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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Patience and Process

Well this blog is about my journey to the USA and one of the most important aspects of the journey was the Visa process. Once we decided to become engaged and get married we knew it was going to involve a visa application so I could come and become a legal permanent resident of the USA, so in April 2015 we submitted our paperwork for a K1 Visa, more commonly known as a Fiancée Visa.

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Mailing the package is just one step in a journey that would ultimately end with me travelling to the USA in November 2015 and marrying my sweetheart in December 2015.  In this post I will try explain the process and the nervous moments, the patience required and the elation/relief that approval brought.

The K1 visa process isn’t for the light hearted, the amount of paperwork we had to fill in, evidence of bona fide relationship and waiting, was draining on our patience and emotions. But as a couple we supported each other and remained patient and confident we would be successful and be able to follow our dream of being together.

We were running out of patience when we caught a break in late June 2015 after what seemed like forever. A phone call from a friend and suddenly instead of not knowing and waiting we were approved. Another small step taken. The fact the approval notice came into our phones at late in the evening US time, and very early in the morning Irish time as I was on the phone to Leanne on my way to work made the moment more special.

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Next step was to wait for the paperwork to make it to Dublin via the National Visa Center and arrange a medical and interview at the embassy. As we had approval to arrange the next step and Leanne’s visit to Ireland was upcoming we were both very happy. It was early August when I had my medical and early September when I attended the US embassy in Dublin for interview.

Before the interview I had to make sure our now very big file was all present and correct, tax documents, birth certs, discharge papers from military and lots more relationship evidence. Attending the interview was nerve wrecking, everything we had dreamt about and hoped for relied on this. The worry was for nothing as after a brief interview the consulate official said the words I wanted to hear, your K1 is granted and approved, best of luck. Even now I get goosebumps just thinking of that moment.

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I couldn’t wait to ring Leanne, but I had to wait to collect my phone from security, more waiting. As I said, patience is really needed in this process. It took about ten days for the visa to actually arrive but our waiting was over for now. I packed up my house, got everything ready and on November 5th 2015 I moved to the USA.

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On December 20th 2015 at the Old Courthouse in Decatur we got married and our dream had come true. We got to relax for a few weeks before the next file of paperwork had to be submitted to the kind people at USCIS. We are now in a new process that will take a few more months, but at least now we are together and can support each other side by side as we wait again.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

It’s Friday!

No matter where you are in the world, driving at rush hour on a Friday is never really a fun thing to do. But today, after a lovely day spent with my wife, we are on our way to a party and the Atlanta city skyline served up a treat with the setting sun behind it.

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Today also marks my 3 months in the USA. It has been fun and eventful. Learning the way things are done here, getting married, driving and everything else that makes up my new life here.

But let’s take a small step back in time to November 5th 2015,  the day I left Ireland, my home country for all of my life. Leaving was hard, to leave friends, family, especially my son and parents behind was difficult. I knew what awaited me here in the USA was love and a wonderful woman who would be my wife shortly after my arrival. As I went through Dublin Airport, saying farewell to friends who had come out to say goodbye as well as to former work colleagues in the airport, it was hard to hold it together. My emotions were all over the place but once on board, and knowing Lassie, my border collie, was on board and ok too, it was time to relax and enjoy the 10 hour flight to Orlando and where Leanne would be waiting to collect me.

So ten hours later, and just as I collected Lassie, the girl I had fallen in love with and would soon marry, arrived and met me in the baggage hall of Orlando Airport. We were finally together and I was delighted to be with her.

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The visa process had been somewhat challenging, and I will go into that more later on as I progress with blog, but now we were able to put that part of our journey away for a couple of months and enjoy being together, and get ready for our wedding in December!

Welcome to St Pats to Spartans

Welcome to St Pats to Spartans

This site will become my journal. But before I begin I must fill in some back ground. Why the title?…..well I am 48 and from Inchicore in Dublin, Ireland and St Patrick’s Athletic FC were and still are my team. In November 2015 I moved to Decatur, GA to move in with and marry my sweetheart, Leanne, who hails from Michigan. She attended Michigan State, hence the Spartans are now my team here in the USA. St Pats to Spartans.

This blog will chart our journey from when we met in 2001 to the present day as well as our future together as we enjoy our lives and any challenges it brings from my perspective.

Photo courtesy of http://www.zedzay.com  Gretchen Dzedzej10So who are we? Well I am Billy and I will be your writer and guide throughout this blog. As I have said, I am 48 and born and bred in Dublin, Ireland and have recently moved to the USA to be with Leanne. She is a Michigan born girl who moved to Atlanta a number of years ago. The blog will go through how we met, kept in touch and will bring you on our journey to our wedding and onward as we embark on our life together.

But the blog will also chart my new life in America as I embark on a whole new chapter, from learning to navigate my way through supermarkets, paperwork, re learning to drive, getting set up with a job and learning a whole new culture and way of doing things.

So please join me and us on this, Our Journey Together and America though the eyes of an Irishman

Follow on Twitter @PatstoSpartans