3 Lessons from Craigslist Cars: Your favorite ride to hate

Turning the key in the ignition, the motor sputtered and quickly turned over to hear the roar of the beast.  Grinning like a kid on Christmas, I turned to my father who came with me and he knew I was sold.  I was 15 and test driving a rusted out 1992 Jeep Cherokee.  Its faded maroon paint and wood paneling just added more and more character to the vehicle, and for $550, what a deal!

I quickly handed the money over to the man with a bull-nose piercing selling it and drove it home, the disappointed look of my father in the rearview as I drove my new found love home.

But, as quickly as I had fallen in love with the car, the quicker I hated it.  After getting it home, I set off the alarm, and didn’t know how to shut it off.  It quickly filled my parent’s quiet neighborhood with its repeated boat horn until the battery died….Strike 1

The next day it rained, and as I quickly hopped in the Jeep to avoid getting soaked, I found the roof leaked more than the Titanic…..Strike 2.

The day after, I drove it across town, to the lake, for a one day lifeguard training.  I got about halfway there, and then smoke began to billow from under the hood of the mighty beast…..Strike 3.

Although she did not last long, as I rode around in my rusty dream for a summer before selling her, I did love that car.  And since, I have bought and sold a handful of cars on Craigslist.

Here are a few tips, so hopefully you fare better than I on your next hoopty car purchase!

1.  Make sure it has a Title!  If you’re buying something used, make sure it has a title and you get the seller to fill out a Bill of Sale (depending on your state).  Not having the proper documentation with your vehicle turns a beater car into a $500 lawn ornament in a matter of seconds.  Also, ensure that the person selling you the vehicle is the one on the title.  It seems simple, but there are a lot of scams out there.

2.  Know what to look for, and if you don’t, bring someone who does!  When I went to look at my first car I knew it had to have a title and 4 wheels, and my father knew about the same.  Do your research on the vehicle you are going to look at, and bring a trusted second set of eyes, and preferably a knowledgeable set too.

Look especially at things like:

-Tires: check to see if they are rotted or dry-cracking.  Also check the tread level, although this may seem like a small thing, this can quickly turn your $500 car into a money pit.

-Brakes: although cars are designed to get you from A to B, make sure they can stop you when                 you get to B!  Make sure that the brakes aren’t soft or spongey, and that they work properly.

– Rust: In New England, rust is a huge problem with the amount of salt that is poured on the       roads every winter.  Bring a flashlight, and make sure you get under the vehicle and look for rust patches, rot and holes.  Just because a car has a great motor and low miles, doesn’t meant that your foot won’t go through the floor one day when its rusted through.

3. The last thing, is negotiate!  There are hundreds of cars everyday that’s sold, from one beater to the next.  Don’t ever feel pressured, or obligated to buy something, and most people never list their vehicle at their bottom dollar price.  Cash is king, and use this experience to hone your bartering skills.

In the end, beater cars are some of the best love/hate relationships you will ever have.  The memories and experiences from cracking them up, to making stupid modifications (I swear ripping the muffler off my 98 Cadillac was one of my greatest life choices to date) and will leave you with some fond memories for when your kid pulls up in a jalopy in 20 years.

-Lil Kevy

3 steps to make Decision Stew

Steps to Make Decision Stew

Life is full of decisions, thousands upon thousands of decisions, every single day.

“What should I wear?”

“What route to take to work?”

“Do I want to eat this delicious blueberry muffin?”

(Last one isn’t really a decision, who doesn’t love a delicious blueberry muffin?!?!???)

We make thousands of decisions everyday, some thought-provoking and some second nature.

However, with every decision we make, we are affecting our lives with second, third and up to umpteenth order effects.

Some things are small, like not eating the delicious blueberry muffin makes you hungry later in the day…

Others are larger; should I purchase a car or house? How will this affect my bank account, my daily operations etc.

So here are three steps to help you decide and make intelligent decisions:

1. Fact finding: Figure out what you’re actually deciding on! This is sometimes easier said then done, however it’s a critical step. Make a pro and con list in your head or on paper for larger decisions. Find out the effects of your decision and examine every angle. Look on the internet, talk to others who have made similar decisions, and throw all these facts into your stew.

2. Talk to your advisers! When I want to talk to the smartest person I know…..I talk to myself! Hahahaha, but seriously, talk to trusted people. Talk to people who have made a similar decision before, talk to people that make sound decisions, and people that know you well. Present them with the choice and a little background and see what they have to say. Also, ensure you present to them some of the facts you found in step 1, and explain to them your thought process AFTER they give you their initial opinion. This allows them to have an unbiased mind base on what you say. If you talk to 5 trusted individuals, they may all give you the same answer, but with five different ways to achieve it. Very similar to asking 5 people for directions to a destination. They all accomplish the goal of arriving, however, they each have their own benefits and drawbacks. Take all this info, and throw it into the pot.

3. Take time (if possible). It takes all of 17 seconds to choose to devour a delicious blueberry muffin (can you tell I’m hungry?). However, when faced with a larger decision, like a major purchase or a career move…..there is no better solution than time. You don’t cook good stew in a minute….you let it sit in a pot, simmer, and allow for all the flavors, ideas, experiences and facts to meld together into your final outcome. With some things, you can’t take time, and you have to trust your gut and your experience, because at the end of the day, YOU are the only one who can answer for your decisions. Not your pro and con list or your trusted advisers, but for most decisions….you can let your stew simmer for a little while.

At the end of the day, after all of these steps….you can still have crap stew. Not every decision in life works out in your favor. The quality of the ingredients, the way you heat up the stew, the spices, etc. all have an effect on your decisions, and either way you have to eat your stew.

Gather the facts, get some ideas, give it some time and execute, and hopefully the end result doesn’t taste too bad.

-Lil Kevy

Thankful to be here

Thankful to be here

The reflection of the fireworks glimmer across the lake as I reel in another empty hook. Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute” plays in the background and fills the humid Michigan Air.

This is what America is all about.

Independence Day celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But this day isn’t just about memes of George Washington, or fireworks, it’s a day worth so much more.

It’s a day that allows us to realize how great of a country we live in.

We have improved roads, so people can safely commute to work. We have a Legal system which is far from perfect, but a system none the less. We have schools for our youth to attend, free of charge to the child or family. The majority of us do not fear war lords or crime in the street everyday. We do not fear our house being blown-up in an attack.

We are not war-torn, we have food and water and places to rest our heads at night amongst our loved ones.

We are far from perfect, but we are a lot better off then many other places.

So on days like July 4th, or any other day a year, sit back and realize, that you’re pretty damn lucky to live in the good ole US of A.

Goat intestines to squirrel stew….life lessons are everywhere…..

A few days ago, while at work, a co-worker came in and offered up some homemade stew. He raves about the homemade vegetables and the sausage in it, and finally about the two squirrels he nailed with a BB gun and had cooked up in it.

As he picked up the ladle and scooped up a hearty serving, my stomach was both nervous and excited, but I gladly accepted a bowl with a smile.

The first bite was delicious. The savory vegetables almost melted in my mouth and the squirrel itself added a certain sweetness. As I consumed the bowl without a second thought, it made me realize how many people wouldn’t.

The same as when I was in Tanzania a few years ago. We had gathered for our early afternoon “Chai time”, with all the teachers from our school. As we moved in line to grab our chai and bread, they offered us a bowl of soup. Not wanting to be rude to our host nation, we all partook.

Turns out it was goat intestine soup, very salty and bland, but our hosts smiled as we gladly accepted a bowl.

Life has taught me, from a humid high school on Tanzania, to my very own office, that different cultures are all around us, and they all have something unique to offer.

Even within the good ole’ US of A, we have different cultures (needless to say, the chef of the squirrel stew was from Georgia originally, haha).

Life is too short to say no, to be close-minded, and to not experience new things.

So next time you’re faced with a new experience, or a bowl of questionable stew, dive right in, because you never know what you’re going to get.

-Lil Kevy

5 things I learned from buying a house

When I started looking at houses to buy after getting tired of renting, I had no idea how it was supposed to work. What does a realtor do, exactly? Who do I have to pay? What do I look for?

There were so many unknowns, but luckily I had quite a bit of help along the way. So here are the 5 major things I learned.

1. ASK QUESTIONS! Ask the realtor, ask the inspector, ask the finance manager, ask the real estate lawyer, ask the neighbors, ASK EVERYTHING! This was the biggest help overall. My house had well water and oil heat, two things I had never experienced before. Asking questions not only improves your knowledge, but it also gives you more information to make an informed decision. For example, I pay nothing for my water because I have well water. However, if I have to re-drill my well in a few years, that’s a few thousand dollar expense, and something you have to consider when buying.

2. Houses are like beautiful women; don’t fall in love too quick, and there’s always another one around the corner….haha. In all seriousness, look around you. There are so many houses all around and bouncing on and off the market everyday, don’t lose yourself over the one that got away.

3. Evaluate potential! A house, whether your starter or forever home, is an investment. Be realistic when looking at a “fixer-upper” and lay out the costs it will take to upgrade whatever areas. My bathroom is outdated, and I planned the cost of a new one when making the offer on the house. But when I do eventually sell my house, it will be up to date because of the slow but sure project list I have amassed.

4. Be prepared to shell some money out of pocket. Yes, there is a down payment, but there are also closing costs, which can be anywhere from 2-8 percent of your house’s sale price. There are also inspections for everything: water, termites, radon, nuclear capabilities etc. All of these inspections cost money, and depending on your house and your budget, this can be a factor. Also, after purchasing your place, you’re going to need to buy a lot of miscellaneous things, like shower curtains, a weed-whacker, silverware etc…..which all adds up quickly.

5. Lastly, bring a trusted set of eyes with you, and make sure they know you well. I brought my parents along when I looked at some houses. This was for two reasons: first, being that they have a lot more experience buying real estate than I did, and secondly, they know me. One of my strengths is seeing the potential in anything. However, I needed to be realistic when buying, so it was good to have a trusted set of eyes for a second opinion.

All in all it was a great experience, and something very feasible for most. You never know what you can afford and what kick-ass loans are out there until you ask the questions and do your research.

Happy house-hunting!

-Lil Kevy

It hasn’t been my year….

It hasn’t been my day, my week, my month, my year….

It is a statement we all mutter to ourselves when we deviate from our goals, or come upon misfortune and something so easy to blame.  It is easy to give up, and succumb to this excuse.  There is a certain level of comfort in accepting the fact that external events have got us beat.

But time waits for no man…..

Every day we live is another day closer to the day we die.  Whether it be in 70 days or 70 years, each breath we are closer to our last.  This isn’t to say we need to fear death, but what you do need to fear is that when you do take that last breath, that you do not regret the life you live.

But, there is more comfort in making it your year, if your year goes to all hell, make it your month, make it your day, make it your hour.  Whatever gets to you, seize the moment and make it yours.  The older you get, the quicker life goes by.  Each day the clock ticks closer to the end, so why are you going to waste any second of time, because of external events?

Each breath, we are closer to our last.

So when the grim reaper comes knocking at your door, do you want look back at wasted time?  Or a life worth living….

Life is a highway….and we are all cars

Cars need maintenance. You buy the car, you put new tires on, change the fluids….so on and so forth.

Sometimes cars need things outside of regular matinence, such as a new battery or alternator.

Sometimes cars need bigger projects like a new transmission or a new engine.

All of these different problems are fixable, but fixable in different ways. If you keep running through tires and putting new tires on, it might not be the tire that’s the problem, but the fact that something is rubbing against it causing uneven wear.

It could be that your battery keeps dying, but it’s not the battery’s fault; it could be the alternator is failing to charge it.

There are so many things that can make a car stop running or not perform to standard.

Now the same is true with people. Everyone has their quirks; they have their dents and dings. Some problems in life are minor, and we can continue to drive through them and others are major where we have no choice but to confront the problem.

No matter what the issue though, they affect our car.

A misfiring car will still run. It will run until it runs so terribly that something seizes to work. It could be a week, it could be 100 weeks, but it will still run. Now when you’re running as a misfiring car, you’re damaging your other components and putting extra stress on them.

Just as if I have a problem I choose to ignore or try to push off, the second and third order effects will slowly trickle out of control.

Sometimes we get lucky; our cars break down at our house, or near home. We may break down far from home, but still be able to park in a safe spot.

But other times we are not so lucky, and we find ourselves cell phone dead and broken down on the busy highway of life.

When you have problems in your life, don’t ignore them. Assess the problem or issue, make a plan, execute and refine your plan from there.

Although break downs are sometimes inevitable, the more maintenance you can do, the better off your car will be.

If I didn’t get a flat….

I have three cars. A newer Volkswagen, an older one and an old ford ranger.

The ranger ran when I got it, I replaced a few things on it and when I put it all back together, it didn’t run….

0 for 1

The newer Volkswagen, the ever reliable car, just got an ignition cylinder problem. My key got stuck, with my car running…..

After a few strong smacks I was able remove the key. However I didn’t want to risk driving it today, because of my key getting stuck.

0 for 2

So, I took out the hoopty car, the lowered and loud, potentially misfiring clown car, an MK3 GTI #lowlife

She made it all the way to drill, and halfway back, deep in central connecticut, the tire blew out.

0 for 3

After thirty minutes of AAA not picking up, I began cold calling.

The nearest tow truck was 2 hours away.

I asked a couple of real adults for advice, and decided to limp my car to a gas station and get it towed tomorrow.

When you have a lot of bad luck, it’s easy to get sad or angry. To break down or get down on ourselves.

Or you can accept that sometimes…..shit happens. Sometimes life happens. Sometimes things out of your control (or in them) throw a wrench in your plans.

Instead of breaking down, we can choose to hunt the good stuff.

If I didn’t get a flat, wouldn’t be sitting here inspired to write.

If I didn’t get a flat, I wouldn’t have learned to check the camber on the wheels and check for uneven wear when buying a new car.

If I didn’t get a flat I wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy these delicious hot fries and a cool refreshing Arizona Iced tea.

Take a minute, take a breathe, and when life kicks you in the teeth, eat some delicious hot fries

The Captain of Lost souls

The captain of the ship

Is the pilot of lost souls

He Knows where they have been

But not where they shall go

He stands strong at the helm

Through hell and high seas

But he’s just as lost as the rest

And no one can see

Through danger and peril

He keeps the souls afloat

The ocean rocking and churning

The hull of the lost souls boat

Although he may be lost

And the other souls are a stray

He is the captain of the ship

And keeps them on their way

Not all souls will stay

Some may drift off to sea

But the captain will stay strong

For that is all he can be

The best nights are the ones that you never Snapchat

The best nights, are the ones you never Snapchat

Anyone who knows me, knows my knack for snap chatting…..well….almost anything haha. However, the best nights I have are the ones I never end up snap chatting or taking pictures from (not for the reason you’re thinking 😉 hahaha)

It’s about living in the moment, or moments.

We live so much for trying to remember memories we haven’t even made yet.

A bunch of “candid” photos for the Instagram that we all know were staged.

Getting a shotty video of your favorite artist, whatever it may be, but it removes you. It takes you away from the experience. When you use your phone or camera to become the middleman between yourself and the event, you become just another internet iser who could have watched the same video from their computer at home.

We need to focus less on making memories we haven’t made made yet and more on living in the moment.

What you see, smell, feel and hear. What you take from looking around and seeing your friends having a blast, and you being a part of it. You’re making memories, you’re having a moment with the people that count.

I have 78 photos on my phone from a Safari in Tanzania, and I wasted two hours taking them all. When in reality, The pictures that I never look at don’t remind me of the beauty in a wild Giraffe galloping across the Serengeti, or the nervous look our guide head when our van broke down by the lion we were watching and he had to get out to fix it.

Better then social media, or a flash drive, Your mind is the greatest database of memories and don’t forget that.

At the end of the day, stop living so much for trying to remember memories you haven’t even made yet, and live in the moment.

-Lil Kevy out.