Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Big Announcement and Here's Your Chance To Be Featured In Optimal Optimist!


Hello Optimists,

So I've been telling you for a few days now about a very exciting journey that I will be going I'm finally ready to reveal my big announcement! On Thursday, I will be leaving for a European adventure! But don't worry, I won't be leaving Optimal Optimist to gather dust. I thought it would be fun to include you on my journey, so starting next week and continuing the following week, I will be sharing two new posts a week with you. So, it is with excitement that I invite you to join in my Come Fly With Me Week! 
The "kick off" or launch of Come Fly With Me Week will begin on Tuesday, July 6th, and continue on into the next week. Each new post will be unique to the particular place I will be visiting and I will give you a little hint at the end to let you know where we're headed next! 

Next up on the agenda is a new idea that I've been throwing around in my head, and I've decided that this would be the perfect time to start it out. So, here is your chance to be featured in a future Optimal Optimist post! I've written almost 200 posts so far using some of my favorite quotes, but I think it's time to hear from you and feature some of your favorites too! I am hoping this will not only encourage some conversations between all of us, but also will give me a chance to help promote some of your wonderful blogs! When I return from my trip, I will begin sorting through them and will feature your quotes in my daily blogs and give you a shout-out and a link to your blog.

If you're a quote lover like me and have a quote (or a few quotes!) that you haven't read here on my blog, I'd love for you to share it with me! I love quotes that are positive, funny, inspiring, and motivating, but any of your favorites will do...but please, keep it clean! Leave a comment on this post including:

  •  the quote and a little blurb about why it's your favorite
  •  your name and location
  •  a link to your blog (if you have one!)
I will include a link back to this post in each of my Come Fly With Me Week posts so you can easily leave your favorite quotes for me throughout the next two weeks.

I thought I would post today's featured quote as an example of what yours would look like when it's up on my blog! 

Today's quote comes from Philadelphia, PA....Thanks to Vanessa from Optimal Optimist for introducing us to our featured quote of the day! 
You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. -Christopher Columbus 
This is such an inspiring quote coming straight from a man who really knows a thing or two about crossing oceans. It's great to set big goals and dream big dreams, but unless we can muster up the courage to take some risks and step a little out of our comfort zone, then we can't expect to reach our goals as quickly or as easily as we'd like. Doing great things takes a lot of hard work and the determination to do whatever it takes to get the job done. It's so important to realize that we must have the courage to try new things and to take a risk on something we believe in. And I think we should take it from Christopher Columbus because he certainly had the courage to lose sight of the shore. What he set out to do was a huge risk at the time, but he wanted more than anything to cross the oceans and explore the world. And that's what he did...all because he had the courage to do it.

I look forward to reading all of your comments and gathering them up to feature in my future posts! So...what are you waiting for? Go find your favorite and leave a comment here!

Keep Smiling,

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Be A Good One


Hello Optimists,

The 4th of July is just around the corner (can you believe it?!) so I've been thinking about all of the fun, food, and fireworks that represent our nation's independence. Last year my parents came down to Philadelphia to celebrate in the city where it all began, and we had a really great time! Since there is such a rich history leading back to the founding of our nation, the 4th is a pretty big deal in Philly. A lot of tourists come to the city to take tours of Independence Hall and the Constitution Center...and what trip to Philadelphia would be complete without seeing the Liberty Bell? (Admission, by the way, is free on the 4th. Just in case you were thinking of visiting!) 

I often wonder what Ben Franklin and George Washington would say about our government these days. Would they be proud of how we've carried on, or would they be unhappy with how we've handled the last 234 years? Politics has always been a rather complicated matter, especially back then when we were fighting to establish our own policies. But today, I feel as if things are a million times more complex, and sometimes I think our elected officials must be crazy to run as a candidate for election. There are so many policies, rules and regulations to deal with, so it takes a really special kind of person to be able to handle it all. Our current Commander in Chief has certainly had to deal with a lot since the beginning of his presidency with the war, the economy, immigration issues, the oil spill....ugh, I'm just glad I don't have his job.

One thing that I think our past presidents would be really proud of is that our current officials really take the time to go back into our rich history and look to there for inspiration and guidance. I think it's pretty cool that Obama used Abe Lincoln's bible when he was sworn in and often refers to him in his speeches. Lincoln is known for being one of our most forward-moving and progressive presidents, so there's good reason for his name to live on in history books. He gave a lot of incredible speeches and helped our nation unite as one. It should be no surprise that his words have been quoted for centuries now, and though I have a whole list of some of his best, this one sits at the top.
Whatever you are, be a good one. -Abraham Lincoln
Short and to the point, but very effective. This is such a great one because Abe knew that it doesn't matter what you do, it matters how you do it. You can be a baker, a lawyer, a delivery person, a baby-sitter, a student, a nurse, a teacher, a writer, a garbage man, or you can be nothing at all. But whatever you choose to do, do it well. Make sure you're good at what you do and don't stop reaching for the top until you've well surpassed it. When you believe you're "a good one", you can be confident in what you're doing and always strive to do the best you can. When that happens, you can enjoy what you're doing and it will make work seem less like "work".

So in the spirit of Independence Day, take some time to look into the past and learn a thing or two from those who helped us become the great nation we are today. And remember, whatever you are, be a good one. 

Come back tomorrow for my big announcement- I'll let you know about my exciting plans and give you a chance to be featured in a future Optimal Optimist post! 

Keep Smiling,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Happiness = Better Blogging? Of Course!


Hello Optimists,

Hope you had a great weekend! This is the start of an exciting week for me. I have a lot going on right now in preparation for a very exciting event and I'm so excited to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey beginning later on this week. So stay tuned...I'll give you more details in the next few days!

This weekend I found a great article from Blogussion- a great "blogging blog" that I use often for tips- called How Being Happy Can Make You a Better Blogger. I'm always looking for ways to improve my blogging, because even though I've been doing this for about 9 months now, I would by no means call myself an expert. Actually, I'm still quite a newbie. As you probably already know, I love to read up on all topics related to happiness, optimism, and self-improvement, so this title immediately caught my eye. I think happiness can do a lot of great things for us, but making us better bloggers? Not really an obvious effect. So I thought I would check it out, and it turned out to be a pretty interesting read. It gives a few good pointers about getting ready to "work" (if that's what you consider your blog), so if you're looking for a few tips on getting motivated to write some new posts, check this article out.

The article posed some really good questions to the readers, like: What do you want your blog to be like in six months or a year? Do you constantly feel eager to start working? Are you happy to blog? I thought it would be fun to answer some of these questions, so I gave it a shot.

It's hard to think about what my blog will be like in a few month's time, but I do know that I have some changes in mind- I want to make it even better for my readers so they can enjoy the posts that I've written and exchange ideas and thoughts with me and other readers of Optimal Optimist. I should move this to the top of my To-Do list...

I usually am eager to sit down and write a new post, though sometimes I feel that writing a new one five times a week can get a bit daunting. What I have noticed is that I think about my blog even when I'm not perched in front of my laptop thinking of my newest topic. Instead, I try to take everything in throughout the day and I often think about how I can relate my every-day experiences to an idea for a post. Sometimes things will happen throughout the day and I find myself thinking of how I would write it in any of you other bloggers do this too?

I am happy to blog, and though sometimes I feel as if I can't come up with a good topic to write about, I can say that after completing a post, I am happy with the message that I've sent. When I first started out, I was so concerned with making sure my posts were long enough or had enough engaging material to give my readers something to comment about. But after writing close to 200 posts, I can say that I now know that good content doesn't come with a minimum word count. So now when I'm feeling some "writers' block" coming on, I know that...
It is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. -John Bunyan
I know now that some of my most heart-felt posts have been the most well-received by my readers, no matter how long they were. And that's probably true for a lot of my blogger friends too! It's not the length of the post that gets a reader's attention, it's the emotion and feeling behind the words. If we just write words without a heart, a reader can pick up on that in an instant. It's amazing how much emotion and feeling can be translated through the simple way we construct our sentences. I'm glad I know that now, and I no longer write just to fill up the page. I know that it would be much better to be "wordless" and write a somewhat shorter post if we can write straight from the heart.

For all of you bloggers and non-bloggers alike, it would definitely be worth it to keep this quote in mind. It's important to remember to keep your heart in everything that you do, because without it, we lose that personal touch on our work.

For any of my fellow Bloggers out there, feel free to share your responses to the questions I posted from the article!

Keep Smiling,

Friday, June 25, 2010

One Lick At A Time


Hello Optimists,

There's no better way to celebrate the summer than by enjoying an ice cream cone. And I love to celebrate. So needless to say, I've been having a few (too many) licks of ice cream these days. It seems that this bad habit of craving ice cream after every meal is not something I alone am effected by; I find that a lot of people share my love for this cool little treat. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, tall or short, blonde or brunette...I don't know of anyone who wouldn't love to sit down with a tub of Ben & Jerry's and call it a night.

Last night I went for ice cream (I know, what a surprise), and I saw a lot of cute little kids gobbling down their scoops and swirls of ice cream with wild abandon. I slightly envied them for not painfully swallowing each lick, aware of how many calories and grams of fat they were ingesting. And then I thought back to the old days and saw life again through eight-year old eyes.

Kids have an amazing ability to relish in the simple pleasures of life and take time to enjoy the things they love most about being alive. School's out for the summer, so it's now time for 12-hour long play days filled with baseball games, pool parties, and bike rides. And the biggest concern: Will I order chocolate or vanilla tonight, and do I want chocolate or rainbow sprinkles? In a kid's mind, this is some serious business. But what's so great is that you can see the happiness in their eyes, and you know that just a little thing like an ice cream cone can be the cherry on top of a perfect day, if I may use that perfect little metaphor. 

Instead of thinking about what they need to do when they get home, how many emails they will have to respond to, what they're going to make for dinner the following night, and do I even have time to shower?!?, the choose instead to enjoy that wonderful moment of joy and pleasure. They're taking one lick at a time and one new minute of summer fun and enjoying it. That's why when I found today's quote (from the ultimate "kid" himself), I knew it would be perfect to feature today.
Life is like an ice cream cone; you have to lick it one day at a time. -Charlie Brown
Unfortunately I can't make my ice cream cone last for days; I instead, woof it down like it could be ripped from my kung-fu grip at any moment. But I think this quote reminds me that in order to enjoy life as much as we enjoy our ice cream, we've got to take it slowly. If we want that unbeatable feeling of bliss to last more than 5 seconds after we take our first taste of that deliciously creamy, hot-fudge covered, whipped cream topped piece of heaven, then we've got to make it last. Don't rush through it, because you know you'll get a major brain freeze, and the rest of the treat just doesn't taste as good after that! And just remember to take it one lick at a time...that scrumptious little dessert is there for you to enjoy. 

And so too is life. We've got to do the things we love to do, and enjoy every minute of its happening. Take it one day at a time, and don't worry too much about what needs to be done tomorrow or next week...just enjoy today. Take it from Charlie Brown...that little man certainly knows what he's talking about. Think back to your days of free reign as a kid, and try to see life through your eight-year old eyes.  Try to enjoy every little thing in your life now just as much as you did then. And remember: choosing between chocolate and vanilla is still a big decision.

Keep Smiling,

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Flavors of Life


Hello Optimists,

Thanks for all of the comments on yesterday's post- I am happy to report that after almost a full day of painting, the "accent wall" looks great and I'm really pleased with the result! Yayy!

I've never actually painted a room of that size before, but luckily I had some experienced helpers that made sure I didn't screw anything up. Now that it's over, I'd say that I could definitely do it again and be pretty confident in my wall painting abilities. I took yesterday's spontaneous adventure as a challenge to learn something new and to change things up a bit, and I'm happy I did.

I like taking on challenges, because after it's all said and done, even if I didn't necessarily "succeed" or come out on top, chances are I definitely learned something. And really, that's all we should be concerned about. Today's featured quote is one that I've had on my "favorites" list for a while, so I'm happy to share it with you in this post. It reminds me that taking on a good challenge once in a while can really bring in some great benefits...
Every challenge offers the opportunity to think a new flavor of thought and feel a new flavor of emotion. The more varied the flavors of life you get to taste, the more interesting, layered, educated, and world-experienced you'll be. -Karen Salmansohn
This is such a great quote, isn't it? And it's quite true; think about some recent challenges you've faced and the new opportunities that they've presented you. Even if this "challenge" is not something that was exciting or note-worthy, just think about how much you shook up the "flavors" in your life. Maybe you got the opportunity to try something new as a result of this challenge, or got a better understanding of something. Maybe you met someone though this challenge that you might have otherwise not have encountered. As long as the layers of your life have been thickened through this experience, then your challenge has presented you with some life-changing benefits.

Don't be afraid to try something new or take on a challenge. You might be surprised as to how much you can learn and experience from that one little event. I know I want to experience as many flavors of life as I about you?

Keep Smiling,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shake Things Up with Spontaneity


Hello Optimists,

Sooooo I've decided to paint a wall at my place, and I have already bought the paint. That makes it official, I guess. The idea of making an "accent wall" has been on my mind for a while, though actually making the commitment to doing it hasn't quite made it to the table. Until now!

Yesterday the idea came into mind again, and it first started out as just idea. Then I talked about it a bit and got some other opinions, and then I thought, hey, why not just go look at some swatches? That can't hurt, right? So I found myself driving to Lowe's and pulling a few little squares of color to choose just the right one. (Oh, and for the record, I have no idea why swatches can't come in larger pieces...would it be too hard to get them in at least a 6" square? Those microscopic pieces they use are really like a tease....putting up a little piece of color on the wall you want to paint makes it look like a piece of confetti got lost in the celebration!) Anyway, I chose my color, took that little swatch to the counter and mixed up some paint!

It's kind of fun to do things like that on a whim. Sometimes we just need to spice things up, and the only way to do that is to just think of a little something to change, and do it! I was quite impressed with the rather impromptu decision that was made, and I'm really excited to get started. I remembered a quote I once read about this spontaneity of sorts, so I thought this would be perfect for today's post!
Spontaneity is the quality of being able to do something just because you feel like it at the moment, of trusting your instincts, or taking yourself by surprise and snatching from the clutches of your well-organized routine, a bit of unscheduled plea. 
See, that's why it's so fun! Doing things just because we feel like it is not an freedom we get to enjoy all the time, so when we finally do get the chance to (if I may quote Nike here) just do it, it makes the event even more special. There's no room for second guessing and month-long decision making....the charm with spontaneity is that it's now or never. The best part about all of this is that making quick decisions (even if they are little ones!) show that you trust yourself and your instincts. That's a quality that's so important to have. If you can't trust you or your decisions, then who can? And then there's the part of breaking routine, which is really where the fun begins. Doing things out of the ordinary and breaking the norm are what makes spontaneity so much fun....because let's face it, we all like to live on the edge, or at least, we all like to peer over the edge from a (very) secure steel hand rail. Either way, it's fun to do things just because we want to! So I'm read for the fun to begin...I'm going to grab my painter's tape, overalls and a roller brush, and I'm going for it!

So, are you a spontaneous person? What have you done lately that has broken the boundaries of your "well-organized routine"?

Keep Smiling,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fear Is A Scary Thing


Hello Optimists,

Are you one to mark the pages of books that you're know, bending the page corners, highlighting a few lines, or using mini post-its to mark a good quote? I certainly am. The book I am reading now is full of little torn up pieces of paper, sticking out of the top of the pages like weeds popping up in an otherwise tamed garden. I find that I always do this in one way or another- if it's not physically marking the location of a line, I'll stop reading for a moment to write down something I thought was's a good way of marking the important things that I want to make sure I don't forget. Then when I'm done, I get a little refresher course as I go back through my marked pages, re-reading the pieces I found to be most influential.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should do this in life too, not only in my books. I should start putting a mental "page marker" on the things in life that I want to remember, or the things that made the most impact on my life or someone else's. I want to be able to revisit the times where something great has happened without having to wrack my brain for the details. We should figure out a way to place a post-it at the exact page, paragraph, and line of an event in life to mark for future reference.

Well while I figure out how to make a literal "mental note" in my head, I thought I would share with you a piece of my book that I marked. Today's featured quote will be a line from a book that I am currently reading, a line that made me stop and think, and one that really got my brain churning.
Fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life. -A Million Miles In A Thousand Years
This is a really great line. Fear is something that we can all relate to. We all know what it's like to be a little scared to do something or scared of something. It's an emotion that can be a good thing (think about how many times that "gut instinct" and a little bit of apprehension steered you out of harm's way) and it can also be a bad thing (think about how many times you played it safe because of the "what ifs"). Fear sometimes can keep us safe. No one likes to be scared, but no one likes to be held back from their greatest potential either. And this is something that fear definitely can do. It can trick us into living a boring, complacent, "run of the mill" life. It can keep us from really living it up or from going out and achieving what we want to do because of that little emotion that makes our stomach flip or makes us give a second thought.

Fear is a tricky little emotion, and quite honestly, fear itself is a scary thing. It walks a fine line of being a helping hand and a hinderance, an enabler and a disabler...and that's why it's so difficult to get a grasp on. We need to make sure that the things we're afraid of are really the things we need to be cautious with. If they're not, then we're letting fear make us boring people, we're letting it take the reigns and hold us back from living a great life. I think it's important for us to all do a fear inventory, and weed out all of those little fears we have stored up inside that are preventing us from living with excitement, valor, and pride. I'm certainly going to do that, and I think you should too. Let's let go of some of those fears that are making us boring.....who's with me?

Keep Smiling,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dreams For Sale


Hello Optimists,

Hope you all enjoyed the weekend! I got a text from my friend on Sunday telling me that I starred in a crazy dream she had the other night, and I've had a few really weird ones too over the past few weeks. Dreams are really strange things...we get to temporarily enter a world where the rules of reality do not apply, where we interact with people we haven't seen or spoken to in years, or we end up doing some really crazy things that we would never do in real life. Sometimes the things we dream about are completely out of the blue and don't really make any why do we dream what we dream?

Well, I'm not really sure about the answer to that question, but there are hundreds of "dream interpretation" books and websites out there that claim to have the true meaning behind our sleeping thoughts. Oh, and this is really strange....I Googled "dreams" and went to the first website that was listed and followed a link to their "Dream Dictionary". I randomly selected to look up the meanings behind words starting with "D" and the first listing was: "Daffodil: To see a daffodil in your dream symbolizes renewal, inner growth, optimism, inspiration, and hope. It may signal a new start, a new beginning, or a new project." Hmph, optimism? That was quite ironic. 

Though it would be nice to know the meaning behind all of those dreams we have or to be able to control what we dreamed about would be pretty cool, the crazy situations we end up in and the really random people we encounter while snoozing are always up to our conscience. That's why when I found today's featured quote, it really intrigued me.
If there were dreams were to sell, what would you buy? -Thomas Lovell Beddoes
This is certainly something to think about. Now remember that in dreams, the constraints of reality are thrown out the window. If you wanted to (physically) fly to Alaska and drink pina coladas on the rooftop with Barbara Walters and Derek Jeter while learning to play the trumpet, that wouldn't be such a crazy idea. In a dream, it's possible. I don't think that's exactly the kind of dream I would buy. I mean, no offense to Derek Jeter or anything, but I'd have some more fun stuff in my dream. I think my dream would have to be pretty long to cover all that I can "dream up", but it would definitely take me flying around the world, to the farthest ends of the earth, so I could see all that there is to see. Oh, and I would probably throw George Clooney in there somewhere. Hey, why not?

In my dreams I always find that no matter what kind of crazy situation I was in or what ridiculous things I was doing, there's always a little (itty-bitty) part that touches on reality. Maybe I was dreaming about a place I had been yearning to visit, or a person who had been on my mind the past few days. But no matter what, there's always a little bit of "you" in your dreams. And there's the fun part. If we could go to a store and buy a dream -any dream we wanted- we could let it play out in our minds and find that piece of "us" inside it. From there, it's up to us to go chase that dream and make it a reality. We all want the chance to say, "I'm livin' the dream" why not find that piece of our dream that we can reach, and go get it?

So, today's quote really gives us a lot to think about. But if we could really go to a Dreamingdales or something, what kind of dream would you buy?

Keep Smiling,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Father's Day Weekend!


Hello Optimists,

This Sunday is Father's Day so I thought I would dedicate this post to all of the fathers out there, and especially to my dad. It's kind of interesting to think about how important fathers are in our lives. I'm lucky to have a dad who has been by my side through all of my bumps and bruises, tempter tantrums, accomplishments and failures, big decisions and trials throughout my twenty-some years.

I know I can count on him to come kill that gross-looking bug in my bedroom at night, change the oil in my car, or pick up a baseball and glove and play catch in the back yard. But I also know that I can count on him to give me some advice when I'm feeling a bit lost, to be a good and sincere listener to the things I need to talk about, and to make me laugh even when I'm trying my hardest to hold back a smile. Sure, I may occasionally roll my eyes when he suggests we watch The Three Stooges on TV or not understand why I need to help him every time he wants to "Google" something, but I really am proud to have him as my dad.

It must be tough to have raised two girls... I bet he didn't know much about Barbies or tea parties, or anything about make-up or the need to go shopping for new shoes every week. (And though I am proud to say I no longer play with Barbies or host tea-parties, I must admit that that shoe habit is hard to kick!) Anyway, no matter what "girly" thing was going on in the house, my dad never skipped a beat. He played with us and all of our dolls, made us laugh until we cried (and still does!) and always supported any endeavor my sister and I decided to take on. And there's one more important thing that my dad has always done for me....
My father gave me the greatest gift anyone can ever give another person; he believed in me. -Jim Valvano
Out of all of the things my father has given me, I think this is by far the best thing. I realize how fortunate I am to have both of my parents there to support me, and no matter what, they always believe in me. Knowing that they have my back gives me reassurance when I need it most, and I know that when all else fails and when all others turn their backs, my mom and dad will be there.

On this Father's Day weekend, make sure to tell your dad, or all of those dads you know, how much you appreciate what they've done and how much they're mean to you. I know I certainly will. I hope that my sister and I have and continue to make my dad proud, happy, and most of all, make him feel loved.

Keep Smiling,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's Holding Me Back?


Hello Optimists,

A while ago I posted about this "idea" that I had churning inside of my head...and while I'm happy to report that it's still there churning away, I can't seem to get it any further developed than that. It's like I've hit an invisible barrier and just can't move forward with my idea. I know what I want to do and have been thinking through different options and ways of getting it done, but I just can't take the next step. What's holding me back?

Unfortunately, I know the answer. I know that I'm holding me back. I don't know why either...I usually like to take on challenges and try new things, but I guess this time I'm afraid to try something new. I feel like I'm an amateur, that no one will take me or my idea there it lies, safely in my mind. I guess I feel that being an amateur disqualifies me from success, though I know that's not entirely true. It may, however, keep some people from taking this idea seriously, but that makes it all the more fun once I can prove them wrong! Of course, I can't do that until I actually put my idea to action...

I've been reading through some really great quotes the past few days, and the motivational and inspirational ones have really been "speaking" louder than usual to me. I guess it's because this has all been on my mind lately. So while today I could probably list about 10 really great quotes, I will stick to one like usual and save the rest for other posts. I picked this one in particular because it reminds me not to let certain "qualifications" stand in my way. After all, some of the greatest successes have been created by those who weren't experts in that particular field.
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs build the ark; professionals built the Titanic. -Unknown
Well, I am certainly not building an ark, nor will I be attempting to build the largest passenger ship of our time. But this quote just goes to show that great things can be done by anyone. I'm trying to make a conscious effort to think positively about my ideas and build up the confidence to make them into a reality.

So Optimists, I'm reaching out to all of you here...what do you do to get past that "invisible roadblock" that so often holds us back?

Keep Smiling,

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Strawberry Fields Forever

Photo: from me!

Hello Optimists,

Yesterday was a b-e-a-utiful day with blue skies, a warm sun, and thankfully, relatively low humidity. I wanted to spend every possible second I could outdoors because I know all too well that this weather won't last forever. The middle and end of June not only brings with it the celebration of Father's Day, but also the season for strawberry picking. Have you ever gone before?

I've done it quite a few times in the past, but I went yesterday on a kind of spur of the moment trip.  It was perfect because I got to spend some more time outside and I got to eat some delicious strawberries warmed by the sun. (If you've never eaten a warm and ripe strawberry right from the vine, you're missing's the best.) About 45 minutes and 16 pounds of strawberries later, we called it quits. Now the question is, what the heck are we going to do with 16 pounds of strawberries?!

I went back home and started sorting them, all the while thinking up some great desserts and jams to make with my new inventory...and I must say, I'm quite excited about it. It was really cool to see all the different sizes and shapes that we had picked, and as true of many other things, one size does not fit all with strawberries.  There were some teeny-tiny ones...
and there were some bigger ones...

Some were soooo perfect...
and some were not-so-perfect....

But the best part about it was they are all delicious! At the grocery store, I'm usually very picky about the fruit that I pick. With strawberries, I won't pick a package with berries that are too dark, too light, too small, or too big. I want to make sure I can pick the best! But when I was picking them from the vine yesterday, I found that I was not as particular about my selection as usual. I finally realized that in the end, a strawberry's a strawberry. As long as it's not over or under ripe, it's going to taste really good. So I picked away, not conscious of the size or shape...I was more accepting of a variety. And that's a good thing, so I'm glad I brought home so many different types. 

As I searched through my list of quotes to feature for today, I found one that really embraced this idea. 
After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box. -Italian Proverb
I love this! It doesn't matter whether a competitor looks bigger, better, or stronger, and it doesn't really matter who "wins" or who "loses" the end, it's all the same. I realized this for my strawberries, but now I'm realizing that it's true in life too. There's no reason to favor one thing over the other based purely on looks or size or anything, it's probably likely that one can get the job done just as well as the other. One size fits all is true of a lot of things in life, but usually we don't give it enough of a chance to realize that. So I know it will be hard to do, but try to make an effort to treat others and other things with more equality.

Keep Smiling,

P.S. Anyone have any recipes to share or suggestions as to what I can do with all of these strawberries?!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It Comes From Within

Hello Optimists,

This past weekend was the graduation ceremony at the high school I old alma mater. It's been a few years since I stood on the football field among my peers, ready to receive that diploma and move on to the next big thing, and it's kind of crazy to think about how much different life is now than it was then. I have a much different (and more optimistic!) outlook on life and now I can see the bigger picture.

I'm not sure if I would call myself an optimal optimist then, but I was certainly still a positive person. I was still a quote lover back then, but I didn't try to really live the words like I do now. I didn't think about my favorite quotes to get me through a rough time or to motivate me when I really needed a boost. Now, as I approach my college graduation, I will definitely have a list of words of encouragement, motivation, and inspiration from my blog, and I think these little lines from some incredibly wise people will be with me for a long long time.

I got an email about a post called "100 Timeless Quips & Quotes for Recent College Grads" that featured a bunch of really great quotes for anyone ready to walk the stage and receive that diploma this year. I read through the list and found some really great words of inspiration. Some I had heard or read before and some that I had not, and I'm sure I'll be using some of the new ones in future posts! Here is one of my favorites...I love it because it is perfect not only for recent grads, but for anyone of us who needs a little dose of inspiration.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ah, this is so true, but I would expect nothing less from Ralph Waldo Emerson...he really has some great quotes. He is the one behind a quote we all know to be the ultimate motivational and inspirational quote, "Do not got where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail". It's so important for us all to know that all of our achievements, accomplishments, genius ideas, and break-throughs all come from within us. If we can only wrap our heads around the power we hold in our own lives, then we can really have the courage and confidence to go out and do what we want to do and make a difference. All of the other "stuff" that clouds our vision is there to give us a challenge, but if we stay true to ourselves and know that all we need to be great comes from within us, then we will be on the right track to success.

Take a look at that post,  read through some of the quotes, and if you know any recent grads, you should share this with them to give them a bit of inspiration. After looking through the list, let me know what some of your favorites are!!

Keep Smiling,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Take A Bite Out Of Life


Hello Optimists,

Hope you had a great weekend! I just got done with a baking marathon...or more like a decathlon. I, along with the best cook/baker I know, just completed Round 2 of a weekend baking spree. In total, 6 delicious different kinds of muffins were made...and of course, I taste-tested them all. Hey, someone's gotta do it! Oh, they were so so so good! But I think I ate too much, as now I don't feel like eating again for a week. 

My baking buddy and I had so much fun whipping up new concoctions and trying different ingredients, and though it may seem like a lot of work, it really wasn't that bad. I know a lot of people that love to cook and bake, and I also know a lot of people that absolutely despise it. Personally, I fall somewhere in between. Recently I've been getting into trying out new recipes and experimenting a little bit on my own, and I've found out that I really am starting to like it...and I'm not too shabby if I may say so myself! I often find that if I'm cooking with a friend or family, or even myself, there's something about it that's really comforting. And after taking the time to mix up the ingredients and prepare it ever so carefully, there's nothing I like better than to relax and enjoy the meal- no rush to finish up, no eating over the sink or grabbing a bite on the way out the door. Eating in a peaceful setting allows everyone to savor the flavors of the meal, to pick out each individual ingredient, and to truly appreciate the preparation. 

Today's featured quote really brings the idea I'm thinking about to light, so I thought it would be perfect to share for today's post.
A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety. -Aesop
This is one to write down because it's so important for us to remember. It's not quantity, but quality we should be after. We can get so much more out of something we can truly relish in, something that we can appreciate and heartily acknowledge, than from many things that we take in haste. When we are rushed, preoccupied, anxious, or overwhelmed, it's too hard to concentrate on the things at hand or to appreciate the taste and aroma of life. Instead, we need to slow down and find the peace in even the smallest things in our lives. From there we can learn to take a bite out of life and get a taste of all the little things that make it so great. 

So while that buffet might be calling your name, remember that you first must find the peace in your life before you can appreciate the flavor overload that all of that food has to offer. Start with some small dishes and savor each morsel's flavor before moving on to the Man v. Food challenges. 

Keep Smiling,

Friday, June 11, 2010

Simply Sophisticated


Hello Optimists,

Last night I watched an awesome HBO documentary on a well-known paparazzo, Ron Galella. I had never heard of him before, but watching all the work that he has done throughout the years was really amazing. Mind you, he is now almost 80 years old, and still manages to scour the streets of NYC capturing pictures of celebs. Though he walks a little more slowly these days, this guy has made millions on his photos of some of the most well known names of our time since the 60's. He got his teeth knocked out by Marlon Brando, hid in a warehouse for a whole weekend to snap some pics of Elizabeth Taylor, and had a rather tumultuous relationship while constantly trying to photograph the one and only, Jackie O. 

Most of the documentary centered around the photos he took of the former First Lady- from her time in the White House through the time she got the "O" attached to her name, and finally to the time of her death in 1994. Pictures of this woman have always been so captivating in my eyes and it was truly amazing to see all of the gorgeous photos Mr. Galella had taken of her over the years. As always, her sophisticated yet effortless style was reflected in each of the photos that were featured on the documentary, and I couldn't help but admire her even more. 

I will admit that my shopping decisions are often made by determining if an outfit is "Jackie O. or not" and I feel a lot of women would agree with me on this one. She was a true fashion icon whose style has obviously lasted the test of time. As I watched the many images of her flash across the screen, I tried to nab down exactly what it was about her style that kept her fashions making headlines to this day. What was it that always made her seem so put together, modern and sophisticated? After about 50 or so of her photos were shown, I still couldn't pick out exactly what I was looking for, but I did remember a quote that I think hits the nail on the head...
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. -Leonardo da Vinci
And there it is. Simplicity. That's what made her look fabulous no matter what she was wearing, what she was doing, or who she was with. She never really made a fashion faux pas because her look was always clean and simple. Elegant details adorned sleek lines in an effortlessly stylish ensemble in just the right fit. At the root of her sophistication was the simplicity of her fashion sense.

I think there could probably be no one better to speak this quote that da Vinci. He was a creative master whose pieces, like Jackie's, are beautiful and timeless. And I think his words can carry through the visual arts of painting, sculpture and fashion, and into our every day lives. We'd all like to think we're sophisticated (even those who claim otherwise), but often, in an attempt at sophistication, we overshoot. Sophistication should come with ease...if not, we're trying too hard and are sure to miss the mark. I think we should take a lesson from two true masters of their craft, and realize that simplicity in our lives is what will make the biggest statement. Meanwhile, I'll be shopping for the perfect "Jackie O." trench coat....

Keep Smiling,

P.S. I must send a shout-out to my blogger friend, Kathy over at Everyday Bliss , who is celebrating her 300th post mark and has been awarded the "I Blog with Substance" award....and was nice enough to pass it along to me!! Thanks, Kathy! You all should go check out her latest post!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We're All Advertising Execs


Hello Optimists,

Yesterday the "Best Commercials of 2009" were announced and I saw the lineup of these great ads on The Today Show. I found it really interesting because a common theme among all of the top-ranking ads was humor, and it just so happened that Monday's post was all about letting laughter into your life. What a great little connection! In an interview with Matt Lauer, the President of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers said one thing that really made me feel good about Monday's post. He said, "Humor is a great way to get your message across", and while that is obviously true in the advertising industry, I think this little rule of thumb can be applied to any situation. In case you missed the segment on The Today Show, the top ranking TV ads were the E*Trade Babies, Snickers, FedEx, and taking the top spot, Old Spice. I must say, I agree with their selection...this one is just too funny!

Humor really does have a great effect in the advertising world. And when you've got the right advertisement, sales are sure to increase. I found a great quote about this idea, but once again, I believe it has even more meaning besides in advertising.
Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising. -Mark Twain
Sure, this is definitely true of the ad industry, but I think it is true of our lives as well. Of course, our society is a little bit crazy, so not all those that are "made large" are so because of the "right" kind of advertising. But for the most part, those that have advertised their personal brand well enough and in the right kind of light are sure to reach success. We can go from a small name to a big name all by the way we portray ourselves and how we present ourselves in front of others. It's all about advertising. 

In a sense, we're all advertising execs for a company of one, though we may not all be earning the salary of an exec. We've got to be conscious of how our brand name is being represented, and it's so important that the things we do, say, think, and act all reflect the person we want to be. We've got to use the right kind of advertising. So today, try to think of yourself as a walking billboard, and ask yourself, "Is this the kind of ad I want to be showing for myself?"

Keep Smiling,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Holy Crap. I'm Old.


Hello Optimists,

I have to admit that for pretty much my whole life now, I've been enjoying that feeling of youth, that feeling of only having to worry about what new outfit to pick out for school, or being completely convinced that boys will have cooties forever. Lately though, that feeling has been fleeting quite quickly, and I've been getting some reminders of it on a regular basis. The fact that I need to scroll down for a bit on a drop-down menu online to reach my year of birth scares me a little, and seeing my "little" neighbors going off to senior prom or cruising down the street with a shiny new drivers' license stops me in my tracks. Earlier in the week, my little cousin came to stay at my house for a night and it was then that I thought, holy crap. I'm old.

I guess I've never really noticed such an age difference with the younger cousins in my family, but now it's to the point that while everyone used to be "young" together, I'm pretty much out of that category now. It all started out when she whipped out her cell phone to start texting, and I thought, "family cell phones" were just coming into being when I was her age, let alone having one for every member of the family. Then, to make it even better, she took out some kind of hand held Nintendo thing or something (see, this is exactly what I mean! I don't even know that her little device was called!!) and I was in awe of this little gadget that could take pictures, play video games, make slide shows, record sound, and probably a million other things that I don't even want to know about. 

And then, here's the kicker, she mentioned in conversation that she was born in 2001. 2001!?!? Wasn't that like, yesterday? That just seems so weird to me, to be born in the "new millennium"... and then I thought, Sweetie, I have a car that's older than you. 

But I guess that all comes with the territory of life, and I will admit, "feeling old" wasn't so bad after all. It was fun to see what the kids are up to these days, and it actually got me thinking about the future. I bet my parents never even thought about all of the amazing things we have in our everyday life today, but it's hard to even think of what the future might hold for us. It seems like we're so advanced now, I honestly don't know what new things will come out next. But the future is in our hands as well as the little hands of those kids born in the 2000's. That's why this quote for today seemed to be the perfect fit.

I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. -Unknown

This is a pretty good one, and it reminds us that we need to know what responsibility we (and even our little kids or cousins) have in the future of our world. Even if we may feel old, like me now unfortunately, we shouldn't be afraid of what is unknown about the future, but be excited that we are teaching those who will have a hand in it and that we have a chance to be a part of it too. I look forward to the day when someone holds up a DVD and thinks it's the most ridiculous way to store videos, or to the time when a new generation doesn't know what a gasoline-only car is. I'm looking forward to the future, even though I have no idea what it holds, because I know we have the power to make the best of it. 

Well then, it seems I should be thanking my little cousin for making me feel old...right?

Keep Smiling,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Laugh It Up


Hello Optimists,

Last night was the premiere of the new season of Last Comic Standing, and thank goodness, because I've been looking for a new sitcom or something funny to watch at night. This seemed to be the perfect thing to fill that void that has been left in the wake of the summer season's TV schedule. The first few episodes are always a little shaky while those that aren't the best are weeded out - and then the real competition can begin. But I must say, for the first episode, there were some really funny comics on, so I think it will be a good season.

Both of my parents are pretty good "laughers", if you will, so it's no surprise that there's nothing I like better than a good, hearty, belly-shaking laugh. By definition, laughter is an audible expression or the appearance of happiness, or an inward feeling of joy. Hmph, it seems to me that this is something we should all be loving. I'm always looking for ways to let my happiness show, and this just might be the best way to do it.

Laughing is an easy way to show and create joy, whether it is with others or just by yourself. There's no easier way to brighten your day, and it doesn't take much effort to do. And in my opinion, it's even more contagious than a yawn. And we love to hear people laughing, no matter if they're young or old, tall or's the one thing that anyone can do and can share with anyone around them. After getting a good little ab workout watching last night's episode of Last Comic Standing, I remembered a good quote about laughter and thought it would be perfect to feature for today's post. 
Seven days without laughter makes one weak. -Mort Walker
You know, this is really true. I can hardly go seven hours without laughing, let alone seven days, and I think it should be like this for everyone. I don't know anyone who doesn't like to laugh or make others laugh. There's just something about it that is so just makes you feel better

I read up on some pretty interesting articles about studies on laughter and its health benefits. You'd be surprised at what laughter can do for you. Check out  The Stress Management and Health Benefits of Laughter and Laughter is the Best Medicine.

So don't be a weakling, and be sure to laugh as much as you can. There's no better way to spread happiness.

Keep Smiling,

Monday, June 7, 2010

Delivering a Happy "Delivering Happiness" Review

Hello Optimists,

A few weeks ago I held a "Delivering Happiness" Giveaway and one lucky follower got a free advanced copy of the book (thanks to for sending me an extra free copy to give away!). If you weren't lucky enough to get your hands on a copy before the rest of the world, I'm here to tell you why, starting today, you should definitely go pick up a copy.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and author of this book, explains in an easy to read, colloquial language about his personal and professional path to profits, passion, and purpose. We learn why "thinking outside of the cubicle" built this company into a multi-billion dollar retailing business and why making sure Zappos employees grow both professionally and personally makes for a whole lot of happy people.

This book isn't just your ordinary unrealistic business model about how to grow rich without trying. It's a modern day manual about how believing in your passions can lead to great success, both in your career and more importantly, in your life. Tony recounts some of his toughest and most celebrated moments, from his earliest entrepreneurial adventures as a kid, to feeling the financial burdens of building a business, to building a billion dollar brand based on corporate culture and core values. He shows how taking problems, challenges, and setbacks and turning them into opportunity is absolutely possible.

There are so many good pieces of the book that I'd love to share with you, but I don't want to spoil all of the fun before you get your hands on a copy. So for today's featured quote, I thought I would use one of my favorite lines from the book to give you an idea of some of the great words of wisdom you'll find inside...
Envision, create, and believe in your own universe, and the universe will form around you.
This was a great piece of advice that Tony got from someone at a moment when he needed it most, and it really stuck with him. Hearing these words really inspired him to continue his journey and reach his goals, and I think it really has a great impact. It's just one of the many lines that have stuck with me, and I will definitely keep this great quote in mind.

If Optimal Optimist had a "parent blog", it would probably be written by those at Zappos. So many of the ideals, lessons, and beliefs that I try to share with you everyday through this blog are a part of the Zappos culture, so I hope I too am "delivering happiness" just as Tony and Zappos do. I was amazed at how many of my beliefs aligned with what I was reading in the book, and it was so inspiring to read the "rags to riches" tale of this awesome company.

To read what others have to say about the book, learn more about the Delivering Happiness Movement, and of course, to get your hands on a copy, go to the book's website or Amazon.

Keep Smiling,

Friday, June 4, 2010

Saying Goodbye to a Golden Girl


Hello Optimists,

Have you heard the sad news about The Golden Girls' Rue McClanahan passing away yesterday? I am a huge fan of The Golden Girls, and I was so upset when I heard the news. Now Betty White is the only one left of that hilarious foursome that has kept us laughing since the 80's- (Estelle Getty passed in 2008, Bea Arthur in 2009, and now Rue in 2010)- but it seems like Betty will be going strong for a while. I just posted about her SNL hosting debut earlier last month in SNL Revival where I also talked a bit about my love for those "Miami girls".

Rue's acting career began in film in the early 60's and she moved on to television in the 70's, but really hit the jackpot when she signed on with The Golden Girls in the 80's. For her role in that series, she was nominated for 4 Emmys (with one win) and 3 Golden Globes...and it led to a long career in the television and film industry. 

I thought for today's post, I would use a quote from Rue herself to honor the great legacy that she has left behind. Though there are thousands of hilarious quotes from her role as Blanche Devereaux, I decided it would be best to use one from the woman herself, not a character, to show just how wonderful of a person she truly was...
Compassion is the foundation of everything positive, everything good. If you carry the power of compassion to the marketplace and the dinner table, you can make your life really count. -Rue McClanahan
Rue was hardly a reflection of her man-eating Southern belle character, Blanche, in real life (even though she did marry 6 times!) and really did live a life of compassion. Aside from acting, she was one of the first celebrity supporters of PETA and has been an animal welfare advocate for many years. She even wrote a letter to John Kerry when he was running for president, letting him know that his pheasant hunting kept her from voting for him!

I think this is a really great quote and we should all keep Rue's words in mind throughout the day. We need to learn to treat others with more compassion, rather than looking down on others or making premature assumptions. Compassion really is the foundation to good and positive ideas, and by incorporating it into our everyday lives, I'm sure we will see a difference. Let's all make our lives really count!

RIP Rue, and "thank you for being a friend" to us all.

Keep Smiling,

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Your Most Important Accessory


Hello Optimists,

I was scrolling through last night and stumbled upon a little interview they had done a few months back with my girl, Gwen Stefani. Of course I had to read it immediately- I'm a big fan. Back when No Doubt first came out, my sister and her friends all went to their concert to celebrate my sister's birthday- and of course, I was there too. But it wasn't just because I was being dragged along with the family. Sure, I was still under 10 years old, but there was no doubt that I loved No Doubt. To this day I still have that Tragic Kingdom CD in my car and on my iPod and I know the words to every song. 

In high school I went to see Gwen on her solo tour- which was amazing- and then she took some time to raise her adorable rocker kids, so she's been off the charts for a bit. No Doubt just got together again and went on a tour this past year, and they're planning a new album release sometime soon....yes! But I'm a Gwen Stefani fan for more than just her music...I'm also a fan of her fashion sense and her clothing line. Unfortunately most of the items retail for an amount that's wayyyy outside of my budget, but I still like to look. 

There's just something about high-end fashion that just lures me in (and then there's the price tag that definitely doesn't!) But I can't help but appreciate the quality of the fabrics and the intricate details that you just don't get from everyday retailers. With Gwen's L.A.M.B. line, it's so fun to look at items that are completely unique, and I love seeing her iconic style come out in her pieces. But I'll walk into a Burberry store just to admire their classic trench coats, or into Louis Vuitton just to smell the leather in the air. Then I leave, empty-handed, telling myself that one day I'll become a "regular" in those stores. Wishful thinking, I know, but then I read this quote and realized that it's ok to walk out of those stores without a bag. 
Remember the most important thing you can take with you is not a Gucci bag or french cut jeans; it's an open mind. -Gail Ruben Bereny
Ah, so true. To some, carrying a real Gucci bag is a sign of their wealth or their expensive taste, and they often hold items like these up to the highest standards. And I guess considering the price tag, I would too. I'll admit that I would love love love to have a wide array of high end labels in my closet....I really love fashion. But in the grand scheme of things, it's not the most important representation of our personalities or even our lifestyles. Our most important accessory is an open mind

So next time you're out shopping or find yourself looking for the newest item to add to your closet and make your friends jealous, remember the most important of our accessories cannot be found in stores, and lucky for us, it really has no price tag. 

Keep Smiling,