Suing National Insurance: A Cautionary Tale by Susie Lubell

Maybe the money from National Insurance is at the end of this thing...

Maybe the money from National Insurance is at the end of this thing...

This is a long story and starts three years ago. But I haven't written a proper long story since theSnow Storm of 2013 so I'm due. Take a deep breath.

Three years ago we arrived in Israel. It's was November 16th. The next day we started taking care of business at all of the government offices. We needed new ID cards, health insurance for everyone in our family, we needed to sign the kids up for school and also register as new immigrants or, in my husband's case, a returning resident. It was a lot of time and forms and hassle and lines but we got through it all and no one died.

Fast forward about 15 months. I'm having a conversation with a friend about the recent elections and she is grumbling about how budget cuts had reduced her government child allowance by nearly half. Right. Sucks. So I go home and ask my husband if he had seen a difference in our child allowance in his paystub. I figured it was a line item there and that the money had been going into our account from day one.

The rest of this saga can be found on The Times of Israel.

The Flood by Susie Lubell

Don't be alarmed but a chicken is driving the ark.

Don't be alarmed but a chicken is driving the ark.

There is a lot going on in this painting. I know. And as my friend said when I showed it to her, wait, let me call Marc Chagall and tell him his flying alpaca is loose. What can I say? I'm almost giddy to be back making art in the studio. Well let's go back even further. I HAVE a studio. I have a gorgeous space on the third floor/roof of our house with a giganto balcony that overlooks all of the southern Judean hills. Mr. Rosen installed wood floors and built me a huge, wall to wall desk for better flow and production. And I have a space to paint on an old architects desk that we fixed up and on the walls of the stairwell for when I need everything upright to spray water and fling paint around. Plus there's a little table and chairs for small people to come and paint or draw or glue felt to toilet paper rolls for, let's say, an upcoming holiday, which there are thankfully none. But now that the kids are all back in school, the place is mine again.

On Sunday I got down to business. Staring at a blank canvas after many months of non-creativity is a little daunting. So I finger painted to make the white go away. Then I added some pretty papers that I'd collected. And some old maps. And a stamp. And I tore a page out of an old Hebrew English dictionary I have whose words often dictate the direction of the piece and guess who showed up on that page. Noah! I swear. If you look closely you will see Noah is one of the entries. As is the word for distilling. Also drunkenness. Anyway, it happens to be that the Torah portion for this week is Noah and the flood! I mean, come on people! You can't make this stuff up.

So I take that to be a sign from the almighty and I smudge some more paint here and there and soon a pink sparkly ark and a chicken appear and a stormy ocean and dry land in the distance creating the perfect background for a flying alpaca in a housecoat holding an olive branch in his mouth. Just like that. And all I could do was get out of my own way and welcome the flood.

How the Sukkah and My Mental State Came Apart by Susie Lubell

It's safe to say that by the end of sukkot this year I was holding it together about as well as this sukkah, which is to say completely falling apart. I don't know why it's so challenging but it is. It's a solid three weeks of festive meals, and going to synagogue, and planning to go to synagogue and then not going because it's too hectic or hot or far away to walk, and hosting friends and family or being hosted or feeling like you have to host or be hosted because that's what we do and if you don't then you're a high holidays loser. Listen, we did our best. We gave it all we had. We dipped apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah. We ate a round challah. We sang songs about sitting on our porch counting birds. We fasted on Yom Kipur. The kids rode bikes as is tradition in this part of the world (it's the one day of the year the roads are empty. Like literally no vehicles. At all). We built a lovely sukkah. The kids and I made toilet paper roll creatures to hang from the sukkah as is commanded in the Torah after thous shalt not murder. We shook our fuzzy stuffed toy lulav and etrog and said blessings. We ate in the sukkah. We went camping and endured a thunder and lightening storm the likes of which has not been seen in these parts since Noah and the Ark. And we danced around with a stuffed Torah (we like our religious items to be fuzzy and huggable) for Simchat Torah. We even managed to celebrate my son's tenth birthday amidst all the holiday madness. It's enough!

And that is why, come Friday afternoon, the home stretch in a never-ending slough of festivies, I had a total come apart. I just needed to have a Friday night that wasn't a shabbat. I needed my old life where I could have a nice dinner with my family and then go to the movies with a friend. I needed to be American for one evening. And it wasn't possible. Because there's no one here to be American with. Everyone's home with their families, whether or not they are observant and that's just how it is. And most days I like it just fine. I like how the Sabbath provides a wonderful rhythm to the week and then forces you to slow down for a day. But after moving and the summer and the war and holiday after holiday after holiday, I just wanted it all to go away.

In the end I got my wish. Mr. Rosen took the kids out all day on Saturday for a long walk and picnic with friends while I got my studio in order (which paid off because I've started painting again and it's fabulous!) and then went out to Jerusalem with a friend to see a movie and eat a hamburger. Just us. No kids. And it was a total reboot.

We live here with such intensity, day in and day out, that I frankly don't even notice anymore on most days. But then it catches up with me and hoo-boy it starts to look a lot like a nervous breakdown. And then it is a nervous breakdown. But all that is in the past. The sukkah is down and my spirits are back up. The future is holiday free for at least two months. And together we say, Amen.

The Big One-Oh by Susie Lubell

Hey kiddo,

Ten. Years.

Today you are ten years old. Today I am ten years older than I was when you were born. 

We have been doing this thing, me and you, for a DECADE. Non stop. It's the longest job I've ever held. And the worst paid. Still, it has its benefits. Like sometimes you still let me hug you. Thanks. And you always sign out of your Google account and close your tabs on my computer. Thoughtful. The truth is you are still very much my little boy just as you are also really growing into your own person. Still as captivated by cell phones as you were when you were a toddler, but coming to terms with the fact that you may end up the last person in your class to actually own one. That's the breaks. Your parents are cheap and old fashioned. And we think kids should communicate by speaking. Or writing. With a quill. You'll thank us later. Or not. We don't care.

Your curiosity about the world continues to amaze and delight. And by the world I mean the World Wide Web. To such an extent that after months of talking about creating your own website and being a site administrator and owning your own server, you decided to make it happen by hacking into your school's website, making yourself the administrator, hacking into the school district's mainframe, creating a new preschool and appointing yourself administrator of that website too. Success! Then we got a call from your teacher who in fact loves you but was concerned that you were turning into the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. She kept calling you a donkey on the phone which I found to be very insulting until I realized she was saying the word for serious, not donkey. Hebrew. And it was indeed serious. We even had to meet with the principal. But Aba and I knew that your intent was not malicious. You just wanted to be in charge of the Matrix. I get it. For months you had been pestering us about creating an "eshkol", which to me sounded a lot like a grapefruit, which in fact means a cluster of interrelated websites and that's exactly what you did. So we were secretly proud of your gumption. And since you were so mortified once you understood the gravity, or as I like to say, the donkeyness, of your actions and nearly gave yourself an ulcer and took away your own screen time for a month, that seemed like enough punishment.

But this year your obsession with computers has also yielded a new and highly entertaining hobby. Card tricks. Since the beginning of the summer you have learned dozens of card tricks, like upwards of a hundred (!) and now thanks to the 24 inch Magic Mat (think giant black mouse pad) brought by Grandma on her recent visit from America, you slide and flip cards like a pro. And most of the tricks are downright fantastic. No one can figure them out. I know you're just following the videos you see on You Tube but Aba and I like to think its helping you to build stellar math skills not to mention outstanding fine motor skills. We're also hoping you start doing shows for little kids' birthday parties so you can start earning your keep. From there it's The Ellen Show and then Vegas. The future is bright.

There may also be a glimmer of hope for your relationship with your sister. The bickering continues but I have witnessed several instances that might resemble something related to or associated with camaraderie. You should consider that even though she's younger than you and probably will always be smaller than you, if she keeps up with her judo, she will one day throw you down. And then you'll have no one to saw in half for your Vegas act. And your brother, whose main interests include sitting on your head and playing 52 pick up, is indeed your biggest fan even though you spend much of your time trying to get him off you. It's true that little sisters and brothers can be pests, but it's mainly because they idolize you. And occasionally because you're being a punk.

My birthday wish is for you to take pride in and enjoy whatever you do this year whether its playing piano, riding your bike, participating in Scouts, learning card tricks, writing for the school newspaper, putting your clothes in the hamper. All of it! Be kind to yourself and the people you love. And know that no matter what, no matter how many government websites you take down, you are loved and adored by your family and friends. And by all the kids in the preschool that you invented.

Mieces to pieces,

Mommy

The Last Four Months by Susie Lubell

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Hi. It's me. Susie.

The last four months have been difficult. For many reasons. And whereas difficulty and stress once made me want to express and communicate and share and storytell, now it makes me quiet. That may be a sign of maturity. Or depression. There have been good times. Proper laughing big smile silly dancing chocolate good times. But mostly stress and concern and overwhelm. And I am sick of it.

We moved. We bought a house last December and it was finished in June and we moved into it. So with the exception of five glorious child-free days in Berlin with Mr. Rosen, we spent all of May packing. Ourselves. We didn't hire anyone and that was a mistake and if we ever move again which I never will so help me lord almighty (that's not true. We will probably move a few more times because I love to suffer) I will hire someone. A bunch of people. I will hire a staff of specialists to help me do it. I will hire a box guy and bubble wrap guy and a guy to move heavy things and a guy to move light things and a guy to supervise all of my guys. I will do the opposite of what we did which was haul all of our boxes in our Mazda 5 and all of our furniture tied to the top of it. Only a mile away but still. Schlepping your refrigerator and your sofa and your armoir on the top of a car is dumb. Almost as dumb as climbing on top of your car when you are eight months pregnant to adjust the mountain bike that fell over when you pulled into a parking spot at Anthropologie under a low hanging tree.

But we did it. We moved the whole place ourselves. From a place with a garage to a place without a garage which means finding space indoors for all the crap that really has no business being indoors. Like bike tires. And a table saw. Whatever. But we barely had a week to unpack before...

The war.

And then there was a war. And every single person lost their shit. People stopped making any sense at all and I went on defense. People called the war a genocide and I felt compelled to point out that the population of Gaza has been growing steadily in the double digits for decades. People said that the Palestinian people never really existed anyway but I thought they should know that these were actually the people living here before the Jews moved back in the early 1900s. People said the war wasn't fair because we had a defense system that worked really well and we should have also built one for Gaza. Um, that was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard until I heard people say Palestinian moms want their children to die for the cause. And then I was done. People spewed their hatred and misconceptions and lies on social media platforms the world over like they'd been waiting for years for just the right reason. And this was it.

But we eeked out a decent, even pretty good, summer. My kids slept in our our secure room all of July and August. We didn't go to the beach because they were bombing the beach. We didn't spend time at their grandparents house because they were bombing the city where they live. We listened for sirens and even now, a month later, my three year hears the phantom wailing and asks if we need to lie down. We still managed to have fun and having to stay close to home made us do less and that was just fine. And sleeping all together was like one long slumber party. Friends who were supposed to come cancelled. Unexpected visitors did come! We even took a family vacation to Slovenia which was magical and wonderful and we prayed the cease fire that began when we left would stick for our return. It didn't.

And all this time I kept quiet. The few times I posted something that made any kind of sense to me, someone else, mainly folks I didn't even know, felt compelled to set me straight. So I shut down. Because none of it mattered. There were no more facts. Only stories.

And then it was over. Just like that. People were protesting all around the world against Israelis and Jews and Hamas and the war and the media and then it was over and every one went about their business even as ISIS mass killings and starvation tactics and beheadings were just revving up. I guess every one was sick of protesting by then (she said while trying to retrieve her eyeballs from the back of her head). We all breathed. The kids went back to school. And it was as though nothing happened. Except something big had happened and I'm still experiencing a kind of loss. But there was no time to process or get back into any kind of routine because then Grandma came for two weeks and we ran around mad trying to find plants for the house and frame pictures for the house and buy hooks for the house and fix things that broke when we moved and still be home in time to get the kids from school and take them to the dentist and take them to judo and make dinner and piano and make lunch and scouts and buy groceries and do the laundry and do the laundry and do the laundry. And while it was fun and wonderful and its own kind of therapy, it was exhausting.

And now it's high holidays and I'm hosting and cooking and cleaning and getting together and making plans and it feels a little bit like choking. I need to SLOW DOWN. I need to stop rushing. I need to walk. And enjoy. And breathe in the autumn air. I need time to myself. I need to take inventory. I need to refill where I've been depleted. I need to paint. I need to garden. I need to take pictures again and share and express and communicate. Because it's been four months. And that's a long time to stay quiet.

Three by Susie Lubell

Dear Tiny Tush McFlat Foot,

I'm two months late in writing you for your birthday. Two months ago we were in the midst of moving to our new home and the insanity sort of hasn't let up. But don't worry. On the day of your birthday we were surrounded by friends and family who came to help us bless our new home and I was reminded of when you were born.  On that very day we sold our house in California which opened up the real possibility that we would move to Israel. The day you were born began a new era and so we called you Idan (era in Hebrew) after your great grandmother Edythe. And we gave you a second name, Hillel, after your great grandmother Helen. It was our great wish for you and for the world that your being here would somehow usher in the era of Hillel, the great and wise rabbi who is known for expressing the golden rule or what I call reciprocal kindness: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

I'm afraid, Babu, we haven't much figured that one out. You see, once we got the house set up and things were starting to settle down for us in our new place, the war started. We're fighting with Hamas. Again. And I haven't felt much like writing. It appears neither side has learned to treat the other as he would want to be treated. It seems so simple really but people feel a lot of hatred in their hearts for all the bad things that have happened to their families over the last hundred years. So we live on an endless loop of he did it / no, he did it and it's mine / no it's mine. Over and over again. It's like when you fight with your brother and sister, only like a zillion times worse. And with bombs. And scary tunnels.

But life continues despite it all. You still spend your days with Yulia, goddess of all caregivers. And you made a best friend this year. Her name is Omer and I hope you stay best friends for a super long time because I like her mom a lot and that's important. This year was a big year for you for so many reasons. You stopped wearing diapers! Kid, I can't thank you enough for that. You started sleeping in your big bed! Now you even have your own room! Although that was sort of short-lived since once the sirens started everyone moved into the secure room. We like to think of it as a summer slumber party.

You've become quite the conversationalist in the last few months, especially for someone who barely spoke until about a year ago. Your speech is often peppered with kaki and poo poo and pee peewhich doesn't much surprise me since my speech is peppered with crap and shit and pissed off. I especially like when you tell a story by saying the same sentence four times in four different intonations. Maybe you should pick up Mandarin, since you already speak Hebrew, English and Russian. (spasibo Yulia). You really are an expert at the art of narrative. And you've been able to express yourself and your concerns clearly during these tough times. Like after we were at the pool with all of our friends and two sirens went off. We ran over to the wall by the bathrooms and layed down flat like we're trained to do. I put my hand over your head and realized your own hands were covering your head. Then you and I talked about the weeeoooweeeooo for a while in various intonations. It's depressing that you're only three and already know how to duck and cover.

We have a cousin serving in Gaza now. He's your third cousin on your Grandpa Stanley's side. I met him when he was about your age when I first came to Israel. He has a twin who is thankfully already out of the army. I remember him as a beautiful, crazy, little boy just like you and now he's a soldier fighting an awful war. A war we could have avoided had the leaders on both sides made better choices over the decades. But now the war seems entirely unavoidable.

I wonder if we'll still be on the loop, fighting the same wars, in fifteen years when it's your turn to wear a uniform.  We're all fairly certain that your brother will be designing Iron Dome 2.0 and safely managing it's operation from behind a computer screen but I'm not sure about you. You were quite dovish in your twos, but now that you're three you've become fairly combatant. Only time will tell. For now I look at your beautiful, healthy little three year old body, so strong and agile and full of life and I thank God everyday that you inherited Grandpa Stanley's flat feet which hopefully disqualifies you from a range of combat positions. It's kind of sick but these are the things I think about.

I hope the big boys out there can end this war soon so no one else has to get hurt. Maybe they need to spend some time at Yulia's to learn about sharing and taking turns and compromise and not hitting or biting and saying nice things. We could probably all use a refresher.

all my love to you sunshine,
Mommy

Unconscious Coupling. It's also a thing. by Susie Lubell

Hi Gwyn,

It's been so long since I last wrote and now I see that we have kind of drifted from our shared destiny. We were so parallel for so long, what with both of us losing our dads to cancer and marrying foreigners and having our kids at the same time while maintaining our astonishingly successful careers. Well I have a pretty good reason for not being in touch since I decided to have another baby and then we moved to Israel. So it's been hectic.

But I see you've been busy too. Snapping your body back to its prepubescent state and starring in a few movies. And then all the singing and dancing around in Glee. I bet that's fun. I'm doing a lot of that too, but in my living room. Not on television. And no one's paying me. But it's still fun.

Listen, I was really sorry to hear about your divorce, er rather your Conscious Uncoupling or decoupling or unraveling or whatever you're calling it. I totally get it. Kids are older. You and Chris want different things. Mid-life crisis and all that. It's not easy. My husband and I have had our ups and downs too but we are sticking it out for now. We're calling this stage of our marriage Unconscious Coupling actually. You might have heard of it. I mean there aren't any studies written about it or anything but it's a very real phenomenon. It's when you're so exhausted because of all the kids and meals and grocery shopping and the cleaning and the working and making ends meet and schlepping and hosting and laundry that you fall asleep having sex. Am I right? Or when you are both so tired after you put the kids to bed, that you just sit on the couch and finger through Facebook updates together and let your eyes glaze over. Like. Like. Share. Like. Oh Like! Like! Like! Right there! Yes! Liiiiiike....It's not the most romantic, but it requires very little bandwidth. Uncoupling isn't really an option for us anyway since I'm a ketubah designer. Bad for business. Branding issue.You know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, famous people can really count anniversaries like dog years. By Hollywood standards you guys have been married for like 70 years so don't let it get you down. You done good.

And now that you're available, you should know I have a really adorable brother who is a non-famous surfer and lives in Mexico. Maybe you need to hunker down with a regular nobody like Julia Roberts did. I'll send you his email if you're interested. Then we can finally get our kids together for that long overdue double playdate...

All the best,

Susie

The magic had been inside her all along by Susie Lubell

The story goes like this: There was once a little girl who spent most of her time playing outside, climbing trees, inventing games, exploring her world and delighting in the endless reaches of her imagination. She knew she was magical.

And then the girl got a little older and started to compare herself to everyone else and the more she did that, the less she could access her own unique spark, until she all but forgot she was magical in the first place. And it took many years for her to realize that the magic had been inside her all along. That she had unique gifts to share with the world and stories to tell that were completely her own. She was only required to be her most authentic self and the magic would once again reveal itself in mysterious and wonderful ways.

This illustration which I created for my seven-year-old daughter had been in my mind for quite a while before I was able to finally get her down on paper. But the minute I did, another kind of magic unfolded. Suddenly women near and far, friends I had known as a child and not spoken with in twenty years, people I didn't even know, reached out to tell me how they'd been touched by this little girl in a tree. How the words spoke to them. How they had once felt like the girl and hoped to feel that way again. How the message was one they wanted to impart on their own daughters.

At first I was surprised but then it all made perfect sense. I had put aside my drawing insecurities (I have those) and without fear or hesitation, I shared my gift and the magic swirled. Here's to encouraging the little girls in our lives to be true and brave and embrace their magnificent gifts!

Of course, I couldn't create a piece for my daughter and not make something for the boys. I thought about all of the images out there directed at boys with a focus on power and bravery and physical strength. But boys are so much more than the Spiderman costumes they wear every day to preschool for a year. They are bounding energy and big plans. They are soulful, kinetic creatures with wild imaginations. And with that in mind I created Super Boy who is inventive, curious, enterprising and thoughtful and still able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Magic Girl andSuper Boy are available in print and poster sizes in my ETSY shop. Or buy both and receive a special "sibling" discount. Plus, through March 14th, you can use the code SUPERMAGIC at checkout to get an additional 25% off your entire purchase on ETSY

P.S. And did you know that repeat customers get 20% off every future purchase? The discount code can be found on the the thank you card packaged with your prints. If you have lost the card or never noticed the discount, please email me or message me on  Facebook and I will send you a reminder.

Lucky Seven by Susie Lubell

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Dearest Sugar Bee,

It was your birthday yesterday and I fell in love with you again. We were out in the desert with friends and you were your beautiful, lively self. Enjoying your family and friends and the sunshine and the wacky antelope ranch where we stayed. You said you wanted to stay there for a whole week. We spent a lot of time holding hands and swinging in a hammock and talking about life. I gave you your number seven charm to wear around your neck this year. The charm that I wore when I was seven and Grandma wore and Aunt Lenore too. The charm that Grammy brought into our lives. Lucky seven. And how lucky we are.

Flashback a week and we are fighting about homework. Again. You are giving me that look. Slack jawed, tongue forward, rolled eyes, wobbling your head like you work in the Main Bazaar.

How do you even know how to do that? There are like three Indians who live in Israel.

And I want to kill you. I feel my chest tighten and I want to shriek that I can't stand you. That I don't understand why you treat me the way you do.

Why only me?

I try to diffuse your frustration and anger. I'm pretty good at that. I've had a lot of practice. Plus I know reading is hard but you've come so far! You can't hear me because you are too far gone. I excuse myself from homework and give myself a time out in my bedroom and hold my head in my hands until the anger dissipates. When you calm down you knock on my door and we hug. You give me the picture you drew of us together. I smile and thank you and add it to the pile. We continue to work, you finish your homework and peace is restored to our home.

And so it goes Sugar Bee. Two steps forward, one step back. Which of course mostly refers to my own progress in navigating our relationship. You are forging ahead as best you can and you are magnificent. You are strong and loving and confident and curious and wild and silly and expressive. You are finding your stride and it is beautiful to watch.

But we clash, as do mothers and daughters. And it reminds me of clashes I used to have with Grandma. And that's hard too. A friend of mine with a four year old asked me what was the deal with her "teenager" and I gave her a knowing smile. I told her it eases up with time. And it does. I can see that. Our clashes are fewer and further between. We no longer fight about the "bumps" in your high ponytail. Getting dressed in the morning is a non-issue (school uniforms help). We do that funny thing now when we feel a fight starting we put up our fists and make our meanest faces. And then we laugh. But sometimes the fury comes on so fast that we miss our window and it gets ugly.

It's all okay though, you know why Sugar Bee? Because you are still just seven. You are not a teenager. You just play at it sometimes and play is good.

You are still just seven,

I remind myself. It's been a year of big changes, like every year, but you still play with dolls and you still like unicorns and rainbows and Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Loom and drawing and dancing in front of the mirror and snuggling and pretty hairbands and climbing trees and hiking and Ivy and Bean and Hello Kitty and Legos and riding bikes and baking. And you love Judo.

What would we do without Judo?

You have great friends who still like to play house and build forts and hold hands with you at school. You have one brother who thinks even your farts are magical and another brother, who, despite his constant teasing and antagonism, admits he can't live without you. And you have two parents who often find themselves staring at you and wondering how such an astonishing creature came from them. In fact you are surrounded by love and admiration going back generations and you know it. You feel it. So something is going right.

And as we swing in the hammock together and watch the clouds move through the blue sky on your seventh birthday at the Antelope Ranch, my chest tightens with love this time and I know it is all passing so quickly.  And you know that I love you.

Mommy

Art Garfunkel is Not Dead by Susie Lubell

The view from our town after the biggest storm since Noah and the Ark

On the day before the storm I actually didn't even believe the weather report. I mean how could the weather drop thirty degrees in three days.  It would take an act of God to make it snow tomorrow, I think. But that's exactly how it played out. In EPIC. BIBLICAL. PROPORTION. As usual.

On the first day of the storm which was Thursday morning, we wake up to a foot of snow on the ground. I think, ok, it'll be like last year when it snowed for a day and melted by the next day. We get notice that school is canceled and Mr. Rosen gets the call that roads to Jerusalem are closed so we hunker down for a snow day, a novelty in this part of the world.

I take out all the old ski clothes but the kids don't want to put on that crazy stuff. They head outside in their sneakers and jeans until they are freezing. Then they put on the snow clothes. The baby is excited to see the snow from behind the sliding glass doors within the comforts of our warm and dry living room. We bundle him up and take him outside for a few pictures and he makes it known that he hates us and snow.

My mom is visiting and is less delighted by the snow. She puts on three more layers and goes outside to frolic with her grandkids. They build a mini-snowman on the roof of the car. I make chicken soup. The kids watch a movie. We read books. The snow is pretty and still coming down. Snow is fun.

On the second day of the storm we lose power around 2 AM. My mom wakes me up at 4 AM because she is freezing. I go downstairs to see if any circuits have popped. It looks like the neighborhood is out. I crawl back into bed and pray to the Electric Company.

By 7 AM everyone is up and freezing. We put on more layers. I make oatmeal. We get on our phones to see if anyone on Facebook knows what's going on. No one else in town has power either. No school again. Another foot of snow has fallen. I start making onion soup. It's looking like another long day. The kids can't figure out what to do with themselves. My son can't work on his lego project because he can't feel his fingers. The baby is barefoot.

Why is the baby barefoot?

Everyone wants to play cards with Grandma. Grandma wants to go home. The kids take food coloring outside and make snow cones. I do dishes. Grandma reads her book as the steam rises from her nose.

By 4 PM the electricity is back on in our house. Mr. Rosen's parents have arrived from down south to see the snow as has his sister and her family. We make tea and enjoy the heat. We think the worst is over. Maybe we'll go to the museum on Saturday, we think. By 5:30 PM it is snowing again. Everyone drives home for fear of being stuck here. We prepare Shabbat dinner. Shnitzel, butternut squash soup and beet salad. We hear a knock at the door and it's our house cleaner who lives in an apartment down the street. He asks to borrow a heater because he doesn't have one. We give him a heater and invite him to stay for dinner. The lights flicker a little and we worry about the power. We light Shabbat candles and a few extra just in case. After dinner I run the dishwasher, do a load of laundry and charge all of the laptops and phones. I have a bad feeling. Everyone goes to bed early. The three kids sleep on the floor in our room since we gave their heater to the housekeeper.

On the third day of the storm, the baby wakes up at 6:30 AM and wants Cheerios. We go downstairs and I see the power is out again. I make oatmeal and boil water for tea. I put on my down jacket and ski hat. The tea warms my hands. The kids watch a movie. The baby stares out the window and talks about the snow. The snow is on the car. The snow is in the tree. Aba is in the snow. The doggie is in the snow. I make more chicken soup. Facebook friends report that Israelis are hosing down their driveways to get rid of the snow. I wonder how Israelis manage to win all kinds of Nobel prizes andnot know that when water freezes it makes ice.

By 3 PM the kids are annoying each other. The kids are annoying everyone. The baby is sleeping under six blankets. I try to summon up my inner home schooling super mom to think of crafts to do with the kids. I can't feel my fingers and decide that crafts are stupid. We are checking our phones for weather and Facebook updates. The snowfall has abated. Phone reception is spotty. Grandma announces that Art Garfunkle died.

What?

She remembers meeting him at her senior prom. He was her best friend's funny looking date. 

So sad to lose him.

I ask where she heard he'd died and she says she saw a picture of him on an Israeli website but it was in Hebrew so she couldn't read what it said. My phone has no internet connection so we are left to mourn Art Garfunkel for another hour. We sing Feeling Groovy and Sounds of Silence. Grandma finds Mr. Rosen's harmonica and plays Oh Susanna for the kids. Internet is restored and I google Art Garfunkel and it turns out he'll be recording a new album. We are relieved. There is still no heat. Grandma is starting to lose it. I make carrot soup. Snow sucks.

On the day after the storm, electricity is restored. We are elated. School is canceled.  We are destroyed. No one can get to school because the roads are too icy. Can we not salt the roads here people? Is there no spare salt in this country? Did Lot's wife not turn into a PILLAR of salt? Isn't Jerusalem like less than an hour from the Dead Sea, or as I like to call it: THE SALTIEST PLACE ON EARTH?  For the love of ginger, three feet of snow has fallen and the country has completely shut down. Grandma goes to read like her fifth book in four days. We are happy to have heat and hot water. Everyone showers for the first time in five days. I make tomato soup. I have now made every fucking soup I know how to make. I make grilled cheese sandwiches. I go for a walk down the street and see a car has plowed through our neighbor's gate and nearly into his house. Serves him right for hosing down his street. I come home to find an enormous snowman near our walkway. He is wearing my scarf and has on a cowboy hat. He is outstanding. Leftover soups for dinner. We read stories and go to sleep all five of us in the same room again. I admit, it's cozy.

On the second day after the storm, we wake up and school has been canceled again. Some of us moms decide to burn down the school. Instead we drop off the baby and head toward Tel Aviv. Chunks of snow fly off our car as we descend from Switzerland. By the time we park in Jaffa, the last chunk slides down our windshield. We have coffee and snacks in a cafe and walk around the flea market for an hour or so. By 3:30 it's time to head home.

On the third day after the storm, school starts at 9:30. Mr. Rosen goes to work. Grandma and I meet a friend in Jerusalem. The sky is blue. The drivers are cautious. Art Garfunkel is not dead. Life is good.

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An Immigrant Mom Learns Israeli Persistence by Susie Lubell

Nerd Street

Being an immigrant mother means a lot of things. It means struggling to instill your native language in your kids while they slowly start to speak to their siblings in their new language. It means your kids become hyper conscientious about the school supplies they need and their homework assignments because they know mom struggles to read the daily emails. And it means you can’t be the parent who was once on top of everything, which usually doesn’t matter much (I have missed a few bake sales) but sometimes it matters a lot.

The rest of this post can be found on The Times of Israel.

Something Between Trophies for Everyone and You Suck by Susie Lubell

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My daughter started elementary school this year which in Israel is the first grade. My husband and I attended a “Back to School” meeting where the principal addressed the parents of the three first grade classes and spoke about the school’s mission and policies. It wasn’t especially inspirational and she didn’t have a microphone so I only heard about 30% of what she said and, of what I heard, I only understood about half so that left me feeling very bored and annoyed. My husband promised I wasn’t missing much. One thing I did hear sounded something like, “if a student is good at something we encourage him to further pursue that direction. But if he is not very good, then we say, this activity is not for you, and we encourage him to do something else.”

The rest of this post can be found on The Times of Israel.

Revolution Number Nine by Susie Lubell


Hey Kiddo,

How did you get to be NINE? That's bigger than any other kid I've ever had actually. I look at you now and there are no remnants of the chubby tomato faced baby who came into the world nine years ago today. You are tall and frog legged and I marvel at your metamorphosis. I like this age actually. I know you don't want me to hug and kiss on you all the time, or at least during the day, but at night you still need your mommy to tuck you in and sing you songs and smooth your hair and kiss you goodnight. So even though I would sooner never sing another one of those effing songs I have sung every night for the last nine years, I keep singing them for you because soon you won't want them anymore and I'll be sad.

A lot has changed about you this year. Like you're willingness to wear something besides yoga pants. I know they're comfortable, but...a little variety right? Also very excited about your willingness to wear your cousin's hand-me-downs and your new interest in chess. And I love how you let your little brother tackle you and sit on your head. Very generous, especially now that he's potty training and often naked. Also delighted by the way you've taken charge of your social calendar by calling your friends yourself to set up your own playdates and then riding there on your bike! And, my favorite, your ability to wipe yourself without using an entire roll of toilet paper. You've become quite the conservationist.

But some things have not changed and may never.  Like your love of the Beatles. And how much fun you have with your cousins, even though you barely get to see them. Your mad biking skills. Your disdain for ball sports. All the silliness you share with your grandparents. Or how my sharpies and micron pens always end up in your desk drawer. How you continue to obsess over smart phones. How a quick jaunt to Office Depot followed by frozen yogurt at the mall is your best afternoon activity ever. How you love camping despite a tendency toward fanatic hygiene. And let's not forget your relentless teasing of your sister. That actually needs to stop. You're grounded. Just kidding.

Above all, you are still the bright, sensitive, stubborn, curious, persistent, focused kid you always were. I hope all of your birthday wishes come true, but no, you can't have an iPod Touch 5 or a Samsung Galaxy Pocket.

I love you.
Mommy


My Montefiordieth by Susie Lubell

Yesterday I turned 40. I had been telling Mr. Rosen for the months leading up to my birthday that all I really wanted for my 40th was to be chilly and wear a nice woolly sweater. Because by the time it's September I have had enough of summer and yet I know that there are still at least six weeks left of hot weather but my Polish skin just cannot take it for one more moment let alone six more weeks of moments, all of which leaves me feeling depressed and miserable. So we started thinking about getting out of the Middle East. My first choice was Norway. I would spend my 40th in the fjords. It would be my Fjordieth. Alas, those tickets were too expensive. We also looked into Berlin, Warsaw, Northern Italy. I would have flown to Greenland if I could have found a cheap ticket. But then with my birthday falling this year during the Days of Awe, that reflective week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur, and with the kids off of school and our bank account depleted from our very recent trip to America, we decided to rent a hotel/flat in Tel Aviv for a long weekend and turn up the air-conditioning really high so I could live out my birthday fantasy and, wait for it, sleep under the covers.

As it happens we found a lovely rental on Montifiore Street which is walking distance to just about everything. We arrived Friday evening and made our way to Jaffa Port where we had dinner at The Container. On a Friday night where we live you could hear a pin drop and even then it makes only a very dull thud. But at the port in Jaffa, it is a frenzy of diners and revelers. There were no tables at the restaurant so we sat at the bar which was a charming stack of shipping pallets. Port chic. I had salmon sashimi and smoked beets on arugula salad and Mr. Rosen had the lamb kabobs. DELISH. Then we took an evening stroll down the boardwalk and up through the twinkly lights of Jaffa's old city.

The next morning, despite our best efforts, we could only sleep in until 7:00. We walked to Rotschild Avenue and had a cup of coffee with the other early risers (moms and runners) before we slowly made our way toward Dizengoff and settled on a cute cafe called Streetz where we had an Israeli breakfast for two. Let's give it up for Israeli breakfast because it is damn good. Eggs any way you like them, chopped salad, fresh bread with all manner of cheesy spreads, jams, tuna, shredded halva...with coffee and fresh squeezed juice. It's the breakfast of champions. By the time we were finished it was getting hot so we decided to walk to the Cinemateque and get out of the mid afternoon sun. We saw an Italian documentary called Caesar Must Die about a group of felons (murderers, mafia kingpins, drug traffickers and the like) in a Rome prison who put on a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Powerful stuff.

After the movie we walked back to Montefiore and took a nap. Around 5 PM we drove to north Tel Aviv port and had an early dinner at the marketplace in one of the hangers. Steak sandwiches, crispy potato wedges and apricot soda. A foot volleyball tournement was happening on the boardwalk so we watched that for a while and then watched the sun set. At that point we decided to walk back to our car and head over to a nearby restaurant with live music only to find that our car had been towed. Though Mr. Rosen had taken such care to perfectly parallel park at the bus station cum parking lot by the port, we both failed to remember that after sundown, the parking lot returns to its former self as a functioning bus station. So we took the number 4 bus back to our hotel and decided to leave our car with the Tel Aviv municipality until we drove home the next day realizing that was the only way to guarantee "free parking" for the rest of our trip.

On the morning of the 8th we celebrated my Montefiordieth first with breakfast at the eclectic brunch favorite Puah in the Jaffa flea market and then spent a few hours doing one of my favorite activities in the world, delighting in treasures, old and new, in south Tel Aviv. We dreamed of one day buying a fixer upper apartment and living in this funky, gritty part of the city and filling it with flea market furnishings and having an art studio or a gallery or a cabinet making workshop under our beautifully renovated home. By 2 PM that dream melted as the afternoon sun drilled down upon us. So we refueled with fresh carrot, beet, apple, ginger juice and decided it was time to start heading home to the Jerusalem hills where cooler weather trumps south Tel Aviv charms. Mr. Rosen went to pick up the car at the tow lot and I checked out of our flat and right before we got on the highway we stopped at my favorite hole in the wall for stuffed pizza.  My cousin introduced me to HaTanor (the Oven) in Ramat Gan fifteen years ago and there is nothing like it. Imagine a puffy pizza crust stuffed with cheese and sauce, boiled egg and zaatar (mideastern spice). And nothing beats the ambiance of this little nook near the Tel Aviv stock exchange where ultra-orthodox diamond dealers, suited stock brokers, scruffy software engineers, Russian mafia and scantily clad persons of questionable profession share the one thing they have in common. Their love of good pizza.

We got home in time to spend dinner and the rest of the evening with the kids and Mr. Rosen's parents who graciously babysat for three days so we could live it up in the big city. By 7 PM Mr. Rosen had to go to a school meeting and it was time to get the kids in the bath. Funny how quickly life returns to normal. As great as it was to stroll around the big city for a birthday weekend, soaping up my two year old is it's own kind of birthday gift.

Thanks to all for your birthday wishes.

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Tel Aviv Cinemateque
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Three for the road by Susie Lubell

At Disneyland!

We are nearing the halfway point of our big summer adventure and America does not disappoint. It is a potpourri of sparkly and dazzling and comfortable and weird. Do you know how wide the highways are here? They are unbelievably wide. As are the parking lots. Like you could actually drive in a parking lot without folding in your side view mirrors. And Americans are so friendly that it is startling to me. It also turns out that I have become a very aggressive driver in the year and a half that I have lived in Israel and so I have had to keep myself from honking at people and power merging. And I am often caught off guard when everyone at the four way stop is waving for the other three to go.

It took us a full week just to recover from the twenty-four hours of travel and the ten hour time difference. It didn't help that we flew Alitalia via Rome at 5 am which meant that the entire flight was daylight and more daylight followed by some daylight. There was not much sleeping and I had my three kids solo. Again. And our seats were all messed up. The four of us were assigned four different rows until I offered that maybe the baby should fly the effing plane because that was about as logical as sitting him by himself in 37F. But the thirteen hour flight from Rome to Los Angeles is a very expensive form of torture no matter how you slice it because seven hours into the ride you still have another six hours. I mean, that's just math people. And no matter how long you stare at the little moving plane icon on the flight tracker screen, it stays on eastern Canada for a very long time.

But the worst was only yet to come. A ten hour jet lag means that your kids wake up at 2:00 am three mornings in a row and you have to wait until 4:00 am to go to Starbucks. And by 9:00 am you are ready for a glass of wine. Days that start at 2:00 am are very long and lethargic days. So we did very little our first week here besides destroy Grandma's house and wake her up at all hours of the night with our musical beds and wee hour breakfasts. And we watched a lot of the Disney channel which I considered research for our upcoming trip to Disneyland. We also swam at the community pool where one family was having a big birthday and the grandma brought cake over for my kids (I guess she figured out that my baby screaming OOGA meant he wanted cake). We went to my favorite art festival by the beach for a short twirl. We went to a science museum. One day we even took the train to Olvera Street in LA and bought slime and worry dolls and Mexican paper flags and burritos. Did you know that slime can totally remove varnish from a wooden dining room table when left there by a two year old? After a week of functioning in the correct time zone we attempted Disneyland where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. We were there for twelve hours of rides and lines powered by coffee, peanut butter and jelly, baby carrots, cotton candy and joy. My almost nine year old spent much of the day asking me about the corporate partnership between Lucas Films and Disney (#AlexPKeaton) and pointing out how everything that looks real is just an image projected on a screen (this from a boy who still believes in Elijah the Prophet). The baby was out of his mind watching the parade and all of the characters dancing around and he went on most of the rides with us save for Space Mountain and the Matterhorn which I braved with only the big kids. I figured this was probably my thirtieth visit to the Magic Kingdom (you go a lot when you grow up in socal), but it was as spectacular as ever especially since we didn't lose my daughter this time.

And the last few days I have spent with my two oldest girlfriends, one of whom is getting married in a few weeks. The three of us went out dancing to a gay bar in downtown Santa Ana that we never knew existed and we marveled at all of the adorable, hard bodied, cutie pies. The next day her mom treated us to facials at Bloomingdales that she'd won in some auction and the lovely ladies at the Clarins counter did our make-up. And that's when I discovered navy eyeliner which may just change my life. And then today we went to her wedding shower which was a very traditional tea party complete with scones, finger sandwiches, tiny desserts and, yes, tea.

And that brings us to right now. In between the festivities and outings I have made stops at my regular haunts, namely Old Navy, Target, Loehmans, Trader Joes, Wholefoods and Michaels. There is still more shopping to be done. Being here makes me feel like I need more of everything because it's all so cheap. Even gas, which is insanely high priced right now and is still HALF what it is in Israel.  Today we are going to the beach and tomorrow we head up to Santa Cruz where we will meet up with Mr. Rosen who will happily deal with the baby at 6 am in the morning since he will have already been awake since 2 am.

More good times ahead.

You are Two by Susie Lubell

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Dearest Babu,

Today is your birthday mister and you are TWO. And boy are you two. You march around this house like you own the place.  Which you do. You own it. You own us. You are our benign dictator and we are but your humble servants. And we are happy to serve you because you are the constant source of our happiness. And the occasional source of our aggravation. For instance, just the other day day you stood next to me crying to be picked up for half an hour while I did the dishes so I had no choice but to pour water on your head. But once I wiped you up and stopped laughing at you we sat together on the stairs and had yoghurt and peace was restored in your kingdom.

It's been a pretty awesome year, wouldn't you agree? I mean, you learned to walk for starters. Not bad. Your nose ran for maybe nine out of the last twelve months so that's pretty amazing. You started a very charming morning routine with the help of you brother and sister who alternate taking you out of your crib so that you can walk into our room, hand me my glasses and my iPhone and then ask for cheerios. For someone who only in the last month started saying words, you are a pretty savvy communicator.

Your brother and sister continue to provide the bulk of your education since me and Aba are too exhausted. You've learned to be exceptionally affectionate from your sister and we now rely on your neck hugs and your birdie kisses. It's like crack for us. And you have followed in your brother's footsteps by continually shoving pirate coins into the CD slot of our car. I always value a good family tradition. Thankfully your terrible two-ness is mostly just amusing for us. Maybe because you are our third and we just don't care or maybe because we know you are the last to go through it so we're feeling nostalgic. Or maybe because it just doesn't matter if you smear humus in your hair every night because that might be the only product that works on your Jew fro. Whatever the reason, we sure do love your funny ways. Like how you pump your arm when you're in a hurry. Or how you giggle when I throw your stinky diapers out the window by your changing table and onto our front porch. How you then go downstairs and outside to retrieve the stinky diaper all the while repeating poo poo bye bye. How you can spend hours playing in your sandbox. How you run to greet your Saba and Savta. How you kiss the computer screen when you skype with Grandma. How you say EOW every time you see a cat. How you pinch your fingers together like you're snapping when you want to play music on my phone. And how you always play Matisyahu. Motek, you can DJ this party anytime.

Everyday I look at your smiling head and I am grateful that you happened. We could have certainly thrown in the towel after the first two. We had our boy and our girl. The turmoil of early parenthood was finally settling down. But I knew someone was missing. I knew there was a big-eyed, curly-headed, toothy-faced gremlin just waiting to join us. That someone was you, Chicken. So you go be two as long as you need to be. You're really great at it.

Happy Birthday Sunshine.
xox Mommy

PS. This song is for you and me.
Matisyahu | - Breath Easy

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Return by Susie Lubell

Return, acrylic on canvas

When we lived in the United States I'll admit that I mostly forgot when it was Memorial Day in Israel. My kids went to a Jewish preschool and most of our friends were Israeli but we rarely marked the occasion in any kind of significant way. My Israeli husband would listen to Israeli radio and wish he was home but that was true for much of the rest of the year also. The next day, Israeli Independence Day, we would get together with friends and barbeque if it happened to be the weekend. Otherwise it just kind of came and went. Like Shmini Atzeret or Lag B'Omer. Even last year, our first Memorial Day/Independence Day in Israel, I didn't feel the real power of the two holidays. We were up north for a long weekend and spent the days hiking and picnicking so we kind of missed everything.

But this year the holiday fell in the middle of the week so we stayed at home and after we put the kids to bed we sat and watched interviews on television of the families of fallen soldiers. I would have benefited from English subtitles but truthfully the stories could have been in Japanese and I would have understood. The first story was of a young man from a Druze village in the North who had been killed in Lebanon in 1993. My husband fought in Lebanon in 1993. His father spoke with a tight throat about his beautiful, smart, enthusiastic son and I looked at that young man and just sobbed. When they heard the terrible news, the boy's mother told her husband that he would return. They both knew it wasn't possible but how do you let go of your son? Two years later she was pregnant and the doctors told her she would have a baby girl. She insisted it was a boy. She was right. The young man is now eighteen. He is named for the brother he never knew.

I finally went to bed after three or four of these vignettes feeling completely hollowed. I spent the next day painting, listening to sad songs on the radio and wishing I could go home. My home. Where my kids don't have to serve in the army. Where Memorial Day kicks off the season to wear white pants and everything is on sale. Where the sacrifices you make as a Jew are limited to the Little League games you miss because of Yom Kipur.

And then without so much as a closing prayer or a siren warning, it is suddenly Independence Day and the country erupts in a frenzy of shaving cream, neon glow things, hava nagila and shish kabob.  And I sit in the audience at the community pageant watching the eleven year old girls dance to Israeli hip hop and Israeli folk music and I listen to performers sing classic Israeli children's songs and I watch the fireworks and soon my mood is lifted and I am filled with national pride. I have drunk the punch. The time for mourning has passed and I am ready to return to something a little less extreme.

Barack - Paper - Scissors by Susie Lubell

Jacaranda and Tel Aviv architecture
Jacaranda tree under old building, Tel Aviv

Yesterday I went on a little field mission in search of fine art printing paper. I have until now had people bring me my Canson paper from the US but I decided it was time to find a local supplier. An ETSY friend suggested I try a company in Tel Aviv where she gets her paper. I went on a Tuesday so I could also pop over to the Nahalat Binyamin craft fair and see what was new and then try to find my favorite little notions store in that area to buy some sewing supplies for my kiddos.

The gods of parking smiled upon me and I was able to find a spot not once, but TWICE in the same day. The paper store turned out to be Israel's version of Kinko's and no one understood what I was looking for. But I took some samples and continued on to the fair. There I chatted with some of the artists and met someone who until now had only known through ETSY. I recognized her jewelry immediately. Sigalit pairs red and aqua in a lot of her work and it makes me giddy. Then I walked down Sheinkin street which was once a very cool, fairly gritty hotspot with a lot of independent shops and cafes and plenty of tattooed, chain-smoking twenty-somethings to frequent them. They redid the street recently and many of the independent places have been replaced by chains. It's prettier now, but less interesting. I also strolled through the Carmel produce and random crap market. I got suckered into buying a vegetable chopper which appeared to work beautifully when the man in the shop used it and less well when I got home that night. Live and learn. By 4 o'clock I was ready to drive home and then heard on the radio that the main road connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem was grizzled because Barack Obama had just arrived (in fact I think it was just John Kerry who arrived. Obama arrived today). I took it to be a sign to stay out longer since Mr. Rosen was on afternoon pick up duty and my immediate parenting services were not needed. So I went searching for the sewing store and found it! And also ran into one of my table neighbors from the art fair in Jerusalem. What are the chances? Turns out she came to Tel Aviv for the day too so we chatted and she assured me it's been tough times at the fair for everyone and not to let it get me down. Another sign.

At the notions shop I picked up some felt, embroidery floss, colorful buttons, two pairs of fabric scissors and several needles with very large eyes (I also learned that the word for eye in Hebrew, as it pertains to a needle, is KOF, which means monkey). Do you have any needles with large monkeys? Now I just need two little boxes to complete their new sewing kits and we can start on some learn as we go Passover vacation stitching projects!

From there I walked down to Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv, which has seen a renaissance in recent years. Lots of boutiques and restaurants and lots of beautifully renovated buildings. And lots of money to live there. A girl can dream though. I walked and walked and bought a book at a cute little book shop, admired treasures from around the world, sat and had coffee and read my book. Soon it was 7 o'clock and I decided I would brave the highways. By then there was no traffic and I arrived home in time to kiss three sleepy kids goodnight. Mission accomplished.

psst. Obama. Call me if you need tips for parking in Tel Aviv.

Charming stairwell
Charming stairwell - if I know Tel Aviv, that bike will soon be stolen.

Candy pharmacy concept store
Candy pharmacy

Sigalit's earrings
Sigalit's earrings - her shop

Carmel Market
Spices at Shuk HaCarmel

Favorite notions shop
ribbon!

Bike cozy
bike cozy

Neve Tzedek neighborhood 
Neve Tzedek

Moroccan style store 
Art Moroc

Bookstore
Charming book shop

Shining some light by Susie Lubell

Let your light shine

Let your light shine.
Be a source of strength and courage.
Share your wisdom.
Radiate love.
-Wilferd Peterson

Listen, I try to let my light shine. But sometimes it feels like the awful light I'm getting from the fluorescent bulb I just installed in my studio. It's airplane lavatory light. I try to be brave and wave my awesome flag. I try to radiate love but sometimes people suck and I have no love for any of them. Like when my phone was stolen at the art fair I attend every Friday. Until that happened I was loving the fair. I was radiating a lot of love. Love for Jerusalem. Love for handmade treasures. Love for cool Israeli artists. Love for tourists. But then some guy grabbed my phone while it was sitting on my table and I was looking down at my sketchbook and suddenly I was radiating something that felt a lot more like hate. And anger. And disgust. I suddenly noticed the unsavory elements of the fair.  I noticed broken glass and spent syringes on the ground. I noticed all the dog shit on the sidewalk. Everyone looked like they were about to steal from me. And then I didn't sell anything the rest of the day or even two weeks later when I returned to the scene of the crime. My jeweler neighbor said it looked like the only thing I was radiating was my bad mojo. She told me to go for a walk.

So I took a walk and I tried to channel some love. I remembered something my friend Lori wrote a while ago when she was pulled over for speeding and instead of cursing the cop who pulled her over she tried to meditate on her love for him and all people. She remained positive and considered him a dear friend for saving her from a devastating auto collision. He deserved her love and gratitude. They ended up having a friendly conversation and he dropped the charge to the minimum which was a much smaller fine and no insurance points. Wow.  So I meditated on love. This did not cause the guy to return my phone. He reportedly came back to see what else I had left lying around while I was on my walk.

I tell you it is not easy for me to radiate love, the kind that seems so popular today. It feels contrived. A lot of people swear by it. There's a lot of gratitude speak out there - books, blogs, motivational speakers. People are absolutely radiating love and gratitude and I marvel at how easily it comes to them. Or maybe it's hard work for everyone at first. But maybe its effects can be felt even when they are not at first totally sincere. Like smiling. They say that smiling, just the physical act of contracting those muscles around your mouth and eyes upward, releases the same endorphins as when your face smiles on its own from something truly pleasing. You don't have to even want to smile to get the benefit of smiling which, in turn, can cause the real deal. Maybe it's the same for love and gratitude. With enough practice it eventually becomes real and grows and swirls back to you in unexpectedly wonderful ways.  


Only in Israel by Susie Lubell

Interpretive dance on top of biblical well.

A lot of things happen here in Israel that are so ridiculous that I just have to roll my eyes and keep my mouth shut. Otherwise I start to sound very holier than thou and we already have more than enough of that sentiment around here. The other day I went to pick up my kids from their playdate at a girl's house whose mom is incidentally the woman who runs their aftercare program. She's a lovely woman and the kids enjoy the two hours they spend with her after school every day. And they happen to be good friends with her daughter. So I came over at around 6:30 pm with the baby in tow. Two minutes after I arrive, this woman gives my one year old a krembo. Now for those of you who do not know what a krembo is, I bet you can guess from the name that it's not health food. In fact it's a sticky puff of synthetic cream wrapped in a thin layer of chocolate flavored wax sitting on a cookie base, the size of my fist. It need not be refrigerated. In fact I guess they started making these many years ago in the ice-cream factories since no one wanted ice-cream in the winter. So November 1st is National Krembo Day. Well, not officially. But that's when they return to stores. It's like when the Cadbury eggs finally come out in time for Easter. Kids go crazy. My deprived baby shoved that thing in his mouth and all over his face faster than I could politely decline on his behalf. Only in Israel.

But I'll tell you the same week this happened we headed down south to see the amazing red wild anemones in bloom. Carpets of red flowers in the desert! The southern regional arts council made it into a big event over four weekends and had stations set up for enthusiastic flower seekers like us. Music, performances, arts and crafts, food tastings, storytelling. After picnicking with friends behind one of these stations we walked over to find two young women with elaborate flowery head dresses, Chiquita Banana style, doing an interpretive dance above a biblical well in the middle of nowhere. They had rigged haunting music to play from seemingly inside the well and a crowd of thirty or forty people stood around in awe. It was magnificent.

Only in Israel.

 Well dancer Well dancers