The Mundane

We’re closing in on our third week in Michigan, and that gives me a long list of weird emotions, but life continues on: Squirrels have been appearing in our backyard, and my new best mate Taco is having the time of his life staring at them. I dread the day he exercises his instincts and brings one home for us. I accidentally did the CrossFit Open WOD at my new ‘box’ (how long until I can say that without internally rolling my eyes?). I ripped four callouses in a mere 20 brutal minutes, and met four new people. Can officially tick ‘be social’ off my list of ways to be a better person in Petoskey.

Additionally, with moving here came the delightful opportunity to be unemployed. This is fun, in the sense that I wake up in the morning with no obligation to do anything other than breathe, eat and occasionally clean up, which was the holy grail when at the firm. This is also decidedly not fun, because you can quickly lose purpose, and visas mean I am not exercising the option to not work, I just actually can’t work. Ah well. I have aimed to create purpose by cooking as many new meals as possible, and achieve my mum’s wizard-like ability to not waste a single item of food in the fridge. I’ve also re-jigged our living space and got a dog, giving me the joyful opportunity of taking him out into the truly below freezing 3am temperatures (with guest appearances of snow/rain and if we’re lucky, backup vocals from a howling wind) and fighting over peeing not playing.

Having a puppy has completely confused us. He’s stupid cute, and likes to curl up and nap wherever I have hung my coat for hours. Then out of nowhere he loses his shit and tornadoes his way around the house, tail straight up in the air and attitude oozing from his paws. We are on instant alert the second his nose touches the ground, and have had many scoop and runs to the door, only for the adorable, pugnacious nutbag to have peed his way there and be keen for the reward of an outdoor play. Taco suffers through a bazillion cuddles from both of us, mainly as a trade for treating my feet as chew toys, and prefers to fall asleep with his neck wrapped around the leg of a chair or table. He makes life intolerable and wonderful, and the four days he has been with us are the only four since arriving in the USA that I haven’t cried.

We have faced a particularly tough few days through the family business, which was an unfair (in my eyes), but ultimately, appropriate reality check on what exactly we’d signed up for. I’ve leaned heavily on a patient husband and a fluffy puppy to deal with the payout of that reality, and seen in myself some of the grit we were taught as graduate lawyers.

So really, it doesn’t really matter where you live it, life is full of good bits and bad bits. And a dog always helps.

Welcome home, Taco

So I reckon there are momentous days in life, like getting married, graduating school, landing your first job – and then there’s the day you bring home your first puppy.

We met our little mate after a hairy drive down mud (previously dirt) roads in the rural areas down state. The breeder was freshly moved in to a new life in the country, and had a little litter of one month puppies by the front door, who were a mess of wriggly little faces one moment and a pile of snoozing bodies the next. The future Mr Taco Hoffman was waiting in his crate for us next to his Mum. Once let out I got a big teary cuddle before the Husbo and pupdog became immediate best friends and ran laps up and down the house.

We were given an overload of information, all of which we promptly forgot when we looked at our little pupper. The breeder administered the bortadella shot, we paid up and bundled Taco into the back of the car. After reading comprehensively on the topic, I’d covered the backseat with a towel, and brought along two stuffed toys from Goodwill and a little chew bone. All of them held his attention for a few minutes at a time, between little snoozes and chewing the seatbelt.

Our drive back up north was a decent 3.5 hours, and we stopped multiple times for fear of accidents. We had no near misses, which gave us false confidence for the night ahead. Taco played on some curbsides, scratched furiously at his collar, and bit his lead. We were convinced we had the smartest, bestest, most handsomest dog in the world.

Taco took to his new house perfectly, sniffing everything, biting some lamp cords (ugh) and walking in and out of his crate. He loved his Goodwill toys, and inhaled his dinner. Then he peed on the carpet. We really did our best to encourage him when he went outside, but it is a fair journey to the currently selected pee spot, which also happens to be heavily covered in snow. I remain convinced he is cold and confused, which explains our failed 2.30am pee trip, and this morning’s indoor accident.

On the plus side, he cries himself out quickly and I wasn’t forced to live through the sleeping-next-to-the-crate scenarios I’ve heard others do. Or maybe I just slept straight through it.

Even if he is a little rambunctious, he is too cute for words. He’s napping next to me now and I’ve stared at him for five minutes straight. Little bugger.

Five great things

There are some very hard things about living in a new town / country, and also taking on a very foreign new family business. But that’s obvious. Today I’m focusing on five good/great things about life here in small town USA:

1. I graduated from CrossFit beginners

The town of Petoskey has a pretty nice CrossFit gym. I’ve tried basically every exercise cult there is, except CrossFit, so I’m thrilled to be able to cross this off my life list. And after doing a horrible AMRAP WOD (I can use their lingo already, what of it), I’m allowed out on the floor with the big guns. Next goal: rope climb.

2. Successfully drove myself to, parked at, and attended, a manicure

And, did I mention it was raining AND snowing? Plus, now I look and feel much prettier and ready to face the inevitable stress of puppy parenthood / landscaping / building a house and office.

3. Made a one pot dish off Pinterest

These recipes are the darn best – the convenience of a slow cooker recipe without requiring the advance planning. This particular recipe has the added benefit of being darn delicious.

4. Deer do a nightly walk down our street and it is simply too adorable for words. Tonight there were six of them, and they checked for cars before crossing the road.

5. We got an absolute steal on some great appliances at Habitat for Humanity.

Despite everything, we’re getting a dog

Well folks, we hit our two week anniversary of northern Michiganders (I can’t express how much I dislike that demonym – fun fact of the day, demonym is a word used for the people or inhabitants of a place, and that’s kind of hilarious, because it has the word demon in it). So far, there has been one car accident (not involving me, a shock to all who read my previous post, which basically solely discussed driving), several successful shopping outings, multiple breakdowns, a full furniture reshuffle (that was fun) and multiple evenings spent at the bar. But most importantly, and really what we all want to talk about is THE TITLE OF THIS POST BECAUSE WE ARE GETTING A PUPPY.

Getting our hands on him has been an absolute ordeal, and to be honest, I’m getting far too carried away right now sharing this whole situation because there remains a chance, based on previous correspondence, that we don’t get to cuddle his little face off. But, I do have a picture of him. I’m just saving it until I personally take an even better one, wearing my extremely cool T-shirt that says ‘Dog Mom’. There were no Dog Mum shirts here.

I began hunting for breeders in Michigan back in November, when I should have been billing (oh that wretched way of life I used to lead…), preparing for an ever-imminent move or getting on top of wedding things. My approach to finding our little pupper was just to email the first ten breeders listed in the Google results of ‘golden retriever breeder Michigan’ and see how it went. Many didn’t reply, one wrote back saying I needed to provide a $500 deposit to go on the waitlist, so was CBFd, and one wrote back saying that she was expecting some litters in January, and then later in spring, and would be in touch. By this stage, the reality of my priorities hit home, so I ceased-fire on the puppy search, thinking it could be resolved at a later and more appropriate date, and returned my attentions to moving, wedding and the return of my fiance.

Out of the blue, the last breeder emailed me in December saying puppies were due to be born in January, and did I want to remain on the waitlist. I responded with a resounding ABSO-BLOODY-LUTELY, and requested some information like price, and where on the waitlist we were, and at what age we collect and what vaccinations we should be prepared for. The response I received was a slightly confusing ‘I’ll be in Novi, MI if you are still interested in a pup this Saturday’. I reminded the breeder of our very southernly location, got no reply, and hoped for the best.

My follow-up contact around the due date got the response that all puppers were taken, and I’d have to wait for the next litter expected in February, and to be in touch then. Internally, I was seething as to why I had to be in touch, when the breeder was the one who would know when the pups were actually going to be born. In any case, as soon as we landed in DC, I followed up AGAIN, and received the very perplexing response of ‘I see you emailed at 7am, I will call you later as I’m quite tired from my foot operation and I’m on narcotics’. In case you’ve never experienced such a situation, this is a very difficult email to respond to. When we finally made phone contact, it was the longest, strangest and most not-on-topic discussion, covering off on the purchase of a pole barn, the sale of a home, the strategies of moving, and the requirements of having multiple foot operations. For twenty minutes, all I said was ‘mmhmm’. Then there was the odd news that there was a SECRET LITTER of puppies who were born in December, would be due to go home in February, perfectly suiting our personal time schedule to allow training and the bulk of sleepless nights to occur before spring hits and work begins. We locked it in, I was promised a contract in the mail, required to pay a hefty deposit and we’d be picking up our new baby in February.

Of course, this was not the end. After hearing nothing for a week, I followed up on the contract, only to be told that THERE WERE NO PUPPIES. Or, rather, that there were puppies, freshly born, with no tails. My heart was actually shattered. My carefully selected food and water bowls, with matching bone mat, lead and collar were all dramatically deleted from my Amazon cart. There were tears. There was name-calling. I crafted a very dramatic response commencing with the words ‘This is very disappointing and heartbreaking news’. I spent a sleepless night tragically scrolling through the golden retriever puppy hashtag on instagram, torturing myself as to what could have been. Anyway, in the morning, the breeder called and told me she’d mixed me up with another Emily, that our little baby would be free to be picked up on Tuesday night or Wednesday and we could just bring the cash on pick up.

So there you have it. Two more sleeps until we become pawrents.

Wedding at NYC City Hall

As an Aussie girl, getting married in New York City never even crossed my mind as a possibility, despite watching Bride Wars on repeat throughout my final semester at uni. However, thanks to the various visa complications that arise when you want to marry an American and move to his hometown, it became a (corny) dream come true.

I entered the USA on a K-1 visa, which allows fiancées (and fiancés) of American citizens to enter the USA and get married within 90 days of arrival (a process so entertaining the USA made an entire TV show about it). I was DYING to have a big tacky Vegas wedding (since we’d done the OTT thing back home in Perth), but as my now-husband wisely noted, NYC is probably more our style. Both the State of Nevada and the State of New York easily accommodate a short turn around for a wedding, so it didn’t matter too much for visa and logistical purposes, so NYC it was.

To get married at NYC Office of the City Clerk, you have to register your intent at least twenty four hours before you wed. You can do most of the registration online, then head on down to the Office to get a Marriage Licence. You go through security, show your ID, take a number, wait a little, then head up to a teller window when your number is called to verify all your details and pick up your licence and pay your fee of $35USD. The licence is valid for one month from the date of issue, meaning if you decide not to get married for three months, you’ll need to head down and get a new licence.

Then the waiting game! We got our licence on Wednesday, the day we arrived in the USA, so we could get married on Friday, when my new sister-in-law and her husband could join us and be our witnesses. When getting our licence, the very friendly clerk told us to try come before midday on Friday, since it’s the most popular day to get married, and to avoid, at all costs, coming on Valentines’ Day (which just made me want to come back to NYC on the 14th to tie the knot then!). I had figured since it was about as off-peak season as you can get (early February), and miserably cold (a balmy average of around zero celcius), that we wouldn’t have too much trouble or much of a wait on the Friday, but I was pleasantly surprised. By the time we arrived at about 10.30am (since I had to attend a SoulCycle class that morning), having taken the subway in our wedding clothes, getting multiple wears after our Perth wedding, we joined a surprisingly long line. You don’t actually have to have your ceremony at the Office of the City Clerk once you’ve obtained your marriage licence – much like anywhere else, you can go anywhere as long as you have a registered marriage official there to conduct the wedding. But we figured it would be fun to just continue on with the full-blown City Clerk experience.

I insisted on getting a bouquet from the friendly guy outside the building, who charged around $30 for a little custom bouquet of almost-frozen roses. He was well equipped with other wedding paraphernalia like rings, for the less fussy/organised among us. I wanted a bouquet of red roses with a white ribbon, and he quickly whipped one up, he told some great stories of all the different international couples he’d met through his time set up outside the building. There were also a few professional photographers creeping on the stairs trying to spruik their photography services. I’d initially very desperately wanted a professional photographer to capture the moments, but cooled on the idea once I saw the very understandable price of around $1,000 for a shoot, since we’d already paid for photos for our Aussie wedding. We just got our witnesses to snap some pictures on my camera and on our phones, which more than did the job.

Once inside, there were so many people!! We went through security again, got our number, and joined all the other very happy people waiting to tie the knot that day. It was so joyful! There was the full gamut of outfits, from full-blown wedding gowns and suits, to just casual clothes covered up with winter jackets, big fancy bouquets, and my personal favourite of a totally babin’ white jumpsuit that I just wish I’d found. You first go up to sign your marriage certificate before a clerk with your witnesses and pay $25USD for the ceremony fee, then wait a little while for your number to be called to go to the ceremony room. There are two chapel rooms set up opposite each other, with a little pew or two, and an altar. There is a big group of you waiting, and the officiant will just pop out of the room, and call your names to come into the room. You and your guests hustle in, the ceremony commences with speed and vigour, you exchange your rings (only if you have them), give your I Dos, are pronounced married and kiss! The officiant then signs your marriage certificate and gives it to you, before heading out of the room. It’s over quicker than you can imagine, you snap some pictures, then you’re shuffled out for the next ceremony.

Honestly, if there is a way to just go and join in the commotion as a tourist on a standard Friday in NYC, you definitely should – weddings are already the total best, and being a part of a big crowd of people all going through this life-defining moment was a really unique, happy and wonderful experience. There is a hilarious little photoshoot spot we went to afterwards on the way out from the ceremony rooms, and next to the gift shop (obviously, there is ALWAYS a gift shop), which has nice lighting and has a fake backdrop that looks like the City Hall building. I stickybeaked at other couples have professional photos taken, but I still love our phone snaps! I wanted to go wild at the gift shop, but since we were travelling at absolute maximum capacity on our way from Australia, I limited myself to the magnet which now has pride of place on the fridge.

After the wedding, we parted ways so my official husbo and I could head to the top of the Empire State Building and embrace the views of NYC. It was flipping freezing, so we didn’t spend too long up there, but it felt so great to soak in the city where we got married. We were still in our wedding clothes, and got lots of lovely comments from people in the street.

Like all good weddings, you must have a reception. I continued our theme of being totally extra and had booked high tea at the Plaza in the Palm Court, and it was to DIE for. There is a choice of two high tea menus, the New York and the Broadway options, and Kelly and I accompanied our choices with a glass of Veuve because obviously it was a celebration. Each couple got a tiered serving of their own high tea selection of absolutely decadent savoury and sweets, as well as your own pot of tea. I was dying over the Plaza crockery, the general Palm Court-y-ness of the whole place, and the chocolate hazelnut dessert. Okay, I was dying over the whole thing. It was incredible. And if you do go there, you HAVE to go to the bathrooms. You get to sneak through the main lobby and up the epic Plaza stairs (I swear everyone I walked past was wearing Louboutins), and see the completely unnecessarily pretty toilets.

Despite complaining regularly about how full we all were after the deceptive high tea, we rounded out the full-blown NYC experience by having dinner at the Gramercy Tavern. I mainly drank red wine and cocktails, and picked at a delectable snapper dish, but the general vibe was that the food was excellent, the drinks exquisite, and the New-York-i-ness on point.

In sum, getting married at the Office of the City Clerk, even in February, even with just four of you, and even if you just are not from NYC even remotely, is the funnest, coolest, best and most awesome experience, and bonus – your marriage certificate will always say you were married in the State of New York. Five stars for life experience. And extra bonus, mum and dad got me the Smeg toaster I was desperate for as an NYC wedding present, and now my toaster and my kettle match. Getting a husband I love with my whole heart is pretty good, but matching OTT kitchen appliances is pretty darn excellent.

Michigan Firsts

Every day (all seven of them so far) I’ve had to remind myself that I have lived in this Great Lake State before. However, my experience as a primarily ridiculous college exchange student bares almost zero resemblance to this new life as an unemployed trophy wife living in the far north of the state in a town where five cars on the road is considered heavy traffic. While life in the USA is ostensibly the same as Australia – western lifestyle, English-speaking, same TV shows – the little differences crop up fast, and have wreaked some havoc on my sanity.

Let’s begin this riveting rundown of my emotional journey in Michigan with car firsts. In this first week, I first and most importantly had to remove about 10cm of snow and layers of ice from my lovely new Honda Pilot, which I’ve fondly nicknamed the Tank. Before I undertook that chilling process I had to turn the car on first, so that I didn’t just go from the balmy outside temperature of 14 celcius to an inside temperature of 2 celcius, but instead get to enjoy the sensation of a toasty butt from my seat warmers. Now I mostly remember to turn the car on after doing a casual lap around the Tank to get to the driver’s side, prior to de-icing, and I feel like a boss with a warm butt.

Very impressively (might I say), I have driven, on the wrong side of the road, while literal snowflakes fell from the sky. My first solo trip was a grocery run to Meijer, a mighty six minute drive from our door (not including mental and physical preparation for leaving the house in single-digit-fahrenheit weather). I successfully turned on the car BEFORE I de-snowed the front windshield, conquered my long-lefts and short-rights, I looked every direction, I skidded not once! on the ice, and I even parked mostly in a car bay. The whole experience was more thrilling than the one time I went on a roller coaster, as I navigated like a bloody legend on the extra wide northern Michigan streets amongst fellow mega-car drivers and demon-sized snow drifts.

Other relevant car firsts include reversing into the snowbank on our driveway, remembering to walk to the correct side of the car first go, handling a four-way stop without a meltdown, and purposely not going inside because the seat-warmer was too toasty.

The aforementioned trip to Meijer involved some serious food firsts upon walking through the door. I had a nice list all written up, and it took me over 90 minutes to find twenty items, most of which were vegetables. Where the eff Americans store hummus in their oversized stores I cannot tell you, but I can tell you that I found every conceivable cereal that could ever be created, and spent 15 minutes trying to get out of the freezer section, where I became convinced that Americans are afraid if they don’t freeze all of their food first it might run away.

There was a very distressing moment in the beans aisle where I could not find chickpeas, and ended up buying them in the foreign foods section next to the tahini at the extremely unnecessary price of $2.50/can. Honestly. It’s a bloody bean. I was so outraged at the price that I turned to Amazon Prime when I got home to stock up, only to find out that in the land of the free, chickpeas are called garbanzo beans, a fact which was only a mere google away the entire time. This made me very embarrassed about my extreme cryfest that occurred in the car on the drive home.

However, there are some redeeming factors! As an obsessive bargain-hunter, I’ve always been fascinated by the extreme coupon world, and can finally partake in the US-only cashback app world. I armed myself with the various apps all the cool kids are using, and had the thrilling experience of making back $1.25 on my $77 spend. I’ve been assured that coupons can ‘stack’ and some savvy multi-coupon activity can result in even more dollaz back in your pocket. The only downside, in my humble opinion, is you only get the good cashback if you buy extraordinarily unhealthy and overpackaged brand-label food that you wouldn’t want to eat too often anyway. Anyway, I have my $1.25 and nobody is taking that away from me. Lastly, there are caramel M&Ms for purchase, and there’s really not much more that needs to be said on that.

All this takes me to life firsts. I had my first almost painful meltdown after a relatively simple phone call to the post office gone wrong. The rhymes-with-witch on the end of the phone flat out refused to understand that I was saying the word ‘photo’, so I hung up on her and cried in the shower for 15 minutes. After that, I did the mature thing, got back on the horse and called one of the pharmacy stores in town, which had an autobot that also refused to understand that I was saying the word ‘photo’. The husbo copped a beating (he had a cushion to protect him) as I let out a lot of frustration of not being understood.

But, I did have my first day watching the husbo run our new business, which was really awesome. I saw my first construction project taking place as the snow literally fell around us, and the poor buggers were hammering in nails to the roof trusses. We painted in the freezing cold. I went to my first Habitat for Humanity store, which was super fun, and also for such a great cause. I made my first loaf of bread in our amazing breadmaker, and lost my first scrabble game to the husbo, which is blamed heavily on the wine. I also snuck up the thermostat to the 70s, but let’s not bring that up.

Hopefully next report is more firsts and fewer meltdowns. Until then.

Arrival Day(s)

Well I’m pleased to say we are officially in New York City, and that I have officially forgotten how to survive the insidious monster that is cold weather.

Our farewell tour of home ended on 30 January. I’d said tearful goodbyes to my brother and his girlfriend the night before, smothered the dog with emotion all morning, and sobbed my way through parental hugs at the rainbow lit departure gate. So many people I know have left home, and somehow seem to have kept themselves resembling an adult through the more painful parts of the leaving process. Not I! I cried big heaving sobs during each farewell. And once on the other side of the gate, I continued to spontaneously sob at inconvenient moments throughout the queue to customs, security screening, take off, clearing US customs (as usual I’d been identified as requiring additional screening so had to sit alone in a separate room, imagining all the reasons the Scary Customs People would find to turn me right around and ship me back to Australia, which at that moment seemed pretty okay), when the Immigration Official said ‘congratulations miss and enjoy your wedding’, when I saw the golden retriever shaped pillow I’d begged my fiancé to carry for me in his backpack, holding said pillow on descent into NYC like the grown woman I am, and in the Uber on the way to the hotel. You could say I handled the experience well. And rationally, one of the primary causes of my upsettedness was that it was going to be a long long time before a familiar Australian with fake perky retail voice would serve me a flat white. I don’t know. Moving countries does weird things to your mind.

First order of business after crying my eyes out was to head to the Office of the County Clerk to get our marriage license, with a lunch detour past Eataly for pasta and courage-inducing Nutella crepes. I whinged the entire walk about the fact I was cold and couldn’t hear, so it was surprising that we did still register to get married. I truly had forgotten the stinging cold of a minus seven day – the way the cold burrows through every piece of clothing and leeches out every bit of warmth you had tucked away. I glared at every person walking past me in the midst of apparently gleeful conversation, unaffected by this demon chill. Then I was reminded that there isn’t even snow here – our final destination in Michigan remains blanketed with the stuff. Can’t wait!

Registering your marriage licence is pretty cool in NYC. On our way in, we’d glimpsed a few frocked up couples who’d completed the ceremony and looked pretty chuffed. We took a number, and a super happy office clerk assisted us in completing our affidavit and warned us to get here early on a Friday. And that was that.

Knowing he’d now signed the affidavit and legally binding marriage was imminent, Clark took me immediately to Lululemon to buy me a hat and to shut me up. It worked. I was much warmer and happier upon spending unnecessary money on a hat with a pompom, we took an Uber back to our hotel and I slept for two hours. And so goes my first day as ostensibly an American. Next goal: get through a day without commenting on the cold. Have hot chocolate at City Bakery. Buy false eyelashes. I guess they’re right when they say you take yourself everywhere you go.