Friday, April 30, 2010

Picasso's Words

Photo: pet-portraitartist.com

Hello Optimists,

Happy Friday! My news feeds and Twitter streams have been abuzz lately with messages reminding all Philadelphians that the "Picasso and the Avante-Garde in Paris" special exhibit at the art museum is coming to a close..."so hurry over before it ends!". I've seen a bunch of Picasso's and I must say, they're quite interesting. I've heard many people say that if it weren't for the name behind the painting, it would be questionable whether many people would have any interest. I don't know if I would completely agree with that...I think there are a lot of art gurus out there who can really appreciate the thought behind each brushstroke, but then there are those who think some of his paintings look like a first grader was left unsupervised during art class. But that's how modern art is... you either get it or you don't. It's kind of funny to see the beautiful works of Renoir and Caravaggio, and then in the next room over, have a huge 10x12 foot white canvas with a single red stripe down the center adorning the wall. That's the kind of modern art that really takes some special appreciation. No matter which way I turn my head or how much I squint my eyes, it just doesn't do it for me.  I may stand there for a few seconds, trying to look like I am carefully analyzing the meaning behind this "work of art" but really I'm just standing there thinking "What theeee.....??"

But Picasso is a household name for a reason. And for all of you non-art lovers out there, he was not the one to cut off his ear...that was VanGough. Anyway, Picasso was one of the founders of the cubist movement and really revolutionized the art world, making nearly 50,000 pieces of art during his lifetime. All of that hard work earned him the title of the most well known artist of the twentieth century, which is obviously no easy feat. He led a pretty interesting life, and after reading a bit about him, I learned that not only did he make a lot of really great things, but he also said a lot of powerful things too. In reading a few of his quotes, one really stood out to me and I thought I would feature it for today's post.
I do not seek, I find. -Pablo Picasso
This took a few minutes to really sink in. But after re-reading it a few times, I found it to be a very powerful statement, and probably is the reason he was so driven. To seek, by definition, is "an attempt or desire to obtain or achieve something" while to find is "to discover or succeed in obtaining".  Quite similar, yet one speaks to us in a more confident tone. To seek is just an attempt, a trial of sorts, which may or may not end in the way we hoped it would. It's almost like going into a situation blindfolded. To find, however, already speaks of the end result; it is an act that we know will lead to the finished product. So Picasso's quote tells us that we should not be in the mindset of "Oh, I'll just give it a go..." and try out a situation with our eyes closed, we should be thinking in a positive mindset and be confident of the direction in which we're headed. He wasn't just looking for opportunity, he was finding it. And that's what we need to be aiming to do in life. We've got to put our words to action, get out there, and find what we're looking for. It seems to have worked for Picasso...and it could definitely work for us. We just need to change our action from seeking to finding.


Reminder: My first giveaway will be ending tomorrow, Saturday May 1 at 10pm (EST)...so don't miss out on your chance to win some really great eco-friendly products for your home! 


Keep Smiling,

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Finding Happiness in Little Ways

Photo: quakeragitator.wordpress.com

Hello Optimists,

I'm not one to sit in front of the TV for hours watching a whole lineup of shows, but I always set aside two hours on Tuesday nights to watch The Biggest Loser. I love that show not only because of the amazing physical transformations we get to witness as the result of healthy eating and exercise, but also for the amazing psychological transformations that the contestants inevitably go through. Oh, and then there's the trainers, Bob and my girl Jillian, who are behind all of this, helping each person along their journey to a better life. The role they play is extremely important and their motivating words and inspirational pep talks always reassure the most doubtful of contestants that their life is worth living.

During the latest episode, Jillian went out to a high school in Texas to speak to some students and got to sit down and talk to one girl whose mental struggle for acceptance reflected her physical struggle. As I watched, I was so inspired by something that Jillian said to her, and I immediately grabbed my laptop to "jot it down" so I wouldn't forget her inspirational words. Now while I normally don't surround myself with those who would scream in my face until I cry, I would welcome a visit from that pint-sized powerhouse anytime. She is not only concerned with getting people healthy physically, but mentally as well, and you know that is something that I am very passionate about. Here's what she had to say:
Happiness comes with the achievement of little goals. -Jillian Michaels
We're always searching for the road to happiness, and most times we think that it comes with suddenly breaking out onto the scene and being recognized on a global scale. Sure, it might come this way, but it's probably more likely to come in small doses...in ways we usually overlook. If we want to be happier, healthier, stronger, and better people, we've got to acknowledge all the small goals that we achieve every day. It really is amazing to think about all of the things we get accomplished in one day, but until we actually think about what we've done, we won't get to appreciate our achievements.

It was quite ironic that yesterday, in the midst of these thoughts flowing through my head, I stumbled upon an article called "5 Paths to Happiness" and one if its tips was "Take small steps. Don't take an all-or-nothing approach to change and sabotage yourself before you start. Decide ahead of time to make small changes, and you will make progress." And with that progress comes the happiness that Jillian was talking about.

So starting today, pay attention to all of the little goals that you achieve... I bet you'll notice how much happier you are throughout the day, and how much more confidence you have going forth towards achieving some of your bigger goals. Remember to take one step at a time and be aware of what a positive difference you're making in your life, and even in the lives of others.

Keep Smiling,





Take a few minutes to read 5 Paths to Happiness 

and don't forget...my first giveaway ends this Saturday! 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How You Can Get What You Want

Photo: hip-hop-dance.net

Hello Optimists,

I was running some errands yesterday and switched on the radio to (randomly) hear "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by The Rolling Stones...and it has been in my head ever since. This song is right up there with "Hey Mickey", "My Sharona", and "8675309" in my list of top songs to instantly get stuck in your head. (And I apologize in advance for putting all four of these songs in your head!) But the bad part about the Stones song is that "you can't always get what you want" seem to be the only lyrics of the song that I know, so of course, those are the only words that have been playing over and over again in my head, like a broken record, for almost 24 hours. It's pretty much driving me crazy at this point.

But it did get me thinking about something. Is it really true that we can't always get what we want? I'd like to meet up with The Rolling Stones and tell them that that's not very optimistic. I'd like to think that we can indeed always get what we want....sure, it may take some extra time and hard work, but nothing should ever feel out of reach. If we really want something badly enough, we will make sure that we get it. And if we don't end up getting something we want, that probably only means that we didn't give ourselves a chance to weed out all of our attempts and "failures". Thankfully I remembered a quote about this that I knew I had to feature for today's post, and I think it is helping me finally let go of that song that's been in my head for a few too many hours...
"Whatever the soul knows how to seek, it cannot fail to obtain." -Margaret Fuller
I think The Stones should use this as the chorus of a new song and throw out that other one, right? This quote is absolutely true, no matter what the circumstance at hand. But it's important to differentiate between something we want and something we really want...with passion. If we have worked very hard for something and have devoted a lot of our time, effort, emotions, and soul into something, that passion will be rewarded in the end. We can get what we want. And like today's quote says, if we are out to seek something and believe in it with our whole heart and soul, we will inevitably be able to obtain it.

This is something we have to keep in mind all the time. It's too easy to get discouraged and lose hope in the things that we fear we're failing at, when all it takes is a little hope and confidence that if this is something we really want, we just need to go get it. So it's up to you now...go get 'em!

Keep Smiling,



Have you entered my giveaway yet??? It ends this Saturday, May 1, so get your entry in now! 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How To Go From Good To Great

Photo: taylorshocks.wordpress.com


Hello Optimists,


I saw a news headline yesterday that said "Olympic Darling Back in the Spotlight" accompanied by a picture of an Olympic gymnast whose image had been emblazoned in my mind fourteen years ago, announcing her "leap" into marriage. Of course I had to read it, as she was one of my biggest idols growing up. I feel like everyone knows the story of the U.S. women's team back in '96....sure, you remember...with everything on the line, Kerri Strug was the last gymnast to vault, and fighting through an incredibly painful ankle injury, managed to make it down the runway, pull an amazing vault and land (with one foot!) to bring home the gold. I'm not sure if you were watching live, but I remember staying up with my dad long past my bedtime to watch the finals of the gymnastics competition.  My eyes were glued to the television in anticipation of a possible U.S. team gold, and I sat and watched every move that was made. I can still remember Bela Karolyi yelling his now famous "YOU CAN DO IT!" and I could almost feel the tension inside of that arena. Seeing her injure her ankle in the first vault sent a shock wave through the nation and it seemed like the air was suddenly let out of the U.S. Olympic balloon. But when it seemed like all hope was lost, Kerri Strug pulled through and held the U.S. on top in an amazing display of perseverance and strength. 


As you can probably tell, I am still as much of a fan now as I was fourteen years ago, and for good reason. Regardless of whether you're a fan of sports or not, the lessons Kerri taught us through that amazing feat are really incredible. Gymnastics was her passion, she had devoted her whole life to it and her attendance at the Olympics marked the peak of her athletic career. Working so hard for so long for something that was so important to her gave her enough courage to keep pushing, even through an injury that would immediately land most of us in the hospital. She had developed an incredible bond with her teammates, working and training together for many months in preparation for this event. Not only was she representing herself and her teammates, she was representing the whole nation. Talk about pressure. But because she realized the impact she was having on so many people and the importance of her "job", she was able to see the bigger picture and look past the pain. Okay, so I know we're not all Olympic gymnasts, but clearly we can all learn something from this vault seen around the world. 


It's no surprise that Kerri has some inspiring words to offer, and I thought as a special wedding gift, I'd send my congratulations on her nuptials by featuring one of her quotes. 
It's important to push yourself further than you think you can go each and every day-- as that is what separates the good from the great. -Kerri Strug
Well, I would say she sure knows a thing or two about pushing yourself further than you think you can go, and her story definitely shows how she separated herself from the good to become great. So coming from someone who has actually lived these words, I think we can give her some definite credibility on this one. 


This is something we all need to keep in mind each and every day. It's easy to call it quits a few minutes early or to lower the speed on the treadmill before your time is up...nothing wrong with that, right? Well, no, there's nothing really wrong with that, but are we really doing all that we're capable of by not trying to be the best we can be? It's hard to always give 100%...sometimes we're just too tired, sometimes we're just not motivated...but think about what a big difference you can make by giving that extra little "umph"! Why just be good when we can be great

Keep Smiling,


Don't forget: Enter my first giveaway to win some really awesome eco-friendly products!


Check out this related post from the archivesGive It A Little Umph 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Steps to Awakening the Joy in Your Life

Photo: weblo.com


Hello Optimists,


I hope you all enjoyed the weekend! I'm always looking for great articles to read about optimism and positivity, and I happened to stumble upon a great article during my rainy Sunday called "Awakening Joy". The article discussed an "experiment" turned into a 10-month class (and now a book!) that was out to discover whether joy is a privilege of happiness or whether someone can learn to create joy and happiness in their life. Basically, it was all about positive thinking, which is something I love to learn about. 


One piece of the article gave a few pointers on how to change your way of thinking into a positive state of mind, and I found these suggestions to be quite helpful. So, here the are:



  • write what the word "joy" means to you

  • do some form of physical movement, such as yoga, dance, or walking, a few times a week

  • make a "nourishment list" of activities you enjoy, checking off those you do regularly and circling the ones that could be done more often

  • check in with your "joy buddy," a kind of running partner in the pursuit of happiness


  • I think these are really easy ways to incorporate joy into our lives. They're quick and easy, but I think they are often overlooked as ways to cultivate happiness. I mean, who really thinks about writing personal definition of joy or making a list of all of the things that make them happy? Probably not many, but it would only take a few minutes to do and would be a way of acknowledging all of the things in life that make our life worth living. No need to take out our Hello Kitty stationery to jot all of this down on; simply making a mental not of all of the things that enhance our life is a good place to start. Even identifying a person who shares our passion for living life to the fullest may be someone that we should try to associate with more.


    So in addition to the four suggestions for finding happiness that I found in the article, I did remember one more suggestion I had read once that I think should be added to that list...
    Express yourself in positive ways. 
    This, like the others, is something that is really simple to do and also often overlooked. How we express ourselves is not only an indicator of our personality and lifestyle to others, but also to ourselves. If we want to be happy, successful, and living "the good life", it all starts with thinking positively and acting in the light that will lead us to great things. How we express ourselves has a direct link to the joy and happiness we will be able to find in our lives. This is definitely something to think about.

    If you'd like to check out the article I read about "Awakening Joy" just follow this link. What things do you do to awaken joy in your life? What other things would you add to this list?


    **Don't forget to enter my first giveaway to win some great eco-friendly products from CSNstores.com! It is running from now until Saturday, May 1st at 10 pm (EST).

    Keep Smiling,

    Saturday, April 24, 2010

    My First Giveaway! Eco-Friendly Products from CSNstores.com: CLOSED

    Hello Optimists,

    All of this talk about going green has really inspired me to revamp my every day routine and really consider the impact I'm making on the environment. I try to recycle products and take shorter showers, turn off all of my lights when I don't need them and try to ween myself from buying bottled water, but I think one area of improvement I can use is in my apartment. I'll be moving into a new place soon, so I thought what better time than now to make my new place eco-friendly? Plus, I'm always up for some shopping and redecorating!


    My schedule has been pretty packed lately so I've relied on online shopping for most of my purchases. It's quick, easy, and sure beats walking to the car with 50 pounds of bags! One site that I've been visiting quite frequently is CSNstores.com. It's pretty much a one stop shop for everything...they have over 200 different websites where I can shop for anything- from furniture to lighting and even cookware. What's so great is that you can click the "Go Green" icon to categorize how you shop and narrow your search down to Energy Star appliances, eco-friendly products, or LED lighting. I found this really awesome Calla Lily Landscape lamp that I think would be a great addition to my little outdoors space and not only is it super cute, but it's solar powered!  

    Calla Lily Landscape Lamp



    Another great room where I could make my apartment eco-friendly is in the kitchen. I came across cookware.com through the CSN home page and found a lot of great items I'd love to add to my kitchen, especially bamboo products. I found this great eco-friendly Bamboo cutting board that will be the perfect way to start "greening-over" my kitchen.

    Totally Bamboo African Zambia Cutting Board

    I really liked the idea of using bamboo products so I continued my search on Cookware.com and found another great piece that would go really great with my new cutting board, a bamboo bowl. See what you think!

                                                         
    9" Bamboo Bowl

    Ah, I just love shopping. And all of these eco-friendly items will look so great in my new apartment! Who said you can't go green and still be stylish??

    Giveaway: My friends at the CSN stores have graciously offered a chance for one of my readers to win the Calla Lily Landscape lampBamboo cutting board, or bamboo bowl. It's open to all of my U.S. and Canadian Optimists.

    To enter: Follow my through Google Friend Connect or Blogger. Then just leave me a comment with which item you would most like to win (but you can always change your mind if you win) AND visit CSNlighting.com or Cookware.com and let me know of another product you would like! Don't forget to leave me your email address so I can contact you if you win! 

    This giveaway will end on Saturday, May 1st at 10 pm (EST). I will then choose the winner with Random.org and will notify the lucky optimist via email. Oh, and remember that you must respond within 48 hours or I'll have to pick a new winner!

    Just FYI, I was not given any compensation for this post...I was given the opportunity to share this great deal with my optimists, and I took it! : )

    Keep Smiling,

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    Earth Week Finale and First GIVEAWAY Tomorrow!

    Photo: planningforever.com 

    Hello Optimists,

    Today marks the end of Earth Week, but that doesn't mean we should stop thinking about how we can save the planet! I have read some really great posts and articles all week about sustainability and the environment and I hope that everyone continues to spread awareness all throughout the year, because every day is Earth Day. I don't think we realize just how important this issue really is, but all we need to do is take a look around us at the depleting glaciers, rainforests, and ozone layer to understand that we need to take action now.

    To conclude my week of green-themed posts, I thought I would share with you a great little motto that I found while reading up on some information about the earth. But after reading it over a few times, I realized that like so many of my other featured quotes, this can be interpreted in a few different ways. So while the initial intention of this motto was to highlight Earth Week, take notice that it can apply to more than that...we can also apply this to life in general.

    Take nothing but pictures.
    Leave nothing but footprints.
    Kill nothing but time.
    -Motto of the Baltimore Grotto

    We should really keep this in mind all the times. We should not take anything from others, including nature, nor should we leave anything behind that isn't native to a place. This means we shouldn't leave our garbage in a place where it doesn't belong nor should we leave things out for others to clean up for us. Most importantly, we should never kill anything (except, as this motto points out, time....because who doesn't love procrastination!?) We need to stop tearing down our forests and killing the habitats that call it home and we need to stop killing the spirit and confidence of others around us. We need to be the root of positive change both for the environment and for our friends and family with whom we share our lives. 

    And here are your Green facts for the day:
    For every degree that you reduce your thermostat's temperature, you're going to save about 1 percent of energy on your energy bill. (It's recommended that you keep your thermostat around 68 in the winter and 78 in the summer)

    Invest in Energy-Star appliances. Though they may have a little bit of a high price tag, you can save about $800/year on energy costs! 

    Now to continue on with this week's theme of sustainability, I have something great to share with you! I usually don't post on the weekends, but TOMORROW I will send out a special post featuring my FIRST GIVEAWAY for all of you to enter. Of course, all three items you can choose to enter for are eco-friendly so this is a great way to kick off your sustainable efforts. So I invite you to come back tomorrow and invite your friends to join the fun for this Earth Week freebie! 

    More details are to come in tomorrow's post but the giveaway is set to run from Saturday, April 24 to Saturday, May 1 at 10 pm (EST). Make sure to become a follower (but only if you really want to be an Optimal Optimist!) and check back tomorrow to enter!

    Keep Smiling,

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    In Honor of Earth Day

    Photo: thegogreenblog.com

    Hello Optimists,

    Happy Earth Day! I just read an awesome article about PUMA's new initiative to eliminate cardboard shoe boxes. Starting next year, in an effort to save the environment, they will replace those clunky old boxes with reusable shoe bags, saving 8,500 tons of paper and reducing their use of water and electricity by 60%! Kudos to you, PUMA...and I hope more companies join the movement.

    There are a lot of skeptics out there about the whole global warming issue, and we may not all be the "Al Gore" types that face this issue head-on, but we all should be concerned with what's happening to our planet. Movies like his An Inconvenient Truth and even the newer Food Inc. show just how devastating our actions are on the planet, yet many of us don't even think twice about the damage we may be contributing. "Going green" is a trend that has really caught on in the past few years, and I am quite happy that it did because I think a lot of people are now conscious of their actions and are aware of the differences they can make. It's scary to think what might happen to our planet if we keep treating it the way we are, but hopefully we can all get the message and start doing something about it. Now.

    Thinking about all of these sustainability issues reminded me of a great quote I once read about this idea, and after reading the article about PUMA I knew I had to write about it.
    Because we don't think about future generations, they will never forget us. -Henrik Tikkanen
    This is a great quote (especially for Earth Day!) and really is something to think about. By continuing to cause problems for our planet, we are leaving behind a legacy that will not be forgotten, but remembered for all the wrong reasons. We don't want to be the generation that could have changed the world but didn't or the one that caused all the problems and let the future generations deal with the consequences. We want to be the ones who, working together, can turn the global warming trend around and sustain our planet for many more years. While it's important that we make the best of our world in the present, we've got to think about the future and about the generations of people to come.

    This is not just an American issue or something the EU can take the blame for. It is a global trend that needs to be addressed and needs global attention. So where do you stand on all of this? Are you into sustainability and preserving our earth or do you think your small changes won't even make a difference?

    Here are your Green facts for the day:

    50,000 acres of forest will be eliminated each day
    People will consume more than 3 billion gallons of oil in one day (Addiction? I'd say yes!)
    Garbage in a landfill can last for up to 30 years (yikes!)



    Keep Smiling,





    P.S. Here are some Earth Day deals, Top 10 Green Driving Tips, and 11 Simple Ways to Save the Planet. Check out these great sites and learn what you can do to kick off your Earth Day celebrations!

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    The Earth, On Loan

    Photo: pacificu.edu

    Hello Optimists,

    If there is one group of people that have been in-tune with nature from the earliest of days, I would have to say that would be the Native Americans. Now I will admit that though I did have a mild childhood obsession with Pocahontas, I still did not know very much about the culture from which she came. But after doing a little bit of searching, I found that this is a culture that has its roots built on the love of the earth and has always believed that "nature is life's greatest teacher". For them, Earth Day is every day and they always think about the impact of their daily activities on nature. So for this week in particular, I think there is a lot we can learn from the Native Americans.

    I find their beliefs about nature pretty interesting, so I looked up a few of their core values on this subject and thought I would share some them with you.

    • Nature is something we live within and as a part of
    • We as humans are not here to dominate nature or feel superior to it
    • Nature is the location of our spiritual reality
    • Reverence, respect, and humility are one in a relationship with nature
    And one other belief that they hold high was so great that I knew I had to use it for today's featured quote.
    We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. -Native American proverb
    This is very profound and something I think we should all believe to be true.  Sure, the earth has been around for billions of years and has carried thousands of generations of humans, but the years we are putting it to use during our lifetime is just a loan from the future generations that will eventually walk this land. We cannot think of the earth in terms of the past; we must look ahead to the future and preserve our planet for our families to enjoy for many thousands of years to come.

    So as you read today's green facts, think about this: would the people of the future put the earth on loan to us if this is how we treat it?

    Each of us uses approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year. Think about that next time you put up your Christmas tree!
    Every year we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas. And we know everything is bigger in Texas!


    I hope you take this into consideration today and start to think about the things you do on a daily basis in a different way. Whether you commit to taking on small challenges to reduce your negative impact on the earth, or whether you try to embody all of the Native American principles of nature, any change can make a difference. 


    Have you learned anything this week that has changed your outlook on sustainability? What are your plans to make a difference?


    Keep Smiling,

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Thought and Action

    Photo: vpfo.msu.edu 

    Hello Optimists,

    Well, it's day 2 of my Green Series posts, and I must say that there is a lot of great buzz on the internet surrounding Earth Week! So I've been thinking about the ways to get everyone informed about what we can do to make a positive impact on the environment and I think we need two things: thought and action. We need to get "in the know" and educated about the things we can do to make a difference, but more importantly, we need to actually implement these ideas into our lives. It's one thing to read about the benefits of buying locally grown organic foods, but it's another thing to actually go out and make it a part of our buying habit. We can learn all about the energy and money savings of compact fluorescent light bulbs, but unless we actually install them throughout our homes that knowledge won't do much good.

    I guess this is true of anything in life. We've got to get the facts straight about the things we want to learn about, but we've also got to take action and put those facts to good use. It's like taking the time to earn a degree from a university but then after graduation, just sitting around on the couch watching TV for the rest of our lives. We've got all that information and knowledge stored up in our head, but if we're not going out and putting that thought into action, we definitely won't be making a positive impact on our lives or on the lives of others. After doing some more thinking about the connection between thought and action, I remembered a quote I once read a while back that seemed to explain my thoughts perfectly.
    Think like a man of action and act like a man of thought. -Sallust 
    This is some really great advice. Our actions and thoughts should definitely have a reflection on one another. Thinking like a man of action is having the mindset that the things you are learning will be implemented in a way that can make a difference. Acting like a man of thought will ensure that those differences you're making are carefully calculated and executed before being put to action and that the plan is followed through to the end.

    I think it's important for us all to keep this quote in mind as we go through our days, whether we apply it to our new green initiatives or just to our daily lives. As promised, here are the Earth Week facts for today...and in the spirit of today's quote, I hope you take this knowledge and put it to action!

    Here are your green facts for the day:
    According to the EPA...
    If you replace just one out of four of your light bulbs with fluorescents, you can save about 50% on your lighting bill. Cha-ching!
    Thirty-six states are anticipating water shortages by 2016. Yet the average American uses more than 100 gallons or water each day. Don't be a water-waster! 


    And one more thing before I sign off for today...I am featured as a Guest Blogger for Everyday Bliss, a wonderful blog whose writer chronicles her year-long journey to embody her 13 virtues of everyday bliss....so I invite you to check out the blog, read my post about one of the virtues (Passion), and join the journey!

    Keep Smiling,

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    How You Can Make A Difference Today (And Always)

    Photo: langwiches.org

    Hello Optimists,

    Today is the start of Earth Week! Time to get in the "green" state of mind and say thank you to Mother Earth. In honor of this green holiday, I am going to gear all of my posts this week around this theme through the featured quote, facts about sustainability, and a discussion on how we can make a difference. Going green is a new trend that seems to be sweeping across the nation and the world as people are now concentrating on sustainability. I think it's so great that we are becoming conscious of the decisions we're making in terms of their impact on the environment and the effect they have on the future.

    So do you take an active part in sustainable practices, or do you think a carbon footprint is something you can make only if you wear lead-soled shoes? I find that there are some people that are very good about recycling, buying food from local farmers, composting, conserving water, etc. On the other hand, I know some people who think their contribution to the "green" movement is too small to be measured, so why bother? I know it seems like our small changes of habit wouldn't even make an ounce of difference on the global scale, but in reality, every little bit helps. In fact, energy saved from recycling one aluminum can could operate a TV or computer for three hours and a six-pack saves enough energy to drive a car five miles. Or how about the fact that Americans throw away enough paper and wood annually to heat 500 homes for 200 years. Take that, non-recyclers. 

    So we've got to stop thinking on an individual scale and look at the big picture...think of what an impact we can all make if we commit to doing something great! In thinking about all of this, I came across a really awesome quote that seemed to address exactly what I am trying to say, so I knew I had to post it along with today's theme.


    Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. -William James


    Well, there you have it, in black and white. I love quotes like this...just plain and simple, but very true nonetheless. We've got to start believing that everything we do in life makes a difference, and I'm not just talking about sustainability. This applies to every aspect of our lives: at work, volunteering, in school...never should we think that our impact is too small to be measured. We can all make a difference in the world if we just believe that our influence is significant.

    So try thinking of the big picture today and act as if what you do makes a difference. I know you will find that it really will have an impact in some way and you will feel empowered from your contribution.
    Before you sign off today, I have one more thing for you....

    Check this out: In Honor of Earth Week there are a lot of great specials going on to celebrate like FREE reusable bags from Target, discounts at Dairy Queen and lots more!! I read a great blog called Kelly's Lucky You that has featured all of the great "green" deals of the week and I thought I'd share it with all of you...check it out!

    Keep Smiling,

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    The Coin of Courtesy

    Photo: flickr.com

    Hello Optimists,

    There are a lot of great things to see in Philadelphia like the Liberty Bell and the Museum of Art, but one place that usually isn't on the "list" of things to see in the city is the Wanamaker Building...but it certainly should be. It is a national Historic Landmark and you can see its beautiful interior in today's post photo. This was Philadelphia's (and arguably the United States') first department store, opened by a man who is known as a retailing genius and the father of modern advertising. Wanamaker basically revolutionized the business world, offering employee benefits like free medical care, profit sharing plans, fitness facilities, and pensions even before these things were considered "common" in the corporate world. The store itself was also the first to have a telephone, electrical lighting, and a system for transporting cash and documents to banks. This twelve floor building offered nine levels for shopping (and for that alone, I thank you, Mr. Wanamaker) and an iconic organ designed specifically for the store. This piece still has its place in the store, which is now Macy's Center City, and is the largest operational pipe organ in the world. And let me tell you, it still works. The first time I was in that store and someone sat down to play its hourly tune, I almost had a heart attack...it is quite powerful.

    So Mr. Wanamaker was an amazing businessman and a pretty smart guy; two things that really made him a pretty penny in his day. But he worked very hard and really had an impact on the city of Philadelphia and the whole nation in terms of retailing alone. It's no surprise to me though, because after reading a quote from him recently, I knew he was a man who deserved great respect. But through all of his riches, I think the advice that he offers in today's quote is one that we should all keep in mind.
    Courtesy is the one coin that you can never have too much of or be too stingy with. -John Wanamaker
    This really is one of my favorites and I think it is just as important now as it was many decades ago when he spoke it. "Common courtesy" is something that seems to have gone by the way-side in the past few years, and often we hear complaints about that. We hear that chivalry is dead and that we'd probably be more likely to be struck by lightning than to have someone hold open a door for you. Now while I don't think that's entirely true, I do think that courtesy is something that we all should be willing to share and should never hold back. I think it requires more effort to not be courteous than it does to put forth the effort to mind your manners. There are always opportunities to be courteous, but sometimes we're just too "busy" or too ignorant of the things going on around us to notice. But it's important to not be too stingy with your courtesy as we can really improve our own lives and the lives of others just by lending a hand, offering our time, or heaven forbid, opening a door for someone.

    So here's your weekend challenge: try to be as courteous as you can and acknowledge those that have displayed their kind acts toward you. I bet you will be surprised at how good it makes you feel and how that happiness will spread to all of those that you share you days with. And then we can thank Mr. Wanamaker by going shopping. At least that's what I'm going to do, anyway.


    Happy Friday!
    Keep Smiling,

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Your George Costanza Wallet

    Photo: blog.tmcnet.com

    Hello Optimists,

    I was flipping through the channels the other day and happened to catch a piece of a re-run of The View. I watch that show on occasion, but usually only if there is a guest coming on that I really like. But this time, it was still in the "Hot Topics" portion of the show and the ladies were discussing the weight of their purses. They had a scale on the table and each of them grabbed their bags and weighed them to reveal some staggering numbers...the average between all of them was about 6 pounds! That's some serious stuff in there! But what I loved was what they pulled out to show the audience why it was so heavy: overstuffed "George Costanza" wallets, books, make up bags, notebooks, cameras, lotion bottles, brushes...it's no wonder they were complaining of shoulder pain! The old adage "everything but the kitchen sink" sure seemed to apply here, though I'm sure if they had more air time you might have seen Elisabeth pull out some pipes and a faucet.

    So this got me thinking about all of the stuff that we carry with us. Do we really need all of it? Probably not- but for most women, our purses are like a security blanket. All of the little things that we think we would need throughout the day are thrown in there just in case and before we know it, it ends up looking like the inside of our junk drawers. But we wouldn't be comfortable without it. Going somewhere without a purse is like going out without any shoes on. It just doesn't feel right. So aside from all of the essentials, I think we should do some spring cleaning of our purses and take out everything we don't need. (I'm sure our shoulders will thank us.) So after separating the contents of my bag into a "yes" and "no" pile, I remembered a quote about something that should always be in our possession...
    Carry laughter with you wherever you go. -Hugh Sidley
    This is really great advice, and thank goodness it doesn't take up much space because I have more things in my "yes" pile than my "no" pile. But seriously, laughter is really something we should always carry with us. It is an instant mood booster, stress-reliever, and just has a way of making your day much much better. It's good to de-clutter and get rid of those old candy wrappers, to-do lists, and receipts from last year, but make sure you don't throw out the laughter. That is one thing that should always stay in your bag and in your life. So along with your wallet and your phone, and your other "must haves" make sure that laughter goes right along with them. The good thing is that it can conveniently fit into a clutch, a hobo, a briefcase, a wallet, a murse - it can go pretty much anywhere.

    So go get to it; clean out all the stuff that is only weighing down your day and remember to keep the things that will make it better (like laughter!) part of the essentials.

    Keep Smiling,

    Want to read more? Check out my other posts about laughter: Let's Get it StartedBe a Laughing CowDisney Gets Political, and Types of Humor

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    World of Words

    Photo: fysop.wordpress.com

    Hello Optimists,


    I just read an article entitled, "Let Your Words Create Your World" and I found it to be quite interesting. It centered around a type of therapy called Neuro-linguistic Programming (I know, it doesn't sound exciting, but stay with me here) that basically encourages optimistic thinking by using positive words to refocus the things within the control of our minds. The article sited some situations and proven results where people who had been through a recent trauma were able to cope better through learning to think positively. Well, I'm glad we're already on the right track!


    I've written a few posts about the importance of keeping positive thoughts and attitudes, but I feel this is one thing we can never be reminded of enough. We are constantly fighting against negativity each day even though we may not realize it, and it's kind of hard to stay on the right track. How often do our friends come over to complain about something that doesn't really need to be complained about, and how often to we join in on their gripe just because...well, just because. The truth is, our words create our world, so we've always got to be thinking about how our words may be affecting the happiness we experience throughout the day. And this goes for the words that are streaming through our heads too, so don't think you're off the hook if you're not actually speaking them. But often we don't take into consideration is the actual meaning of our words. I think if we did, and we consciously acknowledged the meaning of everything we say, we would (hopefully) catch those negative words before they spilled out of our mouths and replace them with positive ones. 


    So before we can do this, we need to think about what we say before we say it. If we can learn the meaning behind what we say we can control our thoughts. It's like DIY neuro-lingustic programming! After thinking about all of this, I remembered a quote that I had once read that I thought would be perfect to post for today. 
    First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak. –Epictetus
    This is certainly something to keep in mind. So let's all work on learning the meaning behind the words that are coming from our mouths before we actually say them. Are they positive/negative? Am I making a good/bad impression on someone with these words? Is what I am saying going to put me in a better mindset? It's a lot to think about, I know, but it's well worth it. Check out the article that I read and I bet you'll be surprised at just how important our words are to our happiness.


    Keep Smiling,

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Story of Our Lives

    Photo: artsjournal.com

    Hello Optimists,

    How many times in your life have inconvenient things happened to you and your response was, "Ugh, story of my life"? I bet you've said it a lot, and probably without even taking its literal meaning into consideration...I know I sure have. But why do we say this? Our lives shouldn't be categorized by the bad, negative, or inconvenient things that take up our time, but by the good things that motivate us, inspire us, and make us happy. If we were to put the events of our lives down on paper, would people want to read it? Or even more importantly, would you want to read it? I know we've all read that one book that never seems to gather dust on the shelf because we're always reading (and re-reading) it, flipping through to find our favorite part, or just reading a memorable part to a friend. Good stories are those that you just can't put down and whose characters you feel a connection with. So how can we live our lives like a story?

    So this got me thinking about my life on paper. Would it be a New York Times best-seller? Well, maybe not. But I would like to think that it would be a pretty good read. I am always striving to live a life that leaves me feeling good about the things I've accomplished, confident about the things I am currently doing, and excited about the things that will mark the next chapter in my life. The story of my life is something that is very important to me and one that I am constantly revising. I am always looking for improvements, always using my red pen to make adjustments where I see fit. And just like a developing a good written story, we need to do some research into finding the way to live the best life we can, or, to make our story a good one.

    I came across a book review of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller that seems to give some really great advice about making our lives like a story....a good story. It's certainly a book that is on the top of my reading list and it's all about motivating yourself to really do the things you want to do, finding your drive, and making it happen. I found a great quote to feature for today that speaks specifically about penning your own life story and the importance of believing in the main character, which is you.
    You must have control of the authorship of your own destiny. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand. -Irene C. Kassorla 
    This is a really great quote and one that we should always remember. When thinking about the story of our lives, we as individuals have the sole rights to our work. We can make it a bestseller or we can leave it unpublished. It's up to each one of us to write out our own destiny and make our life story the one to read.

    So what about your life story? If you haven't put the pen to paper yet, that's ok...we're not all writers. But maybe you should start thinking about all of the elements: plot, characters, setting(s), conflict, etc. and keep a mental note of your story's progress. I think it's a great way to evaluate your position in life and make sure you're living the life you dream of.

    Keep Smiling,

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Don't Be Fooled

    Photo: wright.edu

    Hello Optimists,

    All of this summer-like weather we've been having is really making me happy. The past few days have been a bit chilly, but I'm thankful for the high temps we got in last week! With summer just on the horizon, I can't help but wonder where the time has gone. I feel like it was just Christmas, and now I'm in flip flops! No complaints here, of course, but sometimes if you just sit back and think about the amazing passing of time, it really stuns you.

    So this got me thinking about why these past few months seem to have flown by. Am I just keeping so busy that I haven't noticed myself streaming through the weeks? Have I been so concentrated on my work that I have disregarded all other things? Is it the opposite...have I been lazy lately and just been floating through the days? Did someone make the year only 350 days and not tell me?! Well, probably not that, but I'm not really sure why this is- probably more like a combination of all of those things. All I know is, the pages of my calendar are turning over like a cartoon flip book.

    With time flying by at warp speed, I was getting a little scared that I had lost track of the present. And you know how much I like to enjoy the little things of every day life, so was this a signal that I had been missing out on things? Well, I was thinking this might be so until I came across a great little quote that seemed to calm my nerves.
    Don't be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. -Charles Richards
    Finding this quote could not have come at a better time. It really gave me a new perspective on things and made me realize that the calendar is just a way to keep track of the days, but the true measure of time is determined by how you make use of them. For me this means living each day to the fullest, whether that be a whirlwind of events or a casual, relaxing day spent doing my favorite things. It's o.k. if time seems to be flying by if you are filling it with things that are progressive and making an improvement on your life. With the exception of a leap year, we have 365 solid days to go through each calendar year, but it's up to us to make use of every single one of them. We can make our years longer or shorter depending on how we choose to live our lives.

    So take some time today to think about how you spend your days. And don't be fooled by that calendar...it really is only a way to make sure you don't forget about someone's birthday. Don't forget that we are the ones who determine how many days are in our year.

    Keep Smiling,

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    My New Favorite Website

    Photo: Roadhouse Realty
    Hello Optimists,

    Let the weekend begin! I don't know why, but this week seemed realllllly long. I thought Friday would never come, but here it is, thank goodness. Besides all of the work that I will be doing this week, I will for sure be checking out more stories on my new favorite website, Tonic. I found out about it thanks to my girl Ellen DeGeneres after she mentioned it in a tweet yesterday, and I am so glad I checked it out. I didn't quite know what it was about at first, but a quick look at their About Us page told me all I needed to know. The opening lines were, "Tonic is a digital media company dedicated to promoting the good that happens around the world each day. We share the stories of people and organizations that are making a difference by inspiring good in themselves and others." After reading through the rest of this page and then browsing through the site, I was amazed at the great things they're doing and the similarities between the objectives of their company and the goals of my blog. Quite a good match, might I say. 

    They're certainly doing a great job of promoting the good that happens around the world by sharing stories about people who are really making a difference. They even have a "Shop" section where each product sold contributes to an organization making a positive difference in the world. I won't ruin all the fun for you by talking all about it here, so you should definitely check out the website for yourself and get inspired. 


    Since this site is all about bringing the great things people are doing around the world, it got me thinking about how we can all make a difference. In the stories I read, the people who were making an impact were just "average Joes", not peace ambassadors or representatives from the UN (though they do some pretty good things too). They were just average people, finding a need, and making the decision to create a positive change. So who are these people, and where does all of this "goodness" come from?

    Well, it just so happens that I have a wonderful quote that answers this question. It is from one of my favorite inspirational books, A New Earth. I've written about it before in my Let the Sun In post, but there is one more line from that book that has stuck in my mind, and I thought it would be the perfect quote to feature today.
    You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge. -A New Earth
    I love this line. All of those that are featured on the Tonic website have found the goodness within themselves, allowed it to emerge, and are doing great things. By allowing that goodness to flow from within, it can pour out of our hearts and into the hearts of others who will be inspired by the inspirational things we are doing. We're always trying to do the right thing, trying to be like that person we know who always does "good" things. But often, we fail to realize that we should look no further than ourselves to find the goodness that lies within our hearts. Keep this quote in mind and remember that we can all do good things. Check out the Tonic website to get inspired today.

    Keep Smiling,
    P.S. Not sure where to start? Check out my post about The Random Act of Kindness Foundation to learn more about what you can do today.

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Life's Questions: Answered.

    Photo: Flickr (Striatic)
    Hello Optimists,

    I often wish there was someone or something that would just give me the answers to all of my questions about life. Wouldn't that be great? I think we all would like to have a few things straightened out, a few of our questions answered, and have a steady plan of action set in place for us. But it really doesn't work out that way, and I think part of that is the fun of living. But there are just so many questions we all have about what's going to happen in this life. I mean, how do we know that we won't regret what we're doing now once we're older...or how do we know if what we're doing now will bring us great success? Without answers to any of these questions, how do we know that anything we're doing at the moment is going to be worthwhile?

    Of course, no one has the answers to these questions. But I think it's up to us to make sure that we try our best to predict the answers and make use of our days by trying to get as close as we can to making those answers a reality. I know, this is kind of complicated. But life is all about figuring things out, and we only have one shot, so I think we better get to it!

    As I sat pondering all of these questions, I happened to come across a quote that is probably the best advice I could have found. It is the closest thing to finding the "answer" to the questions I had been thinking about, and I knew that I had to share this wonderful bit of advice with all of you...
    Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then, youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success. –Louisa May Alcott  
    This is such a great quote...one of my favorites I think! This is exactly the thing I needed to hear, and it summed up a whole lot of great advice in just a few words. A delightful youth, few regrets in old age, and a beautifully successful life sounds wonderful...just what I hope to have! So let's think about all of this for a second here.

    First we have: regular hours of work and play. This is SO important, because usually people do a lot of work and have no time to play. Finding that perfect balance is a luxury only some of us have, but it's something we should all try to incorporate in our lives. Okayyyy, so you're job is really important and you "have" to put in a lot of hours. Well it's just as important to squeeze in some extra hours of fun as well...I bet you'll find that your life will be very different (in a good way!) and so will your work.

    Next up: make each day both useful and pleasant. Again, so so so important, and I think this ties into the first bit of advice we just discussed. While we may be busy with the thousands of things we do in a day, we need to make sure that what we're doing is progressive for our lives and that we are happy to be doing what we're doing. Useful and pleasant...that's the key.

    And lastly we have: Prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. I just posted about the topic of time this week, so I guess my ideas were on the right track. But it's important that we really understand the worth of time...once it's gone, it's gone, so we need to make the most of our minutes while we can. And the only way to do that is to "employ it well".

    I hope you found this quote as helpful as I did and I hope you can keep it in mind. The ideas in this little quote are really important for all of us to understand....and once we do, I think our lives can be really great. So store this one away in your memory, and refer to the words of advice as often as you can.

    Keep Smiling,