Two years ago…….

Two years ago…….

As the title suggests this post is about two years ago, the day I decided to start writing this blog. So much has happened in that 2 years and I am not going to try condense it all into one post but will settle for a few highlights, a few sad times and a few happy times. When i started this blog my goal was to make it a kind of diary of my thoughts as I embarked on a brand new chapter of my life, the journey it took to get here, but mostly it was to be about this Irishman’s view on how life is here in America for a new but older immigrant, not sure if I have hit these marks but I hope so.

And so onto the things that have made the last 2 years so interesting and a couple of highlights. The main highlight actually happened before this blog started and that was marrying my sweetheart, Leanne and that shall remain the main highlight till the day I die. But there have been lots of other highlights and I will list just a few and in no order of importance;

  • Our first wedding anniversary spent in Rome
  • Spending Christmas in Ireland in 2016
  • Robert coming over twice but the trip in summer 2016 for 6 weeks was memorable
  • Starting my present job and looking forward to see where it takes me
  • Getting to know so many wonderful people here in the USA that I am now lucky to call friends
  • Everyday I get to spend with Leanne
  • You never know how much a simple message from pals back home will make you smile
  • Buying ‘Our house’ together

Of course through the course of a life there are moments that cause sadness, and we had 2 main ones over the last 2 years. the first was Leanne’s grandmother passed away and that meant I made my first trip up to Michigan but unfortunately it wasn’t for a happy occasion. The second sad moment was the passing of my own Dad, and not being able to travel home for the funeral was probably the hardest decision I had to make in my life but I know it was the correct one at the time considering the circumstances. Its not just family members we have lost, and it started the day I arrived here back in Nov 2015, when our first thing to do together in Atlanta was to attend a funeral. Since then I think we have attended 6 funerals and I have heard of at least the same amount back home. A few close friends in Ireland have passed away, only recently a friend from my childhood passed away just short of his 50th birthday which is later this month, RIP Barry.

Nearly all of the happier times have been spent with Leanne and I loved our time spent back in Ireland, surrounded by our friends in a pub celebrating Christmas in 2016. My 50th birthday was a wonderful week last summer, culminating in a party that was fantastic. I now finally have a table for a model train set and I will be taking my time building it exactly as I want it. Connecting with the Irish community and being able to chat to people about back home is fantastic and we are getting more involved in the Irish community here in Atlanta, its surprising who you meet once you get involved! I have met someone from the Irish Defence Forces, who served in the same unit I started my career in, I have also met a guy who is from an area in Dublin which is literally only 5 minutes from where I used to live! All these connections help me keep in touch with home and my ‘irishness’

As a relatively recent immigrant to the USA I have noticed how much things here have polarized since the election last year but that still doesn’t take away that America is a land of opportunity and if you are willing to learn and evolve you will do OK. My accent still causes some issues but not half as many as it did when i came here first. Does that mean I am losing my accent, I doubt it but I have definitely tailored the speed of my speech so people can understand me better.

As we roll into 2018, cant believe it February already, there are a few upcoming adventures to add to my journey and the most important of them should and hopefully will happen around May, we will become official licensed foster parents! Scary as it that is for me there is no person in the world I would take this journey with other than Leanne.

I am going to mark the second anniversary of the blog sitting at my desk in work on a Saturday morning at 7.00am, a far cry from when I started the blog as something to pass the time during the day while I was waiting on paperwork to come through so I could get a job. I will endeavor to get the blog back on track and get it to a place where it becomes all the things I wanted it to be when I started it. I look forward to travelling home to Ireland sometime in the future but for now I am happy with how life is going here in the USA and from day one I said I would embrace my new life here but keep my ‘irishness’ intact and I think I have succeeded.

Happy Birthday St Pats to Spartans Blog

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New York, a first time visitor

New York, a first time visitor

Last weekend I got to go to New York with my darling wife. The trip was planned as a gift for my 50th birthday and I had a choice of destination but New York was really my only choice as it is a city I have wanted to visit my whole life.

And guess what, New York didn’t disappoint. What a city, crowded, tons of neon, lots of places to visit, things to do, food and drink to sample and only 4 days to try pack as much in as possible. We had some things booked, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty and an evening at the US Open Tennis but other things we just went with how we were doing on time.

But of course we nearly never got to New York after Leanne was summoned for jury duty and was selected for a Superior Court case, but luckily on Thursday afternoon she was excused and we were able to pack and catch our flight out at noon on Friday.

Arriving in Newark Airport at 3pm and catching the train into New York meant I got to tick something off my to do list, arrive into Penn Station subway platform and walk out onto a packed New York city. The volume of people was just amazing but everyone managed to get where they were going without to much bother. We got to our hotel, The Millennium Broadway on 44th Street, just off Time Square. First thing that hit me in Time Square was the neon, even in daylight. And I knew it would be fantastic at night, and I wasn’t wrong, throngs of people and tons of neon.

New York has a strong Irish connection and this is quite visible through all the ‘Irish’ bars around Time Square. We decided to use the one right beside our hotel, O’Donoghues, and even though they didn’t serve full pints, more like half litres, it was nice and comfortable.

We went off to explore New York and get our bearings so we wouldn’t get lost to much. We went to the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Catherdal and looked for somewhere with a bit of New York flavour to it to have something to eat. We settled on Juniors after finding our first choice seemed to be everybody else’s first choice too. 

So after a ton of food, one dinner would have fed us both, we decided to head to the Empire State Building. This was one of those things we wanted to do but hadn’t really planned it. And are we so glad we did, and got the extra ticket to go to the very top. The views across the city at night were absolutely amazing. 

And like any good Irishman, the night was wrapped up with a beer in our new Irish bar beside the hotel. Sat was going to be a busy day as we had 9.30am tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour as well as dinner plans. Probably the main thing I wanted to see in New York was Ellis Island. As a recent immigrant to the USA, I do feel a certain affinity to those who came here before me. Their journey was a lot more precarious than mine, filled with more unknowns and much harder. But the affinity I felt has only grown after visiting Ellis Island. It’s immigrants that have helped make America the nation it is today, but unfortunately that seems to be forgotten by some.

After our tours, we done more walking, around Chinatown and through an area that was filled with lots of state and city buildings. So it was time to catch the train back to Time Square and the hotel. We managed to get on the wrong train, twice. But it meant we got to cross the river and head into Brooklyn. This wasn on our plan but it was fun. We now know we must come back to New York and see even more.

Anyway, the world really is a small place and I have friends in New York that I went to college with back in Ireland. So we arranged to meet up and have dinner and a catch up. So sitting in an Italian restaurant in Little Italy in New York were 3 graduates of Ballyfermot College, Dublin and an American from Atlanta via Michigan. 

Sunday was 9/11 Memorial and US Open tennis day. The 9/11 museum and memorial is a ‘must see’ but it is also something you have to give time to. We were there 4 hours and probably could have stayed another hour or 2. It’s definitely a ‘wow’ museum as well a very sombre place. The artifects and the stories touch your heart and soul.

And finally we have have last thing to do, US Open tennis. This was a ‘bucket list’ item for my wife but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it too. We went to the Arthur Ashe Stadium but we also got courtside on one of the outer courts. It was a fun night even if the matches were over relatively quickly.

And so my first visit to New York was over, seen lots but lots more to see, so we will definitely be making a return trip in the future.

Thank you to my darling wife for the wonderful gift of a trip to a city I had never been to and thoroughly enjoyed. Till next time New York, Slán. 

Back to the beginning

Back to the beginning

Today marks 18 months since I married my sweetheart here in Atlanta and so much has happened in that time. So maybe now is a a good time to go back to the beginning and update what has happened over the last 18 months and some plans for the future. This blog has been charting my life here in Atlanta since I moved from Ireland in November 2015 as well as just being a place for me to ramble about stuff in general. I do try to avoid politics, religions or anything that can lead to controversy but sometimes I will mention these topics. 

Anyway, let’s take a step back in time to what led me to leave the country of my birth after 48 years. Well to put it simply, the love of a great woman. A relationship that had simmered as friendship since 2001 turned romantic as we found ourselves in the same place emotionally at the same time, it was kine everything g just aligned at the correct time so we could be together. We still had a K1 Visa process to sort out and after a few months of waiting and a little help we were approved in July 2015 and out wedding date was set, December 20th 2015, 18 months ago today, happy 18 month anniversary honey! 

Married life has been fun, exciting and sometimes challenging. We had to learn how to live together, with me also learning a while new culture here in the USA. We have a great support network of friends here in Atlanta as well as family on both sides of the ocean. We have had some really good moments, Robert visiting has to be a highlight, as well as some low moments, Leanne’s grandmother passing away and my Dad passing away last July. But we got to go to Leanne’s grandmother’s funeral in Michigan, which marked the first time we traveled on a plane together, and in December 2016 we got to travel back to Ireland to be with my Mam for here first Christmas without my Dad. The visit to Ireland led to another highlight, travelling to Rome for a few days to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Our sending anniversary will be a little different, my Mam and my son, Robert, will be arriving in Atlanta to spend Christmas with us that day. 

Recently we moved into a house that we both picked and is now ‘our’ home. When I moved over here we lived in the house that Leanne had owned for nearly 14 years and even though we had no intention of moving, once we seen this house we both knew it was the house we wanted to call ‘our’ home together. 

We have some exciting plans for the remainder of 2017 and onward as soon we will be looking into adopting a young child. We both feel we can give something special and bring joy to a young child  who otherwise may not get the chance. It will bring challenges but nothing we can’t overcome together as we start to build a family. 

So just to end up for now, it has been a whirlwind 18 months of marriage, 19 months of living in the USA and life is good. I couldnt be happier and I look forward to the future and whatever it may hold for us. 

Documented Immigrant

Documented Immigrant

I have always tried to avoid politics, and religion, on this blog but sometimes something comes along and it sparks an something in where my journey is now. I am a ‘legal permanent resident’, thus making me a ‘documented immigrant’ There is so much in the news and being mentioned in political circles about immigration these days maybe it’s time I mentioned it here on my blog. 

I would never ever have attempted to come to the USA undocumented. Even in the early days of our planning we went through the stress of applying for a K1 Visa, even though it put our wedding date at risk. But we wanted to do things correctly and not take any chances. 

After our wedding we applied to Adjust our status, from an engaged to married couple, thus allowing me to apply for my Green Card and start working and become a legal permanent resident. Our journey through the visa process isn’t over yet as next year, Feb 2018, we have to apply to have the conditions of my visa and residencey removed, another process that will take approx 14-18 months. All these processes are stressful and we have to meet certain criteria for the removal of conditions to prove our marriage is a bona fide one. 

All this is because of fraud within the Visa system, but at the end of it all we will have followed all the rules and have done everything requested by the US government. After that the path to US citizenship opens up and that will be a path I will more than likely go down. 

Now the elephants in the room, illegal immigrants and politicians. Both affect how our process goes, politicians by saying uneducated things, trying to be popular and playing to the crowd and illegal immigrants by not doing things the correct way in the first place. Both have reasons for doing what they do and some have no choice but to either play to the crowd or be illegal but sometimes the knock on effect isn’t what they expected. 

I look forward to the day that I am finished with the Visa process but even when I apply for US citizenship I will always be an immigrant, but fully documented from day 1. 

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. 

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. 

Some random thoughts of an Irish Ex-Pat living in the USA

Some random thoughts of an Irish Ex-Pat living in the USA

So 13 months ago I stepped onto an Aer Lingus plane and headed to Orlando on my way to my new life here in Atlanta. What brought me to make that trip came from a conversation with my now wife 18 months previous. So here I am, 49, married to the most wonderful woman, working away, enjoying life and immensely happy. 

But, and seldom there are times there is a but, I have missed my family and friends back home, missed going for a pint and talking about the latest football match, miss sharing things regularly with my son, seeing my Mam on a near daily basis, having some good fun with my workmates in Dublin Airport. These are just a few things I miss but the biggest thing over the last year was my Dad’s funeral in July.  The decision not to travel home wasn’t taken lightly and it wasn’t easy to make but I know it was the right one at that particular time. 

Being an Ex-Pat living away from home comes with some distinct advantages and some other distinct disadvantages. Missing family and friends as well as family events, like funerals are hard. Learning to fit into a new society, new friends and just general life in my new country was hard at the beginning but it gets easier with time if you allow yourself embrace the new life. Getting a decent cup of tea is near impossible but it can be overcome, again by embracing a new way. And no I don’t mean coffee, but a new blend of tea even though I do love the fact I still have 450 tea bags from Ireland left. Some of the advantages are that people are genuinely interested in what life in Ireland is like, so I do get to talk about Ireland a good bit. Of course I have to remember not to talk to fast or no one will understand me. 

The flip side to missing family and friends back home and missing out on family occasions in Ireland, is that now I have a whole other extended family and circle of friends and I have been able to attend family weddings and some funerals too. Not quite 4 weddings and a funeral but more like 2 weddings and 6 funerals. 

And so onto something I am really looking forward to. On December 16th we will fly to Dublin to spend Christmas with my family. I will actually miss my American family and friends as they have taken me into their hearts and group and made me very welcome. But I will see my Mam, sister, brother and son as well as friends over our 2 week visit. I left looking forward to a whole new life with Leanne, some nervous anticipation about how that life would shape up, well let me tell you, it has worked out fantastically well.

In 13 months I have experienced 2 Thanksgiving holidays, various other USA holidays, spent Memorial Day in Florida, spent a week in Michigan, a weekend in Pittsburgh, a couple of weekends in Blue Ridge, Georgia, a few days in Charleston, a day visit to Savannah to go to the place where myself and Leanne met, drove from Atlanta to Detroit, the longest drive I have ever done in my life, seen Broadway shows in the Fox Theater, fireworks for July 4th, a US Presidential election and so many other wonderful things. 

Over the last 2 and a half years I have shared my life and experiences on social media a lot, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and this blog. I hope people enjoy the posts and I do hope to keep it up into 2017. 

Life is good and I am going to take this opportunity to wish everyone a good Christmas and a safe 2017. I will try post before I head to Ireland and when I am there but otherwise it will be January before I get to post again.