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.


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