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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A little Irish fun

A little Irish fun

Just something different as the week and the month of April end. Just a few little ‘Irish’ hints for those that may visit Ireland in the future or wish they were actually Irish. 

Anyway, hint number 1 is a simple but easy to forget one. Leprechauns are real, but are only visible to real genuine 100% Irish people. Only we can converse with them and see them so don’t waste your time trying to see them or talk to them or asking can you meet one, it will only make you look foolish. 

Hint number 2 relates to some Irish sayings you may have been told Irish people say, example is Top O the morning or begoraah. These are phrases only used by the above mentioned Leprechauns when talking to each other so don’t use these phrases when talking to real people as it again will only make you look foolish. 

Hint number 3 relates to food. Irish people do not only eat bacon and cabbage, actually it is very rarely on the menu and if it is it’s because the local Leprechaun Mayor is visiting and it is their favorite food. We do eat a lot of potatoes but we also eat pasta, vegetables and menu items from around the globe, the famine was in 1847 not last year! 

Hint number 4 relates to politics, Irish people love nothing better than to talk politics, solve the problems of the world and explain the intricacies of the Irish system and the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland over a few sociable beers. Ireland, North and South are not a war zone so don’t assume they are as again you will be made feel foolish. 

Hint number 5 is all about those wishing to be Irish, this is quite simple. You are NOT, your ancestors may have left these shores but you are either American, English, Australian or wherever you were born. Be proud of your Irish heritage but don’t claim to be Irish, it will get you branded as a plastic paddy or a wannabee and you will again end up looking foolish. 

And the final hint for today, go enjoy Ireland and everything it has to offer, have a pint of Guinness, enjoy the friendly people, the fantastic scenery and if you travel to the west coast, go to the Gealteacht and try same some of the Irish language. And if you get chatting to a friendly Irishman or woman, watch for the sense of humour and sarcasm. 

Slàn agus beannacht 

Where to next? 

Where to next? 

The blog is definitely at a crossroads when it comes to posting regularly. I am trying to post once a week at least but life has become busy and finding time to put together a coherent post that fulfills what my blog is about is becoming more and more difficult. But for now I will continue to endeavour to write a post weekly at least and see how long that can be maintained. It’s hard though as sometimes I do think I am writing these posts with little audience for what I am writing. 

Anyway, I won’t dwell on it and will let the blogs life continue until it reaches its own natural conclusion or finds a new direction. So what has been happening here in the USA. Well as I mentioned, life is busy, working a normal job, doing average day to day stuff, travelling a bit, especially in the coming weeks, and trying to get back onto full fitness for playing 11 a side football. 
This week I will be working full time nearly 3 months and it has really helped me settle into my new life. Work isn’t overly busy but I do get to meet people from all walks of life and chat to them. This alone is great for helping me settle into the American way. 

Back in May I finished with US Immigration, or at least I thought I had, but a mistake in my paperwork means I have to redo some papers as well as biometrics; fingerprints and photograph. I think now in total I will have sat for fingerprints about 5 times but I don’t worry about these things and just got to the appointment and get it done. Hopefully this little process will only take a few months and I will be finished with USCIS till early 2018. I will add that USCIS have been great to deal with so far and even this little mishap won’t change my opinion as the mistake was both theirs and mine. 

Last weekend myself and Leanne spent the time at a family wedding in Pittsburgh. It’s funny to think that only 9 short months ago we were celebrating our own wedding. In 3 weeks we travel to Denver to celebrate Leanne’s sisters wedding and another chance to see all the family. I am a lucky guy as my in laws have been great to me since I first arrived on the scene. Considering my first chat with my new father in law was to ask his permission to propose to Leanne I am doing well. 

Before I sign off I just want to mention a couple of things, on Sept 10th last year I was approved for my Visa to enter the USA and the 12 months since then have been amazing. I am a proud Irishman living here in America with my new wife. All going well, in a few years I will be a proud American too. That leads me to one more thing, Sept 11th 2001 is a day that will live in history forever, this year’s 15th anniversary remembrance ceremonies brought back memories of that fateful day. I was working in the Irish Air Corps when news came through and we were glued to our computers during our lunch as the events of that day unfolded. To everyone affected, to those lost, to those suffering still, to the first responders….. You will never be forgotten. The world will never be the same after that day and we all should strive to make it a better place, be more tolerant and to just learn to get along with respect for each other. 

Till next time….. Slán

Irish American or American Irish? 

Irish American or American Irish? 

Do you ever just wonder about stuff that may not really be that significant?  Oh, so it’s just me then, ah well. There is an advert on TV here for Heineken and it’s a football/soccer advert where football is a person who has come to America and struggled to blend in but has now become an American, and is called soccer. Anyway, this advert got me wondering about all the Irish Americans there are. Over 33 million Americans claim Irish ancestry but here is my little conundrum. Are these not American Irish, rather than Irish American?

You may ask why as if their ancestry goes back to Ireland, then they are Irish first, American second. Well my feeling on it is no they are not, they are American first, Irish or wherever their ancestors came from second, thus the name should be American Irish.

In a few years when I hopefully become a fully fledged US citizen then I can claim to be Irish American, Irish as my country of birth, America as my now country of citizenship. Back home in Ireland you never here from anyone in Ireland saying they are French Irish, or Danish Irish and it is definitely an ‘American’ thing. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it and it was just one of those things that floats into my head, gets wondered about for a while and then gets put away. 

So regardless if you are Irish American, American or Irish, German, Dutch or English, be proud of where you were born, where you live, the flag and anthem of your country and be proud of your heritage and ancestry. Maybe the term American Irish will take off for those born in America but with Irish heritage, and Irish American will be the tern used to describe people like me, those that are Irish born and raised but now live in America. 


   

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.

Just a fun post

So it’s Friday and my wife is off work and we have a weekend together with nothing planned, so a weekend just to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company. We will sit, watch tennis, chat, laugh, watch football and walk the dogs a few times as we spend the weekend together.

Anyway this post has two reasons, one a bit of fun and the other is a bit of irony. The fun bit first. We all see the t-shirt adverts that pop up online every now and then and sometimes they have great little slogans, and I love my t-shirts. So this morning I seen one that actually resonates with this blog.

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Of course I would need a second one saying ‘My story continues in the USA’. My story did start in Ireland and I am proud to be Irish, our story started in the USA and our journey spanned the Atlantic for a number of years before joining up in Atlanta and now continuing here.

On to the more ironic part of this post. Strange the things I work out. Last night while trying to sleep I figured I was close to my longest time without a job/full time college. Well it’s now 215 days, my longest was 218. Of course there was days thst were either by choice or rules stopped me but it’s funny that it is nearly the same now. Hopefully it will stop at 218 this time too or very close to it as I am near to starting employment and helping to contribute to the household and my local economy. Overall 440 days unemployed since I was 16 isn’t to bad in this day and age so I am quite proud of my work record. Now to get back to it and start earning.

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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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Biscuits, cookies, scones, crisps and chips

Biscuits, cookies, scones, crisps and chips

So there are some huge cultural differences between Ireland and the USA, we say things differently and spell certain words differently and there is a huge difference in what is a biscuit and what is a cookie.

So let me explain where I stand on this. A biscuit (Ireland) is a cookie (USA), a scone (Ireland) is a biscuit (USA), a crisp (Ireland) is a chip (USA) and French fries (USA) are chips (Ireland).

A few pictures may help show the differences and similarities and how it can be confusing for an Irishman trying to figure out some of the simple things.

Let’s start with the whole biscuit, cookie, scone scenario.

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Irish Biscuits
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American Cookies
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American Biscuits
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Irish Scones

So does all that make sense now? We may have scones with jam, oh wait, it’s jelly here but would you ever have scones (American Biscuit) with gravy? Well here in Atlanta Biscuits with gravy is quite popular. All as clear as mud but I will move onto crisps, chips and French fries.

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Irish Crisps
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Irish Chips
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French Fries
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American Chips

Now this one is slightly easier due to the French fries and US restaurants making it big in Ireland but the chips v crisps debate is a whole different thing. In Ireland crisps, like Tayto or King are exactly that, crisps. But here in the USA, crisps are called chips. Again due to tortilla chips and dips back in Ireland this one is slightly easier to understand.

Proud to be Irish

Proud to be Irish

Even though I left the country of my birth just a few short months ago and have been slowly acclimatising to life here in the USA, I will never forget my home country or not be proud to be Irish. It defines everything I am and how I do things. We can be a bit mad, have funny ways of saying things (don’t get offended if I swear at you), live up to some stereotypes and be completely at odds with others.

Once again I start a post and start rambling on about stuff. This week, especially tomorrow, is a big week for anyone who is Irish, or claims Irish heritage. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day and the whole world joins the Irish in celebrating our National holiday, the day of our patron saint; St Patrick. Yesterday was Proclamation Day, a day when schools all over Ireland will unveil their own version of the Proclamation for a New Generation. This is all part of the 1916 Centenary Celebrations that are taking place in Ireland over the whole of 2016 but especially over the next few weeks.

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1916 Proclamation

Things like Proclamation Day are a very good idea and as part of it every school in Ireland was given a National Flag and a copy of the 1916 Proclamation to display in their school. One thing I do feel the country, or more specifically got wrong was the timing of the biggest commemoration, which takes place on Easter Sunday. The 1916 Rising did take place over Easter, but Easter that year was on April 23/24th and as such the major commemoration should have taken place that weekend. But governments make decisions that are in their best interest and not in the interest of the people who gave them a job to do. But that is a whole other post/rant. I will post more about 1916 and the 2016 celebrations to commemorate it in a later post closer to the actual date of the Rising, and not the date made up by an inefficient faceless civil servant or politician.

Anyway, back to St Patrick’s Day. As a child growing up in Dublin one of the highlights of the year was going into the city center to view the parade with all its floats, marching bands and other fun things that any child would love. It was also a day where we could have sweets in the middle of Lent and if you go back to my post on Ash Wednesday you will get what I mean. As I got older I was able to take part in many parades as a member of the Scouts, and it was a great honour to march in the parade as a 12 year old. As I got older I have celebrated St Patrick’s Day in various places in the USA and overseas with the Irish Defence Forces. As a member if the Irish Air Corps Pipe Band I have marched in parades in Boston, Newport RI and Savannah.It was while here in Savannah in 2001 I met my future wife, I didnt know that back then and it did take us another 14 years before we finally got together. This will be my first St Patricks Day in the USA since 2004 and my first with my wife since I met her in 2001!

St Patricks Day Festival Parade 2013 (2)
Irish National Flag flanked by the EU Flag at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin

St Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate Ireland and our unique place in the world.Over 33 million Americans claim Irish descent of some sort and there are thousands of recent Irish immigrants into the USA, of which I am one. There are lots of misconceptions about Ireland and St Patrick’s Day but I alluded to them in an earlier post so wont go there again. Just of you are out celebrating our great little country, have fun, be safe and Sláinte from this proud Irishman to everyone in his newly adopted country and to everyone back home in Ireland.

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Irish Shamrock – Wear it with Pride

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh – Happy St Patrick’s Day to You All

Teaching Ireland

Teaching Ireland

Today was a chance for me to repay some of the kindness that has been shown to me since my arrival here last November. I am a very patriotic Irishman and when someone asks me to tell them about Ireland I am only happy to oblige. So when someone asks me to tell kindergarten children about Ireland I am even more happy to help out especially when the person asking is my wife’s friend and her daughter was an excellent flower girl at our wedding.

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So yesterday afternoon I got some stuff ready, pictures I had taken around Ireland to show of some of our beautiful country, some simple Irish phrases I could say to them, some Irish tunes and some facts and figures that they would understand.

This morning I made my way to Shallowford Presbyterian School all ready. Oh did I forget to mention I had an Ireland rugby top on and my Irish kilt as well as a small Irish flag. I am not a shy public speaker but this was different, adults will tell you to slow down if they don’t understand, I wasn’t sure the children would, but I need not have worried, they did tell me and off we went on a journey from Atlanta to Ireland via photos and facts.

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It was a great experience and one I would not hesitate to do again. After we were finished the children told me about their Leprechaun traps that they had made for St Patrick’s Day and I left them a small Irish flag to put in their display. Last but not least there was time for a photo with one class and to give them their final treat, green shamrock shaped cookies.

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I have to thank Maggie for asking to give the talk and to Charlotte for hosting and for all the children who were so interested and asked some great questions about Ireland and being Irish.