Wednesday, November 27, 2013

For Vivian

Eulogy for my grandmother Vivian Rosenberg Goldstein
Oct 18, 1916 - November 24, 2013

She was born in 1916. That same year Paris was bombed by zeppelins for the first time, the light switch was invented, the Saturday Evening Post published its first cover by Norman Rockwell, and Margaret Sanger opened the first Planned Parenthood Birth Control Clinic. Later that year, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected thanks to women, who still had not received the right to vote across the country, but in the states where they did have the vote, they voted decisively for Wilson. All of these things – electricity, women’s suffrage, the war, the continuing struggle for women’s reproductive rights – have had an impact on our world, but no event of 1916 had more impact on the people in this room, then the birth of Vivian.

I have a photo of Mom-Mom from 1976. She is standing in a bathing suit, a large brimmed hat on her head, her arms outstretched to the sky, a huge smile extending ear to ear. She is in some sort of outdoor tiki bar. She is exuberant. When you look at the photo you just want to join her at the party – wherever she is. But you see, the funny thing is, if you look closely, you see the bar is empty.

As my mother Eileen, said, “Vivian was not just the life of the party – she was the party. Everyone wanted be around her and with her because she always made life fun.” Last night when I spoke to Pop-Pop’s cousin Nancy, she said that as children they always looked forward to a visit with Travis and Vivian because “when she was around it was always exciting.”
When my son Travis was little, I would take him to the Zoo often. One of this favorite exhibits was the Tigers. We would stand there and marvel at the majestic tigers. And wonder how something so magical, so ferocious, so beautiful, so larger than life could be here with us in captivity?

That was our time on earth with Vivian. Her spirit was always too big for her body, for this world, for us.
Anyone who knew her – or even crossed paths with her for even just one moment – knew they were interacting with a force of nature. At 97, on her deathbed, she debated politics, bantered with the nurses, made bawdy jokes, and reminisced about the great loves of her life. She was her own self – independent, vivacious, funny, smart, loyal – till the very end.

She was blessed to have experienced great love in her life and to leave this life surrounded by her family who visited her nearly every day during her last weeks. You could not help but love her. First there were her parents, Herman and Mary, who loved her deeply. Then her two children, Gary and Peter who were steadfastly dedicated to her all of their lives. Her daughters in law, Diane and Anita, who she so admired, respected, and loved. Even her ex-daughter in law, my mom Eileen, was one of her closest friends. And then of course, there were all of us kids – the cousins and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren who worshipped her. She was the sun in our solar system.
The number of people who loved her was countless. Bridge partners, allies, and nemesis; best friends, and caregivers. She was irascible, sarcastic, brilliant, funny, and beautiful and you just could not help falling in love with her. And falling in love is exactly what she did when she first met our Pop-Pop, her husband, Travis.

Even in her last days, her favorite story to tell the nurses and visitors was of how she and Travis first met on a blind date, set up by his cousin, and how she was smitten right away with Travis’s dapper spats, and kid gloves, and buckets of charm. Together, they were magic. Our own George and Gracie, Lucy and Ricky, Tracy and Hepburn. They were together for 67 years. And after Pop-Pop passed away, she found love again with Ralph, her companion for ten years. He was kind and dedicated and she was so grateful for his love, his friendship, and the joy they had together.
As fun as she was, she was fiercely loyal. You could tell her anything. You could be yourself around her. She knew us – our true selves – the way hardly anyone else did.

Each of us went to her for marriage advice, with relationship questions, with secrets, with joy, with fear, and she always made us feel better about ourselves. She was the first person you called when something wonderful happened because she could celebrate more enthusiastically than anyone else; and she was the one you called in the middle of the night, when you were feeling alone, or down, or confused, or scared. She never judged us at our worst. She celebrated us at our best.
She told us all often, in this last month, that she had no regrets. And I think that is her legacy to all of us. She taught us, by example how to live life fully. Whether it was ushering at the theatre in her tuxedo, dancing at the club in sparkly high heels; playing golf, tennis, or bridge; watching a dolphins’ game, drinking martinis, cheering on a political candidate, being a parent, or a best friend, or falling in love. She put her whole self in it – she was with you 100% in every moment – she was the best.

We will all miss her but I know she would have wanted us to remember to love more, laugh more, forgive more, dance more, shine more, wear more sparkles, drink more martinis, and be kind with one another. She was our tigress, and we enjoyed the fleeting moments we shared with her wild spirit here on earth. She will be missed.


Monday, April 8, 2013

London Calling

So Travis has certainly proven to be a much more regular blogger then I. But then he is not writing a screenplay :-) So family and friends, here are some pictures from our most recent journeys on sabbatical.

First, I have been working on the film. What that means is that i have been watching all of the footage we shot in brazil and trying to formulate everything into a 56 minute script. I have (as of today!) an outline completed and the script is moving along. We are blessed to have a team of translators volunteering on the transcribing over 20 hours of footage of interviews in Portuguese! Isn't it amazing how much time goes into creating something that in the end will be less than an hour? AMAZING.

In between, time working on the film, I am trying trying trying to relax and have a sabbatical. After all, as Tuti Scott our sabbatical consultant at WGF reminds me whenever I speak to her. That is the point of sabbatical.

So, I have been reading a lot. But NON WORK RELATED.
This is often where I do my reading. On Barcelonetta Beach.

I re-read some Hemingway & Gertrude Stein because it felt like it was only right to read expats writings on living abroad. And Hemingway  (of course) writes at length about Spain. (And Paris too of course, where we will spend a few days at the end of our trip). I know it might seem strange but I am a feminist who LOVES Hemingway. I always have. I discovered him in Junior High and just fell in love with his clarity of language. The way he could really see things and name them and describe them simply, getting at the essence of things. I would like to try to do that myself with my work.

So, in addition to reading we continue to explore Spain. David has been invited to give lectures in many places throughout Europe while we are here. In fact so many, that for his birthday I made him his own world tour t-shirt that shows all the places he is speaking at while we are here. I went with him to Zaragosa and while we were there we went to Rioja (which is not too far) and that is where they make the wine of that name and later this week Travis & I will join him in Madrid. Over spring break we were in London and Liverpool. Before we left, we spent Passover in Spain. So what was it like you ask?

Well...I had hoped it would be like this...
And admittedly with a little bit of this...

but actually it was your basic...
But they did serve a very nice Duck Confit for the entree (which David was very happy about). And if you notice their seder plate had an orange & a chocolate bar on it. More on that later.

 The orange on the seder plate is a reference to when a rabbi said that "A woman belongs on the bimmah like an orange belongs on a seder plate" yes friends, I did manage to find the one feminist seder in town. :-) And the chocolate somehow represents how we should support sustainable agriculture that does not "enslave" anyone. We did not quite get the subtelties of this tradition, but really who is going to argue with having some good dark chocolate on the table, certainly not us.

Right after Passover, we were on our way to England. Where we were able to see friends, and tons of museums, parts...we took Travis to see....

Romeo & Juliet performed at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre!!!!

You can see Travis was pretty excited!!! (So were we!)   

Also we went to the Beatles Museum in Liverpool.
And DEFINITELY the highlight of the trip was seeing the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London.
We were able to go on the set of the real "Great Hall" where they have all the meals and large meetings in Hogworts, and see all the original costumes, and lots of other sets like "Grifindoor Common Room" and "Dumbledore's office" and "Snape's classroom" and the "Wesley's House" and the boys' dorm rooms, and really the list could go on and on. We were a little cynical b/c it was quite expensive and worried it might just be a 20 minute tour. But we actually spent nearly 4 hours there! So it was quite worth it and quite remarkable and impressive. Travis was especially excited to see the car, and motorcycle, and "night bus" and chess pieces of course. Here are some of our favorite pics.

That's all for now. Lots of Love, Heather, David, and Travis

Friday, February 22, 2013

This week in barcelona


Esta semana voy a la escuela espanola! For you Americanas this means - "This week I am attending spanish school!"

David and I enrolled in a two week intensive spanish class for beginners at a wonderful, and small, language arts school called "Version Orginale"

This is a very clever name for a school, because here when you are looking to see an American film in the theaters in English, you look for the words "Version Original" which means, the film is not dubbed, but rather the sound plays the "original version" or as we say in spanish "version original" and then there are spanish (or in some cases here - Catalan) subtitles.

Our teacher Christina is wonderful and I can not get over how much we have learned in one week. We are attending classes from 10am-1:30pm. In Spain, people have lunch anytime 1:30pm-3:30pm. Most stores are closed 1:30pm-5:30pm. Most restaurants are closed 3:30pm (or 4pm) till 8 or 9pm when they reopen. So you can imagine, that is the part that has taken the most getting used to. Restaurants in the U.S. are usually open for dinner 5pm-9pm or 10pm (the latest during the week in pgh). Here, they are closed 5-9pm.

This is a picture of our neighborhood. It is called, Eixample. See how big it is?!?

Below is a more detailed image and you can see how each of the "squares" in the photo are a "block." Each block in Eixample is built using the same plan: a square with an empty area in the middle. 

In addition to attending school, David and I are both trying to get work done. David started teaching his classes this past week. He teaches on Monday and Wednesday afternoons/evenings. 

I am having a harder time getting work done in the apartment during the day, as Travis and Julie are using the living room/dining room as their classroom. The good news is starting March first I will have a small office to go to during the days, so that I can EDIT THE MOVIE!  

You will all be happy to know that Travis is doing really well at "school."His tutor Julie is very patient and kind and he seems to be learning a ton! Everyday they have science and math and reading, but they are also focusing each week on a special topic. 

So far, he has had one theme week on Gaudi and this week's focus was Egypt. He will update his blog with info about Egypt this weekend. Next week is the Middle Ages. They have been doing experiments in Science and reading a great deal and playing interactive games on the computer related to his theme each week. 

Travis also attended a movie making "after school" class this week, at the American School of Barcelona. While it is a bit of a trek to get there - a 20 min metro ride + 20 min bus ride, the faculty and administration there have been so welcoming to us and Travis LOVED IT. So we enrolled him. It will be once a week, so a nice chance for him to connect with other kids, learn something of interest to him, and hopefully make some friends too.  The teacher is a nice british guy and Travis was recruited into a group who are making a 5 minute film called, "Larry Potter" - so this feels like a recipe for success. 

Well, that is about all for this week's update. We love you all. And are ever grateful for this opportunity to unplug from our everyday, and experience this different and beautiful place and culture, and de-stress a bit from our regular work and school lives. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sabbatical Journal - 1

One finds oneself doing things, one had not imagined, on sabbatical. For one, there are no clothes dryers in Barcelona, it is not the custom, so while working on my feminist film about women presidents, most days I find myself hanging my little boy's underwear and sheets on the line to air dry, becoming expert with clothespins as I look out at the other seƱoritas, each of us on our terraces in the morning sun. I find it oddly meditative.

Also, this makes me wonder about U.S. energy consumption. I can't help notice that the dishwasher and laundry machine use less water here then in the states. And of course, then there is the air drying laundry....we have a fourth floor apartment with a small terrace that we thought we would have our morning coffee on, but honestly serves as our humble laundry room. But that's okay because really we are in Barcelona, right?

Boulangerie (bakery) located WAY too close to our house
While our carbon footprint may be diminishing - our CARB consumption is significantly expanding. All of my vows of a carbless existence hit the pot when each block has no less than two boulangerie (bakeries) and it seems like a national insult to walk by without getting our daily baguette...and a bottle of wine...and chunk of cheese, of course to go with it.

Like other times when we have rented a house - on the vineyard or on vacation - the first week has been filled with constant trips to the grocery store as we realized what we "must" and "don't" have - from the exotic (hearts of palms, olives, pate) to the old standbyes - milk, oj, cereal, yogurt - and all the million other things in between - toilet paper, soap, hand soap, laundry soap, shampoo, fabric softener, oh how many different kinds of soap one family needs to stay clean! And we need hampers, and paper towels, and hangers, and ketchup and you see it really all adds up fast!

I am not complaining, just wanted to give you a clear picture of sabbatical life. So far. School for Travis began today and he had a great first day. His tutor Julie is smart and creative and energetic and so they seem well matched. They had a very productive first day filled with science and math and art and reading and they both seemed quite happy (and relieved) that it went so well.

Someday it will be warm enough to wear these...
Barcelona is a curious city in regards to weather. Most days it is beautifully sunny with the clearest blue skies one can imagine. But the wind is also fierce. Perhaps because it is a port city. So the sun and the sky and palm trees make me think it is a beach day. But the wind chill in the 40s reminds me otherwise. As you can see, I did not have room in my luggage to pack many winter clothes because i had other packing priorities...:-)

We are having fun though doing things like....sleeping in. Incredible! I think jet lag had something to do with it, but week one we gave ourselves permission to "be on vacation" and we all stayed up late and slept past 10:00am and wow what a difference this makes in one's world view.

Hospital St. Paul located around the block, quite beautiful.
This week as we begin school mode and work mode things are slowly moving back to a regular time schedule. Travis's home school schedule beginning, David's class schedule beginning, and me back to working on the film. Though time is a crazy thing here too. Most stores are open 9am-1pm and then open again 6pm-9pm. Or if it is a restaurant, they are open 1-3pm and then again 9pm-midnight. So, it took some getting used to, but we are slowly getting the hang of it.

Most people here speak Catalan with a little spanish. We speak English with a little Spanish. But hand gestures and large expressive eyes seem to help break the language barrier. David and I begin spanish classes next week for real!

View from the top of Casa Mila
The public transportation is WONDERFUL. Travis is already an expert at the metro and we are all learning our way around. It is a great city for kids this age because Travis (and his tutor) can get around so easily without the need of a car at all (and us too). The metro system here is very clean, safe, and efficient and so are the buses. Next week we hope to connect Travis with some after school classes (and classmates!) at an American School here.

So, all in all, expat life is really wonderful and such a great experience for us as a family. Already Travis seems more independent and confident and the journey seems to be very good for him.

More soon...Heather

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Barcelona - Week One

Casa Milla
Hello friends and familia - we are now safe and sound in beautiful Barcelona. It is not quite hot here...yet (it has been in the 50s all week) so we still need our coats and gloves. But it is also very sunny. So, we have winter coats and sunglasses on most days. Travis has been adjusting very well to our new apartment and new city and his new tutor/travel nanny Julie. Here are some photos from one of our first outings, to Gaudi's Casa Milla. 
Casa Milla Roof

As you can see, it is quite beautiful and has the most wonderful many leveled roof with sculptures all about. Each fixture actually serves a critical role in the building - as exhaust for air, or fireplaces, or some other ventilation need. Incredible!

Our visit here was Travis's first request and it did not fail to delight and impress us all. Check out Travis's blog next week for a report on Gaudi and the Case Milla. His blog is at but he told me to tell you he will be updating it next week as he is "still doing research." Ciao! H, D, & T


Friday, January 18, 2013

Today I met a real life hero

Today I had the chance to interview one of my (s)heroes, Eleonora Menicucci. She is the Minister of Women's Policy for Brazil. She and Presidenta Dilma Rousseff were revolutionaries together fighting against the dictatorship and when they were both in their 20s they were inprisoned and tortured. They were cell mates in prison and now Dilma is Presidenta and she has appointed Eleaonora as Minister. If you need some inspiration just click here to read more about these incredible women. I am so honored to have this opportunity to meet and speak with them in person.

And here are pictures of Veronica and I with the Minister (in front of the Presidenta's photo) and pictures of Brazil's beautiful and impressive capitol city Brasilia.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rio - a review

Rio was quite wonderful. The crew includes myself, Heather Arnet (writer/director/producer) and Veronica Marques (Producer for ELAS in Brasil). Veronica is also the current Director of Communications and incoming Co-Executive Director of ELAS the women's fund in Brazil. We are joined by Nathan Golon (Cinematographer/Director of Photography); Emilia Freire (Line Producer), and interns Louisa and Carolina who are have been managing the logistics of everything on the ground. And in Rio we are also joined by our driver Marcus, security guard William, and Sound Assistant Junio.

So now you know the cast of characters. :-) Everyone has been wonderful to work with and so welcoming to us. In Rio we have interviewed many incredible women. Here are just a few highlights and photos below from our week in Rio:
- Day One: We interviewed Delanie Costa from IBAM who has held candidate trainings for women and is on the Board of UN Women & has amazing knowledge of women's political trends in Brazil. Then we interviewed Marta Rocha, Chief of Police for all of Rio and discussed her long career in the police force, her experience as the first woman Police Chief of Rio, and we visited a women's police station, especially created to be a place where women can come to report sexual assault, rape, or domestic violence and receive support and assistance from female police officer and specially trained male police officers.
- Day Two: We met with Candace "Cindy" Lessa, the Board Chair of ELAS who has also worked with Ashoka, and is a leader in the development of social change philanthropy and the non-profit (or as they call it here "the citizen sector") in Brazil.
- Then we went to interview Tia Surica at the Portela Samba School. Surica is an Internationally famous singer and samba dancer and she has been instrumental in the development of this school - one of the oldest and most famous in all of Rio. We watched Surica sing and dance with the children at the samba school and talk to us about the critical role samba plays in the culture of Rio and in these children's lives. AND the role it had in empowering her to become a successful woman when her beginnings were so modest.
- Day Three: We met with a political science scholar who has written books and made a documentary about the role of women in the construction trades and development of Brazil. She has also written books about the representation of women in government and was a tremendous resource to us, giving a historical perspective to the importance of Dilma's presidency. Then we visited and interviewed Lillian who lives in and runs a business in a Favela and is a grantee of ELAS.
- Day Four: day We met with Fernanda Keller, 10 time winner of the IronMan triathlon she is an incredible inspiration. So strong, so smart, so beautiful. She spoke of the power of sports to transform her life, and the lives of other women and girls, and how important it is to have a dream and to work hard and to go for it!
- Then we interviewed Eliane Potiguara, who is a writer and activist for the rights and legacy and rich history of the Indigenous People of Brazil. She is a very spiritual woman and this meeting was very powerful. She told us how she was speaking on behalf of generations and generations of ancestors. We spoke of the role of indigenous women in politics in Brazil now and into the future.
- Then we met with Benedita da Silva. WOW! First black woman elected to Rio's city council, then to Congress, then to the Vice Governorship of Rio, then Governor of Rio, and now the Federal Senate. She participated in the crafting of the new Brazilian constitution and she was instrumental in both Lula and Dilma's presidential campaigns. I look forward to coming back to Brazil to volunteer on her Presidential Campaign after Dilma has been re-elected to a second term of course!
And these are just some highlights of the 14 women we interviewed in Rio. Now we off to Brasilia and will write more from there. Love, Heather