Friday, May 29, 2009

Revising Our Plan, Learning the Ropes, and Playing the Game

After two very sobering days, the Risk family has revised their outlook for the future. Although the timeline for the future is not what we had originally planned, our new plans seem to make things a little brighter and hopefully a lot easier. In retrospect, we have discovered many errors and oversights in our original graduate school application process and have decided to remedy the problem with a new perspective.

In our original plan, we applied to several MA/PhD combined programs and were not admitted to a single one. We quickly backtracked and applied to three MA programs and were accepted to all three - lesson number #1.

After being accepted to three MA programs, we then proceeded to the next step of selling our house and finding jobs in the the area of our school of choice. To our surprise, the house received an offer within 9 days, and we were no where near landing a job. - lesson #2.

With that we backtracked again, pulled the house off the market and "settled" for what was suppose to be the last resort for school. This created a very sobering dilemna because the school did not actually have the program we were seeking, but would have been acceptable to at least get through the next step. It was also the most expensive choice, even with a tuition waiver/graduate assistantship because of the cost of living. This choice made us very unhappy and had begun tearing us apart. - lesson #3.

So our revised plan incorporates all of the lessons we learned and hopefully allows us to proceed with greater success, but at a different pace. Instead of applying to schools first and then hoping all of the other puzzle pieces fall into place, we have decided to put the pieces of the puzzle together and then apply to schools. We will apply for jobs in one or two geographic locations (Baltimore, MD or Richmond, VA). These two areas offer us the best potential for success. Lori and I will find a job, we will THEN put the house on the market to make the move. Once moved, we will get settled and then apply to the area schools. Each area has three to four schools that will be great possibilities (some of them were my original schools). Lesson #2 learned.

How does this make things better? How do we know that we will be accepted the second time around? First, things will be better, because we will already be settled and that will result in less stress. Second, we will have a greater chance of acceptance because we will apply to these schools differently. Originally, we had applied to MA/PhD combined programs and did not get accepted to a single one. Shame on us for not realizing the natural progression of the academic world and thinking we were "exceptional" enough to bypass certain necessary steps. Each of these combined MA/PhD programs offer a terminal MA degree. I was accepted to three terminal MA programs. Duh! The combined MA/PhD programs will accept "exceptional" undergraduates, but realistically that just doesn't happen. By applying to the terminal MA program at each of these schools, I will have a better chance of acceptance. A terminal MA does not close the door on a PhD as the term "terminal" might imply. In fact, the opposite is true. If one does well enough in the terminal MA program, they are usually recommended and welcomed to the PhD program with open arms. Thus, we could ultimately achieve our original goal and land somewhere for several years, simply by applying ourselves differently. Lesson #1 learned.

So what if this still doens't work out? There are no guarantees. That is lesson #3. Do what makes you happy. By being in a larger metropolitan area, there will be more opportunities for both of us, before and after enrollment in graduate school. Lori's opportunities in healthcare and goverment program management go without saying. For me, history jobs, even with only a BA, will be more plentiful. If I do not get accepted to an MA program where we move, I will at least be working in my field and that will make me very happy. The same thing holds true if I am accepted into an MA program, but I am unable to get into a PhD program. In either case, I can find a job that is much more interesting. In the interim to starting a program at one of the schools in either of these areas, I will have access to the research materials I need for my thesis and dissertation. I will be able to get a jump start on my research.

So that is our revised plan. We don't know how long it will take to implement. It likely will not result in time for the fall semester, meaning, I will sit out at least one academic year. It may be possible for me to attend one semester at WVU and transfer two classes (6 credit hours) to another program. This would allow me to keep my job and defer my undergraduate student loans for another six months. Most programs will not allow you to transfer more than six credits.

Maybe God will smile a little brighter upon us this time.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sobering Day

Today has been a sobering day for the Risk family. We turned down our potential buyer's second offer and removed our house from the market. We have withdrawn our acceptance to Salisbury University in Maryland and East Carolina University in North Carolina. Currently, we are debating on withdrawing my acceptance to West Virginia University and sitting the academic year out. More realistically, not returning to school...period.

Although I have expressed my dislike of Morgantown, the state of West Virginia, and West Virginia University, it is not simply about me or the two years it will take to complete my degree. WVU is an acceptable school. Morgantown and West Virginia are tolerable for two years. I have already tolerated them for eight. It's much bigger than that. It's about the fact that in two years, nothing will change. We will go through the motions of leaving, but when the time comes, it won't happen, no matter how much I want to leave. (You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.) With no careers in history in the area (except for WVU if you have a PhD), there will be no reason to spend time, money and energy earning an MA. I would never have the chance to use it.

Some may read this as me being pessimistic. I have never considered myself a pessimist or an optimist. I am a realist. One of my better traits is to visualize the future and work towards that goal. If I do not return to school, I will become too involved with James and everyday life to ever return.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Offer....Counteroffer...Counter again....

This afternoon we received the first offer on our house. Our house has only been on the market for 9 days! The offer was a little lower than we wanted, so we countered the offer with our own. The buyers countered our offer with a second offer and we will mostly likely make a second counter offer. Right now we are about $7,000.00 apart, so I think our next counter will be pretty close to where we want to be. Now we just have to find Lori a job....AND QUICKLY! The offer is for closing at the end of July.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Wednesday - $0.10. Found a dime in the parking lot at work. Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone, they will say it was theirs. Especially our receptionist because I found it in "her" parking spot.

Thursday - $0.12 total. I found a dime and a penny inside of Sheetz on Route 7 in Morgantown while getting donuts and juice for breakfast. Lori picked up the dime for me because my hands were full making her first contribution to the A second penny was found in the afternoon in the parking garage at the WVU Mountainlair Student Union.

Friday - $0.05 total. Five pennies in various places throughout the Charleston Town Center Mall in Charleston, WV. The first was outside of GNC. The second just inside the 5-7-9 store. A third was in the seating area of Starbucks. The last two were found near the customer service center. Lori found one of them on her own, making it her first find for the Change Pot

Saturday - $0.01. A single penny on the floor of Zaxby's in Greenville, NC. Zaxby's is a fast food chicken restaurant. It is not like a KFC, Popeye's, Church's or Bojangle's. It is more like an upscale Chick-fil-a.

Sunday - $0.01. A single penny on near the entrance to a BP convenience store. I found just after I helped Lori lose a quarter in a newspaper machine.

Monday - $0.02 total. First penny at the food counter of Sam's Club in Greenville/Winterville, NC. Second penny in one of the drive-up carhop parking spots of Sonic on the southside of Greenville, NC.

Tuesday - $0.11 total. A dime and a penny on the campus of ECU. The dime was on the sidewalk outside of Student Health. The penny was found by the bus loading zones near the gymnasium.

We went over $4.00 this week and for the first week we found money on every single day.

Weekly Total: $0.42
YTD Total: $4.25

Monday, May 25, 2009

Heart Failure!!!!!!

At 9:00pm this evening, Lori and I went through the drive up ATM of our bank in Greenville, NC (our bank is a NC-based bank) and attempted to draw out $20.00 for the tolls on our trip home tomorrow. At the end of the transaction, the ATM returned my card, but never gave me my money or my receipt. I waited a few minutes as a car was in line behind me, but the ATM simply went back into sleep mode. I didn't feel good about this being out of town, and not really having any recourse to prove that the machine didn't give me my money. I read the toll-free number for ATM problems and Lori wrote it down. As we pulled away, I decided to park in the banks parking lot and call the toll-free number immediately. I received a recorded message saying that the service was not currently available and to try again later. Most likely because it was the holiday. So I called the toll-free number for my bank and checked my balance. It appeared as though nothing had beeen debited from the account but I decided to check online when we got back to the hotel.

Imagine my surprise when I logged onto my account and saw a pending debit for today's date for $200.00!!!!! I immediately started panicking, because again I had no way to prove that I never received my money. I quickly dialed the toll-free number for my bank again and tried desperately to reach a live human would hopefully would help me resolve my dilemna and recover my $20, now $200. The automated service kept refusing to allow me to speak to a live representative until I final proceeded far enough through the system. At his point, I was told that due to a high call volume, I would have an extended wait. I didn't care, I was not about to lose $200. As I am waiting, I had to desperately visit the little boy's room, so I gave the phone to Lori and asked her to stay on hold for me for a few minutes.

While I was in the restroom, the customer service representative answered the phone. Lori explained the situation to the customeer service rep and learned that the ATM we attempted to use was out of money and that the transaction failed. The $200.00 debit showing from my account was a transfer I had done two days ago. Due to the weekend and holiday, the transfer would not be processed until overnight this evening, thus bearing today's date.

Crisis averted. My heart started beating again and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Becoming a Pirate?????

We have been in Greenville, NC for two days now looking for potential housing and checking out the area for a potential move. I have not been overly impressed by Greenville, but I also have not found anything to really dislike about the area. I believe that this is an area I could live in for a couple of years while earning my Masters degree and I feel the area will grow on me. I believe I will come to think of Greenville as home, but I don't know that I would want to live here for a longer period. Greenville has all the basic amenities, but it is still lacking many of the same things that Morgantown lacks. It is over an hour to the nearest metro area.

We hope to check out more tomorrow and see the university on Tuesday. As long as my visit with the department goes well, I will be trading my muzzleloader and coonskin hat for a saber and black eye patch.

A Continued Random Observation

A few weeks ago, I posted an entry about the ratio of colors in a box of Reese's® pieces®. I have continued my scientific study of the issue with a second box. The second box came closer to proving my theory of the color ratio inside the box matching the color ratio on the outside of the package. The second package had the following ratio:

Orange - 67 pieces (44.4%)
Yellow - 48 pieces (31.8%)
Brown - 36 pieces (23.8%)

In the name of science, eat more Reese's® pieces®!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On the Road Again.....

Our travels have taken us to Greenville, NC as we are checking out the area for a possible move. I have been accepted to East Carolina University's program in Maritime Studies and we are trying to decide if this is the right choice for the Risk family. Today we looked at three sets of apartments. The first was really nice, but too small. The second complex was larger, but not as nice. The third....HOME! Although, we will continue to look for a house to rent, the third apartment - The Reserve at Waterford Place, was one of the nicesrt complexes I have ever been in. Gated entry, interior entrances (think hotel penthouse) Marble countertops, security systems, crown moulding, arched doorways, decorative column supports, decorative sconce wall lighting, etc....... all for less than a smaller sized apartment in Morgantown.

Tomorrow we will continue to explore the area, but so far our trip has been very good. We had a very nice dinner at CPW's (Carolina Pasta Works). It is a must visit if you are ever in the area. A high-end chef-prepared gourmet meal at Applebee's prices. On Tuesday we hope to visit the actual campus and some daycare centers before returning home.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Clean Sweep Week 19

Clean Sweep had a good week at the Risk household. We took three more bags and two boxes of stuff to Goodwill and completed our de-cluttering of the house for our realtors. The biggest success of the week was our trip to the dump. We dumped 440 lbs of garbage to the dump. Most of it came from some old ceiling tiles that we had planned to use when we finished the basement. Since it doesn't appear that we will be staying, I decided it was a good time to get rid of them. If counted individually, we probably got rid of more than 150 items. I am guessing that total rises to more than 225 items if you also count the rails that the ceiling tiles hang on. Because they are made of aluminum, and the price of aluminum is good these days, I let our friend Patrick have them to recycle in return for the use of his truck to go to the dump. All in all, I was very pleased with our progress this week, as were our realtors.

Real Estate Market Day 1

Well, the first day on the market was a busy one. We had three showings today from three different real estate companies. We heard that the one individual really liked what he saw on the outside, but he was waiting for our realtor to get the key to them to look at the inside. We have a lock box, but the realtor makes a key from our key to put in the lockbox and then gives us our key back. They hadn't quite got that done yet before they started showing the house. ooooops!

Anyway, we should hear feedback tomorrow. The first thirty days will have the most showings, and having three the first day is a good start. Now, if I can find time to bury Saint Joseph.

Tuesday's Mailbag

Tuesday's mailbag brought an OFFICIAL acceptance to West Virginia University's Masters program in History. This was a nice touch considering I have already "unofficially" registered for classes in the Fall. Now don't go and get any ideas. I had to register because most of the classes I needed to take my first semester only had one or two openings left. If we decide to stay, I had to know that I had classes to attend. I can always withdraw from all of the classes prior to the start of class, but at least this way, I know that I have a place to go and classes to attend. I just would've been nice to get the "OFFICIAL" acceptance letter before I registered.

Speaking of OFFICIAL acceptance letters, what happened to really welcoming a student to the program and university???? How come I don't get t-shirts and hats when I receive my acceptance??? I read somewhere that colleges were including school apparel and giftware with their acceptance letters to entice students who had been accepted to more than one school to accept that particular school's offer. I haven't received any such items. How am I suppose to really get behind my school and its teams if I have no school merchandise???

I guess they figure after being rejected by six schools, I should just be happy to be accepted somewhere. They are probably right.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

For Sale!

Well, all of our hard work the past two weekends has really paid off. OUr house is now on the market for sale. We have our first showing tomorrow morning between 10am - 11am. Lori broke out the chocolate chip cookies to see how long the smell lingers. We will bake some in the morning to make the house "smell and feel like home" to our potential buyers. We will bury our Saint Joseph statue in the front yard tomorrow and ask that everyone pray everyday to Joseph that our house sells in a timely manner - like yesterday! Sorry, but we were a month late getting the house on the market, so we have to squeeze the sell in quickly.

We are suppose to say the prayer to Saint Joseph for nine days straight. When I sold my house the first time, I said the prayer nine times a day for nine days. This time around, I will need some help for my prayers to be heard. The man upstairs has not been smiling to brightly upon me these days because of a disagreement he and I have regarding my admission (or lack there of) to the University of Delaware. Yes, I agreed to abide by his wishes, but I never said I had to agree with them.

Anyway, back to the house. Three bedroom ranch with full unfinished basement, two car attached garage, with newer roof, paint, water heater, dishwasher and garbage disposal. Nice yard with natural fence and mature fruit trees. Friendly neighborhood with lots of families, good schools and great curb appeal. Steady growth area. $175,000.00 list.

Change Pot Tuesday

Wednesday - $0.02. Two pennies in separate locations. The first, by the trash can at the register of Rio Grande Mexican Restaurante (again!) and the second on the sidewalk outside of Family Dollar. I really wish I could find more nickels and dimes. The pennies do add up, just very slowly.

Thursday - $0.12 total. One dime and two pennies found in three separate locations, but all within a few hundred feet of each other. The first was a penny in the Wendy's parking lot on Route 7 in Morgantown. I almost missed it because of how dull and nicked up it was. The second find was a dime near the register of Family Dollar a few doors down from Wendy's. The lady in front of me in line dropped a dime and a penny. For whatever reason, she only picked up the penny and left the dime. Maybe that makes me a bad person because I didn't say anything, but I guess I feel that if the lady was too busy (she was talking on the phone while paying for her purchases) to pay attention, then she can afford to donate ten cents to the cause. The last find was another penny on the sidewalk near the Minor Family Physician a few more doors down from the Family Dollar.

Friday - $0.02. Two pennies in the same glass covered candy rack at Sheetz. I really wonder how people are able to drop money in this rack because of the way it is covered.

Monday - $0.01. A single penny at Lowe's hiding behind a rack near the customer service counter.

Weekly Total: $0.17
YTD Total: $3.83

Monday, May 18, 2009

Not Me Monday

I love reading the "Not Me Monday" column of our dear friend Jennifer. It always gives me a good chuckle and inspires me to write my own "Not Me Monday" column. However, my "Not Me Column" will travel back in time a few years as there has not been anything of interest for this past week.

The NOT ME ghost has NEVER sent a dozen long stems to his (now ex-) wife on Valentine's Day. No roses, just long stems. The NOT ME ghost has NEVER done this because he understands that such a gesture is not funny and would not be taken lightly. Especially by someone who has spent the rest of her day notifying co-workers of their own Valentine's Day deliveries. (This is also NOT one of the reasons the NOT ME ghost has an ex-wife.) The NOT ME ghost knows that sending a dozen long stem black roses would have been a slightly better gesture than sending a dozen long stems without roses. (This will never happen with the Not Me ghost's current wife because he cares way too much to do something as thoughtless and cheap [they were NOT free] as that.) The NOT ME ghost has NEVER had to buy a replacement dozen long stem roses at a much higher premium to try to make up for his inconsiderate gift.

I have NEVER watched a lateral file roll down a flight of stairs after lugging it up the stairs by myself because I know that a lateral file is too heavy for one person to carry up a flight of stairs. If such a thing ever did happen, I would NEVER complete the delivery of the file as if nothing had happened because I know that no matter how well a file is made, it would not survive rolling down a flight of stairs without sustaining damage.

I have NEVER traded my $1,800.00 vaccuum cleaner for a car that did not run. This would be true even if I only owed $800.00 on the said vaccuum cleaner and if the owner of the car were my brother - who originally sold me the vaccuum cleaner.

I have NEVER drilled four screws through the top of a custom built-in mahogany desk while mounting a keyboard tray underneath the desk. And, if I had, I certainly would NOT have done this to the desk of the president of the Finish Line (shoe and sporting goods reatiler).

Definitely, NOT ME. Maybe some other poor fool, but NOT ME.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How Many of Me??????

Lucky for you, just one, but here's the story...

I went to Lowe's today during lunch to pick up some paint for our foundation as we prepare our house for the market. While on my way to Lowe's, I am listening to the radio and the DJ starts talking about how many people there are with his same name in the United States. It sounded like fun, so I gave it a try.
LogoThere are
people with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Here's Your Sign...

You probably have heard the comedy routine of Bill Engvall called "Here's Your Sign!". Well, today, I got to hand out one of those signs and I thought I would share my experience.

The winner of today's "Here's Your Sign!" was a line cook at Wendy's. I had ordered a bacon cheeseburger with pickle and mustard only. Pickle and mustard only is my normal request at fast food restaurants because then I know my sandwich is hot and fresh. And besides, I hate mayonaise, ketchup, and most other condiments on my sandwich. If I want a salad on my sandwich, I will order one separately and put it on the hamburger myself.

Anyway, the lady assembling the bacon cheeseburger with pickle and mustard only got a little confused. After staring at the order screen for a few mintues, she turn to me and asked - "Do you want the cheese and bacon on that?" Duh! I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, not a hamburger. Why would I pay more for a bacon cheeseburger and then get it without the bacon or the cheese????? Do I look stupid? Do I look like I have money growing on trees and don't know what else to do with it? We're in a recession! Of course I want the cheese and bacon on that!!! That's why I ordered a bacon cheeseburger!

....and here's your sign.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A random observation

Today, I stopped and bought a box of Reese's® pieces® (yes, the "p" in pieces® is lowercase.) on my way back from lunch so that I would have something to keep me occupied while making updates to my employer's website. When I opened the box, I got this crazy idea of a theory in my head and decided to see if I could prove it.

Reese's® pieces® come in three colors - orange, yellow, and brown. Reese's® packaging, minus any special promotions and the black ink, is colored in the same three colors. Orange is the most prominent, yellow comes in second and brown brings up the rear.

My theory was this - the ratio of the three colors inside the box would directly correspond with the prominence of the colors on the outside of the box. To prove this theory, I would count the number of Reese's® pieces® of each color. In this particular 4 oz box of Reese's® pieces® (I did not eat all of them. I still have half a box) there were 161 individual pieces. The break down is as follows:

Orange - 77 pieces (47.8%)
Brown - 44 pieces (27.3%)
Yellow - 40 pieces (24.8%)

This did not exactly prove my theory. Reese's® packaging is approximately 70-75% orange. Yellow accounts for about about 15-20% of the package's color and brown fills the remaining 5-10%.

However, it does lend itself to the idea that not all colors are equal. Although, this was only one package and a truly scientific study would require evaluation of several hundred packages, I tend to believe that other packages would have a similar outcome based on how heavily orange outpaced the other two colors. Orange, for whatever reason, is obviously the more popular color. Probably because it's Reese's® trademark color.

I propose further study of this issue and challenge all of our readers and followers to lend a hand in this study. Once completed, we can move on to the more complex study of M&Ms®, which have a few more colors and a few more varieties. (We actually did this as kids before they came up with blue, purple and all the holiday colors variations.)

Back to work. Counting Reese's® pieces® may be more fun than my job, but I guess I have to earn some of my paycheck. (And I wonder why I never seem to get anything done.)

(Oh, and if you are from Reese's®, you can mail my endorsement check at your earliest convenience.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Wednesday - $0.06 total. In each case, I found two pennies on three separate occasions. The first two pennies were found at Taco Bell across from the Glenmark Shopping Center in Morgantown during lunch. One was at the register, the second was under a table. After work, I found two pennies at Target. One in a checkout lane and the other near the doors while exiting. After dinner, I found another two pennies at Wal-Mart at the end of the checkout lane.

Thursday - $0.10. We found a dime inside a glass covered candy rack at the register of Sheetz on Route 7 in Morgantown, WV. It was a really interesting find because the glass covering makes it hard to see how one could drop any change into that particular spot. Obviously, it was possible because someone did and we found it.

Saturday - $0.01. We found an uncollectible penny under a movable rack at the Sheetz in Star City (Morgantown), WV. We will donate a penny to the cause.

Sunday - $0.07 total. The first find was a penny at the entrance to a Get Go gas station / convenience store in Sewickley, PA. Later, we stopped by Kmart in Robinson Township to pick up some items and I found a penny near the entrance and a nickel near a crane game while exiting.

Monday - $0.03 total. All three pennies were found on the WVU campus. The first was half covered by a floor mat in the entrance to Woodburn Hall. The second penny was found on the floor in front of the counter at McCoy's, an eatery in the WVU student union. The last penny was found outside the entrance to the university bookstore.

Not too bad for the week. If we lived in a more urban area, I am sure we would be finding much more to add to our change pot. Til next week.

Weekly Total: $0.27
YTD Total: $3.66

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday's mailbag

Wednesday's mailbag brought lots of good news. I received my "official" notification of acceptance to East Carolina University as well as an unofficial email notification of acceptance to West Virginia University. WVU even mentioned the possibility of a partial tuition scholarship. I plan to schedule a meeting with the graduate director at WVU next week to find out more information.

So now it is deciding between three schools. While I am leaning toward ECU, I will have to weigh all options carefully and make sure that I make the best decision for all of us. Salisbury has a good research center and faculty, but their small program means taking classes of little or no interest (like Latin America history) in order to complete the program on time. If I get the assistantship I applied for, Salisbury is the most affordable option. East Carolina has the program that is specific to my interest and seems to have a decent program in public history as well, which would be a good supplement to any field of historical study. With the Academic Common Market, I would be eligible for in-state tuition rates which makes it more affordable than WVU. WVU is the easy option. No stress of finding new jobs or selling the house. WVU also has an excellent public history program to supplement my studies, but does not have a formal program in my area of interest. Even with a partial tuition scholarship or a tuition waiver as a graduate assistant, WVU could still be the most expensive option.

Wednesday's mailbag brought much to think about and hopefully we will be able to settle some of our stress by making a decision very soon.

My Crazy 8s

A friend of ours posted on her blog something called "Crazy 8s" and challenged all of her friends to do the same. Kind of like the time she "tagged" us for 25 random things about ourselves. It must be the newest thing circuiting the blogs. Anyway, here are my "Crazy 8s".

8 Things I am Looking Froward To

  1. Attending graduate school

  2. Planinng Lori's 40th birthday party/trip

  3. The day it stops raining

  4. James sleeping through the night

  5. Paying of Lori's student loans in November

  6. Completing our home improvement projects

  7. Visiting Lighthouses in Michigan & Ohio while attending a friend and co-worker's wedding

  8. Visiting Bronner's, the world's largest Christmas store, while attending the same weeding

8 Things I did Yesterday

  1. Sang the "Wheels on the Bus" song with James

  2. Returned the movie "Marley & Me" to Blockbuster

  3. Spoke with our realtor about paint colors

  4. Told my wife, Lori, that I love her

  5. Communicated with professors at East Carolina University

  6. Mailed a textbook I sold at the post office

  7. Framed a painting for a colleague's daughter

  8. Packed up all of our CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes

8 Things I Wish I Could Do

  1. Visit every lighthouse in the United States

  2. Live in a house on the beach

  3. Have James meet his Grandma Risk

  4. Travel whenever/whereever I want

  5. Buy a new BMW (even the el cheapo model)

  6. Skip packing the house and just move

  7. Win my own fantasy football league

  8. Take all of our friends with us when we move

8 Songs I Will Never Get Tired of Hearing

  1. I Could Not Ask for More by Edwin McCain

  2. Beautiful Boy by John Lennon

  3. On Eagle's Wings

  4. The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkle (actually any song by Simon & Garfunkle)

  5. The Little Drummer Boy

  6. The Pipes of Peace by Paul McCartney

  7. Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

  8. Scout Vespers (a Boy Scout campfire song)

8 Plans for the Rest of the Week

  1. Buy a Mother's Day card and present for James to give to Mommy

  2. "De-clutter" the house for the realtor's pictures

  3. Buy grass seed, paint, and hardware at Lowe's to complete our home improvement projects

  4. Take James to visit with Grandma and Grandpa (so that we can complete the "de-cluttering" without interuption)

  5. Re-seed the backyard

  6. Plan a trip to visit East Carolina

  7. Make time for my wife

  8. Post to my blogs

8 Shows I Watch (when I have time)

  1. NBC's The Today Show

  2. ABC's Private Practice

  3. ABC's Brothers & Sisters

  4. ABC's Samantha Who?

  5. ABC's Grey's Anatomy

  6. Noggin's Go, Diego Go! (James' favorite)

  7. Noggin's Dora the Explorer (another James favorite)

  8. Food Networks's Chopped

The Return of Clean Sweep

Clean Sweep returned this week to the Risk household when we met with our realtors and were given the advice to "de-clutter" the house for pictures and showings. This week clean sweep netted only 11 items, but as we start packing things up to "de-clutter" and prepare for the move, we will most likely find many more items to get rid of. Friday we are taking the day off work to specifically work on packing and "de-cluttering".

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Thursday - A dime in the self-checkout registers at Kroger on Route 7 in Morgantown, WV. Due to the crowds in the self-check out lines, I was unable to collect this, but I will donate $0.10 to the Change Pot.

Friday - A single penny near a trash can at the cashier's station of Rio Grande Mexican Restaurante.

Tuesday - A single penny near the exit of Blockbuster video when returning a movie.

Weekly Total: $0.12
YTD Total: $3.39

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Please note this entry has taken me three days to write! Our series of unfortunate events ended Tuesday afternoon.

You may have heard of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. It is a set of stories that chronicles unfortunate events in the lives of three orphans. The books were made into a movie that starred Jim Carrey. What you may not have heard of is the Risk version of A Series of Unfortunate Events. We would like to share.

Our story takes place over a very short, but tiring four days. It all started on Saturday evening when we decided to get a humidifier for James to help him sleep at night. We were staying at Grandma and Grandpa's house and they only one they had was a warm mist. We were looking for a cool mist humidifier. We drove down to the local drug store, only to learn that they had closed 15 mintues earlier, thus forcing us to drive across the river in search of a pharmacy that didn't lock up at 6:00 p.m. when they rolled the streets up. (This is an exaggeration. The pharmacy actually closed at 8:00pm.) We found one, bought the humidifier, and then went back to settle in for the night. In the middle of the night on Saturday. James, our cute and adorable son, was anything but cute and adorable when he woke up with a fever near 102 degrees. James' fever broke quickly, but he remained restless the rest of the night. Mommy did not get much sleep in trying to calm James.

Since James' fever broke quickly and did not return on Sunday, Mommy and Daddy left James with Grandma and Grandpa to attend a conference in the Cleveland area. Mommy was to present at the conference and Daddy was taking care of the driving so that Mommy could be well rested for her presentation.

As we exited the Ohio turnpike in Streetsboro, we followed our directions from Rand McNally and discovered the directions were incorrect. The directions told us to take I-480/SR 14 West. It also stated that this would be the ramp on the left. The ramp on the left was for SR 14 East and the ramp on the right was I-480/SR 14 West. We took the ramp on the right, deciding to follow the directions according to the street name. We were wrong. We should have followed the directions according to the ramp on the left (SR 14 East) and not by the street name. We drove four miles out of our way to the next exit before we could turn around.

When we arrived at our hotel late Sunday afternoon, the third unfortunate event occurred. We were given the wrong room. Mommy had requested a room with a king bed and we received a room with two twin beds. The hotel quickly apologized and reassigned us to a new room, so the unfortunate event was not tragic. But none the less it was unfortunate.

After settling in to the room, we decided to go for a drive and check out one of the lighthouses in Cleveland and then go to dinner. Since the conference was in a Cleveland suburb, we drove about 35-40 minutes to see the lighthouse. It was during our drive that the next unfortunate, though still not tragic, event occurred. We knew where the lighthouse was located because we had seen it about 10 years ago on our last trip to Cleveland, but we wanted to see if we could get closer than we did before, in order to get a better picture. To get closer, we decided to follow the directions provided by our Garmin GPS system. Why, I have no idea. The last time we went looking for lighthouses using the GPS system, it was a disaster. Read Our GPS post. The GPS continually told us to make turns where no turns existed and due to the complexity of some of the intersections, it told us to make turns that we should not have made. After driving around for a 1/2 hour, we finally got to where we thought we wanted to be. We were as close to the lighthouse as we could get (it is in the middle of Lake Erie with no access). Unfortunately, this still left us behind several fences and unable to get a good picture of the lighthouse. To top it off, we had forgotten our regular camera and had to try to take pictures on our cell phones. Those cameras are not very good because you can no zoom the lens very well. None of the pictures turned out.

With that, we decided to just go back and get something to eat. We decided on a place called The Tavern at Twin Lakes because it came highly recommended from the hotel staff. Boy were they wrong. The place was very nicely decorated with a good waterfront view, but the food was the worst meal we have had in a long time. Our appetizer was clam strips which were too heavily battered and thus overcooked. If you have ever had fried clam strips, you know they get rubbery when they are overcooked. A heavy batter can contribute to this because the clams have top cook longer to get the batter completely done. After the appetizer, we received our salads. Mine had a single cherry tomato on the salad. That tomato was smaller than the nail on my pinky finger and had more wrinkles than a raisin. For our entrees, I ordered the Fish Sandwich Du Jour. It was a fried Walleye. To begin with, the fish was so greasy, youy could blot the grease off with your napkin and the ring the napkin out. Additionally, the fish had NO FLAVOR. I know that Walleye is a very mild fish, but this was beyond mild. It tasted flat.

The rest of the evening was uneventful and the next morning we got up early so Lori could get to the conference early. As we pulled out of the hotel parking lot, we called Grandma and Grandpa and found out that James' fever had returned overnight, but had once again broken quickly. This time however, the fever kept coming back. We decided we would continue to the conference and check in at the morning break. We were on schedule to arrive 15 minutes early.

At this point another unfortunate event occurred as we missed our turn and drove seven miles out of the way before finding a church at which we could turn around. Lori arrived at the conference two minutes late instead of 15 mintues early.

While Lori was at the conference, I decided to check out some antique malls. I had found four the night before on the internet and set out to find them. The first two were in Hudson, Ohio and the second two were in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The furtherest was about a half hour away. When I arrived in Hudson, I discovered the first antique mall did not exist. The address was on Boston Mills Road, and it turned out to be a residential area. The mailboxes skipped over the address that was suppose to be the antique mall. The second antique mall in Hudson turned out to be closed on Mondays. Disappointed, I head for Cuyahoga Falls. When I got to Cuyahoga Falls, I discovered the third antique mall on my list was not accessible. It apparently sits in an area only accessible to pedestrians and I could not find any parking. I proceeded to the fourth and final antique mall. To my surprise, the antique mall no longer existed. The address given by the internet was now a game store. It appeared that the antique mall had been gone for quite some time.

By now I was upset for having wasted a perfectly good morning driving around to non-existent businesses. I decided to return to Streetsboro and go back to the hotel. Once back in Streetsboro, I stopped for lunch and as I finished my lunch, Lori called. James' fever has continued to come back even after giving him Children's Motrin and it hovered around 102 degrees taken with the thermometer under James' arm. This means the actual temperature is higher by about 2-3 degrees. Grandma had made an appointment with the pediatrician at the hospital an we decided we needed to go back to check on James ourselves. Not that Grandma and Grandpa can't handle it, but with the high fever and the news of a flu pandemic, we felt it was best to return.

I picked Lori up, swung by the hotel to pickup our stuff and check out, and we were back on the road for the 2 hour trip to Pittsburgh. As we are coming up to the toll booths, we decide to go by way of Pennsylvania State Route 60 because the tolls would be cheaper and our cash on hand was very tight. Toll booths don't take debit cards.

As we crossed into Pennsylvania we were horrified to find the toll booth sooner than expected. On our way out, we went by PA State Route 60 and only had to pay $0.65 for the toll. Our surprise was that if we went back by that same route, we had to pay two tolls - one of $3.75 and on of $0.65. As we approached the toll booth, Lori frantically counted out our money to make sure we had enough. I endedup pulling over onto the shoulder so that we could continue to count. We scrapped together enough money for the first toll by collecting all of our loose change, which included about 20 pennies. After getting through the first toll, we had five pennies left in our car, and no service plazas with an ATM to getmore money. We were forced to stay on the PA Turnpike instead of taking our intended route because we didn't have the money to get through the second toll. The first toll paid for the first three exits from the turnpike, so we took the third exit and found our way to the doctor's office. As we pulled into the parking garage at the hospital, we discovered the hospital had begun charging $2.00 to park. Before this, parking had always been free at the hospital. Now we would have to pay $2.00, when all we had was 5 pennies. All we really cared about was getting back to James and making sure he was ok. Lucky for us, Grandma had two extra dollars. The rest of the evening was uneventful save for James' restlessness. He throw up a couple of times because of all th muccus in his stomach.

Tuesday came and James was doing a little better. Mommy's presentation at the conference was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, so once again, we left James with Grandma and Grandpa and headed off on another two hour drive. I only went at the insistence of everyone to help Lori with driving.

We got back to the conference without incident, and had the best meal for lunch, save for a few rain drops. After dropping Lori off, I decided to head back to Hudson and visit the antique mall that was closed on Monday. After the 1/2 hour drive, I pull into the parking lot and see that the building is dark. I wondered if I had misread the hours the day before, but just as I was approaching the door, the owner stepped out. Apparently, the rain storm had knocked out the power and she didn't know when it would be back on. She told me I could try back in about an hour, but it was pitch black inside, so I wouldn't be able to see anything. I fully understood what she was saying, but she was kind of rude about it. I decided to head back towards Streetsboro and see what I could find to kill time there. Two blocks after I left the antique shop, the power came back on. I could tell because of the traffic light I was sitting at -- or should I say in. I was in the middle of the intersection when the power came back. Luckily, everyone had been treating it as a four-way stop like they were suppose to. I decided not to return to the antique shop because of the owner's rudeness and spent the remainder of the afternoon browsing a comic book and sports card shop, a Goodwill store and an independent thrift shop.

At 3:00 PM, I headed back to the conference to pick Lori up. The conference was to end at 4:00 PM and it was only a five minute drive, but I really had nothing else to do. When I arrived, I plugged my cell phone in to charge and opted to play a game of Tetrus on it. About and hour later, I thought I would move the car to the curb so that Lori would not get wet when she came out of the conference, only the car wouldn't start. That's right, I apparently ran down the battery charging my phone and playing Tetrus. Here we were two hours from home (grandma and grandpa's house) and unable to get back to our poor sick little baby. Luckily we have AAA, and for once, our luck seemed to change, because they arrived rather quickly. As we left town, I stopped by Auto Zone to have the battery replaced. Luck was with us again, though it left me confused, when the battery checked out perfectly good!

With that, we filled up the gas tank, ran through the drive thru at Sonic, and headed for home. I am happy to say that our series of unfortunate events ended with the car not starting.