How bout them apples by Susie Lubell


My eight year old son had his first lesson in economics the other day when he became painfully aware of a little thing called currency exchange rates. He came to me with tears in his eyes and the following conversation ensued:

Him: Mommy, Grandma said that if I give you 300 shekels you will only give me back 80 dollars.
Me: Yes, that's true.
Him: But that's not fair! You should give me 300 dollars if I give you 300 shekels. 300 doesn't equal 80! 300 equals 300!
Me: Yes but each dollar is a little less than four shekels.

At this point the tears are getting bigger but he's trying to keep them back so he's not blinking. Blink son! You must blink! You can see that his brain is starting to throb as he tries to compute that last bit of nonsense.

Him: But you said you would give me 300 dollars if I give you 300 shekels! You promised!
Me: No, I would never say that because I know that one dollar equals four shekels. I'm sorry if you misunderstood.
Him: But how will I buy my iPod?

He is now sobbing. He can't help it. He's been saving for a year to buy an iPod. He gets five shekels a week allowance and he tries to pick up extra doing bigger jobs here and there. He saves his Hanukkah money and his birthday money. It's all in his piggy bank. It's actually all in his red cash box safe because his ceramic piggy bank broke after he took his money out for the hundredth time to count it and his little brother threw it off the bed. This little piggy went to garbage. The magic number for him is 299 (but he knows a little about rounding up) because that's what he saw on the Apple store website. No one told him about currency exchange, poor guy. He still doesn't get it so I try to explain better.

Me: You can either buy your iPod with the $300 you have in your American bank account or you can keep saving your shekels but you will need 1,200 shekels.

I don't bother telling him about import taxes and other factors that make the iPod outrageously overpriced here. Anyway, we order everything on Amazon and have our frequent visitors bring us items of this nature hidden in their luggage.

Him: ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED! I'll NEVER have that much. It's not fair! [sobbing].
Me: Honey, it's like this. Suppose no one had any money and we paid for everything in apple pies.
Him: OK.
Me: How many apples does it take to make an apple pie?
Him: I don't know.
Me: Let's say four. We need four apples to make an apple pie. Now let's say you want to buy a Star Wars action figure and it costs two apple pies. But you don't have any apple pies, you only have the apples. Assuming the person at the store will accept just the apples instead of the pie, how many apples do you need to equal two apple pies?
Him: Eight.
Me: Right. So two apple pies equals eight apples. And how many apples to equal 200 pies?
Him: Eight hundred.
Me: And three hundred pies?
Him: It's too many apples! I'll never have enough apples!
Me: If you keep saving your apples, one day you'll have enough apples to go to the Apple store and buy your iPod. Maybe you can really buy them with apples. Why else would they call it Apple?
Him: That's ridiculous mommy.
Him: Whatever. I'll use my money in America. Can I have desert?
Me: Sure. Apple pie?

That got a grin. Next week I'll teach him about arbitrage.

I am safe by Susie Lubell


My mom and I were up North last week for a two day mini-vacation. Our first stop was Zefat, a spiritual haven for kabbalists, artists, Jews (both lost and found) and tourists. It's a special place and we enjoyed looking in the art galleries and chatting with artists. We asked a few people where we should eat and everyone pointed us toward the Yemenite pizza guy where indeed we had delicious Yemenite style pizza (the crust is similar to the spongy injera bread you get at an Ethiopian restaurant). While we were sitting there a family came in and we overheard them speaking in Spanish to each other and Hebrew to the pizza guy. The mother was cute, about my age, with three kids, each a little older than mine. I asked where she was from. Mexico City. I asked if she was here on vacation and she said she had moved here a year ago. Me too! I asked her why she decided to leave Mexico. She said she felt much safer in Israel.

Much safer in Israel. This after an eight day war where 1500 rockets fell in populated areas all over the south and parts of the center of the country. This after constant threats from Iran and other neighbors. It got me thinking about safety. About who is safe. About what it means to feel safe. Did I feel safe here? Safer than in America?

That was on Thursday. And then Friday happened. And a young, disturbed man with his mom's semi-automatic weapons broke into an elementary school in America and mowed down a class of first graders and the adults who dedicated to their care and education. And that school had a security system and a locked gate. Our old elementary school in California just had a gate and it was usually open. The school across from our old house was an open campus.

And so I asked myself again, after I wept for those kids and those families, do I feel safe? Did I feel safe when we lived in America? We lived in a fairly diverse community, heavy on the Hispanic. In fact the school across the street had a highly regarded bilingual immersion program. Lots of day laborers hung out at the 7-11 down the street. Lots of police cars patrolled by. Once someone threw a whole bag of pot into our bushes to avoid incarceration. There was also a murder suicide at the dry cleaners on the corner. The owner shot his ex-wife (the co-owner). Pretty tragic. But in spite of all that we often left the door unlocked. Once we even left our garage open for an entire weekend. I would regularly cross my six year old and let him ride his bike on the school blacktop carrying his walkie talkie and checking in periodically. I didn't tell many friends because I knew they would think I was crazy. But I felt safe. I knew my neighbors. They knew me and my kids. I felt like we looked out for each other and we did.

And I feel even safer here in Israel. I often leave our door unlocked. My kids ride their bikes around our little corner neighborhood and I am not outside watching them. I let my son walk up to our grocery store alone. He walks to piano lessons alone. He did that last year too and he was seven then. We live in a gated/fenced community and there is a guard. So yes, I feel safe.

But there are holes in the fence and Palestinians come in and out everyday. Some of them even come to my house to see if I need help with anything. Mostly I don't so I just make them coffee and we chat for a few minutes. Sometimes I give them a ride home if I'm heading in that direction. I'm absolutely cautious, especially when it comes to my kids, but I don't live in fear.

So I don't get why regular citizens need semi-automatic weapons for personal use. For protection? From what? An enemy invasion? I'm sorry but isn't the civil war over? Even then I'm pretty sure North and South got by fine with just their rifles. Or is it the power that we like? Or is it just for fun? I can think of so many other ways to have fun. Or is it because we really are afraid? Shooting rampages like this one appear to be happening all the time in the United States. And why is that? Is it because there are too many untreated mentally ill individuals there? Or too many guns? Or the kind of media coverage that assures future shooters worldwide noteriety? Or maybe it's the triple combo platter.

I think many of us are desparate to place blame. We can blame the shooter or his parents. We can blame the NRA. We can blame the health care system. We can blame the media. We can blame processed foods. We can blame video games. We can blame ourselves for watching the same scene play out again and again in cities and town across America without demanding policy change. That's the category I fall into.

But I refuse to feel frightened that this could happen at my school. Or the schools where my nieces and nephews learn.  I refuse to let fear control the way I live. This coming from someone with a very active imagination and a penchant for watching Law and Order SUV so it takes a substantial commitment to keep my fears at bay. That's why I turn off Nancy Grace and I allow myself to feel safe because it's the only way I can keep hope alive in these uncertain times.

Batteries not included by Susie Lubell

It's finally winter in Israel
In queue

Last Thursday a bunch of my girlfriends got together for a serious and revealing discussion about intimacy after having babies led by a professional "sexologist". I ended up not going because my mom had just arrived from California, although in truth she was asleep by 8:00 pm so I definitely could have gone. But I had decided two days before that I would try my hand at a local artisan fair that happens every Friday in the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem. I figured I should get in on some of the pre-Hanukkah action. And even though I told myself I wouldn't get crazy the day before making a bunch of things to sell, because that always turns out to be a total waste of time, I did in fact forgo the sex talk so that I could get prepared for the fair.  So while my friends were bonding over porn and mikvahs (Jewish women's ritual bath - we're a diverse lot), I was bonding with my printer.

It turned out to be a gorgeous day. I got a lot of useful and flattering feedback from the Israelis who stopped by my table. My mom pushed through her jetlagged fog and ended up coming with me. Besides helping me lug my stuff and set up, she got a chance to do some shopping and walk around on Emek Refaim, a lovely main street with shops and cafes. There was also great live music. And I made a few sales. I even sold my original possum painting. All in all it was a nice way to spend a Friday.

But was it worth missing out on a fearless exchange of personal experiences and the opportunity to purchase 800 shekel imported sex toys? At this point I don't really need the toys especially now that as of last week I am the proud owner of a little battery-powered somethin somethin that satisfies me in a way no iRabbit or other "hand-held" device ever could. The way it pulses when I just turn the thing on is enough to send me over the edge. It's compact so I can take it for a "pick me up" wherever I go - supermarket, restaurant, or even while waiting in the car before preschool pickup. I tell you this thing is magic. I don't know why I waited so long to get one. I mean I had heard from friends how it would completely change my life but I never imagined. I ordered it from Amazon and my mom brought it with her on the plane. Thankfully no one in security questioned her, which surprised me since this is the model with three blades. I'm not into all that kinky stuff but it's really the whisper thin blades that make it work sooooo gooood, am I right ladies?

Indeed my mom brought me a Remington Fabric Shaver to safely remove pills and fuzz from all of my wool sweaters. I've already de-pilled two of my winter woolies and I mean I just go into a trance while that thing is sucking up all those fuzz balls. My sweaters need a cigarette by the time I'm finished with them. 

As for me, I would have enjoyed an open discussion about post-partum passion or lack there of. We don't talk about it enough and it's a whopper of an issue for most moms and most marriages. But I can tell you one thing, I'm feeling pretty sexy now that my sweaters are shaved. Bring it.

Arrivals by Susie Lubell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just like at arrivals.

Life goes on by Susie Lubell

In process
Code Red has moved on too.

Life does go on as made sparkling clear by my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Between the posts about missiles falling and where, Israeli Air Force strikes, meetings with UN officials and heads of state, and images of children running to bomb shelters, houses turned to rubble, blown-up buses and Hamas thugs dragging suspected collaborators naked through the street from the back of a motorcycle, I discovered that the Twinkie factory closed down and lots of people were freaked out. And I guess General Petreus had an affair. Shocker. And a lot of people are  feeling the Thanksgiving spirit, grateful for health, family, friends. The Very Brady Christmas special aired on Wednesday. Traffic in LA is still awful. Shocker. A few friends got haircuts. Pretty good ones too. A few went to Disneyland. Some of you read some good books or made a new apron or baked cookies (in your new apron). One of you chipped a tooth. Ouch! A few of you had dim sum (and my heart ached for California). And Fiona Apple cancelled her tour to be at home with her dying pit bull.

The rest of this post is at The Times of Israel.

Happy Thanksgiving America.

Parenting in the Middle East by Susie Lubell

Code red alpaca. Sorry, you weren't doing it for me. You will rise from the paint again. Have no fear. #codered
I went code red on one of my paintings this morning.

I've spent the last few days painting in my kitchen and listening to the radio. They're playing requests all day long from southern residents. And sporadically throughout the day you hear the override system announcing a code red and a location. Code red - Ashkelon. Code red - Ashdod. Code red - Beer Sheva. All. Day. Long. We have been lucky and our daily lives have not changed much since we live near Jerusalem. Trips to Tel Aviv have been postponed and plans for get togethers in the South have been cancelled. But we are not running under our staircase every fifteen minutes and for that I am grateful.

The rest of this article is posted at the Times of Israel.

The honeymoon is over by Susie Lubell

Hoffman was right, whatever that means
I guess Hoffman was right, whatever that means.

We arrived in Israel a year ago. Today. A year ago today. I remember thinking to myself in the days leading up to our departure, I wonder how long we have til there is another "incursion" in Israel. Another operation. Or assault. Or war. I wasn't worried. If I was worried I would not have gotten on the plane. I had always felt safe in Israel. Though the years I spent here were always just before or just after a major something or other.

Anyway, I have the answer. A year. It took a year for something to escalate to the point where my people in America are emailing me to be sure I'm safe. I guess the honeymoon is officially over, thank you very much Hamas.

It's really been far less than a year, since missiles have been falling on southern Israel every few months, even weeks, since we arrived. My in-laws live in the south as do many of our friends. I used to live there too. But I have kept the radio and the television off. And it is only today, now that Israel has finally retaliated, that we have made the mainstream news. Because the 2,000 rockets that were fired from Gaza this year alone were not so newsworthy. Maybe if they had better aim. Or if we didn't have the badass Iron Dome anti-missile technology. Booyah!

But as bad as it is (and it's bad for our residents of the south), I went to the mall yesterday to mail some packages at the post office and buy my daughter some leggings for winter. The mall was bustling. And I heard as much Arabic as I did Hebrew. Let me just say this, for my left leaning Californians, if a Jihad attack of this magnitude had happened in the US you can bet that no one with a hijab would leave the house for a month in fear of random retaliation. Not true at the Mall of Jerusalem. It's business as usual.You can be full on burkified and still buy your daughter leggings for winter. I'm starting to ramble.

I have refrained from posting much on Facebook even though I know the news that most people will hear is not the whole story. I don't have the whole story either. I don't know what it's like to live in Gaza. I feel compassion for those in Gaza who just want to live their lives and hate the violence as much as I do. I have to believe those people exist. I wish we heard more from them and less from the militants and cyber bullies you hear from on twitter. Boys on both sides, come on. Spare me your my dad can beat up your dad bullshit. It's embarrassing. I do have some idea about what it's like living in southern Israel with reports from my people there. Cloudy with a Chance of Missiles, by my friend Faye Bittker, sums it up pretty well.

But back to my life. Today Mr. Rosen and I decided to celebrate our anniversary anyway by having breakfast together in Mahane Yehuda, the open air market in downtown Jerusalem. Which was also bustling. I had a cheese bourekas with sliced egg and tehina and Mr. Rosen had the spinach one with spicy sauce. And we had sahlab, a warm orchid milk drink topped with peanuts, coconut and cinnamon. Then we bought fixings for a delicious shabbat dinner tonight with Mr. Rosen's parents, (who are hoping for a siren-free night's sleep) including some goods from the Persian spice cutie pie who can always get me to try something (an then buy it) just by cocking his head to the side and winking at me. Mr. Rosen fell for it too. We even went ahead and bought a "shuk bag". One of those rolling bags you absolutely need if you're schlepping 20 kilos of food home from the market. So I guess that means we'll stick it out for at least another year, since now we have a shuk bag and everything. Stay tuned.

 Beautiful Nachlaot neighborhood, Jerusalem

Street art, Jerusalem
She needs a better shuk bag.

My spice guy.

Nachlaot neighborhood, Jerusalem
local color

Banana Rye Bread by Susie Lubell

Time to make banana bread
exhibit A

Tonight I'm participating in my first art exhibit in Israel.  Some local wineries are supplying the wine and the artists are bringing the rest. So this morning I set out to make two loaves of banana bread. After I converted 12 tablespoons of butter into grams (170!) I went to the cupboard to get out the flour. Alas, I only have rye flour.

Rye flour? Who the hell buys rye flour?

I do. And do you know why I buy rye flour? Because I have the Hebrew reading skills of a first grader. I go to the super market and invariably come home with things I don't want. And in many cases, like this, on the back of the package it actually says what it is in English. So now I am functionally illiterate in two languages. I have bought "sweetened" plain yogurt (if I wanted it sweet I would buy cherry pineapple or guava or any number of amazing flavors they have here). I have bought perfumed wipes (the ones that smell worse than any child's poop ever could). I have bought farina (cream of wheat) when I wanted flour (obviously my biggest problem is wheat derivatives. In my defense, all the packaging looks the same with a giant wheat stalk on the front). I have bought spicy tomato sauce and made lasagna my kids wouldn't eat. I have bought non-virgin olive oil (I like to call that slutty olive oil). I have bought cooking cream instead of whipping cream. I have bought what looks like a stick of dried salami but is actually all wet and bologna-like inside. I did that twice actually.

Last night I went shopping with a friend of mine, another American who moved here eight years ago. And she told me how her first year here she would have panic attacks at the cheese counter trying to figure out what to buy and how to order in grams. In Hebrew. That resonated in a big way. I'm getting better but I still mostly buy my deli meat and cheese pre-packaged.

Being an immigrant is rough going sometimes. Ending up with the wrong food is aggravating but mostly just funny. Ending up paying banking fees you didn't know about, or inadvertently signing up for the most expensive telephone service is both aggravating and costly. I'm lucky because I have a native husband and most people here speak some degree of English. A lot of people around the world are not as lucky and end up having to eat banana rye bread. Or worse. Banana farina bread.

Ever been tongue tied at a cheese counter in a foreign land? Brought home sour cream when you wanted cream cheese? I feel you.

Definitely in the cards by Susie Lubell

I'm sure by now the Christmas season is in full swing back in America. Here we're all still kind of recovering from a dizzying fall holiday schedule and since Hanukkah is not as commercial in Israel as it is in the States, we are kind of resting on our laurels until it's time for Passover in April. But America is never far from my heart, especially when there are so many hilarious presidential campaign videos to watch on Facebook. So to get in the (holiday) spirit, I made some holiday cards! And by some I mean very few so grab a little box of eight while I still have stock. You can even order a combo set with some of each. Shipping is free but keep in mind, shipping from here takes about three weeks, so if you want your Hanukkah cards in time for an early Hanukkah (December 8th!) best to order quickly!

Shalom by Susie Lubell

East and West
Shalom, mixed media.

It's been a year since we left Mountain View, our home for eight years and the place where our three kids were born. I remember the days leading up to our departure. All of the stress and running around. Packing and putting all of our stuff in the container. Selling whatever wasn't coming with us. Tying up all of the loose ends. Closing accounts. Collecting paperwork. Trying to sell our car at the very last second. And all the while trying to keep life as normal as possible for our kids. And trying to pay just a tiny bit of attention to our NEWBORN. Remember him? He's paying us back now for our neglect back then. We even trick or treated on our last Halloween, which was frankly the very last thing I wanted to do.

And then on November 1st we bid shalom to the Bay Area and drove in our rented van down south to Grandma's where we'd stay for a week before heading out to New York and finally Israel. It was a time of many goodbyes and many hellos and many times we didn't know if we were coming or going. It was a very unsettling time.

But now we are settled in so many wonderful ways. We have a community of friends. We have happy, adjusted kids. We have a quirky house big enough to host our many, many visitors. We have satisfying work. And I'd say, despite our every day struggles to reconcile our western mentalities with the reality of life in the Middle East (and I'm not talking about the threat of war with Iran or suicide bombings. I'm talking about things like terrible customer service, bad driving and the ubiquitous issue of littering) we're basically at peace with our decision to live here.

Shabbat shalom.

Back on the bike by Susie Lubell


Two weeks ago I finally took my bike out of the garage and not a moment too soon. This was the bike that I bought the day before our container arrived so that I would have a bike in Israel. In a truly uncharacteristic move I bought the first bike I saw in the store closest to our house and I did it in half an hour. I usually spend weeks researching these things and making lists and generally wasting a lot of time finding exactly what I want. Anyway, I bought the bike and the next day it went on a cargo container.

When it arrived it was winter and too wet to ride. Plus the baby was too small to put in the copilot seat. And my daughter had started boycotting bike riding which made family rides impossible. She had learned to ride without training wheels last summer in Bend, Oregon while on our big RV trip. But then we had to leave her old bike in New Mexico at the end of our trip (since we were flying back). The plan was to buy the kids bigger bikes before we left for Israel.

But the bigger bike was too big and riding it made her nervous. And then it went on the container and when she saw it again four months later, her fear had only grown. And even when we fashioned her a smaller bike with a frame we inherited from a friend, she still wasn't interested. Because by now she was nearly a whole year older and a different girl altogether. She was unsure. A little clingy. Timid. Not interested in challenging herself. Worried about what her hair would look like after she took off her helmet.

The change in her has been difficult to watch for many reasons. Obviously because I want her to be a self assured, confident, kickass rockstar girl. And for her to know her worth. But also because I know this path. For me it happened later. I remember feeling like a kickass rockstar girl as a kid. I performed in front of large audiences. I ran in races. I played aggressive girls soccer. I spent a lot of time raising my hand in class. But as I got older and maybe because the stakes were higher, I started to put my hand down. I stopped performing. I quit sports altogether. Not in kindergarten, mind you. It happened slowly as high school was winding down and gradually through college. Even into adult life and graduate school. It was counter intuitive. I thought that with age came wisdom. But I was becoming more self-conscious. I started to doubt myself in a way I never had as a kid. Even now I can still fall into periods of destructive thinking where I compare myself to friends, other artists, people whose lives seem charmed.

The good news is that I continue to work through my things and she's working through hers. When I finally got my bike out and put Toothy McHelmet Head on the back (which is now his all time favorite activity besides throwing food), she got out hers and we rode around our cul de sac for an hour. Then she attempted to ride down a little hill where previously she would get nervous and brake with her feet, Flintstone style. This time she was fine. Her helmet on, her hair whipping out the back in every direction and her face all smiles.

I'm gonna git you sukkah by Susie Lubell

Mi tabernacle es su tabernacle.

This post has nothing to do the 1988 Wayans Brothers movie I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. It does have to do with the fact that it's two weeks after Sukkot and our sukkah is still standing. We are like that family next door who has their Christmas lights up well into February. I totally get it now. It's like one part lazy and three parts "but it's so pretty". And our sukkah is particularly bright and cheery with the strawberry punch pink curtains which really compliment the bougainvillea (not shown in picture). But it has to come down. Plus, if my sources are correct, it is very slowly getting cooler around here. Like it might even get down to 78 degrees by this Saturday and by next Saturday...73! And by November? It might actually feel like Fall. Or some middle eastern approximation. Which means it might even RAIN.* My sweaters are on standby.

* I don't know what you're talking about. I have no memory of the bitter cold and wet winter.

Facelift by Susie Lubell

Busy times around here, what with all of the holidays (I still need to show you a picture of our sukkah. All in good time), and my son's birthday and then his birthday party. Now everything that was on hold until after the holidays is suddenly off hold and urgent.

So it's back to work. My latest project has been to organize my files - my digital files - a task I despise, which is why they are in such a state of disarray. And why also I have dozens of superfluous gigabytes junking up my computer. Just taking up space and taunting me with their sloppiness. My sloppiness. Ugh. I'll take regular filing any day.

But in the process of giving a facelift to my saggy, worn out, not-so-hard drive, I've come across some interesting gems. Like a word file with a bunch of one line stories about people with no faces. I must have once thought about adding them to some of my Inner Toddler characters. I kill myself sometimes. 

Anyway, it was nice to stop my filing for a brief chuckle. Let me know which is your favorite.
Back to filing.

Eight by Susie Lubell

Eight is not too old for a tickle from Saba.
Eight is not too old for a tickle from Saba.

Hi kiddo,
Well it's true what everyone is saying. You're eight. Eight years old. EIGHT. YEARS. Just like that. Well, not exactly just like that. A few of those years were pretty rough because, let's face it, you are not an ordinary boy. How does my friend Sharon refer to it? High persistence, low distractability. Yes, that's it. You are like a flash flood. Every day. Heading down the most direct path toward your natural destination. The Apple Store. For this has been your obsession since the day you put a shoe to your ear at age one and said alo?

But I know there is more to you than your ability to recite the apple device price list starting with shuffles all the way to MacBook Pros, though that is certainly impressive. For instance, your incredible memory has also helped you to learn from your mistakes, more this year than other year. Could it be that you will one day soon be a rational human? I'm not holding my breath but the signs are there.

When I think back to last year at this exact time, I am astonished by everything that's happened and how you have managed through it all. You moved to a new country where you learned to read and write in a new language at a new school in a new town. You made new friends and endeared new grown-ups to you. You learned to play piano and read music. You learned how to dress appropriately for the weather. I don't know why this is such a big deal, but it is. You learned how to DJ and now the whole neighborhood knows your eclectic taste in music. And all this without your kitty. I'm still mourning the loss of your kitty on the British Airways flight from New York. You were fine after a day or so and was still calling the airlines weeks later.

You know what else? You discovered Star Wars and now the force is with you. This has also opened up a whole new realm of acceptable birthday presents. Because buying you office supplies was getting kind of old. Although a laminator would make a nice addition to our household.  

About a month after you started school here your teacher used the word נבון (navon) to describe you and I had to look it up. She could have said you were just smart, and no one would have disagreed. But she said you were clever. And wise. WISE. She understood what we've known about you all along. That you have been around the block already. You have lessons to learn still, to be sure. But you are mostly here to teach me and Aba a thing or two. And we're old dogs so I hope you'll cut us some slack.

all my love, beautiful boy,

Remarkable friends by Susie Lubell

 Liv and Rachel at our retreat in 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Susie by Susie Lubell

Hi, I'm Susie. Nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by. A little about me: I started writing this blog in 2007 when I was on maternity leave with my four month old daughter and my two year old son. It was all I could do to keep myself from completely losing my mind. I needed a vessel for all of the stories I was collecting in my brain. This blog became a place for me to process and learn from my many parenting follies.

Soon after I felt like it might be time for a career switch and time for me to explore working as an artist. I was commissioned to work on a few projects for friends, in between my full time job and raising my two kids. And to my surprise, I found that instead of depleting an already exhausted mama, these projects were filling me up.

So I started to think about what it might be like to make more art, work less and spend more time with my kids which, after months of preparation, is exactly what I did. I left my corporate job, took my kids out of daycare and opened my business.

Then I got pregnant, had another baby boy and moved with my family to Israel. Shalom. Now this family of five lives outside of Jerusalem in the Judean Hills. Yes, it's beautiful on a biblical scale. I continue to sell my prints and create custom ketubahs (Jewish wedding contracts) for clients from all over the world. But this extreme makover - life edition has not been without it's share of challenges. I've tried to document them here. Frankly I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

Easy fast by Susie Lubell

Today I'm sending to print a ketubah that I turned around in three weeks, from first sketches to final approval. And to think I almost didn't take the job. In fact, when Jason sent me a message if I could create his ketubah for his October 12 wedding, I thought, well if you get me your personal details right away and we don't have many iterations, then I can do it for sure. This, thinking that he would just choose one of my seven designs. But then I got his transaction and he had wanted a personalized ketubah, as in, a whole new design. That's when I panicked and told him there was no way I could do it, especially with two weeks of school vacation coming up and all of the holidays. So I wrote him a message apologizing. This was at 4am. The baby had woken me up and with the time difference, I tend to get a lot of emails at night. Then I tossed in my bed for twenty minutes. Then I wrote him back. Let's talk tomorrow and see what you had in mind and maybe I can do it.

We spoke and it turned out he wanted the basic two trees connected by a bridge design but customized with imagery that was meaningful to the two of them. He told me how they met online because he had posted that he was just looking for someone who would ski moguls with him, til death or bad knees do they part. I took the job.

He sent me a list of things that were important to them, like healthy organic food, mountain biking, skiing (obviously), nature, their Jewish heritage and community. They live in San Francisco so the bridge made sense. They had already written their text. I took my sketch pad up north when my husband and I went away for a few days for our birthdays and sketched out some ideas. I emailed him a rough sketch. He approved. And then I just painted the whole thing and he approved that too! It was magical! All of my commission experiences have been wonderful but some very challenging.

When I sent him the final proof before Yom Kipur, I ended my note by wishing him an easy fast. (That's what you say on this holiday, since Happy Day of Atonement is sort of inappropriate). Only after did I realize that he might have assumed I was referring to the project. Maybe I was.

Cherry on top by Susie Lubell

Roadside ice cream stop

Well we survived Yom Kipur this year, but only barely. I will say that as challenging as the day itself was, the eve of Yom Kipur was quite enjoyable. How can I explain it? It's like Christmas Eve (in Amish country) meets Critical Mass. Once the sun sets, kids from all walks of life hit the streets on bikes because no one is driving. NO ONE. People don't drive. I think it's because they're atoning for how badly they drove the whole last year. And it's the holiest day of the year too, so there's that.  It also means that kids roam the streets freely. I overheard one second grader tell his dad he was going to a neighborhood about a mile away in the dark with his buddies on bikes. See ya, was the dad's reply. So we went out too and saw just about everyone we knew in this town. It was quite an experience.

And only a few days later we are coming off of an even bigger experience. A seven family camping trip up north on the Dan river. It was a hundred degrees; we had to sleep outside since it was stifling in the tent; the kids got eaten by mosquitos (I find I don't get bit when the baby is nearby since he's so juicy). But in the spirit of Indian Summer, we went in search of cool water and found a lovely (freezing) spring where we went for a dip and had lunch and a quiet patch of the Jordan river bank where we watched the sun go down.

All in all we kept cool as best we could, enjoyed the company of new friends and delighted in the incredible food that everyone sizzled, fried, chopped, sauteed, baked and shared. On the way home we stopped for lunch at a family friend's house where I mostly sat on her air conditioner while she served us fresh goat cheese, eggs, salad, avocado, fresh fruit and brownies. It was serious post camping pampering.

And then the (literal) cherry on top came on our three+ hour drive home when we pulled over to change the baby's diaper. It was a random side road off the highway which apparently is a main (dirt)  road to one of the Arab villages (cities) nearby. The kids got out and stretched, we changed the baby and had some fruit while several cars and trucks sped past us. Then an ice cream delivery truck drove past and stopped.  I knew in my heart that the driver had stopped to give us ice-cream. Which he did! A young man popped out of the passenger side, ran around the side of the car and a few moments later came back with five cherry vanilla ice-cream popsicles. He handed them to me and said, you're five right? Happy holidays! Then the driver leaned out and wished us a happy holiday too. Indeed, a little happier made by cherry popsicles!

Up next, a peek into our sukkah this year. Mr. Rosen's parents showed up even before we returned from camping and built the thing, decorated it and had dinner waiting for us too. We need to buy a lottery ticket and really ride out this wave...

Not so fast by Susie Lubell

White bougainvillea

I had every intention of fasting today. We know where this is going right?

But I decided that, since I have a cold, I should at least drink water, because I need to stay hydrated. And then I thought, well I'd hate to add a caffeine headache on top of my sore throat and stuffy nose.
So I decided that God would allow coffee under these extreme circumstances.

But I decided to drink instant coffee instead of the yummy espresso we make with our Nespresso machine. That seemed like the right thing to do, all things considered.  Without milk or sugar.
But then that felt more like torture than repentance. So I added milk and sugar. But only a little bit. But it was still so disgusting that I made real coffee also.

Soon after I made toast for the baby from the challah that Mr. Rosen baked last night. But when he started to throw it around the kitchen I decided I needed to model the right way to eat toast, so I had a few bites too, since I'm a good parent. Starting now. At least I didn't have toast from the chocolate chip challah*, which Mr. Rosen made for after Yom Kipur, when we would really deserve such a decadent treat.

Listen, it was a lot easier before we had kids. When we didn't have to prepare food for anyone. When we could sleep until 11:00 am, read a book, watch a movie, loaf around and by then it was over. But when your kids wake you up at 6:00 am, it's a lot of hours of fasting. Anyway, I had a blood test yesterday and fasted for twelve hours. So I'm counting that plus the twelve hours from last night and today. Yom Kipur is cumulative this year.

 Better luck next year.

* I did have the chocolate chip challah.

Electricity is hard by Susie Lubell

Bauble stands in the Jordan Valley.
Electrical wires made prettier by colored glass, Jordan Valley

Do you remember in junior high and high school, spending hours of your life learning things that you knew were completely unnecessary? Like geometry? Or the Krebs cycle? Or the Middle Ages? Uch. So boring. I find though, that as an adult, and especially as a parent, all that stuff comes in handy. Because my kids ask questions about everything all the effing time and I don't know is usually met with additional, harder questions. So I mostly make up answers that seem within the realm of possibly true based on my foggy learnings as a young person. I'm usually not too far off. And there's always Google.

But there are some things that I never learned and so I really just don't get, made starkly apparent by our move to Israel, and I'm not talking about Middle East politics, although that is another thing I don't get.  I don't get electricity. I mean, I get how to turn on and off switches and that energy gets generated in a number of ways both benign (wind) and nefarious (dinosaur bones). And that it costs a fortune here in Israel and that they never actually check your meter when they bill you; they just make grossly inaccurate assumptions based on past consumption  by the family of eight that rented your house before you.

What I don't get is which of my American bought appliances/devices work in Israel.  And which needs a transformer or just an plug adapter. For instance, my computer doesn't need a transformer, nor my phone. But my wand mixer does and so does my breast pump (which I thankfully don't have to use anymore). Mr. Rosen's guitar amp needs a transformer. But my son's electric toothbrush charging dock does not. And neither does our portable ipod speaker thingy. But our lamps only work when we have Israeli lightbulbs which are different than lightbulbs in America.

So if my son's Oral-B dock works then my guess is that my dust buster would have worked here too! Damn it! I gave that thing away before we came thinking it wouldn't work. Stupid! That is the one thing I need now more than anything since Trouble McFood Hurler is the kind of little boy who leaves a path of destruction wherever he wanders.

And just yesterday I went to plug in my lightbox* and I basically blew the thing up. Bye bye. I've had that thing for almost twenty years and now, because of my ignorance, it's dead. You see I didn't take physics in high school or college. So for me Hertz is a rental car company and Watts is a bad neighborhood in LA. And don't get me started on voltage. If the little pin thing is the right size for the contraption you want to power, it should work, end of story. Unfortunately this is not the case. Meanwhile, Mr. Rosen, the mechanical engineer that he is, finds this both annoying and amusing. Though I feel I should mention that he has blown out two power drills since we've been here. And looked very sexy while doing it.

But my point is this. As my kids begin their long descent into formal schooling I anticipate a lot of moaning about why we need to learn so many seemingly useless things. Take heed, young friends.  Algebra is important. And so is stoichiometry and syntax and Beowolf. And don't skip out on Physics in favor of Anatomy just because the Physics teacher is not as cute as the Anatomy teacher. You will regret this decision, if not while you are dissecting a fetal pig, then when you are bigger and need your hair blower to work in a foreign country.

* a wooden box with a light bulb inside and a glass surface that I use for tracing - like when I finally arrive at a sketch I like but the page is full of erasures, I need to trace it onto a clean piece of watercolor paper so I can paint it. Calligraphers use them to to write in straight lines on envelopes. FYI.