Front yard wonders

We finally bit the bullet and paid for someone to trim our trees today. We had some ridiculously high quotes, despite thinking that Texas would have cheaper labor. I’m glad we waited. Two days after we cancelled one of those high quotes, another tree company bid less for ALL our trees than the last guy bid for ONE tree. Wow.

I know what you are thinking if you happen to be a certified arborist: this company clearly wasn’t certified. Well, we’re thrilled with the job. We were both away from the house when the crew started, but when Laura got home they were strapped up in the trees getting really involved. They fully treated every cut and were able to raise the canopy in the front tree enough that we can actually see the house from the street. The back yard trees did provide a lot of shade before, and now the sun shines right through. I suppose it’s a small sacrifice to make. I think women have some phrase for this sort of thing…

Here is a picture of the front. Unfortunately, the facade still looks pretty worn…now more than ever we need to get the trim painted and landscaping done. Hopefully we’ll get some mulch and plantings this weekend.

Job update

Hey all,

Just wanted to let you know that I didn’t get the job we were telling you about. They went with a candidate having more field experience, which isn’t terribly surprising (who wants an academic messing with business?).  They did stress that I fared very well in the interviews, and they were quite impressed with me.  They may ask me back to discuss other opportunities with their company. We’ll see where this goes!

Andrew’s new toy

Well, as some of you know, I love to read (Laura, not so much). So much so, I’ve often gotten into trouble with Laura by bringing up the fact that my dream house would include a 2-story library. You’ve seen them in the movies – walls filled floor to ceiling with books, and a ladder on wheels that spins around the room. Oh, and of course a secret passageway or two! It makes Laura gag just thinking about all the “clutter” that books allegedly bring.

So, for my birthday/graduation this year (ok, a little early on the graduation – that’s hopefully happening soon), Laura authorized me to go ahead and get myself a Kindle by Amazon. We did a little comparison shopping with the Barnes & Noble nook, but it just wasn’t quite what I wanted. Plus, I had $100 in Amazon gift certificates to spend on books! I have been downloading and reading like crazy! It has made my habit of reading multiple books at once a little worse – now I can flip from one book to another with a couple keystrokes. It drives me crazy to start a book without finishing another, yet I can’t help my ADD self.  I received it on Tuesday, and I’ve already finished one book and started three more! Meanwhile, my poor paperback “Atlas Shrugged” (which I’ve been reading since October thanks to its 1000+ page length) is hanging in there on the side table, about 80% read, until the Kindle novelty wears out!

Word to the wise: if you can’t think of a gift idea for me, Amazon sells gift certificates in many denominations!!

All done!

Today, we wrote a check for the final payment on Andrew’s car! In a couple weeks we will have the title, and will own both our cars 100%!! It will be a good chance to start fresh. Since getting married and discussing finances, we agree that we’d like to get into minimal debt, and pay as much as possible with cash. Hopefully we can set aside enough money each month that by the time we need to replace one car, we’ll have the money for one. We have also learned that it makes a lot more sense financially to buy a lightly-used car. Andrew’s car was purchased new, and while it has been a good car and has plenty more miles to go, we could save a big chunk of money on the same car a couple years later, or buy a much nicer 2-year old car for the same amount. At least we haven’t made any major mistakes in our learning process!

Interviewing…

I’m happy to say that I survived my first (phone) interview ever! It was intense…I freak out about my semester group meeting (which should be pretty low-stress), so naturally I was going to experience plenty of anxiety. The search committee (6 total) were about 15 minutes late when they called, but they launched right into a series of 8 questions probing my understanding, interest, and suitability for the community college environment. I had interesting, complete answers for each. There are 7 candidates that they interviewed, and they will be inviting the finalists to campus for half-day interviews including a mock teaching session. I have no idea where I stand, but the fact that I got to this stage is very encouraging. I should hear within 2 weeks about their next decisions. Thanks for your prayers and support!

Writer’s block…

Today I “officially” began writing my doctoral dissertation. I say “officially” because, the way our program is set up, I have technically been writing material for my dissertation all along. The purpose of a Ph.D. program in chemistry, at least in my adviser’s eyes, is to demonstrate that one is an independent scientist through the writing and publishing of successful research. Each peer-reviewed journal article is essentially considered the material for a chapter in a final dissertation. I have one article currently, and I am writing a second one as we speak. Hopefully, I will finish enough research to complete and submit a third article sometime this spring.

So, a lot of the work in writing a dissertation is spread out over my graduate career. It certainly helps eliminate a little writer’s block. Yet, even as I was writing a few pages of introduction material, I just got stumped over and over. My solution: ellipses… whenever I don’t know what to write…

It’s helping me out quite a bit now, but come April, May, June, I will probably find myself scrambling to fill in those ellipses. Feel free to comment with any suggestions to alleviate writer’s block!

Gifted hands

If you’re looking for a family-friendly flick, check this one out. Laura and I were looking for a movie to watch on our “day off” so we hit up the Redbox at County Market. Being a sucker for true stories and chick flicks, Laura decided between a movie with Cuba Gooding Jr (Gifted Hands) and Bride Wars. I’m a sucker for true stories too…um yeah… So we went with Gifted Hands. It was a surprising hit, especially after our Revolutionary Road disaster. In short, a disadvantaged boy overcomes odds to become a world-renowned doctor. It gets a Campbell household 3 thumbs up (my other thumb is supporting my pointer finger while I type this on my phone since our wireless Internet is acting up!

Ode to Laura

Today marks a momentous occasion…the 24th anniversary of Laura’s birth. It was a cold October afternoon at Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Illinois, when Laura entered the world. Her family had no idea what they were in for. Years of joy, years of laughter, and several “outbursts” I can’t fully describe in words. There are so many things I have to rely on family, friends, and home movies to understand, but for the past two years I have been learning about this remarkable woman who is now my wife. I know a little bit. Laura loves chocolate, autumn, the color orange (although yellow and grey are a popular fad now), and words of affirmation. She also loves encouraging people and telling them how much she loves them. Laura has a gift for teaching people, not just children. She is passionate about building a life focused on God and his plans, not just what makes us happy. These are a few of the reasons why I love her, and why I chose to spend the rest of my life with her. I can’t really say that Laura changed my life: she is changing it day by day. Well, more accurately I think, we are creating a new life together that is radically different than anything we would have done alone. Happy birthday sweetheart!

Success!

In the past year, my discussions of research have usually been negative. Well, this week turned a new leaf! I was able to replicate the data collected by my colleague two years ago, which he said even he had trouble collecting. Not only that, but I think I am on to an interesting new discovery (we’ll find out tomorrow I hope!)

Also, Laura and I are both still on the losing streak…not as much as last time: she’s down 7 pounds and I’m down 12 so far. It’s fun to experience success on multiple levels at the same time!

Make your money work for you!

Laura and I are in an interesting, pre-“real world” state for the next year. Being in grad school has been equated to making an investment in education which is expected to return big dividends in the future (according to one website, a Ph.D. earns $2.2 million more over a lifetime than one with a high school diploma, and $1.3 million more than one with a bachelor’s degree). One attitude that we’re practicing right now is to be comfortable living below our means. That’s incredibly difficult when your income barely covers rent, insurance, and food; is it too much to ask for a night out to dinner here or there? But, we’re taking this as a good experience for when we have a larger income (hopefully a year from now!); we’d love to use the extra income for things like charity, traveling to see family more, and investing…

That said, I have a group of friends that are really into investment strategy. None of us are really practicing these principles outright, but as we’re all fairly poor, we’re using this time as an education for the “near” future. Last night, we sat down for a rip-roaring game of CASHFLOW!cashflow

Haven’t heard of Cashflow? Probably because it retails for $195 (my friend got a deal on ebay). It was created by the guy who wrote the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” Despite my skepticism, it was actually a fun and non-cheesy  (pun not intended) game. It reminds one of Monopoly, with the exception that you start out the game with a randomly-assigned life. I was a truck driver, and the others were a lawyer, a doctor, and a teacher. Although I had the lowest salary, the teacher actually had a lower take-home income thanks to higher expenses. To put it into perspective, my salary was $2500, and the doctor was $13000. But the game is designed (correctly, I’m sure) so that a truck driver has a cheaper house, cheaper car, and less general expenses than a doctor. As the game progresses, you earn your income after expenses from a “pay day” roll, but you can also land on either “opportunity” cards or other spots dictating expensive life situations like having a baby or getting a divorce. The goal is to acquire enough assets (real estate, businesses, etc.) using bank loans or your own savings to get out of the “rat race,” which they define as having a passive income (that income not including your salary, say dividends or rental income) greater than your expenses. I guess I picked up the concept quickly, because I was the first (and only) one out of the rat race.

The point that the author (Robert T. Kiyosaki) is making is that everyone should increase their financial knowledge. If people understand that acquiring assets is the path to financial independence (and that assets are not your own home or your car and boat, but income-producing property), they would allow their money to work for them. Another point is that it doesn’t matter which “card” you’re dealt (i.e. truck driver achieves independence leaving doctors and lawyers in the dust).  Granted, in life, like the game, you need to forego “doodads” (new car, boat, luxury vacations) in lieu of acquiring assets. Once your assets provide you enough income to cover your expenses, do whatever you want with the surplus!

There are all kinds of reasons not to follow this advice. “How can I go without buying a new car?” “I want to secure a great lifestyle with a beautiful home and nice cars since I work so hard, not risk my money on investments.” I don’t know what our strategy is going to be, or how we will balance investing with our own needs and wants, but I think it is a conversation everyone should have with themselves or their spouse if they truly want to have financial independence.