Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Importance of Self-Discipline

From time-to-time a really great quote will inspire me to write a post about a particular topic, today is one of those days. I posted it up on our Facebook Community Page as well as instagram because I feel it's a good reminder.

Sometimes in our daily life, we get so caught up just doing the things that we ought to do such as go to work, clean our house, take care of the kids, prepare meals, run errands, pay bills, etc., that we don't always put in the kind of time into our true goals and dreams that we wish we did. Other times the reason why we don't tackle them is because of fear and lack of self-discipline.

This is such a great quote that I've never thought about in this exact way. Not that we go out seeking pain in life but ultimately we must decide to follow one path or the other. Nothing comes easy, we must either CHOOSE to work hard towards achieving our biggest dreams OR forever live with the ache of regret at not taking a chance or attempting to achieve our goals because we lacked the confidence, work ethic or chose to listen to all of the nay-sayers around us. The difference between the two of course is that after much discipline comes much reward! :)

When I have procrastinated in certain areas of my life and not been disciplined, I've certainly suffered the consequences in not being diligent. It often comes in the form of missed opportunities. In those moments, I feel really regretful and frustrated with myself. As long as I'm still alive, however, I know that I do have yet another chance to be disciplined and see the fruits of my labor thereafter. Having said that, it's a daily choice because there are so many distractions and people vying for our attention in this busy world. We must remain focused, the key is to work towards our goals a little bit each day. Every large accomplishment comes from not one or two specific moments in time where discipline and hard work was exercised but through daily commitment and diligence to keep working even when the weather is beautiful outdoors and everything else seems more appealing at the moment than the task at hand. Attending College is a great example as it requires not days, weeks or months but years to achieve the desired outcome of a Degree in hand. It's often easier to accomplish than other goals because we have a unique support system that we don't always have in other areas of our life such as other students within the same program to talk to, study with and go through the journey alongside. In other areas of our life beyond College/University, we find ourselves going it alone whether it's working towards a promotion, starting our own business, saving up for our first home, etc. It is when we don't have that regular support system or accountability that it's easy to give up.

Another great example comes to mind when it comes to the time it takes to discipline one's self: starting a new workout program. In my mind there are three sets of people, those who stay committed, working a little each day to reach their health and fitness goals, next there are those who dream about their desired result, work out intensely for a week, become discouraged and fail to return to the gym that they signed up at working out sporadically when the mood strikes them, hoping that one day they'll find an easier way to get into shape. Lastly, there are those who desire a better overall physique, better quality of life, weight loss and energy but who never begin at all out of fear of what others may think of their current physical appearance, fear that they may never reach their goal, never make the time to be active outdoors, or sign up for a gym membership, etc. Now, what if committing daily or even 3x per week on a consistent basis brought about the desired changes and essentially transformed an entire life? We will never know until we try, commit and follow through.

I would dare to say that fear (usually of failure), laziness, procrastination and distraction are the top reasons why most people do not remain disciplined. The good news is if you can overcome these 4 elements, you are well on your way to living a more disciplined life!

What areas do you struggle with when it comes to self-discipline? What techniques do you use or steps do you take to remain disciplined in various areas of your life?

Thanks for Reading!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday's Thought....Be Discerning!

Sunday's Thought....In order to survive and thrive we must be people of sound judgement and also discernment. Whom we choose to associate with is very important whether they be a life partner, a friend, a neighbor, etc. We can interact with all people, help them, minister to them, be a blessing to them. However, in terms of close relationships and those we regularly invite into our inner circle, we must ask ourselves if they align with our life values, attitude and faith just as much as they align with our personal interests as our environment has an influence on us. 

It is our responsibility to be discerning. We are reminded..."But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil." ~1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

I shared today's post on our Facebook Community Page as well as Instagram. If you're not following along there, I'd love to see you there! :)

Thanks for Reading and have a Blessed Sunday!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Long Distance Love & Parenting Solo

There are so many things swirling around my head at the moment and there are as many titles I could have given this post. I'm really not sure where to begin. I've wanted to sit down and write a post for a few days now. Partially for you-my readers, as I promised I would once I was ready and partly for myself to just see my current reality typed out before me.

If you follow along via Facebook, you saw me post about some big changes our family is going through at the moment. Thank you all for your prayers and kind words (without even knowing the details of what's taking place over here). My friends and family have been truly supportive and I'm so grateful to have so many people who care in my life.

The long and short of it is my husband has moved over 7,500 miles away and I've essentially become a single parent literally overnight as of last Saturday at 4 a.m., as Lily and I dropped him off at the airport, tears flooding my eyes with a lump in my throat. Listening to the sky cap ask Paul how long his visa was for and where he was headed and hearing him reply with the words "one year" broke my heart as I looked over at our precious little girl in her car seat staring up at her daddy not knowing that it would be the last time she'd see him for a long time and for me unsure of when we'd all be reunited again.

Now, let me back up a bit and give you some background if you haven't been a reader here for long. As some of you know, a few years ago my hubby moved to New York to attend a Master's Degree program at NYU. I first wrote about that here, here and here. At the time I had to fulfill some obligations to clients to finish some design work I had begun and it was good for someone to be physically present to tend to the house while Paul was away, knowing we were just a short plane flight away. After he graduated he struggled to find meaningful work or anything in his field given the current state of the economy. After much time searching, he set out again to obtain yet another Master's Degree making the decision that it was better to further his education during this slow time, however this time was a distance program he could complete online which suited me fine and while I was pregnant last year, it was nice to have him present so much. Fast forward to the end of the summer when he graduated and after applying to many companies, was still no further ahead. It was a frustrating and nerve wracking time for both of us but myself especially as I had just birthed a sweet baby girl into the world. With being off work myself to care for a newborn, I wondered what the next few months would hold.

Paul had been looking for opportunities in other countries for a while but I didn't take any of it seriously until he got a solid offer overseas to teach and consult with a school. This one was the game changer. It came after more months than I care to count, he finally had a contract in hand but with one catch....the job was in China. *sigh*  Now, I'm not opposed to travel, in fact I've already visited 27 countries and he has been to 70, so we are no strangers to venturing outside of North America but everything changes when you have a baby. We have our sweet little miss to look out for and the area that Paul's job opportunity resides in has poor air quality, in fact the air quality index for this particular city about 90 minutes away from Beijing is rated as 'hazardous' at the moment which is not at all suitable for an infant. Sadly, it is cold there now, and it will only get worse once the temperature warms up in the spring and summer. The weeks passed by and he looked for other work but time after time it became obvious to him that every door was closing.

Being a Christian family and seeking God's leading in all things, we quickly realized after much prayer and seeing the signs of doors closing all around him as well as knowing Paul's lifelong love for Asia and its people, that God was shutting every door in America and calling him to China for a greater purpose. Paul has ministered in 50 countries and while he is there to teach English and consult with the school with regards to growing its many schools across the country, his ultimate goal is to reach people there in a missionary capacity also. He lives by the scripture: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." ~Mark 16:15. As long as I've known him he's never been content here in America. We've tried to make things work here, but it's evident that there is a new season before us.

After signing the contract, he waited several weeks for his visa and I not-so-secretly hoped and sincerely prayed that something else would come through at the last minute in the meantime but sadly it never did. Finally the day was a Thursday and he came into the kitchen where I was working and told me the company had booked his air ticket and his passport with attached visa was arriving later that same day and that he had to leave in 36 hours. I didn't even have the time to give him a proper send off as he rushed around to get packed and tie up a few loose ends. For a while we've been stuck between a rock and a hard place on what to do. Family is very important and we never wanted for our family to be apart but at the moment, until he can get to a cleaner part of China with a new opportunity at a different company or within the same company, Lily and I are staying put. I've even toyed with moving in with family back home for a few months as it has been offered to me. I miss my husband terribly and I know Lily senses something has changed and misses her daddy as it's evident in her behavior at times and even her sleep patterns. The two were so close and have been so cute together over the past 5 months and she is truly daddy's little girl. The next step is for me to apply for her passport and for Paul's company to work on getting us both a visa. There are so many questions I still have. Obviously life will be so very different in a multiplicity of ways even down to the simple things like the fact that nobody can access certain social media platforms like Twitter, Youtube and Facebook from China, then of course there is the language barrier and the 22-hr flight with a baby. Some I'm aware of and others I won't even be able to comprehend until I arrive.

There is still so much up in the air. We've talked about so many different options but what I know for sure is while I'm capable of it and strong enough for the job, I do not wish to be a single parent for an entire year, a few months is my maximum as it's not fair to any of us. Twelve months is a long time and I have to tell you, I have a whole new respect for single mothers everywhere! I'm only a week in and it is definitely not a picnic! I know many military wives endure these circumstances with the added uncertainty of whether their husband will even come home. I know I'm not alone as many families around the world are separated because of work opportunities to provide for family however I still feel a bit numb about everything.

The first day he left I made a point of surrounding myself with close friends at a church bbq so I wouldn't feel alone. The next day, I met up with another girlfriend and then slowly started getting into my new routine realizing just how much my husband was a help to me when he was here. The house is so unbelievably quiet, not that Paul is really noisy but his presence is missed. The simple things like getting a hug in the kitchen while making breakfast, holding hands while walking around the lake or watching him cuddle Lily and dance with her and sing sweet little songs or blow on her tummy while changing her are etched in my memory. He read to her before bed the last night before he left (as he often did) and I took some photos because I knew she would be so much bigger the next time we were all together again.

Paul's flight was 22 hours in addition to a big delay along the way, he is jet lagged and is still struggling after a week to sync his body with his new timezone of 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. We try to talk via Skype daily, it's important for all of us to stay connected during this time. He e-mailed me recently to let me know that his offer was accepted for a 2-storey 2-bath loft on the 31st floor very similar to the style of a NYC apartment, I'm looking forward to seeing it in person and of course decorating it also. We're currently talking about a month long visit where I can see China firsthand on my own and determine what is best for our baby and of course our family. I will be packing to stay longer with an open return ticket. I'm torn as I've heard so much conflicting advice but at the end of the day, nobody is in our shoes, we must do what is best for us.

The days where Lily sleeps less than usual and she becomes clingy are long for me. I'm lucky to get online to write my daily post to Facebook but blogging has been out of the question. Although she naps a few times per day, it's amazing how fast that time flies by when you're tip-toeing around. We decided to sleep train her before Paul left so this has given me a few hours to myself after she goes to bed however I find myself doing laundry, making dinner, catching up on e-mail or trying to sneak in a moment to file my nails or take more than a 3 minute shower. I enjoy being a mother but it's true what is said about parenting being the hardest job on earth, especially when you're doing it alone, it feels like 2 full time jobs because you can never escape for some "me" time. Thankfully I've had friends and family offer to help give me a break by babysitting when I need it. I can't even image how things will be when she's crawling everywhere! Working has been a bit tricky but I am offering e-design part time and also doing some other freelance writing so I'm very thankful that I can work from home, a luxury that not everyone has.

As cliche as it sounds, all I can do right now is take one day at a time. Some days I'll be able to blog, some days I won't. Some days all will be well and others will have me leaning on my friends and family down here with tears in my eyes. It's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the past few days but really for many many months. Our life has been so unpredictable in many ways since we first got married so I should be used to it after 7 years but oddly enough, I'm not. I'm open to whatever this year has in store for my family and I which may mean a move to Asia which could turn into an awesome adventure. It's one continent that I have yet to travel to and how neat for Lily to explore the world at such a young age too. After just one week, Paul has started to build trust with the owner of the Christian school where he will teach. It's a unique opportunity beyond just teaching that I'm certainly praying about. Doors are opening there that have not opened for him here and I know it is for Paul to not only be a provider and fulfill his purpose but to fulfill God's calling for his life also. Thankfully, I can still do the work I enjoy also no matter where I am around the globe. Who knows, someday soon in the near future I may be writing you from Beijing and saying: "Ni Hao" (that's hello in Mandarin). ;)

Have any of you ever lived overseas or more specifically in Asia? What was your experience? I'd love to hear from you!

Wishing you all a Happy Valentine's Day with your sweethearts! I may not be going on a date with my hubby this year but I'm looking forward to spending my first Valentine's Day with my little Sweetie Pea. I'm toying with the idea of starting her on solid foods as she'll be 5 1/2 months old and has been grabbing for every glass I drink out of and watches intently as we have been eating food over the past few weeks. She's definitely ready!

Thanks for Reading,


*image source

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

7 Tips for Buying a New Car

I don't think I've shared this before so it may come as a surprise to most of you, but before I began my Interior Design company and this blog, I was a New Car Sales Associate for an Acura dealership back home in Toronto. I had been in sales for years after graduating from College and among a Telecommunications Sales and Software Sales career, I also sold cars. It's funny because whenever I used to even think of possibly buying or leasing a car, it felt exciting but daunting at the same time. Most people who worked at a dealership I found to be a bit slick and just looking to earn a commission, sometimes at any cost.

My goal was to sell as many cars as I could being myself making the relationship priority, I wanted my customers to feel they could trust me and that I wouldn't steer them in the wrong direction for the sake of a paycheck. Being the only female at an all-male dealership was an interesting experience to say the least and I'll be honest, given that it was a medium-sized dealership where the men were favored with leads,I lasted 3 months as it just wasn't for me. De-icing cars and shoveling snow off them before taking a customer out for a test drive was sort of the icing on the cake alongside of a Sales Manager who needed some serious anger management, as our team learned during our Monday morning meetings. Nevertheless, sometimes we experience things in life that aren't meant to last a lifetime but are great teaching tools. This was one of those times. Between taking a course at the Automotive Sales College (yes, there's such a thing), learning more about cars and the sales process, I tucked that knowledge away for future reference.

Anyway, I know many of you may have already purchased a car however perhaps your children who will go off to College have not. Perhaps you've lived in a big city where having your own transportation was not required and instead public transit or taxis was your primary mode of transportation. No matter what the case, I thought I'd share some tips in a step-by-step format on how to buy your first car.

1. Make a List of Your Must-Haves-Before getting carried away with how a car looks, how fast it is or the price, it's important to focus on what your needs are. Do you commute long distances? Overall comfort and gas mileage will be important to you if you do. Is this car just for getting around town? What features can you live without? If you live in a warmer climate, you may not need heated seats for example (although as a FL resident I can tell you that they do feel great on your back and we use them for a few weeks out of the year to stay warm). If you often have passengers or use your back seat for bags and groceries or a baby seat, you may find a 2-door car to be frustrating and not nearly as practical as a 4-door version. Likewise, if you have large packages or gear that needs to fit into the trunk, having rear 40/60 split seats would be an advantage for long items.

2. Determine Your Budget- Buying a car is the second largest purchase we make and it is an emotional one! Before letting yourself get carried away with a car you've fallen in love with, it's important to go in knowing what you can realistically afford. Bear in mind the cost of gas, oil changes, general maintenance (if it's not included) as well as car insurance, etc. If your budget allows for $300/mo. including taxes, you're better off finding something for $275/mo. slightly under than stretching things to $325/mo. Cars always cost more than we think, there is bound to be something that comes up-new wiper blades, a nail in a tire that needs replacing or patching, etc. You'll do yourself a favor in the long run if you are able to keep it at that price. Don't be afraid to negotiate with the sales person, $25 lower per month won't be a deal breaker most times when buying the car you really want.

3. Visit Multiple Dealerships & Test Drive- Visit several dealerships. For example, if you're looking at GM vehicles, visit more than one nearby dealership as you want to get a feel fore the dealership itself. Remember, this is more than the place where you will buy your car, it's likely where you'll have your car serviced too. Take a tour, get to know the staff and feel the overall vibe. Is the salesperson answering your questions directly? Do they make you feel comfortable? Do them seem honest and forthright? Do they spend the time to educate you on the vehicles or are they looking into the distance at the next potential sale? Once you've taken the time to visit dealerships and look at various models of cars, test drive the ones that make the most sense for your needs and budget, then compare them. Be sure to take the car out with the radio off, this will allow you to hear how quiet the motor runs, if there are any specific noises the car makes and allows you to pay attention in greater detail to the road as well as hear the sales person who may be pointing things out to you as you drive. Make sure you take the car out both on the local roads as well as on the highway so you can test the acceleration.

4. Take Time to Reflect- Before making any hasty decisions based on emotion, take a few days to just review the information you have. If needed, take the time to create a pros/cons list of the vehicles you test drove and also the dealerships until you are able to start narrowing down your decisions. Also, be sure to search online for reviews of particular makes and models. Hearing real customer feedback vs. just listening to a sales person is essential. You'll start becoming more informed with comments that alert you that "this particular model consistently has problems with the radio, or the steering wheel shakes above 70mph, etc."

5. Test Drive Your Favorites Again-Once you've weeded out the vehicles that won't work for you, if you're down to 2 or 3 models, why not test drive them again to be sure? This way, you'll have had the time to reflect so you can ask the salesperson your new questions and have a chance to look for certain things you may have overlooked the first time such as the amount of trunk space, how much of a blind spot there is based on the rear windows' shape, if the vanity mirrors light up or how far the seats go underneath your legs (especially important if you're tall). Each dealership operates differently. I still remember a couple who were really debating between one of our vehicles and another brand of car they were local customers and asked if it would be okay to take it for the day or weekend so they could really experience driving it as they would on their own. They were allowed to take it for the entire day and it gave them time to see how well their golf clubs would fit in, how smooth the ride was, etc. It doesn't hurt to ask.

6. Make Your Selection-After having had the chance to test drive a bunch of vehicles (some more than once), asking the necessary questions about the vehicle, the service center, financing/leasing options as well as what is covered under maintenance along with deciding upon the features you want to include such as a moon roof, GPS, etc., you're ready to make your decision and now you can get really excited about this final stretch with all the fun aspects like choosing leather or cloth, the exterior and interior paint colors and of course the options and getting one step closer to driving your sweet new ride off the lot.

7. Negotiating the Price-There's a rule in sales when it comes to negotiating and it's that the first person who mentions a price essentially loses. Be on the lookout for this. You can share your budget but when it comes to negotiating, the salesperson is going to want you to share with them how much you're willing to pay/what you can afford per month. As you get closer to a final number, during the negotiation they'll tell you they need to get a Manager's approval and will often ask you for a deposit right away in good faith if the price you ask for goes though. They may also ask you what amount will close the deal. Always go in lower on that number from the beginning and you'll get closer to what you want to pay at the end. They do have wiggle room, the MSRP is not the price you have to pay. There is a markup in manufacturer's vehicle lineup, some have more than others. Where I worked there wasn't a tremendous amount to play with but there is always room. Never pay full price-always negotiate! :) If the salesperson refuses to budge on price, ask if they can throw in a set of winter car mats, free heated seats, the moon roof, XM Satellite Radio hookup, a cargo net for the trunk, etc., so you come away feeling as though you're satisfied with your purchase in the end.

Now, I'd love to hear YOUR car buying tips, what do you look for or ask when you buy a car? Do you negotiate?

Thanks for Reading!


*This is a sponsored post however, all opinions and tips are my own. I carefully select each and every sponsor I work with and only partner with those which will benefit and /or represent you, 'The Classy Woman' reader.

*image source: Pinterest

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