The Essence Of Motherhood In 9 Words

“You’re only as happy as your least happy child!”

I’ve heard countless mothers quote this statement over the years, and although it’s nearly impossible to determine who came up with it, I think it’s one of the most insightful statements about motherhood ever uttered.

Madeline (not her real name), for example, was recently filling me in on her grown daughter and son.

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Kids Do Say The Darndest Things

A man named Art Linkletter hosted a popular afternoon TV show from 1945 to 1969, House Party, and on it was a segment called Kids Say The Darndest Things. A few kids sitting at attention on the stage (as kids in the 5Os were trained to do) would field Art’s questions about everything from their parents to politics, and they’d invariably make funny, clever and insightful comments. Kids have unnerving observational skills, and, without filters, they don’t hesitate to speak their minds and unleash their creativity. (more…)

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

If you live in an apartment building in Manhattan, you may barely know the person who lives in the unit 10 feet from yours. Technically, he’s your “neighbor,” but the two of you hardly are what you’d call “neighborly.” That’s just the way it is there, maybe not always, but often.

If you live in a rowhouse in Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant section (Bed Stuy, to those in the know), being “neighborly” is the rule, not the exception. This probably is nothing new to those of you who have lived in houses most of your lives (except if you live on a fancy estate and your nearest neighbor is acres away). I, on the other hand, haven’t lived in a house since I left my parent’s home when I was 21, and became a married woman, so this is a brand new experience for me.

I now live on Lexington Avenue, between Bedford and Nostrand Avenues (coincidentally, I also lived off Lexington Avenue in Manhattan). My house sits on a ridiculously long block that’s about ⅕ of a mile, and has about 60 houses, but it feels more intimate than the upper east side co-op building where I lived, which had only 22 apartments, three on a floor!  I meet neighbors when I walk Rigby morning and evening, when I take out the trash (I’ve become a religious recycler here, where everyone follows the rules to a T), and when I move my car from one side of the street to another to abide by alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations.

What’s especially lovely is that this is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city.

Young couples live on the block. Beautiful and charming Mina Stone, a private chef, and her artist husband (I forgot his name) live immediately next door, and the wonderful aromas of her cooking periodically waft onto the deck off my kitchen.  Mina is having her first child any minute (she’s two weeks late, and the doctors want to induce today, as a matter of fact), so it will be fun to have a baby next door.

Another young couple, with a 16-month-old son, lives about 10 houses away. The husband and I met when we were standing on our decks on Thanksgiving Day, both taking breaks from cooking our Thanksgiving feasts.  I followed the progress of their beautiful backyard renovation during the summer, and was thrilled to hear he’s a landscape architect, and I could hire him to work on my backyard this coming spring.  

Single women rent apartments in some of the homes on the block.

One moved here a few years ago after breaking up with her long-time boyfriend. She loves gardening and tends to the front garden, which must please the home’s owner.

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Meet The New Man In My Life

Do you publicly moan and groan, at least once in awhile, when things aren’t going as smoothly as you’d like?

You might have a bad cold or developed a big, bad cavity. Maybe the thermostat isn’t working on a bitter winter day.  Or UPS can’t locate the rug you ordered for the living room. When things like this happen, and you’re feeling under the weather or hate the weather, think about Santos.

doorI met 40-something Santos a few months ago, when he came to my new (old) house to draw up plans to build a kitchen, from scratch. Santos definitely has a way with wood. He created the striking kitchen on the parlor floor, two beautiful closets on the second, as well as new doors for every room (each in a different design). What’s more, he’s self taught, and one of the hardest working men I’ve ever met. He’s dedicated to his two sons and crazy about his six-month-old grandson. You should know, his life has not been easy, not easy at all.

Most recently, Santos was working on bringing back an ancient (1899) entry door in my house from the dead. Then he took ill and almost died himself.

Ignoring the pain he was feeling in his stomach, for a few weeks, Santos continued to work in his shop. He finally went to the doctor when he developed severe diarrhea and couldn’t keep food down. The doctor told him he had a stomach virus and prescribed antibiotics. A week later, Santos wasn’t feeling any better and the pain became so bad, he asked his son to take him to the hospital.

Santos spent over 12 hours in the ER, without complaining or demanding attention, despite his intense pain. He had blood tests and two CT scans. Around 10 pm, he was visited by two doctors, he recounted when I visited him earlier this week.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Berami, the surgeon,” one told Santos.

“And I’m Dr. Cartwright, the anesthesiologist,”  said the other.

“And I’m Santos, the carpenter,” answered Santos, with a chuckle, despite his intense pain.

The CT scans revealed that Santos’ small intestine was being telescoped into his large intestine.

The condition is called intussusception (most common in children), and if it wasn’t surgically fixed, pronto, the intestinal wall could lose its blood supply, develop gangrene and become perforated. Santos was so close to that point, the doctors took him into surgery at 1 am. He didn’t go into a tailspin about his situation or ask the doctors a litany of questions. “I know about wood and they know about operations,” Santos told me pragmatically. He trusted they’d do their job as well as he does his.

The operation lasted 3 ½ hours. Santos is looking–and feeling–stronger every day. He doesn’t yet know the biopsy results, but I have no doubt he’d handle a cancer diagnosis as well as he handles everything else. Practically.  Without fuss. Although he outwardly may act laid back, however, he’s a worry wart inside, which may have contributed to his current health problems. But, he’d rather spend positive energy on his family and the work he loves than on bemoaning his fate.

I am thankful Santos has become part of my life. The doctors told him he’ll probably have to spend another week in the hospital. Hopefully, he’ll be able to eat solid food by tomorrow, so I can bring him a homemade turkey dinner.

Geri’s Moving Story: The House Is Taking Shape!

Even when Douglas and I moved into our first apartment in 1968–a studio in an ancient tenement building on the upper East Side of Manhattan with lots of roaches that apparently hid when we looked at the place–I wanted to make my home beautiful.

We bought a long, lovely birchwood dresser with eight drawers, since the apartment was sorely missing storage space; a small cherrywood table that opened up to become a much bigger table, because I loved to have dinner parties, and two pretty white ginger jar lamps that sat on the dresser. I always adored buying bedding, towels, kitchen equipment, and tabletop products, too!

Many apartments later, I have officially moved into my first full-fledged home–at 69, no less!


I now own three gigantic Rubbermaid garbage cans on wheels (I make most of every attempt to recycle); I (sort of) understand how a boiler works to provide heat; when a pipe leaks, I can’t rely on a superintendent who lives in the building to fix it (although the man who is going to live in the rental apartment on the ground floor is mighty handy.)

I have a working bathroom, the cable and Internet are hooked up, and I am sleeping in my own comfy bed after spending two months on strange beds in temporary studios (sans roaches). Although the kitchen faucet and countertops haven’t arrived yet, the refrigerator is working, so I can keep a supply of seltzer! Now that the weather is getting cooler, I have been wearing the same three pairs of ‘workout’ pants over and over (I do wash them frequently in the laundromat since the washing machine isn’t hooked up yet).

My ‘office’ is set up on a tacky card table I bought at Target, surrounded by tools, paint cans, stray screws and nails, and papers I haven’t been able to file for months since the filing cabinets are buried behind mountains of cartons. When it’s time to eat, my Target work table becomes a dining table. If I had a baby, the table would undoubtedly work as a changing table, too.
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He Knows How To Deal With Pests (And Women)

Keith Goodman jokingly calls his 90-year-old mom, “Angie The Terrible” because she “takes over” every chance she gets. When he set her up in the 1,000-square-foot finished basement in his house, after Angela had surgery, she was upstairs constantly. She stayed for four months, and then Keith bought her a condominium nearby. Even though Angela has a companion who comes to help her out eight hours a day, “she’s up making herself breakfast before the woman arrives,” Keith told me. “She only watches Channel 11. Thinks it’s just for her. Loves the Maury (Povich) Show.” Gotta love Angela.

Gotta love Keith, too.

He’s a dream 51-year-old son for any mom on the face of the earth. Visits Angela every single day, often more than once. Lays out her meds. Brings her favorite cake. Makes sure her companion is cooking her fave dinner. Mashed potatoes and fish are a dinner of choice. When Keith recently disagreed with something Angela wanted, she admonished him, firmly saying, “I’m the mother!”

Keith was referred to me by my Brooklyn-wise pal, Nadine, who sold me my new (old) house, and owns a couple of houses nearby. “He’s a great exterminator, and very reasonable,” she said. The plumber working on the renovations in my home discovered an unsavory creature in the cellar, and I needed (was desperate!) to get ahold of Keith pronto. He called me back minutes after I left a message on his cell and made an appointment to check out the house. (more…)

Do You Know A Great Guy For Her Successful, Single Daughter?

“Do you still help set people up on your website?” asked the woman who called me one fine afternoon recently as I was driving to an appointment. She was referring to the FabOverFifty section we launched in 2010, called Date My Single Kid, created to help members of our community set up their single “kids.” (more…)

Leaving Manhattan After 48 Years!

When I took my friend Debbi to see the house I’m buying in Brooklyn, NY, she said: “I don’t know why you’re making such a big move at 69!”

I’ll tell you what I told Debbi in a moment, but first let me give you the details: I’ve owned a wonderful, 1,300-square-foot apartment (plus outdoor area) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan since 1992. I’ve loved living here, and if the walls had ears and mouths, they would tell you some pretty wild and wooly things.

On the less racy side, I remember the Christmas dinner buffet party I threw for about 100 employees. The weather was especially mild that year, which allowed guests to gather in the outdoor space, where the bar was set up. I hosted my own 50th birthday party at the apartment, surrounded by the people in my life who were the “most fun.” I vividly recall returning home late one evening from an exhausting European business trip and locking myself out within minutes. I remember welcoming a never-ending stream of my son’s friends, who would often gather here since it was close to their school. I loved making them meals. To this day, they call me “Godmother Brin.”

I always thought this would be where I’d live for the rest of my life, but I started to change my mind a couple of years ago, for two major reasons:

First, the maintenance on my apartment keeps rising, and is now $3,500 a month, which is pretty steep for a co-op of this size. The maintenance covers costs including the doormen salaries (I could care less if I have a doorman); redecorating the lobby and the hallways when the “board” decides they need to be redecorated (even if they don’t need to be decorated); replacing two elevators for $250,000 each that should have been replaced 15 years ago (for far less); Christmas parties with absolutely horrible food; Thanksgiving decorations for the lobby (usually tacky). These monthly costs rise every year.

When you live in a co-op, you don’t actually “own” the apartment; instead, you own shares in the co-op, which is set up as a corporation with a board. Co-op boards also have to approve most every single thing a tenant wants to do in his or her apartment, from painting to installing a new bathroom sink, from putting up a new wall to tearing down an old one. When I wanted to install central air and heating four years ago, my entreaty was flat-out rejected because two other tenants were fighting over a noisy air conditioner one of them had installed. It didn’t matter that my proposal had nothing whatsoever to do with the neighbors’ argument. In fact, the central AC/heating unit I wanted to install is far quieter than traditional ACs. (BTW, I installed the unit anyway, which eventually caused me grief, but I’ve enjoyed having a superior AC and heating system). Oh, and when you sell your apartment, you also have to turn over 2% of the sale to the building. That’s called a flip tax.

Co-op boards have horrible reputations throughout Manhattan. Most board members get all mixed up and actually start to believe they’re powerful and important people because they have some “control” over their neighbors’ welfare. Thankfully, new buildings rising all over the city now are condominiums, which are far less restrictive.   

Reason #2 I’m leaving: Although I’ve loved being a Manhattan resident for the past 48 years, I crave a new adventure. Becoming a Brookynite will indeed be an adventure. I’ll be the owner of a real home, with back and front yards; gas and electric meters, and a enormous heating unit in the cellar, not to mention my own laundry equipment. I’ve never owned a washing machine or dryer; I’ve only used communal equipment in the buildings where I lived.  

The 1899 house has a cellar and three floors.

I’m converting the garden level into an apartment that I plan to rent, and using the two levels above it as my home and office. That will make me a landlord, another new adventure. I’ll have a spacious deck right outside my kitchen, where I’ll be able to barbecue, which is verboten on my Manhattan outdoor space. I’ll also be able to do my exercise sessions outdoors, when the weather is nice. Never did that before!  And, it will be a treat to look at the charming old tin ceilings before I retire at night and when I wake in the morning.

Although the area in Brooklyn to which I’m moving–it’s called Bedford Stuyvesant–is thriving with restaurants, shops and services, I won’t have everything practically right outside my door, as I do on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I’ll actually have to walk about three blocks to the drug store and drive to get to the kind of grocery stores I like. That’s another adventure. I haven’t owned a car since my college days. I’m also looking forward to taking excursions around the different neighborhoods of Brooklyn, which all are metamorphosing. My parents wouldn’t recognize the Brooklyn where they were born and raised.

Yet, Manhattan is only a 15-minute subway ride away. It actually will take the same time to reach downtown Manhattan from my new home as it does to get there from uptown.

My last day as a Manhattanite is next Wednesday, but I won’t actually be moving into the house that day.

I’ll be subletting an apartment nearby for six weeks, so I’ll be able to see how the renovation is moving along. I look forward to sharing news about my new old home with you as it shapes up. And, if you plan to visit New York, please stop by!

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My Husband Was A Sex Addict!

Charlotte is as pretty as her name. She’s in her early fifties, and was born abroad, although her slight accent doesn’t give away where. She married a man from another continent, decades her senior, and they raised their son in the United States, where they launched a successful business together. Charlotte was his third wife.

Anyone meeting them would swear she was the love of this man’s life. And, were it not for his sexual addiction, she might very well have been.

Even after Charlotte found out about her husband’s wandering ways, and he vowed they were over, he continued to betray her trust. She had enough when he claimed he was on yet another business trip, but she heard him greet his lover in the hotel room (he accidentally left his cell phone on after he and Charlotte talked.) She was sad, but she wasn’t surprised. (more…)

So, What Have You Been Doing During The Last 35 Years?

I had a three-hour lunch on Friday with four old friends. It was a long lunch because three of us haven’t seen each other in about 35 years. That’s a lot of catching up to do! We actually could have spent three more hours, but other obligations beckoned.

geri-and-friends

All of us worked together in the mid-70s at Norelco, the company that’s well known for its electric shavers. Back then, it also produced a full line of kitchen products, including microwave ovens, coffeemakers, and food processors, as well as personal care products like hair dryers. I was the publicity director; Pat worked for the brilliant but completely crazy president; Diane assisted the sexy, smart and roving-eyed vice president; Alice worked for an adorable, hard-to-understand Dutchman, and Theresa worked for fun and intense me. Theresa and I lost touch for many years, but reconnected a few years ago and have remained pals ever since. (more…)