Awwwww… it IS that simple!

I’ve been working nonstop lately; made myself sick this weekend, but that’s okay. Building a new workflow and testing and developing for Kindle Format 8 has been a ton of extra hours into the schedule lately, but I love it.

I sometimes need to shut down and go into my own little world, where it’s just me and the markup, or me and the edit, or me and the book I’m working on. If I slow down and focus, I love my job to pieces.

This little musing was prompted by a picture I came across at allthatinspires.me. It made me smile, and since I haven’t had time to blog, I thought I’d post it:


I believe that’s absolutely true.

What do you think?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:

Yes… Just Smile

Did you know that one smile equals the brain stimulation of 2,000 bars of chocolate?! According to the work and study of Ron Gutman, smiling helps you and everyone around you live a longer, healthier, and happier life.

They studied baseball players, and found that players with wide, beaming smiles lived an average of 79.9 years; non-smiling players lived 72.9 years, and slight-smiling players lived an average of 75 years.

Smiles predict marriage success: In a study of childhood pictures, 31% of non-smilers experienced divorce, while only 11% of smilers were divorced.

So of course I had to check my childhood pictures to see if I was smiling:


No! Wait! That doesn’t count. DO YOU SEE THE ELASTIC ON THAT DRESS? It was the TORTURE dress. I vividly remember how horrid and uncomfortable that dress was. Hopefully I was normally more like this:


When I was a piano teacher, I wanted to make sure that if a student happened to glance at me, they’d see a wide, sincere, supportive smile that communicated enthusiasm and fun.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to smile like that for two freakin’ hours straight? By the time everyone left after the reception, the whole top and back of my head would be seizing up and I’d have a headache for hours.

Here’s the video of Ron Gutman’s talk, which is great:

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:

Vulnerability & Happiness

I love this TED talk! (Thank you, Heather!) It’s twenty minutes long. It’s one of those talks that has tons of buried treasure, but could’ve been a little more focused.

Very worth a listen, though.

To sum up, in her research and work, Brene Brown discovered that the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging have it because they believe they’re worthy of it. And even more, they fully embrace vulnerability—that’s not to say they enjoy the discomfort of vulnerability, but they believe it’s a necessary part of welcoming love and connection into their lives.

I think she and they are right.

The things that unravel vulnerability, and thus the feeling of love and belonging, are fear and shame. Not sharing out of shame, not risking rejection out of fear: these things cause loneliness and a loss of belonging.

There’s nothing to lose in being vulnerable, though: when we’re vulnerable, we risk rejection, yes—but choosing not to be vulnerable doesn’t protect us from rejection; we end up being the ones rejecting connection with another human being.

Either way, worst case scenario, we are disconnected.

If, on the other hand, we risk vulnerability, then we have a chance at connection and greater intimacy.

My favorite lesson from the video is that if you numb the uncomfortable feelings, like fear and shame, then the happy and joyful feelings get numbed, too.

Here is a lovely image I stole from her website:


What do you think?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:

Changing and changing…

Lemons and lemonade, pfffffffft. I’ve decided that sometimes life throws you lemons so that it’s easier to change said life.

Man, I swear, this month has been one thing after another, and I keep walking two hours every night and working out like crazy until I find my happy again, and then BAM! The next day, I get a pile of lemons thrown at me.

It’s unbelievable.

Worse, I thought I’d organized everything and put everything in order and planned for every surprise contingency, and BAM!—a ton of lemon crap to clean up again.

But it’s nothing, really. I always try to get perspective at times like this, which is easy because pretty much nothing is as bad as spending a decade sick and mostly in bed. See?

Life is good. I can workout three to five hours a day and I feel GREAT. I’ve never felt better or healthier in my entire life. I love where I am and who I am and what I’m doing. That is pretty much a blessing that people work their entire lives to achieve.

And I get to look at the stars every night. That’s a HUGE one for me. I’m outside at least three or four hours a day. I have cats that snuggle with me every night. I have the best best friend in the whole world. My niece is the coolest niece on the entire planet. I get to socialize with people every day.

I would just like to announce to the universe that it needn’t throw me anymore lemons. I learn quickly. I’m one of those people who change and change well. No motivation needed, but thank you kindly for the offer.

Happiness is a mindset, but man… sometimes you have to work like hell to get there.

Okay, tell me your year so far is going better than mine, please… ?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags: ,

Hello, Happy, Dear Old Friend.

I lost my happy last week. Despite my optimism, the stress of a mess I had to clean up just got to me. All’s good, all’s organized, and everything’s on track for an awesome 2011.

I have a new writing desk. From Scientific American, I just read that sitting can kill you. You writers out there know how crazy sedentary the writing life can be. Apparently the study says that it doesn’t matter whether or not you workout an hour a day, sitting all day is sedentary—and raises your risk of death 50%.

in a sample of more than 17,000 Canadians (available here). Not surprisingly, they report that time spent sitting was associated with increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality (there was no association between sitting and deaths due to cancer). But what is fascinating is that the relationship between sitting time and mortality was independent of physical activity levels. In fact, individuals who sat the most were roughly 50% more likely to die during the follow-up period than individuals who sat the least, even after controlling for age, smoking, and physical activity levels. Further analyses suggested that the relationship between sitting time and mortality was also independent of body weight. This suggests that all things being equal (body weight, physical activity levels, smoking, alcohol intake, age, and sex) the person who sits more is at a higher risk of death than the person who sits less.

I’ve wanted a treadmill desk for awhile (funny: one wouldn’t fit in my camper), but I’ve never tried a standing desk. I loved sitting on an exercise ball, but I don’t have a desk in the camper, either.

But I’ve found something better: the dancing desk. It’s like a standing desk, but instead of just standing, you dance. It does wonders for focus. (Y’all know how I struggle with that.) Plus you can totally get down to Glee or Cher or the Cure or Queen or whatever gets you rockin’.

AND, when you’re done, you can settle back with wine, bread, cheese, and chocolate cake. Stress, gone; happy, back. (A long talk with my best friend helped, too.)

It’s always such a relief to find my calm, happy center. It’s like a rock I can always rely on, an old friend who’s always there.

So this weekend I reclaimed my happy. And my fun.

How do you find your happy again when stress overwhelms you? How do you get your fun on?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags: ,

Happiness: It’s a Mindset

Happiness has been on my mind lately. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life, and I’m honestly not quite sure why. Maybe because I’ve done so much growing and changing in the last year or so? Change and uncertainty have brought temporary freak-outs, but my friends helped big time, and I’ve learned to be happy no matter my circumstances.

Maybe it’s just age: Lots of my thirty-something friends say they grew settled and happy in their latter thirties. I really like my life and who I’ve become.

So today I was stunned to listen to this TED talk by Becky Blanton: “The Year I Was Homeless.” She’s a writer who decided to camp in a van for a year. You see how I can relate, LOL?

Within months, she decided she was homeless (!!!!), even though she still had her van. This perplexes me on many levels, because I meet plenty of people who choose to move into a van and travel. A good writing friend of mine is doing it now. There’s been an upsurge of young people and college students who wisely decide to live in a van or small motorhome to save money. Even the famous and fabulous INTERN!

Visitors to the RV Resort I’m staying at are so varied. Some are retirees in $200,000+ motorhomes who’ve dreamed and worked all their lives to live this way. Some are families who crave freedom and want to “roadschool” their kids and let them experience the country. Some have jobs that move from place to place, and this lifestyle allows them to have a family and a home on the road.

Some are people like me, who’ve decided to live simply. Some see it as temporary until they buy a winter home, or until they make more money. Some see it as a result of unfortunate circumstances. I just met a man who’s decided this lifestyle is “getting back on his feet.”

It’s odd: Same lifestyle, such a range of interpretations. Some see it as failure, some as a dream fulfilled.

Eventually, Blanton learned that homelessness was a mindset, not a lifestyle. I liked when she said, “People are not where they live, where they sleep, or what their life situation is at any given time.”

The next TED talk was “The Science of Happiness,” by Nancy Etcoff. How apropos!

Money does influence happiness, but materialism derails those things we humans are genetically programmed to receive pleasure from: enjoying the natural world, getting outside of ourselves, and the act of reproduction—sex. (Did you know having sex once a week is a bigger predictor of happiness than money?)

Her research answered how I’ve become so happy this year. I’ve gotten huge pleasure from discovering the natural world around me. I’ve gotten rid of most of my things and have become very happy being un-materialistic. (I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels! Definitely the number one contributor to my happiness.)

I’ve come to prefer walking outside to get to the bathroom so I can look at the stars more often. I wake up every morning and look at a sunrise over a mountain range. I volunteer. I live within a small and social community, both at the RV Resort and in the coffee shop I frequently write in. I even have a plan for the reproduction bit, even if it probably won’t involve sex. :-(

(Three and a half out of four is a pretty darn good life.)

At the end, she quotes Rilke:

If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches.

One last note on happiness. Dan Gilbert, in his talk called, "Why Are We Happy?" notes how humans believe that acquiring something or changing our circumstances will make us happy, but that research shows this is untrue: traumatic events and incredibly wonderful events tend to return us to our previous happiness level within months.

Dan Gilbert quoted Sir Thomas Browne:

I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity, and I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.

Our circumstances may change, but we make our happiness independent of those circumstances. Not counting depression and mental illness, science says we have the power to change our happiness level by getting out in nature, living outside of ourselves, losing our materialism, and having sex. *grins*

What do you think? Have you ever had a mindshift that turned a life you hated into one you treasured, or vice versa?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:

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