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November 2013

2013 30-day gratitude photo challenge


It's November, which means it's time to focus in on gratitude! For the past two years, Positively Present has hosted a 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge (see here and here) and this year I'm bringing it back again. I've really loved taking part in a challenge that helped me feel more grateful—and it seems like other people have really enjoyed partaking in the challenge, judging from the photos on Flickr and the repins on Pinterest. 

The premise of this year's challenge is the same—snap photos of the items listed in order to stay more present and grateful every day—but, as I did last year, I've added some new items and changed the order a bit as well. If you're new to the challenge or need a refresher  here's what you need to know:


* No photography skills needed. You don't need to be a photographer or even all that interested in taking photos to participate. All you need to be is interested in staying present and focusing on things you're grateful for.

Don't be scared by the word "challenge." It's just what these photo things are called so don't let it prevent you from participating. There's no reward, no punishment—just an opportunity to be more present.

* Any kind of camera works. You can take your photos anyway you want to—with your phone, with a digital camera, with a DSLR, Holga, Instax, SLR, Polaroid. Anything goes when it comes to cultivating gratitude.

* Start at any time. You can start the challenge on November 1 and do it for the whole month (as I'm doing) or you can start the challenge any day that works for you. The point is to focus on staying present for thirty days. 

* Use hashtag #Gratitude30. If you post your pics on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc., be sure to tag them #gratitude30 so others can see them. I'll be posting mine on Instagram (positivelypresent).

* Share your photos. You can share by using the #gratitude30 hashtag, by posting the links to your photos (if you have them online) in the comments section, or by joining the Flickr group here and uploading them.

* Print out a reminder. You can copy the photo above (save it to your phone, perhaps!) or you can download and print out a version to post wherever you'd find a reminder helpful by clicking here.


You might think that, after two years of gratitude challenges, I'd be tired of coming up with creative ideas for staying present using photography, but each year I've done this, I've found it to be such a great way to stay present. Knowing that I have to take a photo a day, I find myself being more mindful of the world around me, and I also find myself being particularly mindful of that day's specific item. If you've done the challenge before, you probably already know how helpful it is when it comes to staying present and thankful. And if you haven't tried it out yet, give it a go and see how it feels! (And don't forget to follow along with me starting November 1 on Instagram!)



Wondering how you can stay positive and present on a daily basis? Check out my book, Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present, filled with daily tips, advice, and inspiration for making the most of every day. Stay Positive is available in Paperback and PDF. Learn more about the book (and watch the video!) at

positively present picks: october 25, 2013


image from

"There is a child in every one of us who is
still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch."

Robert Brault


image from

Adult Wednesday Addams : oh my god, this cracks me up so much!

Consider the Beauty of Nature : a great way to combat the blues

Dare / Dream / Do : this Gala Darling course sounds awesome

Can't Stop Won't Stop Pillows : I can't lie -- I want these in my apartment

Spooky Eyes Candle : so easy + so festive for Halloween

Headphones Project : ever wonder what strangers are listening to?

Dealing with People Who Offend You : such excellent ways to cope 

Wild Sister's eMag Course : if you want to start an eMag, read this!

Your Life Is Your Most Important Project : a must-watch video

Browse the Web Like Jay Z : 'cause for no reason at all, I love Jay Z

Follow Your Dream : you can find time to (no matter how busy you are!)

Colorful Front Doors : if I had a house, I'd want one of these 

Cameo : my latest app obsession (my user name: positivelypresent)

Marc Johns on Fear : this is such a brilliant drawing


Check out this week's HALLOWEEN playlist on YouTube.  

"Bones" — MS MR
"Disturbia" — Rihanna
"Ghosts"  — On and On
"Skeleton" — Deidre & the Dark
"Haunted" — Taylor Swift
"Pumpkin Soup" — Kate Nash
"Anyone's Ghost" — The National
"Night Terror" — Laura Marling
"Halloween" — Matt Pond PA
"Heads Will Roll" — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"Strange & Beautiful" — Aqualung
"The Ghost Inside" — Broken Bells
"Knife Going In" — Tegan & Sara
"Hunting for Witches" — Bloc Party
"Gravedigger" — Dave Matthews Band
"Ghosting" — Freelance Whales
"As If By Magic" — La Roux
"Dawn of the Dead" — Does It Offend You, Yeah?
"Demons" — Guster
"Buried" — Family of the Year
"The Fear" — Ben Howard
"The Ghost in You" — Counting Crows
"Old Haunts" — The Gaslight Anthem
"Skeleton Key" — Margot & the Nuclear So & So's
"We Suck Young Blood" — Radiohead
"Your Bones" — Of Monsters and Men
"Wolf Life Me" — TV on the Radio
"The Immortals" — Kings of Leon
"Is There a Ghost?" — Band of Horses
"Devils" — Say Hi
"Walking with a Ghost" — Tegan & Sara

Bonus Non-Halloween Song
"Slow Show" — The National 
(Happy Anniversary!) 

Mary Gaitskill

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
Eckhart Tolle

why halloween makes me happy



One of the best ways to live a positive and present life is to indulge in and celebrate that things that make you most happy. One of the things that makes me most happy is the Halloween holiday. Ever since I was a kid, I've loved it (even though I hate anything scary—such an odd contradiction). And over the past four years, the holiday has grown even more special to me since it's the anniversary of the day I met my boyfriend. I don't know why I love the day so much—perhaps it's all the orange or the celebration of autumn, my favorite time of year—but I can't get enough of celebrating what I think of as the happiest day of the year.

When I think of Halloween, my mind fills not with thoughts of spooks and spells, but with thoughts of happiness and excitement. It's not the holiday most people would consider the most positive—lots of demons, devils, scary things, and mocking costumes—but to me, it's filled with festivity and fun. In case you're wondering how I find positivity in the haunted holiday, here are some of the things that come to mind when I think of my favorite day of the year: 


Community: Halloween is one of the greatest holidays because almost everyone can participate in it. When it comes to donning Halloween gear, there's a sense of community, of people who all just want to get dressed up in something silly or scary or sexy. Just go into any Halloween costume store (they pop up all around the DC-area this time of year) and you'll see people joined together, searching for the perfect for Halloween costume. The search itself evokes a sense of community. And, of course, there's the time spent at a party or trick-or-treating with others who are decked out in fun gear. When else do so many people of so many different backgrounds spend time joined together in costumes enjoying a holiday?

Generosity: Halloween is the one day of the year you can (if you are or have a kid) knock on all of your neighbors' doors and they will greet you with a smile and a delicious treat. Can you imagine if every day were like that? If you could just walk up to your neighbor's door and s/he would open it with a smile and treat? The generosity of Halloween—free treats for all!—is one of the best things about the holiday. It's the only time I can think of when people are so generous to those they don't know well. Halloween's greatest lesson could be that it's wonderful to give others little treats.  

Creativity: Halloween is a great time to use your imagination to don a costume that is unique and innovative. It's your annual chance to live a fantastical existence. Whatever you want to be, you can put on a costume and be it (or at least pretend to be it). Consider the possibilities! You can be your favorite character (I've been Alice in Wonderland at least five times and I have a Buddy the Elf costume just waiting to be worn!). You can be your dream self (a 1920's flapper has been a go-to for me and I have a yet-to-be-worn ringleader ensemble). The beauty of Halloween is that you can use your creativity to become whatever you want to be (if only for a night!). 

Festivity: For me, Halloween has—and will always be—a time for celebration and festivity. In my mind, Halloween is New Year's Eve and Independence Day rolled into one. It's better than fireworks, more of a rush than champagne. Whether it was tame classroom parties in grade school, wild parties in college, or romance-laden anniversary dates, Halloween has always been a time for celebrating, for dressing up, for getting high on a sugar rush. Even if Halloween doesn't hold the same special place in your heart, it's hard not to get caught up in the festiveness of the autumnal holiday. 


Compared with some other holidays (I'm looking at you, Christmas), Halloween might not seem like such a positive holiday. But to me it's a celebration not just of ghosts and ghouls but of creativity and community, a night to indulge in fantasies and delight in generosity. And, for me, Halloween is now a day of love, a celebration of the years I've spent with an awesome man who I'm so lucky to have in my life. Even if Halloween doesn't exactly conjure up ideas of love for you, you can love the holiday and all that it has to offer: a chance to revel in community, generosity, creativity, and festivity. 

Love Halloween? Here are some links you might want to check out: 

Barkley & the Pumpkin : Barkley pup's first encounter with a pumpkin
Halloween Happiness
: my Pinterest round-up of all things Halloween-y
2013 Halloween Picks : thirty-one of my favorite Halloween-ish tunes
In the Pumpkin Patch : an anniversary poem I wrote for my boyfriend
The History of Halloween : in case you were wondering where it all started
28 Free Halloween Printables : so perfect for spooktacular decorating 
Halloween Caroling : Jimmy Fallon cracks me up with these carols