About Barbara Sher

Barbara Sher - Head Scanner :)

Photos of My New York City Apartment

For those who have read the story in Hanging Out of my fun decorating splurge in my apartment in Manhattan and for those of you who might be curious, I’ve taken some recent photos of the place as I get ready to sell it.

In about 1998 I got a big advance to write a new book, and though I’ve always tried to be careful with my money (because I never knew when it would stop showing up), I decided to lavish some on my poor old wreck of an apartment. It was always big by Manhattan standards and now it’s considered premium, but back in the mid ’70’s when I first moved in, it was in a bad neighborhood, had lots of cockroaches but was cheap enough for a single working mother with two small kids and no added support from anywhere.

Over time, I had gone from renter to owner, and I knew I wanted something special, something that would delight me. Instead of hiring an interior decorator, I enlisted the help of a couple of talented friends, one a playwright and set designer, the other a stylist (someone who sets up the ambiance in movie scenes and TV commercials). We scouted out flea markets on 6th Avenue on Sundays, did a little shopping at Macy’s and the Bombay Company and turned it into something gorgeous. There was no real restoration, but a lot of redecorating — with paint, and imagination.

When it was done, I invited my friends over for dinner, a tour and a very special surprise. After everyone had arrived and said our hellos, I led through the kitchen and then behind it to a carefully replicated Greek cottage (originally a maid’s room). with wonderful roughed-up walls and old furniture. They saw the cute pink cupboards, green tiles and Paisley wallpapered kitchen and then the luscious, rosy living room (with the fake vintage fireplace mantle against the wall). Then down the hall to my wonderfully romantic bedroom with the four-poster bed and into the unforgettably charming bathroom (perfect for setting up secret assignations) — with its peach-silk shower curtains and delicate peach-colored wallpaper. Then out of my room into the one-of-a-kind hall bathroom, also known as The Dante Toilet, with angels hanging from the Heavenly ceiling, grumbling garden gargoyles on the Inferno floor and an Elvis Presley clock in which the hips moved back and forth just on the sink level, as Purgatorio.

And then I got them ready for the big surprise. I led them down the hall to the back bedroom which I had turned into The Turkish Room, and I knocked on the door. They all waited, wondering what on earth was in store for them, and heard exotic music begin to flow out of the room. I opened the door and their eyes fell on the lovely room, shiny apple-green walls, buried in kilims and pillows for seating, and in the middle, my wonderful assistant Andrea, whose secret passion was belly-dancing, in her beautiful costume, dancing to the music. Oh what a hit that was!

Wallpapered hallway with grandfather clock, crystal chandelier and turkish carpetDark rose painted cabinets and open shelves, green ceramic tile counters, pale paisley wallpaper in the kitchen
Dining room with pale rose Victorian wooden fireplace front and faux fire of amber glass balls and thin tin spinnersThe Turkish room with its green walls, short tables, kilims
Dining room modeled after Mark Twain's library with rose walls, low bookcases, Tiffany lamp and overhead light
Two angels, replicas of those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas tree
Pastel dusty rose-silk covered chaise lounge on plush pale pink carpeting, wine floor to ceiling drapes, like the salon of a French country home

I went on to enjoy every room in that house, everything that my eyes fell upon, for many years. The surprise was how practical and usable the place had become. It wasn’t a movie set, good only for one event. It was a place of many special places, filled with lovely things to see, cozy places to sit and read or draw, and an affectionate warmth I’d never felt in an apartment before. I know the picture I’ve described might seem radical to some—certainly my few visitors said things that made me wonder, like, “You’re so brave!” But every detail turned out to be a wise, livable decorating decision. It never got boring.

But it did get cluttered. And as I’ve cleaned it out (my thanks to all of you who purchased CD sets in my clearance sale—you helped!), in preparation for selling it, it’s begun to feel incredible again. I’ve been asked to show these photos for a long time, and I’ve wanted to share them with you too, so here they are. I hope you enjoy them.

The Missing Index to Refuse to Choose

Refuse to Choose book cover

Professional indexer Do Mi Stauber generously created a complete index to the book. Download your copy of the index here. To save it before opening it, right-click (Windows), click and hold (Mac), or Ctrl-click (Mac), then choose the Save option in the popup menu. Want to learn a fascinating part-time or full-time career for Scanners? Do Mi has written an in-depth guide to how to be a great indexer.


Are You Too Old?

See this message in German – Siehe Deutsche Version

In a bookstore in Sheridan, Wyoming, after a signing for one of my books, a woman came up to me and said, “I wish I’d met you long ago. My husband died when I was 43 and his family ranch is a very special place historically. I’ve always wanted to turn it into a kind of museum for everyone to see how things once were. Now it’s too late.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, I’m too old now.”

She looked fit and healthy to me. “How old are you?” I asked.

“60,” she said.

“Are you ill?”

“No, I’m not ill,” she said with a question in her face.

“Well, you’re going to feel like damn fool in 20 years when you realize how young you were today. You’re not old enough for a rocking chair. You’re exactly the right age to do this. If age is your only obstacle, you don’t have an obstacle.”

She looked surprised and didn’t answer. Then others came up to speak to me and I half-forgot about her. When the event was over and I thought everyone had gone, she was still there. She walked up to me and said, “You know what, I’m already a damn fool. You’re right. I’m going to do it now. I’ll start making calls tomorrow.” She shook my hand and she left.

You don’t get people’s names at book signings and I never found out what happened to her, but I remember that she had a strong grip in that handshake, and I have a hunch she turned her late husband’s ranch into a museum, just as she had longed to do.

It’s time to rethink age if it gets in the way of your dreams. It’s another one of those unchallenged assumptions we make that stops us before we even start. What exactly is it you think you’re too old for? Being a quarterback in the NFL? Prima ballerina at the Met? Probably. But having a great time and doing a great job at what you love? Never.

Video in English and German! – Video auf Englisch und Deutsch!

And while we’re on this subject, here’s a letter I found in my files that you might enjoy:

Hi Barbara

We are in a coastal town outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We have several more years of work here before we move back to the US. Though I’ve kept my day job, my life-long love for dance has always carried me through most anything that life throws at me. So last year, at age 45, I started taking a jazz class again in the evenings.

Yes, I was trying to blend in with other dancers in their 20s and I was way older than the teacher too, but it was pure joy once I got myself to class and got myself out of isolation. At the end of the year we had a performance, a jazz/tango number. Afterwards I was told that some of the moms of the younger dancers said they wanted to be in the class too because they saw someone on stage that was their age. This year I´m going to do another show, that´s my dream. I love the challenge and the beauty of working as an ensemble.

I have to keep setting aside the obstacles for me, like the fear of being judged for dancing at this age. But the more I get to class and am around the power of the group, the more I begin to leave the fear behind and I just feel the love.


If these three items didn’t completely convince you that it’s possible to do what you love at any age, think about this: it’s selfish not to do what you love. Brave, generous people like these two women are giving us historical museums of their ranches and wonderful performances in dance groups. Now it’s your turn. What are you going to give us?

German Fuer deine Traeume ist es nie zu spaet Buchclub linkIt's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now Book Club link

Learn how to live your Second Life in the Book Club now. We’re running two of them, one in English, one in German. You can join only until midnight, March 11. Just click on one of these books – German or English – to find out more!!