Friday, April 20, 2012

What We’ll Miss (and NOT Miss) About San Angelo…

We barely lived there eight months and we’re on the move yet AGAIN. Yesterday, we said goodbye to San Angelo, Texas!

We arrived in “The Wool and Mohair Capital of the World” back in August and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. The first month we spent staying in a hotel, searching for a place to live. The next four months were nothing but work. And the last three months were a hodgepodge of volunteering, packing, running and traveling.
Random sheep statue at the park.

To say that we’re excited to leave this city is certainly an understatement. While I did make a few friends, I never really felt like it was home. The highlights of my time there were limited to running along the river, going out to eat and traveling to other cities in Texas.

A fun night out in Austin (3.5 hours from San Angelo).

Below is our collaborative list of what we love and hate about this city.

What We’ll Miss…

1)    Franco’s restaurant
If you were to judge this place on its outward appearance, you would never go inside. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall shed with an old raggedy sign. But don’t let its looks deceive you…this restaurant has the best Mexican food you will EVER eat. No, seriously. With San Angelo only 2.5 hours from the border, this is truly authentic cuisine.

From the moment you sit down, you’re greeted with a heaping pile of fresh tortilla chips and salsa. When the waitress comes, remember to order the queso. It’s a creamy mixture of cheeses (that makes my mouth water just THINKING about it).
Amazing queso dip.

Our favorite meal is the fajita quesadillas. I always got the chicken and Kevin got the steak. For $12 each, you literally have enough to feed three.
Chicken fajita quesadillas.

Once you’ve eaten all you can, it’s time to order dessert. If you’ve never had sopapilla, be prepared for the most delicious, decadent confectionary of your life.  Sopapilla is a flaky fried pastry covered in cinnamon, sugar and honey (similar to the Greek dessert baklava, but no filo dough involved). It is SO good I cannot even begin to describe the taste. All I will say is I have tried it before at many different Mexican restaurants and it has never been as delicious as Franco’s.

2)    The River Walk
When we moved to San Angelo, this instantly became one of our favorite places. Along a two-mile stretch is a walkway that lines the Concho River. On any given day, you’ll find runners, walkers and bikers, as well as geese, ducks, and fish.

When Bailey was still living with us in Texas, we liked taking her on walks here.

3)    Country western atmosphere
Yes, I like seeing men in cowboy hats and cowboy boots... I love listening to country music... And I like sitting at a traffic light, just feet beside a trailer carrying sheep or horses. Judging from the surroundings, this has to be where George Strait wrote all of his lyrics.

What We Won’t Miss…

1)    Dirty Conch Water

Let’s just say the water here cannot be consumed. It is simply undrinkable. So, if you’re trying to hydrate, cook, or make coffee, the only thing you can do is drive to the nearest water station. For $ .25 you can purchase a gallon of purified H2O.

BUT if you enjoy dirty, disgusting water that tastes like a salt block, feel free to fill up at the faucet.

(It should also be noted that the water is so HARD that it is impossible to rinse off soap in the shower, as well as detergent in the dishwasher.) Adios, nasty San Angelo water!

2)   Our Neighbors

I’m just gonna go ahead and admit that we didn’t live in the most posh apartment in San Angelo. In reality, it’s a dump compared to anywhere we’ve ever lived before. The apartment interior itself is somewhat nice but our neighbors are the sketchiest people I’ve ever seen.

First, none of them work. Walk out into the parking lot at 10:30am and there are only about four empty spaces. Then step outside around 3:30pm and you’ll see dozens of unsupervised kids parading around the pavement.

More than anything, our neighbors gave me the creeps. Especially the men. Apparently they never got the memo that staring and whistling at a woman who is clearly married (and not interested) is not okay.

3)    Our Apartment

Living in one of the hottest places in the country without proper air conditioning is something I will NEVER do again. I never appreciated central air until I spent eight months in an apartment with a useless window air conditioner. Not only did it suck up a lot of energy, it never cooled down our entire apartment. Sleeping in the nude with two fans blowing simultaneously was standard. (Yes, I’m glad that’s over with.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How I Met My Husband

I’ll never forget the day I met my husband. It was three years ago today- April 17, 2009. I was 22 years old, living in Valdosta, Georgia, working two jobs--- a TV reporter by day and a cocktail waitress by night. In a given week, I would clock in over 70 hours between writing stories and waiting on tables.
Live on WCTV.

Valdosta- the city I called home for 1.5 years.

By no means was I looking for love---I was absorbed with paying my bills and focused on finding a job that would get me as far away as possible from the post-college life I wasn’t exactly enjoying.

And then one Friday evening, between leaving one job and heading to the other, I got a text from my roommate… “Hey, I’m at the pool and there are two really cute guys here. Stop by and say hi before you leave!”

Turns out, she had been sunbathing alone at our apartment complex’s pool when some guy wearing red, white and blue swim trunks walked over and graciously offered her a beer out of his toolbox filled with ice.
The pool at The Links Apartments.

Rushing to make it to my second job on time, I didn’t really want to stop by the pool and socialize when I obviously couldn’t stay and sunbathe myself. But something changed my mind and I decided to drive over and say hello.

Pulling into the parking space, I could see my friend sitting across from two men---one dark and muscular and the other smaller with reddish hair. I could tell she was flirting and I braced myself for the inevitable introduction.

“Hey Kim! Over here! This is Kevin and this is Shawn. They live here, too!”

At that moment, I felt a bit embarrassed. There I was, fully clothed in a formal black uniform, draped in a knee-length apron while there they were, laying around, lounging in their beach wear sipping on brewskis. But then, my eyes landed on Kevin and I was immediately smitten.

He was tall with dark brown hair and these gorgeous blue-green eyes. His body was toned, his teeth perfect, and his smile contagious.

To be honest, I don’t remember any part of our two-minute conversation, but I do remember leaving that pool with only one thing on my mind… him.

I worked the next five hours, thinking about the handsome man at the pool. Then just before my shift ended, I opened my phone to a text from my friend. Apparently, Kevin and his roommate were throwing a barbecue and I was invited.

At first I didn’t want to go. I had just spent the past 14 hours working and I was exhausted. But as I was pulling into our gated community, I caught a glimpse of my friend waving from an apartment balcony to come inside.

Within minutes, Kevin and I were chatting and flirting and I knew he was different than any guy I had ever met before. I could tell he was respectful, sweet, charming, and genuine. And to add icing to the cake, I found him very attractive.

Little did I know that he would be the man I’d soon fall madly in love with and eventually call my husband. Looking back, I am so grateful for that day. It was a chance encounter that changed the course of my life and today, I couldn’t be happier.
About two weeks after we met (April 2009).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Married a Year!

Scottie Jones Photography

“Strike an average between what a woman thinks of her husband a month before she marries him and what she thinks of him a year afterward, and you will have the truth about him.”  ~H.L. Mencken, A Book of Burlesques, 1916

A month before I married Kevin I thought he was the perfect package (handsome, funny, charming, brave, hard-working, and generous). A year later, I still believe he is all of those things, but now I know much more about him than I ever did before we tied the knot.

The truth is, every day is a lesson. When you’re married, you discover little things about your spouse that you never knew while you were dating. Some of them are good, some of them bad, but it all depends on how you handle those discoveries. Here are a few lighthearted lessons from our first year of marriage… :)

Scottie Jones Photography

3 lessons learned during our first year of marriage:

1)   Two TVs are always better than one.

I never realized how much we did NOT have in common until we sat down to watch TV together. For Kevin, a perfect night on the couch would include King of the Hill, Seinfeld, Storage Wars, Sons of Guns, American Dad, or anything on ESPN. For me, I’d rather see Keeping up with the Kardashians, E! News, or anything on TLC. (The only shows we actually mutually enjoy are Criminal Minds, Suits, and Family Guy.)

So you can only imagine the frustration that ensued when during our first move, one of our TVs got shipped away. Of course, neither of us could agree on a show we both wanted to watch and it was an all-out war over the remote control. Eventually, we negotiated a deal where we could alternate between each other’s programs. However, it was easy to see how much Kevin hated everything about Kim Kardashian’s wedding drama and how I was equally annoyed over seeing every single college football game of the season.

It took a couple months of compromising until we finally decided to just spare each other the torture and watch our own programs separately. Of course, we don’t purposely sit in different rooms every night and ignore each other. BUT when we don’t feel like acting interested in something we’re not, we know we don’t have to pretend. And not having to pretend makes both of us MUCH happier spouses.

Side note: Yes, I forced Kevin to wake up at 4am to watch the Royal Wedding with me. No, he’d probably never do that again! Haha

2)   Loving each other does not mean loving all the same things.

When Kevin and I were dating, we both did a lot of things together to please each other---things we didn’t always necessarily enjoy. For example, Kevin would go shopping with me even when he didn’t want to… and I would go to bars I didn’t like just because he asked me to.

But after we got married, we suddenly stopped trying so hard to please each other. I would flat out tell him I didn’t want to go out with him and his friends and he would blatantly refuse to go to the mall.

At first I got really offended that we were clashing so much, but eventually I realized the reason we click so well is because we are so different. I’m attracted to his manly personality. I like the fact my husband is more concerned with sports than he is with fashion. Deep down, I like how he’d rather go to the shooting range than the shopping mall. If he honestly enjoyed trying on new clothes, I think I’d be worried.

I’ve come to realize that loving each other does not mean we have to love all the same things. Having our own preferences, tastes and hobbies makes us the individuals we are. I love Kevin for who he is, not for the interests we share.

3)   Never send a man to a grocery store alone.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m very particular about grocery shopping. When you send me to the supermarket, I have a detailed list of every single fruit, vegetable, dairy product and meat item I need. I make a point to NEVER walk through the candy or chip aisles and I also have a budget. Before I even grab the shopping cart, I’ve already calculated in my head how much I’m going to spend. And, I’ve already warned myself to stay away from the bakery. But not my husband…

Send Kevin alone and you’ll see twice as much spent, plus junk food galore. You name it, he buys it. Wine. Beer. Cookies. Candy. Ice Cream. Chips. Dip. You get the picture. He goes on an all-out shopping spree, buying every single snack I’ve purposely tried to avoid the past six months.

I laugh as I type this because I honestly don’t blame him. Women are always on a perpetual diet and living with a woman who is constantly watching her weight can be downright boring (think FiberOne, soup and salad every day). If it wasn’t for Kevin, I would never eat DiGiornio pizza, keep beer in the fridge or eat ice cream before bedtime. I’ll admit, I sometimes throw a fit when he comes home with these “forbidden foods,” but secretly, I’m happy.

Scottie Jones Photography

On our wedding day, my mother-in-law created a “Wisdom Tree” for the reception. On the tree, friends and family could hang their best marriage advice and wish us well. Below are some of those tips we’ve taken to heart.

Scottie Jones Photography

Some “Rules” for a Happy Marriage:

1)   Always keep God first.
2)   Never go to bed angry.
3)   Never talk badly about each other to anyone.
4)   Never bring up mistakes from the past.
5)   Encourage your partner with kind words every day.
6)   Neglect the whole world rather than each other.
7)   Forgive and forget.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

There's an Empty Cross, There's an Empty Tomb
John 11: 25-26 
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.'"

Philippians 3:10-12 
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."

Romans 6:8-11 

"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Six Things I Learned Selling Cars...

1)   Not all sales people are bad. Not all are good.
This goes for any occupation. In every workplace, there are good apples and bad apples. Sometimes it’s easy to spot the “bruised” ones right from the beginning and then other times, it takes much longer to recognize the “rotten” ones.

Either way, whether you’re walking into a car dealership or a new relationship, always keep your guard up and be careful who you give your trust. Just because someone is nice to you and seems interested in your career/family/life, it doesn’t always mean they have your best interests in mind.  

2)   Know your facts before you show up.
The customers who snag the best deals are always the ones who’ve done their research. Before showing up at a car lot, make sure you know exactly how much your trade-in is worth ( & and how much the vehicle you’re buying is worth.

The dealership I used to work for would never advertise the price of used vehicles. Why? Because they believe the buyer is oblivious. They think the customer has no concept of vehicle worth. They believe if they wait to reveal the price until after the test drive, they can make the buyer fall in love with something they can only afford via high monthly payment.

Often times, salesmen or sales managers would add $2,000-$5,000 onto the price of a used car. Again, you may ask why? Because they are brazen and know they can get away with it. All it takes is for a good salesman to build rapport, get you to fall in love with him AND the car, and then a warm, fuzzy feeling takes over and you stop questioning his sincerity & honesty. Where I worked, I witnessed salesmen high-fiving each other after “ten-pounding” a customer… meaning, they made TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS off of ONE PERSON. How? By giving them too little for their trade-in, charging them way too much for the vehicle, extending the term to 75 months, and hiking the interest rate.

This is pretty scary, isn’t it? Absolutely, but remember, not every sales person operates this way. Like I said before, there’s always a few “rotten” apples who give the rest of the bunch a bad name. Not every sales person is a greedy con artist. There are some who are genuine.

3)   Never buy out of emotion.
The easiest way for a salesman to get you to buy a vehicle is to make you fall in love with it. In my training, I learned “the feel of the wheel seals the deal.” Meaning, we get you into the driver’s seat and you automatically take mental ownership of the car. Without saying a word, you start thinking about how the vehicle will improve your life/appearance/status.  All of sudden, you NEED this car.

Sales people are trained to “investigate” you to figure out what your personal hot button is. If you are someone who nearly died in a car accident, safety is probably the most important feature to you. But if you’re the person trying to save money on gas, fuel efficiency/economy is key.

A good sales person will discover what makes you tick and they will craft their presentation to fit YOUR wants and needs. Then, once they’ve said all the right things and taken you through the process, it will be very difficult for you to say “no” to buying.

4)   “Buyers are Liars”
This is a favorite saying used by car salesmen. Very ironic because most people think they are the liars. But from my experience, I say both sides are guilty.

During my four months of wheeling and dealing, I NEVER once lied to a customer…but you can bet, I was lied to every single day.

There was this one man who looked like the Hispanic version of Captain Hook (creepy moustache). He was in his mid 40s and had his heart set on buying his wife a brand new Chevy Cruze. Of course, I gave a stellar presentation, explaining every single feature and benefit, and then took him on a test drive.

For the next hour and a half, I listened to him go on and on about how much money he makes shearing sheep all throughout Texas. He bragged about his “numerous” rental properties and how he “buys cars all the time.” As you can imagine, I was excited because I thought this was a done deal. Wrong.

We get back to the dealership, I obtain all of his information, only to find out this man has zero credit and no bank would loan him a penny. Thanks to him, I wasted an entire afternoon with someone who couldn’t even buy. AND to add insult to injury, I didn’t make a dime because without a sale, there is no income.

5)   Focus on price, not payment.
You want the best deal?  Pay more attention to the PRICE than the payment. Car salesmen are trained to get you to focus on one thing and one thing only… your monthly payment.

$300/month doesn’t seem so bad, right? Well, (without accounting for interest), a 5-year loan at $300/month would ending up costing you at least $18,000. A 6-year term at $300/month would end up costing you at least $21,600. In a year, that’s a difference of over $3,600!

Just by getting you to focus on the PAYMENT instead of the price, the term, or the interest rate, a car dealership can make THOUSANDS of dollars off of you, without you realizing it. I know this all seems like common sense, but you have no idea how many educated people get taken advantage of every single day.

With that said, know what interest rate you qualify for BEFORE arriving at the dealership. If you don’t, the dealership will give you highest one you agree upon. After all, the partnerships they have with national banks allow them to profit off of every loan they finance in-house.

By negotiating the PRICE, you will ultimately pay less. No dealership wants to lose your business over a few dollars. In fact, I’ve seen customers who have bought a vehicle at a price lower than invoice, just because they stuck to their guns.

6)   Walking away is your best bargaining tool.
When the salesman just won’t budge, remember you can always walk away. Leaving the dealership is the last thing they want you to do because they know, once you’re gone, you may never come back.  Use this to your advantage. Nine times out of ten, they will either come down on the price or offer you a better deal.

Great article on the psychology behind selling:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Selling cars, winning bread & hating life

When my husband and I moved to Texas, I knew it would only be temporary.  His job would keep us here a few months and I knew, I did NOT want to sit at home, watching soap operas and cleaning the tub. So, I applied for a job that I knew would be short-lived, yet undoubtedly lucrative... Then lo and behold, I was hired.

At first I was very skeptical. I didn’t WANT to be labeled as a car salesperson. I saw myself as a journalist and I did not want to be associated with a profession that, in my mind, was not highly esteemed.

However, I soon got over that as soon as the paychecks started rolling in… Within the first couple weeks I was selling cars, making more money off of one sale than I had earned in an entire month working as a reporter. Soon, I was out-earning my husband, jokingly calling myself the “breadwinner” of our home.

But it didn’t take long for that enthusiasm to waver. Working 12-14 hours a day, six days a week was taking a toll on my spirit. Not only did I live thousands of miles away from friends and family, I never saw my husband. We worked opposite shifts and only ate meals together on Sundays (my only day off). We never went anywhere or did anything fun. This was not the life I wanted. I was miserable.

On top of that, I witnessed some very sketchy behavior from two of my managers that I believed was dishonest, unfair, and unethical. Of course, I confronted them with my concerns and while it was subsequently resolved, I never trusted any of them again.

Within a week, I resigned… Fortunately, with just enough money saved to pay off every single credit card and student loan I owed money on. Coincidence? I think not.

Spending those four months selling cars was by no means ideal, but it did teach me a few life lessons, as well as give me some insight into the business… Tomorrow, I’ll share some of my best car-selling secrets and I guarantee, you'll save thousands next time you buy a car.