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positively present picks: my weekly favorites





“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, & demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long & its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people & grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food & for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one & no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools & robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep & pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song & die like a hero going home.”





 B*tches in Bookshops : so hilarious for you reader gals out there

Rabbit Hole Instagram : so wish I had created this!
(follow me @happilyeverafternow)

 Double Standard : sometimes they can be quite hilarious

If You Run Out of Stars... : I heart Marc Johns. Period.

Jirka Väätäinen's Real-Life Disney Princesses : thanks for sending, Coral!

Chasing Charlie Pet Photography : such adorable pics

MDNA giveaway on Positively Present : enter to win now! :)

Son of a Sailor : my new favorite Etsy shop

#whatshouldwecallme : the funniest word/gif pairings ever



Listening reading

"Nothing to Remember" by Neko Case
"Give Your Heart a Break" by Demi Lovato
"Rules" by Jayme Dee
"End of the Line" by Sleigh Bells
"Turn Up the Radio" by Madonna
"River" by Civil Twilight
"Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepson 
"Too Close" by Alex Clare
"Better Than I Used to Be" by Tim McGraw
"Cough Syrup" by Young the Giant
"Simple Song" by The Shins
"Skinny Love" by Bon Iver, performed by Birdy 

Code to Joy:
The Four-Step Solution to Unlocking Your Natural State of Happiness

by Dr. George Pratt + Dr. Peter Lambrou

This Is Where I Leave You
by Jonathan Tropper

turn up the radio: an MDNA giveaway


When the world starts to get you down
And nothing seems to go your way
And the noise of the maddening crowd
Makes you feel like you’re going to go insane

There’s a glow of a distant light
Calling you to come outside
To feel the wind on your face and your skin
And it’s here I begin my story

Turn up the radio
Turn up the radio
Don’t ask me where I wanna go
We gotta turn up the radio



"Turn down the noise and turn up the volume," Madonna sings in "Turn Up the Radio," a song off her latest (and 12th!) album. Those words -- simple as they are -- really speak to me. So many times in my life I've turned down the noise of my life -- that chaotic buzzing of emotion and action and reaction -- by turning up the volume on my stereo. Music has always been there for me, a mix of words and beats to help me absorb whatever I'm going through. I truly believe there's a perfect song for every occasion and I've made it my personal mission to incorporate these sounds into my life (and the lives of anyone willing to accept a steady flow of mix CDs).

When I look back on the twenty-eight years I've lived, every moment, every season, every person can be represented by a song. Madonna's song "Turn Up the Radio" has reminded me just how much the simple act of turning up the radio can mean. A song can heal a heart, change a mind, capture a memory, turn a day from bad to good. A song can celebrate, captivate, and commiserate. The moment when you hear lyrics so clearly stating what you could not put into words, the moment when you connect with a song in a way that makes it impossible not to turn up the volume -- that moment makes you see just how important music can be. 

When I started listening to Madonna's latest album I realized some of my earliest musical memories include Madonna songs. I recall my eight-year-old self dancing around my bedroom to "Lucky Star" and "Vogue." I remember rewinding my tapes of "Express Yourself" and "Into the Groove" again and again, vowing never to settle for second best. As I grew up, Madonna's tracks peppered my life -- dancing to "Crazy for You" at my first dance, relating to "Material Girl" during my superficial phase, feeling nostalgic for childhood with "This Used to Be My Playground," kneeling to "Like a Prayer" while singing at the top of my lungs, and banishing ex-lovers with "Sorry" and "Hung Up." Though I've never given much thought to Madonna's music or its impact on me, I realize now how much her songs have influenced me in a positive way. 

Whether I was turning up a Madonna tune or listening to another one of the hundreds of artists that have impacted my life, I've always found music to be a powerful -- and positive -- force. As a celebration of music and all of the positive things it has brought to my life, I'm giving away 5 copies of Madonna's new album, MDNA. To enter to win a copy, see details below. 


Madonna MDNA standard edition album coverWin Madonna's MDNA Album!

Five winners will be randomly selected on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 and will be notified via email. Below are the various ways you can enter to win. 

Leave a comment below about how music
has impacted your life in a positive way.
Include your email address so we can contact you.

Like Positively Present on Facebook.
Add a comment here to let me know about the Like.

Post about this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter.
Come back + comment with the link.
*please tag it with @positivepresent*

positive ways to prevent bullying




With the new movie Bully entering theaters Friday in America, the topic of bullying has been on the minds of many lately. Last week Ellen had talked to the parents featured in the film (if you missed it, watch it here) and it was the first time I'd ever seen her cry on the show. It's obviously a very important issue to her and her passion for it, along with the upcoming film, has made me think a lot more about the topic of bullying. 

Bullying impacts millions and millions of people every day. Yes, millions. It breaks my heart to think about all of the people out there being bullied -- as well as all of the people doing the bullying. Both bullies and the bullied have to deal with so much emotional (and often physical) negativity. There is always a reason that bullies get to the point of bullying, which is terribly sad to me. And even sadder are the results of their actions, the despair and loneliness of the bullied. 

While childhood bullying is the focus of today's media, unfortunately bullying doesn't stop there. Adults bully one another too -- in work, in relationships, even in random interactions (just watch aggressive drivers to see that in action). Just like children, adults bully others because of their own insecurities and emotional issues. Sadly, many adults even bully themselves. They put themselves down, treat themselves without respect, make themselves feel smaller and less valid. 

This is not okay. Bullying in any form -- verbal, emotional, physical -- is not okay. It's not okay when someone does it to you. It's not okay when you do it to someone else. And it's definitely not okay when you do it to yourself.

You might think that bullying has nothing to do with you, but it does. Bullying happens every day, with both adults and children, and it's much more prevalent that you might realize. But bullying is something we all have the power to fight. It's a form of negativity we can actively work to avoid in our everyday lives. Here's how: 


Positive Ways to Prevent Bullying

1. Don't be a bully.
It might sound obvious, but it's not always as obvious as you would think. Many bullies might not consider themselves bullies. But remember: every unkind word, every condescending statement is a form of bullying. And so is just standing by while others are bullied. Give some serious thought to your actions and remind yourself that you could be bullying people without even realizing it. Listen to the tone of your voice, the words you speak, and the actions you take. And remind yourself that all of that applies to bullying yourself too. You are a bully to yourself if you beat yourself up emotionally or self-harm in any way. Even if you don't bully others, you might be bullying yourself. One way to prevent bullying is to stop beating yourself up. 

2. Stand up for yourself. If you are being bullied, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself. (Physical bullying is another matter and there are many cases in which standing up for yourself could be dangerous. Don't put yourself in physical harm; walk away if possible.) You have the right to say to a friend, parent, boss, random person, etc. that you do not want to be bullied. You have the right to say no, to walk away, to call him/her out on being a bully. You -- your thoughts, words, actions, and body -- are valuable and don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and remind others what you are worth. 

3. Stand up for others. It is tempting not to get involved with others are being bullied and, in some cases (especially in school), it's almost better to join in on the bullying to avoid becoming one of the bullied. But not standing up for others is just as bad as doing the actual bullying. If you see someone being bullied -- at work, at school, even in your own home -- stand up for that person. Step in and tell the bully that s/he is being a bully. Tempting as it is to stand by and stay out of it -- don't. Those who are being bullied need someone to back them up, to be their voice when they cannot speak. 

4. Ask for help. Bullying obviously takes on many, many forms. If the bullying is physical or dangerous, it's important to seek help. If you a child or teenager, talk to a trusted adult. If you are an adult, talk to someone higher up (for example, your boss's boss). If you are being bullied at home, find an outside resource or organization that can help you. There is no shame in asking for help -- and that's what you must do if you or someone you know is being bullied. And don't give up. Their might be people who dismiss your concerns or don't take you seriously. Find someone else. Don't let one person's ignorance hold you back from getting the help you or someone else deserves. 

5. Seek counseling. If you think you might be a bully, find a counselor or therapist that can help you uncover why you bully and how you can stop. If you're being bullied (or even if you think you might be), find a counsel or therapist who can help you find the most effective ways to address the bullying while also helping you to cope with the negative (and often long-term) impact of being bullied. Even if you have been able to stop bullying or have stopped the bully from bothering you, you may be dealing with emotional issues as a result of having been bullied or having been a bully. Seeking outside help will help you deal cope with -- and hopefully overcome -- these issues. 

6. Love yourself. Loving yourself is crucial when it comes to overcoming bullying. Loving yourself will prevent you from being a bully. It will help you stand up for yourself if you feel you are being bullied. It will force you to remove yourself from negative situations in which you might be bullied. It will help you overcome and cope with any bullying you might have faced -- or will face. Loving yourself is essential. Even though it's #6 on this list, it's the most essential aspect of bully prevention. People who love themselves don't bully and people who love themselves don't allow themselves to be bullied. 


Though I've been called a few names in the past (who hasn't?) I've never really been really bullied. And, while I wouldn't consider myself a bully, I look back on my past (especially those high school years) and have to wonder if I might not have had a bit of a bully in me. I was judgmental and cruel -- my way of battling my own adolescent insecurities -- and there were times I was downright mean. As much as I would like to go back and relive those years I spent so much time focused on superficiality and popularity, going back is not an option. 

Now is the only time I have -- we all have -- to make a difference. If you are being a bully, stop. If you are being bullied, stand up for yourself. If you can't stand up for yourself, find someone who can. The scars of being bullied may never fully disappear, but we have the power each and every day to prevent new wounds from appearing. 

For more information on bullying and how you can help prevent it, see the resources below. 

Just Like You

The Bully Project

Born This Way Foundation

Stop Bullying

United Against Bullying

Bullying Prevention Center

CN Speak Up

positively present picks: my weekly favorites



For the last few years, I've been featuring a weekly post called "Words to Live By." "Words To Live By" is a segment on Positively Present that features my favorite quote or lyrics from the week. Every Sunday I post a quote or lyrics that have inspired me with the hope that they'll inspire you too. As much as I love those posts, I've decided it's time to switch it up. Now I'll be doing a weekly post (coming out every Thursday or Friday) featuring my favorite quotes, websites, songs, books, etc. 



"You cannot connect the dots looking forward.
You can only connect them looking backward.
So you have to trust that the dots will
somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something--
your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
This approach has never let me down,
and it has made all the difference in my life."

Steve Jobs



Five Ways to Make Things Happen
 : instant inspiration

 Matthew Kavan Brooks on Society 6 : must-have prints

Matchbook Magazine : free, beautiful magazine? yes, please!

365 Photo Project March photos : lots + lots of gorgeous green

Stuff Instagramers Say : hilarious + so spot-on

This print : good things come to those who work + never give up

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters : via the great swissmiss

Happy Notes : would love to send some of these!

The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On : more amusing than the memes


Listening reading

"Learnalilgivinanlove" by Goyte
"Think Good Thoughts"  by Colbie Calliat
"Some Nights" by Fun.
"Spitting Fire" by The Boxer Rebellion
"What Doesn't Kill You" by Kelly Clarkson 
"I Was Here" by Beyonce
"Little Talks" Of Monsters and Men
"Sweet Serendipity" by Lee DeWyze
"Make a Noise" by Katie Herzig
"Don't Stop" by Foster the People
"The Wolves" by Ben Howard 
"Eyes Open" by Taylor Swift 

 Everything Is Everything 
by Sian Richardson (a must buy!) 
Getting Things Done
by David Allen
iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology
by Larry Rosen 

using the TAP method to stay present




A 60-year-old man who has never owned a car wins a new car in a fundraising lottery. All of his friends tell him how lucky he is because now he can visit his kids and go to the market whenever he wants. 

His response is: "Lucky? Maybe yes, maybe no." 

A few weeks later, he has an accident in the new car and ends up in the hospital. His friends tell him that it is a tragedy, that he should never have driven and how unlucky it was that he won the new car. 

His response is: "Unlucky? Maybe yes, maybe no." 

While he is in the hospital, there is an electrical fire in his house. If he had been there, he surely would have died. His friends tell him how lucky he is to have been in the hospital and that he will recover from the accident but that he would have been dead if he had been at home.

His response is: "Lucky? Maybe yes, maybe no." 

(via Lee Lipsenthal, based on an old Chinese tale)


As you can see from this tale, we really don't know for sure what the long-term outcome of any choice or situation will be. At the time it might seem like we have it all figured out, but the future has many unexpected twists and turns. For this reason it's critical to focus on what is, rather than what might be. Wondering what will be, worrying about what could happen, gets you nowhere but frazzled in the present. 

I struggle with this constantly. My assumptions and daydreams about what the future might hold often cause unnecessary stress. As much as I strive to be present -- I've made it part of my full-time job! -- it's a constant battle to remember that what is real carries so much more value than what exists in my mind. For a long while, I knew I wanted to be more present and I read everything I could on the subject but I still struggled with it. I would grow frustrated, making my already tired mind more exhausted. 

Though I still struggle with being present (I really would love to know how people like Eckhart Tolle do it...!), I've come up with a method for managing thoughts about the future that really helps me to redirect my thoughts to the present moment. When my mind starts to wander, I do what I can to bring it back to the present by using what I like to think of as the TAP method. 

The TAP method involves taking thoughts about the future and giving them a closer look. While it sounds very fancy, it's basically a series of three questions that I ask myself when I find my thoughts dragging me away from the present. Asking myself these questions almost always helps to bring me back into moment. 


The TAP Method

The next time you find your mind wandering from the present -- dwelling on what could be -- use these questions to rein in those wayward thoughts and bring your focus back to the now.  

1. Is it TRUE right now?

Take the thought you're having and figure out if it's true right in this moment. Let's say you are worried about an upcoming presentation at work or school. In your mind you are standing up in front of the crowd, sweating, forgetting all the points you wanted to make. In your mind you are arriving unprepared, you are mocked by your colleagues or classmates. Now, those are very real concerns, but are they true right in this moment? No. Just like with this example, most of the things we imagine are not true in the present moment. Could they come true? Possibly. But thinking about them and giving them the same attention we would a true thought is pointless. It is a waste of our time and energy to focus attention on what may or may not happen. Also, take another look at the tale above. Even if the worst case scenario did come true, do we know why it came true? Perhaps there is something worse than the worst thing we can imagine. Use this question to focus on what's real and true, not what might/possibly/maybe/could happen. 

2. Is it ADDING anything? 

If the first question didn't help and you have still been able to convince yourself that your thoughts about the future are true (remember: as much as they seem like very real possibilities, nothing is truer than the present moment), this question is the next step for bringing that brain of yours back to the now. Examine those thoughts you're having about the future and ask yourself if they're adding anything to your perception of the world. Let's use the same example we used with question #1: you're stressing about an upcoming presentation and all you can do is imagine how you will stumble over your words and embarrass yourself. Are these thoughts adding anything your present moment? Are they making you more prepared for your presentation? More confident that you will do well? Are they helping you to go over the information you will need to present? Nope! In fact, these thoughts are most likely taking something away from you -- value time and energy that you could be using to prepare and practice. If the thoughts of the future aren't adding value, let them go. 

3. Is it POSITIVE?

You might be able to convince yourself that the future thoughts are true and adding value ("They're preparing me for potential outcomes!" you might argue), but you can't argue with this third question: are these thoughts positive? Imagining what could occur in the future might seem to have it's value, but more often then not the imagined scenarios are harmful to living a positive and present life. Yes, we must all look to the future at times, but dwelling on or obsessing about the future, assuming we know what will come to be, is almost never positive. Look closely at your thoughts -- even those about the past and present -- and ask yourself if they are positive. Going back to our example, you can see that imagining the worst outcome is not positive. But what about imagining the best outcome? That certainly must be positive. While I won't argue that imagining yourself giving an amazing speech is much better than daydreaming of a failed performance, either way you are choosing to focus on something that is imaginary. The most positive choice of all is to focus on what's happening right now, what's real and true


Though it's not foolproof (my mind has a funny way of worrying about the future no matter how hard I struggle to focus on the now), the TAP method has definitely helped me redirect my thoughts from what-could-be to what-is. Importantly, it gives me a process that encourages me to focus on what I'm thinking instead of just letting my thoughts run wild. Learning to question my thoughts, rather than accept them as facts, has made a huge impact on living a positive and present life -- as has recalling the story above every time I think I know what life has in store for me. The future is a tempting place to visit, but it's no match for living in the moment.