Learning the Subtle Art of Letting Go

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I used to laugh at those weird old people who push their tiny dogs in baby strollers. But I don’t anymore. I’ll get back to that later.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I took a birthing class (to learn how to breathe through labor), a nursing class (to learn the perfect latch) and a newborn class (to learn how to swaddle). I read every baby book on the planet, educating myself on it all—from colic to baby crap.

After 9 months of planning, preparing and prepping, my daughter arrived. As I held her tiny body in my arms and scanned that sweet scrunched-up face, I couldn’t believe this perfect angel (with a somewhat pointy head) belonged to me. After struggling with infertility for so long, it was a years-long dream come true. She’s all mine. Now and forever.

Back then, I assumed the first couple years would be the toughest. And they were tough. I still recall the back-to-back bouts of ear infections, the weird rashes that would pop up after giving her something new to eat and those panicky middle-of-the-night croup attacks. But I had my classes, my books, our pediatrician and Encyclopedia Googlica to help me sort most of it out.

Fast forward 13 years later. My daughter is an all-American, eye-rolling teenager and my son is turning 10 in days. The single digit years are in my rearview mirror. I’m happy to say that, for the most part, both my offspring are fairly self-sufficient, wildly caring and on-most-days respectful human beings that can pretty much do anything I reasonably ask of them (except keep their rooms clean, am I right?). But as I pack up the American Girl doll and the rookie league baseball glove to store in a box in the basement, I’m faced with something not indexed in any baby book or included in any class curriculum.

I bet you feel (or have felt) it, too. The gut punch of letting go.

Letting go of letters to Santa. Letting go of visits from the Tooth Fairy. Letting go of big family birthday parties. Letting go of the backyard playset. Letting go of clothing and beloved toys packed for Goodwill. Letting go of bedtime stories. Letting go of handholding in public. Letting go of your VIP pass to the enchanting world of childhood.

And saying hello to one-armed hugs, nonsensical group texts from friends, witty comebacks, marathon mirror inspections, school dances, competitive sports, real-deal homework and tests, and so much more.

For parents (and kids, I’m sure), it’s a strange and foreign land. An in-between place where you can feel like you’re floating adrift, with the magic of childhood behind you and the promise of adulthood on the horizon.

So how to cope with your kids growing up without losing your sh#t? I’m no expert but I’ve learned a few things along the way. I call it “The Subtle Art of Letting Go.” I say “subtle” because it’s something I’m learning to practice every day. And I say “art” because everyone has their own way of working through this process. This is mine. And I’m hoping that maybe there’s a nugget of truth to help you along, too. I give to you in my best Yoda voice…

6 Lessons from the Subtle Art of Letting Go

1. First and foremost, be grateful. Because tomorrow is never promised. It’s hard to be sad about the passing of days, months or years when you still have that person to love and hold. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to let go slowly. Like everyone in your life, even your kids are on loan. Be over-the-moon happy and grateful for every moment you get with them.

2. Celebrate and embrace each milestone of independence and achievement. I can’t help but feel utter happiness when I witness the amazing young woman my daughter is becoming. Or pride when I experience my son establishing his independence by making his own lunch or passionately arguing a point (even when he’s dead wrong.) Sure, you may have to remind me of this lesson in a few years when I’m taking their homecoming pictures or packing them up for college. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure I’ll be a hot mess.

3. Live in the now. I remember I couldn’t wait to get rid of those garish plastic toys with the songs I never thought I’d get out of my head. But today I’d do just about anything short of a felony to have one more snuggle with my baby or toddler. You think you’ll never forget how soft their curls are or how sweet their skin smells. But you do. So take a deep breath and slow down. Take in their funny cracked voices, secretly watch them as they pose in front of the mirror and really listen to them when they want to talk.

4. Get back to you. The sad (and happy) reality is that one day it’ll be just you (and your partner if you have one) again. Your kids will have families, jobs and responsibilities of their own. Take the extra free time thrown your way and get back into that exercise routine. Learn a second language or how to play guitar. Or, hell, start a blog! (Okay, so maybe this is my list, but I’m sure you have plenty of your own ideas). Being a parent changes your forever—I will always be “a mom.” This job has filled my soul like no other occupation has. But I know my life has continued purpose once this chapter closes. And you can bet I’ll have fun figuring out just what that is. Because I fear that if I don’t, I may end up trying to relive this season of my life with a tiny hairless Chihuahua and a Peg Perego stroller.

5. Be there when they need you. Don’t take it personally when they don’t. (I know, easier said than done!) Whether it’s advice on how to deal with the school jerk or a hug after their first breakup, you will always be someone who has their back. And deep down they know that.

6. Let yourself mourn. Sometimes a good bawl fest is all you need to move forward. This always seems to happen to me when a certain commercial or country song (“There Goes My Life” by Kenny Chesney gets me every time) comes on. Ugly cry it out. Even if it’s in the car (been there, done that). And if it helps, do it with a friend who gets it. Letting go is painful, plain and simple.

The best thing about the end of something? It’s always the beginning of something else. Most of the time, that’s a good thing. Let’s face it…they’re going to grow up whether we like it or not. Instead of curling into fetal position and wishing your way back to Neverland, face this exciting transition head on. I’m fairly certain doing so will make these years the happiest yet.

 

Foodie Friday: Build a Charcuterie Board Like a Boss

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You’re going to a party. Or you’re hosting one. Or maybe the big game is on in a couple of hours (goooo Brewers and Packers!) and you want a little somethin’ somethin’ to nosh on that doesn’t require a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the kitchen.

I’ve got you covered, friends.

Compose a charcuterie tray. “Oh, that sounds way too fancy!” you say. Here’s a secret: a charcuterie (shar-coo-ter-ree) is just a froo-froo spin on a meat and cheese platter. (Foodie note: Yes, I understand I’m oversimplifying this centuries-old French culinary art form.) The best part? It’s super impressive to serve and super easy to make.  #winwin.

THAT charcuterie board picture at the top of this post is one my sister-in-law assembled for the fam last Christmas. Although the rest of us cooked our collective tuckuses off, making labor-of-love dishes like beef empanadas and arancini, her collection of savory meats, salty cheeses and other nibbles received more “oohs” and “aahs” than the rest of us combined. Show off. (I say that in the most affectionate way possible.)

Here’s one that I threw (and I use that term quite literally) together before my kids’ family birthday party…

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It took me 15 minutes to assemble. And it was the first thing to go. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I even got any!

Okay, so to help a sista/brutha out, I’m giving you a list of must-haves for your next charcuterie board. The only hard-and-fast rule when it comes to making one? Use or don’t use whatever you damn well please.

  • Meats: Prosciutto, chunks of dry-cured salami, crispy bacon, spicy soppressata, Serrano ham, pepperoni, thinly sliced beef tenderloin, thinly sliced Black Forest ham.

  • Cheeses: Aged cheddar (get the good stuff), gouda, fresh mozzarella, brie, harvarti, Manchego, chunk parmesan (I love Sartori as they have a huge selection of kicked-up parms, such as balsamic, espresso and citrus) and a good stinky blue or something similar. If you can find it, Humboldt Fog by Cypress Grove Chevre is the bomb-diggity.

  • Something sweet: Fruit butters like fig, jams, honey, compotes and chutneys (make your own like this Spice-Spiked Apple Compote or check your local upscale grocery for options that require only unscrewing a lid); fresh apples, melon, pears, berries and grapes; dried fruits like apricots and figs; candied nuts.

  • Something tangy: Mustard, pickles, cured olives (again, the good ones..not the black mushy ones out of a can), roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes, mariniated artichokes, spring pea spread, tart dried cherries.

  • Something crunchy: Roasted nuts, crostini, breadsticks and crackers.

  • Something fresh: Fresh rosemary springs or bunches of fresh basil and/or edible flowers like nasturtium, pansies or squash blossoms.

Arrange it all on a pretty board or platter—a circle of wood, a marble slab, a slate board, a porcelain platter (in white so your delicious accrotrements really pop) or whatever you can scrounge up. Place liquidy items in martini glasses or small white bowls so they don’t make a mess of of your beautiful charcuterie board.

All you have to do is set it out, stand a safe distance back, grab a glass of wine and smile as you watch your guests get their glutton on. ‘Cause meat + cheese = happy.

My #1 Sanity Saver: Just Say “No”

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Hello, my name is Rachael. And I’m a recovering people pleaser.

It’s nice to meet you. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you may be a people pleaser, too. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (oh great, I’m relapsing).

Wanting to please everyone probably means you’re generous, kind-hearted and selfless. All good things. But it can have a self-serving side, too. We do things to be liked or admired. Or to compete with the Joneses. But I can tell you from experience that you may as well say “sayonara” to your sanity if you don’t treat your time like the precious commodity it is.

Why? Picture a day in your life being like a pot of warm, delicious soup. You offer a sip to this person. Ladle out a cup to that lady. Offer a bowl to that guy. Now this greedy chick wants seconds. Pretty soon there’s “no soup for you!” (Anyone else miss Seinfeld?) And you end your day hangry and malnourished.

So how to get your soup and eat it, too? It’s easy. But hard at the same time.

Just. Say. No.

Oh, yes I did! I’m giving you permission to say “nope,” “nada,” “uh-uh,” “not this time,” “I just can’t,” “hells no” and, only to be used in extreme circumstances, “talk to the hand.” Kind of liberating, right?

I’m not suggesting you go all extreme and say “no” to everything and everyone. Feed your kids, work your job, help your friends when they need it and tackle that other important adulting stuff. But what I really, really want the tired, overrun, overwhelmed, feeling-like-your-half-assing-everything you to know is that saying “n-o” doesn’t make you a bad parent, partner, friend or coworker. (Group hug, everybody.) It only means that you’re at peace with your limits and are making an effort to take back your time. Not sure where to start? Here’s where I’ve learned to...INVOKE THE NO!

#1 To that soul-sucking friend, coworker or family member. You know, the Eeyore in your life. The one who’s always complaining. The one who’s never short of never-ending drama (usually brought on by themselves). The one who never asks how you’re doing. The one who leaves you feeling exhausted after a 5-minute convo. It’s time to kick that killjoy to the curb. Send the phone to voicemail when they call. Cancel that you-only-set-it-because-you-feel-guilty lunch date. Hide their vague, attention-seeking Facebook posts. Tell them you’re swamped when they stop by your office cubicle. Discreetly do whatever you need to and cut the cord today.

#2 To the kiddo asking you to do what they can do for themselves. “Mom, can you fill my water bottle?” “Mom, I’m hungry, can you fix me a snack?” “Dad, can you find my uniform?” Yes, it’s sometimes easier to do it yourself so you don’t have to deal with the woe-is-me whining that will no doubt follow. But give them a chance at self-sufficiency (it may take some time) and I promise it will eventually turn into a win-win for everybody.

#3 To the Pinterest page trying to convince you that you don’t care enough if you don’t make that three-tier, fondant-wrapped unicorn birthday cake decorated with figs and flowers for your daughter’s birthday. Or have the most perfectly coordinated living room complete with a gallery wall of professionally shot and framed family black-and-whites for company to oogle over when they come to call. If you love doing that stuff, go for it! If it’s not your thang or it’s going to stress you out ‘cause you don’t have the time, don’t force it. Buy an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen or splurge on a bouquet of flowers to brighten the room if you’re expecting visitors, and call it a stress-free day.

#4 To that “fear of missing out” feeling. FOMO strikes when you want to skip that after-work happy hour or social event with friends. After a long day or week, sometimes you just need to embrace your inner hermit, sit your ass on the couch, pop open a pint of Chunky Monkey and binge-watch (insert your favorite guilty pleasure here). Take the time to recharge. This is soooo important, y’all. Your friends will still love you and fill you in on all the juicy gossip the next day. The only thing you’ll miss is the hangover.

#5 To that “perfect” parent you’re always comparing yourself to. Fight the urge to fit in with the overzealous team parent who’s always signing up Johnny for those expensive, out-of-town (insert sport here) clinics (unless you’ve received word that college recruiters are attending the next little league game or your kiddo is genuinely enthusiastic about doing it). You’re already killing yourself driving them to multiple practices and games a week. Piling on even more means inevitable burnout for you—and them.

Or the mom who always seems to have a list of well-planned educational activities at the ready. Your kids aren’t going to become flunkies if you don’t always have something planned to stimulate their busy brains, I promise. Turn your brood loose in the backyard with a few cardboard boxes, markers and duct tape. Or encourage them to knock on some doors and find some friends to play with—you know, like we used to do.

Same goes for the do-gooders, a.k.a. the ones always signing up for field trips, PTO, team parent, fundraisers, etc. (God bless ‘em.) Yes, school, church and youth organizations absolutely need your support and you should give it to them—but don’t run yourself into the ground trying to do it all! Do what you are capable of and don’t feel guilty about the rest. No one who really matters is keeping score.

So how are you spending your precious minutes? Are you investing in activities that nourish your soul and body, or enhance the lives of those who mean the most to you? Then congrats, you’re slaying it. Or are you like me (the old me), juggling all those bowls of soup—covered in wet chicken and noodles—because you don’t want to let anyone down or look like you don’t have it all together?

Trust me. If you want to find happy, sometimes “no” is the way to go.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/HappyHeartHappyHome/

© Rachael Liska, wordwhimsy.com

13 Keys to Happiness That I Want My 13-Year-Old Daughter to Know

13 Keys to Happiness That I Want My  13-Year-Old Daughter to Know

My daughter turns 13 this month. I’m not sure how that happened. But it got me thinking about what life is like for a girl her age. It can be tough to say the least. So while I still have her mostly undivided attention, I want her to know that happiness is hers for the taking with just a bit of advice from someone who’s been there

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