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Within the last few weeks the rains have finally arrived. And even though the weather experts tell us that it is not nearly enough to make a dent in our drought crisis, we are all just happy to use our windshield wipers, don our rain boots, and pull out our dusty umbrellas. The rain has given us gloomy days tucked inside under cozy blankets, plopped on the couch in front of a glowing fire. It has given us reason to pull in our summer patio furniture, hurry out to purchase our Christmas tree before the next downpour.

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One day, after it had been raining for forty-eight hours, I stepped out onto my front porch to bring in a package and I was met with the sweetest smell. Since my sense of smell is pretty much nonexistent I was surprised to even discover the scent, let alone know exactly what it was that I was smelling. A day later I stepped outside into the night air to send our dinner guests off to their car and I was surprised with the scent again.  It was my friend who told me it was the smell after a rain, the scent of “clean”, the smell of “fresh”. The rain had rinsed off most of the leaves of every tree, leaving a yellow and orange carpet on the sidewalks, filling gutters, and creating ginormous puddles in the streets. The world around me had been deeply cleansed of the dust and decay that I had become so accustomed to living with that I guess my senses could detect such a marked difference.

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It is a good reminder for me of why the rains eventually come: because without them we would become desensitized to, maybe even comfortable with, the accumulated dust and decay of a season long past its welcome. We would forget the scent of purity, of the air rinsed clean. Our lungs would forget what it is like to draw a breath of oxygen that is not filtered by the particles of decay.

The autumn rains remind me that eventually the leaves must release their grip, Summer’s blooms surrender to rot, and the layers of our late Indian Summer’s sweaty grime be rinsed down the sewage drains. But even more so, the autumn rains remind me that they leave behind their own kind of beauty: the beauty of a barren limb that can enjoy its dormant winter rest in the unfiltered sun. And….the beauty of a precious gift of a rare scent that leaves this drought-weary soul now searching for it every time I step outside after the rains have gone.

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When my kids were super little I viewed the phase of parenting through puberty as a far off distant place of dread that I was able to somewhat avoid with a healthy dose of denial due to the fact that several years separated me and my children from having to go there. After all, why worry myself to death over this scary place when my children were still in diapers? Were not the sleepless nights, and the terrible three’s (and four’s) enough to consume my attention? So whenever I watched older parents already traveling through that territory of pubescent awesomeness I looked upon them with a gratefulness that my turn for such a ride was a long way off, even though I secretly knew that it would come faster than I wanted it to.

It did. And now I have arrived. And it feels something like this…

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Who loves puberty? No one. No one loves puberty. Fine me someone who cherished the pimples on the end of her nose, or the years of living in an awkward half child/have adult body, or the inexplicable moments of emotional turmoil when it felt like a small alien might just erupt from the center of her chest. Find me that girl who loved the uncomfortable scratchy training bra that she did not really need but desperately wanted for fear of being teased one more time in the girl’s PE locker room because she was not yet wearing one. Or the other girl who loved growing to her adult height in sixth grade and having her breasts burst forth too big and too soon when all of the boys her age were still two feet shorter and perfectly at eye level of said breasts. And find me the boys who loved being two feet shorter than all of the girls. (Or maybe they did?) Or the boy who loved hearing his voice crack when his science teacher called upon him in front of the entire class. And find me the girl that loved walking around each day in the anticipation of Aunt Flow’s surprise first visit, praying she would not, please dear God, arrive during Mr. Smith’s math class.

Find me the kids who loved drowning in their private worries about their bodies and their futures or where, and to whom, they might belong despite their awkwardness.

I sort of foolishly believed that the experience of my own puberty would give me empathy pains and the know how to walk my children through their own dark tunnel. To some degree it did, but frankly those empathy pangs also served to help me relive those years all over again. It’s totally true. Especially with my daughter, I’ve been crying over friend drama, worrying over developmental changes, climbing over my embarrassment of taking about said developmental changes, wondering when Aunt Flow will arrive, praying for friendships and a place to belong, reliving the emotional roller coaster, coming face to face with that old “friend”…the immature and inexperienced alien that resides in every pubescent chest, succumbing to the daily dose of tears. My own puberty journey gave me empathy, but it did not prepare me for how to parent through it. Why? Because I was not learning how to parent through my puberty. I was a middle school pre-teen who spent her hours secretly playing with (and clinging to) Barbies while the rest of her classmates were passing notes to their crushes. I think that when I finally got to college I was so relieved to be past that stage that I just never looked back. (Although research now shows that puberty actually extends into our early twenties, but that’s another fun discussion.)

All I have, or any parent has, up to this point are the lessons and experiences that have transpired between our own puberty and today. All I have is the wisdom of my years. And that wisdom is not meant to be forged into a tool to beat down or minimize my children’s experience of puberty, it is meant to help me in how I will deal with it the second time around. I cannot change the experience of their illogical fears or the worrying about their bodies. I cannot speed them through this awkward time or protect them from having to go through it. This is what puberty is all about, this reliving of their toddler years in the body of an almost-adult…this pushing and pulling at their universe, and throwing tantrums…it’s all a part of the puberty deal. I can only decide to move through it differently with my second chance. And by doing it differently with the wisdom I have, it will hopefully give them what they need to navigate through it on their own.

One day I explained to my daughter with my ancient Yodo-like wisdom…Puberty. Or no puberty. There is no choice. There is only puberty.

And so I have found myself repeating this same truth to myself as I and my husband parent our two children through some of the most awkward years of their life: there is only puberty. So I better buckle up and dig deep into that well of wisdom so I can be what they need to me to be.

And I also might want to call upon the Force. The Force might be helpful.

So, as a parent who is smack in the middle of that dark tunnel calling back out to you who may be on the outside, you might be wondering what nuggets of wisdom I am going to impart to you. I do not have a grand list for you but I think I have found the simplest technique that, so far, has been quite powerful and helpful in making our way through some of our, what I call, “heated pubescent episodes”. Whenever I feel myself starting to get sucked into one of my child’s emotional vortexes and I want to rip into the illogical emotional alien that has erupted from her person, I put my lightsaber down. With all of the strength of the Force that I can muster….

….I hold her hand. Sometimes literally, and sometimes figuratively, I hold her hand with my quiet and calm-like presence. Like Yoda. Think about how Yoda would “do” and that’s what I do.

Every once in a while I might say (in my comforting mother voice that sounds like Yoda but is not too creepy):

Hmmmm, I am sooooo sorry you are feeling this way.

Ahhhh yes, I know this ride is scary, but you are going to be okay. 

Yes, yes, I agree, puberty sucks. I didn’t like it either.

Oh my dear dear one, I just know you are going to turn out okay.

Many many tears, yes, this is what happens in puberty. I cried a lot too. 

Hmmmm, do you want me to just sit with you? The force is strong with me, I can pray for you.

Oh believe me, this one Jedi practice of self-control takes great concentration and patience but it has become quite freeing. Because in the middle of a heated pubescent episode my children have never slammed on the breaks and asked me to impart some amazing piece of wisdom. They have never asked me to pick up the lightsaber and fight back their surging hormonal outbreaks. In the middle of some “huge” crisis moment they never say, “Hey mom, can you logic me out of this irrational pool of worry and doubt and feelings that are manifesting themselves in ego-centric behavior.” They never say to me, “Hey mom, can you give me a big ten minute lecture on how I need to grow up.”  Or, “What I really want right now, mom, is for you to show me how everything I am saying is utterly idiotic.” What I think they want is just for me to be with them through it. They want my empathy to be quiet and calming rather than long, loud, and wordy. I am pretty sure that this is true because every time I or my husband attempt to show our empathy via the noisy route, they grow antsy after sixty seconds. I see them glancing towards the nearest exit door.

I think the great comfort that we give in just “holding their hand” as they walk through the dark tunnel helps them to feel and know that they are not alone…and that there is a place where they can be their ugly selves without a lightsaber beating them back into a place of quiet submission. A entirely other place that could leave them feeling isolated and confused.

Yes, in the moments when the dust settles and they have briefly rested into some sort of normality I can then show up with my other pieces of bright wisdom and stories of my own awkward years, maybe even dole out the natural consequences to their behavior. But ultimately, above all else, whether they are crying over something trivial, battling you over some rule, burning the house down, breaking curfew, they want to know that there is at least one calm and sane person in the tunnel with them, not someone who might abandon them by jumping off the cliff.

There are days when I am downright exhausted from having to be the emotionally, sane, mature person. There are days when I am not successful at being that person. Which is why we all get that second pass at puberty…because it is one more opportunity for us to grow up.

Sometimes I cannot wait to see that first glimpse of light leading us out from the tunnel. But I also know that when that day arrives my children will have morphed into adults who then want to leave and embark on their own journeys away from the home. The only home that they have known thus far. However, I am choosing to believe that how we get through these present tunnel days will create a place in our relationship to which they know that they can always safely return. Because the truth is, that I will never stop holding their hands…even when they are someday entering that tunnel with their own children. Which means I will be a grandma by then. Which means maybe I will sort of get the chance at a third pass at going through the puberty tunnel. Which is sort of freaking me out now that I think about it because I am talking about myself aging. I need to slow down and remember to embrace this hear and now. This crazy, emotional, exciting, adventurous, growth-inducing, patience-testing, second-round-of-puberty, here and now. The light at the end of the tunnel will come soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Melissa - Oh my friend! I am so there with you… especially the friend drama. Girls can be so mean. Then I wonder- was I that mean? Some of it’s a blur lol. My daughter is like you were, still clinging to her dolls and Barbies while the others are already talking about whom they’re “dating”. Ugh! But we somehow managed to muddle our way through it and they will, too. Sometimes I think it’s harder on us mothersReplyCancel

  • stacey - Ugh. Hang in there, friend.
    So happy to have a few wise friends who are going before me into this tunnel and that I’m sure I’ll go to for advice when I enter. xoReplyCancel

  • michelle - The preteen/teen years come so fast. I’m still shocked that today I am celebrating a 17th birthday in my house. How can that be?ReplyCancel

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I’ve been working on photo stuff for a project. These are some of my favorite surf photos that I converted to black and white.

On a side note, here are ten things that I am also loving…

1. The spicy kale/broccoli slaw salad from Trader Joes. I like to eat anything with the word “slaw” in it.

2. The dancing afternoon light that comes through my living room windows. I only see it in the fall and winter because of the tilt of the earth and the low arc of the sun as it travels westward. Some time in early November I begin to see the light silently dancing on my living room floor and welcome it like an old friend.

3. The wonderful music of Gregory Alan Isakov. The album This Empty Northern Hemisphere is on repeat.

4. The tv show, Arrow. My husband and I binged watched the entire two seasons on Netflix. It’s full of comic strip cheese and heroism…and Stephen Amell’s good looks.

5. Finishing up photo session season this weekend. Looking forward to a holiday season to focus on my own creative personal projects.

6. Knowing I will be up in Lake Tahoe in one and a half weeks.

7. The rain in the forecast. We sooooooo need the rain here in California and the winter rain predictions do not look great.

8. November. My favorite month with my favorite holiday and favorite weather.

9. Getting rid of stuff. Saying goodbye to summer skirts that I’ve kept for years thinking that I would wear them, but never do.

10. The salsa verde chicken casserole I made last night, and ate for left overs for lunch.

 

 

 

 

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  • stacey - I agree with Heather. November is one of the hardest months of the year for me. I think it’s because of the changing of the seasons, the leaves are off the trees, and the green in gone and the cold is here (and it’s SUPER cold here right now!). I also think it’s the stress leading up to the busyness of December. I kind of wish our Thanksgiving was in October like the Canadians! But I do love Thanksgiving, although Christmas is my favorite holiday. I know how much you love Tahoe and I’m so happy to hear that you will be there soon.
    I adore the light this time of year…..between the end of September and the middle of December. It’s so pretty.
    That salsa verde casserole looks so yummy. I love Mexican food.
    And now Aarow is next on Darin and I’s list of Netflix shows to binge watch. :)ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Does this mean you get to go to Tahoe for thanksgiving?! How wonderful! And I notice such a shift in the light in our house this time of year too. I love the way it floods in my kitchen. Can I admit that November is on of the hardest months of the year for me? Our thanksgiving is in October so I think that contributes. Hope the last of your photo sessions go well this weekend! ReplyCancel

  • michelle - Oh my gosh! Thanksgiving is MY favorite holiday, too! I always feel like people think I hate Jesus when I say that. I love Jesus. But I LOVE the Thanksgiving holiday so much that it usurps December for me. Somehow it makes me feel better knowing you love it, too. And I’m glad you’re loving your sunny living room. The tilt of the earth simply makes me feel like I’m living in a dusty, pet hair covered, dirty windowed dive. But that’s just me and my weird issues. :P

    Love your list.ReplyCancel

  • Lara Van Wert Fulmer - love arrow…ReplyCancel

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Good morning Monday, so full of fresh grace.

Choosing to exhale the exhaust of all my yesterdays. All of the extra sugar I should not have eaten. The procrastinating over folding the pile of clean laundry on the floor or the vacuuming that needed to be done. The words I should not have said. The amount of time I spent beating myself up. The lack of patience I extended to my children. The envy I succumbed to. The lack of good sleep I let do me in. The worry over not being good enough. Exhaling it all.

Inhaling the promise that today has begun with new mercies and the chance to pick up my compass and find the path again.

Grateful for each new day to begin again. Grateful for the gift of Love and Grace.

 

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  • Rhonda - Yup. I needed to read this today too!!!ReplyCancel

  • georgia - what heather said. very much what i needed to see.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Tears again, T. I needed these words today. Let’s inhale and exhale together. Love you.ReplyCancel

 

Me, in the back seat, secured by a flimsy lap seat belt and awash with the glow of the light bouncing off the interior of a little red vintage auto named Lyl.

He, in the front seat, enjoying a shotgun view next to his Father. Silent and thoughtful, his quiet thoughts traveling with the hum of the engine and the rhythm of the white-walled tires as they journeyed through the city streets towards home.

The setting sun, bursting through the window unexpectedly, sending its flare across his boyish hair, outlining his profile and the soft curve of his ears.

These photos, suspended in my memory as one of the most delicious moments of light I have tasted in quiet some time. The kind of light that slows a heart beat, washes over you with a peaceful calm and releases your thoughts to wander free. Magical.

 

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These photos are from a photo session I did a few weeks ago but have yet to share the others because the mother is using them for her annual holiday card and wanted to keep them a surprise. :) Will share the rest of them after her card has been sent off!

 

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  • stacey - These are lovely, T.ReplyCancel

  • andrea - oops! I meant flare – not glare…. GAH! sorry about that. the lovely flare!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Strouth Hoefer - Love it! You make everything sound, and LOOK beautiful. :)ReplyCancel

  • Juliette - Such a fun idea! Your b&w shots are especially great!ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - perfection, T. lovely color and black and white and glare. Just pure perfection. Your art amazes me every time.ReplyCancel

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