One year old

One year old

So tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of when St Pat’s to Spartans launched and I posted my first introductory post. And what a year it has been. There have been some great highlights, some low moments and charting my way through life here in the USA after living my whole life in Ireland until Nov 2015 has been fun. 

I have tried to keep the posts lighthearted and easy to read but at the same time using the blog as a journal of what I am thinking, doing and how life is going. I think I have succeeded for the most part but at times it’s difficult to find time to put up a good post that hits all the targets I want but I keep trying. 

I hope people have enjoyed the blog and it will continue as I move on with my life here in America. Last June I started my first job, moving onto my second job in October and at the end of February I will finally start a job that I feel can be a career. The opportunity to do this new job would never have happened in Ireland as I wouldn’t have made it passed the screening process due to not having an honors degree.  

So after a 4 week process of interviews, online assessments, practical role play assessment and a final face to face interview, I received a job offer from Geico in mid January and I start training for my new role as an Auto Damage Adjuster soon. It will be 3 months training with lots of study, a tough learning curve and a whole new career to look forward to.

I have enjoyed my time at Hennessy Ford, some excellent people work here, and it gave me another opportunity to work closely with people, which helps in the assimilation into the USA. I enjoy chatting to work colleagues, learning new things about life here, and I notice I talk a lot slower now due to these interactions. So if anyone is buying a car soon, drop into Hennessy Ford on Peachtree Industrial Blvd and say hi and they will look after you. 

I will finish up this post with a little thank you. Thank you to everyone who has read the blog, liked or shared a post, or sent me comments.  Thank you to all my friends do back home in Ireland for a wonderful visit home in December and your ongoing friendship and support, to my friends here in the USA for your friendship and support, to my family for being there for my Mam when I couldn’t, to my in laws, I would be amiss if I didn’t thank you all for the wonderful support from day 1 and my final thanks has to go to my wife, Leanne. Thank you honey for supporting me in everything I do, for being my friend, partner and wife. 

Start of another week! 

Well time here is flying by. Can’t believe it’s already passed mid September. This time last year I had received my visa back from the US embassy in Dublin and had just booked my one way ticket to the USA for November 5th. There is a post later in the year that will look back on 2016 and my first 12 months so now is not the time but I will look back and forward just a little now. 

So mid September 2015 and a huge step was taken on my journey through life. I now had my K1 Visa to come to America and marry the girl of my dreams. We had known each other for 14 years but the conversation that led to the visa application took place over a few months in 2014 and 2015. Once we decided and knew what we needed to do we got on it right away, filling in forms, closing down my life in Ireland and getting ready to cross the Atlantic to start a whole new chapter of life with Leanne. 

Did I ever envisage myself living in America? I can honestly say No, I never thought I would leave Ireland, especially at 48 years of age. I didn’t have wanderlust throughout my life even though I was lucky to travel to lots of different and diverse countries as part of my job in the Irish Defence Forces. But when myself and Leanne had a conversation about our lives we both realized we were on the same page. Then came the fun of sorting it out so we could have our lives together on the same side of the Atlantic. 

Living together in Ireland was discussed briefly, but the opportunities and Leanne’s career here in the USA meant there was really only one viable option. And I embraced it, I would emigrate to the USA and start again here. Leanne has been my rock over the last 10 months, and especially the last 2 months. I still struggle with the loss of my Dad and I am not sure I have dealt with it completely yet. But Leanne just manages to say the right things and do the right things at just the right moment (now some of my friends can take their minds out of the gutter please). You would be surprised what a little fry up, or some good Irish tea will do for me, a reminder of home while still 3500 miles away. 

I look forward to seeing Ireland in December, spending time with friends, having a few beers, spending Christmas Day with my Mam and family, and going on a mini honeymoon for our first anniversary to Rome with Leanne. 

I mentioned the other day that home is where the heart is, well my heart is in Atlanta, my head is in Atlanta and it certainly is my home. But that will never take Ireland or where I was born out my thoughts. You can take the man out of Ireland but you can never take Ireland out of the man. 

Missing Family 

So as promised the blog will be back but posts will be more sporadic as life here in the USA settles into normality. Work and day to day routine will take up some of the time I had for writing posts. It does put the blog at a bit of a crossroads but I will endeavor to continue posting as my life here progresses. 

Anyway, back to the title of this post. Yes I miss my family back home and how much I miss them, especially my Mam, was brought home to me recently with the loss of my Dad. Been a recent emigrant from Ireland I knew it would be difficult to get home for any funeral so I had discussed the matter with my Mam and we had decided if anything happened while my son was visiting that I would stay here and make a trip home in December with Leanne. 

I said goodbye to my Dad last November, just before I left Ireland, and it was hard as I knew then it was possibly the last time I would see him alive. Alas that is exactly what it was to be. This kind of thing has been happening to emigrants for centuries so it’s nothing new. Millions of emigrants can’t get home for funerals or any other family occasions but that is something for that comes with starting a new life so far from your home country. 

I made my decision to move to the USA to be with Leanne over a year ago, and part of the decision process was making sure I was comfortable and my Mam was comfortable with me moving so far away. Even though we were both on the same page on which direction I was moving it doesn’t make it any easier. 

For a brief moment we looked at flights home to Ireland in a few weeks but it is to expensive and it would  also mean missing out on our pre arranged trip to see friends as well as family for our first wedding anniversary. All this might sound as all the decisions were made with just our lives been the deciding factor, but I had and still do involve my Mam and now my sister in the process. 

Involving family in our decision helped make probably the hardest decision I had to make slightly easier, not to travel home for my Dad’s funeral. My Mam and sister were great support and it was good to be able to chat to them both over the days of the funeral and to hear of the support family and friends had given them. 

During one of the conversations with my Mam over the last week, I mentioned I was missing home and them and wished I could have been there for the funeral. In my Mams typical fashion she just said one sentence to make me feel a bit better. I will paraphrase it a little but the general jist of it was about how close we were in my last few years in Ireland and that I done my supporting and caring in my Dad’s living years and that he would understand that my life has a new and bright beginning here in the USA

I have my green card, I have a stamp in my passport which will make travelling to Ireland much more straightforward and I look forward to seeing all my family and friends in December. To all my Mams friends, to friends of my brother and sister, and to all my friends, both here and back home in Ireland, thank you for all your support over the last couple of weeks, it means a lot. 

Some answers to commonly asked questions about me

Some answers to commonly asked questions about me

Since I arrived in the USA last November I have been asked numerous questions about Ireland, what I miss the most and what do I like about the USA best. I felt it was unfair to try answer these questions to soon into my new life but today I am going to give some insights into some of the questions I have been asked. 

Let’s start with an easy one, What do I miss most? Well it has to be family and friends. Being away from my son, Robert, has to be the hardest thing ever, even though we did live apart in Ireland we seen each other nearly every other week or for a weekend every month. Having Robert here these last 12 days has been great and we will have some quality time together over the next 4 weeks before he heads back to Ireland and college. We will get to celebrate his 18th birthday together and that is an important milestone in his life and I am delighted he will be here for it. 

Robert joined me at my job the other day

I lived only a short distance from my parents and I dropped around quite regularly especially as my Mam is now on her own since my Dad went into an Nursing home because of advanced Alzemhiers. It’s hard being away from my parents as they get older as there is a realization that I may never see them again or that a trip home could be my last time to see them and that was something I have to be aware of all the time. 

My parents still holding hands after 56 years

I miss my friends a lot too, meeting to go to football matches together or just a drink and a chat. I had some great work colleagues in Dublin Airport and the Defence Forces and it was always great to meet up for a beer or two. Some of my closer friends were from going to the St Patrick’s Athletic matches and we always had fun when we got together. An added piece to that is missing going to the ‘local’ pub just to chill out.This is something that can’t be done here, even though there are enough bars but none fall into the ‘local’ bracket. 

The football friends

Some of the questions I have been asked about Ireland are religious or political and for now I am going to give answering them a miss even though I did enjoy some decent chats with people about Brexit and how it will effect Ireland and Europe. Other questions about a Ireland are the basic ones, like what to do amd where to go on a visit. I advise nearly everyone to go to Kilmainham Gaol, Guinness Brewery, Galway and the Western coast, Killarney and if time allows to head up North. Of course they all want to go to Temple Bar, and all I can do is advise to avoid the area as its a pricey expensive tourist trap. This is a complete edited list of what to do or where to go as there are so many wonderful places and things to do but I notice a lot of people only visit Ireland for 2-4 days and combine the trip with England, Scotland and Wales or Europe.

I am going to come back to all of this as my time in the USA lengthens. And I know I haven’t mentioned what I like most about the USA but I want to form a greater opinion before I answer that. But one thing I do like is the friendliness of most people I have met or dealt with in personal or professional matters. 

And just to add something to lighten the mood, besides family and friends, I genuinely do miss them all, I also miss a decent roast dinner, with roast beef, vegetables (carrots, broccoli and cauliflower) potatoes (mashed, roasted and chips and some lovely home made gravy poured over it and a lovely a creamy pint of Guinness to drink. 

A proper pint of Guinness, something I miss


5 Months

5 Months

Just as the title suggests, today marks the day that I left Ireland and traveled to the USA 5 short months ago. I had an idea that life here would be better than back home, for starters I would be sharing it with the love of my life and my then wife to be. 5 months later and we are over 3 months married and having fun together.

So today’s post will be a little recap on the first five months of my life here in the USA. It has been good but has taken a fair bit of readjusting and even though there are some similarities between Ireland and the USA, it’s quite obvious we are 2 distinct cultures. When people here say customer service, about 90% of the time they mean good service because that’s what is expected and received. Now only if Ireland could get that memo and even though you work in a service industry, there is no need to be a grumpy fecker. If you are one of those people that hate your job, hate people coming into your shop or business, well then leave the job rather than take it out on the customer. It wouldn’t be tolerated over here by customers for a minute.

Onto driving, at first that scared the hell out of me. Driving my first day part of the way from Orlando to Atlanta was probably the least confident I was in a car since my very first lesson back in 1990. In 5 short months it has got better, even though I do still use GPS and ask Leanne to just confirm I am in the right lane.

I have had interesting conversations with people as a lot of people just know Ireland from movies or photos or visiting as a tourist and not seeing the ‘real’ Ireland. I do my best to tell them about the real Ireland, like how it’s ok for us to hate U2 and to slate them, but not for them to slate them. They are ours so even though we slate them at home, we will defend them across the globe. It’s an Irish thing. One thing I have noted and maybe Guinness should make a note of this too, bar staff cannot pull a pint of Guinness. I have been served some nice tasting Guinness, but it is basically just poured like a beer. Please bar staff, stop it or join those grumpy feckers in a new career. Some of the enjoyment in a Guinness is waiting and watching it settle before it’s topped off.

Now food, wow how much choice do people want. You can have a simple burger done about 100 different ways in 1000’s of places. And then what is on the menu is changed by people saying they want a particular burger but with something either added or taken out. If you are lover of salads, well then the USA is the place for you. I am not a salad eater for main meal, it belongs between two slices of bread in a sandwich as far as I am concerned, but some of the salads served look fantastic and come with foods I never heard off.

And finally onto family and friends. I done a few posts the other day about family and the pets as well as Robert, my son. I will reiterate that now, I am a lucky guy because my family and my newly extended family have been wonderful in their support for my move here and helping me settle in. My friends back in Ireland send me messages via Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp, and every single message is greatly appreciated.

This is probably the only post that doesn’t have any pictures except for the header photo. That is a deliberate choice as I wanted the words I am writing to stand on their own and to share my thanks to everyone who has been part of this journey so far. There is lots more to come so keep in touch and drop me a message anytime.

To wrap up it wouldn’t right of me not to mention the one person who helped to make my journey here possible, my darling wife, Leanne. We met in 2001, waited 13 years before having a conversation about our future together and here we are now, a happily newly wed couple. To Leanne I say Thank you for starting that conversation, thank you for the last 5 months and thank you for making me so happy.

Little bit of Family

Little bit of Family

Well when I started this blog the intention was to have it tell the story of some of my life in Ireland, how I came to the USA, the continuing story of Leanne and I, the cultural differences I have encountered and really anything else that just popped into my head. As the blog evolves some things will change and as with my life that’s a good thing. Today though I am going to talk about my family, not only my own direct family but the family here who have been so kind since my arrival.

My Family, including my sister and her husband and 2 children, my brother, my Mam, Leanne and I. Left to Right :John (Brother), Billy, Leanne, Mam, Sister (Anna) Paul (Sister's Husband) Sean and Hannah (Sister's Children in Front)

Above is a picture of my family taken when Leanne was over to visit Ireland in July 2015. We managed to get nearly everyone together so we definitely had to get a photo. Missing from the photo is my son Robert, my Dad and my brothers wife, Jane. We are a relatively close family but we are all also quite stubborn and independent. Like all families we disagree but we know we only have to pick up the phone and call if we need help, even if we are to stubborn to call at times. I do miss my family and it probably was one of the hardest things to do was say goodbye to my Mam and Dad.

My Mam and Robert just before I left a Ireland

My Dad is in a care home since late 2014 with Alzhemiers and it’s very hard on my Mam. For 6 weeks before I left I lived with my Mam and it was nice to be able to share that time with her. She is doing great but she does miss her husband and partner and it can be difficult at times. They have both supported me through the difficult times I encountered during the 2000’s and my Mam supported my choice to move to the States. This support was very important because we are both fully aware that one of these days I will be saying goodbye to fly back to the USA and it could be the last time we see each other. That is hard but my Mam told me to go and be happy and love the girl I was to marry always. She seen how happy Leanne made me so she was right behind our decision to marry and be together.

Moving stateside and getting married meant I would have new in laws. I had spoken to Bob and Terri (Leanne’s parents) on the phone and we kept in touch via email, and we still do as they live up in Michigan. My very first conversation with my future parents in law was a little over a year ago and it was to ask their permission to marry Leanne. It obviously went well as 9 months later we got married. That being the first call kind of set a trend, as my first time to meet Bob and Terri was on the Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving in Atlanta airport when I had to collect them on my own as Leanne had to work. I then had to drive from the airport back to our house in Friday traffic which in Atlanta is crazy and I was only driving 2 weeks in the USA. Again it must have went well as the wedding wasn’t called off and I am still here.

Bob and Terri with us at our rehearsal for the wedding

Leanne’s parents, just like my own, have been fantastic all the way through this process. From that first phone call a year ago to today they have taken me to their hearts and I am eternally grateful for everything they have done for me and us. Of course getting married extends your family as I now have a sister in law. I met Melissa just before the wedding last December and even though we had exchanged an email or 2 you never know how it’s going to go when you meet the sister of your bride to be. I need not have worried as Melissa also has been fantastic, and in my speech at the wedding I mentioned I had a new sister, and I echo that today. The in law bit can be removed as not only have Bob and Terri become family, so has Melissa.

My newly extended family, Bob and Terri, Billy and Leanne, and Melissa with her fiancée Mickey

I haven’t mentioned my son a lot in this post because he deserves a post all of his own and I hope to write that in the coming days. Family means a lot to me, and I probably don’t tell them often enough, but they are my family and I love every one of them. I look forward to seeing my Irish family when we return there in December and to seeing my new American family when we visit Michigan in July with Robert.

See if what we think is there is really there

One year ago, Feb 11th 2015, I was on a plane from Dublin to Atlanta via Chicago to see Leanne. Today I will give a brief over view of our story and how we got together and how our journey has reached today. We met on St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) 2001 in Savannah, GA while Leanne was there with friends for the celebrations and I was there with the Irish Air Corps Pipe Band to take part in the parade and other celebrations. We had an instant connection and had great fun together.

Savannah Parade Logo

We kept in touch via email, remember this was before smartphones, Facebook etc so email was really our only option besides cards at Christmas and birthdays. Our friendship blossomed even with the Atlantic in the way and in 2002 I returned to Atlanta to visit Leanne for 4/5 days before a trip to Boston with the band. Over the years we remained good friends and our lives took differing paths. In Feb 2014, notice a trend here with February, My phone made a funny notification sound I didn’t recognise, it was this thing called Google Hangouts, and it was Leanne asking did it work. We had a cheap and easy way to keep in contact.

We messaged daily, we chatted via video a lot of the time too and generally just kept in touch. But we had a few serious conversations and one of them was the ‘Us’ conversation. We both knew what we wanted, we were both on the same page but we knew there was complications, namely a visa and an ocean! We decided that I would travel over to visit in February 2015 and that brings me to the title of today’s post. It really was to see if what we thought was there was really there.

As I flew across the Atlantic my mind was racing, this could be a life changing trip, what if we were wrong and more importantly, what if we were correct? What would be next? How would we get on? How much had we changed in the 13 years we hadn’t seen each other? These questions and probably a few hundred more flew around my mind.

Billy Instagram (28)
Crossing the Atlantic with Aer Lingus

So at approx 9 pm on February 11th 2015 I landed in Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport after a long day travelling from Dublin. I was still a bit nervous and on the way over I had met an Irish woman who had lived in Decatur for 30 years and she gave me the correction pronunciation of Decatur, I was saying it wrong all this time! As I waited on my bag to arrive I seen Leanne, she had changed and was looking stunning…as always. When we met we did have an awkward moment, hug, kiss…we didn’t know what to do but our instant chemistry that we thought was there was definitely there.

Our very first bad selfie

We spent a wonderful 18 days together, made our plans for the future and it was soon time to depart for Ireland. That was the hardest goodbye I have ever done, even now after leaving Ireland and coming to live here, that goodbye to Leanne last Feb 28th was the hardest. We parted as a couple who had decided to get married and live our lives together. Now it was a matter of filling in the required paperwork, getting Leanne’s Dads permission to officially ask Leanne to be my wife and wrapping up 47 years of my life in Ireland. On April 20th I made my first ever phone call to Leanne’s parents to ask their permission to marry their eldest daughter. It was my first time to talk to them and I had to be very conscious to not talk as fast as I normally do, this was an important call. Thankfully Bob and Terri were delighted and gave us their blessing to get married and continue our journey through life together.

With our paperwork for our Visa with USCIS we awaited their decision and on June 29th 2015 we got approval for our application for a K1 fiancee visa. With Leanne about to come visit Ireland in July it was perfect timing. Leanne arrived on July 22nd and the following day while visiting the Long Room Library in Trinity College I officially proposed and put an engagement ring on Leanne’s finger. A journey that had started 14 years previous as friends had taken a huge step forward.

Just after the Proposal

Our wedding plans were already in motion but now we could make them certain and it was nearly time for me to pick a date to leave Ireland and move to Atlanta. November 5th was the date chosen and I had lots to do. Move out of my rented house that had been my home for 12 years, sell my car, spend as much time as I could with my son, wrap up work, say goodbye to friends and family and figure out how much stuff i could actually transport trans Atlantic. I will end this post here but i will come back to our story soon.

Five years

One of the most important steps I took on the journey to the USA was taken 5 years ago today. On Feb 6th 2011 I retired after 23 years military service with the Irish Defence Forces. At the time and even until quite recently I didn’t realize how important that step was.

Making the decision to leave a job I loved after 23 years was easy. I was a photographer within the Defence Forces Press Office, travelling the world with the troops, covering military events all over Ireland and supplying imagery to media outlets at home and abroad. So what made me leave? Well the fun had gone out of the role and it was time to move on.

So in Feb 2011 found myself at a loose end and made a decision to go to college, at 44 years of age. Three years later I had attained my higher Diploma in Media Studies and had got a job in Dublin Airport in Security and also producing a staff newsletter. All these things meant when myself and Leanne had a certain conversation in early 2014, I was in a much better place in my life and the decisions that were going to be made over the following 18 months were going to be easy and correct.

I will delve further into my military career as I move forward as it helped me meet Leanne and gave me some lifelong friends on both sides of the Atlantic. Two of those friends, one from Ireland and one from Savannah, GA, stood beside me on our wedding day and it was my honour to have them both there on our big day.