Life goes on

Life goes on

It’s been a while since I popped in here to share some things and boy what 6/7 weeks it has been. I reached a milestone of living in the USA 2 years on November 5th this year, had a weekend away in Nashville, (adding another city to my list), got a new job, met the Irish Consul General here in Atlanta, met the Irish Ambassador to the USA, have linked up more with the Irish community here in Atlanta, got back into taking photographs, had a blast at Irish Fest and have completed phase one of courses to become a foster parent with Leanne.

So where to start, I suppose getting a new job is as a good pace as any. I enjoyed my job with Hennessy Ford but there was something I wasn’t to keen on, and it boiled down to a lack of respect and trust. In conversations with the GM we had spoken about a future there for me as the Auto Photographer. So, it came as a surprise to me when the present photographers contract was cancelled, and another photographer arrived, especially as I had just had a conversation with GM a couple of weeks previous. The writing was on the wall from that day on, and then a job I knew I would be good at popped up on my Facebook feed. Talk about fate, well I applied and 2 interviews later I was hired. My new role is as Lead Concierge with Concierge Services of Atlanta working in the new ICON Midtown building.

Before I left Hennessy, I had the opportunity to meet the Irish Consul General who just happened to pick there to buy a car. And a fortuitous meeting it turned out to be, because he took my number and a few weeks later he gave me the opportunity to meet the Irish Ambassador to the USA on his visit to Atlanta. This tied in with a weekend of Irish events culminating in the Ambassadors address in Emory University, but which also included Irish Fest and the Atlanta GAA having a handover of land for playing fields and pitches. Meeting and being around Irish people here in Atlanta was fun and I will be trying to link in with the Irish community here a lot more from here on in.

On a personal level one November is like anniversary month, I have 3 important ones and they are all linked, because without one or the other, another one may never have happened. Let’s go back 30 years from today (Nov 20th) and its 1987 and I am a young 20-year guy who is about to embark on a new career, I enlisted in the Irish Defence Forces and this gave me the opportunity to travel the world as a photographer but also as a member of the Air Corps Pipe Band. Fast forward to 2001 and I am in Savannah with the band and I meet a lovely girl who would become a great friend with a special attachment. The next important date was Nov 9th, the day my divorce in Ireland became final and destiny was now waiting for me around the corner, even though I didn’t know it then.

The lovely girl I had met in Savannah in 2001 was a great friend, we remained in touch without the social media presence that exists today, shrinking the Atlantic Ocean to an inconvenience. But as time moved on destiny made her move, Leanne (that lovely girl) and I had a chat and we made plans to see what we would do about the inconvenient ocean, or pond as we called it. I visited in early 2015, Leanne came to Ireland in Summer 2015 and our visa application was approved around the same time and that led plans for the final important date, Nov 5th.

And so it was on Nov 5th 2015, I packed my life into 2 suitcases, a camera bag and a dog crate for Lassie and moved to the USA and start my journey through life with my best friend, my soulmate and who in December 20th 2015 became my wife. The last 2 years has been a journey of discovery, finding myself in a new country, trying new things, talking slower, getting to know my way around, finding my feet in life but with Leanne’s support and the rest of the support network from family and friends I feel I am settled. There are still things I won’t do like order at a drive through because I have no idea what I will end up getting in my order but mostly I manage. I have mentioned I have linked up with the Irish community recently and I look forward to meeting up with them on a regular basis, just a little touch of home to hear all those Irish accents.

Now if you are still reading and paid attention to the last remark in the first paragraph (go on scroll back) I mentioned something very important. Leanne and I are in the process of becoming foster parents with the view to becoming adoptive parents soon. This is something we have talked about a lot from early in our serious relationship and even though it is a bit scary, sure haven’t I already moved continent, so we go into this fully aware it will change our lives, again.

So that is coming to us in the future, hopefully quite soon and we can start to grow as a family. Talking about family in 4 short weeks my son, Robert, and my Mam will make the trip across the pond to be with us for Christmas and we are looking forward to their visit. It will be Roberts second visit, but it will be my Mams first trip outside Ireland since my Dad passed away in July 2016.

Oh, I nearly forgot, I did mention we had a weekend away in Nashville a few weeks ago and it was all about going on a full day railway excursion and it was fun. My love of trains goes back to my early childhood and now I am also building a large model railway in our new basement. We had a great time in Nashville and even though it was railway themed weekend we did get to sample a lot of the live music that Nashville has to offer. My list of cities visited is continuing to grow and I look forward to our next visit to a new city.

It’s time to sign off now and I hope this brings everyone up to date on what has being going on in the life of this Irishman in Atlanta.

I have a new motto in life now……. Don’t be afraid of change, don’t be afraid to take a educated chance, live life to the fullest and most of all, smile and be happy.

North and South, or Left and Right – How to give directions! 

North and South, or Left and Right – How to give directions! 

Atlanta hasn’t had a good time with traffic recently, with i85 bridge collapse, i20 buckling and 285 just being 285. Add in i75 and the traffic around the new Braves stadium and traffic is nearing meltdown but it seems it always is close to meltdown and manages to survive by the skin of its teeth. And all the above mentioned things have certainly pushed the traffic to the brink as well as drivers to the brink of insanity. 

Anyway, today’s little post is all about directions and how Americans give them and how it differs to back home in Ireland. Here it’s all about the compass direction of travel, turn north on 285, follow it till 85 south etc. This is great if you have a compass, or have an idea where you are going to start of with. In fairness most cars have a built in compass or at least a direction of travel light. I remember back home getting asked where the N17 was, have absolutely no idea until the person mentioned where it headed to. After that giving directions from Dublin to a road have way across the country was easy. 

If you tried the Irish way of giving directions here in Atlanta it would end in absolute failure. I can imagine telling someone to go straight as far as the the big church, turn left followed by turning right at the red pub, follow the road till you reach McDonald’s, turn left and when you get to the church at the roundabout take the first exit till you get to another pub, your destination is about a mile up the road from the pub. Well for starters there are so many churches and McDonald’s here those directions would be useless. So it’s back to North and South using road designations. 

Have fun, be safe and don’t ever drink and drive or text and drive! 

Life is hectic….. But fun! 

Life is hectic….. But fun! 

So where have I been for the last 3 weeks since my last post on blog. Well it has been a full and interesting 3 weeks. Let’s go back to the beginning of February when life just got a bit more full of things to do. Everyday stuff like work, walking the dogs, meeting friends etc continued. We had just watched Atlanta lose the Superbowl on heartbreaking fashion with our friends so instead of a big party it kind of just died off. 

But life goes on, sport will always give you great enjoyment, some horrible heartbreak but at the end of the day, life goes on. As an Irishman here in Atlanta I was delighted to see a city of 6 million getting behind Atlanta, now if only people back home would get behind their local team in football ot would be fantastic. But that’s a rant for a while other day. 

February consisted of 2 concerts, one theater outing and a movie night. So let’s start with concert number 1, Bon Jovi in the Philips Arena in Atlanta, well let’s just say the rockers rocked Atlanta in what was a brilliant performance. We followed that up with the Atlanta Symphony playing the tunes of my favorite artists, Simon and Garfunkel. If Bon Jovi rocked it, the Symphony absolutely nailed it with their performance and the duo singing the songs were superb. We end our month of culture tonight as we head to the Fox Theater for Phantom of the Opera. 

Why do I mention all this, well it shows how different my life is here than to back home in Ireland. I may have attended a concert every few years, but I never would have gone to the theater or symphony. These opportunities are available because I am married to a wonderful woman who loves these things and I have embraced everything from she loves and I am loving it. 

As an recent immigrant, I find that by embracing the culture that you are surrounded by certainly helps with the transition into American life. When I came here I hated ordering in restaurants as they couldn’t understand me, even though I did speak English, but now I am more comfortable even if they don’t get what I am saying for sometimes, it’s just the way it is and I am getting used to it. 

But back to the hectic life of the last 3 weeks. In January I was going through an interview process for a new job which entailed numerous tests and intercession and I made it through the selection and next Monday I will start my new job as a trainee Auto Damage Adjuster with Geico insurance. This will be a challenge involving learning a whole new skill set to add to the skills I already have. I will miss working with a great bunch of people at Hennessy Ford but the opportunity to change jobs and have a career with Geico was to good to turn down. 

And kind of finally we do have one more piece of news. The house Leanne has called home for the last 13 years and has been my home too for the last 16 months is on the market for sale as we are about to purchase our first home together. This is a huge step for both of us, Leanne leaving a home she thought she would always live in, me leaving a neighborhood that has made me so welcome and us both putting our names on the mortgage of a house together. 

So it has been hectic, it has been fun and exciting times lie ahead. It has been a journey and a half over the last 2 years and it continues to be enjoyable, some challenges and lots of laughs with huge amounts of happiness. 

Till next time, Slán agus Beannacht. 

Superbowl Sunday

Superbowl Sunday

This time last year I wrote about my first Superbowl Sunday here in America. It consisted of a group of friends getting together and enjoying the game and the adverts! Yes, the adverts during the Superbowl along with the half time show can be the highlight of the Superbowl. This year though I think will be slightly different as the Atlanta Falcons have made it to only their 2nd Superbowl and it is a well deserved appearance. 

They will come up against the New England Patriots, and they are the team I followed when I lived in Ireland but my allegiances have switched to my new home town, so I will be cheering on the Falcons. 

Superbowl 51 pitches the best defence (Patriots) going up against the best offense (Falcons) so it will be an interesting game. With possibly the 2 best QB’s playing, the legendary Tom Brady v the new league MVP Matt Ryan it could be a shootout between these two. Looking forward to a exciting game and hope Falcons manage to pull it off, but won’t be overly disappointed if the Patriots win. 
It would be fantastic for Atlanta to win and the excitement has been building for last few weeks through all the play offs and now to the final game of the season. It reminds me of home and when St Pat’s made it to the cup final and the build up would start a couple of weeks before and by game day I would be a nervous wreck. 

It was hard to know how to feel when we lost a cup final and we certainly did lose a few but the camaraderie of fellow fans who were feeling the same always helped, along with a few tasty pints of Guinness. But St Pat’s finally did win the FAI Cup and I have to say it is still and probably always will be one of the highlights of watching my local team in my life, and we have won leagues and other trophies but to finally win the cup after 53 years of waiting was just a fantastic moment.  

So now it is time to get ready, put on the shirt, go to friends house, and settle down and watch the game. And may the best team win which I hope is the Atlanta Falcons. RISE UP!!! 

One year in the USA

One year in the USA

I never got a chance to post on Saturday to mark my one year anniversary of moving to the USA so here is a little post to mention some highlights from the last 12 months. 

The number one highlight has to be our wedding day last December. Surrounded by new friends and family it was a brilliant day and weekend. To finally be able to say ‘I Do’ to Leanne was a special moment that will always live in my memory. 

Getting to spend 6 weeks with Robert during the summer was another highlight. He is 18 now and the days that I will be able to spend 6 weeks with him will get less and less so this summer was special. His visit coincided with the passing of my own Dad and it was nice to have him here then so we could share it together. 

The numerous family get together have also been a highlight. My in laws have made me feel as a part of the family since ai first arrived here a year ago. From meeting my new parents in law just before Thanksgiving a year ago to spending a week in Michigan visiting them, attending 2 family wedding, one being my now sister in laws, and my mother in laws Mams funeral, we have seen a lot of each other over the last 12 months.

Some  of the things that I am now used to are Supermarkets and the wide array of choice, driving on 8 lane highways, not going to the pub just for beers, and having a busy calendar. 

Being an immigrant isn’t easy, it involves a lot of changes, some risk in settling into a new culture and a little luck in finding work. I had great support from family and friends and even though we are still in the Visa process things are moving along. There are times I think it home, my friends back in Ireland, my family, especially my Mam and miss home. It’s not homesickness but it is a little bit of just missing the familiarity of Ireland. But Atlanta is now home and I am slowly becoming more familiar with how things go here. People still sometimes don’t understand what I am saying and that’s something I am just used to now. 

Just to sum up, the last 12 months have been a wonderful time with lots of new memories made bit still time to reflect on old memories and of times spent back home. But as I said earlier, home is now Atlanta and I couldn’t be happier. 

Sporting events 

Sporting events 

So far I have attended an NBA (basketball) game involving the Atlanta Hawks, an NFL (football) pre season game involving the Atlanta Falcons, a MLB (baseball) game involving the Atlanta Braves and last night I went to my first college football game as Georgia Tech played Clemson in Atlanta. 

Each of these were different in their own way, the basketball was my first major sporting event to attend with Leanne here in the USA and I was still in awe of a lot of Atlanta and the Hawks managed to win and overall it was a great event. The Braves game was equally a good night, we had Robert with us and it was fun. The Braves PR team even made it better by giving us free hats and t-shirts as it was our very first baseball game to see. Kudos to them for that gesture. The NFL game was a pre season one for the Falcons so was quite a lack luster affair but again we had fun as myself and Robert went with our Irish neighbour. 

And so last night it was time to experience College football. The fact that the stadium probably holds about 80000 and was about 3/4 full on a Thursday night absolutely astounded me. With Leanne being a Michigan State fan, and me as well by default, I knew the stadiums were big but to actually walk into one was amazing. It is a full blown production, big band, cheer leaders, fireworks etc. Unfortunately Georgia Tech lost last night bringing an end to my unbeaten event attending, the Falcons, Hawks and Braves all won when I attended.

At the Georgia Tech game

Now compare these sporting events to back in Ireland. Probably nothing can compare to the production, pre game and during game entertainment to off the pitch. But on the pitch games at home are much more exciting, less stopping and starting, play is more involved. But is one better than the other, No, not at all. I do love all sports and I do miss attending St Patrick’s Athletic matches at home with our little crowd of 1000 but I have also enjoyed all the sporting events I have gone to so far in Atlanta. 

There are a few more on my list to attend, an ice hockey game in Detroit, a Michigan State football game, an Atlanta United soccer match when they are up and running and a USA international soccer match as well. Which one gets my vote as the most enjoyable so far? Well that’s a tough choice, the Braves looked after us and Robert was able to attend, the Hawks as it was my first game to go to with Leanne, Falcons as it was first NFL game or the College football? I will have to go with the college football and its more to do with the off the pitch stuff. The band played practically non stop for the full night, the student fans made lots of noise and they had a white out night, where everyone wore white, and it all added up to a great occasion. So Georgia Tech lost, but the night, the event, as a whole was superb. Oh and I have to mention traffic management, at home traffic basically comes to a standstill after events, here the traffic management is excellent and everyone gets away and home quickly and efficiently. 

So I look forward to lots more sporting events, enjoying this particular aspect of my new home, and maybe becoming emotionally attached to a club so I can cheer them on just like I did at home for St Patrick’s Athletic. 

I have a job!

I have a job!

So things have been a bit hectic the last week or so. Last Wednesday I started my first ever job in the USA. It is with Lanier Parking Solutions and it is a grand job to get used to the working culture within the USA. As someone who has worked since he was 16 not being able to work was tough.

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View from my work

But all the paperwork is sorted and it’s time to start to earn some wages and restart my life of employment. My first few days at work were a bit strange, my broad Irish accent meant a lot of people didn’t understand what I was saying! As I mix more and get to know more people outside of our social circle here my accent will mellow a bit. I don’t want it to disappear as it is something that helps define who I am and where I came from.

Today also marks 6 months of marriage to Leanne. It has been an eventful and fun six months and the journey we have embarked on is still in its infancy.

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6 months ago today.

I will try develop out this post more over the coming days as life now takes on a more normal day to day routine.

Another step!

Another step!

So today after a little over 6 months and a small wait while the Georgia Drivers services figured out I was entitled to a drivers license I finally got to do my driving test. My last test was back in 1991 in Ireland and then I was the young person and the tester was the older person, well not today. Today after I got checked in and a small mishap with not having insurance card with me, I was all set. When my name was called I was greeted by a 20 something year old! After a quick introduction and another check of paperwork we were on our way. Even though I can drive and am a tidy driver with 25 years experience I was quite nervous, especially for the parking, emergency stop parts. Making sure I indicated and looked all the way around, even though normally most people here think indicators are Christmas lights, only to be used in December!

And so out of the parking lot and onto the real test, the driving on the public highway. This was the easy part, stop at stop signs, count to 3 before even attempting to move, indicating all the time, keeping speed below the limit, watching all the time. We got back to the parking lot and the young man told me I had passed but he had to tally the score! So on the road test I scored 100 and on the technical skills I scored 100, it seemed kinda easy to tally that score 🙂 But I suppose he had to do it officially and after a minute or so I was sitting in my car with the official document, 100 score and passed!

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I got my Georgia Drivers License

The drivers license here is as important as your social security number and probably as important as a passport so it was vital as I still job hunt to get that done and out of the way as soon as paperwork allowed. It was good to be able to drive for a few months to get the practice as it did prove invaluable. Sure even this past weekend I drove over 12 hours for our Memorial weekend trip to Florida and back.

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On the Beach in Florida

The weekend away in Florida was fantastic and it was great to be able to share the time with Leanne and some fantastic people who have now become my friends too. We sat on the beach, bobbed about in the sea and drank some beers, overall a brilliant time. I alluded to Memorial Day in my post last week and it struck me on the drive home from Florida yesterday the amount of USA flags that were flying outside houses, business and even some cars. This is something that I would love to see copied back home in Ireland but unfortunately the only time flags will be flying outside houses or cars will be if some sports team or person does well. Politically it would be nearly impossible to place flags in cemeteries due to the connotation it would have to the Troubles and republicanism, but maybe as a country, Ireland is growing up a bit more and the events of 2016 will allow more national pride in the Defence Forces, its veterans and those who have given their lives in service to Ireland and peace throughout the world without it being overshadowed by political point scoring.

Anyway, all that is for other blogs to debate and I do have my thoughts on it but here isn’t the time or place.As each step on this journey is taken I am ticking them off, I have my legal residence status approval, drivers license, green card is on its way and soon a job. All these things are part of my journey in my new life here in the USA and I couldn’t have taken one of these steps without my wife by my side, her support is unwavering and gratefully appreciated. Between this blog and my personal FB page I have been doing nearly a running commentary on my life now for 18 months and I do enjoy sharing various milestones with people, especially friends and family both here in the USA and back home in Ireland.

I just want to thank everyone who has followed this journey so far, there are still a good few episodes and milestones to go so please keep following, liking and even sharing across social media.

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A stroll around Decatur Historic Cemetery

A stroll around Decatur Historic Cemetery

Last night as my wife, Leanne, played tennis at Glenlake I had the opportunity to take a walk accompanied by our 2 dogs, Bozley and Lassie, around Decatur Historic Cemetery. As a photographer and a person, cemeteries have always held a special kind of fascination for me. Looking at headstones, reading the names and dates, trying to find the curious, oldest or strangest headstones and wonder about the stories of the lives of the people interred within.

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Looking across Decatur Cemetery

And so I set off at approx 6.30pm not realizing how big the cemetery actually was, it was a lovely evening, not to hot, but just nice with a slight breeze to cool the air. I followed the path to the oldest part, using google maps to help me find my way. Admiring the lovely greenery and pond, which I later found out is stocked with fish, I made my way passed some lovely headstones, all immaculately kept.The cemetery itself is approx 58 acres with about 7.5 acres allocated to the oldest part. The oldest headstones date from 1827/28, which means the cemetery pre-dates the city of Atlanta by more than a decade.

Enjoying the evening sun and cool breeze meant the walk was very leisurely and the dogs were nice and relaxed walking by my side, especially as I stopped quite often to view a headstone, take a photo or just look across the expanse of the cemetery. I had made my way from one side of the cemetery to the other when I came across a strange looking headstone/memorial in the shape of a reclining man that I just had to get a photograph of. It was only on my way back across the cemetery that I found the cemetery office and got a booklet that explains the history of the cemetery and contains information about some of the more significant headstones that I found out what and who it was for.

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Reclining Man – To commemorate a 17 year old Eagle Scout, David Hicks, and designed from his own drawing by his architect father

As i continued my stroll I kept looking out for older and more curious headstones. I came across some WW1 veterans, some Civil War vets, Korea,Vietnam, WW2 and other conflicts around the globe. There were families, children, some simple headstones , some very ornate and some that were just plaques in the ground. One that caught my eye was for an infant of just 2 days old, and being the brother of a young sister I never knew due to her passing at 6 weeks this one hit home a little. The headstone to my sister is now safe in my parents garden back in Dublin.

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Only 2 days old….RIP

And so with the time approaching 7.45pm and the dogs running out of steam I decided to head back to watch some tennis and see how Leanne was doing. Her match had got delayed so was only starting so I had time to do another small walk as I had noticed one particular stone in the booklet that I wanted to see. Young Beverly Claire Bottoms was tragically killed when she was struck by a car when out cycling. She was an avid reader and at night after the lights were turned off she would go under the covers and read some books. Her father designed a special memorial for her that sits beside her grave and below is a picture of that special memorial.

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Beverly Claire Bottoms – 1957 -1964 RIP

I have lots more photos so I will include a gallery at the bottom of this post and I will definitely be returning to Decatur Historic Cemetery and finding out lots more about not only the history of the cemetery but the stories behind some of those interred within its boundaries. I hope you enjoyed my tale about my walk around Decatur cemetery and I hope to continue to discover new things about Decatur and Atlanta over the coming months as I settle into life in America, specifically Decatur. Oh and aside from all that Leanne and her doubles partner, Deanne, won their second match of the week are into the final on Sunday.

 

 

Weekend in Michigan

Weekend in Michigan

So this weekend past was my first time to visit Michigan and to stay at my parents in law with Leanne, her parents and her sister Melissa. It’s the first time we have been together since our wedding back in December and even though it’s for a somber occasion it’s good to spend time with my in laws.

They are really good people and my new mother in law, Terri, recently lost her mother and the funeral was this weekend. I was honoured to be able to give my support to my new family at this sad time, especially Leanne as she mourned her grandmother.

This post is a gallery of images that I took over the weekend, from the time we boarded our flight in Atlanta on Thursday to our return flight on Sunday. I have included images from our flights, the house in Oscoda, MI, a couple from the funeral as well as some from our activities over the weekend. Michigan is very different to Georgia especially the area around Flint and up towards Oscoda by way of Saginaw. It’s very flat and and the roads seem to go on forever. One thing I did notice is the amount of US flags outside houses and businesses.I hope you enjoy the gallery of images and all photos were taken with my smartphone but in July I will be back in Michigan and will have my trusty Canon DSLR with me.