Are You a Mindful Mother?

When you're having one of those days, try parenting the Buddhist way.

Buddhism for mothers

There are days when being a mom makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. I feel blessed to have two beautiful children who are thriving under my care, and the rewards seem endless. Other days…well, I don’t have to tell you about other days. Whether they involve temper tantrums, sleep deprivation or just the general chaos that often comes with parenthood, those are the days that try a woman’s soul.

Being a mother is a life-transforming event that can rock even the most even-keeled, self-assured female to the core. Suddenly you aren’t who you thought you were, and the rules that once governed your world are turned upside down by the demands of a tiny yet emotionally powerful little person. //READ MORE

How Singing Lessons Can Change Your Life

One coach says it's never to late to reap the benefits of belting it out.

singing can change your life

When singer-songwriter Whitney Nichole isn’t composing music or performing in front of live audiences, you’ll find her in the San Francisco music studio she founded with her husband, photographer Niall David, doing one of her favorite things in the world: teaching students how to find their voice. Since launching her business, Songbird Studios, back in 2009, Nichole has not only released her first full-length album, 100 Strong, and performed her pop songs around the country. She’s also been getting singers both young and old excited in music and enjoying the exhilarating rewards of expressing themselves creatively.

Here, Nichole talks to Red Typewriter about the mood-boosting, brain-nurturing, confidence-building benefits of singing your heart out. //READ MORE

How to Relax During the Holidays. Really.

The season is a whole lot jollier when you stop to smell the candy canes.

have a relaxing holiday

Before you wrap another present or bake more holiday cookies, promise yourself to take time out of your hectic schedule to do something nice for yourself. After all, you can’t tackle that to-do list if you’re suddenly knocked out with the flu.

Here, 10 ways to ensure a healthier, happier and more fulfilling holiday season.

1. Nourish your body. Resist the urge to stuff your pantry with holiday treats. Instead, keep an assortment of low-calorie, immunity-boosting snacks on hand. Soup is one staple to have in your cabinets all winter. It keeps you feeling warm and full (read: too full to snack an hour later), and it’s a great way to load up on veggies and protein.

2. Take a timeout. When you’re feeling frazzled, stop what you’re doing, take some deep breaths and switch gears. Go for a run or walk, practice yoga, or meet up with a friend for coffee. You’ll return to your tasks with a fresh perspective and renewed energy.

3. Pamper yourself. Take a little time during the day to pamper yourself—starting with your hands, which are probably taking a beating not just from the cold, but from all that baking and gift wrapping. Stock up on hand lotion and keep it near all the sinks in your home, and in your purse, to stay soft and sweet-smelling. We love Gloves In A Bottle ($18 at Walgreen’s), Origins Rejuvenating Hand Treatment ($22) or L’Occitane Shea Butter Extra Gentle Lotion for Hands & Body ($26).

4. Delegate. For those of us who are a bit OCD, this can be tough, but try not to take it upon yourself to do absolutely everything. Have your significant other or your kids help too. Put them to work licking envelopes, mailing holiday cards or delivering goodies to the neighbors. Bonus points if you can get them out of the house for a while (holiday shopping, anyone?) and watch your own productivity soar.

5. Treat yourself. Shop for something you really want and buy it. Yes, it’s the season of giving, but how often do you shop for yourself? We’re talking about something you don’t necessarily need, but damn it’s pretty. Whether it’s a beautiful scarf or that new eye palette from your favorite makeup counter, every time you put it on you’ll feel fantastic.

6. Catch your Zs. Your mind is going a million miles an hour, so it’s vital that you get enough shut-eye. Sleep allows your body to repair itself, strengthens your immune system, and keeps your metabolism at an optimal level. If you’re having trouble dozing off at night, put away all the devices and read in bed to help yourself drift off.

7. Just say no. This one might be the hardest of all, but when you overcommit you set yourself up for too many negatives. If declining is not in your vocabulary, then break down the work. For example, if you promised to attend two Christmas parties on the same day, then stay at each party for only an hour or two. Most people will understand, and those who don’t may not be worth the effort.

8. Don’t attempt to please everyone. During this emotionally charged season, feelings can be more easily hurt and words may be taken out of context. Remember, we are all trying our best. It’s important to stay true to the spirit of the season—to get together, be grateful for those in our lives, and create long-lasting memories.

9. Fight the urge for perfection. If your children are decorating gingerbread houses or helping you wrap gifts, allow them to do it themselves, their way. So what if tape gets stuck in everyone’s hair or there’s frosting in all the wrong places. Everyone will enjoy themselves and feel proud of their creations when you let go and enjoy these beautiful, messy moments.

10. Be present. Give the people you love your undivided attention for five minutes, and you’ll see your mood elevate along with theirs. Share a glass of wine with your SO and ask him how his day was. Read a holiday story to a child in your life. Call your BFF and catch up on her family news.

It’s easy to get caught up in the stress, but come January, the holidays will be a distant memory and you may even find yourself wondering how you ever got that stressed to begin with…Well, maybe.

Happy Holidays from Red Typewriter!

Want a More Meaningful Life? Shut Up and Listen

Sometimes, connection and enlightenment happen in the silences.

become a better listener

I’ve always been a little bit of a chatterbox. In the seventh grade, my music teacher threatened to ban me from the middle school concert because I couldn’t stop talking to my BFF during choral practice. Once, during my teenage years, a homeless man in New York’s Penn Station looked up from his spot on the terminal floor to tell me and my sister (another chatterbox) to shut up because our animated conversation was interrupting his nap. And early on in my career, as I played back a recording of me interviewing someone for a magazine, I realized that I was doing almost as much talking as my subject.

Damn, girl.

Through the years, I’ve learned to cut back on the chatter and make a conscious effort not to interrupt when someone else is talking. But sometimes, especially when I’m excited about the subject at hand, I still find it challenging to shut up for an extended period of time.

Sure, the gift of gab can work to your advantage in social situations like parties and job interviews. But besides getting you kicked out of choral concerts, it does have its drawbacks. The most important of which is that while you are talking, there’s one extremely important thing you cannot do very well.

You can’t listen.

The older I get, the more I realize how crucial it is to be able to listen. And I’m not talking about that half-assed “yeah, yeah, I hear you” look you give people when you’re pretending to listen but are actually preoccupied with your thoughts. I’m talking about really, truly listening to someone. I’m talking (there goes the talking again) about being in the moment, fully engaged in what another human being has to say. Without thinking about your to-do list, or about where you have to be in a half-hour. And without worrying about the next thing you need to say.

“The practice of listening is one of the most mysterious, luminous and challenging art forms on earth,” writes Mark Nepo in his beautiful book Seven Thousand Ways To Listen: Staying Close To What Is Sacred. “The task is to slow down enough and be present enough to enter each moment that calls…Are you letting fresh experience enter and combine, or are you obsessed with sorting and analyzing what comes your way? Are you able to listen and receive, or are you observing and manipulating? We all do both.”

As a journalist, I’ve found that shutting up and listening is the only way to get a good story. Yes, starting an interview with some friendly banter can help put my subject at ease. But I can’t ask those “in the moment” follow-up questions—the ones that often yield the juiciest quotes—if I’m focused on checking items off a prepared list. And I certainly won’t pick up on the person’s mood if I’m not quietly observing those gestures and tones that reveal a lot about someone’s personality.

But what about those deadly silences that might erupt if I lose track of my agenda or don’t formulate a response quickly enough? It’s a normal impulse to fill those awkward moments with chatter, but then nothing unexpected has time to develop within them. The person doing the talking has no room to reflect or reveal something deeper. Some of the best quotes have come from my sources after a long, borderline-awkward pause. So I remind myself it’s OK to let them happen.

This concept also rings true with my interactions with my kids. My daughter started conversing at 6 months, probably because I talked to her nonstop. But whenever I took a break from telling her to “look at the doggy” or “see those pretty flowers on the tree,” that’s when I got to enjoy her babbling and cooing and smiling at me. I’d given her time to absorb what I’d said, then look around and formulate her own reactions. Again, a lot of great stuff can happen during those pauses.

The older I get, the more I understand the virtue of restraint. We go through life striving to be more outgoing, more revealing—especially in this age of social media. But sometimes it makes more sense, and allows us to let more in, to go slowly.

We all want our lives, our relationships, our communication with people to be meaningful. Sometimes we want it all to be extraordinary. We want the most important people in our lives to understand that we understand them. That we hear them.

A few years back I took voice lessons with a great teacher who taught me that yes, sometimes you need to hold a note for effect, but other times you should just release it. Now, as you can imagine, I am inclined to sing the hell out of something. To belt it out. But there’s a time and place for lingering, and sometimes holding back is the way to go.

For many of us, restraint is difficult. (But there’s so much to express! So much to let out!) But Nepo explains that listening itself is the ultimate form of connection. “We speak deeply by listening with heart to the Source, no matter who or what conveys it,” and by translating that presence not just into any old speech, but into meaningful speech. So that when something finally comes out of your mouth, it’s more than fluff.

I just love that. Because we all want our lives, our relationships, our communication with people to be meaningful. Sometimes we want it all to be extraordinary, in no way superficial or ho-hum. We want the most important people in our lives to understand that we understand them. That we hear them.

Nepo wrote this book after he learned that he was losing his hearing. They say we don’t realize what we have until it’s slipping away, so maybe he was only able to comprehend the gift of listening as his ears began to fail him. Luckily, he grasped the beauty and complexity of this ability—including the fact that listening involves much more than hearing. It requires you to open your heart and mind as much as your ears.

Why bother? “Because listening stitches the world together,” Nepo writes. “Listening is the doorway to everything that matters…And none of what matters reveals itself unless we stop to listen…This is the work of being human, from which no one is exempt.”

Why I’ll Never Give Up My Paper Calendar

There's just something about writing things down that makes us feel grounded.

Unalienable Write: Putting pen to paper just feels good.
Unalienable Write: Putting pen to paper just feels good.

Now that we’re well into the new year, I’m well into writing in the paper calendar that I’ll be using until next January. Yes, you read that right—a paper calendar. Yes, I have a smartphone and yes, I know how to use the digital calendar that comes with it. In fact, I’m well versed in technology, thank you very much.

But everyone has their holiday traditions. And for me, every December, it’s purchasing a new wall calendar and, after the new year arrives, updating it month by month. I love getting my new calendar, peeling off its cellophane wrapper and pulling out the square piece of cardboard in the middle. It’s a personal process that takes place on my kitchen table. //READ MORE

Got the Winter Blues?

Five reasons you could be in a funk—and how to dig your way out of it

Fight the January Blahs

It’s January and you feel like crawling into bed and staying there until spring—or at least until Mr. Groundhog declares warmer weather is on the way. If the winter blues have you down, you’re not alone. It’s common to feel tired, unhealthy and even mildly depressed after the holidays wind down. But the reasons might not be exactly what you think. Here are five culprits to consider, and advice on how to combat them. //READ MORE