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Help, Hugs and a Car

Visiting Marie and Johnny 3My husband Brent, Johnny O’Halloran holding their beautiful son Lorcan, Marie O’Halloran, and me, with a cameo appearance by Roxy, the contest-winning dog who is responsible for this friendship! (Story here, if you missed it) at the O’Halloran’s home in Munster, Ireland

Visiting Marie and Johnny 1I love the candid moments… here we are getting ready to take the group photo. I don’t know what Marie and I are trying to do here.

Visiting Marie and Johnny 2The four of us were chatting pretty much non-stop. The time flew and it was hard to stop to take a picture – it was even harder to wrap up the visit and go home.

We had a ball visiting Johnny, Marie, and Lorcan. It was our first time seeing Lorcan and it was all I could do not to rush over to him and squeeze him! I waited until he was warmed up to me – which was right away! Then I swooped him up. He is an adorable and happy little boy who stole our hearts.

A baby in the house, tea and pie served, stories about faerie rings, serious heart-to-heart talks as well as silliness- and plenty of hugs – it was a wonderful first visit in the O’Halloran’s home.

But… it wasn’t a “just for fun” visit. Marie and Johnny were helping us shop for a car. This was all part of our settling in experience. It was one.more.thing to add to a long list of stressful things. We couldn’t keep renting a temporary car. It was too expensive, for starters. We’d quickly go broke. Beyond that, renting means a lack of commitment. As scary as it was, we needed to buy a car.

The first step was to find a car that we liked. Marie offered to help us find a car, and to help us negotiate a fair price. We took her up on this offer and shopped for cars in her neck of the woods. Marie and Johnny live about forty-five minutes’ drive from our house. Given all of the driving and commuting Brent did in the States, this is a relatively small distance between us. I love that we live close to our dear friends! We were grateful for their help in making such a nerve-wracking decision.

Fortunately, I had laser focus that day. I’d prayed for God to give us a car. Sure, I didn’t expect the car to be literally given to us, but I fully expected that a car would show itself to us – that it would be clear which one was ours. That happened. We were looking for a “7 seater”, which is a small version of a typical mini-van, but sportier and classier. I love it! It is large enough to fit our adult-sized family of five, plus there’s a bit of room for hauling books and art to events. Perfect! Grocery bags are a breeze too.

It’s odd how Nicholas has to get into the car. Folding down one of the seats in the middle row (where the girls sit) is awkward and frustrating so I suggested that he hop into the back. It works! He opens the “boot” (trunk) door and climbs into his seat in the back (we keep the second back seat permanently folded down). Of course he could sit in the middle row of three seats, thigh-to-thigh with his sisters. Ha! Anyway, the 7-seater is AWESOME! But… getting the car was not awesome.

Brent doesn’t have a job here yet and I’m on an author/artist income that’s largely inconsistent–banks don’t like that. In addition, we’d only been in the country for a few weeks. It was a humbling experience to go to my new Irish bank and beg for a loan. I dressed up and gave my best speech, but we were denied.

So, we approached our bank in the U.S. After all, we’d had three consecutive successful home mortgages that made the bank a lot of money in interest over the past twenty years. Surely they’d loan us the money. No, no, they would not. Apparently our wonderful history with them meant very little. The only way they’d loan us the money is via a secured personal loan that would freeze what was left of the money we’d saved to live on while Brent is unemployed. Oh, and also, they required a co-signer.

I won’t get into the specifics of what all of this meant, and how incredibly frustrating it was, or what was involved with the baggage of the co-signer. I’ll have to leave that here. To put it simply: we had to make difficult unwanted decisions.

It was taxing logistics wise too. Why oh why in the year 2016 did we need to send actual hard-copies for a relatively small loan? We had to ship papers express to the United States from Ireland. Later, when all of this was done, we had to pay $75 for a wire transfer to get the funds to our account. The only saving grace in all of this is that the person who serviced our loan is someone who knew us, and she was very helpful.

I could go on with this, but I think you get the picture. Buying a car was terribly stressful and it meant freezing our savings. Life was suddenly a whole lot harder!

But in the end, we had our car. Our salesperson at the dealership was absolutely wonderful! He had offered to hold the car for us (with a deposit) for as long as we needed. It ended up being about three weeks of back and forth before we could pick up the car. Through it all, he was bright and friendly. He even offered to help us make networking connections for our daughter. We knew we were true friends though when he left us a note on the gas cap “for the Yank”, reminding Brent to use diesel instead of petrol .  🙂

Well, from what I’ve said here, you can probably imagine how tightly wound Brent and I have been. The car is only one issue of many that we’ve been dealing with. It felt so good to be with friends! Having Johnny and Marie with us at the dealership made all the difference. And then, when we picked up the car, it was Johnny who drove us from the rental drop off (Cork airport) to the dealership. We needed help from friends, and we got it.

I’ll forever remember how hard it was to be new in this country, and how humbling it was to be rejected for a simple loan. We were afraid when we realized that it wouldn’t be easy to get a car. The anxiety continued when we couldn’t find anyone who would insure us.

In the end, it all fell into place, even if it didn’t happen the way that we wanted it to. We got the car, apple pie with our Irish friends, and a hug from a baby. Life is grand!

New Car in IrelandOur first car in Ireland! 2013 Citroen Picasso, silver, 7-seater