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,

On Saying Yes by Susie Lubell

A week ago I was on a camping trip with a few families and I got a phone call from the director of my choir. I sing in a choir. I like to sing. I've always liked to sing. In college I sang in an a capella group which might have been the best thing about college. We rehearsed twice a week and performed around campus. It was good fun. But once I graduated, I stopped singing. Anyway, this year the director of the music school in our town (the guy who built it from nothing) announced that he was starting a new adult choir and even though I preferred to sing Annie Lennox and Led Zeppelin rather than Mendelsohn and Psalms, I decided to try it. Turns out it doesn't much matter what I'm singing. I like it all the same.

But back to the phone call. He called to ask if I wanted to sing a song in Yiddish at the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in our community. I let out an incredulous chuckle. Are you kidding me?You want me to sing in public? In Yiddish? Next week?  He said No, not kidding. Yes, Yiddish song. In front of people. Next week. Isn't there anyone else you can ask? I mean I barely speak Hebrew and you want me to sing in Yiddish? Gevalt! He said, I want you to do it. It's a beautiful song. It fits your voice. I told him I'd think about it. He said he'd send me the music and a recording of him singing the song. He sent both immediately after we hung up. He was serious. 

We returned from camping and I ran into him at the supermarket. Ugh. Are we doing the song? he asked. I still hadn't said yes. Sensing I was on the verge of saying no, he said, "listen, let's practice it a few times and then you decide." I didn't want to disappoint him but I also really didn't want to learn a new song in another language and sing it at a public ceremony four days from now.

You see I get nervous doing anything live in front of other people. Even just talking. This is why I like blogging. Because I can edit. If something doesn't come out right, I can go back. I can even unpublish. I can SHUT. IT. DOWN. Performing is not like that. Once you hit the wrong note or screw up the words, you're done. I mean, your life is not over, but it's still a bummer. An irreversible bummer. And I tend to hold onto bummers for a long time. I wasn't always like this though. I used to perform all the time in a children's theater company. I used to play piano in recitals and in front of judges. Even in college, performing with my group was a rush. I loved it. I sang solos in front of hundreds of people. I regularly made a total ass of myself on stage. It was awesome. But in the twenty years since the last time I was on a stage, a kind of performance anxiety had taken hold. We can even call it fear because that's what it really is. Fear of looking foolish. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of getting in over my head. And it's kind of pervasive. I felt it in graduate school. I felt in my various positions in my various careers. This fear that I'm just not qualified. 

Plus there's this thing about knowing when to say no. People are always talking about being skilled at saying no. Knowing when to forego opportunities because they are not worthy of your time or energy. Understanding your priorities. Not getting roped into someone else's circus. I'm all for that. And in my quest to slow down and stay focused on my family and my work and my own happiness, I've gotten pretty good at saying no. Maybe too good. Some days it's more or less the only thing I say all day. Just ask my kids.

But then I recalled what he said on the phone. I want you to sing it, he said. That's when I had my Moses on the Mountain moment. If the director of the music school asks you to sing a song, no matter what language or key or day of the year, you sing it. You go learn the music and sing the song. Because he knows you can and your job is to trust him. If you get the call (and in this case it literally was a call) you answer it. Had he asked my son or daughter to play piano at the ceremony, I would have encouraged them to do it because the only reason not to is the fear and that's not a good enough reason. And all this without mentioning what an honor it would be to sing this particular song in rememberance of those who had perished in the camps and fighting in the resistance. And those who lived to share their horrors.

So I said YES. And I practiced and we worked on it together and I practiced more. I practiced a lot. I even recorded myself singing and we all know how painful it is to listen to a recording of yourself. But I said YES. I let go of my fear. I got up on stage in front of 500 people and I sang my heart out. I said YES.

The Salt Water by Susie Lubell

I'm peeling the shallots and crying. I'm crying because I'm not with my whole family on Passover. But reminders of them are here with me. I'm setting the table for sixteen with a mix of plates (does anyone have setting for sixteen?). Half are the blue Calico china that my mom bought when I was three. Half are from the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem which I bought when I decided I was old enough to have my own plates. I'm setting out the silver candle sticks for Shabbat that belonged to my grandmother. 

I'm crying because I'm remembering all of the Passover seders over the last forty years. I remember seders with the Sitzman family. I remember wearing my green velour jumpsuit, the one I wore every day for two years. I remember looking for the Afikomen in their twenty acre backyard. It might have only been half an acre. It might have just been a large patio. It seemed to me like a giant space to find a tiny cracker.

I'm crying because I'm no longer at the kids table. I remember seders at my parents' house, the house smelling of tsimmes and chopped liver and matsoh ball soup. I was always the youngest. I remember singing the four questions and reading about the son who was too young to ask. My brother always read about the wicked son. I remember thinking that was awesome. I remember drawing the hagaddah covers and my mom having them laminated and then using them for the next twenty years. I remember seders as a teenager when my Uncle Herb had to read about the bitter herbs. I remember hiding the afikomen and making the adults looks for it. 

I'm crying because I am so grateful for the family I married into. I remember the huge, wild seders at the Rosen house in Beer Sheva when my brother-in-law used to invite half his medical school class. It was one long kids table. I remember attempting to make matsoh egg rolls and vowing to never do that again. I no longer had to read the four questions because Mr. Rosen had a little sister!

I'm crying remembering a time when I felt more free. Before marriage, before mortgage, before kids. I remember trekking along the Anapurna trail in Nepal and realizing it was seder night. We ran into some other Israelis and asked if they wanted to have seder with us and they told us the seder was the night before. Oops. So Mr. Rosen and I improvised. We rolled a joint for our bitter herb, ate some dried fruit and nuts and called it charoset and then lay in bed freezing at 14,000 feet singing Who Knows One until we passed out. 

I'm crying because this year none of the kids at the kids table need my help eating. We've spent the last ten seders making memories for little kids. I remember the first year that Eliyahu came to our seder. I convinced Uncle Aaron to dress in a sheet, a rasta hat and sunglasses and swirl in at just the right moment sending small children into terrified hysterics. I remember when the older cousins couldn't find the afikomen until we noticed my one year old daughter sitting on the floor next to the hiding spot eating it. 

I'm crying because of the damn shallots. I'm preparing the chicken, roasting the vegetables, putting the hametz in the back room, unfolding the tablecloths that belonged to my husband's grandmother who passed away a year ago. I'm handling her silver too, amazed by how it feels different than our regular "silver"ware. I'm dusting off the Delftware seder plate that my cousins bought us at the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam for our wedding. I'm hauling down the extra chairs. I'm cutting flowers for the table. I'm covering the matsoh. I'm finding the hagadot. I'm preparing the bowls of salt water for the table so we can dip the parsley like we've always done. The salt water seems especially symbolic. I'm crying and I'm letting in the holiday and the memories and the flavors and the traditions and the love.

Hooked by Susie Lubell

On Sunday I took my daughter and sister-in-law, for their birthdays, to a crochet workshop in Jerusalem! Just the three of us and our fantastic teacher Shira who is a textile artist and has a studio space in the charming Designers in the City compound in the back of Nocturno Cafe at Bezalel 7 in Jerusalem (for you locals).

I had been trying to work out what to do for her on her actual birthday and since it's been rainy, anything outdoors was out. I thought about a movie or ice-skating but neither of those were realistic. So I did a search for mother daughter activity in Jerusalem (sometimes you just have to ask google directly) and that lead me to the Fun in Jerusalem website where I saw a listing for acrochet workshop! For ages 8 and older!  A two hour workshop to learn how to finger crochet a rug or basket using recycled tricot (tshirt) materials. I had been wanting to learn to crochet for ages. In fact we come from a long line of crochet goddesses, namely my Grammy, who at 91 years old crocheted the kippot for my wedding. 

So I contacted Shira who was very responsive and we set a time for late Sunday afternoon. It turned out that my sister-in-law was also free and since she and my daughter share a birthday week and they have a very close relationship, I thought it would be really special to include her. And it was awesome! Shira was amazing and worked beautifully with my daughter. The time flew and we actually learned how to crochet! And Aviv picked it up really quickly which made her feel like a million bucks, especially since by the time she'd basically made herself a hat, what I was doing looked like cat's cradle.  

And now we are hooked! Pun intended. Yesterday I went back to Jerusalem and bought four skeins of cotton yarn and we're setting out to make Aviv a circular rug for her room. Turns out you need to use a needle for this kind of skinny material, but crocheting with a needle is even easier than using your finger! 

Anyway, Shira was fantastic and is available to host birthday parties at her studio or at our home. And she's an incredible textile artist. Check out her ETSY shop and Facebook page

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,

Allowing for Failure in the Creative Process by Susie Lubell

Imagine how different our professional lives would be if we allowed more time for ourselves to play. Tinker. Mess around. Daydream. And not just "creative" professions. Isn't it Google that allows their employees to spend 20% of their time developing pet projects. They've done pretty well for themselves, I'd say. I think probably the best ideas come out that way. They certainly don't come out from telling ourselves to come up with them.

A few days ago I got to hear an incredible speaker in our tiny community library. World renowned collage artist and illustrator Hanoch Piven came to speak on the topic of communication, creativity and play.  Maybe you don't know his name but you've seen his collages on the covers of Rolling Stone, Esquire and Time Magazine. He's kind of a big deal. And yet his genius sort of evolved from a place of failure. A little background:

Hanoch Piven always liked to draw as a kid. He loved cartoons and caricatures but instead of pursuing this passion he found himself studying software design and math after his army service.  Safer choices. But dissatisfied with this path he applied to Israel's premiere art school, Bezalel, and was not accepted. So he applied to other schools and ended up studying illustration at the New York School of Visual Arts. At some point he began to feel that his drawing skills just were not at the same level as his classmates and he hit a wall. He tells the story of how he came across an old poster advertisement for Charlie Chaplin's film The Great Dictator and the image was simply the contour of the face, a black block for a mustache and a wisp of black bang on top. But it was so obvious that not only was it Hitler, it was Charlie Chaplin playing Hitler. He was astounded by how such little visual information could convey so much. Soon after he was trying to draw a caricature of Saddam Hussein (this was around the time of the Gulf War) and nothing was working. He saw a box of matches near his drawing table (his girlfriend at the time was a smoker) and by simply placing the matches as Hussein's exaggerated mustache, not much else was needed to convey the persona. 

And so began a 25 year career of creating collages, mainly celebrity portraits, out of everyday items, food and garbage. Every portrait he showed was immediately obvious. He also talked about how the process of creation for him is more about playing than anything else. His studio has boxes and boxes of items and he simply plays with pieces again and again, switching and reconfiguring, until something works. And up until it finally works, it's a lot of stuff that doesn't work. He says, "there is a lot of inspiration in the process itself. To start the process with failure. To allow yourself to fail. But once you are there, the failures lead to success". 

I love the idea that he creates by playing. He accesses that curiosity that we all have as children but often lose as adults. It reminded me of that quote by Picasso "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." He even showed a picture of Picasso, one of my favorites, one that I have hanging in my own studio, sitting at a table with rolls at the edge where his fingers would be. Silly Picasso. 

This is exactly where I'm at. I'm letting myself play. I'm painting layer over layer until I like what I see. When something isn't working, I let it dry and let it go. I glue some paper on top, make some new marks and move forward. I look at the those marks and see what emerges. A woman, a monkey, a giraffe. Whatever it is, I let it in. Hearing Hanoch speak about his own similar process was like getting a little nod and pat on the back. You got this girl. Keep at it.

And I should also mention that for someone so accomplished, he comes across as a lovely man. A mensch really. He holds creativity workshops all over the world for children and adults and lectures on the topics of creativity, communication, innovation and education. Here are a few snippets to enjoy. The Ted Talk especially contains much of the material he shared with us in the library.

And the Sea Parted by Susie Lubell

Sometimes connections and messages present themselves and I happen to have my eyes open and then I get to witness something extraordinary.

Last week was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and my Facebook feed was full of Never Again sentiment with all of the horrifying imagery that, together with chicken soup, Sabbath candles, Fiddler on the Roof and standing under the chuppah, forms the core of my Jewish soul. I clicked on a few links and managed to see images I had never seen before which I didn't think possible. One link in particular focused on the children of the holocaust and I stared at the tiny, terrified, malnourished faces and I thought of my own children and the world we live in today. This year the anniversary of liberation coincided with the Torah portion Beshalach, the splitting of the Red Sea. And just as the Israelites were released from bondage and crossed over to redemption, so did the survivors of Auschwitz. Except even now, after so much time has passed, nothing much has changed. Humans around the world are still enslaved and broken. European Jews live in fear again. Humanity hasn't learned. Let's just say I was not in a good place. 

The next day, on Thursday, I went to a bat mitzvah in Jerusalem. In fact I just went to drop off a print that the mother of bat mitzvah girl had bought from me as a gift for her daughter. This was a client of mine from Sweden who had flown to Israel with her family to celebrate the occasion as they had done for their three older sons. She invited me to join them for the ceremony but I had a doctor's appointment and anyway wasn't sure I would want to spend my morning at a bat mitzvah service for a family I didn't even know. 

That morning I looked up the address and discovered the ceremony was at Congregation Har El in Jerusalem, the founding congregation of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. And it turns out the rabbi there was the first rabbi of our Reform congregation in the little town where we live. I had a feeling I'd be canceling my doctor's appointment.

When I entered the modest sanctuary my client Anneka walked over and welcomed me with a big hug. I gave the print to her daughter Hannah and when she saw Magic Girl with her name inscribed in Hebrew she actually squealed and bounced on her tiptoes. I spoke with Anneka and her husband for a few minutes while we waited for the other guests to arrive. In fact they were German but had moved to Sweden many years ago because of a real estate opportunity. They lived an active, progressive Jewish life in Sweden but were thrilled to be able to celebrate the bnei mitzvah of her children in Jerusalem. Their daughter had learned her Torah portion by studying via Skype with Congregation Har El's cantor.

Once all of the guests arrived (we were only about 25) Rabbi Ada welcomed everyone in English and invited Hannah to the bima to read the poem "I am a Jew", written in 1927 by Jewish French writer, poet, translator and playwright Edmond Fleg. Je suis Juif. But Hannah read it in her native German. And to hear this beautiful twelve year old girl, with the clearest blue eyes I have ever seen, read and affirm again and again, in German, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, felt like redemption itself.

Together we chanted the prayers of the morning service, the same ones I read when I became bat mitzvah almost thirty years ago. And when it was time for Hannah to read her portion from the Torah, which was passed to her from her father to her mother to her older sister and three brothers, the rabbi mentioned that the breast plate decorating and protecting this holy book was donated by Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father and sole surviving family member, when he visited the synagogue in the 1960s. On it, in large Hebrew letters, is engraved In Memory of Anna. Both names, Hannah and Anna, are derived from the Hebrew word for grace. And indeed Hannah was the essence of grace as she chanted her Torah portion, before family and friends, seventy years after the ovens at Auschwitz and only a few weeks after the horrific violence in a changing Europe. Her voice was brave, almost defiant, as she affirmed her sacred place in the history of the Jewish people. And with belief and hope restored, she walked us through the parted waters to the other side.

He said AJIME and I turned into Hyper Sports Mom by Susie Lubell

I never thought it would happen to me. I would read those articles on Huffington Post and everywhere else about problems associated with kids specializing early in one sport or another. And parents contracting Psychotic Bleacher Syndrome whereby they focus all of their own childhood sports failures and triumphs into radicalized sideline encouragement. And I was smug. I thought, that will never be me. First of all, I don't care about winning or losing. I care that my kids are active and coachable. Second, my kids don't really play sports. Problem solved.  We tried peewee soccer. We tried gymnastics. We tried dance. None of it really took. My oldest is into riding his bike and that's good enough for me. And my daughter has made it clear that she is not interested in any sport where she has to do anything in front of anyone. She's just not one of those kids who like to be in the spotlight or warrant any undue attention. Unless we're at home and then she wants a lot of attention. Mostly mine. And her brother's. Separate issue. But I still wanted her to do a sport because I believe practicing a sport is important, especially for girls. Self-esteem and all that. So last year she started Judo. There were a few meets over the course of the year but she made it very clear she was not interested in competing. And I didn't want to drive her an hour to the meets so that was fine with me.

I come from a fairly sporty family. My brothers and I all played competitive sports through high school. My husband too. He was on the Men's Israeli National Gymnastics team. So of course I wondered why my kids don't want to compete? What's wrong with them? They cheat at cards so they obviously like to win...But because I get distracted easily by other questions like, what am I making for dinner and why is there so much laundry, I forgot to be overly concerned. We also don't live in America, so competitive youth sports is less of an issue.

But last Saturday everything changed. We took my daughter, as a family, to a town near Tel Aviv, for her first Judo meet. When we first heard about the meet I told her that I thought she should try it and she immediately spelled out in no uncertain terms that she had no interest in competing. So I backed off. A few days later I casually brought up the subject again and said, well maybe we can just go and see what it's like but you don't have to compete. Don't bother bringing my uniform, she said.

The day of the meet we tried to convince her that it would be fun. She might enjoy competing. It's not about winning but about trying your best. Her dad talked about how he used to get nervous before gymnastics meets. And I told her how I used to have butterflies in my stomach before soccer matches. But then once you're doing it you forget about anyone watching and you just have fun. We basically regurgitated all the regular stuff. She wasn't convinced. I brought her uniform anyway.

I texted her coach to say she would need a little encouragement. We got there early and she suited up while giving me the hairy eyeball. We entered the gym and there were fifty little kids ages 4-8 running around and maybe a dozen from our town. Chairs were set up for the parents. She was looking around, taking it all in. She was visibly nervous. Her coach walked over and explained that the kids would first just warm up like they always do so she could just start with that if she decided not to compete that would be fine. She had tears in her eyes. She walked out to the mat anyway.

After the warm up the other coach split them into groups by age and belt and by then she must have felt more comfortable or maybe couldn't figure out how to escape because the matches began and she wasn't going anywhere. The other coach called her name and she walked over to the center mat and met her opponent, a seven-year-old boy with a yellow belt. She was completely calm and knew exactly what she needed to do. She walked to the side and when the coach shouted RE, she bowed. Then he called AJIME to begin the match and she ran at the little boy across from her and THREW. HIM. DOWN. I mean I couldn't believe what we were watching. We had never seen her fight before. Sure we'd seen her have tantrums about practicing piano and doing her homework and we'd seen her try to kill her brother. But this was something else entirely. She was completely in control. After she pinned him the first time both kids popped up and again, AJIME. And she threw him down again. Three times! Then there was a final bow and they shook hands. She had two more matches after that and did very well in both.

After the meet we gave her a huge hug and asked how she felt and she talked about how her heart was beating really fast and it was a lot fun. And how she wants to go to all the meets and the spring retreat too. I had videotaped all the three matches and in my euphoric state I posted the best one on Facebook. And the comments and likes poured in. I watched that video about fifty times. I was overcome with pride for my little judoka. And I realized that I had never contracted Psychotic Bleacher Syndrome before only because I had never had the opportunity.

A few days later I started to wonder how I would have felt if my daughter had been the little boy that she crushed. Would I still have been proud of her for just competing, as I had always said I would be. I never imagined myself the kind of parent who would get so caught up in my kids' achievements but here I was suddenly wondering if maybe she shouldn't start practicing judo twice a week. And what if she wants to quit, like she tried to at the end of last year. Would I allow it? But she's so good, I could here my future self whining.  I just want for her all of the self-esteem and personal growth and satisfaction and physical strength that come from training in a sport.

What happens next? Do I just let her decide to do something else next year if she feels like it and squander her natural ninja talents? I definitely think this competition has made her want to continue but she's as mercurial as they come. She could very well want to play skate hockey next year and that will have to be fine. I have to just hope that she will continue to enjoy an active life. And that I'll be able to support her choices, her triumphs and her defeats with the same spirit and grace she showed last week on the mat.

Not My Circus. Not My Monkeys by Susie Lubell

My painting process is evolving. For this piece I started out by making a big background mess full of color and marks. And then to quiet it down I added some paper layers, the bits I found at the Jaffa flea market last week. And then I looked at the painting upside down and I saw a mouth. I saw a wide opened mouth with teeth which became the face of the little dancing guy. And those two circles under him became balls or color wheels or I don't know what. And then I saw the eyes of the woman next to him so I fleshed her out. I drew his body and at first she was holding him in her right hand but that was weird so I just left him jumping in mid-air. And then I saw the monkey. It was just his nose and eyes at first and then I sketched all of him. And the clown and the monkey were kind of on the same plane so I put them on a high wire. And then I understood what was going on.

Have you heard this Polish expression? Not my monkeys. Not my circus. Which is to say that not all of the crap and drama that's swirling around me is actually mine. Some of the crazy belongs to me, but not all of it.

This is true even about my own kids. I mean, I do feel the need to be aware of what's happening in their respective circuses but in some cases I actively step away and remember that it is not happening to me. For instance and totally hypothetically, it is not my place to tell another mom in my son's class that her kid sucks because he excludes my son, as much as it would give me great satisfaction to do this. It's not my circus. Sure, my son is kind of like my monkey, but he is not an extension of me. He is his own person. And my job is to equip him with what he needs to ringlead his own circus.

This is also true of our parents, our colleagues, our friends, our neighbors. It's important to listen and support and care and be available but it's also important to have boundaries. It's not my job to fix everything or everyone. In fact, when I do that it might suggest I don't have a lot of confidence in the other person's ability to manage their monkeys. And that is not a message I want to relay at all, especially to my kids. I want to empower, not undermine or underestimate. But supporting without interfering is a tightrope act all by itself.

Morning in Jaffa by Susie Lubell

Jaffa oranges! Well these are actually just clementines...

Jaffa oranges! Well these are actually just clementines...

Yesterday was a beautiful day and I spent the whole morning in Jaffa, a beautiful and gritty enclave just south of Tel Aviv. It was magic. Even the parking gods smiled upon me (I was literally praying to find spots while still on the highway). First I met a client of mine from the US who is here for work (she's a translator/interpreter and owns her own firm).  She moved here in her younger days, met an Israeli, got married, moved back to the US, had kids etc. Now she's back and forth a lot. Obviously we had plenty to talk about. She has commissioned a few pieces from me over the last few years and it was great to finally connect over coffee. I dropped her off at a hotel to meet up with one of her translators and then I stopped by the little gallery where my work was hanging the last few weeks. I retrieved my three pieces and then wound my way back to the Jaffa Flea Market, home of the best assorted crap and treasures worldwide. I find the place to be a little overwhelming if I'm actually looking to buy something so I decided to only look for the one thing I'd been trying to find for a few years now - an old printer drawer to hang on the wall for my kids to stick all their tchotchkes inside. It turns out that they are expensive! And hard to find! But I found one at a really good price and now I'm thinking I probably should have bought two because neither of the older kids will want their figurines to mingle. I guess I have to go back!

But the best thing I found was the thing I wasn't looking for at all. Isn't that always the way? I found a guy selling all sorts of cups and dishware but who also had a duffel bag full of small "blue books" or little lined paper pads typical for Israeli students and bits of paper remnants - stamps, library receipts, old id cards, medical approvals - from a woman named Yael Hasid who died a few years ago. Fascinating stuff! The blue books are from the fifties with the most incredible handwriting in both Hebrew and English. One is for a course on Shakespeare. King Lear! Another is about child psychology and the Montessori method. And there's a transcript from selections of a Susan Isaacs book entitled Troubles of Children and Parents. Hmmm... I was already imagining the zillion collages I would make with this stuff. Well he charged me about $5 for a bag full and now as I look through it all I am thinking how strange it is that I have in my possession this woman's old writings, obviously thrown out by her survivors or estate lawyers or whoever, the kind of stuff that we all throw out all the time because otherwise we'd be drowning in our own stuff. But now I'm kind of getting attached to this woman I don't know and I'm not sure I'll be able to tear up her work and glue it to a canvas. I look at her handwriting and it's almost like a time capsule. No one writes like that anymore. No one writes anything by hand anymore.

It reminds me a short film I saw maybe six months ago on the online NY Times Magazine I think about a woman who was cleaning out her mother's apartment after she passed and making boxes of what to keep and what to give away or throw away. You could see how much this woman loved her mother and how difficult it was for her to part with her mother's things. I can see how this pile of papers was maybe the easiest thing for a son or daughter to throw out. How other things, maybe the stuff that held more significance to them, were more difficult to part with. We generate so much stuff in one lifetime and most of it doesn't much matter after we're gone. Lord know how these papers ended up in the duffel bag with the guy selling cups. He said he got it from someone who cleared out the apartment of someone who died, but that seems odd. If I were Ira Glass maybe I'd write a chapter for This American Life. But I'm not and Yael wasn't American anyway. I think I'll read through her work a little a bit and pay her due respects. And then I'll turn her old stuff into something new.



love grafitti

love grafitti

pretty gritty

pretty gritty

printer drawer score

printer drawer score

good stuff

good stuff

you know my thing for colored veneer

you know my thing for colored veneer

a treasure trove

a treasure trove

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.


Especially Outstanding by Susie Lubell

Three years ago, when we moved to Israel, I met with a counselor from the Ministry of Absorption (Immigration) and she "registered" me as a new immigrant artist and told me that I could present my work in front a committee and potentially be selected as an "outstanding" artist and receive some money from the state to help establish my studio in Israel. This sounded somewhat terrifying but I figured what the hell. She said I would get a letter in the mail the next time one of these committees was meeting.

Many months passed and I never got a letter, so I called. And called. Like twenty times. And finally someone knew something about what I was talking about and said, oh yes, the committee is meeting on Wednesday in Jerusalem and you should bring your portfolio.

Wednesday was tomorrow.

I mean, what if I hadn't called so many times? What if still no one knew what I was talking about? Did everyone else get the formal invitation? WHY DOES NOTHING IN THIS COUNTRY EVER WORK BESIDES IRON DOME? So after I finish ranting to Mr. Rosen about how completely idiotic is the Ministry of Absorption I pull together whatever original work I can find, a few new canvases I have just completed and my laptop and hope this will sufficiently impress the committee.

The next morning I park downtown in Jerusalem and schlep all of my stuff to a nondescript building and notice about 50 other people sitting around waiting to present in front of the panel. So I sign in and wait. And wait. I wait for three hours. When it is finally my turn I set up my laptop and show the four people my website and then in Hebrew I explain to them about what I do and my business and what I've been working on lately. And then one woman says, thank you, that is all. I had been in there five minutes. I was second to last and it was past lunchtime.

I leave feeling furious. Why does the government of Israel even have these programs to help professionals when really they should put the money toward some management consulting or something because for starters they could have assigned us individual times so that we didn't have to hang around forever and even my seven year old could have come up with that one! Crimey!

I get in the car and drive home, still fuming and I think of all the things I could have articulated better. And I think about how much I hate my website. The next day I just can't take it anymore and I call up the Ministry and find my way to the coordinator for the artist panel and give her a piece of my mind. I tell her that we waited for hours and that we should have had time slots and then when I was finally seen at the end it was only for five minutes and the committee wasn't friendly at all and it was a total waste of my time. And she says, what, was your name again?

Susan. Susan Lubell Rosen.

There is a pause.

Were you the one with the watercolors and Judaica and the website? You were one of the last ones?

Yes, I say, bracing for a total shredding of my work.

You were selected as Especially Outstanding. You were the only one. Out of everybody. It's interesting that you left feeling totally discouraged because we thought your work was wonderful and that you have a big future ahead of you. 


In a million years I couldn't have guessed that one. Note to self: see yourself how others see you and tell your self doubt to take a hike (I might use a different phrase if it was just me and self-doubt having a chat. Something that rhymes with pluck cough). So I take back some of the mean things I said and the coordinator says that next year they'll use time slots. She tells me to wait for the official letter and then submit a proposal for how to spend the stipend and then wait for approval and then buy the stuff and then wait to be reimbursed. All in good time.

And that is also how I came to be on an official list from the Ministry of Absorption as an Especially Outstanding new immigrant artist and how I came to find out about a gallery in Jaffa that was receiving submissions from new immigrant artists for an exhibition and how I came to participate in my first group exhibit in a gallery in Israel.

Now that's what I call Especially Outstanding.

Big Dreams by Susie Lubell

Her dreams were much bigger than she originally admitted.

Her dreams were much bigger than she originally admitted.

I've been lying to myself and most everyone else. Or rather, I haven't been totally truthful about my professional aspirations. I have minimized them because of this fear of owning my dreams. That if I told anyone that what I really want is to have my work hanging in galleries and museums, to have exhibitions all over world, to teach workshops in self expression through painting, well then they would know. And maybe they would laugh at me. Or say, oh yes, wonderful, but then secretly snicker and think, who does she thing she is? She's not an artist. She can't even draw a cat! She doesn't make art. She makes decorations. She can't teach people to paint because she never learned how to paint! And anyway, once anyone knows that I have these aspirations, then I would be held accountable for making good on my declarations. Like taking out a mortgage.

A few years ago, when I was taking steps to design a career as a creative professional, I took an eight week coaching class based on the book Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd. This paragraph from the book sums up everything for me:

"Some fear is healthy. It keeps us from jumping off buildings and saying smug things to violent drunks. But fear also works against us. Fear colludes with our most conservative self and allows us to stop before we try, dismiss before we think, mock before we imagine. We've all seen it in others; it is so easy to perceive when ou watch a friend refuse to take advantage of some remarkable opportunity, simply out of fear. But tey don't often say, "I'm too afraid." They say, I don't know if I'm ready," or "I'm just too busy right now." At the heart of their fear is the message, "If I try to get something really wonderful, I'll have to screw up everything that is already just okay."

So I've been keeping my dreams small because I fear the kind of criticism and rejection that comes with sharing and achieving big dreams. But there's another side to that fear (psst. I'm like the three billionth person to share this quote. It's still worth sharing):

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson

I just can't do it anymore. I can't be small. Being small serves no one. I'm big. Like a whale. And my aspirations are whale-sized too. Unfortunately my whale-sized aspirations have to live in harmony with the everyday demands of my regular life including the whale-sized pile of laundry to be folded on my bed.

But it doesn't matter does it. The thing that matters is the truth. And the truth is that I dream big. Because anything else only serves to deny the world my gifts. We all have gifts don't we? And gifts are meant to be shared.

Aliyanniversary by Susie Lubell

We moved to Israel three years ago today. It's our aliyanniversary. Sometimes I think back on that period in our lives and I don't know how we did it. We had a baby, sold our house, moved to a temporary house, packed everything we could fit into a 20 foot container, sold everything else, boarded a flight with TEN pieces of luggage, three car seats, a stroller, a porta-crib and four carry-ons, said goodbye to our family, friends and lives in America and landed in Israel. Eyes wide shut. What were we thinking? I'm still not 100% sure. I do know that despite the two wars, the endless bureaucracy, the heat, the snow, the giant void in mentalities that I encounter daily, the inability to follow all the PTA emails in Hebrew, the absence of Trader Joe's, the financial struggle, the DRIVERS, the feeling that no one knows what I'm saying, the littering, the constant tension between Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims and Jews, Secular Jews and Orthodox Jews, my eldest and his sister, we're pretty happy. I can't explain it. Here, I'll try.

All of these things make me feel incredibly grateful that I have a partner like Mr. Rosen. And three healthy, well-adjusted kids. A group of sister-friends (not to be confused with sister-wives). Family who support and love us, both here and in America. Plus strikingly beautiful nature and spectacularly gritty cities for inspiration. Nothing is easy here. For me anyway. The intensity is relentless. I always feel like I'm fighting and it's exhausting. But I feel alive. I take nothing for granted. It could all be gone tomorrow. Or the next day. Or after the chagim.

From Berlin with Love by Susie Lubell

This past May, in the middle of packing up our house to move, we went to Berlin for five days. And we had THE BEST TIME EVER. Berlin is beautiful and easy to navigate and fun and bike friendly and charming and full of tasty food and not super expensive and VERY HISTORICAL. So we kept busy but also managed to sleep plenty and hang out in parks and not watch our kids. Because we were BY OURSELVES. I know. It's confusing. But wait, where were the kids? THEY WERE AT HOME WITH THEIR GRANDPARENTS.

While we were there we had the wonderful fortune to meet someone whose artwork I have adored for many years and whose online presence is just delightful in every way. We met up withStephanie Levy for coffee at a lovely cafe in her neighborhood and chatted for two hours about everything from motherhood to living abroad to being a working artist. We laughed about how for a long time we couldn't find cranberry juice in our adopted countries! Or hydrogen peroxide! We talked about the daily struggle to fit everything in, to live so far away from family and some of the classic language blunders we've made. And the cultural differences when it comes to raising kids. Fascinating stuff. Well, let's just say we couldn't shut up. Plus she has a Tennessee drawl that just makes you want to bust out your fiddle.

Anyway, she runs a whole host of online and in-person creative workshops and lucky me, she asked me to be part of her latest one Creative Courageous Holiday which is a five week online course to add magic and myrrh to your holiday season. I'll be sharing some of our Channukah customs from over here in the Holy Land and seven other fantastic artists (including, I just found out, Lori Portka, who I just wrote about yesterday!) will share their personal thoughts, tips on holiday creativity and family traditions. I have a friend here who takes her kids out of school for a field trip to Machane Yehuda (Jerusalem's famous outdoor food market) for their annual tasting of traditional Chanukkah donuts (sufganiyot). That's a tradition I plan on adopting this year too.

The class also includes dozens of festive recipes, craft projects (thinks DIY gifts and Pinterest worthy holiday decorations), creativity prompts, inspiration from Berlin's world famous holiday markets, mixed media journaling, traditions from around the world and a lot more. Starts Monday so sign up here.

Creative Ritual by Susie Lubell



Let's just say, between you and me, that I don't have one. A creative ritual. Many artists do. I don't. The other day I was reading a post by my friend Lori describing her gorgeous, intentional painting ritual and I almost started to cry. It was that beautiful. And I know it's taken years of hard work for her to get to this level of mental and emotional clarity. She begins by lighting her abundance candle and then rubbing essential oils on her hands and heart. She breathes deeply and prays, summoning her angels and guides and asking for their help and wisdom in creating her work. She waits for their presence and the work flows through her. You can read about ithere. It's absolutely moving. I love that she has this ritual. I am considering stealing it. Because here's what it looked like in my world on Thursday when I tried to create. 

After I get my kids off to school I make myself some coffee and run upstairs to the studio. Then I realize my glass pallete is still full of paint from the day before and all of my brushes are rigamortis because I'd been distracted and forgot to wash them. So I bring everything downstairs and dowse the brushes in magical paint remover / brush restorer and I make some toast. Then I scrub the paint off the palette and head back up the stairs. I grab a canvas that now has several layers of ugly all over it. But I still feel calm yet excited for what might appear on the canvas today. I squeeze out my paint, dab my fingers and started smudging. I listen to music. It's nice. Then I hang up the canvas and squirt it with water so it drips and makes more shapes and I hope that when I come back it will resemble something. I go downstairs and wash my hands and flip the laundry. I fold the dry laundry. It's now about half way through my morning and the anxiety of picking up my kids starts to creep in. My coffee is cold. I grab my canvas again and I see what my be a goat. Maybe a ram. And I think, great! This week's Torah portion is the binding of Isaac so of course I would paint a ram! But on closer examination it looks like a dog. And when I flesh it out a bit more it is absolutely a dog. Huh.

By now it's very close to pick up and I still haven't made any lunch. So I hang up the canvas, run downstairs, throw some frozen shnitzel on the stove, heat water for the cous cous and cut up some vegetables. My son usually bikes on Thursdays because his sister comes home later and I don't want to have to pick them up separately. But he has a flat tire and I have to get him. He sits down for lunch and I run upstairs to try to make sense of the dog. My hands are a mess again but it's time to get my daughter so I run downstairs and get in the car and get paint on the steering wheel and pick her up. I'm still wearing my painting apron.

She comes home and eats and I run upstairs to try again. It is not flowing. I now have paint in my hair from trying to get the apron off because I have to pick up my three year old from his preschool and actually go inside so I can't wear the paint apron. I check the time and now there's paint on my phone. He comes home and eats and I make small talk all the while completely obsessed with the dog. Then it's 2:30 and my oldest has his piano lesson. Again, no bike. I take him. Baby falls asleep in the car. I put him down in his bed and my daughter comes upstairs to consult on the dog. She likes him. She makes herself a palette and starts to make her own painting. We paint together for half an hour and it's nice except the time is ticking. 45 minutes are up so I leave her and race down to pick up my son. I give up on the dog for today though he gnaws at me and I am distracted. I do the dishes which serves to get the paint of my hands. Very efficient. I flip the laundry again and fold. I will try again tomorrow.

And so it goes over here. There is no intention. There is only chaos. And sometimes I really like the work that emerges from the chaos. But mostly I'm left feeling like I just chased a chicken for an hour.

There's obviously more than one way to create. And each of us finds our way. My way, for right now, is mostly about survival which is true across the board, not just about making art. But I think if I could take a second and CALM DOWN and listen, really listen, I might get a little guidance and find that the work flowed better. I think an abundance candle would also help.

P.S. My friends Lori and Liv are starting what I'm sure will be a spectacular 8 week online course called Infinite Purpose. I just signed up, as I do most things, the last possible second. It starts TODAY. I have personal experience with Liv's intuitive gifts so I am sure it will be an unforgettable experience.

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.

Rain by Susie Lubell

I've been watching the weather forecast on my phone for the last week waiting patiently, or with very little patience actually, for the week of rain scheduled to start Thursday night. Which it did! We've had a few intermittent showers over the last month but nothing that resembles the true end of summer. But I think it's over. In Israel we have basically two seasons. Hot and Cold. The spring and fall are very short. It mainly means you can wear jeans with your sandals. The fall may as well not exist altogether since the trees don't change color. Spring, on the other hand, is spectacular with unimaginably beautiful wildflowers at every turn, but the fall is kind of meh. Needless to say I'm pretty delirious about the weather changing, with the exception of its affect on my allergies. Rain cleans everything up. It settles the dust from the summer. It brightens up the place. It forces me to take inventory, switch stuff around. I find myself in the attic searching for rain boots and umbrellas and down comforters, all packed away last April. The whole thing makes me giddy.

A few weeks ago I went through the same process with my website. I wanted a fresh start for a new season and I was desperate to brighten up the place. But more than just a visual makeover, I needed to really examine my value proposition and take proper inventory of what I do. For other artist/bloggers out there, maybe you've struggled like I have to extract something cohesive from all that you do. Something that is uniquely you, something compelling in this world where everything under the sun already exists. For many years, before I started making art again, I was writing about motherhood and family life. About balancing work and life with kids. I had a lot to write because everything was new. The lack of sleep, the worry, the potty training, the exhaustion, the everyday toils of a new mom. And then I started my business which had little to do with what I was writing in my blog. Occasionally I'd try to make a connection but it felt forced which is how it continued for years while the pace of my posts decelerated to a near standstill.

So when my kids finally went back to school in September I looked at everything. I went into my proverbial attic and sorted through the clothes and boots and gear until I got a clear picture of what I had to offer, my BRAND. And that's when I could finally make sense of the many hats I wear and pull together a unified online presence to showcase it. Moving here three years ago opened up a source of constant inspiration for me. Sometimes to the point where I'm completely over stimulated and can't get anything out. But when I slow down and spend some part of every day creating then the work flows. What I witness here on the day to day is what feeds my art and my writing. There is no distinction. And taken together, it's my vision and voice, which is the one thing I can offer to the world that doesn't already exist. Because nobody else, thank god, is me.

So here's to rain and settled dust and clean slates. It's a work in progress. More later on how I built the site in one week of late nights using WIX.

Shabbat shalom.

Cat and Canary by Susie Lubell

Her cage was purely decorative.

Her cage was purely decorative.

I have to be honest. I don't exactly know where these paintings are coming from. This one started out very dark. Like a lot muddy paint. Like what my three year old comes up with if I don't get the brushes out of his hands in time. And from the mud emerged an anemic spooky girl and a weird black shape hovering over her. And then the girl got covered over and the black shape was a bird. And then the black bird was sitting on top of a big cage. But then the bird had to go and the cage got a table. And there was a giant magnolia looking tree which I covered up and the pot for the tree turned into a cat in a dress. And a different bird appeared on top of the cat. And then I broke out my new neon vermillion cheapy paint from the craft store and held my breath and slathered it on. And suddenly it all came together for me. This painting was me dealing with fear.

People, I can't paint a cat. I mean not really.  Cats are hard to paint. Truthfully most everything is hard for me to paint. I have a terrible fear of making mistakes and wrecking everything and having to start over and it's fairly pervasive. I feel it when I'm dealing with money, parenting, writing, cooking and especially when I'm painting. Which is why for many years I've stuck with the kind of stuff I can do well - little buildings, trees, fields, birdies. Also because i have so little time to create, I don't want to waste any of it on stuff I have to redo. Or can't sell. It can be kind of debilitating.

But all of that amounts to fear.  Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of sharks in the deep end (that's a literal fear of mine, but may have some figurative aspects). Here I am trying to raise empowered, self-assured, courageous kids while letting my own fears limit my potential. So I'm cracking that shit wide open. I'm painting cats because I can. And they can be in a dress. I'm allowing myself the space and freedom to make mistakes and start over how ever many times I need. I'm reserving judgement. I'm telling the critic in my head to pipe down. I'm leaving the cage to sit bravely with the one thing that, left unchecked, has the power to eat me up.