Previous month:
November 2013
Next month:
January 2014

the best of 2013 + a free printable!


2013 was an insane year for me. It started out really rough—my beloved pup, Bella, was dying and I knew it would only bet a matter of time before I had to let her go—and it got tougher when it finally came time to put her to sleep. The very same day I lost her was the very day I received word from a publisher interested in working with me on a book (a lifelong dream come true!). Though I don't think anything could dull the ache of losing one of my best friends, the possibility signing a book deal definitely gave me hope for the year ahead. And then there was Barkley. She arrived in my life in early March, a bundle of puppy joy, and even though she drives me c-r-a-z-y sometimes, she lights up my world it with her (never-ending!) energy and enthusiasm. All that and 2013 was just beginning. The year started off rocky, but it turned out to be one of my best years yet. (Which is good to keep in mind if your year doesn't start off so well. Believe me, it can turn itself around in an instant!)

Around this time of the year, lots of us are looking forward to the year ahead, thinking of the resolutions we'll make or wondering how we can make the next year our best year yet. While I'm all for preping for the future (so long as it doesn't steal too much from the present), I do think it's worthwhile to stop and think about all of the things that have happened this year, to reflect on all you've accomplished over the past twelve months and give yourself a bit of a pat on the back for making it through this year. 

Which is why I'm suggesting you compile a Best of 2013 list. Just like all those other "Best of..." lists popping up this time of year (Best Books of 2013, Best Films of 2013, Best Blog Posts of 2013, etc.), your Best of 2013 list should highlight the best parts of the year. While I don't often advise looking backward (it really gets in the way of staying present!), I've found it really helpful to remind myself of all the wonderful things that happened over the past year. Not only does it bring a smile to my face and remind me to be thankful for all I've been through, but it also gets me excited for the year ahead. If all of this happened in 2013, what could happen in 2014?!

Below is my personal Best of 2013 list—and below that is a link to download a printable Best of 2013 list for yourself. Print it out, fill it out, and post it up somewhere to remind you of last year's high points—and to inspire you to dream big in the year ahead.




On January 1, 2013, I would never have imagined this year would turn out the way it did. It's pretty amazing how much can change in just 12 little months, isn't it? When you create your own Best of 2013 list, I bet you'll be surprised how much you've done and/or experienced over the past year. Click here to download your free printable Best of 2013 list, fill it out, and celebrate all that was wonderful about 2013! 




positively present picks: december 27, 2013

New YearSource


image from

"Not that she didn’t enjoy the holidays: but she always felt—and it was, perhaps, the measure of her peculiar happiness—a little relieved when they were over. Her normal life pleased her so well that she was half afraid to step out of its frame in case one day she should find herself unable to get back."

Jan Struther


image from

30 Ideas for Your 2014 Bucket List : everyone should try #12

9 Top New Year's Resolutions : and advice on making them happen

Triangle Wall : I love this so much and wish I could do it! 

Letting Go of the Past : a great way to start fresh year off right

2014 : some wonderful words of wisdom for the New Year

Puppy Surfing! : this is just way too cute for words

Confetti Wand : perfect for New Year's Eve (or just any day!)

This Is Your Year : pick up some inspiration on Society 6

Spoils of Babylon : so excited for a 2014 dose of Kristen Wiig

10 Signs You Might Be a Hoarder : good way to remind yourself less is more

Winter Scents that Can Boost Wellness : at the very least it'll smell good

New Year Theme : it might work better than a resolution


image from

Check out this week's Positively Present playlist on YouTube.  

"Colorblind" — Lewis Watson
"The Sound" — Ariela Jacobs
"White Winter Hymnal" — Fleet Foxes
"We Can't Stop" — Boyce Avenue
"Oats in the Water" — Ben Howard
"All Shook Up" — Avila
"All the Little Lights" — Passenger
"Money Tree" — Caroline Glaser
"Birds and Stars" — Elephant Revival
"Overwhelmed" — Tim McMorris
"This Year's Love" — David Gray
"January" — Mason Jennings

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Kim Edwards

how to keep the spirit of christmas all year long


After the presents have been opened, the carols have been sung, and the festivities of Christmas day are over, most of us tuck our Christmas spirit—you know, that cheerful, nice-to-everyone-cause-it's-Christmas vibe—away until next year. After all, we've been jubilant and jolly (or at least a little bit nicer...) for close to a month now and keeping up that upbeat, Christmas-y attitude can be hard work. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize how much better things might be if we all kept that Christmastime cheer with us all the time.

Of course, part of the reason it's not so difficult to be a bit kinder, a tad more cheery at Christmas is because it is a limited thing. It's easy to think, "I'll be nicer to my cranky coworker because it's Christmas" or "I'll smile at the person who stole my parking space because it's Christmas." Knowing that Christmas cheer is a limited time only offer makes it easier to embrace it. But what if we didn't limited it? What if we kept that spirit all year long? 

Staying in a Christmas state of mind for twelve months of the year is probably unrealistic. Let's be honest: we can't be carol-singing, gift-giving little elves all year long. But there are a few elements of the holiday season that we can keep with us throughout the year, giving every day a chance to have just a bit of the magic that comes along with Christmas Day. Here are some of the best ways to keep the spirit alive every day of the year: 


Focus on what you have. The holiday season often reminds of all that we have to be thankful for: our friends, family, and the collective joy many of us experience at this time of year. If we keep that feeling of appreciation with us all year long, we'll prolong the wonder of Christmas on a daily basis. The trick is to focus on what you have, not what you want. Through the year, whenever you find yourself thinking, “I wish I had…” replace that with, “I’m so thankful I have…”


Know what really matters. At Christmas—at least on Christmas Day!—most of us prioritize matters most: spending time with those we love and celebrating a season that means something to us. During the rest of the year, it can be hard to keep our priorities straight with all of the various aspects of life vying for our attention, but when you bring yourself back to what matters most, you make the most of every day. 


Treat strangers with kindness. At Christmastime, people are often a bit kinder, merely based on the fact that it's Christmas. Treating others with kindness—especially those you don’t know, and especially those who don't necessarily treat you with kindness—is a wonderful way to keep the spirit of Christmas alive every single day of the year. When someone bothers you, imagine how you would treat him or her if it were Christmas Day. 


Look for the good. Christmas is a time for taking note of things we love—the people we care about, the gifts wrapped just for us—and it's also a time for noticing special things—the little traditions, the pretty, glittery decorations. The season brings out a sense of childlike wonder. Trying to embrace that wonderment all year long, by looking for good bits in every day, is another great way to keep the spirit of Christmas alive.  


Sometimes it's hard to keep the spirit of Christmas alive at Christmas, let alone all year long, but when you find yourself in an unpleasant situation or dealing with a difficult person, I've found that it really does help to think to yourself, "How would I react if today were Christmas Day?" It sounds silly, but it's surprising how much kindness and cheer you can conjure up when you call up the spirit of Christmas. 


For those of you celebrating Christmas this week, I hope you have a very, merry Christmas, and thank you for reading Positively Present. Readers like you are some of the best Christmas presents I could ask for! 

positively present picks: december 20, 2013



image from

"He who has not Christmas in his heart
will never find it under a tree."

Roy L. Smith


image from

ROOAR Magazine : first issue! (and check out my article on page 41!)

Homemade Ornaments : such a cute, last-minute holiday activity

21 New Year's Quotes : some quotes to get you amped up for a new year

7 Stressful Things to Ignore : life's too short to spend it stressed out

On Smarm : this article has some interesting thoughts on positivity

Christmas Morning : a dad filmed his kids for 25 years in a row

How to Free Yourself from Negative Emotions : go on, free yourself!

Life Lessons : great lessons learned by Breanna Rose

Merry + Bright Holiday Guide : it's not too late for some holiday tips

Be Mindful at Family Gatherings : the perfect place to practice!

Wisdom Round-up! : some great articles from the past year

image from

Check out the Positively Present CHRISTMAS! playlist on YouTube.  

"Happy Little Christmas" — A Fine Frenzy
"Underneath the Tree" — Kelly Clarkson
"Snowed In" — Mindy Smith
"Christmas at Home" — Tyrone Wells
"Christmas in LA" — The Killers
"I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" — Leona Lewis
"Twinkling Lights" — Office Romance
"All My Bells Are Ringing" — Lenka
"Last Christmas" — Jasmine Thompson
"Santa Baby" — Ariana Grande
"Sleigh Ride" — fun.
"What Christmas Means to Me" — Cee Lo Green
"Something about December" — Christina Perri
"Christmas Is" — Francesca Battistelli
"Mistletoe" — Colbie Caillat
"Christmas Time with You" — David Ian
"All I Want for Christmas Is You" — Mariah Carey
"Carol of the Bells" — Pentatonix
"Christmas Party" — Dr. Dog
"It's Been Christmas Here" — Blondfire
"Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" — N Sync
"Jingle Bells" — Glee Cast
"Christmas Wish" — She & Him
"My Only Wish" — Britney Spears
"Christmas Must Be Something More" — Taylor Swift

The Magic Christmas
Francine Pascal

I read it every year!
Check out my article on it here.


9 ways to cope with loss during the holidays



It's been almost ten months since I put my beloved pup, Bella, to rest. Every day, every month, it gets easier to deal with the loss (perhaps that old "time heals all wounds" saying really has some truth in it), but the holiday season seems to freshen the hurt, mostly because she loved it so much. I can still see her tearing through the wrapping, so thrilled with every gift (even those not for her!). I can still see her dancing on her back paws, reaching her nose up toward her stocking, knowing it was filled with treats just for her. I can still see her tangled in ribbon and bows, enjoying Christmas morning more than any other day of the year. (It sounds silly, but she really did love gifts!)

I miss her every single day and I probably always will, but I know I can't let my sadness get in the way of having a positive holiday season this year. I know that's not what my sweet little pup would have wanted, and I know it's not fair to my new pup, Barkley, who'll be celebrating her first Christmas in just a couple weeks. Dwelling on the past gets in the way of the present, I know, but it's hard not to find myself lost in the memories of Bella, of the Christmases I spent with her. Here are some of the ways I'm going to do my best to make the most of the holiday season—even during the moments it seems almost impossible. If you're coping with a loss this holiday season, I hope these tips will help you too. 


The more time spent with positive, uplifting people, the easier it is to stay positive and focus on the present. Positivity is contagious and the more it's around you, the more you start to see the good in the world, taking your mind away from dwelling on your loss and reminding you of all that you still have to be thankful for. 



Pushing your grief away isn't a good way to deal with it. (It always comes back, usually at the worst times!) The best way to cope with loss is to face it, to recognize the sadness and understand that it's okay to feel sad. The trick is to give yourself a set amount of time to spend with your sadness so it doesn't turn into a place where you dwell in sorrow. 



It's also a good idea not to shy away from remembering the good times. Recalling the happy memories might seem like it would be more painful than helpful, but it's actually a great way to celebrate the life of the one you've lost. When you find yourself wishing s/he was here, remind yourself of all the good times you had when s/he was with you. 



While avoiding sadness is never a good plan, keeping yourself from dwelling in it is essential for making the most of a difficult time of year. One of the best ways to do this is to stay busy by doing things you love. Whatever your favorite activities are—holiday-themed or otherwise—make time for them. And try to say yes to invitations too. 



Sometimes it can feel wrong to create new memories—as if you're negating the traditions of the past—but making new memories and traditions can help you move forward instead of staying stuck in the past. This doesn't mean you have to let go of old traditions, but creating new ones can provide you with a fresh perspective on the season. 



Getting lots of rest, eating right, and staying active can really help when dealing with a tough time. When you're tired or cranky, any negative emotion you might be feeling can be amplified, seeming much worse that it is. To make you emotional state more manageable, it's important to take care of yourself—not just emotionally, but physically as well. 



Sadly, there are many people struggling with loss during the holiday season. While it might seem counter-intuitive to think of all the loss in the world, it can actually be helpful to remind yourself that you're not the only one struggling to feel festive this year. If you think it might be helpful to connect with others feeling as you, look online for local or online grieving groups. 



Volunteering your time with those who are less fortunate than you—at a homeless shelter, for exmple—can help remind you of all that you have to be thankful for. You might also see how those who have lost a great deal still manage to move forward, reminding you how strong and resourceful we humans can be. If you don't have lots time, consider buying and wrapping a gift for a child in need. 



It's hard, when a loved one is missing from the holiday fun, to allow yourself to feel joyful. It's tempting to feel guilty about enjoying the holiday season, but consider the joy you experience this year as a gift to yourself. You've been through something difficult and you deserve a time of love, joy, and happiness. Remind yourself that your loved would have wanted you to enjoy the holidays. 


I know that this first Christmas will probably be one of the most difficult, and I know that each Christmas season without Bella will probably get easier, but it's still a constant struggle to stay positive, to redirect my mind to the present. Just thinking about her, my eyes fill with tears and I miss her so much that my heart physically hurts, but I keep reminding myself of how much she loved Christmas and how much she hated to see me cry. She would never want me to be unhappy and so, for her (and for myself!), I'm going to do my best to take my own advice, follow these nine tips, and make this season merry.