Monday, February 22, 2010

I've moved the blog over to wordpress!

I have moved this blog to Wordpress!

I like the cleaner and simpler format and layout available at Wordpress!

Thanks to a fellow blogger for the recommendation! =)

My new address is now:

This will also be my last post here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The New American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card

Wow! I am very excited!

I was contacted and invited to join a group of 10 individuals for a sneak preview of the Amex SPG credit card that will be launching in March 2010 this coming Wednesday!

Dinner, drinks, and a night's stay at the Sheraton Toronto hotel comes with this sneak preview invitation!

I really cannot wait to see the card being unveiled! 

I have been waiting for news of this new card, ever since MBNA sent us the notice that the MBNA SPG card will be discontinued.

I loved our MBNA SPG card! It has rewarded us many times over, and we share the rewards with family and friends too!

And from what I have read of the Amex SPG card (currently available in the US), the new AMEX SPG card seems to be better than the MBNA SPG card. I also hope the Canadian Amex SPG card is going to be as good as the US one, if not better!

Will write more about it once I get back from the sneak preview! =)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ramblings from the past 3 weeks

Oh my, where did the last 3 weeks go? =S

So many things, both small and big, have happened, came and gone, and I've not even had a chance to really contemplate and learn from them. Makes me wonder if I will still have opportunities to really look deep inside myself and muse about the events that happen around and to me when little Ethan finally comes next month, and presumably will take up most of my time!

I am so close to finally being able to hold him in my arms.

I am so close to being a mom.

It has been a really wonderful journey, the last 9 months. Ethan has been really good to me. He's growing happily and contentedly inside me, giving me little worries and problems. Thank you, my child. =)

Thinking back, the struggle to decide to have a child for as long as I can remember to my present state of close to delivering this little bundle of joy has truly been one of the most memorable journeys of my life. I don't think I will ever regret having struggled with deciding to have a child though. And I definitely do not think it was a waste of time at all.

For all its worth, the struggle has led me through a very interesting journey inward, to explore myself, my values, my beliefs, my fears, my strengths and my weaknesses. This journey inward has been worth its weight in gold because I have learnt to accept myself for all that I am, and that has made me as whole as a person I can be at this point of my life.

So now, I am ready for the next big step in my life! To nurture and be a role model for another little human being, whom I am sure will have his own little journey of discovery of what life means to him.

On Valentine's Day, I told Wayne that I was wrong. (Yes, one of those rare times when I openly admit that I have been wrong! ;-)) He asked me what I meant.

I once told Wayne that I was so sure that when and if we have a child, our marriage will break down, and we will end up in separation, and I was so afraid of that. Poor guy, to think that he had to sit through conversations like that. But I was so wrong.

I actually have grown to love him more since little Ethan came into our lives. Nowadays when I look at the father of our child, my heart always swells with an almost unbearable, uncontrollable, indescribable surge of immense pride and love. In the last 9 months, I have seen Wayne grown in his own way. He looks a lot happier and is more engaged in life!

Wayne has been the most wonderful partner to me, stable where I have been shaky, logical where I have been emotional, wise where I have been foolish, loyal where I have been tempted to stray.

For all that he is, I love him very much. And for all my rantings about his mellowness, and lack of emotional depth (which by the way is not true at all!), I would not have him any other way.

Again, I was so wrong about Wayne's lack of emotional depth. Just like I always told him that he cannot expect me to react and behave logically like him in situations, I should heed my own preaching, and not expect him to show his emotions freely and expressively like me! Oh my, what an epiphany! =) To think that we've been together for 10 years, and I am still learning so much about this wonderful man. A lifetime truly may not be enough!

So now, even as inexperienced as parents we both are, I know our love for each other, and for Ethan will see us through the ups and downs of first time parenthood. As I hold this thought, I can truly feel the growing excitement, and I am looking forward to being Ethan's mom! =)

I am not aiming to go for the best mom in the world award.... But I am certain I will be the best mom to and for Ethan! =)

There, my dear child, here's mommy's first promise to you, all bared and laid out.

Life beckons now. I have to get ready and go to work. Till the next time I muse.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blessings Galore

After the not so happy post last Thursday, I realized that I shouldn't just share the not so positive experiences of my life on my blog! =)

Life is really good to me, and I should celebrate it with everyone. So, today's post will be to share my blessings with everyone.

So, in the same week where I had to deal with my tenant issue and the reorganization at work, I received a phone call from Sears, telling me that I have won the Grand Prize in the Sears Lucky Draw at the Fall 2009 Baby Times Show.

Of course, when I received the phone call, I was skeptical. But the lady, who is the National Marketing Manager for Sears, assured me it is all legitimate and great. I remember starting to hyperventilate, and almost cried. =) I think the lady was quite amused with me, as I told her that I need to breathe, and that she has just brought the best news ever to me! =)

So, my baby is going to have a new nursery! Now isn't that wonderful news? =)

He's going to have a brand new crib, with matching dresser and change table, an organic crib mattress, an organic set of crib bedding, an Eddie Bauer travel system, and Mommy here gets to have her glider rocker chair with ottoman! =)

I've signed the release form last Friday, and now we are just waiting for the prize to be delivered. Happy mommy, happy baby, happy daddy!

Another wonderful thing happened just on Monday during my prenatal yoga class.

For some time now, I have been having pre-childbirth jitters. I am not stressing out much at all, but at the back of my mind, I am afraid of labour pain, and also the exhaustion and overwhelming feelings that might come with having to care for a completely dependent newborn.

At the end of my yoga class on Monday, while we are winding down and doing our cooldown, my yoga instructor asked us to close our eyes while sitting cross legged, and put our hands on our belly. She asked us to breathe deeply and feel the connection to our babies.

And then in her soothing voice, she started reading a quote from the book, "Guide to Childbirth".

I cannot recall the quote word for word, but all I remember was her talking about how strong we women are, carrying the child with strength and grace for 9 months, and now the time has come for us to run to the finishing line with the same strength and grace. With each contraction, we will be bringing our precious one to this world, and into our hands. So, greet your baby with strength. Let your baby feel your strength, and not your fear.

The little one in me also chose to give me a couple of kicks when she was delivering the quote, and tears just welled up in my eyes.

I guess this is the mother child bond that everyone talks about, and it can only be experienced by going through it.

The feelings that welled in me at that time was indescribable. I felt a sense of overwhelming love for he that is still growing in me, and it's like he is also telling me that everything will be fine, and we will be fine and learn well together.

It is one blessing and experience that I will never forget. =)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lessons to be learnt!

The last week and a half have been very eventful, hectic, and interesting for me. There are so many lessons to be gleaned from the events that have happened.

Let’s get to the lessons incident by incident.

First incident:

Exactly one week ago, on January 14, my entire work group was herded into a meeting room at 11 am, to announce the letting go of 2 of our colleagues, and our director. The lay-offs were very sudden, and with immediate effect, stunning the entire group.

Of course, with the departure of 2 colleagues, some of us were affected, in that we had to take on the work that was left behind. I happened to be the one who had to take on the work that was left behind by one of our departing colleagues.

I don’t think I had an immediate initial reaction to the news of that day.

Of course, I was taken aback by the suddenness of everything. But I have learnt to control my reactions and emotions, to allow my learned rationale to have time to kick in and really think through the whole situation.

Part of me was a little upset that they have chosen this time to throw me into the new task, and it was a tedious task and process that made a lot of our senior managers upset because of the discrepancies that always result from the very manual process.

Honestly, what were they thinking of, shifting a 7-month pregnant woman into something that is potentially very stressful? I know it’s not personal, it’s business. But then again, anything can be personal!

It seems that my easy-going nature, strong relationship management skills, and analytical prowess are working against me in this instance, rather than for me! =P

Anyhow, after some deliberation, and of course, talking about it with my mentor and my hubby, I have decided to take this change positively, conserve my energy, don’t spend unnecessary energy fretting over the situation, and do and improve what I can for this process in the next 2 months before I go on my one year leave. I am determined to leave my current position on a good note! =)

Is it a tough decision to make? Yes, in some ways, it was. I want to rant and rave, and lament on the unfairness of my treatment, but that will only make myself even unhappier, and everyone around me ill at ease. So, what’s the point?

That being said, I voiced the exact same thoughts that I have laid out above to my new acting manager in my one-on-one with her yesterday.

So, she is aware that I didn’t think it was appropriate to put me into the new role because of my current condition, but I also recognize business is business, and I have given my word to her that I will do my best, despite my feelings of “unfairness.

Hey, now you cannot fault me for not speaking up and standing up for myself, right? ;)

Not a word on this anymore. Just wish me more luck in my new role. =) And guess what so far, I seem to be managing it quite well. I’ve actually gotten into the good books of a few of the senior managers that I have to work with already. ;)

So, what is the lesson here?

I think it is: when life hands you lemons, it is really possible to make sweet lemonade out of it. You cannot control your environment and the events that happen to you, but you certainly can control how you choose to view it, make the best of it, and learn from it. Is it easy? No…but it is worth it.

Second incident:

I had a long night last night, and an equally long morning, as I spent a good part of the night putting together documents to support a hearing that we’ve applied against one of our tenants. And this morning, we sat through 4 hours of hearing all the different cases of landlord and tenant issues, with ours being the last.

To keep a long story short, we’ve been having issues with this tenant that we inherited when we bought our rental triplex in May 2009.

We were supposed to possess the house vacant, but this guy simply refused to move out, citing that the formal owner did not serve him formal termination letters.

So, we serve him formal termination letter, as per his request, as we really wanted to renovate the entire house. We wanted to upgrade the electrical network for the whole house, which requires breaking down walls and ceilings, and would render the house inhabitable.

But he came back with a letter from his free legal aid, saying that if we want to undertake renovation, we need to give him 120 days notice. At this point, we have already contracted workers, and paid our deposit.

And the thing was he wasn’t even supposed to be there in the first place!

Anyhow, we decided to continue work on the other 2 units, and leave his apartment untouched for the most part.

But this tenant started paying his rent late every month, except for the first month. And he wasn’t even paying the full rent for the entire apartment. He only pays half of it. I even have documentation to prove that the apartment was to be rented out for $900, but he only pays $500.

We kept trying to work with him. We didn’t think the rent for the basement apartment should be $900, and we even adjusted it to $750! We told him he is welcome to find a co-tenant, which was what the original arrangement was for the $900 rent.

But he has been giving us one story after another, saying he needs to rent the place for his business, and he is building his life up, etc, etc. And then in October, he stopped paying his rent altogether.

We have been trying so hard to work with him, and keep giving him the benefit of the doubt, when he says he will have the money to pay week after week, but to no avail.

Finally, on December 19th, I called him, and I offered him a way out, saying that if he moves out, we will forgive all the rent arrears, and we will not pursue him for any of the rent.

He simply will not hear of it. He simply refuses to move out. And now, he is accusing us of not maintaining his apartment, talking about mould in the apartment, when he doesn’t even want us to work on the apartment, as we will be disturbing his art work.

I had no choice but to file an application to evict him and to recover my damages. I really didn’t want to do this. I was so prepared to just see this as a business loss. I want to cut my loss, just get him out, renovate the place properly, and then look for a new tenant. But things do not always go according to what we want eh. It’s Murphy’s law.

So, today was the hearing. During the hearing, when the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) member presiding over the hearing says he is eligible for legal counsel, my tenant immediately jumped on it. So, we had to wait for him while he spoke with the LTB legal counsel.

After he spoke with the LTB legal counsel on site, who advised that he could seek an adjournment today so he could seek outside legal counsel, my tenant jumped on the offer and asked for an adjournment.

At this point, I had to step in and I pled to the Board, asking for priority hearing, as I am the one who handles all the paperwork and research, and I will be giving birth in 2 months’ time. The good news is that the Member has agreed to put forth our case as a priority case, and wrote that in the Order.

While I had the chance, I also told the Board Member that we are trying very hard to work with the tenant, and am working according to what the law says, but it has been very difficult. I believe he does sympathize with us, but the law is the law.

So, now we are in limbo again.

It makes me wonder about the legal system here in Canada.

Wayne and I try so hard to be law abiding citizens, going by the letter.

We want to provide a clean, safe and healthy environment for our tenants, and we are very flexible with all our tenants. We always give them leeway when they pay their rent late.

But at what point enough is enough?

People like to paint landlords as being the greedy, evil capitalists oppressing the little guy.

But after sitting through an entire morning of hearings, I can honestly say that 90% of the cases I saw today, it was the tenant taking advantage of the tenant-favouring rules and laws system here in Ontario, and messing with the landlords.

Am I biased since I am a landlord? I probably am. But I know that I stand for myself, for my hubby, and I know we have done the best that we possibly and humanly can.

Short of supporting my tenant financially, paying for his apartment and his utilities with a smile, I do not know what else I should be doing to ensure that we are being treated fairly.

Up till now, I am still not quite sure what are the lessons I am supposed to glean from this mini-saga.

Is it not to be compassionate, and start legal proceedings the moment a tenant is late in paying rent to avoid being screwed over, upside and under?

Is it that a certain particular ethnic group is not to be trusted, and we should be wary of?

Is there something else that we are not doing for our tenants, which resulted in us having to go through this weary process?

I am a very strong believer in not doing unto others, what I don’t want others to do unto me. But unfortunately, in this case, we are being done, even though we do our utmost best to be good landlords.

*Sigh* I guess this is part of the learning process of being a landlord here in Canada. We will have to learn to work with it, and through it, if we want to be successful in this.

On a positive note, we are very lucky that we are not currently relying on the rent to service the mortgage on the rental property.

I shudder when I think of those landlords who may be facing the problem of non-paying tenants, and they are relying on that rent to pay the mortgage! If they are not able to pay the mortgage, what happens to the property?

Now I can only pray that we will have an agreeable resolution in our next hearing, which is scheduled for late February/early March.

If it means that the tenant will be staying on, we will be fine, and we will work with him, as long as he does not give us the run around chasing after him for rent again and again, and he gives us access to our house so that we can do the appropriate maintenance work.

It’s so ironic that we as owners of the house has so little rights to our property! What is this world coming to eh. Sure makes you wonder! ;-)

Alright, this has been one long rambling post. Hopefully, I made some sense. And hopefully, the universe hears me, and sends me positive and good vibes.

Baby, Wayne and I will be sure to pay these positive and good vibes forward! =)

Till I write again!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Excuse me, do you have a toonie?

So, in one of the forum sites I belong to, one of the forum members recounted how she was nearly attacked while walking by Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto, and that started a mini discussion on the homeless, and the druggies in Toronto core.

I've always had a very strong opinion on the homeless, the panhandlers, and the druggies in downtown Toronto. I think it is primarily because I come from Singapore, and Singapore has a very strict stance on such social ills.

I am a total believer of the "Broken Windows" theory, by James Wilson and George Kelling. The title of this theory comes from the following example: (from Wikipedia)

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.

So, in the same way, by ignoring the panhandlers, the homeless and the druggies, we might just be paving a way for bigger social ills in the City of Toronto.

I really do wish that we have a strong leadership for this beautiful city of Toronto. A leader who is not afraid to stand up and make tough decisions to clean up the streets of Toronto.

Anyhow, going to share with you all an essay that I wrote for one of my speech projects again. =)

Let me know your thoughts. =)

Excuse Me, Do you have a Toonie?

“Excuse me, do you have a quarter?” Well, recently, I have heard more along the lines of, “Excuse me, do you have a toonie?”

Panhandling, a politically correct term for begging, rampant all over Toronto, is a baffling phenomenon that I still cannot make sense of. Isn’t Canada supposed to be quite a socialist country? And given the huge amount of taxes that Canadians, and the working immigrants are paying, one would think that we would have enough social and welfare programs to help out our poor, our needy, and our mentally sick.

Alas, this is not the case. Hence, the tonnes of panhandlers littered around the busy intersections of downtown Toronto, surviving on the dole outs from passers bys, and soft-hearted tourists.

Ladies and gentlemen, today, I would like to talk about panhandling, how it affects me, and some success stories in dealing with panhandling.

In an ideal world, we will never have to deal with the discomfort of seeing a dirty, ragged panhandler, stretching out his dirt-filled hands, asking for your spare change. However, that is not the case in Toronto.

Panhandlers make me very uncomfortable. Unfortunately for me, they seem to be everywhere! When I walk to work, when I walk to shop and eat, when I walk home, when I drive to visit my relatives in Markharm…

Just last month, I had a panhandler come up to me, and ask me for spare change, as I was opening up my wallet to pay for my burger at the Atrium on Bay. I freaked out, and gave a little shriek! I was not expecting to see a panhandler in the mall food court. Normally, I am okay to pay for a meal, but I was so frazzled by the unexpected begging that I heaved a visible sigh of relief when the mall security ushered the panhandler out.

The past weekend, I saw the same incident when I was at the Eaton Center food court. A lady hurriedly scooped up her open wallet she had on her table, when a panhandler approached her to ask for change.

I’ve also seen young teenagers, who sit on the Yonge and Dundas intersection, with a sign that says, “Spare Change for Alcohol!” It is not even funny, and to make matters worse, people actually gave them money, because they found the sign hilarious and cool! What kind of lessons are we imparting to our next generation?

For me, it has come to a point that I pretend I do not see these people, staring at some fake interesting thing beyond these people, and trying to block them out of my reality… And for those who actually call out and ask for money, I say to them, “I am sorry” and scurry away. But really, why do I have to apologize for not wanting to give them any of my money?

I am sad to say that because of these panhandlers, I have actually become hardened to the harsh reality of the poor and needy people since living in Toronto. I am beginning to feel numb. And I am sure I am not the only one.

To add fuel to fire, it certainly does not help when I read some of the panhandling stories as I was doing some research for this speech.

There is Toronto’s famous “Shaky Lady”, who preyed on the kind hearted people while begging on Yonge and Bloor back in 2000 to 2002. She was eventually busted by a Toronto Sun reporter who found out that she was chauffeured to “work” every day in a Chevy Lumia. She also lived with her son and his three children in an apartment complete with leather furniture, a big screen TV, and a computer. Oh, and her shaking was staged. How’s that for a slap in the faces of all who believed her story of extreme poverty, and who gave her money out of the kindness of their hearts. One Thornhill guy reportedly gave her $60, and a McDonald’s meal during the Christmas season!

Then there is the stabbing death of 32-year-old, Ross Hammond, in Toronto after he and a friend refused to give money to 4 panhandlers just last August. The 4 panhandlers who killed Ross were between 21 to 22 years old, and they are from the US.

Some of the city’s panhandlers actually spoke up with regards to the Ross Hammond incident, and said that most of them are not aggressive panhandlers, and are harmless.

But are these panhandlers really harmless?

What do I make out of the fact that I find myself hardened towards the reality of the truly homeless and mentally ill people? Could our lax panhandling laws have attracted those 4 “aggressive panhandlers” from the US?

How do I handle these daily “assaults” in my community, and on my sense of self, especially the part of me who wants to be kind and compassionate?

Lots of questions, but no definite answer. Or rather no one wants to answer these questions. But there are solutions to this social phenomena. Just look at the successes that New York City, and Singapore has.

New York City has done a great job in cleaning its streets of panhandlers and crime. Back in the late 1980s, NYC undertook an unprecedented effort in cleaning up its crime infested streets, based on George L. Kelling’s and Jame’s Q Wilson’s “Broken Windows Theory”. According to this theory, “just as an unrepaired broken window is a sign that no one cares and invites more damage, so unattended disorderly behavior also signals that nobody is concerned and leads both to more disorderly behavior and to serious crime. Disorder left unattended leads to a breakdown of community control, ultimately undermining the fabric of urban life and social intercourse.”

Thus, panhandling, being an unattended disorderly social behavior, is outlawed in NYC. Panhandlers were taken away by the police and placed behind bars. Yes, this sounds inhumane, and is an infringement to human rights, and freedom of speech. But let us also consider the rights and freedom of the millions of citizens to have streets clean and free of panhandlers.

In Singapore, there are no beggars in the city. We allow licensed street buskers, but they are regulated. Beggars are also outlawed, harmless or not. They were taken away to community and welfare centers, and are put through rehabilitation and training programs that help them assimilate back into the society. We have welfare centers that provide jobs for these people, and give them a sense of contributing to the larger community. And I recall we used to have government paid advertisements telling us why we should not be giving money to the beggars, as giving money perpetuates and reinforces the begging habit.

Fellow Toastmasters, I have heard strange reasons given for allowing panhandlers in downtown Toronto. Reasons such as some of them are mentally ill, and for some of them, panhandling is the only way they can get money to survive. To all these, I say what baloney.

For the mentally ill, they should be treated and taken care of in hospitals… Leaving them in the streets just proves how callous we have become as a society!

And for those who fell on hard times, and are homeless, there are many shelters around the city, and many social and welfare programs available in the city that can help them climb out of the abyss.

We have to take tough stands and make tough decisions for the greater good of people.

I think it’s time we take a hard look at Toronto’s declining social standards, and ask ourselves what we can really do improve everyone’s lives in Toronto, both panhandlers and the rest of us alike.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Power of Choice

Today, I am struck by how many people unconsciously choose to feel negative about their lives, and seem to always not able to get themselves out of the rut.

It really saddens me that many cannot seem to see this world as the magical and wondrous place it is.

Maybe I am the proverbial optimist, but then again, maybe not. I have always declared myself to be a born pessimist, but converted optimist.

But I am also a true believer that optimism is a learnt trait. It takes discipline, and sometimes, sheer will to focus your thoughts towards the positive side of life. When practiced consistently and daily, optimism, slowly but surely, becomes your way of life.

Incidentally, I found an online article by an MD, titled “Become an Optimist to Save Your Life”, and in it, a study was performed which supported what I inherently believed! Optimism is a trait that can be learnt! =)

I hope people will come to realize that they can choose to be an optimist. And that they can choose to see this wonderful world as it really is.

All of us only get one shot at living our lives. Choose to make it count, choose to make it fulfilling.

And now to share the speech I delivered as my final project to obtain my Competent Communicator award in my Toastmasters club! And guess what, it is titled, “The Power of Choice”. ;-)

Let me know what your thoughts are! =)
Power of Choice

“Denise, one of our team members said that you should be working overtime, since you live so close to work.”

4 years ago, this was what my manager said to me during one of my one on one sessions. I don’t recall having a verbal response to that statement, but I will always remember the epiphany what went on in my head, “It’s all about choices! We all have the power of choice. I didn’t choose to live an hour away from work. I chose to live close to work, not because I want to work overtime, but because I want to have more time to do the things that matter to me!”

Perhaps, I should have shared my epiphany with my manager, but instead I chose to keep peace, since I was still new to this country I chose to live in. But it was an experience that I will always hold dear to my heart. And it has been one epiphany that has guided me again and again when I am bombarded with the many different choices of how I live my life.

Fellow Toastmasters, our lives are a reflection of the choices we have made. Every moment of the day we stand at the point of choice. We determine how we want to perceive a situation, what we want to believe and what we will not accept.

Take the example of what my manager said to me, I chose not to get too angry with what he said. Mind you, I am no angel. I was mighty peeved by what was said to me. But I also chose to keep that experience as a testimony and a lesson on the power of choice.

How we respond to life, what we make of life is a collaboration of the little choices we make through out our lives.

Although we often are unaware of choices we are making, all choice is ours alone. The life we want is within our power. It is within our reach. Such is the power of choice. It can bring us closer to or further from our dreams.

A good part of our waking day is spent in making choices. It begins as soon as the alarm goes off. Do we get out of bed immediately or push the snooze button? Do we prepare for work or call in sick? For lunch do we eat our desk, or do we take a walk outside and enjoy the one hour break?

All during the day we continue making choices as we decide what to do next. And each decision we make will result in us either having a successful day or a mediocre day.

Many of us act as if we are in rudderless boats drifting in the sea of life. And where is our destination? Who knows? We arrive wherever the currents and tides take us.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You see, the boat we are in has a rudder! It can steer us to the shore of success. That rudder is CHOICE. If we use it, we can become the captain of our destiny.

We can choose how we live our lives. Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. And yes, you choose to be in a good mood or a bad mood.

The bottom line: It's your choice how you live your life.

Here are some simple ways to start choosing how you live.

Each morning wake up and say to yourself, "You have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood, or you can choose to be in a bad mood." Choose to be in a good mood.

Each time something bad happens, you can choose to be a victim or choose to learn from it. Choose to learn from it.

Every time someone comes to you complaining, you can choose to accept his complaining or point out the positive side of life. Choose the positive side of life.

You can even choose to control your own emotions.

As an example, I have a girlfriend who lives about an hour’s drive away from the city. And she’s always asking me to go visit her, since she feels so lonely and alienated. One Sunday, I gave in, and drove the one hour to her place. As I drove, I became a little resentful, as I felt that I was guilt-tripped into going to her place. And for a while, I could almost see my emotions spiraling downwards, working its way to an unpleasant afternoon.

I remember mentally telling myself, “Stop! You already made the choice of agreeing to visit her, and you are on the way there already. Now you can make the choice of enjoying the afternoon, or you can continue letting your anger fester, and ruin your day.” Well, that did it for me, and I chose to have an enjoyable afternoon, catching up with my girlfriend.

No one states the case for using your power of choice better than Og Mandino who wrote "The God Memorandum" in his book, The Greatest Miracle in the World:

“. . . for I gave you one more power, a power so great that not even my angels possess it. I gave you . . . the power to choose. I have never withdrawn your great power, the power to choose."

What have you done with this tremendous force? Look at yourself. Think of the choices you have made in your life and recall, now, those bitter moments when you would fall to your knees if only you had the opportunity to choose again.

What is past is past . . . and now that you know this great law of success and happiness . . . Use wisely, your power of choice.

Choose to love . . . rather than hate.
Choose to laugh . . . rather than cry.
Choose to create . . . rather than destroy.
Choose to persevere . . . rather than quit.
Choose to praise . . . rather than gossip.
Choose to heal . . . rather than wound.
Choose to give . . . rather than steal.
Choose to act . . . rather than procrastinate.
Choose to grow . . . rather than rot.
Choose to pray . . . rather than curse.
Choose to live . . . rather than die.”

To close, I’ll like to now just pose a few questions for us all to ponder.

- Can you think of some choices you have made in the past that haven’t been in your own best interest?
- Can you think of a time you were in a bad mood? What caused it?
- What choices do you need to make now to take you toward becoming the person you want to be?
- How do you think you can react to those kinds of situations now that you know you are in control of your emotions?

Now that you know it's within your own power to choose who you are, you can't blame your current circumstances on anyone else. Perhaps, the hardest choice in life is to choose to take responsibility for your own life, but the rewards that stem from that tough choice far exceeds the pain of making that choice.

So, my fellow Toastmasters, take charge and make your life what you want. Stop living your life on autopilot! And as Og Mandino so eloquently put, use wisely, your power of choice.