Have I Been Living Under a Rock?

If you’ve never heard of FabOverFifty stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan (he’s 53 and from Indiana), check out one of his one-hour, one-man shows.  You’ll laugh out loud, whether Jim is ruminating about being the parent of pale kids, explaining milk trends, bemoaning baths, extolling fried bread, even reporting on his wife’s brain surgery (it was benign). A master of observation, Jim sees the humor and absurdity of everything from ketchup packets to traveling internationally.

Jim and his wife, Jeannie, also wrote and executive produced The Jim Gaffigan Show, a sitcom that ran on TVLand for two seasons, where he starred as a fictionalized version of himself as a comedian raising five children in a two-bedroom New York City apartment. (He really does have five kids and the whole family did live in a two-bedroom apartment.)  And, he’s been on Broadway, in movies and on commercials.

I didn’t think I was living under a rock, but based on the success of this guy, perhaps I have been. Anyway, for those of you who don’t know Jim, you’re in for a treat.

Nominate An Inspiring Woman You Know

Heather Lee. Photo: Chris Kidd / www.seniorsnews.com.au

Heather Lee, a 92-year-old woman in Australia, holds five world and eight Australian records for racewalking, trains at least three days a week, walks at least 10,000 steps on a typical day, and likes to be a role model for “women in their middle years who are putting on a few pounds or thinking of slowing down,” she said in an interview in The New York Times. “Age is no barrier to anything, really,” Heather stressed.  

Reading about nonagenarian Heather I thought about all the ordinary women in every single city and town across the United States, and all over the world, who are doing extraordinary things.  For themselves. For their families. For their communities.

  • Maybe she’s a grandmother who stepped in to raise her two young grandchildren when their parents couldn’t.  
  • Perhaps she’s serves or cooks lunch twice a week at a homeless shelter, or reads every day to sick children who are living in hospitals for months on end.
  • Or she’s returned to school for a degree after decades raising her own children as a struggling, single mother.

Just as Heather’s story inspired me to get my body moving and shaking, I’d love to ‘meet” other exciting and passionate women who are rarely recognized for their undertakings and accomplishments. 

      1.   Please nominate one woman like this who you know.  She could be a co-worker, a relative or a woman from your community.

     2.   Write a short description of what the woman does that inspires you.  The only stipulation is that she be at least 45 years old.


We will choose one woman each week to interview and introduce to the FabOverFifty community. What a wonderful gift you’ll be giving to her! And what a wonderful gift she’ll give to us all.

Nominate An Inspiring Woman You Know

A Fab Film From the Forties

If you’re a devotee of old films, you’ve undoubtedly seen many of the movies from the 1940s, which was considered the Golden Age of Hollywood.  It’s A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart (1946), Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart (1942), Citizen Kane with Orson Welles (1941), and Miracle on 34th Street with Maureen O’Hara (1947) are among the masterpieces produced during the decade.

I’ve been a fan of old movies since I took a fascinating film course as an undergraduate at New York University, then continued enjoying them at The Museum of Modern Art, which offers a spectacular film program. And, now that we have access to extensive film libraries right in our living rooms, it’s always fun to discover a wonderful old movie, even if it’s not considered a masterpiece, such as Penny Serenade (1941).  Starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, it’s the story of husband and wife Roger and Julie Adams, whose marriage begins with adventure, joy, boundless love, and great promise, but soon faces heart wrenching tragedy and loss, which threaten to break them apart.

film screenshot (George Stevens Prod. : Columbia Pictures)

Known for his comedic acting and flawless timing, Cary Grant played this serious role of a risk-taking newspaperman so well he was nominated for an Academy Award (but lost to Gary Cooper for his role as Sergeant York.) Beautiful Irene Dunne played his strong and sympathetic wife with subtlety and grace.

Penny Serenade is the perfect movie to watch on a cold winter night during the Christmas holidays. Wrap yourself up in a cozy throw, with a cup of homemade cocoa (or a glass of Merlot!), and enjoy!

Getting Intimate on Facebook

Carly, 47, has breast cancer that recently metastasized to her brain.

Debbie’s husband, the love of her life, succumbed to brain cancer after a long struggle.

Peter has been learning to walk again ever since a cab ran him over and almost killed him.

Roseanne lost her teenage son to a rare genetic disorder.

These are real people, although I’ve changed their names, and I know them all. Besides having unfortunate circumstances in their lives, they share something else: They give voice to their grief, fear, anger, loneliness, challenges and triumphs on Facebook.

Carly asks for help getting to the hospital for treatment, graphically details her illness, and complains when she doesn’t think others understand her travails.

Debbie talks about how deeply she misses her husband and shares countless memories.

Peter chronicles his rehabilitation progress and explains what it’s like “living” in a wheelchair.

Roseanne keeps her son alive by raising awareness for the disease that took his life.

These are the OTHER FACES of Facebook, not the countless faces of those who talk incessantly of their joyous, rich, stylish, successful, and perfect lives. These other faces aren’t crying out for joy, but are reaching out for solace, for company, and to vent fear, frustration, or anger.

While the supercilious set successfully attracts legions of adoring fans who gush over their flawless lives, do those beset by crises and tragedy derive the solace they seek?

When Carly talks about her intensely painful headaches or her vomiting episodes following experimental chemo treatments, do the solicitous comments on her Facebook page relieve her?

When Peter recounts how he laboriously walked onto the cruise ship for a vacation, do the cheering comments help urge him on?

When Debbie tells her followers how lonely she feels lying in bed without her soulmate, do her public pronouncements abate her loneliness?

It can be exciting or cathartic to share our successes or setbacks with those we love. But, what drives so many of us to not only to overshare, but to overshare with more people than need or want to know about our lives?

Communication back in the day was pretty easy to interpret, such as the intimate correspondence between famous lovers Abelard and Heloise during the 12th century, or between Ronald and Nancy Reagan in the 20th. Facebook communication is another matter, a complicated issue that anthropologists undoubtedly will be studying centuries from now.

The Weaknesses of Power

I am going to stick my neck out and write about someone in the political news, but my thoughts have nothing to do with politics.

The person is 52-year-old Michael Cohen, the man who yesterday was sentenced to 36 months in prison for crimes he committed while working for Donald Trump.

I won’t go into detail about his crimes. He admitted to them and he is going to pay for them. I’m writing because his greed and his arrogance led him to act illegally in the first place, and now he says he’s “truly sorry” and promises he will “be better.”

Michael Cohen, right, arriving at federal court, with his children Jake and Samantha Photo Julio Cortez / AP

As I watched Michael Cohen walk into the courthouse with his wife, son and daughter, I momentarily felt sorry for him, but when I returned to my senses, I thought of the despicable things he’s said and done to enrich himself as well as to protect his boss, to whom he was “blindly loyal.”

“Blind loyalty” led him to “darkness,” Cohen told the sentencing judge, and “it will be my life’s work to make it right.” What causes “blind loyalty” and makes someone go from cunning and calculating to conscience-stricken and contrite? And would these same people become contrite if their deceptions, lies and illegal acts were never discovered? Is someone contrite before a judge because they hope to be judged less harshly, or because they really do feel that way deep in their souls?

The judge said that Michael Cohen lost his “moral compass somewhere along the way,” but did Michael Cohen ever have a “moral compass”?

Donny Deutsch, a former ad agency executive, and a friend of Michael Cohen, said on TV that it’s understandable to be swayed by all the trappings of power. It may be, but when power is abused, it can start setting traps for you. All it takes to end the ride is to get caught in one of them.

Look at Harvey Weinstein, Scott Pruitt, Richard Nixon, and Bernie Madoff. Their lies, schemes, and elaborate coverups eventually backfired. Once they were caught, there was no turning back. They didn’t only lose their power; they lost their dignity, and, in the case of Madoff, his freedom and his family. One of his sons committed suicide. 

Michael Cohen reportedly will be in a minimum to medium security prison, starting in March, but he claimed during his sentencing, “The irony is today is the day I get my freedom back. I have been leading a personal and mental incarceration ever since the fateful day that I accepted the offer to work for a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I greatly admired.”

Yes, life can be ironic.

Isn’t it Time to Face the Brutal Facts?

I don’t know how April Pipkins does it.  Maybe her religion sustains her. Maybe she’s just in shock, and it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. I don’t know how April Pipkins even manages to get a coherent word, no less sentence, out of her mouth, considering her 21-year-old son was murdered in cold blood on Thanksgiving night by a police officer who mistakenly identified him as the gunman who shot two people in an Alabama mall.

Emantic Bradford Sr. and April Pipkins, left, parents of Emantic Bradford Jr., right. (NBC/AP)

April and her lawyer have been making the rounds of TV shows the last few days to voice their outrage at how her son, “EJ”, was slain. Reportedly (I say reportedly because the police keep changing their stories about the sequence of events), EJ was at the scene of a dispute between two people at the mall, and was fatally shot as he was running away and holding a gun. The initial police report indicated that EJ was indeed the killer, but was subsequently revised.  The shooter is still at large. “‘We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate, but new evidence indicates that it was not,’ the police said, adding that the conclusion was based on interviews with witnesses and ‘critical evidentiary items,’” according to an article on www.nytimes.com.  

“‘He saw a black man with a gun and he made his determination that he must be a criminal,’ said civil rights attorney Ben Crump,” in another article online. “‘There’s a murderer on the loose largely because police rushed to judgment.’”

EJ received a general discharge from the United States Army in August, and was licensed to carry a firearm, news reports said. Perhaps he openly held his gun if he thought he could use it on the real perpetrator, and maybe he was fleeing if he thought he was going to be a victim himself.  We will never know. We’ll only get the officer’s side of the story.

Whenever I hear about the circumstances surrounding shootings such as this I don’t know what to think. Police officers feeling threatened on one hand; innocent, often unarmed victims on the other.  A man shot in the back in California earlier this year was carrying a cell phone, for instance. Clearly, these kinds of incidents are happening far too often, and law enforcement across the country must figure out a way to stop them.

This is a chilling report about police violence, which underlines what I’m saying. Consider some of these statistics:  

  • Police killed 1,147 people in 2017, most by shooting.
  • Most killings began with police responding to suspected non-violent offenses or cases where no crime was reported.
  • 89 people were killed after police stopped them for traffic violations.  
  • Police killed 149 unarmed people.  
  • Police recruits spend seven times as many hours training to shoot than they do training to de-escalate situations.

The last fact undoubtedly contributes greatly to precipitating the first four. Please know that I am not anti-police.  But when anyone, in any profession, is poorly trained, he or she is more likely to make mistakes, sometimes horrendous mistakes. And a shooting obviously has far greater consequences than making a typographical error in an article, or baking a cake that doesn’t rise properly.  

De-escalating a situation so it doesn’t get out of hand usually is the right approach, but it takes understanding, discipline and emotional intelligence to employ the tactics to make that happen. Most of us could use lessons in the subject.  

Just What the Doctor Ordered: It Ain’t Necessarily So!

It sounded crazy to me when an administrator in the ophthalmologist’s office said I needed an EKG and blood tests before I could have laser cataract surgery.  I might not be a doctor but I know an EKG isn’t considered the best diagnostic test for heart disease.

“That’s nutty. I’m not running to have an EKG. I didn’t need an EKG when I had lumpectomies on my breasts and had general anesthesia. Why would I need it for 15-minute cataract surgery with local anesthesia? Forget it, I’m cancelling the surgery,” I said, getting up to leave.

“Wait a minute. I’ll check with the surgery facility,” the administrator said, as she promptly picked up the phone.

“No, you don’t need it if you’re just having routine cataract surgery,” she announced after the call, not the least bit bothered that three minutes earlier she had told me I did need it.

“That’s good. Now other patients will be saved the time and expense, too,” I said, feeling as if I did my good deed for the day. As it is, Medicare doesn’t pick up the total cost of laser cataract surgery, so I’ll be paying quite a bit out of pocket.

Flash forward about five days, I get a call from my “regular” doctor’s office. “The ophthalmologist’s office said they require a CBC (Complete Blood Count), which we didn’t order when you had blood tests a few weeks ago. We’ll email you a prescription for it,” the nurse explained. (Note: A CBC is a blood test used to evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of disorders, including anemia, infection and leukemia, reported the Mayo Clinic website.)

Here we go again, I thought, Googling “Is a CBC necessary for routine cataract surgery?” Nope, it definitely isn’t, I learned from many websites of major New York City eye surgery practices.

Back on the phone with the ophthalmologist’s office. “Hi Darlene (not her real name).  It’s Geri Brin again. I’m the woman…” Before I finished identifying myself, she knew exactly who I was. I guess no one had ever questioned the need to have an EKG before.  

“I’ve read that none of the major laser cataract centers in New York require a CBC,” I announced.

“That’s what the surgery center said you need,” Darlene answered, “but you can call yourself and ask.”  After the EKG incident, I’d have thought Darlene would have wanted to call herself!

Sure enough, the center confirmed that routine cataract surgery doesn’t require a CBC either.

I called to tell Darlene the latest news. “Hi Darlene. A CBC isn’t necessary.  I’d recommend that you call the center to hear it yourself so you don’t tell patients they need this test, too.”

Moral of the story: I don’t care how much you love and trust your doctor—any kind of doctor—just make sure to double check everything you’re told.  We’re living in an age when doctors want to protect themselves from malpractice suits; plus, the more tests they order, the more they’re likely to be reimbursed by insurance companies.

Think about costs incurred by the thousands of patients of this one ophthalmologist who unnecessarily had EKGs and CBCs.  No wonder our healthcare system is broken.

I Took A Doozy of a TRIP!

Have you heard the story of the 71-year-old woman who was so preoccupied she didn’t watch herself heading towards a raised metal grating surrounding a tree, tripped, and landed flat on her face, her nose scrunched into the heavy metal grate, blood gushing out of her mouth.

I am that woman and I can still “see” myself lunging towards the ground and feel the impact. A couple of people rushed towards me to ask if I was ok, despite the blood flowing from my mouth. My immediate thought was to make sure I could get up. I remember worrying whether I had broken my nose and if my glasses and the caps on my top front teeth had shattered. Thank God I could move all my limbs. Once those around me saw I could walk on my own, they went about their business, despite the blood gushing from my mouth.

I stumbled my way back into the shop where I had bought a sheet set before the accident, which was about 50 feet away from the tree.

“Please, can you get me water and a washcloth!” I implored the saleswoman who sold me the sheets not 10 minutes earlier. Although the store was stocked with towels and washcloths on shelves all around her, the saleswoman ushered me to a bathroom and pointed to a stack of beige paper towels you often find in public ladies rooms. And she promptly left, despite the blood flowing from my mouth.

I kept filling my mouth with cold water and spitting out blood. I needed to clear away the blood to be able to assess the situation. Once I was satisfied that the the bleeding was under control, I left the store, clutching a wad of wet beige paper towels to my face, and thought I’d better go to a plastic surgeon to get stitches because I could feel a gaping hole inside my left upper lip when I ran my tongue over it. I also discovered that the area above my left knee had two deep cuts but they weren’t bleeding profusely, just painful.

Believe it or not, a similar accident happened to me about seven years ago, when I needed stitches for the inside and outside of my cheek. I was lucky then, too. No broken bones, no concussion.

I called my longtime dentist first.  When I told him that my jaw mildly ached, and my capped and uncapped teeth didn’t feel loose, he said it didn’t sound like I had to rush to a dental surgeon.  “Call the office on Monday morning and I’ll squeeze you in.” When I dared to look at my teeth, I saw that one upper cap, smack in the front, was chipped and scraped, revealing the metal beneath it. Perfect, just in time for Halloween, and I won’t even have to buy a witch costume!

As I dialed her number, I didn’t have much hope that Dr. Haideh Hirmand, the plastic surgeon whose office was a mile away from the scene of the accident, would be in on Friday afternoon.  Lo and behold she was, and I took a cab right over.

When Dr. Hirmand examined me, she first ascertained that I hadn’t broken any bones in my face, or had had a concussion.  I knew the day, date and the name of the President. When she looked at my cheek, she declared, “I can see your teeth from the cut in your lip. You’ve lost quite a bit of tissue.” No wonder I felt a hole inside my upper left lip!  Three hours later, my inner and outer lip and knee were stitched up (I estimate Dr. Hirmand made about 20 stitches total), and I had instructions to get a tetanus shot immediately, as well as a prescription for an antibiotic.

At 6 pm that night, my ex Douglas and I went to a cabaret-style concert of Alan Jay Lerner songs (lyricist of My Fair Lady, Camelot, Brigadoon, Gigi). We returned to my home around 10 pm, had a bite to eat, and went to sleep around midnight.  BTW, I decided to go to the concert because I thought it would be a needed distraction, and it was.  

               Post Stitches

I’m writing this two days after the accident, happy to say that I feel immeasurably better than I felt over the weekend. The swelling in my lip has gone down, and I can put pressure on my left knee without wincing.  I will see the dentist on Thursday for the issues with my cap, and have the stitches removed on Friday. I look like a prize fighter after a match. The “prizes” I received were limbs and bones intact, brain unscrambled, and eyes unharmed. Speaking of my eyes, I was on my way to have them measured for cataract laser surgery when I tripped. Cataracts are no excuse for practically walking into a tree.  

Working It!

   Still plugging away at 71!

I’m 71 years old (yikes, that happened quickly), and since graduating from college, marrying and moving out of my parents’ house 50 years ago, I’ve never been financially supported by a man. I’ve earned my own money for half a century, and continue to work as hard as I ever have. That’s not what I was brought up to do, but that’s what’s happened.

And, I confess that while I thrive on work, and am proud of myself for forging a fairly successful career, I’m envious of women who don’t have the pressures, challenges and anxieties that working inevitability brings, not to mention the worries about supporting a family. When I see young women pushing strollers down the streets of Manhattan, or anywhere else, in the middle of the day, I remember what a different life I led when I was their age. And when I see a woman of my generation pushing her grandchild’s stroller down the street in the middle of the day, I think what a different life I lead now.

Of course, when I snap back into reality, I know I would have hated endlessly pushing a stroller down the street and going to playgrounds while my husband earned money and had a successful career. But recognizing that still doesn’t stop me from wishing I could have eliminated the angst I’ve felt for decades, about everything from making sales quotas to writing thousands of articles on deadline, from strategizing how to beat competition to putting up with more insufferable bosses, clients, coworkers and employees than I care to count.

I wonder, do women whose husbands financially support them, happily and heartily, feel differently deep down than women who support themselves or their families? Do they look enviously at women who work, wishing they could have calm lunches, grown-up conversions, and their own money?

Are some of us simply born to be full-time mothers, while others push proposals instead of strollers? Or do our circumstances propel us in such diverse directions?

I had a luncheon meeting yesterday with two young men, both of whom had twins. One set of twins is only two years old, and when I asked that man if his wife “works,” he chuckled and answered, “my wife would say she does!”

With children comes great responsibility. With a career comes great responsibility. Worlds of women manage to have both, whether out of necessity or out of desire. I applaud any woman who works hard at either, or balances the two.

Bill FRAUDsby

I vividly remember watching Bill Cosby’s one-man show in the garish nightclub at a Las Vegas hotel in the mid eighties. My boss and I were in LV for a trade show, and he invited me to go with him to see the famous comedian. Cosby was spectacularly funny that night. (I needed a good laugh, considering my date!) Even if we didn’t know how he acted off stage, didn’t we all assume he was like the adorable and affable Dr. Huxtable he portrayed on TV?  

We’ve since met the real Bill Cosby, thanks to the scores of women who stepped forward to accuse him of drugging and raping them. And, today we saw him being led out of the courtroom, handcuffed, after being sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for his crimes. No matter how much relief some of his accusers felt after the judge handed down Cosby’s sentence, no one was laughing.

                   Photo by (SCI Phoenix)

We’ve all heard countless times how a powerful and famous person can become divorced from “reality.”  Yessed from dawn to dusk by hangers-on. Adored by fans. Sought after by friends–even foes. But how does the comprehension of right and wrong fly out the window? How is it that famous people don’t learn from the tragedies that often befell famous people who came before them?  Why don’t they take even a couple of minutes a day to reflect how they could lose everything in a flash?

When powerful wrongdoers get away with bad behavior for years on end, they probably start believing that they’re “immune” from getting caught.  Bernie Madoff. Bonnie and Clyde. A criminal attorney I know often told me that big-time drug dealers never think they’ll be apprehended, but “they usually are,” he added. Cosby sexually abused women for decades.  Did he even once look at himself in the mirror the morning after any of these episodes and see anything but a rich, famous and adored man? Did he ever have a moment of remorse? Did he ever seek help from a therapist?

After miscreants are collared,  why do so many of them deny wrongdoing? They don’t just demurely deny the error of their ways. They deeply dig in their heels. They point their fingers at their accusers. They smirk. They scoff. They trot out their supporters, including the very wives they’ve betrayed. Surely, Camille Cosby at least suspected her husband of decades was up to “something” at some point. Or did she turn the proverbial blind eye to his ways with women because he gave her a life of luxury–and laughs?

I imagine 81-year-old Bill Cosby living in jail, legally blind (perhaps a blessing, considering his environment), and destined to spend what could be the rest of his life denied the freedom he enjoyed most of his life. But “freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being,” Eleanor Roosevelt said. “With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”

Bill Cosby carried his own weight, but not quite in the way the esteemed Mrs. Roosevelt meant.