Saturday, March 19

Taxes? Done!

3. Do 2013 and 2014 taxes

It only took me the better part of a year to get my act together on this. As I may have explained before, although I'm an Australian citizen, the state department makes clear that I still have to file tax returns. From their website:
I have three problems with this.

First is that the 2555 form for foreign income is difficult to complete, hard to convert to US dollars and doesn't work for the IRS free file website. In the past I've paid H&R Block to complete this for me because I wasn't sure what else to do from Australia.

Second is that I never owe anything because the US and Australia have a tax agreement. So I'm paying H&R Block a substantial amount of money to tell the IRS I'm alive, earning money in Australia and don't owe them any money. This just doesn't seem fair.

Third is that Australia taxes fall within a financial year and the US obviously follows calendar years. This, my dear friends, means I have to do my taxes twice in any given year. Can you imagine? 

The only thing that prevents me from moving off the grid and avoiding taxes all together is that Australia has a lovely, simple and easy to use tax system that is, get this, designed by the tax office itself! No TurboTax or H&R Block programs and fees. Just a simple download, you're on your way and it takes less than an hour. It's amazing. [H&R Block and such companies do exist in Australia for the more complex returns.]

I mailed my returns off and hopefully the IRS is like "Oh. Kerry. Ok, she's alive and doesn't owe us any money. Great." I'm not entirely sure how it's going to go with turning in a return late so fingers crossed they're cool with me finally catching up.

Now to just get my 2015 taxes done while I'm in their good books.

Wednesday, February 17

Happy anniversary

Nine years ago I landed in Sydney, terrified out of my wits and uncertain what I'd gotten myself into.

Friday, February 5

Mountain biked

18. Go mountain biking

I finally took a bike out on a few local trails. I started with beginner trails since I know little about proper mountain biking and almost flew over my handle bars a few times due to being trigger happy on my brakes. As in "Oh God, a jump? What am I doing? I'm 30-years-old, have shitty travel insurance and adult responsibilities, this is too much and I'm going entirely too fast! BRAKES."

Despite scaring myself a few times, I managed the trails and thought, as I whipped through a particularly flat and straight section, "I used to love this as a kid. Why did I ever stop? And why don't I do this more often?"

My trail selfie, looking surprisingly serious.

Monday, January 11

Update on 30 before 30

I turned 30 and thought I should provide a general update.

I obviously didn't complete my list before my birthday but always knew this. I started this list in January 2015 and it was always meant to run for most of the calendar year. 

Annnnd if I need some of my goal to run into my 30th year, so be it. It's my list, I do what I want.

Completed goals that aren't worth writing about:
9. Increase my savings by 20%: Did it. Woot.

11. Get blood work checked: Did it. Vitamin D deficient again but otherwise healthy.

17. Attend a social event: Attended many. Nothing noteworthy. I'm an adult and attending social events shouldn't be something I need gold stars for but my inner introvert is genuinely proud of my efforts.

30. Attempt an herb garden: Did it. Photos to follow upon my return to Sydney.

Update on goals:

3. Do 2013 and 2014 taxes - Ok, ok. I know, I need to do this. I'll get onto it. Soon.

4. Get a new tattoo - I thought I knew which tattoo I wanted but now I'm not sure. My personal rule is that I wait a year for this very reason. I'm contemplating two ideas. I'll see how this pans out but am not rushing into this decision lightly.

6. Volunteer - I went to a volunteer fair. I have an idea of what I want to do. I just need to follow through on it.

8. Attempt crocheting - Want to hear something dumb? I signed up for a crocheting course and completely forgot to attend thanks the the previously mentioned Hangover Of My Life in early September. To be followed up.

12. Lose 5lbs - I'm typically not one for "I need to lose weight" but I once read that one average adults gain a pound a year; which isn't much in the year but is a lot over time and I take to heart that if I continue on that path, it wouldn't be good for my overall health. I'll continue to work on this one.

13. Be able to plank for 60 seconds - I'm dreading this and I just need to stop being such a wuss and start working on it every day.

18. Go mountain biking - Just need to find a time and place to get this one done.

24. Attempt kite surfing - This is going to have to wait as I don't tolerate cold ocean water very well.

Changed goals:

21. Go to a chiropractor - I initially wanted to see a chiropractor because my shoulders are wildly uneven but I've read that that's not actually that uncommon so I'm going to stop worrying about that.
New goal: Stretch, be more flexible.

22. Submit to PostSecret for one week - I submitted to PostSecret for a week when I was in college as part of a sociology theory paper which turned out to be a rewarding project. What was rewarding about it, though, wasn't the secrets [one of which was published!]. It was creating that I loved. I loved putting my headphones in, getting a cup of tea or glass of wine and getting lost in the process.
New goal: Create something. Anything.

26. Get a new profile photo - My dear friend Moeko took that photo when I was 22 and I thought I should get something that more accurately reflects my age. But the more I read about facial recognition software, Facebook, Google, Australian Border Patrol and other forms of privacy invasion, I'm quite happy with my ambiguous photo. It has my smile and sunglasses. That's all you really need to know.
New goal:  Attempt a bullet journal. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 16

An update

I'm taking a hiatus from my life.


I'm coming home to Atlanta for a few months.

Officially, I'm on a career break from work and despite how much it drives me nuts, I'm amazed to be given this opportunity.

The past few weeks leading up to this hiatus have felt strange and right now, after finishing work, feels especially strange. Like I'm in limbo between my universes: work and life in Sydney and family and life in Atlanta.

So I'll be home for Christmas. And then some.

Sunday, November 22

27. Become an Australian citizen

I surprised myself by choking back tears at the Oath, knowing that I'm no longer "other", "immigrant", "foreign", restricted by my "status" or generally not welcome. My thoughts turned to the people suffering around the world with no country to call home, no security and no certainty about their futures. I am now blessed with the certainty that no matter what immigration policy the US adopts or changes, my partner and I will always have a place to call home together. My heart breaks for all of those who struggle for the same security and hope that people and politicians can find it in themselves to understand the real people and human lives they impact with their decisions, policies and hateful words filled with fear.

My hair straightened before I got my up-do. I'm not sure I knew it could do this. I figured these were going to be photos I look at for the rest of my life and my hair should at least look nice.
Don't worry, there's no allegiance or Oath to the Queen. She just happens to be head of state and this more-than-lifesize photo of her made me smile. As lovely as she is, as an Australian, I would 100% vote for a Republic. I also didn't realize I had my sunglasses on (thanks Paul) but it wouldn't be a true photo of me without my sunglasses on, right?

When they gave out flags at the ceremony, I don't think they intended for them to be used as straws for sangria. 'Straya mate, keeping it classy.
It was really fucking hot. How fitting.
Paul and I cried and hugged each other tightly. It's been a long road and there is a weight lifted. We have a guarantee that at least one of our countries will accept us.

God Bless America. Advance Australia Fair.

Tuesday, November 17

Dear Governor Deal,

What would Jesus do?

While I'm certainly no Christian or Biblical scholar, I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't turn people away or let them continue to suffer.

And I wouldn't bring this up but I'm fairly certain being a good ol' Christian boy was likely part of your campaign.

I'm real disappointed at all the Bible thumpers who have come out in the last few days with some real un-Christian shit.

I'm not sure what the answer is but I'm certain that compassion and love instead of fear and hate is a good place to start.

Sunday, October 11

10. Read one financial advice book

I put this one off for a long time because, as it turns out, there are a lot of financial advice books and I wasn't sure where to start.

I'm lucky that I paid off my student loans, I don't have credit card debt, I'm not planning on buying a house anytime soon and I don't own a car. From what I understand, that's like 80% of people's money problems that I don't have.

I do, however, need to improve my savings, emergency funds and get serious about retiring in 40ish years.

I read Suze Orman's Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny. I appreciated that she says, straight out, that her book isn't about shaming or blaming. If you have no idea what a Roth IRA is, that's fine, she wasn't there to judge.

I most appreciated her information on retirement planning, wills and trusts. I've checked my credit reports, know my FICO score and am going to start getting more serious about saving money.

The book provided a strong foundation to start, at 30, on serious money matters. Why don't they teach this stuff in high school??

Sunday, September 13

"...We were never in danger of burning out..."

Ok, so this is a wonderful video but it's also a an advertisement for a spa so take it with a grain of salt.

Regardless, my week needed this.

Saturday, September 12

23. Do 30 days of something - Dry August pt 2

I made it through Dry August.

I didn't provide an update last week because I went out on Friday night, drank like July Kerry would have and was hung over until pretty much Monday.

I'm almost 30, hang overs are way worse than they used to be and when you spend a month not drinking, you should take it easy when getting back into the game: lesson learned.

The biggest challenge of Dry August was my weekday ritual of two glasses of wine. When I get home from my bike ride and make dinner, I love a glass of wine while I cook and listen to my latest podcasts. I love it. I'm in my own little universe in that kitchen; it's mindless yet engaging, cleansing and relaxes me. 

I then usually have a glass of wine or beer with dinner because I'm an adult and food and alcohol just go so well together.

It surprised me just how much alcohol plays a part in my social life. On the spectrum of social anxiety, I probably sit low on the scale but I'm happy to self-diagnose that I definitely have some social anxiety about meeting new people, being uncertain if people find me lovely or annoying and whether or not people here want to punch me because of my "loud American accent."

For this reason, alcohol makes a great social lubricant and liquid courage. My anxiety quiets after a few drinks. I have the courage to do a lot of things sober: move to the other side of the world, bungee jump, start a new job in a completely foreign industry, scuba dive, get a tattoo, speak a foreign language. 

Meeting new people? That's terrifying. Hand me a drink. I'm not sorry.

And for all of the above reasons, including waking up with the hangover of my life on September 5th, I think it's healthy to question how much is too much and should I be concerned?

When I told my friends I was doing Dry August, most said something along the lines "But there's no problem with a glass or two of wine?" Alright, I agree, but could you give it up? If there's no problem, then what's the problem with stopping? Would you have a hard time stopping? 

Because, if I'm honest, I'm ashamed to admit I had a hard time stopping.

It wasn't impossible but it did take some changes in my routine and serious self-control.

There are a lot of questions Dry August brought up. Like giving up solid food for two days made me re-examine my relationship with food, giving up alcohol gave me the same opportunity. Why do I enjoy wine so much? After a long week, should I find healthier outlets of coping with stress? Can I stop if I wanted? 

As it turns out, I can.

Full disclosure: while I technically did 30 days of no drinking, this was interrupted by a beer in celebration of a life... This Bud's for you, Pat...