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. 

How time flies

How time flies

It is only a short ten months since I got married to my best friend and now partner for life, Leanne. The last months have been filled with some wonderful and happy times as well as a couple of sad occasions. We have had great laughs and adventures, wonderful friends to share our journey with and support from everyone that knows us. 

We are still in the Visa process but it has moved on considerably with me just waiting on a replacement green card and then in less than 2 years we will be able to apply for the K1 visa conditions to be lifted and hopefully soon after I can apply for US citizenship. I will come back to the issue of US citizenship in a later post, maybe in a few weeks or months, but it does lead me nicely on to something that is very much in the news at the moment with the Presidential election coming soon, Immigration. 

As a recent immigrant to the USA, and having done all the paperwork required, and still doing paperwork for another couple of applications to USCIS for various parts of the process, I feel that it’s an issue more about fear and unknown than anything else. I don’t know the exact figures but there are approx 33 million Americans who claim Irish descent, all those Irish emigrated to the USA, some legally, some illegally. Maybe the system of dealing with illegals needs to be fixed, or at least looked at with clear minds, rather than soundbites for votes. That’s just my initial thoughts on the matter and I am not going to go into it much more. 

And now the Presidential election, oh isn’t it exciting, fun and riveting TV……… Now that is sarcasm! Probably two of the worst candidates possible are fighting to become President of the USA, I have my opinion on them both, and it’s not really good. It’s either the devil you know, or the devil you don’t but either way the campaign has given me a great insight into the mindset of some TV commentators and just normal people. 

I manged to watch the first presidential debate but missed the other two because I had much better things to do but being a bit of a news junkie, I did catch the post debate show on TV. And it may be glad I didn’t watch the full debate and I can see why both candidates are so polarizing. 

Anyway, enough politics for now, I am bound to mention it again before November 8th. This weekend I will add another state to my list of places visited since I moved over. We head to Charleston, South Carolina to visit a photographer friend of ours who took the lovely photos of our wedding. It will be nice to catch up and we all have something in common this year that we didn’t last year, all three of us have lost someone we loved, Leanne lost her Grandmother, I lost my Dad and our friend lost her Mum. RIP to all three, and know you were loved and missed by us all. 

Trailing Spouse…..kind of!

This post is the full interview I posted a link to back in March. The interview was done for another blog about Trailing Spouses and my story gave a different aspect to the other stories that the site contains.

The Male Trailing Spouse Series: Billy in Atlanta

Welcome to another post in my series on male trailing spouses. This post is a little different from my others as Billy (who blogs at St Pats to Spartans) isn’t really accompanying his partner so much as joining her. But nevertheless as an Irish expat in the US, he finds himself in a position very familiar to many of us: starting again from scratch with finding work, friends, a routine….all the while his partner’s life carries on more or less as before. Added to this, Billy and his wife Leanne had the extra stress of needing to sort out a visa for Billy before he was able to join her. All in all, I think Billy’s story adds another very interesting dimension to this series.

We got engaged in Ireland and visited Ardagh for some photos together

Thank you for being part of this series Billy. First of all please tell me a little about yourself and your partner.

I am a male trailing spouse from Ireland who came over to the USA on a k1 fiancée visa in December 2015 to marry my wife.

I am from Ireland and I met my partner, Leanne, in 2001 while here visiting Savannah for St Patricks Day. We remained friends for a long time before, in 2014, we had a chat about the possibility of our lives being together rather than an ocean apart. Thing then started to move quite quickly as we arranged visits to both the USA for me and Ireland for Leanne.

It was during my visit to Atlanta in February 2015 that we decided that we wanted to be together and get married. Of course the visa process isn’t for the faint hearted but we got started on the paperwork right away. We filed everything with USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services) in April, got approval at the end of June and visa was in hand mid September for me to be able to travel over to live with Leanne and finalise our wedding plans for December 2015.

My trailing is not for work, it’s not following my spouse to her new role, but it is for love. My wife has a job with Peachtree Orthopaedic Clinic and is well respected in her role there.

As a male trailing spouse, how did you feel when you first arrived in your new country?

I was nervous stepping onto the plane in November 2015, I was leaving my life of 48 years behind, I was leaving my 17-year-old son, my elderly parents and all my friends. I knew Leanne had a broad circle of friends and I had met most of them at least once but now I would be starting all over again.

Leanne met my son pictured left while she was visiting Ireland and he was present when we got engaged

I was a bit apprehensive about finding my own friends rather than my wife’s friends just adopting me. But they have all been so kind and nice and welcomed me with open arms. I am making friends with them all and have started to make contacts outside of my wife’s circle of friends in other things.

I have joined a photography club and in April I will start back playing football, soccer. These activities will allow me to broaden my horizon and meet new people. Friends to me is an important thing, it’s nice to be able to chat to people and not just my pet dogs.

Have you had to give up a job/career and if so how did you feel about this?

Not really a career, I had already retired from a career in the military after 23 years’ service and had a job in Dublin Airport but that is all it was, a job, not a career. But leaving the military put me in a much better place in my life so when we had the chat about being together I was able to make the choice I did.

I am not able to work here in the USA yet as I am awaiting permission from USCIS and that is quite difficult as I have been employed since I was 17. Add in the fact that I am in a new country and that can make it more difficult, but I find things to do during the day and being a house husband for now is a good thing as it is allowing me get used to the cultural differences in the way things are done here in the US rather than Ireland

Wedding photo of the 2 of us outside the courthouse in Decatur after our wedding in Dec 2015

Have you found it easy to fit in and make friends? Have you met other men accompanying their partners or are you a rare species? If you have met others where and how have you met them?

As I said my wife has a broad circle of friends and every one of them has been so nice. A few have offered to join me for lunch just so I can have some company during the day. Again something important when I am only settling into life here is help from others and I am never afraid to take whatever help is offered, even if it is only company walking the dogs.

I do have an Irish neighbour who is also married to an American girl and we have got together to watch a rugby match and it’s good to chat to him. He has lived beside my wife for over 2 years but it was only when I arrived and he seen the Irish flag outside the house did he knock in and say hi. I don’t really know any other trailing spouses locally but I do have 2 military friends who live in Massachusetts with their American partners and they were a great help as I was preparing to move over.

Our wedding rehearsal was done with Leanne wearing her mothers wedding dress and I was wearing a kilt the as i was wearing when I met Leanne

Do you think it is harder for men than women to accompany their partners abroad – and if so, why?

I don’t think in this day and age it is any harder, the problems will be more or less the same, especially if not working. It helps that I didn’t follow my wife to a new job for her. She was already living in Atlanta for nearly 20 years and had a firm base and life here. She plays tennis so there is a circle of friends there, she has a good core group of friends and they socialise a lot together and now we are part of the ‘couples’ group which also helps. The loneliness of being at home all day would the same for either of us and it helps to have a plan of something to do every day.

Have you got any particular stories or incidents to do with being a male TS? Either positive or negative.

I moved for love, we knew each other for 14 years before we finally were able to become a couple in the same country. I am here and starting a whole new chapter in my life, I have to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road, figure out US supermarkets, try not say awesome and figure out sports here too. I wouldn’t change a single thing but if I could it would be that I wish we could have done this a lot sooner on our lives. But it wasn’t to be.

What would you say to another man considering accompanying their partner overseas?

Do it, embrace it, have a vague plan of something to do but overall embrace the whole idea. Don’t be a loner, try find something you like to do and go do it. Support your spouse as much as you can as they too will be having certain difficulties and its only together that those difficulties will be kept minor and not ruin the experience. If you are used to or have a need to be the main bread winner, just park that notion and embrace the new opportunity that being a trailing spouse has offered up to you.

Billy and Leanne with my family in Ireland

What more do you think could be done to help male expat partners?

Don’t really have anything here, but as an Irishman in Atlanta I have reached out to organisations from Ireland based here in Georgia and they are a great help.

Some other stuff: I came over on a K1 visa and we are still in a visa application process. The application process for the K1 can be stressful and we were separated by the ocean so our support for each other was done via phone calls, emails and cards. Patience was key but in the end we got our visa and now we are just started the next step. The next step is ok as we are now together and we can support each other while being together. Why am I adding this in? Well it emphasizes the point of supporting each other, as a trailing spouse its important you support our spouse as they adjust as well as you do. We still have a few more steps in the whole visa, green card and citizenship journey, but we will do them together.

You can view the full series of articles at Male Trailing Spouse

 

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.

xlogo.png.pagespeed.ic.mZaO2dP-fh
Savannah Parade Logo

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

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

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

Billy Instagram (28)
Crossing the Atlantic with Aer Lingus

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

20150212_125520
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.

20150723_130239
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.

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