love

TEN by Susie Lubell

Dearest Sugar Bee,

Ten years ago at this moment I was lying in bed next to your Aba, breathing and meditating my way through contractions. He was snoring. For hours I lay there on my side moaning quietly while the contractions grew stronger and closer together. Aba had a bad cold, I recall. When you're older I'll tell you about Man Flu. At around 5 am I woke him up because it was show time. Grandma stayed with your brother and we drove to the hospital. And three hours later you were out. All yellow and furry.

And now look at you. Ten years old. No longer yellow and no longer furry. Confident and beautiful and generous and loving. And funny! The other day when your brother wouldn't give you something you asked for you said, without missing a beat, that your heart was a dark and stormy night. We all fell over laughing.

Indeed the days of dark and stormy have relented for the time being. No more tantrums over ponytails. Or outfits. Or homework. Maybe a little drama still surrounding homework. And piano. No one is perfect. 

This year judo is out and dance has pas de bourreed itself centerstage. Every night the musical stylings of Taylor Swift inspire a frenzied display of cartwheel split combos to make any dance mom proud. In fact I am not a dance mom but you get your fill just watching Dance Moms and cheering for Maddie or Mackenzie or Ashleigh or Chloe or whoever it is. I don't even mind it really since it seems to be helping to improve your English vocabulary. Although you sometimes sound like you're narrating your own sitcom. Bam! What?! Cue: arm fold and million dollar smile.

If only you could get your brother to start filming you, and your mother wasn't such a disaster at baking, I think you might have a future in YouTubing. So far we have tried and failed at macaroons, lollipops, chocolate covered popcorn, frosting, fondant and meringue. I have other redeeming qualities.

In other big news, this year we were finally able to give you the sister you never had. Far furrier than you were, even at your furriest, Muna has your big brown eyes and shares your love of dancing. She's also a natural runner, like you, and loves to have her hair brushed. And eat salami. I'm afraid Muna the Mutt is the best we can do at this late stage my dear. The good news is that she will never borrow your favorite sweater and wreck it or steal your boyfriend. 

Tomorrow Grandma and I are taking you to get your ears pierced. Finally! You've been waiting for this day for as long as you could talk. Begging me to pierce your ears. Well the day has finally arrived. I'm considering getting a nose ring myself or maybe a second hole in one ear. I actually have two extra holes in one ear, that I did myself when I was fifteen, but have since closed up. A story for another time. When Grandma goes home. Grandma says she's getting her tongue pierced. She's pretty hilarious. After piercing we'll have brunch and go to your favorite stationery store, because you are my daughter after all. School supplies are in our DNA. Gotta stay organized too. Ten minutes after Grandma arrived you were already organizing her purse. Everything has its place girl, amirite? (cue: mother daughter handshake).

I wish you another outstanding year. I wish you continued intuition to skillfully navigate your relationships with friends and family. I wish you utter confidence to express yourself in dance and music. I wish you a year without lice. A lifetime even. And I wish your feet would grow so we could share shoes finally.

Love you mieces to pieces, my Sugar Bee.
Mommy

A Shortcut to Peace by Susie Lubell

A video about Road to Recovery. Keep a box of tissues nearby.

Yesterday I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and drove an hour to a crossing between Israel and Palestine. I called a Palestinian man named Nayim and let him know I had arrived there a little early and that I would wait. It was 7 a.m. and the crossing was teeming with Palestinian men waiting for rides to their places of work in Israel. I stayed on the Israeli side, parked in a dirt lot. Vans and trucks came and went picking up groups of men. While the men waited they chatted and swiped their cell phones. A few were smoking, though not many. Ramadan. After about 15 minutes, a tall man with a broad smile approached my car. I opened the window.

"Are you Susie?" he asked in accented Hebrew.

"Yes, I'm Susie. Nice to meet you." I replied.

He walked around to the other side where he and a female companion entered my car. 

"May I sit in the front?"

"Of course! Whatever is comfortable for you."

He introduced himself as Raafat. The woman sitting in back was his mom. She wore traditional clothing. He wore jeans and a tee-shirt. His short sleeves did not quite cover the port taped to his right bicep. His mom smiled and spoke a few pleasantries in Arabic. I smiled back and wished her a Ramadan kareem. Everyone buckled and we started our drive to Hadassah Ein Karem, an Israeli hospital outside of Jerusalem. A one hour drive from Eyal Crossing, near the city of Kalkiliya on the Palestinian side, Kfar Saba on the Israeli side. Raafat and his family live in Kalkiliya, a few minutes walk from the border. This was to be his second treatment at Hadassah Hospital. Raafat has Lymphoma. 

Last time it took him and his mom four hours to get to his appointment and 500 shekels ($125) in cab fair. One way. His treatment protocol is two days of treatment every twenty days, but it's outpatient. He doesn't stay at the hospital. Last week a friend of his mentioned an organization called Road to Recovery that provides rides to Palestinian patients who are being treated in Israeli hospitals. Raafat made a phone call to Nayim, the coordinator on the Palestinian side, and now here he was in my car.

About a year ago I had read an article about Road to Recovery in Tablet Magazine It was started by a man named Yuval Roth whose brother had been kidnapped by Hamas in 1993 hitchhiking home from reserve duty. During his grieving process Yuval joined a bereavement group of Israelis and Palestinians who had each lost family members because of the conflict and there he befriended a man named Mohammad who had also lost a brother. The story goes that Mohammad once asked Yuval if he could drive another brother to the hospital, just as a favor between friends. That ride turned into more rides. Word spread and Yuval received many calls from families who desperately needed rides, mostly for their children, to receive treatments at Israeli hospitals. Now Yuval and his team coordinate 600 volunteer Israeli drivers who provide 10,000 rides a year to sick Palestinians. Mostly children. Many Palestinian patients receive permission to receive treatment in Israel, paid for by the Palestinian Authority, but they cannot make the trip in their own cars, if they even have cars. So they rely on taxis which are often prohibitively expensive. Driving on Israeli roads in an Israeli car with an Israeli driver cuts out all the checkpoints and the waiting and the transfers and the hassle. It's a direct route. A much needed short-cut.

I believe it's possible for Palestinians and Israelis to live amicably as neighbors. Who knows when our politicians will be able to sign a peace agreement. I'm not holding my breath. But when we have the opportunity to connect as individuals, it's not difficult. There is a lot of common ground. Unfortunately opportunities are scarce because we live segregated lives. As citizens we also need a more direct route to interact and engage. I have wanted for some time to show my support of a lasting, peaceable solution but I'm not much of an activist. The public, sign-holding kind, anyway. So the idea of helping people directly with just a few hours of my time and maybe having a chance to talk and connect as human beings and not nationals from either side of a wall, appealed to me immensely. The road to peace, reconciliation and recovery, just like the road to Hadassah Hospital, need not be so convoluted and fraught with checkpoints.  

A few weeks ago I finally sent Yuval an email asking if he needed more drivers. He put me on the list and that was that. On Sunday this week, his rides coordinator for the central region called and asked if I could get to Kfar Saba on Monday morning. There was a 40 year old man who needed a ride to Hadassah. I said yes. The next day I was driving Raafat and his mom to chemotherapy.

We chatted the whole drive. His Hebrew is very good. Before the cancer he worked in flooring installation. He'd been working in Israel since he was 16 when he obtained a work permit. His father had worked in a factory in Israel for many years also. He had three kids, 15, 12 and 10. He told me his doctor said he wouldn't be able to have any more kids after the treatment but he said that he and his wife made that decision 10 years ago, even before the cancer. We agreed that three kids is plenty. 

His wife is a hairdresser. She has a salon and he's thinking of importing cosmetics to help grow her business. He can't work in flooring anymore. He hasn't worked in more than a year, he said. But his brother is helping with his bills. His whole family is pitching in. He was open with me about his cancer. How he hadn't been feeling well and his doctor had given him medication but nothing was working. Finally he had a blood test and went to see a specialist in Ramallah. It was Lymphoma. And had he been diagnosed earlier, his treatment would have been easier and shorter. This is apparently his second round of treatment, something new, so he's hoping for the best. He said that he once spent a week at Rambam Hospital and a group of musicians came and played for the patients in Oncology. He showed me a clip on his phone. He had recorded it to show his family and friends back home. He couldn't believe that volunteers actually come to the hospital just to cheer up patients. We agreed that there are a lot of good people in the world. 

We arrived after exactly an hour and found our way to Oncology. I dropped off Raafat and his mom and wished them well and good luck and until next time. I'm Raafat's driver now. Every twenty days, two mornings back to back. I'm also one more person praying for his recovery. 

Please take a minute and click on this link to the online fundraiser for Road to Recovery. Yuval and his volunteer staff are raising money to cover the cost of gas/petrol for drivers like me. With the cost of gas covered, Yuval can recruit even more drivers. If you live in Israel and you have a reliable car, you can sign up to be a driver too. 

He Didn't Say Sorry by Susie Lubell

Dear Babu,

I know it's not your birthday. I'm writing because something bad happened. Your friend in preschool lost her Saba. She came to preschool yesterday, the day after it happened, and told your teacher that her Saba died. That he was killed and the man didn't say he was sorry. Your Aba came home and told me what your brave little friend told your teacher and we both just sobbed because we thought about your Saba and how close you are to him. And how he picks you up all the way to the sky. And how you laugh and sing together. Saba is your best friend. And it seems right now like he'll always be with us. But I guess we never know. Your friend's saba just got on a bus in his neighborhood in Jerusalem, like a regular saba, and a bad guy killed him just like that. And now he's gone. And her savta is in the hospital because she got hurt too. It's all so hard to understand. Even for grown-ups. 

Your Aba and I do what we can to keep you safe but bad things happen all the time, all over the world. Now seems extra scary because it's harder to know when we are safe and when we are not. So for now, you can feel safe knowing that you are loved. We love you. Saba and Savta love you. Grandma loves you. Our whole family loves you and all of our friends. And they all love their own families too. And so it goes like that on and on. In spite of everything, there's still so much love in this world.

Mieces to pieces,
Mommy

Eleven by Susie Lubell

Taken right after getting off Montazooma's Revenge at Knott's Berry Farm this summer. I am never going on that thing again.

Taken right after getting off Montazooma's Revenge at Knott's Berry Farm this summer. I am never going on that thing again.

Hello kiddo.

Happy birthday. It's that time of year again. When we look back at what a year we've had. The ups. The downs. The completely inexplicable. The truth is I can't remember much past last week but I'll try to review some highlights. 

You won. We bought you a phone. We said we wouldn't and we did. We explained that you didn't need it. That it wasn't necessary. That it would only cause problems. You listened. You agreed. But you kept asking anyway and we just couldn't take it anymore. You broke us. High persistence. Low distractibility. Well done my boy. You will go far in this life. I gave you the choice of having my old iPhone 4 for free or a $100 toward the phone of your choice. After days of searching eBay and Amazon you took the $100 and upgraded to a shiny refurbished iPhone 5c, paying the rest off from your own savings. And that was that. Aba and I worried that it would be a disaster. That you would lose it or break it or spend all your time on it, but I'm happy to report that it's been fine and now I don't have to get a zillion Whatsapp messages from your classmates. And that rechargeable case you insisted on buying has come in handy when my phone has died on occasion. It's nice to have one early adapter in the family. Now you just need to get a job to support your habit.

But we didn't just get you a phone. This was the year that we went balls out. We said, sure, all the research points to handheld devices as the singular factor causing the deterioration of verbal culture, handwritten expression and empathy. True, the radiation these things emit is enough to pop corn, cause a blood moon and melt the ice caps. But why stop at one device? Why not throw caution to the wind and TURN. THIS. MOTHER. OUT. You know what I mean? So we bought you a Kindle and a Raspberry Pi too. And a drone. 

The Kindle is just plain genius parenting. English age appropriate books are expensive as hell in Israel and generally hard to come by. You can't just pick up Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at the library. The only English books at our library are the Fifty Shades trilogy that I donated last year. But on the Kindle you can get whatever you want and sometimes it's even free. Plus I can use it too. Win. Win. Win. 

The Raspberry Pi is sadly also a device and not an actual pie. It's like a bitty motherboard with ports whose operating system you load on an SD card depending on what you want to do. I don't even know what I just said. All I know is that the whole thing cost me like $30 and whatever you did to it made it turn our television into the Internet. 

But electronics aside, it's been a great year for a lot of other reasons. You kicked it up a notch in piano. You joined the local roller hockey team. Your first friend in Israel who moved to Canada two years ago moved back and now he's basically Canadian. We should send all Israeli kids to Canada for a makeover. He was a great kid to begin with but now he's a Canadian level great kid. And speaking of great kids, you and your sister have found some common ground in your plight to grow up in the same house. Turns out the only thing you can't stand more than each other is listening to your little bother yammer away all day long. That child does not shut up even for a second. Like if he's awake, then he's talking and it drives you and the rest of us mad hatter. Wait, I think I hear him now. He's saying stop widing on da compuda because I'm tawking. Only God can save us my dear. And earplugs. 

Beautiful boy, I wish you another kickass year. I wish you patience and empathy. Such difficult skills but you are getting there slowly. I wish you endless curiousity and wonder. I wish you would clean up your room. You are a shining light. A shining, rechargeable, solar powered LED light.

I love you,
Mommy

 

This Many by Susie Lubell

Hello gorgeous.

You've told me not to call you Babu anymore or even Idan because your name is now Aba of the Animals and, alternatively, Aba of Spiderman. Sounds like someone just turned four.

Happy birthday! It has been a stellar year. One for the books. We started off by starting preschool! You and your best friend Omer bid farewell to the idyllic toddler oasis of your dear Yulia and entered the whirling, chaotic, vertigo-inducing cacophony that is municipal preschool. After six weeks I had a meeting with your teacher to discuss your progress and she said, well he's not especially social. Or verbal. Or coordinated. So I added that he is also likely color-blind! She didn't think that was as funny as I did. But, as expected, in time you have opened up to your teachers and classmates. You speak a seamless mix of Hebrew English so consistent it might qualify as an official creole. And you are coordinated enough to get yourself dressed in the morning so I don't really give a crap if you can hold a pencil. Yet.

This year has been an interesting one in your development. On the one hand you are so much more independent and everything that was once so exhausting, like getting you ready in the morning or getting you in and out of the car, or putting you to bed, is totally manageable now. I'll never forget when you decided after one Shabbat dinner that you were going home with Saba and Savta to spend the night. They actually had plans the next day but you weren't having any of that. You declared that you were sleeping over, went upstairs and packed your bag, put on your pajamas, came downstairs and waited for them by the door. How could they say no?

On the other hand, you regularly point out that you are still a baby. And when you're not Aba of the Animals, you are a baby animal. It can be confusing to the untrained eye. There's a lot of back and forth. A lot of I can do it myself! Followed by you do it! I'm a baby! You could see how that would be sort of hard to follow or predict or understand or decipher.  This stage made me want to strangle your brother. But not now. Not with you. Because you are still my baby. Even as I see that you've become quite long and skinny and the eyes that once took up half your head are now fairly proportionate to the rest of you, I like that you are still little. 

You know what else I like? I like that the whole week you wait for Friday night dinner so you can play your ukulele with Aba and sing Shabbat songs. I like when you and your sister set up the whole downstairs with pillows and stuffed animals. I like when you get out your tools and do work on the house. I like that you still don't notice when your shoes are on backwards. I like when you put on your favorite songs and do capoeira-esque cartwheels on the carpet in the entryway. I like when you ask your brother to read you stories.

I hope next year brings you much joy and maybe a dog. I hope your nose stops running. I hope you agree to eat something besides yogurt. I hope all the animals and Spidermans realize how much they lucked out with you as their aba. I hope we can put your afternoon nap behind us. I hope I manage to make some family albums this year like I did before you were born so that you don't have to keep looking at baby pictures of your brother and ask if they are of you. They're not. Sorry. 

Mieces to pieces,
Mommy

Eight by Susie Lubell

photo credit: Naomi Davis

photo credit: Naomi Davis

Dear Sugar Bee,

Happy birthday to you my dear. Another year goes by. A great year I'd say. The days of tantrums over bumps in your ponytail? Gone. Crying because your favorite tights are in the laundry? Over. Psychotic episodes and hyperventilation over homework? Thing of the past. You are kind of a badass, my little girl. A thoughtful, self-aware, clothes folding, towel hanging, little brother dressing, mommy snuggling, vegetable eating badass. And it hasn't all happened over night. You have worked hard! Harder than many. 

Let's take reading for example. Uch! Screw reading. Who needs it? Well it turns out that reading is important even though it is difficult. And yes, reading the time is also important, namely so you can stop asking your mother. And I know everything is backwards here. You read right to left but then tell digital time left to right! What?!?! That makes no sense! Tell me about it. You learned how to read music this year too and English, both of which are also left to right! It's enough to drive anyone completely mad hatter. I get dysgraphia just thinking about it. But you never give up. You are diligent and persistent and it is quite spectacular to watch. 

And you know what else was spectacular to watch? Your first judo match. You were so nervous and didn't' even want to compete. And then you got out on the mat and DOMINATED. You were like a fairy ninja. You pranced over to your opponent with your raven pony tail bouncing and then threw him to the ground like a sack of potatoes! Huzzah! You surprised everyone and I think you even surprised yourself.

As for our power struggles, which once took a daily toll, they are now so sporadic that when they occur I think we are both startled. I have gotten better at recognizing one in the making and diffusing it and you have gotten better at letting whatever it is go in the first place. It's harder to let things go with your brothers though. I know. I wonder sometimes how you much being a little sister to your older brother has shaped you. For better or worse. We'll never know I guess but I think your relationship is becoming incrementally easier for you to handle. Increments sometimes so small they can only be detected by a scanning electron microscope, but still. It's forward motion. You have yet to finish a game of Taki with him that didn't end in huffing up the stairs, but at least it's not huffing and screaming.

Thankfully you have many friends to distract you from sibling strife. And to watch you all play together is to watch magic unfold. You still make tea parties for your dolls and animals. You still sing and dance around the house. You rollerblade through the living room, arms flailing. And while you've given up on a little sister, your brothers are willing participants when you want to play hair and nail salon. Plus you have adopted several older girlfriends and relatives to be your proxy sisters. I think those are the best kind of sisters anyway. 

I hope it's another wonderful year for you Sugar Bee. Full of rainbows and hearts and smileys. Your spirit, intuition and courage are a shining light to me and Aba and all who know you. Except for maybe that little boy you trounced in judo. He's afraid of you. Very afraid. 

love you mieces to pieces,
Mommy

You May Remember by Susie Lubell

An elephant never forgets.

An elephant never forgets.

I don't know if it's since we moved to Israel or since I turned 40 or since the war last summer, but I am feeling the love and while I hate to admit it, it has a lot to do with Facebook. Damn you Facebook. Just when I think you are pure evil, I discover your redeeming qualities...

I'm not talking about birthday love, which I appreciate as much as the next guy. A hundred birthday messages straight to your inbox is pretty sweet. But it's more than that. Lately I have felt an incredible amount of support and love from old friends, some even just old acquaintances, with whom I am in touch solely because of Facebook. But there's something about these people that I have known for so long - DECADES - that I consider sacred. These include my oldest friends who I sometimes see when I visit my mom. But I'm also thinking about the kids that I never said two words to growing up and will likely only see again at our 50th high school reunion. We lived different lives. I was nerdy and played soccer and didn't go to dances. I was in Hebrew school and went to Jewish sleep away camp in the summers. And I played piano and did community theater. Those were my things. I wasn't a cheerleader or a swimmer or a stoner or in the Chess Club. I didn't have boyfriends. I wasn't in Glee. In fact I did join our version of the Glee Club my senior year, which opened up a whole new realm of friendships. That was fun and unexpected. We sang about Jesus a lot. Less fun (for me).

Anyway, I'm talking about all of you. The people that I once knew well and with whom I have lost touch and those I only knew by name and face (and reputation) because you were in another grade or we never had any of the same teachers. By the time we were seniors there was a lot of more crossover and barriers came down while we all scrambled to finish and move on. I must say I never felt bullied or teased, nothing that left any scars anyway. I felt appreciated. I felt included. And I thank the almighty infinite powers that there were no smart phones. The only documentation we had was the yearbook and that was plenty. How lucky we were to be born in the seventies.

And over the years I have gotten back in touch with a lot of these people through Facebook. Because it's fun; I'm interested to see how everyone turned out. And I tell you I have a genuine affection for so many of these folks. I see their sons who look EXACTLY like they did in fifth grade and I want to reach through the interwebs and give them a great big hug. I see girls who seemed like train wrecks in high school with wonderful careers and I think YOU GO SISTER. Classmates of mine are living all over the globe, living close to home, married, not married, with kids, without kids, taking over the world, drinking a beer, enjoying life, managing through troubled times. I find it absolutely amazing. Because we share something so elemental. We grew up together. Our family lives and life experiences may have been vastly different and yet we were together from 8 AM to 3 PM five days a week for twelve years. We learned to read together. We had slumber parties together. We went to the LA Olympics together. We lived through the Night Stalker together. We went through puberty together. We watched the Challenger explode together. We had braces together. We did the bar mitzvah circuit together. We toilet papered houses together. We lost friends together. We hated trigonometry together. We sang together. We won and lost soccer matches together. We ate frozen yogurt together. We watched Dead Poet's Society together. We went to Taco Bell together. We learned to drive together. We took the 5 to the 55 to the 22 together. We protested for our teachers together. WE LEARNED STOICHIOMETRY TOGETHER (you may remember...though I doubt it). We applied to college together.

We went through a lot separate, but a lot of it we did together.

I see you all on my screen and get your wonderful messages and some of you even buy my art, which means more than you will ever know and I feel the tricks of time. On the one hand, it's as though no time has passed and we are all essentially the same kids we were back in elementary school. But on the other hand we have been through so much and we've hit an age where we can look back with fondness on a time when things were simpler. And we no longer judge each other or categorize. And we can appreciate each other and be proud of who we have become and all we have done in our forty+ years. I want you to know that I remember you. And I thank you for your part in shaping me.

Shabbat Shalom.

A+ in Comprehension by Susie Lubell

Our daughter radiates love. She is a professional snuggler. She likes to get close. She loves to laugh. She has an unbelievable intuition. She understands people and situations. The other day I was watching a video an old friend had sent me from Peter Gabriel's Secret World tour, a concert we had seen together. My daughter snuggles in close to watch together on my phone and then she whispers to me, is he getting divorced? In fact the whole album has mostly to do with his devastating divorce. How does she know these things? Her emotional intelligence is magnificent. She can probably talk to the dead. I'll keep you posted.

The rest of this post is on the Times of Israel.

 

Growing Up by Susie Lubell

I had a conversation last night with my son and while I was having it I was very conscious of it being one of those big conversations that you have some times as a kid and you keep with you for a long time. He's ten now so things stick. Everything gets filed away as experience and later drawn upon or discarded.

I had put the other kids to bed and he was reading in his room. And then he came into my room and told me that at his scouts meeting, his counselor, who is a sixteen year old kid and the son of our old neighbors, told the boys, who apparently had been fighting, that getting a bump on the head or a bruise from a fight with a friend goes away after a few days. But words stay with us forever. If you say mean things to someone, my son told me, that person keeps those words inside them forever. He sat on my bed and we spoke about it for a good fifteen minutes. He was so earnest. He suddenly seemed like a rational human.

There are problems with the kids in his class, the boys and the girls, and those are the same kids in his scouts troop. I don't know why they did it that way but if I questioned every single thing here that made no sense to me I'd be in a constant state of inquiry and that gets exhausting. Someone must have had a reason. But his class in particular is known to be problematic. They've been together since first grade and it's gotten worse every year. And a lot of the kids now have smart phones now so there are chat groups and bullying goes on there. We have steered clear of that nonsense although my son has not been entirely unaffected.

I asked if anyone was making fun of him or calling him names and he said no. But that some of his friends had been made fun of and that hurt his feelings too. I told him that was called empathy. It's a concept I have been trying to convey to him for years with little success. He's a first born. The sun and the moon dance around him for his sole entertainment. In fact just a day before, literally a day before this conversation, he was fighting with his sister about something (ridiculous) and he huffed off to his room. A few minutes later I joined him and we talked about the pattern that he and his sister always fall into. She wants to play with him, he's not interested, she tries to get his attention any way she can and starts bothering him, he gets annoyed and they start yelling at each other, one of them spits, the other hits. Crying. Game over.

I asked him if he could imagine what it's like to be his sister, which I have asked a million times. Imagine that you have an older brother and you want to play with him but he mostly ignores you. And for the first time he told me directly, I can't imagine that because it's not real. I don't have an older brother so I don't know what that is like for her. He didn't know and he couldn't imagine. Problem. I was staring at a future narcissistic megalomaniac.

But then the very next day he understood. Well he understood in the context of his friends, but I saw a tiny pinhole in our conversation and wormed in the bit about his sister. And then he understood that also.

I am sure there are a zillion terra bytes of research on why kids are mean to each other. It must be something about our society; about the way we raise them to look out for number one. And I know it will only get worse. On the other hand, I marvel at my son'scounselor who is all of sixteen and a kid himself, who, despite having to deal with a toxic group of boys, managed to impart a positive message to my son that struck him so deeply that he needed to have a bedside sit down to process it. There is still hope.

Coming up roses by Susie Lubell

I made this little piece while thinking about weddings. In the last month I've been asking my ketubah clients to send me photos of their ketubahs at their weddings to use in my ETSY listings and I just LOVE wedding pictures. Mine. Yours. Whoevers. I don't care. Love them all. Plus I just saw this stunning video and had a good sob. Feeling the love, I guess. Hope you are too.

The passage in this piece is from a famous love poem by Moshe Dor called Erev Shel Shoshanim* and my friend Jill sang it at our wedding as I walked down the aisle many moons ago.  

* Evening of roses
Let us go out to the garden
Myrrh, Spices, and Frankincense
Are as a carpet under your feet

Night falls slowly
And a wind of roses blows
Let me whisper a song for you slowly
A tune of love

Dawn and the dove coos
Your hair is full of dewdrops
Your lips are as roses unto the morning
I will pick them for myself


Arrivals by Susie Lubell

Artwork by Lori Portka
I love airports. Some more than others. I especially love when I'm going somewhere, although after traveling half way around the world and back again this summer with my three kids (and without Mr. Rosen), I was perfectly happy just to be picking up on my trip to the Tel Aviv airport last Thursday. Especially because Grandma is here! For three whole weeks! So we'll be doing a lot of exploring and coffee drinking and shopping while the kiddos are in school.

But back to those airports. I was standing just outside of customs in the arrivals terminal waiting for her to pass through and watching while people from all over the world arrived, greeted by loved ones and friends. It was pretty moving, I must say. I saw a man about forty-five or fifty greeted by his eighty year old father and oh how they kissed and hugged on each other. I imagined that he's been living in the United States for the last thirty years and how life just happens that way but it's a little bit heartbreaking when it does. Because now his father is older and the travel is harder. And the kids are in college. And money's tight...

I saw three kids run to greet their dad, the oldest son jumping into his arms with such affection that his kippah flew off. It was like watching a dog, no longer a puppy, jump into his person's lap and bowling him straight out of his chair. I imagined that this aba had been in Rome or Moscow on business for the last two weeks. He was obviously missed.

I saw tourists arrive. Bleary eyed from the long flight but excited to see a place they had until now only read about. Maybe dreamed about. Israel is that kind of place. Many of them are shocked by how modern it all looks. They were expecting white robes and camels maybe.

And then I saw Grandma. With that look like, I am too old for this, but actually appearing her stylish and put together self, twenty hours of travel and all things considered.

So much joy and love and anticipation at the airport. I was reminded of this incredible painting I was gifted earlier this year from an artist friend who inspires me so. Maybe you know her. Almost two years ago Lori Portka embarked on A Hundred Thank Yous project and created a hundred paintings for a hundred people in her life for whom she is grateful. And by some miracle I am one of them. This is my painting. She painted it before we left for Israel, wishing me ease, sweetness, beauty, joy, love and abundance on our journey. I couldn't have conjured a better or more appropriate blessing for this wandering Jew. Now it hangs happily in my studio across the world.

You need something of Lori's to brighten your house too. Visit her shop where she has a new 2013 calendar that is HUGE and gorgeous and features more than a dozen of her wonderfully uplifting works of art. She also has an amazing Month of Thank Yous Gratitude Pack which includes 30 frame-able postcards and stamps she designed to send them off to the people you love (who can then frame them).  She also has prayer flags and posters and prints and cards and it's all just so overwhelmingly beautiful.

Just like at arrivals.


Remarkable friends by Susie Lubell

DSC_0050.JPG
 Liv and Rachel at our retreat in 2010

I have some remarkable friends around the world for whom I feel incredibly grateful. I wish I saw them more often but when we do see each other, even on skype, it's like we were never apart (although less true with skype - I sometimes feel like a jackass on skype. But more on that later).

Two years ago I met a gorgeous group of women for an art retreat on Lake Superior. We spent four days getting to know each other offline, making yummy food, making juicy art and laughing hysterically. There might have been some crying too. That can happen with eight women in a cabin. Anyway, those lovely ladies met again this year and unfortunately I could not attend (more on this regretful decision another time) but I skyped in briefly and got a quick dose of awesome.

I was struck by how each one had undergone some enormous impossibly wonderful and challenging life altering event over the last two years. These are women who set goals and stick to them. Changing careers, writing books, delivering ecourses, teaching workshops, moving cross-country, completing giant projects resulting in massive bodies of new work and in some cases, all while raising kids. I feel so proud of them and I am reminded to write down my own damn goals in big ass letters on poster paper so I can keep cracking!

But first I want to tell you about a few important developments so that you can share in some of the wisdom and delight that I get from these girls.

Liv Lane is offering another ecourse and I'm taking it. It's called BUZZWORTHY and it's about how to attract the love and attention your soulful business deserves. I took her first course, Building a Blog You Truly Love, last January and it's what got me to finally take inventory of my blog and art business and start making some changes.

Rachel Awes' new SARK + Kelly Rae Roberts-endorsed book ALL I DID WAS LISTEN is now available in her ETSY shop for PRE-ORDERS including a special "girlfriend pack" (FIVE books and some bonus goodies so you can share the love). It's scheduled release date is December 1, 2012. If you, like me, ate up Succulent Wild Women and love Story People, you will love this book. It is a 236-page, full-color, illustrated gift book, filled with inspiring hand-written quotes from her psychotherapy clients, that, strung together, tell a story about how healing can happen for everyone.

That should keep you busy for a while. There's more to share, but there's also laundry to be folded.  Stay tuned.


Home by Susie Lubell

home
Home is available as a print on ETSY.

I don't know if it's because my son weaned himself this week after a nasty cold made it so he couldn't breathe and nurse at the same time. Or because we're nearing our six month milestone in Israel. Or because I'm starting to plan our trip to America in the summer and wondering how on earth we will see everyone we want to see and what it will feel like to be there. Or maybe because I keep fast forwarding ten years and my oldest is entering the army. All of it together has me feeling a little vulnerable.  I keep coming back to the idea of home. Where is it? What is home? What will it be for my kids. Is it worth fighting for? Is it worth dying for? Or is it just a place, like any other.

Mr. Rosen and I have spent a lot of time thinking about where we want to make our home and whether or not there is a perfect place for us and our family. We don't have the answer yet but we're getting closer. We might be over thinking it. It might be exactly where we are now. It might not be a place at all, but a connection we have to each other, tethering us to the present.

Five by Susie Lubell

Love

Dear Sugar Bee,

You're five today and I can hardly believe I just typed that. What a year it has been for you, for all of us. We started off on the wrong foot with pneumonia and you are still talking about the shot of antibiotics you got in your butt. You might never forget that one. And then you got a baby brother. And then you went on a month long road trip. And then you moved to a new house. And then to a new country! Talk about resilience and an almost heroic flexibility. It hasn't always been easy. And you've had some rough spells. But you have an understanding of yourself that frankly startles me sometimes. You get upset; we all do. And then you remove yourself, set up your dolls and clear your head. That's your process. And soon you are back to your shining spunky self. And then you like to talk about what all just happened. How you were mad and crazy, how you calmed down and got back in control. How we can talk about it after and still love each other. I appreciate processing these outbursts together. I hope we can always communicate like that.

Probably the biggest event for you this year, even bigger than moving to Israel, was becoming a big sister. Even though I know you'd prefer to still be the baby, as you have made clear in words and actions, you are a fantastic big sister. And that little boy is bonzo about you. Everything you do makes him giggle and you know it. He gets flooded with joy when he sees you. I admit, I feel that way too sometimes. What a lucky boy he is to have a sister as animated and intuitive as you. And as much as you and your older brother make each other nuts, I know there is a closeness between you too. Not every brother would take the time to pick out his sister's birthday outfit for preschool. Thankfully he can put together an outfit.

Your Aba continues to think the sun shines from your tush. He's right. You are a lovely, lovely girl and we are so lucky to have you as our daughter. Watching you grow has been one of the universe's greatest gifts to me.

many many kisses,
Mommy

How the universe sent me a babysitter - Part I by Susie Lubell

Seven months

This was a very big week. I found a babysitter for Bug Eye McChicken Legs. This is big for a number of reasons but mainly because I wasn't totally convinced that I could rationalize spending money for someone else to take care of him when I only earn barely enough to cover it. I always have it in my head that I can still run my business and my household in two hour increments while he's napping and why would I pay for someone else to watch him sleep. Except he doesn't always nap as he should. And I never feel at ease starting the next project because I know that at any moment I will have to stop. And then I secretly start to resent just a teeny bit the McChicken. Plus maybe the reason I am only earning enough to barely cover childcare, is that I'm not actually working much at all.

Since he was born I haven't painted a thing. In the weeks leading up to his birth I had several commissions to finish and it was quite a fruitful period. But then the baby came and the house sold and the RV trip and the move and leaving the country and settling into a new county. Well, it hasn't been super conducive to creating. And unfortunately I'm not the type to just jot down sketches and doodles whenever I can. I know that about myself so I don't even buy journals anymore.  I've continued to fill orders and have them printed and shipped through a lovely print shop in North Carolina thanks to the magic of the Internet, so business goes on. But nothing new has hit paper in seven months which had me feeling like I'm not really an artist (I feel this way from time to time. Impostor syndrome. Very destructive).

So when I saw a flyer posted next to the neighborhood grocery (think Israeli bodega) advertising a 29 year old mom of two (baby and toddler) looking to watch another baby three days a week in the morning while her two year old is at preschool, I sort of thought this might be perfect. So I took a tear off with her number.

And I stuck it in my pocket where it sat for a week.

I had those thoughts again that I don't deserve childcare. That my baby is too problematic. (no binky, no lovie, no bottle, lots of nursing). That it's not worth the hassle of getting him ready in the morning and packing up his food and diapers and wipes. That surely she's already taken another baby since half the tear-offs were gone and that was a week ago.

Finally I called and even during the conversation I felt a weight rising in my chest. I don't really want to do this. I can't do this. I don't deserve it. She had one other family interested but she was waiting to hear back from them. She'd call me back. A few days later I got a text that she'd like me to bring the baby over and we could try it out for a week or so. See how it goes. I liked that approach.

So this week on Tuesday I took the kids to school and put the baby down for his nap when we got home. When he woke up we rode over to the village next door where the sitter lives (across from the awesome cafe that I wrote about last month which will prove to be an important part of the second part of this story). As I drove in I already started to feel lighter. She lives in a moshav which is kind of a little farming community. This one happens to be a vineyard. And she lives down a dirt road next to a few abandoned chicken coops which I find endlessly charming. Her personal roost overlooks a beautiful valley. And when she opened the door and welcomed me with a giant smile, I sort of knew this would be right for us.

Part II to come.

Dear California by Susie Lubell

Santa Cruz

Hi there. How are you? 72 degrees and sunny as always? Just checking in before we fly out tonight. I've been thinking about you a lot and how much we've been through together. I know I haven't always been your most loyal resident. Remember how I used to wear long sleeves and turtlenecks year round in elementary school and tell people I was originally from New Hampshire? Sorry about that. But in my defense I was never exactly your type, at least as far as appearances go. I never tanned. I was a freckle puss from day one practically. I hated the beach and no one was watching out for my skin. It was the seventies and eighties after all. So I figured we might as well go our separate ways.

But I was so wrong! There is so much more to you than your constant sunshine. I love your fruits and vegetables. I love your ocean cliffs. I love your elephant seals. I love your national parks. I love Disneyland. I love your beach boardwalks, your Hollywood hoopla and your spring skiing. I love your taquerias, your dim sum, your In-N-Out, your pho, your pad thai, your chicken tikka masala, your sushi, your grass fed beef and your tofu. I even love your neon strip malls. How's that for devotion?

So for the record I'm sorry I once wished I was from the east coast. It was immature. Now I realize just how much you have given me and how much you have to offer yet. I'll be back one day.

love always,
Susie

Welcome by Susie Lubell

Welcome

Idan Hillel (ee-DAHN he-LEHL)
6.6.11 at 9:50 pm
8 lbs 15 oz
21 inches (23 with hair)

All are recovering nicely at home.
The epic tale of his timely arrival coming soon.
Plus a few words about his name and namesakes.
For now, a big sigh of joy.
xoxo

Four by Susie Lubell

Up in the chair

Dear Sugar Bee,

Today you're four years old and pretty much a real person. It all kind of came together this year. You finally could hear and speak and now you don't stop talking and you have many opinions about your clothes and your hair and your friends and your brother and us. Many many opinions. Here are some of my favorites:
  1. Your baby brother should be named either Toilet Head or Boy Beauty.
  2. Mommy has a stinky mouth in the mornings and so does Aba.
  3. Your big brother is nice.
  4. You never want to talk to your brother ever again in the whole wide world.
  5. Mommy doesn't know how to brush hair. Only Aba does.
  6. Mommy is the only one who can brush hair because Aba doesn't know how.
  7. Only your teacher makes good ponytails.
  8. You hate baths except most of the time when you don't.
  9. You don't like socks except with hearts or stripes. Or plain. Or dots.
  10. We can always love each other, even when we're mad.
The truth is, for all of your opinions, you are a happy-go-lucky, funny, funny girl. You're a classic middle child - willing to share, easy-going, considerate, self-assured. That's why we had to have another baby, so you could fulfill your destiny.  As I write this you are rushing to clean up the Play Mobile castle set you just got for your birthday so that none of our baby friends will choke on any of the zillion bitty pieces. You're already such a good big sister.

Enjoy your special day, special girl.

I love you,
Mommy

Princess Crowns

Pin the kiss on the frog

Rainbow pinata

Ladybug Cake

Winter Merry Making by Susie Lubell

chingaderas
Chingaderas at Jackalope

Hi folks. It's been a while. We're back from a long and winding winter vacation and it's taken some time to get my groove back. Obviously my new year's resolution was not to blog everyday. Thank goodness. To be honest I don't have any New Year's resolutions because I think they suck. And past experience dictates that I will fail/give up by week two. Who needs that kind of disappointment? I did however make a Daily Schedule for myself which now hangs in my office. I've been meaning to do this for, I don't know, TWO YEARS. So if feels good to have it and will feel even better to use it. I hope. I am thinking about goals for this year and my life coach was awesome enough to send out a worksheet to help me do that.

I have some more big news to share soon, because that's the kind of year it's going to be, but before all that here's a little recap of the last three weeks. Good times. Great memories.

kidseum
Dress up at Bowers Museum in Orange County.

kidseum
Crafting with Grandma

Me and Mr Rosen
Quality time with Mr. Rosen

Back Bay Newport Beach
The historic whale at the Newport Beach Bay Bay where I used to play as a kid.

San Diego
Sun and surf in San Diego

skis
Mini skis for mini people

Rosy cheeks
Rosy cheeked cousins

New niece
Newest niece with her aba

puppet
Riding out the snow storm with some indoor crafting

Sled crash
Crash and burn sledding with my sister in law

Kitchen Chemistry
Kitchen chemistry with Saba

Snowy pottery
Snowy pottery at my favorite store in Santa Fe

Cup runneth over by Susie Lubell


Well yesterday was a banner day. It didn't start out great when a black squirrel jumped over my arm as I was opening our front gate and scared the bejeezies out of me. Holy vampire rodent! But then lady luck sent me a few emails that I had won not one, but TWO blog giveaways. And I'm even more excited to tell you about where they came from.

The first was all serendipity. My friend Liv, who I met at our October blogger/artist retreat, was hosting her weekly Happy HeArt giveaway - two prints by our other dear friend Lori, also present at the retreat. I often enter, when I remember, because the giveaways are always great. And last week's was no different. First a word on these two friends. These women and their art/presence in the world are completely inspiring to me. They each have powerful stories to tell. And their blogs are bursting with love and gratitude and beauty. But what you may not know is that they are hilariously funny too. When a one-liner is delivered with a sweet Minnesotan accent it's all the more delicious. Anyway, I'm taking the kids to visit my mom in my hometown for our winter break and will see my two oldest friends from elementary school so these will make the perfect gifts and then I'll have to order another for myself!


And THEN, as if a rainbow wasn't already shining out of my tushy, I got another email from one of my new favorite bloggers, Tulpen, congratulating me on my second win, a pair of gorgeous earrings from her sister's ETSY shop called Silver and Stones. I mean what are the chances? Happy Hanukkah to me! Listen, if you are in the mood for a crazy rant or a story about one of the charming old ladies at the nursing home where Tulpen nurses or a powerful reminder that, really, the kids are alright, go visit her immediately. She drops the f*bomb a lot. As much as I would if my mom wasn't one of my readers. And then go to Silver and Stones and get bejeweled in something twinkly.

I am off to play the lottery and ride out this winning streak.

**REMINDER** The 30% off sale at my shop continues through Friday December 10. Use code CHARM3 at checkout.