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.

St Patrick’s Day 2017

St Patrick’s Day 2017

So tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day and as I will be working till the afternoon the celebrations back in Ireland will be nearly over by the time I get to have a few beers and celebrate our national day. 

It’s funny though, I have been living g in the USA now for 16 months, and this will be my second St Patrick’s Day as a resident in the USA and I still haven’t gone to a St Patrick’s Day parade. Before I moved here I had attended and taken part in a good few parades over the years since my first one in Newport, RI back in 2000. I have taken part in parades in Worcester, South Boston, Savannah, Tybee Island, and Newport. I was in the Savannah, Worcester and Newport parades twice. 

Tomorrow is a day to celebrate being Irish, or being of Irish heritage. I am proud to be Irish, it definitely defines who I am and how I handle things. Being from Ireland and now living in Atlanta is a huge change, it’s not like Boston, New York or Chicago where there arw huge Irish communities. The Atlanta Irish community is quite small in comparison but us Irish always find one another. My next door neighbor is from Kildare and one day in the local supermarket a guy from Dundalk said Hi as he recognized my St Patrick’s Athletic jersey. 

I am looking forward to heading into MacMcGees in Decatur after work tomorrow with Leanne and celebrating everything about Ireland and home. 

Be safe, have fun and Happy St Patrick’s Day. 

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit

Onwards and Upwards…… with a little sideways shift 

Onwards and Upwards…… with a little sideways shift 

Before I start, the last 2 weeks have been the most challenging and tiring I have encountered in a long time. I have learned to handle stress and disappointment and here I am back in Atlanta after missing out on advancing in my training to be an auto damage adjuster by just a few percentage points. But it wasn’t to be and now it’s time to dust myself off and get back to doing something I did enjoy, working with Hennessy Ford. 

Don’t get me wrong, the 2 weeks down at the Auto Damage Adjusting school in Macon were fantastic, the staff excellent and my classmates a pleasure to meet and study with. But it was just to much info in such a short space of time. And if this is the only disappointment I encounter for another few years I will be in a good spot. 

So a small sideways move back to my old job at Hennessy and driving new cars for a living and working with another lovely bunch of people. Is this where my career is meant to be? maybe or maybe not but let’s see what the next few months bring. 

And now on another subject altogether; Ireland, Irishness and St Patrick’s Day. I have encountered and covered this topic more than once, the Irish American, American Irish question and St Patty day and I am not going to get into it again. I posted the following on a Irish Around the World FB page earlier today, and it doesn’t mention any of the above questions and even though I have covered them in this blog before, they are not life or death topics, they are light hearted subjects and if anyone takes offense, well then maybe they aren’t Irish at all 🙂 This is what I posted and it was a kind of intro to me and who I am 

 I was born and bred in Dublin, living there for 48 years of my near 50 years of life, emigrating to the USA in 2015 to marry my best friend, partner and now wife. I literally packed my whole life into 2 suitcases and a dog crate for my border collie. It was the best decision I ever made. There are times I miss home, find myself looking at all my old photos of Ireland and just searching the web for ‘Irish’ stuff. In this little jar (photo below) is my little piece of home. It contains sand from beaches in Mayo, Galway, Dublin and Wexford. Pebbles and shells come from those same beaches as well as some from the banks of the Shannon and one from my old house in Inchicore. Home is where the heart is and mine is now Decatur, outside Atlanta, Georgia but Ireland will always be the land of my birth and make up who I am. I am a proud Irishman learning to live life in America.

In saying all that, I have no issue with anyone saying they are Irish American or American Irish, but please don’t say St Patty’s Day, or I will start referring to July 4th as Wednesday (or whatever day it falls on). 

Have a great day, week and month and March is Irish Heritage Month, so be proud and make Ireland proud of its heritage, it’s emigrants and you. 

Slán agus árd mór

Billy

November 19th 2009!

November 19th 2009!

So over the last year I have had lots of firsts in my new life here in the USA. But there is one day in my past that if it hadn’t had happened my new life here would never have been able to take place. I am talking about the day my divorce got signed off and finalised.

I am no stranger to long drawn out processes because my divorce took over 5 years to finalise from the time we started the process to that day in November, 2009. I am in the middle of another process that can take up to 4, or maybe 5 years to complete. My USA visa/citizenship process has already taken nearly 18 months and the process isn’t quite half way through yet. 

But back to my divorce, I think I have mentioned in a previous post, that my first marriage in Ireland ended in the early 2000’s but in Ireland divorce isn’t easy or quick unless you have lots of money to bypass the system. So after 5 long years, a drawn out and a needlessly expensive process, the divorce was finalised but the process will continue to have an effect on things I do for another 4 or so years due to arrangements enforced within the divorce agreement. Funny title that, divorce agreement. It was more a judge made a decision which I had really no choice but to accept. 

I went through some very low times during the 5 years it took to get the divorce final and it was only because of support of family and friends that I came out stronger and better on the far side. It’s an emotional Rollercoaster, a financial black hole and just not a nice process. 

But things are so much better now. I am happily married to the most wonderful woman in the world. I learnt some great lessons from the whole divorce, first marriage and the journey I took over the years from the early 2000’s to now. Thst journey has definitely made me a better and more rounded person even if at the time I didn’t recognise it. So really what doesn’t break you, really does make you stronger. And not only that, but it has made me happier. 

There is another anniversary this weekend, on November 20th 1987, yes 29 years ago, I entered Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin and signed on the dotted line to begin my 23 year career in the Irish Defence Forces. So these 2 dates in November will always hold a special significance for me and both for reasons that helped shape who I am today. 

Weekend in Blue Ridge 

Weekend in Blue Ridge 

This past weekend was spent by the lake up in Blue Ridge with a fantastic group of people who I am lucky enough to now call my friends. Leanne, Robert and myself headed towards Blue Ridge last Friday after work and a 2 hour trip took us just over 3.5hrs due to Friday traffic and roadworks around the new Atlanta Braves Stadium. But the roadworks and Braves Stadium is a story for another day.

The weekend was filled with good food, good company with lots of laughs, time on the lake, late nights and lazy mornings. Any weekend that includes 9 children and 11 adults that has zero drama is always going be a good weekend.

Below is a gallery of images from the weekend including some on the lake as the kids had fun, some as I got to watch the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway depart and some scenery shots I took and over edited for some dramatic effect.

Gallery of Images from weekend

 

 

 

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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Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend

This coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend and I will be joining my wife and her/our friends on a beach trip to Santa Rosa beach in Florida. This weekend marks the official start of the summer vacation period and it is bookended by Labor Day at the end of the summer.

But Memorial Day has a very serious reason for being in existence, it is to remember members of the armed forces who gave their lives in service to their country. Not to be mixed up with Veterans Day (Nov 11th) which is for all living veterans of the armed forces.

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Military Veterans Grave in Decatur, GA

As usual for me when something new comes up I have to do a small bit of research. And it’s funny the things you find out, Memorial Day was founded after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Considering I now live in Decatur, GA, it’s a strange one that Memorial day has its origins in another Decatur!

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Memorial Stone in Decatur Cemetery
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Plaque on Memorial Stone

Being a former member of the Irish Defence Forces I can appreciate Memorial Day and it is something that we back in Ireland are really only to start recognize as a nation. The Defence Forces always had commemorations for fallen comrades and I was lucky in my role as photographer to have a front row view of those ceremonies every year. A few years ago a new monument was erected in Dublin to remember all members of the Irish Defence Forces who had died, both at home and abroad.

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Irish Defence Forces Memorial Monument

As this weekend I will be away in Florida the blog will be taking a little break as well but I will be back with a post or two next week. Also keep an eye out for a podcast on http://www.trailblazers.irish featuring myself and the story behind stpatstospartans.irish and the story of me in America.

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.