December 30, 2012

2012: a year of good times

When I started the Music Sunday segment on the Experience Optimism blog, I didn't expect it to turn into a Billboard top music chart. It began with a peaceful and pretty a capella song from Perpetuum Jazzile, a song that appeared in my Twitter stream. At the time, I imagined that I would create an occasional post for unusual songs and then I would share a story about why the song interested me. That's a lot of work.

I'm not afraid of work, but really, unless you are a musician or DJ, should music be work? No, it should be fun; but surprisingly, it wasn't until abut mid-year that I found myself listening to and enjoying the Top 40 radio station, usually in my car. Face it, those songs are fun to sing along with; and while I still enjoy classic rock and the songs that I grew up with, I'm in the mood for new sounds, new words, new descriptions of the world we live in and a new vision for the future.

Let me tell you, if the videos on YouTube are any measurement, that vision can be rather strange and the reality can be lonely. However, music remains the same through the years, it's entertaining and soothing, depending on your mood.

As this blog is about optimism and happiness, I've decided the final Music Sunday video for 2012 is "Good Time" by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson. I mean, seriously, the reason for its inclusion is right in the title.

As we end one year and begin another, plan to have more good times in your life. Be sure to add music to the mix because, well, it just feels good.

Just for the record, according to Billboard, the #1 single for 2012 was Gotye - Somebody that I used to know (feat. Kimbra)

December 29, 2012

Why should I attend an Optimist Club meeting?

Being part of an Optimist Club means that once a week, or at a regularly defined schedule, one has the opportunity to get together with friends and have a little fun while serving their community.

I often hear, and see, that attendance is down at club meetings. "We want to do projects, not get together to  eat," say rushed volunteers who contribute their time while keeping in balance with their other obligations like families and careers.

However, meetings are important for many reasons including:

  • Optimist Club meetings provide a venue to hear presentations from others in your community so that your club members can make informed decisions about where to donate your time and make contributions
  • Optimist Club meetings allow you to work together and make plans for solving problems that arise in a manner that is fair to all involved
  • Optimist Club meetings allow you to celebrate the good work that you have done to make your community a healthy, happy and prosperous place to live
  • Optimist Club meetings are forums to celebrate the good work of others and to give recognition to outstanding community leaders, members, nonmembers, children and adults
  • Optimist Club meetings are fun

I admit, it can be boring when an Optimist Club, or any service club, gets together only to eat; but even the "slurp and burp" club has its positive attributes and even the most active clubs will take a day off from a busy schedule so that members may enjoy each other's fellowship. That's when it is important that club members like each other for in the end, no matter the cause, we aren't going to hang out regularly with people that make us uncomfortable.

What is your Optimist Club doing to make everyone feel like they are part of the group? As we head into a new year, we'll begin to explore some ideas to make your club fun for all. Cheers.

Photo courtesy of Walt Callahan, Boise Noon Optimist Club. 

December 25, 2012

A Christmas wish

This year, I'm spending Christmas in Las Vegas.  It's different and the Strip is much more crowded than I anticipated. There are a lot of foreign tourists, but also, a great number of typically American-looking individuals. I've seen a good number of children, too, and they couldn't miss Santa riding a motorcycle because in Vegas, anything goes.

Of course the other motto of the city, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," is wise as well.

So I will only say that I'm enjoying the week. I found the accompanying peacock at The Palazzo Shops, open, of course, on Christmas Day.

Let me share my Christmas wish with you: I'm wishing for happiness. And I'm finding it.

I hope that you and all of my readers enjoyed their Christmas Day with family and friends and that they too were able to do something that makes them happy. It's a simple wish for all.

December 23, 2012

Warm wishes for a White Christmas

It's a classic Christmas song and while I try not to fall back on traditional holiday songs for Music Sunday, I couldn't overlook this version of "White Christmas," performed by CeeLo Green.

I became a fan of CeeLo while watching The Voice, but for different reasons than one might imagine. Yes, he's talented, genuine, a little quirky and has, as I've said before, an impeccable voice; but I like him most because he reminds me of my brother. There is something about the way he holds his mouth and when he smiles, combined with his stature, it has Mike written all over it. So CeeLo, you're easy for me to love. And Mike, my brother, you are missed.

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope it's white.

December 21, 2012

Optimist Clubs should deter violence

When I heard of the NRA response to the Newtown, CT tragedy, I went to Twitter, but what I had to say was longer than 140 characters. That led me to Facebook instead. I have to admit, I don't always share fully on Facebook because many of my Facebook friends are not as liberal as I am, but I do hope that they are as pragmatic.

My post was, "How discouraging that the NRA would call for armed guards in every school. Not only do I find it a disturbing picture, I fear that it would be a very short distance to impair individual freedoms. Liberty can be taken away by armed men and women, perhaps even more quickly than it can be preserved."

As an Optimist Club member, I look for ways to help raise children up, inspire them to try and try again to live up to their full potential. The vision of an armed guard in every school, in my mind, limits everyone's potential.

We do not live in a society that believes violence begets violence. The statement made by NRA's executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," is so out of touch with my values that I was compelled to respond.

I generally leave the topic of guns alone. While I don't like guns, I believe that those who want to own them have an individual right to do so. However, we cannot ignore that guns are being used inappropriately by some citizens and for that reason we must call for more regulation. 

The purpose of government is to keep its citizens safe; let's start with greater gun control laws in our own country. The purpose of an Optimist Club is to provide hope and a positive vision for all. Again, I say, let's start with greater gun control laws in our country. These are completely compatible purposes and perfectly achievable goals.

Optimist International has long searched for a flagship program that its member clubs can rally around. It's dabbled in scholarship contests for communications skills, pediatric cancer research and golf. It's even tried internet safety. The biggest challenge has been its dated approach to address problems that were being addressed by others in more dramatic fashion.

The rise of violence in our communities is neither dated or well-addressed by any group. Optimist Clubs, with their positive approach, can be on the forefront of this issue and I hope that they will. Deterring violence through education, alternative activities, and an increased awareness of those who have mental and cognitive impairments is called for in the name of optimism, hope and a positive vision for all.

I'm interested in designing a non-violence program for our Optimist Clubs to pursue. Who's with me? Leave a note; let's work together to get this done. 

December 19, 2012

Jerome Optimist Club serves Breakfast with Santa

Jerome, Idaho is a small farming community in southern Idaho with a large population of Mexican immigrants. Each year for Christmas, the Optimist Club serves a free Breakfast with Santa at St. Jerome's Catholic Church, meeting a need for many.

According to Club President Julie Stadelman, the breakfast is one of the club's favorite activities. Seeing the kids as they meet Santa with wonder in their eyes is a heartwarming experience.

Like the community, the Optimist Club is small as well, but everyone turns out for this activity and they bring their friends to share in the joy of serving others at this special time of year.

Being an Optimist Club member is a special commitment to the community. Breakfast with Santa is just one of many ways the Jerome Optimist Club demonstrates their responsibility in a timeless manner. Thank you.

Thanks to Traci Hine Brandebourg for the photos.

December 17, 2012

Optimism for a good world

On Sunday, Optimist International posted this picture on its Facebook wall. It is the front page of a newsletter written in 1921 by the first executive secretary of the organization, Harry G. Hill, where he speaks of an Optimist Christmas. It says,
The pessimist says the worst is yet to come. The Optimist believes the best is sure to be. For over two thousand years pessimism has, with shouts of strife, through clouds of smoke and torrents of blood, tried to refute the hope of world-wide peace. For twenty centuries Optimists have, with unfaltering faith, repeated the words of the angel chorus, "Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will," and today pessimism is routed while Optimism, with hope and expectancy, looks for peace. When all men, all nations and all peoples have good will in their hearts, they will find peace in their stocking. We used to receive gifts with the message, "For a good boy." Perhaps peace will be given us this year labeled "For a good world." When we deserve it we will get it.

It's really not all that optimistic of a message, but it is hopeful. I haven't addressed the horrific killings that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last week. However this message from Optimist International, appearing at this time, made me reflect on how tenuous peace may be even in the most idyllic surroundings. Now, more than ever, in our grief for the parents, children, and community we realize how we must come together and work hard to construct "a good world" and be ever vigilant of those who have means to destroy it.

My heart and tears reach out to the Newtown community, but my hope and optimism reach out to you. Every one of you that have the ability to make a difference in our magnificent world, please do so today, and every day. Join a service club, volunteer in your community, and be aware of others around you who may be hurting for reasons unknown. Reach out to them and help them find what they need to find peace. Perhaps then, there will be less perpetrators and less victims.

Perhaps, in a good world, there will be less grief.

Photo courtesy of Optimist International. 

December 16, 2012

Video, not so much, but this song is hot

"Locked Out of Heaven," by Bruno Mars, is my pick for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism this week. Funky, cool and sexy are just some of the words that come to mind as I listen. All trite, I know, but nonetheless, I just want to rock this song all night long.

I'll admit, I'm not such a fan of the video, but that's what iTunes are for, right? I hope you enjoy.

December 15, 2012

Optimist Clubs are angels year-round

It's remarkable how soon Christmas will arrive. It's a good thing that Santa has helpers so he may reach all the households around the country in one night.

In Blair, Nebraska, the Optimist Club is doing their part to help with an Angel Tree project. The beauty of projects such as this is are they help everyone in the community to give a little to the cause as well.

I've heard it said many times that Christmas is for kids, and that is true, but I like to go just a bit further. Christmas is for the community. Kindness and generosity is demonstrated and felt the most at this time of year. However, if you join a service club in your community, you'll find that you give back year-round.

If you live in the Blair, Nebraska area, please consider joining the Blair Optimist Club. They meet at noon at Godfather's Pizza on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.

Or click here to find an Optimist Club near you.

December 14, 2012

Santa's elves visit Middleton, Idaho

Steve Thompson and helpers at Santa's Workshop
Optimist Club members take on many roles in their communities and during the holidays a special role is being one of Santa's elves.

Many clubs adopt families, work in food banks, collect and redistribute toys or host a Breakfast with Santa. And a great many clubs host their biggest fundraisers of the year by selling Christmas trees.

This year, the Middleton Area Optimist Club partnered with the Greater Middleton Parks and Recreation Department to bring Santa's Workshop to life. With a donation of wooden toys from Home Depot, the Optimist Club and other community volunteers helped children in their community build a toy that they could take home with them.

Santa's Workshop was set up in the Middleton Rural Fire Department and more three hundred people enjoyed the day as part of the community's Christmas celebration that included a parade and tree lighting ceremony.

December 11, 2012


For 132 consecutive months - that's 11 years! - the Norfolk Panthers JOOI Club in Norfolk, Nebraska has visited The Meadows, a senior and assisted living facility, for socializing and fun. One of the highlights is bingo.

The ritual dates back to January 2002 when the JOOI Club decided to visit The Meadows for a project and the friendship between the residents and students began. On September 21, 2009, the residents of The Meadows decided to become an Optimist Club in their own right, but not without the promise that bingo would continue. It has and it will. What a great way to span the generations. 

Thanks to Mark Claussen for the photo.

December 9, 2012

Keep your head up!

Perhaps this song  isn't representative of the holiday season that is December, but "Keep Your Head Up," by Andy Grammer certainly keeps with the positive feeling that I hope this blog offers to its readers. With lines like, "You'll turn out fine," and "Only rainbows after rain," you know that he is selling optimism with his upbeat tune. A tune that, by the way, makes me think of summer and since I'm more of a summer person than a winter one, it makes me happy.

I hope you enjoy today's pick for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism.

December 8, 2012

How to find happiness

I saw this on Twitter today, shared by @B_A_K_R and just had to share. Who knew? Happiness may not be as elusive as we think.

December 7, 2012

A scholarship opportunity for deaf and hard of hearing students

Through its Optimist Club and District network, each year, Optimist International sponsors the Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. In each district, a winning contestant can qualify for a $2,500 college scholarship. The topic for 2013 is "Why my opinion is important."

Like all Optimist International scholarship programs, the contest begins at the club level. However, the local program is managed on a regional level my the district. The following video provides information for deaf and hard of hearing students in California.

To find out about participating in your community, please find the club closest to you by clicking on this link. 

Download the application and rules here. 

December 6, 2012

Optimists and Celebrities

Optimist International is delighting its friends on Facebook with a look at celebrities who have embraced Optimist Club programs. Among them are Neil Patrick Harris, who won the New Mexico West Texas District Optimist International Oratorical Contest as a youth. Click "Optimism, a way of life" to read the text of his speech.

As of this writing, there are nine photos in the Facebook album that says, "Founded in 1919, Optimist clubs have a rich history of service to youth. Here are some photos of noteworthy celebrities, and their connection to Optimist clubs, from days gone by."

In addition to Harris, other celebrities included are Tony Larussa, Stan Musial, Bob Hope, Muhammed Ali, Conway Twitty, Dana Wynter and Lawrence Welk. They are shown with Optimist Clubs that they have visited and been part of such projects as Youth Appreciation Week where Optimist Clubs around the world recognize children for a variety of attributes, but especially for being good citizens. 

Thanks to Optimist International for sharing the photos. Please click on the Facebook link and read more. 

December 5, 2012

Pennies for kids

The Optimist Club of Oro Valley, Arizona has made another donation to the UMC Pediatric Oncology Department from their progressive Pennies for Kids Cancer Fund Drive. Each year, the eighteen members of the Oro Valley Optimist Club donate approximately $15,000 to the cause.

The latest check, $5,621, will be used to purchase MP3 players for the children undergoing treatment. The idea is to make the child's stay in the hospital more enjoyable, explained Don Cox, club president. This amount represented $4,600 raised in the community and a $1,000 Cure Childhood Cancer grant from the Optimist International Foundation.

Thanks to the Oro Valley Optimist Club for the picture and story.

December 2, 2012

Sharing Gangnam Style, why not?

A billion views. As I write this, "Gangnam Style" has been played nearly that many times on YouTube. Some describe Korean rapper PSY's hit as a "painfully catchy" tune. Okay, I'll go along with that. Not much more to be said other than I can't ignore the sensation. To do so would ignore the relevance of sharing that makes social media influential in our current culture.

Go ahead and do it. Get up off of your seat and gallop along with PSY for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism.  And if you want to be part of the sharing culture, I hope you'll tweet the link out to your friends and followers because you know it is the right thing to do.

December 1, 2012

Inspire with why

Have you ever heard of the Golden Circle? Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why explains that leaders such as Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers were successful because they communicated from the inside out. They didn't just say what to do or how to something, they explained why they wanted to do something and why you should want to too. Sinek calls this process the Golden Circle.

When you get to why, your intrinsic motivations inspire you to give more than time to your endeavors. You will act with blood and sweat and tears. If you can speak to others' intrinsic motivations, you will inspire them to do the things that inspire them and according to Sinek, together, we can change the world.

As this blog focuses on membership and participation in service clubs, I thought that Sinek's TedxTalk, "How great leaders inspire action," might give you some ideas for recruiting more people to your cause.

In social media, we know that in order to get readers and followers, we have to be relevant. Our service clubs need the same mindset. There are so many causes, ideas and opportunities participating for our attention, relevance isn't always obvious and extrinsic motivations or rewards are often substituted for what is considered good behavior or actions.

If we rethink why we do the things we do and look for meaning, we'll find that we don't need external rewards. When our actions make a difference, that becomes the reward; and it feels good. I believe that we should always help others find their intrinsic motivations so they can feel good too.

November 29, 2012

Orangeville Optimist Club to light up Kay Cee Gardens

Following its annual tradition, the Optimist Club of Orangeville, Ontario is decorating for "Christmas in the Park" at Kay Cee Gardens and the Broadway Median Downtown. Since they work on a nonprofit budget, this year, they went to Facebook to find a little help.

They are asking for donations of strings of lights in order to ensure this year's displays are extra special.

Simple request, eh? If you can help, please leave the Orangeville Optimist Club a message on their Facebook page ( or call 1-866-998-1499.

Christmas in the Park opens on December 7. Opening ceremonies will commence at 7:30 p.m.

Kay Cee Gardens in located Between Bythia Street and John Street, Orangeville, ON

November 28, 2012

Laughter is good medicine

We can never get enough reminders for how to find happiness. I recently came across an article aimed at physicians about how to create a positive practice environment. Written by Christine S. Moyer for the American Medical Association, the article suggested that doctors should use humor.

"We need to lighten up and show that we're more than doctors. We're human," commented James Ferguson, MD. He keeps a joke book on hand for when he doesn't automatically think of something funny to say. Now that's human.

The benefit of a funny physician is twofold. The positive attitude helps the doctor avoid burnout and it also puts the patient at ease so that they are willing to share their medical history and questions. We've often heard that laughter is the best medicine. Maybe this is why.

At the recent American Academy of Family Physicians Scientific Assembly, speakers shared 10 ideas to help doctors find happiness. I decided to share eight of them here because they are time tested suggestions. PRN. (Take as needed.)

  1. Pause before reacting to something that bothers you and think about how you could respond to the situation.
  2. Develop meaningful connections with your colleagues and staff.
  3. Plan personal and family time and place it on your patient care schedule [work calendar] to help you maintain work-life balance.
  4. Learn to say "non" once in a while to requests for your time.
  5. Focus on what is working in your life rather than fixating on what is not working. 
  6. Laugh with your staff and patients. [coworkers and customers]
  7. Spend time doing things that you're passionate about outside medicine [insert your work] such as creative writing, photography or playing an instrument. 
  8. Volunteer with an organization that cares for the less fortunate.

Let me give special attention to #8. Through my years of involvement in Optimist Clubs, I've seen very few physician members. Perhaps I should write to the AMA and suggest another way for doctors to be happy: be an Optimist.

November 27, 2012

My #GivingTuesday post

Please join me in giving a hat tip today to the folks who are participating in #GivingTuesday. As an active Optimist Club member, I take the opportunity to give time and make donations to different causes every day. Making the time to write on this blog and the PNW District Optimist Clubs blog is one such commitment. I take neither lightly.

Other ways that I give are supporting the projects that Optimist Clubs choose to do. Sometimes that is with money, but most often it is merely with attendance. Being present means so much to children, parents, grandparents, spouses and friends. We become so busy with our lives, or our smartphone, we forget just being there really makes a difference.

As holiday consumerism takes its place in American culture with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is only fitting that we take time to show American philanthropy as well. Take some time today find a cause that truly speaks to you and make a donation and then go one step further and pledge some of your time in the very near future. You'll be rewarded with good feelings for doing so.

Find out about #GivingTuesday here.

Find out about Optimist Clubs here.

November 25, 2012

We are never...

Eighty-three million views and counting. That record deserves being shown as the Music Sunday video of the week at Experience Optimism, don't you think? Not to mention that "We are never getting back together," by Taylor Swift just begs for you to sing along.

Show a little attitude (whatever!) and enjoy. It feels good. And don't fret over that failed relationship because someone will come along that rocks your world and if they don't, just know that it's okay to be single because with friends, you are never alone. 

November 24, 2012

From Christmas trees to self respect

Oh my goodness. Or in text language, OMG. That's what I thought this morning as a read the sad story about the Optimist Club of Southwest Topeka, Kansas. This is their 52nd year to set up a Christmas tree lot; it will also be their last.

According to the article, a declining membership has stretched the abilities of the club and they no longer have the manpower to staff the lot in order to sell 400 Christmas trees. Richard Bush, a spokesperson for the Optimist Club says that he will miss talking with customers. Ralph Kieffer, a customer for sixteen years, says he will miss buying his tree from a nonprofit that then shares their money with special causes in the community like the Boys & Girls Club and TARC, a mental health program.

Yes, service clubs are finding it harder to stay relevant in a busy, cyber-connected world, but it was one comment on this article that prompted me to write this rebuttal. According to jacovdog, "Civic groups are a relic of the past. It's government's job to take care of everyone. That's why we pay taxes."

Can I get a collective OMG, please?

It is not government's job to take care of everyone, nor is it a service club's responsibility to do so. You have a personal responsibility to take care of yourself and to help your family, neighbors, and then others who are less fortunate than you.

If you joined a service club, you might get this continued education in good citizenship that you apparently failed to learn in school. And guess what? You might even earn a little self respect in the process. Service clubs build character. Optimist Club members believe by giving of one's self in service, we will will advance the well-being of humankind, community life and the world. 

In other words, we believe that service clubs work to improve the quality of life for all. In my mind, I believe that allows the government to defend us from our enemies, foreign and domestic, and otherwise keep out of our business. 

Now it's time for the collective amen.

Please consider joining the Optimist Club or another service club in your community and make a difference, as the Southwest Topeka Optimist Club has done for fifty-two years, one Christmas tree at a time. 

Photo courtesy of

November 22, 2012

Giving thanks year-round

In the United States, we begin the holiday season with the celebration of Thanksgiving. I learned today that the first Thanksgiving was held in September.

It was President Abraham Lincoln who moved the holiday officially to November. Did he know of the commercial frenzy that he facilitated by placing the celebration so close to Christmas? I doubt it. We were not as materialistic in the 1800s, but i wonder if perhaps we were more grateful.

Giving thanks is a respectful act. It should not be something that we do once a year when family and friends are gathered to witness. We should give thanks daily for the blessings we are fortunate to behold, witness and give.

Thank you.

November 19, 2012

Youth Appreciation Awards in Greeley, CO

In Greeley, Colorado, the Optimist Club recognized four outstanding young people for their participation in extracurricular activities, specifically the Boys and Girls Club.

Nominated by their mentors and honored by the Optimists were Tatiana Guevara, Thomas Edmunds, Angel Arreola-Castenada and Maria Arreola-Castenada.

Shown with the students are Ron Wittow with the Optimist Club and Gus Mircos and Samantha Ruiz for the Boys and Girls Club.

The partnership between the clubs bring attention to the work that both organizations do with youth. The Optimist International Youth Appreciation Awards are given by Optimist Clubs around the world to recognize something special in kids.

November 18, 2012

Be a champion!

Some songs empower you to try more, do more, and to be more. This is one of them: "Hall of Fame" by the Script with Will.I.Am.

 I think it is a perfect song for Optimist Clubs to play at their meetings and projects. The message is one that we share with children as we encourage them to live up to their full potential. "Be a champion," is another way of saying be your best. And that's all we expect from anyone

 Be your best, do your best and you will succeed.

November 16, 2012

Optimist Club of Monaco South, Denver, recognized for philanthropy

According to the website, National Philanthropy Day in Colorado is:
"...the special day set aside to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy -- and those people active in the philanthropic community -- have made to our lives, our communities and our world. Celebrations are held annually in many states across the nation."
 On November 9, ten businesses, individuals and organizations were honored for their service to their communities. Among them were the Optimist Club of Monaco South in Denver Colorado. Randy Marcove, President, shared this video on YouTube. It describes what Optimist Clubs do to bring out the best in youth.

Congratulations to the Optimist Club of Monaco South on your recognition. Thank you for your service.

November 14, 2012

Royal Oak Optimist Club celebrates Youth Appreciation Awards

The Optimist Club of Royal Oak, Michigan celebrated twelve outstanding students at their annual Youth Appreciation Awards Breakfast. Chosen from Royal Oak High School, Berkley High School and Shrine Catholic High School, the students spoke of their goals and ambitions as they conversed with Optimist Club members.

The students received praise from the Optimist Club, certificates of achievement and gift cards to Barnes & Noble.

Youth Appreciation Optimist MI

  The Youth Appreciation program is conducted by Optimist Clubs around the world as a way to recognize students for a variety of reasons including scholarship, citizenship, courtesy, and athletics. The main purpose is to say thanks for being a good kid.

Thanks Royal Oak Optimist Club for sharing your picture with us.

November 12, 2012

Knoxville Optimist Club appreciates youth

Recognizing exceptional students is a favorite project of many Optimist Clubs. In fact, there is a whole international program created for the that purpose: Youth Appreciation Week.

Although it can be and is done at different times throughout the year,  Youth Appreciation Week has traditionally taken place in November. The Optimist Club of Knoxville, Tennessee has been around a long time and they still celebrate the November tradition. Watch a video here of one of their recipients, Andrea Goldman. She's a remarkable young lady that champions recycling, among many other things. It's less than two minutes. Find out more.

November 11, 2012

Does blogging make you crazy?

The Music Sunday feature at Experience Optimism is two years old this week and until very recently, I updated it every week with a song that spoke to me for various reasons. I'm trying to get back on my game with a number of things this week, including this.

My choice this week was chosen just because it is smooth and rather soothing given the frustrations that I discussed in my post yesterday. Gnarls Barkley performs "Crazy" with a style that compels you to listen.

In case you didn't know, Gnarls Barkley is a duo made up of the impeccable Cee Lo Green and Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton. Aha; no wonder that voice seems so familiar. Enjoy.

November 10, 2012

Finding strength in purpose

I've been thinking about this post for several days and haven't had the heart to write it until now. It's about transparency and how blogging can make a difference in our lives.

It's pretty simple to be a promoter and to push the information that holds an organization in the best light. Some optimists would say that is the the only way to act - to tell only the positive side of the story. As much as I agree with finding the positive, I also understand there must be balance. We don't live in an enchanted world and we have to deal with reality every once and while.

As readers of my blog know, I write frequently about the great activities performed by Optimist Clubs in communities around the world. It's not always an easy job because the stories can be hard to find. Our clubs aren't always successful in getting their projects noticed and when my alert system goes dry and direct mail is slow, the Experience Optimism blog suffers. But the blog can also suffer when my approach is overly-criticized as well. Notice the word "overly;" I can take criticism, but I lose motivation when others think their agenda should come first. Today, I offer a solution: if you have your own agenda, well then, start your own blog.

Now the back story. I am the principal blogger for the PNW District - Optimist International. I have been sharing Optimist Club stories there since 2007, but the blog also serves as the website for the district so it must also incorporate news about the administration. That means that I have to discuss the business of the district. The district held its first business meeting for the 2012-2013 administration on October 20, 2012. At that meeting, we learned that the 2011-2012 administration spent $13,000 of its cash reserves and it did so without anyone in attendance speaking up to say, "Where did it go?"

I served as the leader of that district a mere three years ago. I turned over a nice sum of $29,000 to the next administration and earned the highest honors that Optimist International can give to a district and its governor. The next administration followed suit. We lived within our budgets and given that record, I think it would have been reasonable to request that the district dues be decreased. Decreasing dues would keep more money at home, with the local clubs.

However, last year, the district spent more money and achieved less. In fact, in addition to losing money, the district ended the year with over 300 fewer members than it had when it began.  I wouldn't be so anxious to point this out if the past administration wasn't bent on pushing their ways forward into this year's budget. The current governor, in an effort to be positive, is thinking like a cheerleader when he needs to put on his business hat instead.

Now the reason for my post. The last two governors, one successful and one not, have contacted me independently to say that my exposing this information on the district blog was inappropriate. When I asked them to please point to anything that was untrue so that I could make a correction, they couldn't. Oddly, neither cared to post a rebuttal in the comment section either. They just wanted to control what I wrote about the district to tell only the positive.

That's not the way I do it, boys. Spin sucks. Reality may hurt, but it's the only way to make corrections so that we can move forward.

The number of negative posts on that blog, by the way, is zero. There is something positive in every one. Even the one exposing something tough to talk about - loss - does so with optimism. Why? Because that's the way I try to live and the reason that I share these stories in the first place. I plan to continue to write in the same manner, for the same purpose, in the future. Thanks for reading.

October 31, 2012

Who needs candy when they've got Google?

Google doodles make me smile and for some reason, I'm finding this Halloween to be a smiley time too. That's why I knew I had to share the Halloween 2012 Google doodle here.

If you are visiting on October 31, 2012, this link will get you there to try it out firsthand. If not, watch a video of what you missed.

Trick or treat!

October 25, 2012

Optimist International is a powerful force for good

Optimist Clubs conduct community service projects on a local level with an emphasis on programs that help children live up to their full potential. That doesn't mean that a club might not focus on pets, adults, the environment, health and wellness, and the many other elements that come together to make up the community at large. Quite the contrary; everything that we do as an Optimist Club should help our members and our stakeholders have a better quality of life.

Optimist Clubs sometimes form for single purposes like sports or to complete a project in the community. When the project is completed, there may not be a need for an Optimist Club unless those who came together know what else an Optimist Club can do. That's why I believe every Optimist Club, old, new or in-between,  should follow the purposes of Optimist International:
  • To develop optimism as a philosophy of life, utilizing the tenets of the Optimist Creed;
  • To promote an active interest in good government and civic affairs;
  • To inspire respect for the law;
  • To promote patriotism and work for international accord and friendship among all people;
  • To aid and encourage the development of youth, in the belief that the giving of one’s self in service to others will advance the well-being of humankind, community life and the world.
And be true to the mission statement of the organization:
  • With hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in children. 
I'm part of a group on LinkedIn for Optimist Club members and recently there has been discussion about a new Optimist Club that was formed to serve the American Cancer Society through fundraising and other means. The club is creating its own mission statement. According to a club spokesperson, this club will embrace some elements of Optimist International's mission statement, but it will have goals that are distinct. 

Every Optimist Club is autonomous. That's a given and both a beauty and downfall of the organization. The beauty of autonomy is that it is easier to organize a club when you can adopt another's reason for being. The downside is that doing so dilutes the purposes, reputation and identity of Optimist International. 

I believe in the purposes of Optimist International and would encourage every new club builder and every member to remember what we stand for as Optimists. Spread the words, dreams, and deeds of Optimist International first and foremost. 

Affiliation with Optimist International is a powerful force for good in its own right and we should celebrate its potential and accomplishments just as we celebrate the potential and accomplishments of those we serve. Don't give away the opportunity to be an Optimist Club. It's a special feeling that can, given the chance, lead to a rewarding way of life. 

October 24, 2012

Rural Optimist Clubs get more print

Optimist Club
Optimist Clubs serve communities of different sizes and because of that, some clubs have closer relationships with their local newspapers. Particularly small communities, like Marshall, Missouri, population 13,000, where the local paper allows the Optimist Club, among other organizations, to publish the actions of their weekly meetings.

I recently came across this posting from The Marshall Democrat-News that explained what happened at the Optimist Club on October 13, 2012. According to the article, the club is planning popcorn sales and Breakfast with Santa, and some club members will soon attend the district meeting. That morning, they heard a presentation from the Soil Conservation District and at the end of the meeting, Paul Collier won the morning drawing.

Charming. Really, it is. It may sound mundane to urbanites out there, but what we do at Optimist Club meetings create bonds and establish a community. That doesn't happen as easily in metropolitan areas where people are often too busy to get to know their neighbors and newspapers are too busy looking for controversy to facilitate relationships.

Optimist Clubs, and other service clubs, are all about relationships. Without help from our newspapers, we have to create our own relationship-building efforts. To do this, I recommend a blog. Blogs are easy to update and easy to share. A consistently updated blog can easily take the place of a newspaper and soon, I predict, most people will go online first, before looking elsewhere for information about their community and the world.

It's up to you to start your Optimist Club blog now so when the visitors arrive, there is a lot to read about and plenty of reasons to get involved. Obviously, I like Blogger, but WordPress works too and both are free resources that let you tell the Optimist Club story in your own words. I can't wait to read what's happening in your Optimist Club. Blog about it and tell the world.

October 23, 2012

Make your optimism come true

According to Helen Keller, "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." How right she is and was on so many topics, but none more so than the subject of being a positive force and a beacon of hope in the world.

optimismEveryone knows her story; born blind and deaf, she struggled from an early age to be understood. And while her wonderful, patient teacher and friend Annie Sullivan taught her to communicate, Miss Sullivan also taught her parents to expect more of their child born with exceptional challenges. Together they began their lifelong work to change how others look at individuals with disabilities. More important, they gave others the confidence to overcome whatever challenges they face in their lives.

For that reason, I believe Helen Keller is the ultimate optimist. She made her own luck. She looked at the sunny side of everything. She spoke of health, happiness and prosperity. She expected only the best. I encourage you to accept that challenge as well; beginning today, overcome your obstacles, find your path and work diligently to make your optimism come true.

Reprinted from

October 22, 2012

Be the best you can be: Be an Optimist

When one attends an Optimist District meeting, one will find that a question is often debated:
 Do Optimist Clubs build new Optimist Clubs or is that a function of the District? 
In order to answer the question, I fall into the both and neither categories. I believe that people are responsible for starting new Optimist Clubs. It doesn't matter if they represent a club, a district, Optimist International, or even themselves, people must have a passion for sharing the purposes of an Optimist Club in order to inspire others to be involved.

At a recent meeting of the Pacific Northwest District Optimist Clubs, Rocky Jackson spoke about the need for new clubs in our communities. He also discussed why he joined an Optimist Club and why he stays involved. For him, it's about doing all we can to ensure children have opportunities to play, learn and grow into responsible and caring adults. He claims that he joined an Optimist Club almost as a favor to a cousin. He stayed because he learned that the work he did helped not only kids, but it helped his community and most of all himself.

It's not selfish to help ourselves. Being the best we can be allows us to help others. I invite you to become the best you can be by joining an Optimist Club. Ask me how.

October 14, 2012

"Too Close to Love You"

Like life, sometimes videos make little sense to those who are watching instead of living it. At least that was the emotion I got from the choice for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism. I offer Alex Clare's official video of "Too Close to Love You" for consideration today.

Had I not just seen the movie "Taken 2" with Liam Neeson, I would have not been drawn to find out more about the song and discover the video. Let me explain, it was perfect for the movie. Here, not so much, but the movie features Neeson's character, a fighter, saving his family. The sport in the video is Kendo, a Japanese martial art. It is physically and mentally challenging, like Neeson's character.

So perhaps the video makes sense after all. Now if I could just say the same for life.

October 11, 2012

Grow or die

We are eleven days in to a new Optimist Club year. Annually, on the first of October, Optimist Clubs change presidents, Optimist Districts change governors and the International Office and all Optimists welcome a new international president.

Each individual comes with new ideas and fresh energy to take our service forward. Sometimes I wonder if there is too much changing going on. One barely learns their job and then it is time for them to hand off the baton to the next volunteer. That's the way of membership associations, of course. A membership association must involve its members - all of its members - in its leadership opportunities. How else do we learn what is important to them? How else do we remain relevant?

A great number of people might recommend conducting a survey to learn what is important to most. As opposed as I am to surveys, I recently did just that. There were three points that I hoped to gain from the survey:
  • Determine if members felt they received enough information from Optimist International directly or through the District channels
  • Determine if the reputation (purposes) of the organization was communicated effectively
  • Determine what information members felt was most important
So far, I've learned that members want to receive more information and that they want to learn how to market their local clubs more effectively. While I haven't completed the analysis, I also believe that those surveyed believe that the organization's reputation or branding is not always evident in the communication they receive. 

As readers of my blog know, that's an important trigger for me. Optimist Clubs do great things in their communities and we would never want that to stop; however, the only way that we can insure their survival is if the organization thrives. We must share the same mission and benchmarks. We must grow in service and that means we must add people, programs and funding. 
optimist international grow

Growth, as insufferable as the word is to many,  is the benchmark and we must accept it or die. However, why we are growing and what we will accomplish as  members who are unified in the purposes of this great organization must be communicated lest we may wither from the randomness of our own good deeds. 

October 7, 2012

Listening to "Skyfall"

I'm a latecomer to the James Bond fascination; however, Daniel Craig caught my attention as none of the earlier Bonds managed to do. That's why I can't help but give a nod to the 50th anniversary of the iconic 007 as my choice for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism.

Cashing in on the popularity of Adele with the theme song to the new movie, Skyfall, the movie has many viewers anticipating its release. The Wall Street Journal has been cashing in on the popularity of both as they have repeatedly tweeted links to both stories.

The suave, sexy and risk-taking James Bond fascinates with his bad-boy demeanor and saves his country and perhaps the world in the process.  The movie "Skyfall" will be released on November 9 in the US. I'm looking forward to it. How about you?

September 30, 2012

Experience the "Power of One"

Today is the last day of the 2011-2012 administrative year for Optimist International. Optimist Clubs across the globe are celebrating the successes of the year, welcoming new officers and planning for the next year of projects and accomplishments. The Optimist Club of Barbados-Bridgetown celebrated the day by releasing the following video montage as a remembrance and thank you to the participants. It is also a thank you to those who give Optimist Club members the opportunity to serve.

The theme for the Caribbean District throughout the year was "The Power of One." The video features "The Power of One" performed by Donna Summer and the "Power of One" by Bomshel. Such inspiration is perfect for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism.

The video displays proudly a sampling of what Optimist Clubs do. And they do it with love.

September 26, 2012

Promo items: are they worth it?

Tchotchkes. What a funny word for the little takeaway novelties that businesses often provide in order to get you to remember them next time you are making a purchase. Swag, the more contemporary term, is equally odd. Of course the very real question that I have for you today is does it work? If you receive a key ring, fly swatter, calendar or magnet are you more likely to remember a business and contact them next time you need their services?

Magnet available at Cafe Press
I was reading an article in the American Medical Association (AMA) News that fully endorsed physicians use of tchotchkes in their marketing collateral. According to the author of the article, not only does the item remind the person who received it about the business,  if you choose an appropriate item, one that the recipient will use, it can also be seen by others. Two birds, one stone.

If it works for physicians and other businesses, it seems reasonable that giving away tchotchkes or swag would work for an Optimist Club. Perhaps a refrigerator magnet with the website address of the local Optimist Club would encourage the reader to go online and find out more. Maybe a water bottle, branded with the Optimist Club logo, will remind users about youth sports programs provided by the local club. Or my favorite tchotchke to receive might become the favorite of others. I love sticky notes - add an Optimist Club logo to a pack of sticky notes and they provide ongoing brand awareness.

I've heard of clubs that have pens and pencils that they hand out to students. Getting participants in Optimist Club events is equally important as attracting members so student items might make good giveaways too. Remember, it's all about raising awareness for the good things that Optimist Clubs do in local communities. So as fair and festival opportunities come around, think about getting an Optimist Club booth and sharing some stories and swag.

Tell your community members about what your Optimist Club does. And then ask them to join.

Find Optimist Swag here. 

Note: I am not associated with any merchandise links in this post. 

September 25, 2012

Optimists: tell your story online

With the proliferation of blogs, telling the Optimist Club story has never been easier. When individuals write first person narratives of their experience at events, programs and even meetings, their story becomes a testimonial for the service that Optimist Clubs provide in their communities.

I've been encouraging Optimist Clubs to start their own blogs for about five years. Slowly, ever so slowly, I'm starting to see the rewards of my ongoing message. Districts have adopted the platform as well as a number of clubs. Here is a list of just a few:

optimist club blog
AMS & NW District
East Missouri District
Nebraska District
Oklahoma District
Pacific Northwest District 

Boise Noon Optimist Club
Coquitlam Optimist Club
Jerome Optimist Club
McCall Optimist Club
Middleton Area Optimist Club
Old River Optimist Club
Sunset Optimist Club of Kingston 

Some might ask what is the difference between a website and blog. It's simple. A traditional website is static; the information is basic and rarely changes. On the other hand, a blog is dynamic. It is a website that is constantly being updated.

Blogs can standalone, as these do; but a blog can also fit nicely as link from your Optimist Club's traditional website. The key is that someone - you - need to take charge of updating regularly. Tell stories. Share success. We all want to hear about what your Optimist Club has done and will do, especially those potential new members who want to know what might be expected of them before they commit to join.

Sign in with Blogger now and start telling your story online. As always, I offer my help with this link.

September 24, 2012

Caribbean District plans to make a difference one child at a time

October 1 marks the beginning of a new administrative year for Optimist International and its Optimist Clubs and Districts. As the current leaders push hard to add more new members to their rosters, new leaders are finalizing their plans and motivating their teams to take office immediately. It's always nice when the two administrations are able to work together, and for the most part, they do; however, at some point the new leaders have to start sharing their message. 

One way that the leaders will inspire their team is by developing a new logo that signifies their theme for the year. The logo, including a tagline, is not meant to distract from Optimist International's mission. It is designed to enhance it by bringing a local touch to the message.

Over the weekend, I began to see the logo developed by the Caribbean District. Lynden Buchanan, Governor 2012-2013 will ask the team to make a difference by focusing their attention on "One child at a time."

I'm impressed with the message and the design, but Governor Lynden has even more to share about teamwork and individual responsibility within one's team. He used a story about a feared but respected hunter, the wolf,  to make his point. You can watch The Wisdom of the Wolves to learn more, but I think "The Wolf Credo" by Del Goetz, contained in the video, says it all:
Respect the elders
Teach the young
Cooperate with pack.

Play when you can
Hunt when you must
Rest in between.

Share your affections
Voice your feelings
Leave your mark.

The Caribbean District of Optimist International is off to an inspirational start. I'm looking forward to the mark it leaves for all.

September 23, 2012

A conditioned response

A neighbor would always sing "You are My Sunshine" to me when I was a child and I would always cry. Silly, I know, but it still brings the same conditioned response. That's why when I saw "Trouble With the Curve," today I cried even during the happy parts.

The first clip, performed by Carly Simon is the traditional style that should bring smiles to most.

The second clip, performed by Ray Charles, is jazzy, as it should be, and a perfect addition to a Clint Eastwood film. Once the conditioned response is over, I think it is great and am happy to share it here on Music Sunday at Experience Optimism.

The story of the movie is family and baseball. It's a reminder that it is easy to push those that we love away. It's rewarding when we don't. And baseball, that all American pastime, is good at any age. I recommend the film and the songs.

September 18, 2012

Do good and grow

Service clubs spend a lot of time wondering, pontificating and stressing about how to get new members. Well, wonder no more. A recent post on a Kiwanis blog hit the nail on the head and I'm going to share the secret with you.

At Alan's Alley on Tumblr, Alan Arbuckle writes, "People join because they like what a club does in the local community."

He then goes on to say, "New members join because they like the atmosphere and the members. They want to be involved in meaningful projects that make them feel good about their experience. Young adults want to have hands-on projects. They want to be accepted as equals; to know their ideas are valid."

It's a pretty simple concept; the key to membership growth in your service club is to provide the services or projects that your local community needs and wants. Inherently, people like to be associated with good. Most want to make a difference, or at least not stand in the way of those who do.Those are the individuals that will join your cause if you just ask.

So if there is a second secret to share, it is, just ask. Do good and ask others to join you and your club will grow. I promise.

September 13, 2012

The happiness table

Coca-Cola has made me smile since I was a small child. As my mom's favorite drink, I grew up on its fizzy goodness. Sometimes we enjoyed Coke at the dinner table, but one thing was certain, with or without Coke, my family came together for the evening meal every day. We made our own family history as we shared the smiles, stories, and laughter of the day.

This may be an advertisement for Coke, but truly, it's an advertisement for something every person should try to achieve. No matter who you call family, bring them together with you for a meal on a regular basis. You'll be inspired by the love that evolves.

Click here to see the Coca-Cola Happiness Table on YouTube.

September 5, 2012

Digital natives and the Optimist Club

According to @Blackboard and @Jess3, the contemporary student is an active learner. As digital natives, they are constantly connected to the internet and seek information on the fly, from ever-growing and accessible sources around the world. So while they may be seen as inattentive to the world around them, in fact, we might consider youths to be even more aware, culturally, socially, and technologically as they learn on their handheld electronic devices.

The Voice of the Active Learner by Blackboard and JESS3 from JESS3 on Vimeo.

As our Optimist Clubs seek to attract students to participate in programs and competitions, they must be aware of the new normal. Technology is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and one that the students of today will only improve upon in the future. It's time for our programs to offer a digital and sharable component.

August 28, 2012

Talking trash at the Optimist Club

Ken Wall Boise Noon Optimist Club
Ken Wall speaks to the Boise Noon
Optimist Club
The Boise Noon Optimist Club was talking trash today. That's right; member Ken Wall was there not only for lunch, but he had been called upon to discuss his job at the Ada County, Idaho landfill.

What's so unusual about this? It has been my experience that Optimist Clubs are often reluctant to call upon their members for presentations. In my opinion, they are most certainly missing out on great, interesting information that members have to share about themselves and their careers as well as how their work impacts the community in which they live.

The other odd thing about Ken's presentation was the topic. What could be interesting about a landfill? A lot! As well as learning that it is anticipated to last at least 100 years, members learned about drainage, terracing and ground cover options, recycling and energy production. These are things that impact the way we live and make us better citizens.

And we know that Optimist Clubs are all about making better citizens. Have you learned anything recently about being a better citizen? Share it with your Optimist Club. They need... and want.. to know.

August 26, 2012

Music Sunday: "Home"

I don't watch American Idol, but I think you would have had to be living under a rock this past week to have not heard this song played on the radio or television. Phillip Phillips breakout song, already platinum, is shown here and it is a great one. Please enjoy, "Home" for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism.

August 12, 2012

Smile, maybe

I didn't know that people were still using ChatRoulette, and that makes this video that much funnier. Weird guy Steve Kardynal, a number of bikinis, and awesome responses to his on-screen wiggling make this video parody of "Call Me Maybe" go viral. Since it made me smile and do a little chair-dancing myself, after a week of vacation, it's my choice for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism.

What's made you smile this week? Tell us about it or send us a video parody and we'll be sure to post it here. Well, maybe.

July 31, 2012

The Windsor Optimist Youth Band delights audiences

We often hear of Optimist Clubs supporting bands, but this is the first that I've heard of an Optimist Youth Band. Supported by the Optimist Club of  Downtown Windsor, Ontario, the band recently gave a performance for the Charlie Brooks Memorial Peace Fountain.

The Windsor Optimist Youth Band has been performing for 46 years. Entirely run by volunteers, the band members range from 10 to 22 years of age. They have traveled to Germany, Baltimore, Calgary and Florida to perform in just the last ten years. According to the band's co-chairs, the opportunity to travel, please others through music and learn the basic morals of discipline, teamwork and personal development are the reasons often given for joining the group.

Everyone is welcome to join the Windsor Optimist Youth Band. Practice happens every Saturday morning, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Remington Park Community Centre, 2720 Lillian Avenue, Windsor.

The next performance for the group will be on August 4 at 11:00 a.m. for the Amherstberg 1812 Bicentennial Parade.

July 29, 2012

Just another sing along for Music Sunday

Train performs "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" for Music Sunday at Experience Optimism. I'm kind of torn on this song for it sounds like so many other songs that I like from "Phantom of the Opera" to Train's very own "Drive By." But then I guess that is the point of the posts that I make here - songs that make me want to sing because singing makes me happy. How about you?

July 24, 2012

Service clubs go to the Fair

It's Fair Time in Johnson County, Indiana and that means the service clubs are about to make some big money. That includes the Optimist Club of Center Grove-Bargerville that is selling "Beaver Tails" at this year's event.

What's a beaver tail? According to sources, a beaver tail is a cross between an elephant ear and a doughnut. This trademarked delicacy can only be purchased during the Johnson County Fair and only from the Optimist Club.

The club expects to raise more than $7,000 at the fair in 2012. The money is earmarked for youth projects, specifically scholarships, scouting trips and the girls basketball team.

Other organizations, including Kiwanis and Shriners make a similar amount each year from their food booths at the fair. Gateway Services, however, garners about $15,000 annually as the only organization selling lemon shake-ups.

Service clubs benefit from the fair-goers and the community benefits from all.

Thanks to the Center Grove-Bargerville Optimist Club for the photo and story.


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