Art Garfunkel is Not Dead by Susie Lubell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the baby barefoot?

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

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

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

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

What?

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

So sad to lose him.

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

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

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

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

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An Immigrant Mom Learns Israeli Persistence by Susie Lubell

Nerd Street

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

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

Something Between Trophies for Everyone and You Suck by Susie Lubell

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

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

Revolution Number Nine by Susie Lubell


Hey Kiddo,

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

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

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

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

I love you.
Mommy


My Montefiordieth by Susie Lubell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to all for your birthday wishes.

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Tel Aviv Cinemateque
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Three for the road by Susie Lubell

At Disneyland!

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

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

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

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

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

More good times ahead.

You are Two by Susie Lubell

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Dearest Babu,

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Sunshine.
xox Mommy

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

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Return by Susie Lubell

Return, acrylic on canvas

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

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

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

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

Barack - Paper - Scissors by Susie Lubell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Candy pharmacy concept store
Candy pharmacy

Sigalit's earrings
Sigalit's earrings - her shop

Carmel Market
Spices at Shuk HaCarmel

Favorite notions shop
ribbon!

Bike cozy
bike cozy

Neve Tzedek neighborhood 
Neve Tzedek

Moroccan style store 
Art Moroc

Bookstore
Charming book shop

Shining some light by Susie Lubell

Let your light shine

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

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

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

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


Only in Israel by Susie Lubell

Interpretive dance on top of biblical well.

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

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

Only in Israel.

 Well dancer Well dancers

Clearing space for tiny sparks by Susie Lubell

SparkDante_final

I am starting some new habits. Small daily practices, if you will. Until last week the only consistent actions I did each day without fail were brushing my teeth and drinking my coffee after I drop off the kids. Everything else either happened or it didn't. There was no schedule. There were just wide open days that were either productive or they weren't. It felt like bumbling. Made me long for the days when I worked in an office and someone managed me. 

WHAT? Yes, I just wrote that. Because working from home as an artist can feel very sloppy. I am constantly distracted by the laundry, the unmade beds, the thought of dinner and the empty refrigerator, the lives of the three children I manage, the lives of my friends near and far, the news, the gremlins in my own mind that are often mean and outspoken.  And this feeling like it all has to be perfect and lead to a final piece or product so there's no room to play. I know that sounds counter-intuitive - needing structure so I can relax and play. But imagine a room with hundreds of toys on the floor. My kids might jump in but then quickly feel overwhelmed and step to the side. Or more than likely they would look at the mess and whine that there's nothing to do. I need a system to manage the internal and external chaos. I need a schedule. I need deadlines. I need an order of operations. I need daily motivation and daily inspiration. I need all these things to help me quiet the distractions and allow my imagination to breathe.  It turns out the sloppy bumbling nature of my day is making me unproductive and actually stressing me out. So last week I started a daily practice to add more structure and rhythm to my life, the idea being that a daily practice, not related to my creative work, creates a space for ideas to spark. And I tell you, it is working already.

I decided I would wake up at 6 am every morning and do 20 minutes of yoga. A few months ago I signed up for this service called YogaGlo and it is fantastic, when I actually use it. You pay a monthly fee which is less than the cost of a one hour class in some cities and then you can filter the zillions of classes they have by duration, type, level, teacher, area of concentration etc.  Of course, as Murphy would have it, the minute I started waking up before the kids, they started waking up earlier too. So a few times this week I enjoyed doing shivasena with a giggling toddler sitting on my heart chakra. Nonetheless I managed to do yoga five out of five days and I actually looked forward to waking up at that ungodly hour. I'm trying to add other daily habits too. Sketching. Hand-lettering. Learning new tools, new media. Taking field trips. Writing. Sharing it all in a  way that doesn't feel socially spastic. I am finding it very challenging. But little by little I'm hoping the structure will lead to more sparks and the sparks will lead to a big ass inferno.

Coming up roses by Susie Lubell

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

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

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

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

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


Mohammad and Me by Susie Lubell

I met Mohammad about a year ago. Maybe more. It wasn't long after we moved into our house that he showed up claiming to have worked for the previous tenants. A few others showed up and made the same claim. One was a painter. One was a handyman. They all live in neighboring villages and walk into our town every morning through the holes in the fence. Mohammad says he walks right in the front gate because everyone knows him. He's been working here for years. I've even seen him buying cigarettes at our grocery store.

Last year we had him pull out all the weeds in our yard that, over the rainy season, had grown two or three feet high. You could lose a toddler in there. And Mohammad mentioned that snakes like to hide in those tall grasses. 

When can you start?

So he spent three days yanking weeds and trimming trees and generally cleaning up a very overgrown yard. And I learned that employers are meant to provide the gardener with many cups of strong, sweet coffee, in a small glass, no milk. He also showed up in the fall to pick our olives. We paid him in olives.

He works for our neighbors too. Knows everyone by name. He's a hard worker and a sweet man. He speaks a little Hebrew but it's mostly Hebrew words wrapped in Arabic sentences. And he uses a lot of hand gestures like he's telling a campfire tale. I work from home so we chat throughout the day. Yesterday he asked if he could bother me for a little hummus for his lunch. So I put some hummus on a plate along with a sliced tomato in olive oil and two slices of yummy walnut toast we had in the freezer. He was grateful. He apologized for not eating the toast. He has no teeth. I hadn't noticed. 

He's also missing his left eye. Apparently a family member took it out over a money issue. I think he said 70 shekels but that can't be right. It happened eight years ago. And he was supposed to go to court over this matter but the court date was postponed. But he can wait because he's planning his revenge, which means he will take his cousin's eye.

It says that in the Koran, he told me.

Yes, I'm familiar with the passage. We have one like that too in the Torah, I think.

He told me this same family cut his son and then he motioned to his abdomen for which there was some retaliation, though like all of Mohammad's stories, I only caught about 40%.  Mohammad has five sons and five daughters. He married off the last one six months ago. I told him I thought it was crazy to plan revenge for his eye and that the man who did this needs to pay him money and sit in jail for his crime. Because with all due respect to the Koran, an eye for an eye only leads to more violence.

You're a smart girl, he said.

Maybe you can help me plan my revenge. 

I think I saw his good eye wink.

Today I gave him a bag of old toys for his grand kids and he was delighted.  He asked my name.

It's Susie. Like ex-President Mubarak's wife.

He nodded.

Mubarak was taken down, he said.

He has three tons of gold sitting in Tunis but he lost his power. Same will happen to Assad. Maybe not tomorrow. Or next week. But it will happen. The big men always have power and we starve. It won't last.

Then he turned his foot in the dirt he'd just cleared like he was squashing a bug. When he asked if I had any lunch for him today I said we were out of hummus so I would ride up to the grocery store and get some more. He asked if I could get some softer bread too. I smiled. So did he.

Yep. No teeth.

Note to self for future birthdays by Susie Lubell

Aviv's Bithday

I live between cultures. I grew up in America and raised my kids in America, or started to anyway. I have an Israeli husband whose parents are American. And now we live in Israel and while there are some days when I can kid myself into feeling like I belong here just as much as I belong there and it's all good, there's nothing like hosting a six year old girl's birthday to make you remember you are a stranger in a strange land.

We had asked our daughter weeks before what she wanted to do for her birthday. I mentioned that we could do something fun, just the family and she seemed to be on board with that idea. I lobbied heavily. But then two weeks before her birthday she told us she wanted to invite everyone from her kindergarten. Now, I'm no dummy. I know that is a recipe for disaster, but I also know that Israeli teachers are hung up on this idea that you have to invite the whole class or either the boys or the girls.  So I said we could invite all the girls and the moment that sentence was out of my mouth the panic started to set in. What would I do with them for two hours? I considered hiring someone to entertain, as most parents here do. I had seen magicians and fairies and storytellers. I even had a number of someone to call. But we've never hired people for our parties and it just didn't feel right. I decided I could manage on my own. We would do a rainbow themed party because I had seen super cute rainbow cupcakes on Pinterest and a friend of mine had shown me these beautiful puffy rainbow tissue paper pom poms that I could make for decorations. And since Purim was coming up we could decorate masks with all kinds of sequins and felt and feathers and then play some games like the one where you run toward the bin of clothes, put something on and run back. I had visions of little girls wearing all kinds of hats and boas and tutus running around giggling hysterically. This vision kind of got me excited about the party and I started planning everything. Rainbow fruit skewers and a rainbow vegetable platter. Rainbow cupcakes. Rainbow pom poms and balloons. The dress-up game. Simon says. Mother May I. Musical chairs. It would be old school and I liked it. Mr. Rosen was on board, although it's hard for him to muster up the enthusiasm required to pull this kind of thing off and me with my conversational Hebrew, well I knew it would be challenging to wrangle in a group of six year old Israeli girls. I didn't know it would be Dante's inner circle.

We passed out invitations five days ahead of time having made the mistake of giving advanced notice with our son's birthday and people showing up a week early. Israelis don't plan ahead. I mean, what with the threat of total destruction at any moment...but I digress. I asked parents to RSVP. Of the sixteen girls we invited, four mentioned to me that they were coming. Then on the day of the party only eight girls came which should have made me happy except that we had planned on twice as many so we had too much of everything and I hate excess. But I had rolled out the red and white polka dotted oil cloth that I'd purchased for the occasion which looked as festive as Minnie Mouse's underwear so this party was ON. As the girls arrived their parents left by wishing us good luck. I should have known we were in for a nightmare.  I sat the girls down at our fully extended dining room table teeming with crafty notions of every variety to make their Purim masks. The party was soon in full swing. The Purim music was playing. It was festive. But then twenty minutes into the craft, the girls were mostly done. They wanted to know what to do next. So I collected a bunch on the floor of the living room and attempted to play telephone with them while other girls were finishing. Some girls didn't feel like it and lumped themselves onto our couch. In fact I didn't ask what they felt like, I asked them to sit down in a circle. But that's how the party went on for two hours. I'd introduce the next game/activity and invariably several girls would say they didn't feel like it. Um, I'm sorry. These games are not up for a vote. Just stand in two effing lines you whiny little apple-cheeked turds.  This isn't YOUR birthday party. It was maddening.

Here is what I came to understand. Israeli parents (maybe this happens in the States too but we have had our share of successful birthday parties over there so I'm not sure) have mostly thrown up their hands at birthdays. They pay for entertainers and feed the kids candy and now they expect it. They come into the house knowing they will sit down and watch a clown and when there's no clown, and the party requires their active participation, they are confused and become listless and lump themselves onto the couch. The two hour party felt like a six hour party in a parallel universe where planets don't rotate around a sun and time stands still. And the kicker was that my daughter was no better than the other girls. She's turned into one of them. Despite my near constant reminders about manners and about how we host people graciously in our home, she was pouty and "didn't feel like it" either. She would have rather had a magician. I would have rather been the magician and made myself disappear.

But no experience is without its life lessons. Here is what I learned:
1. I will never host a large group of kids from school at my house again.
2. We will have borthday parties only every other year.
3. Birthday parties will only be with family friends who have similarly-aged kids.
4. Off years will involve a fun dinner or hike or play or concert for family members.

The irony is that the pictures I took convey a group of delighted, cheery little girls and, truth is, thirty years from now we'll look at those pictures and remember how much fun we all had.  And my adult daughter and I will wonder what the hell is wrong with kids nowadays. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.*

* I wish I could claim I'd written that last line. Alas, it's the last line of The Great Gatsby. I could probably use it to end every one of my posts.


Aviv's Bithday

Aviv's Bithday

Aviv's Bithday

Aviv's Bithday

Aviv's Bithday

Aviv's Bithday

Rainbow cupcakes! 


Now we are six by Susie Lubell

Now we are six

Dear Sugar Bee,

I'm writing this to you on Valentine's Day, a holiday I never much cared about. Neither when I was younger and we had to pass out those store-bought snoopy valentines. Nor when I was older and not dating anyone. Nor when I was dating or married to your aba. He never remembered and I never cared enough to remind him. But you know what? Now it means the world to me. Because yours was a labor of true love, starting on Valentine's Day and ending bright and early on the 15th of February, thus guaranteeing a lifetime of half off roses and candy for your birthday.

I can't say this has been an easy year sunshine, what with you trying to push me off a mental cliff and send me to an early grave having pulled out all my hair. But it's not really all your fault, I mean, you being a kid and all. I can think of a lot of situations with you that I would have handled differently. But these last few months have been a good stretch, wouldn't you say? More love. Less sass. But you are a sassy little miss aren't you and I have to admit I like that quality in you. We just have to harness it and direct it toward other people besides me. And maybe you could work on being less compulsive about your high ponytail. Just a thought.

You have had some pretty big accomplishments this year too, Sugar Bee. Namely you stopped sucking your thumb. That was TOUGH since it's attached to the rest of your hand. And you also lost two teeth. The tooth fairy apparently knew where to find us in Israel. Lucky break. And you started to write letters in Hebrew and English. Just the start of all that but it's nice to see you're interested in writing. Maybe when you're older we can have long impassioned conversations about fonts.

For this next year I wish for you many blessings. I hope you continue to love your family the way only you can. Because it's kind of a drug for us now. We need the daily dose. Especially your baby brother who thinks even your farts are magical. Your big brother thinks you're pretty awesome too, when you are not tormenting each other. As for me and Aba, well we marvel at the bright, witty, helpful, loving girl you have become and the clever, wicked, chaotic, snarky girl who peeks out too. Indeed we love every part of you. Happy number six.

Mieces to pieces,
Mommy


Perspective by Susie Lubell

Ancient Mama
She hasn't had her coffee yet either.
The Americas Wing, Israel Museum


I was having one of those mornings. First day of the week. House still wrecked from the weekend. Kids lunchboxes still packed (and stinky) from two days ago. Dishes piled high. Frowny McSnotFaucet indecisive about breakfast. That is, until he decidedly poured the soup crackers still on the table from last night's dinner into his bowl of cereal. All of them. My son and daughter are tormenting each other in the way only they know how. My daughter can't find her favorite shirt. Head is pounding. I ask tell everyone to be quiet. My daughter shouts back that if she has to be quiet then so do I. I tell her to "be careful of me". That's a real phrase in Hebrew that parents use and I'm glad I'm allowed to use it too. It means "don't fuck with mommy." The other phrase I like is "I forbid it". Very direct and culturally sanctioned. I get the baby dressed and go to tackle the dishes and lunches. The baby pours a bag of almonds on the floor. Mr. Rosen takes the baby far away from mommy to daycare. The little girl is still mad that she has to be careful of me. The boy is singing. He has not stopped singing since yesterday. We get in the car and drop him off. Little girl says sorry and feels better. We hug and walk to school Lavern and Shirley style. I get home feeling dizzy which can mean only one thing. I have not yet had coffee. I see my neighbor friend walking her dog and she can tell I am having a morning. And she giggles because she remembers those mornings. Her boys are teenagers now and she looks back on soup crackers in the cereal with an aching fondness. Her oldest son who is sixteen just got his first draft letter. I guess kids start getting the letters two years ahead of time. And there are many meetings and placement tests and physical exams leading up to the day we all dread. The day that even coffee can't wash away. And I think, you know what? I will happily endure many more years of piled dishes and morning tantrums and snotty toddlers and teasing siblings and spilled almonds and the kinds of things easily fixed by a little coffee and a little perspective.

All good by Susie Lubell

Arise My Love 
"Arise My Love" available here.

I used to write in a journal when the mood struck. Trouble is the mood struck only when I was either high as a kite or bottom of the barrel and mostly the latter. As in, just met the love of my life! Love of my life hasn't called...Love of my life and I are getting married! Planning a wedding is torture...Got into graduate school! Graduate school is torture...I'm having a baby! Babies are torture...you get the idea.

Well same goes for the blog in a way. Obviously plenty on which to report, Seinfeld style. What is the deal with pomelos? Do they have to be that difficult to open?  And I don't go five minutes with having a comment about something, Chandler style. Could it be any colder in my bathroom? But what can I say? We have settled into a nice little groove over the last month so the blog has been neglected. Still, a good blogger would find time to write which I have not and I am remiss. So here is a round-up of a few things slightly more interesting than excessive fruit rind.

1. I started selling at the Bezalel Art Fair on Fridays in Jerusalem and it has been mostly fantastic. I get out the house early in the morning and spend the day with other artists, chatting with tourists and locals, talking about myself and my work, and making good money! Not bad. That is, until last Friday when someone stole my phone right off my table while I was looking down at my sketch book. A story for another time.

2. It snowed! The second week of January it had been rainy and freezing. We were all starting to feel rather cooped up. And then we woke up on a Thursday morning and everything was white! It was amazingly beautiful and peaceful and pristine. And it was like a half foot of snow which is very rare over here in Jerusalem so you can imagine it was like everyone was sprinkled in fairy dust. Smiling kids and parents. Mr. Rosen even pushed the kids down a hill on his snowboard, which hasn't seen the light of day in many many years. Of course it melted the next day but we had one day of magic and that was plenty.

3. I have been painting. A lot! And it feels pretty good. I've been missing my watercolors having mostly painted with acrylics over these last few months. I have this vision of making dozens of tiny watercolor pieces and having a group show, not unlike The Enormous Tiny Art Show, complete with festive, catered opening and twinkly lights. Not exactly sure how I will make this happen but it's on my mind. If you own a gallery or rad space in Tel Aviv, lemme know.

4. We had elections and in a strange twist of fate, I think most people are satisfied. Imagine an election when everyone kind of got what they wanted? Weird, right. Well the people who like Bibi got him again. Ugh. But he might become Bibi 2.0 if he decides to create a coalition that doesn't include any ultra-religious parties, which might be possible since centerist party leader Yair Lapid, a former journalist/talk show host/actor and newcomer to politics managed to get 19 parliament seats for his new party (half of whom are women). And the lefties got a bunch of seats and don't seem to mind Lapid (it appears most people kind of like him. It helps that he's nice to look at). And in this strange new world order maybe, just MAYBE, the ultra-religious might have to start serving in either the army or some kind of civil service and the government can redirect the funds formerly used to subsidize an entire community of unskilled torah scholars toward training and entry into the workforce. And those kids might even integrate a little into mainstream society and we can finally live as one nation while we figure out how to live next to another nation. And maybe my kids won't know from the peace process. They'll only know from peace.