year of my 43rd trip around the sun, I begin this blog.  I have officially declared this the year of doing all the things I always say I’m going to do but never do.  Each month a minimum of one thing on that list; hopefully more. March was to be the month I finally learned to downhill ski. Only it’s Wisconsin and currently 68 degrees, so that goal will have to wait until the next Polar Vortex.  Instead, I am word-pressing (what an elegant term, which only now gained real meaning to me as I used it as a verb.  Nicely done Word Press!), using the domain name that I have been paying for at least two years now. Without a single blog entry made.

So welcome to Me & Ms. Jones.

I have no idea what I will write about, but this is America, so I may wax poetic about politics, complain about my job, rag endlessly about stupid people and how they annoy me, lambaste celebrities, post videos of cats….. (no, I definitely will not be posting videos about cats). Mostly I hope to purge the fear, despair and loathing that has come with finding oneself middle aged with no direction, no children, no spouse, and no clue as to what happens next, other than turning 50.  That sounds depressing, actually.  I probably wouldn’t read a blog like that.

So I’ll try to write about more exciting things. I promise.  Like the things I always said I would do and finally did in January and February of this year, and what’s next on the list.

The end, for now.