A TEACHABLE MOMENT

I’ll be the first to admit that as a mom of three little boys, my main source of news is via social media.  I don’t sit and read the paper, nor do I watch the evening news.  And it’s not just because I am busy with my boys.  The last time I watched the 10 o’clock news, I heard stories of kidnappings, shootings, terrorist attacks, and robberies.  There was nothing positive to hear.  And as naive as it may sound, I’d rather live in my protective bubble of intermittent Facebook news than read daily horror stories about babies left in cars to die and mother’s being murdered.  With that being said, the Facebook stream of news on friends’ feeds isn’t much better.  But it serves it’s purpose to keep me as up-to-date on the “important” news in our nation and abroad.

 

At first, I ignored the red post I saw shared on a few friend’s walls.  But then it appeared more often and I was intrigued.  Was it SPAM or a virus?  No.  It was a beautifully written, moving, powerful letter from a rape victim to her rapist.  And the moment I read it, I felt my duty as a mother of three young boys intensify ten-fold.  

 

This morning, my children were fighting… Wait, let’s be honest, every morning, afternoon, and evening, my children are fighting.  That’s not to say they don’t have their adorable, sweet brother moments, but more often than not, there hands are being used for hitting, not for hugging.  

 

Ok, back to the story.  This morning, my children were arguing right before my oldest son left for school.  The argument escalated and I separated the boys.  When my middle son stopped crying, I sat down with my oldest and asked him to explain what had happened, even though I knew my older son had done wrong.  


My middle son repeatedly asked that his brother stop bothering him and my oldest wouldn’t stop.  It escalated to a screaming and hitting match.  When I asked my oldest to explain what happened, his younger brother sitting nearby reduced to inconsolable tears, I heard my oldest explain everything his brother did wrong.  Not once did I hear him say he was sorry.  Not once did he take ownership for his part in the problem. He put the blame on his brother.  It was his brother’s own fault that he got punched.  

I resisted the urge to drag him by his ears to his room (because that’s not politically correct and his school bus was around the corner).  Instead I looked at him, all six and a half years old of him, and I said something like…

 

“There’s a college boy in the news right now that did something extremely terrible.  He hurt someone.  And people around the entire country are angry.  He did wrong and people are angry at him that he did something so terrible.  But people are even angrier that he won’t say he is sorry.  People are angry that he’s blaming something else for why it happened.  He’s not taking ownership for his mistake.  He’s not apologizing or recognizing what he did as naughty.”   

My son looked at me and asked what the boy did and I said it didn’t really matter what he did in the context of our conversation.  What mattered was that he did something terrible and rather than repenting and changing his ways, he blamed someone else, something else for his bad behavior.

I saw this as a teachable moment and I will continue to see it as a teachable moment.  Within this one situation of brotherly fighting that replays often in my home, I actually saw several teachable moments.  Very important lessons for little boys to hear and understand as they grow into young men.

 

When someone says STOP, it means STOP.

When someone says NO, it means NO.

 

YOU are the only one responsible for your own behavior.

 

YOU are the only one to blame for your mistakes.

 

YOU are responsible for your own actions.

 

YOU should be reflective.

 

If YOU do wrong, YOU should seek forgiveness.

 

If YOU do wrong, YOU should apologize.

 

If YOU do wrong, YOU should LEARN from YOUR mistakes.

 

If YOU do wrong, YOU should ACCEPT the consequences.

 

Do I blame my oldest son for not following these rules at six and a half.  No.  Overall, he’s a good boy. He does well in school and he is a good friend. But I do believe he’s old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and I do believe he’s old enough to say he’s sorry and mean it.  As he grows he will continue to learn that being a good man is more important than wealth and power. Being dependable and reliable and reflective are qualities that will take him far in life.  
As the Stanford rapist is being portrayed as a handsome, all-star athlete (another reason I hate the news) and his victim is being displayed as intoxicated and “wanting it,” I am equally as horrified as many around the nation that the victim is being shamed and the rapist is receiving a joke of a sentencing.  It’s astounding.  In this moment, I am consciously choosing to reference back to this horrible situation as I continue to raise my sons.  I will do my best to raise them with honor and to respect women and people with different values and beliefs than their own.  I will raise them to know right from wrong.  I will raise them to understand that NO means NO and no one, man or woman, deserves to be hurt, injured, raped, etc. to fulfill a personal need.  I will raise them to know that their actions have consequences.  I will raise them to repent.  I will raise them to reflect.  And I can only hope and pray that they take my lessons and become honorable young men, caring husbands, and brave people like the two heroes that took action to save and protect the rape victim in her weakest and most vulnerable moment.  I will measure my success as a mother not by if my children become doctors or lawyers or marry the most beautiful women or men, but by the kindness in their hearts and their ability to be reflective human beings.

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A Story of Love, Loss, Signs, & Hope

A Story of Love, Loss, Signs, & Hope

In the light of the moon,

When the ladybugs fly,

When a cow says moo,

When a bunny hops by

I’ll feel your love,

With the bonds that tie.

Huge news.  One week ago, I became an aunt to beautiful, tiny, sweet little love muffin, three weeks early.  She’s precious beyond words and as I held her in my arms and she looked up at me, I fell in love.  I saw a flash of future trips to the museums and broadway shows and manicures and the craft store and cooking class and shopping. I saw sleepovers and playdates with my boys. I saw a deeper friendship form as we grow older and I felt blessed.  Blessed to be in the room, holding my niece just hours after she was born. Grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for the precious gift.  Indebted to the universe for giving us back a piece of what we lost.  I held this beautiful little girl and I cried tears of joy and tears of longing.  And everyone in the room knew why.

aunt & niece

Holding my niece for the first time

When my mother told me my sister-in-law and my brother were admitted to the hospital, the impending birth of my niece upon us, I felt a strange mix of emotions.  I excitedly waited eight months to meet her, thinking of her, dreaming of her right alongside my brother and my sister-in-law.  But when I heard she was about to arrive, I felt somewhat detached from the excitement.  Maybe it was because I was with my three fighting and screaming children.  Maybe it was because I wasn’t rushing into the city to be there for her birth.  No… it had everything to do with the hole in my art that stood empty for eight months.  I knew the hole was about to be filled again and I was overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with joy and sadness and excitement and longing and loss and hope.

Plain and simple, I missed my aunt.  Everything I know about being an aunt, I learned from her.  She was there for me through every transition in my life, every up and down, every beautiful moment.  Without her, I felt lost.  So I went to the only place I could feel just a little bit closer to her and I stayed there until the baby was born.  

cimrandi

Celebrating love and life with my aunt

When we arrived at the beach, I cried.  My oldest said, “This is where we scattered her dust right?  I remember.”  And my baby and I walked to the water and said hello and how we missed her.  And then we smiled and went to play.  And as I watched my children run through the water in the bay, I felt a calmness around me.  She was with us.  She was watching. She was playing.  And the children were safe in her breeze.  

When I got word that my niece arrived, named for her, I ran to the water with my phone.  I called to my aunt and I waved a picture of the baby near the water and I introduced my aunt to her namesake. Aunt RSF meet baby RPK.  But something in my heart knew that they were already  acquainted in a way none of us can fully understand.

But maybe I do.  I walked the walk my whole life.  I was the baby born after loss.  I was the baby who brought light back into the family.  I was the little girl who grew up in the shadow of a ghost.  I was the little girl who lived for the stories about my namesake. I was the little girl who cried to her for guidance and blessings.  I was the teenage girl who tried on her clothes and walked in her shoes.  I was the teenage girl who saw the signs.  I was the bride who got married in her ring.  I am the woman with a great aunt for a guardian angel.

I am spiritual.  I have faith.  I believe in a deeper level of connectivity between then and now and now and beyond.  I don’t see dead people, although I often wonder if my children do (more on that later).  I believe I believe I believe.  And here’s why….

For the skeptics, it’s easy to write these moments off as sheer coincidence.  And I don’t judge you for that.  But I believe and if that’s what gets me through the day, more power to me for knowing what works.

Unlike most teenagers, when I first learned to drive, my first stop wasn’t the mall.  It was the cemetery.  I had been to my great aunt’s grave once or twice before as a child, the last time over three years earlier.  I drove there and although the cemetery was vast and wide, instinct led me right to her headstone.  I wanted to be closer to her.  Feel her presence.  I walked to her grave and looked around.  I turned my head and noticed about ten men gardening nearby.  I recognized I was the only person, a young  teenager, alone in the cemetery.  I felt slightly frightened.  I turned back to my namesake’s grave and about ten to fifteen bunnies hopped out from beyond her headstone.  I burst into tears, ran to the car, and drove home to my family in a state of shock.  Words cannot give justice to the eerie yet beautiful feeling I felt standing at her grave.

From that moment on, I saw bunnies everywhere.  I became aware that there were always bunnies, for as long as I could remember, roaming around outside of my grandmother’s house.  A skeptic would say that I was purposely looking for bunnies now for a reason. I might even have agreed with that train of thought. That is until my wedding.

As I stepped into my wedding gown at the synagogue, the excitement of a soon-to-be marriage in the air, my dearest friends and family stood around me.  My makeup woman came in and said something like, “Have you seen what’s going on outside your window?”  The same sentiment was echoed by  a friend.  They told me that there were at least twenty bunnies outside the window of the bridal room.  Neither my friend nor my makeup artist knew of my bunny connection.

Moving forward, bunnies continued to cross my path when I needed them most.  When my second son was born, he immediately became attached to a bunny lovey. His collection now has upwards of fifteen bunnies.  His love for bunnies was self-made.  He had one lovey from birth, but as he grew, his need for bunnies grew too.  When my husband and I bought our second home, we toured the property with the inspector, searching for faults.  We came up with none, but we stumbled upon a blessing.  There were three ceramic bunnies on the property.  Bunnies often hop in our backyard or across our front lawn and I am reminded of the love that surrounds me.

B wit all of is bunnies

                        B wit all of is bunnies

When my aunt was in the hospital, fighting for her “new” life post bone-marrow transplant, her room filled with ladybugs.  Apparently, there was an infestation inside the hospital, but when we looked around, no other patients on her floor had ladybugs.  I remember part of her was grossed out by the bugs in her sterile room and another part felt they were there for a reason, whatever the deeper reason was for her.


When hospice took over her care many years later, we talked about how she would come back and remind us of her presence. Would it be the ladybug?  She said yes.  But several days later, she changed her mind, in and out of lucidity.  She said something like, “Ugh I am not coming back as a bug!”  One afternoon as I talked to her about it, she randomly started mooing at me.  Would she come back as a cow or leave cow memorabilia around for me to see?  I wasn’t sure if she was trying to tell me something or if she was just deteriorating before my eyes.

On the night she died, I was in the emergency room with my youngest son.  He was fine, but needed to be monitored.  The nurses bustled around us and I caught wind of their conversation.  “Did you see the moon?  There’s an eclipse tonight.”  An eclipse?  I was sad to miss it.  Throughout my life, my father and I shared a connection with the moon.  We would alert each other to it’s size or color.  He would call me in college to make sure I went outside to see it.  That night, I could not, but I could only imagine its fullness and size.  My father sat with me in the emergency room when the call came in that after a seven year plus battle with leukemia, my aunt succumbed to the disease.

I cried and then for some reason, I began to research Pisces, a full moon, and an eclipse.  There was a direct correlation and I was astounded by the meaning.  The full moon of the previous month was dubbed a moon of letting go, not feeling defeated, and endings.  I was blown away.  The last two months of her life, my aunt lived in a state of limbo – had she made the right decision to let go – she waxed and waned between yes and no.  The new moon with the eclipse the night she died was dubbed the moon of “new beginnings.”  I cried harder.  She had fought hard, lived with love, and died at a time of new beginnings. I prayed that night that she did find herself a new beginning with our deceased loved ones she told us were waiting to take her home.

Her love shining down on me

    Her love shining down on me

When I told my young children the following day that our beloved aunt had passed away, I wanted to fill their hearts with hope and remembrance instead of sadness .  As I spoke, I heard myself tell them the story of how the Supermoon of September, the moon that was rare and closest to Earth came to take our aunt and that now she lived in the moon, watching over us.  They seemed to accept that as fact and every night, we searched for the moon so that we could say goodnight to her.  In my mind, it made sense.  She lived six weeks longer than the doctors predicted she would without treatment and the whole time it felt like she was hanging on, waiting for something.  I believe she waited for that moon to take her home.  

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For a full month, we didn’t see the moon and I joked that maybe our aunt was tired from her journey and she needed to rest.  And then one day, the moon appeared in the sky during the day, and I knew she made was at peace.  My family is now slightly obsessed with the moon and it’s a beautiful thing.  The kids say goodnight to the moon and goodnight to my aunt and it fills my heart with love knowing they will always have this strong connection.

The moon in the day

         The moon in the day

After my aunt died, strange things happened.  During shiva, my children played in my grandparents’ basement.  My middle son came upstairs and told me there was a ghost in the basement, but she didn’t scare him.  She was nice and wanted to play.  My middle and my little talked about a nice ghost many times since.  Another night, after a tear-fest, my cousin and I went to drive home from my grandparents’ house and when we got into the car, the entire back driver’s side window shattered out of nowhere into millions of tiny shards of glass.  We were horrified, yet somehow it made sense and we screamed to my aunt to find other ways to communicate with us.  I’ve always heard that ghosts can use energies to communicate – she truly used hers that night.

And then there was the time that we sat at a family dinner at my parents’ house when my two year old stared blankly out the dining room window and in front of everyone, he started to “moo.”  My cousins and I looked at one another and started to cry, remembering when she randomly started to “moo” at me.  We knew she was there.  Recently, my two year old, who will grow up with no real memories of my aunt, looked out the window of our car into the sky as we drove home from errands and he started to scream, “Hi Aunt Randi – hi!!!  Whatcha doing?”  I truly think he may be clairvoyant…
Clairvoyant because when just weeks after my aunt passed away and my sister-in-law announced she was pregnant, my two year old with no knowledge of where a baby comes from or the conversation of his own aunt being pregnant, commented about a baby, his “aunt’s baby.”  Somehow he knew.  And I joked that in their sleep, my aunt must whisper to them.  

Which in a very roundabout way, brings me back to the glorious day I became an aunt for the first time.  As my cousins and I shared texts back and forth with my brother, my cousin pointed out that it was exactly eight months to the day that my aunt passed away.  And just like that, her namesake arrived at a time of a full moon, three weeks early, on the monthly anniversary of my aunt’s death.  Somehow, this was a sign from my aunt to no longer count the date from her death, but to count the beautiful months of my niece’s life.  And while a day does not pass by when my aunt is not on my mind, in my thoughts, or in my conversations, I know she’s blanketed us with her love and that my memories of time spent with her as a child and as an adult have shaped the way I will be an aunt to my new niece, and for that I am eternally grateful.

aunt quote

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