Stronger Together by Susie Lubell

Making shopping awesome since 2011.

Making shopping awesome since 2011.

I hate grocery shopping in Israel. I've lived here nearly five years and I thought it would get better and I guess it has a little. I don't feel intimidated to order cheese at the cheese counter. I understand grams. That part has definitely improved. But everything else still stinks. When I visit the US in the summer and I get to go to Trader Joe's, you know what I like the best about it, besides the way food is packaged such that it takes me half the time to cook meals, or how cheap the cereal is, or the fact that coconut water exists, or the pretty chalk drawings on the end caps, or the fresh flowers, or all the chocolate covered things you can buy (I would buy packaged fingernails if Trader Joe's dipped them in chocolate. Wow, a parenthetical INSIDE a run-on sentence. You're welcome Mrs. Fletcher, 9th grade English), or the fact that I can just take a cart without searching for a coin to use as a down payment for cart usage, which, by the way, is so dumb because if I wanted to own a shopping cart, then five or ten shekels is really not a deterrent...? What was I talking about? Yes, what I love about Trader Joe's. It's the CHECKOUT. 

I love that the checker places the food items on the conveyor belt and also bags my groceries. I LOVE THAT. I can't even describe to you the stress I feel while trying to load my groceries and then bag them while the checker has now moved on to the person behind me to the point where I erroneously end up with her anchovies and cat food. Wait, let me try to describe it. It's like a tiny vice on your eyeball. It's like taking your driver's exam in Burmese. It's like reading Danny and the Dinosaur to your son every night forever. It's just not fun. I'm bagging as fast as I can, and I know how to bag my friends. I worked at the Tustin Farmers Market for a year in high school! My brother worked there before me. I come from a long line of grocery baggers. But still, it's impossible to keep the pace. And some days are extra tense, like Thursdays before Shabbat when the place is PACKED and everyone is cooking for seven hundred of their closest family members. There just has to be a better way. 

In fact there is a better way. A few weeks ago I did an experiment. I was at Rami Levy, a popular super market chain in Israel, and it was a busy morning. I needed to pick up my kids from school soon, which adds an additional layer of checkout stress. The man in front of me was doing his best to load his items onto the belt, but it was slow going. So I say to him, "Why don't you start bagging your groceries and I'll put the rest of your stuff on the belt for you." Well he loved that idea and thanked me wholeheartedly. And you know what happened? Soon enough it was my turn. And then you know what happened next? The guy behind me says, "I got your groceries. You go bag." And so I did! It was beautiful! So smooth and simple. I thanked him as I was leaving and noticed the woman after him starting to put his groceries on the belt for him too. And so on and so on. It was a grocery revolution.

Now I try this trick every time I grocery shop and not only has it worked almost every time, it has made shopping so much less stressful and oddly more meaningful! One time there was a middle aged Russian woman who looked at me suspiciously as if to say, "Communism is dead, comrade." But otherwise everyone has happily pitched in. Because you know why? Life is better when we work together. We share the burden; shit gets done; we make a connection. We're stronger together. 

See what I did there? Little Hillary pitch I slipped in while you were enthralled by my story...
#strongertogether #imwithher #traderjoesforever

Think Different by Susie Lubell

In December of 1997 I started working at a company called ATI Systems in Tel Aviv which was essentially the Israeli branch office for the Japanese trading house Tomen Corporation. I was 24. I walked there everyday from my apartment on Epstein Street near Ibn Gvirol through Kikar HaMedina and all of the Gucci and Prada stores, past the Tel Aviv museum of Art to Kaplan where I sat for 8 hours everyday in a basement office next to Berlitz and across from a licensed Apple retailer and tech support store. 

I hated that job. I only took it because the first job I took in Tel Aviv working for a psychologically unstable American woman promoting green building materials imploded after three months and the second job as a buyer for an Israeli tile company sucked the soul out of me and I quit after three days. I was running out of money and, as you might expect, living in Tel Aviv without money is depressing. 

So I took this random job. The two men I worked with treated me like their little geisha. Something cute to look at and yell at, apropos all of the stories of harassment in the media these days. There was another man, Mr. Shabuya, from Tokyo, who sat in his office and did nothing all day, as far as I could tell. I was there a year when I told them I was taking my three weeks vacation to go to Turkey with my boyfriend. Then they fired me. 

Anyway, while I was working there I befriended some of the techies from the Apple store across the hall. They had these amazing posters from the 1997 Think Different campaign and I'd had my eye on the Picasso one. The day I was fired I went to say goodbye to those guys and they rolled it up for me as a parting gift.

Over the last twenty years it has spent much time hanging in various apartments and much time rolled up in a tube in the attic so as not to scare the children. But I found it the other day and decided it was time to hang it once more with the hope that it will indeed scare the children so they will bother me less in my studio. Now every morning Pablo and I have a heart to heart, corazon a corazon. I tell him my creative hopes and fears and he keeps his big misogynist mouth shut and just looks right at me with his big genius eyes as if to say, You got this cha cha. Bring it.

Gone 'Til November by Susie Lubell

November.jpg

I finished this painting yesterday. It has been hanging in my stairwell since June. Untouched. I don't get a lot of painting done between June and November. It's the end of school. It's summer. It's Jewish high holidays. It's a lot vacation and a lot of obligation and a lot of time off school for the kids and it's hot as hell. It's like I have Seasonal Affective Disorder except not when it's cold and dark. I have it when it's hot and bright. So this morning I was telling Mr. Rosen how it's almost November! When I come back to life! When I know I have five months of winter to look forward to. When I know I'll soon be wearing my high boots and my sweaters. When I can make a pot of tea and be cozy and close my eyes and smile and paint. Because there are no school holidays for two months! And all I have is time! Then I told him I would just need to find a way to be gone til November every year. Which made me start to sing the song by Wyclef Jean. AND THEN PEOPLE, I swear to you no more than five minutes later, that song came on the radio...

Twelfth Year by Susie Lubell

Hi again.

It's me. Your mommy. Here to wish you another happy birthday. You have grown up so much this year. It seems that all of those trying times managing your obsession du jour - electricity, phones, raspberry pi, lego, Rubiks cube, magic, programming -  are finally paying off. I took you with me to the Apple store this summer to see what was wrong with my 2011 Macbook Pro. The guy at the genius bar practically offered you a job. I went ahead and bought myself a new Macbook Pro and gave you my old one. Not only did you help me transfer all of my files to the new machine, you installed my new operating system and new software, made sure all was working well and then completely overhauled my old laptop so that it runs like new. Whatever is broken can be fixed by looking at a YouTube video. All those years trying to undo whatever damage you unleashed by fearlessly using my computer in ways unintended was a solid investment in my future technology needs. In-house tech support is finally here and I am loving it.

It was just about that time when I was trying to figure out how to hire someone to help me with my ketubah orders. They had been piling up while we were on vacation in the US and I knew that if I wanted to grow my business I would have to find someone who was bilingual, adept at using graphic design software, and happy to work only about 5 hour a week. And someone nearby. That's when it occurred to me that you were my perfect intern! And I was right! You are an exemplary employee, tracking your hours on toggl.com, asking the right questions, learning from your mistakes, taking on more responsibility little by little. What a pleasure for me to have you by my side in the studio! 

This was also the year that Boris entered your life. Boris the piano czar. I'll never forget the look on your face after you and Boris crushed Grieg's Norwegian Dance duet at your final concert in June. It was magnificent. The look, not the piece. The piece was amazing, but that look of total astonishment and satisfaction that you had was priceless. I hope you come to feel that way about everything you do and that you always have inspiring mentors to encourage your progress. Like your hockey coach and your robotics camp counselors. And your homeroom teacher. Even your cousin who became a bar mitzvah this year and totally inspired all of us. 

Indeed your passions for whatever it is and your total dedication to accomplishing your goals is an inspiration to your family. Like when you declared yourself a vegetarian this year - not an easy endeavor for someone who doesn't love vegetables. But you made up your mind about six months ago and, lentil by lentil, it looks like we're all headed in that direction. If only you'd make up your mind to keep your room tidy. Or love your siblings in a more outward manner. A mommy can dream.

Love you mieces to pieces.
Mommy

 

 

 

A Shortcut to Peace by Susie Lubell

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

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

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

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

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

"May I sit in the front?"

"Of course! Whatever is comfortable for you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High Five by Susie Lubell

Hi beautiful boy.

It's hard to believe but today you are no longer four and a half. You are five. All the fingers on one hand including your thumb even though it looks like a half finger. You are big.  No nap big. Booster big. Bike riding big. Sleepover big. Big enough to wipe yourself. Effective immediately. 

Sometimes I watch you interact with your older brother and sister and it's like a window into my own early childhood. I see your frustration when you can't get a word in at the dinner table. I see your sadness when we all appear to be (or actually are) ignoring you. But mostly I see your pure joy when you all play together. It must have been that way with us too. Me and my brothers. We must have played together when I was a little girl. It was so long ago and my memories are fuzzy but I like to think that five year old me was once adored by 9 year old and 11 year old siblings, the same way you are adored by yours. Gets me right in the feels.

This year you started a new preschool and it is the perfect place for you. You have so many good friends, all of whom were just at our house for your first ever birthday party rager. Your birthday is so close to Shavuot that we've managed until now to pass off our holiday gatherings as your birthday party. Stick a few candles in that cheesecake and call it a birthday, am I right? I guess not anymore. Indeed the party was a great success but I feel quite certain that we will never be doing that again. 

But because of you and your gan, I finally feel like a real part of this community. Because of you and all of your friends, I've made some friends of my own. When we first moved here, the parents of your brother and sister's friends had all known each other for years - since their kids were in daycare. Relationships were formed. Alliances made. I was always odd mom out. But with you, I'm in on the ground floor. Its a good place to be. 

Your favorite food group continues to be ketchup. You love dinosaurs and Curious George. Every morning you collect your morning hug from your brother. You have been known to produce elaborate performance art pieces that incorporate dance elements, synthesized music and storytelling. You like to bring all of your plastic animals into the bath with you although you are careful to only bring sea creatures into the water. The rest you place around the rim of the tub like some kind of blessing-way ceremony.

For your birthday you asked for only two things: a big bean bag for your room, like your brother and sister both have, and a doll. And not a baby doll or a Barbie doll. You wanted a doll like your sister's. A big girl doll with her own clothes. So I got you an American Girl knock-off. And now I do believe it's time to introduce you to Free to Be You and Me so we can sing William's Doll together. I'll do the Alan Alda part and your can be Marlo Thomas. 

If I had to describe you in one word it would be earnest. Everything about you in on the up and up. No manipulation. No cunning. It's what you see is what you get. Utter sincerity. That said, there have been a few times when you've claimed you won't be my best fwend anymore unless I give you an Oreo. And I admit, it hurts. Cuts to the core. Which is why I often hand over the Oreo because I just can't risk it. Best fwends fowevo. 

Love you mieces,
Mommy

I am the King!

I am the King!

Creative Cross Training by Susie Lubell

Work in progress. Like everything else.

Work in progress. Like everything else.

Three weeks ago I was scrolling around in Facebook, which I do far too often and which I generally find to be a total waste of time. But during this particular session I came across an invitation to a workshop on Voice and Space held by a fantastically gifted Israeli vocal artist named Victoria Hanna. I signed up immediately. For those of you who know me, you know this is highly uncharacteristic as I usually spend weeks researching the crap out of something until it has lost all of its original appeal. But something told me this was an opportunity not to be missed. 

I came across this video by Victoria Hanna about a year ago and was completely mesmerized. I had never heard of her before. Honestly I couldn't even figure out if she was speaking Hebrew. Or Arabic. Or Aramaic! It's obvious to me now that she's singing the alphabet and an acrostic prayer spoken during the festival of Sukkot called Hoshana. But during that first time listening and seeing this spectacle I could only hear tones, linguistic explosives and fricatives and nasals; I could only see someone absolutely embodying her own power. The images and sounds stayed with me for a long time.

And here she was offering a workshop on Voice and Space, whatever that meant, in Ein Kerem, a quaint artist's colony only 20 minutes from my house. It's like if Eric Clapton was having a workshop called Chords and Cords at the local YMCA, and you happened to find out about it, you would put on your favorite pair of corduroys and go for it. Figure out why later. Which is exactly what I did. The very next day.

And good thing it was the next day because had I had any more time to think about it I would have backed out. But I didn't back out and suddenly I was standing in a circle with 15 other women, in a small compound off the main road in charming Ein Kerem. A chef, a rabbi, a psychologist, a retired architect, a high school senior... indeed we were a wide range of ages and experiences. And for the next five hours we did exercises in opening up. We did a lot of humming. A lot of moaning. We talked about the body as a vessel. A space within a space. A container with holes. An instrument. Like a flute. And before I knew it I was bearing down and chanting next to Victoria Hanna while she made reference explicitly to her mouth and implicitly to her vagina, mentioning in the same breath, Talmud, childbirth and poetry. It was kind of exhilarating. She talked about how vibrations move through us. The whole world full of frequencies finding their way through each person. In as air. Out as sound. Thinking of it in this way removes all ego, that pesky thing that berates us for not doing it right. Whatever IT might be. Because when you're just the vessel, the sound comes through you, but it's not YOU. If you let the vibrations move through you at your most open, that's when the magic happens.

And suddenly I understood why I was there and what her words meant for my own practice. I'm not a singer, though I have been known to sing in Yiddish on occasion. I am a painter and my best work, the work that I feel most connected to and delighted by, comes when I get out of my head and let the vibrations move through me and onto the canvas in wild, juicy color. Mine is a constant process of letting go. Opening up. Revealing to myself and the world my own singular gifts. Because no one sees exactly how I see or processes the grand space outside of me the way I do. So the more I open up, the more clearly I can translate those gifts onto my canvas.  

This is the kind of experience I call Creative Cross Training. Doing something creative, that's not your regular thing, to unclog the openings. It can be anything. Voice. Movement. Photography. Even that class I took last year in screen printing which was, for me, a completely new way to work in color and layering. Creative Cross Training also allows me to take risks and fail miserably without damaging my ego. Because I'm just the vessel. Whatever comes in moves through my space. In as inspiration. Out as creation. I just have to make sure the path is wide open and marvel at whatever emerges.

My Name is Susie by Susie Lubell

a selfie with my translator

a selfie with my translator

My name is Susie. 

That's all I knew how to say but it turned out to be enough to get us started.

We went on a hike on Saturday with a small group of Israeli families from the area where we live. Joining us were three Palestinian families from the same area, but the other side of the checkpoint. We all met at a gas station that's in a kind of no man zone and together we crossed the road and headed down a path toward the springs in the village of Hussan. I found out about the walk via Facebook and some activist friends of mine who are involved in a group called Path of Hope and Peace. I had met one of the organizers at this same gas station a few months before. We have a common friend. And another organizer belongs to our synagogue. 

Fewer Palestinian families joined than expected because on this particular Saturday there were ten weddings in Hussan. The walk was beautiful and I struck up a few conversations with our hosts/guides. Ali is a gardener and works for several families in our town. He has a permit to work anywhere in Israel, he told me. He also told me that Israelis tell him he looks like Israeli singer Eyal Golan, which he kind of does. We laughed about that. Ameen also joined and brought his two girls Meervat and Mayeece, ages 10 and 7. He is a tour guide from Tekoa and speaks English very well. 

When we finally got down to the spring, I noticed other families there, not part of our group. The adults kept to themselves but the kids seemed curious. There were about eight kids who all looked to be between nine and eleven years old. Spindly bodies, dripping wet with spring water. Frenetic conversations. Animated gestures. The teasing tone of fifth graders, universally understood despite any language barriers. I can spot fifth graders a mile away. It's my favorite age. They noticed me too and shouted HELLO! GOODBYE! SHALOM! 

I turned around and walked right up to them and said, Isme Susie. My name is Susie. Sadly it's about the only thing I know how to say in Arabic. I pointed to myself and repeated, Isme Susie. 

The boys went crazy. Shrieking their own names. Laughing. 

Shwe shwe, I said. Slow down. Isme Susie. Then I pointed to each one. 

Isme Mustafa
Isme Osama
Isme Mohamad...

I had their attention now so I started to say ONE, TWO, THREE in English. Soon all the boys were shouting the numbers in English up to ten. Then they waited for my next move.

ECHAD, SHTAYIM, SHALOSH...

They all chimed in on the Hebrew numbers too.

Then I said, Arabiya?

Immediately they started screaming the numbers in Arabic.

Shwe shwe, I said. Then the boys counted slowly from one to ten so that I could count with them. At that point my nine-year-old daughter joined in. She knows the numbers in Arabic too. The conversation continued. I understood they wanted to know how old is my daughter and her grade in school. Most of the boys were indeed in fifth grade. I told them my son is in fifth grade and motioned for him to join us. I introduced him and the boys were careful to repeat his name. Ameen's daughter Meervat knew a little English and helped with some translation. They asked where I was from. AMRIKA!!!! I also managed to convey that I live in Tsur Hadassah. They know it's close by. Then one by one they wanted me to watch as they ran and jumped in the spring again. SUSIE!! SUSIE!! I hooted and hollered for them and gave them my hearty approval. 

As we were leaving I said goodbye to my young friends and passed out high fives and fist bumps. My son asked how I could talk to them if I don't know any Arabic. I just told them my name, I said. That's all it took. 

The Girl is Nine... by Susie Lubell

Dear Sugar Bee,

For as long as I live I will never forget a moment that happened this year. We were on the plane flying from the United States back to Israel. About an hour into the flight you suddenly started sobbing. I was already trying to remember where I'd stowed the children's tylenol, sure you'd burst another ear drum, when, between sobs, you told me you were worried that your kids wouldn't know your Grandma. All I could do was stare at you and cry myself. 

We had just had another great visit with her and goodbyes are always hard for you. They're hard for me too. And I thought my God, you are a spectacular child. Thoughtful and considerate. So expressive. So full of love. We cried together for a little while until the flight attendant ended our moment. "Something to drink?" Make mine a double.

And today you are nine which hardly seems possible. I watch with utter astonishment how you courageously navigate your relationships, especially with your friends at school. With this one not talking to that one and that one telling everyone else not to talk to this one. And you in the middle of all of it telling everyone to be friends. Standing up for the bullied. Sitting next to the outcast. Negotiating peace between battling girl tribes. 

Unfortunately you often leave your peacemaker hat at school to come home and wage war. Brothers are not always easy. I know that. And you have them coming at you from all sides. But those two boys love you very much. Especially your little brother whose greatest joy is playing dolls with you, setting up playmobile, building forts, making tea parties, dressing up with you and basically spending every moment he can with you. And while sometimes you lose your last shred of patience for him and then I want to hurl both of you off the roof, you are largely two for the road. You even willingly offered to sleep with him in his room on a semi-permanent basis so that he wouldn't feel lonely in a room by himself. You are the kind of big sister that I had always dreamed of having for myself. 

What else? It looks like your days as a pixie ninja may be numbered. You've already announced this is your last year in judo, which I respect. It was a good run. Hopefully you'll find something equally awesome to do next year. Maybe you'll join your brother on the roller hockey team. And then we can accessorize with some striped tube socks, a terrycloth headband and a unicorn tee shirt and casually segue into roller DERBY. Then you can really get out some of that signature Sugar Bee aggression. How can someone so sweet and cuddly one minute be so terrifying the next? Wait, I think one of your rolled eyes got stuck. Nope, it's back. Glad these episodes are short-lived.

My birthday wisdom is more of the same stuff I always tell you. Always try your best. We were just talking about this a few weeks ago when you had some tests coming up at school and you were complaining about how everything is so hard for you. I know that can be frustrating, especially when it seems like things come so easily for others. All I can tell you is that training yourself to do the hard work will serve you best in the long run. The ones who seem to breeze through reading and times tables will eventually come across a subject or skill that does not come naturally. And they won't know what to do next.  But you, who have always had to work hard, will rise gracefully to meet every challenge. 

All my love and mieces to pieces,

Mommy