Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

The Change Pot had another disappointing week, but it did not lay another goose egg. This week's finds were limited to two pennies found on a single shopping trip on Friday to the Lowes on the southeast side of Morgantown. Both pennies were lying on the floor in the closed checkout lane next to the checkout I used for my purchase.

Weekly Total: $0.02
YTD Total:$1.98

Monday, March 30, 2009

Clean Sweep - Week 12

The Risk household's Clean Sweep has officially been placed on hiatus. The reason for the hiatus is the rejections from my graduate school applications. It has been hard to continue making preparations for moving when we in fact, are no longer sure of when we will be moving. Throughout the course of my graduate school applications and planning to move, I have had a plan to be as prepared as possible for when the decision was ultimately made. I am now beginning to think it best to be unprepared, so that we will unexpectedly get some positive news. So until we receive news of where we are accepted and where we will be moving, Clean Sweep will not be a weekly feature.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday's Mailbag

The Risk family received its biggest disappointment of the graduate school applications this week. The University of Delaware rejected our application for graduate school. Delaware had been our first choice of all the schools we had applied to and we felt we had a very good shot at getting accepted there, but it was not to be. The last remaining school of the original six is Ohio State in Columbus. We are holding out hope, but at this point, we are not expecting anything positive.

Our back up plan has been coming along well. We will have our application to the master's program in history at Salisbury University in Maryland will be completed on time to be considered for a graduate assistantship. This will be the only other school that will pay a stipend to attend there, but the assistantship is very competitive as they only offer two. Our other applications to Old Dominion and East Carolina are coming along just fine. We will most likely not here from these applications until the end of April or middle of May. That really puts pressure on for finding jobs and selling the house, but we will deal with whatever comes our way.

Our relocation options are now Columbus, OH (MA/PhD combined program), Salisbury, MD (MA program), Greenville, NC (MA program), and Norfolk, VA (MA program). We ask that everyone keep us in their prayers so that we may get into school somewhere this fall.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Clean Sweep - Week 11

Clean Sweep took a "vacation" the last couple of weeks, but returned to duty this week. This week's clean sweep was not about getting rid of unwanted items, it was about doing projects in preparation for putting the house on the market. We took a trip to Lowe's on Saturday and spent more than $300 on paint, a storm door, deck stain, and many other items needed to make minor repairs and improvements to the house. The projects will take us approximately 2 - 3 weeks to complete depending on the weather. After that, it will be back to purging the unwanted, unneeded items that are cluttering up our house.

Some of these projects will actually help us use some items that we would normally end up purging. For instance, we will be painting our front door to match the shutters. One painted, we will then install a brass kickplate on the door that we bought 3 years ago but never used. We will also use the six gallons of paint we purchased last year for repainting the foundation, but had to put off until the drainage system was repaired.

Stay tuned to see what the Clean Sweep throws out next week.

Change Pot Tuesday

I predicted this week a few weeks ago, I just hadn't known when exctly it would come. The Change Pot came up empty this week. That's right. The Change Pot found a big GOOSE EGG this week. NADA, NIL, NIL, ZILCH, ZERO! Not a single cent. After last week's big week, this was a bit of a let down. Are we not looking hard enough? Or is the economy that bad? Maybe it is that we live in a poor, sparsely populated state. If we were in a larger city like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, or Baltimore, this would never have happened. Hopefully, we will bounce back next week.

Weekly Total: $0.00
YTD Total:$1.96

Friday, March 20, 2009

Free Web Friday

In my first Free Web Friday, I posted links to a free paint estimator calculator for painting projects and a free architectural design program. This week's Free Web Friday highlights a couple of similarly related items that were sent to me by my sister. They are 2D and 3D floor planners that will help anyone with where to place furniture in their rooms. They will be extremely helpful for those buying a new home or simply trying to rearrange a room.

Floorplanner - Floorplanner is free for personal use and allows users to create a single house and with floorplans in both 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional views.

Sweet Home 3D - Sweet Home 3D is an interior design program that allows users to arrange furniture in 2D floorplans and then preview them in a 3D layout.

If you are planning to buy a home, rearrange a room, or purchase new furniture, give one, or both, of these programs a try.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


A few weeks ago, I posted a blog regarding a request for publication of one of my essays. Today, I discovered that my essay has indeed been published. The essay, entitled "The Pacific Theater of Naval Warfare in the Mexican-American War" was published on 21 Feb 2009 by the California State Military Museum. You may read the essay at http://www.militarymuseum.org/NavyMexWar.html.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

The weekly Change Pot continued to rebound this week with its second best week ever. This week, the Found Money Change Pot added $0.40.

On Friday, I found $0.13 in the form of a dime and three pennies. Each coin was found in a different place. The first penny was found in the doorway of the Downtowner Restaurant in Downtown Madison, Indiana. Later, I found a dime in the hallway of the Jefferson County Courthouse and another penny in the parking lot of the Jefferson County Health Department both in Madison, Indiana. However, for the life of me, I can not remember where I found the third penny. This is probably due to everything that was going on in the weekend that had me in Madison, Indiana in the first place - but that's another post.

On Sunday, I found a quarter while helping my brother load up his moving van. The quarter was found inside of an otherwise empty plastic storage bin inside my brother's self-storage unit. I called out the find and my sister immediately said that it didn't count because it was obviously my brother's or someone's in his family. He however agreed with me saying "Finder's Keepers" before noting that the quarter was my payment for helping him move.

On Tuesday, I found two pennies on the floor at Giant Eagle (grocery store) in Morgantown, WV. The first was on the mat in the entrance of the store and the second was at the floral counter.

Weekly Total: $0.40
YTD Total: $1.96

Until next time, "Finder's Keepers".

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stomping Around the Hills of Southern Indiana

After spending the past three days stomping through cemeteries in the hills of southern Indiana, I thought I would share some of the really neat things we have discovered. We being me, my older brother, and my older sister. We have spent the last few days researching our genealogy in the historical societies of Jefferson and Ripley Counties in Indiana and the Kentucky Historical Center in Frankfurt, Kentucky and have come across some very interesting stories and after the historical societies closed and we went searching for the gravesites of our ancestors.

We have scoured through wills and land deeds, births and deaths, newspaper stories and discovered many interesting things about our ancestors. We have driven off-road in vehicles no designed for such terrain and hiked through the hills and forests in search of family farms and ruins of family homes. We have violated no trespassing signs and trapsed across private property to find cemeteries located at the edge of civilization. We drove to the end of the world and took a right.

We visited six cemeteries over the past three days and found the graves of four great-great-great grandparents. We have rubbed headstones to make them more legible and created pencil reliefs of others when we could not get them clean enough.

We have uncovered interesting stories and facts about the people we call family. We have learned much about who we are and where we came from. Here are a few interesting tidbits.

  • Four of the first 20 settlers in Jefferson County, Indiana are of our lineage.

  • Our Great-Great-Great Grandparents donated land to a church which was later used for the Risk-Buchanan family reunions. The church burnt down in 1971. The original deed to the land stipulated if the church ever abandoned the property, it was to revert back to the family's heirs.

  • The naming pattern of the 19th century was:

    • 1st son after father's father

    • 2nd son after mother's father

    • 3rd son after father

  • Our family took care of each other. When a husband died, a brother usually stepped in married the widow to take care of her and the children. This appears to be a common practice in many family histories.

  • Rumor has it that one of our Great-Great-Great Grandfathers didn't trust banks. He buried all of his money on his property for safe keeping. It has never been found.

It was a very enjoyable and productive trip. When we returned to Indianapolis, I helped my brother pack up his moving van before returning home to Lori and James. Both were very happy to see me. James seemed to have changed so much in so little time. It will be a while before I leave him for that long again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Friday/Saturday Mailbag

I don't know which day the mail came because I was out of town, but at some point on Friday or Saturday, our list of possible relocations narrowed even more. Pittsburgh is no longer an option for us as the University of Pittsburgh did not find me worthy enough of their program. Although the department did not impress me, I was quite surprised by the rejection. Pittsburgh had been my safety net school - the one I thought I would get into no matter what happened. I really felt I had the best repertoire with the professor I would have studied under and I really felt from our meeting that my interests fit nicely with the departments.

The remain two schools are Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. I have decided to apply to a couple of Master's level programs as a backup plan. I am considering East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina; Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia; and Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland. Each of these three Master's programs have exactly what I wish to study - maritime history, but attending one of these would mean moving twice for graduate school - once for my Master's and once for my PhD. With Delaware and Ohio State, I would be in the same place for both degrees. At this point, no news is good news, so let's hope and pray that I don't hear anything for a while.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Change Pot Tuesday rebounded this week all in one day. Saturday was the big day of the week with a find of $0.14 from three different places. It was also the only day this past week in which any lost money was found. First I found a penny on the sidewalk outside the Kohl's store in Clarksburg, WV. Later in the afternoon, I found two pennies in the parking lot at Sam's Club in Morgantown, WV while I was returning our cart to one of the cart corrals. The last find on Saturday was a dime and a penny lying on the floor in front of the register at Sheetz in Star City, WV (Morgantown).

Next week will include a trip to Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, so here's to hoping for a better week.

Weekly Total: $0.14
YTD Total: $1.56

Stupid America

I am not sure if it is my frustration over the recent graduate school rejections or just the annoyance of a pet peeve of mine, but recently I came across something that struck me as so totally stupid, they should shoot somebody. Yes, it is time for a soundoff.

On Saturday, Lori, James and I did some shopping and stopped for lunch at the Ryan's restaurant in Clarksburg, WV. While we were eating, I took a few moments to read the milk carton from James' lunch. I was completely stupified when right below the ingredients (milk) were the words "Allergy Warning: Contains Milk". DUH! Isn't that what you would expect to find in a carton of MILK? Why do manufacturers feel the need to insult the intelligence of their consumers? I saw a similar warning on a carton of eggs - "Warning: This Prodcuct Contains Eggs". No Kidding? My carton of eggs actually contains eggs? How about that. And I thought I was buying little oblong balls of cheese when I picked up the carton that read "Grade A Large Eggs". I am really glad they printed that warning on the carton to let me know. I would have had a really hard time figuring out why my grilled cheese sandwich tasted like, you know, eggs.

Is this just not the absolute stupidest thing you've ever heard of? Oh, no wait, that lady that called 911 three times because McDonald's ran out of Chicken McNuggets gets that honor. I mean come on folks - warning us that we are buying eggs or milk when we know and intend to buy eggs or milk is ridiculous. America is smarter than that - aren't they?

Monday's Mailbag

The bad news continued this week for the Risk family as yet another graduate school application was rejected. We have now officially been rejected by 50% of the schools to which we applied. This third rejection came from Johns Hopkins University, my number 2 choice of schools, which eliminates Baltimore from our list of possible relocations.

With this third rejection, we are having to seriously consider the possibility that our move this summer will not be for graduate school, but rather simply to start a new chapter in our lives. While we have always held that as a possibility, the reality of it has begun to set in.

The three schools that have declined to offer me admission to their program were the number 2, 3, and 6 schools on my list. The bright side is that my top choice - the University of Delaware is still debating whether I am worthy of attending their program. The University of Pittsburgh and Ohio State University are also still in the running - or should I say I am still in the running at those three schools.

Each of the remaining schools are fine schools. Each has their pluses and minuses, but each would be a welcomed choice, if I was found deserving by their admissions committees. At the rate that the notifications are coming in, we will know very shortly what our future holds. Until then, all we can do is hope and pray.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday's Mailbag

Well, I recieved the second of six notifications on my graduate school applications. Another rejection. This one coming from the University of Maryland. This one did not surprise me and did not really disappoint me that much. There were a lot of drawbacks to the University of Maryland and I actually wavered on whether or not to apply there.

So College Park, Maryland gets crossed off our list of potential relocations. We are down to four and hoping that at least one of them comes back positive. The remining universities and cities are (in alphbetical order):

  • Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, Maryland

  • Ohio State University - Columbus, Ohio

  • University of Delaware - Newark, Delaware

  • University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday's Mailbag

Today's mail held the first notification on my graduate school applications. We learned today where we will not be going, as the first letter I received was a rejection. Family and friends have been very supportive and tell me I have nothing to worry about. I appeciate that, but it doesn't make the rejections any easier. I have tried to prepare myself for the receipt of the rejection notice, but apparently I didn't do very well. It was still disappointing to open the letter. I knew it was a rejection the moment I saw the envelope. It was too flat and thin. Lori tried to reassure me before I opened it that it might be a request for an interview, but, alas, it was not.

I don't know if I was more disappoint because I got rejected, because of the school that rejected me, or because my first notification was a rejection. I had expected to get rejected by some schools because the competition is that keen, but I think if I had gotten an acceptance to another school prior to the rejection, I wouldn't have been as disappointed by it. I think I was also disappointed because of the school that sent the rejection - The College of William & Mary.

I will be honest, the likelihood of me attending the College of William & Mary was very slim to begin with. The job opportunities for Lori in the Williamsburg area were very limited. The nearest family would have been at least five hours away making it difficult for Lori to have any family support for James while I was in school. What was disappointing about the rejection was that the College of William & Mary is one of the premier universities for studying history. It is a top notch program and to have been accepted there would have been an achievement even if I had choosen not to attend.

The letter was a typical form letter. It stated that while the Graduate Admission Committee was very impressed with my credentials, they were sorry to inform me that I had not been accepted for admission.

So now the possibilities are down to five and we know that we will not be heading south, at least for the next few years. The remaining schools are Delaware, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Ohio State, and Pittsburgh. Wish me luck on being accepted to at least one of these programs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Clean Sweep - Week 8

As per my posting last week, there was no real Clean Sweep this week because we were out of town visiting family and friends. I did manage to return a pair of shoe stretchers to Lori's dad, so it wasn't a complete loss. As the weather warms up, our weekends are getting busier. The next two weekends in particular are likely to net zero items purged. We will have to work extremely hard to get back on track towards the end of the month and hopefully make some progress even if it is minor.

Until next time.

Change Pot Tuesday

This week's change pot was a bit of a dissapointment. My found money has decreased each week and at the current rate of decline, I will have my first week of finding no money in just a couple of weeks. Even in a rural area, I feel I should be finding at least a penny a day. This week, I barely averaged that. What's even more disappointing is that we took a short trip to Indianapolis, the 12th largest city in America, and I still only found ten cents total for the week. Is this a sign of the times???? Are people paying more attention to their change? Are others jumping on the found money bandwagon, making it harder to find even a single penny?

Here are this week's highlights:

  • Thursday - I found a penny on one of the breakroom tables at work. Don't tell anyone, they may come and try to claim it.

  • Friday - I found three cents in three different places. First, I found a penny while pumping gas at the Meijer (like a Super Wal-mart) in Englewood , Ohio. Later that day, we arrived in Indianapolis, Indiana and we stopped by the Castleton Square Mall. I found a second penny on the ledge of the counter at Pizza di Roma. On the way out of the mall, I found a third penny lying on the floor outside of the Charlotte Russe store.

  • Saturday - I found a nickle underneath an SUV parked next to us at our hotel.

  • Tuesday (Today) - I found a penny on the counter at Arby's on Route 7 in Morgantown, WV. It was lying right in front of the register.

Weekly Total: $0.10
YTD Total: $1.42

Goals for 2009 - Update

Well, February has come and gone making the year 1/6 of the way over. It's hard to believe we are already into the third month of the year. With the start of March, it seems like a good time to give an update on my goals for the year. We are well on our way to meeting some of them, while others are just sitting and waiting for warmer weather. Here is the progress I have made so far:

  • Goal: Read 12 Books - As of the end of February, I have read five books. I completed the book I had started at the end of January - Hudson's Merchants and Whalers: The Rise and Fall of a River Port by Margaret B. Schram. I then completed two other books - Raving Fans: The Art of Customer Service by Ken Blanchard and Hume: From East Tennessee to Southern Kentucky by Alvis Hall Hume. I am currently deciding on which book to start next. At this pace, I will complete my goal for the year in five months. Normally this goal is much harder since I am usually spending most of my time studying, but with this semester off, I have been able to spend more time with leisure reading.

  • Goal: Write 12 Poems - Technically, I have written two, but I would be pressed to call the one an actual poem. It was a very short four line rhyming jingle of a verse that I sent to Lori to remind her of something. It was never intended for anyone beyond Lori and it was really corny. Regardless, it at least deserves the recognition of being counted. Writer's will tell you that sometimes it isn't about the quality, it is simply about writing anything to keep the creative juices flowing.

  • Goal: Lose Weight - It is hard to judge my progress because as I mentioned last month, I never weighed in at the beginning of the year. I have been fairly faithful with my Slim-Fast Shakes, although I did fall off the wagon while traveling this past weekend. I have noticed some of my clothes fitting more loosely and overall, I feel healthier. I think that is really the important thing.

  • Goal: Walk 5,000 Steps Daily - I didn't publish this goal here originally, but it was one of my goals for the year. It will ultimately help me lose some weight (see previous goal) and keep me healthy. Unfortunately, the 5,000 steps are coming as part of my daily routine and not as a result of any additional exercise. Right now I am averaging over 5,000 steps daily for six of the seven days each week. I am only missing the seventh day by a few hundred steps and should have that average over 5,000 in a week or two. Over the past week, I have actually averaged about 7,500 steps daily. I wish I could say it was because I am doing better, but I think it has more do to with how my new pedometer is counting steps. I think the internal mechanism is a little more sensitive than my old pedometer (which I lost) and so it moves (counts steps) differently. I will have to figure out what I want to do about this this.

  • Goal: Reduce Household Debt - Another goal I didn't orginally post. We have been making some progress on this, but with the filling of our taxes this past weekend, we should make great strides this month in reducing the overall amount we put out each month.

  • Goal: Reduce Dining Out Budget - This is one goal we have struggled with. We spend way to much eating out because of poor planning. Often times, we are getting home so late from work or we are so tired that it has been easier to just pick something up. It also doesn't help that we don't have a set grocery schedule other than when we get paid. This makes it difficult, because a few days before we get paid, we begin running out of everything. Better planning of meals would elimintate this because we would make sure we bought enough at the store when we do go.

  • Goal: Household Projects - Warmer weather will allow us to complete this goal in the next few months. The only "project" that we have made any progress on is getting rid of junk we don't need or use. I have posted our weekly progress on this project with our "Clean Sweep" postings. Other projects that we are planning include painting the foundation, installing railing on our front porch, and installing a storm door on our basement.

Well, that's the update on this year's goals. Hopefully, I will be able to report next month that we have actually completed some of our more specific goals. Most of the ones posted here are general and are actually comprised of a few more specific goals. Until then, we will keep plugging away.