Piano Lessons at SIXTY

     Did you ever take piano lessons?  I did, when I was 12?  But allow me to backtrack a bit for when I first noticed the piano at home. My music loving father, he played the piano; he played by ear – ouido.  He had this big  record collection – Bach, Chopin, Wagner, Strauss, Mozart, Brahms and Debussy, Liszt and Schubert and Tchaikovsky and his 2 all time fun favorites, Liberace and Spike Jones. He would listen carefully  to Chopin and Bach on this fine record player console and then  would go straight  to play that part of the piece on the upright Steinway in our living room.  But he played by ear. No notes. Just a full appreciation and grasp of the music. Sadly, no one took after him, and his gift. And so for us, the piano lessons, note reading and all.

My first memory of these lessons were not mine. I remember, every few days the piano teacher/my paternal grandfather (who wasn’t really my grandfather, as he was my grandmother’s second husband – my parents called him Tio Pepe, but pronounced the Tio as Cho, so it sounded like ChoPepe and us siblings, we played with the name and secretly called him Chops, but I digress) came to the house. His arrival was ceremoniously announced by the delicious, heady aroma of cigars partnered with a  distinct smell of  brown paper bag stuffed with precious, original – was there anything else then in 60s – Marvel Super Heroes comic books. Nobody ever saw Chops smoke, never knew if they were in fact hand rolled and Cuban or maybe just a regular, local tobacco leaf rolled cigar but he certainly reeked of it. And I learned to like it. As if it came with the music. My father would call out to my sister, Nina and my brother Eddie, “ChoPepe is here. Come down.”  The eldest, Vicky, was the ballet dancer and so was not required to learn piano. I was glad I was too young then and so was not called to have lessons with him; I was actually afraid of Chops. He was stooped and had a formidable stern look; not that he ever looked at me, I believe I was invisible to him. Nina would sit quietly and promptly  do the Hanon  finger exercises for the warm up before moving on to the other pieces and from behind the dividing wall, I would see Eddie sit next to the paper bag and look through the comic books – Comics, we called them.   I watched Chops put, what looked to me, a worn wooden ruler under my sister’s hands to raise them, as I learned later on, for the proper form in piano playing. Chops was impatient and every now and then, his voice would raise maybe an octave higher when he perhaps noticed that there was no marked improvement in the playing, a sure sign that there was no practice being done before lesson day came.  Before long it would be Eddie’s turn. And having raised his voice earlier, probably assumed his second student was no better.  No matter. The strangest thing was that I never heard my parents force my siblings to practice to improve their playing. Maybe, I’m thinking now, Chops was there to teach also because he had a sad and sorry life, according to my father (but that’s another story) and the lessons were like helping Chops make a living.  And then Chops stopped coming.

      When I got older, am guessing I was 12, a new piano teacher came. For Eddie still, my younger sister Trixie and myself. I remember her, a most kindly, soft spoken, elderly (at least to me, then) Ms. Acosta. She had short tight curly hair and smelled like she sucked on menthol candy all day, the smell seemed to come out of her skin.  She had soft looking, sausage like fingers and was ever so gentle in her teaching. I liked Ms. Acosta and even if I was not good at playing the piano, I looked forward to seeing her every week. This one did not last long too. We were all growing up and because not one of us was destined to be a concert pianist, the piano teachers stopped coming. But my father continued to play.

     When we moved to what was to be our last home as a family, my father bought a baby grand piano. This piano had its own interesting history. White, it was, as artist Barry Manilow, who was scheduled to perform in Manila, requested for a white baby grand . The producers of the concert ordered one from Yamaha and Barry Manilow’s concert was, for some reason, cancelled. My father knew the owners of the Yamaha store and quickly offered to buy it. It was on this piano he started composing. One of his compositions was picked to be the title song of a movie – a Filipino produced Love story and was given life and lyrics by then famous Filipino lyricist George Canseco. Kelan Sasabihin Mahal Kita, roughly translated When Will I Tell you that I Love you.

     My father passed some years after and my son started piano lessons on the baby grand.  When we moved homes, my mother sold the piano.

     The other day, I bought my son his own upright 1967 Yamaha. When it was delivered, I casually ran my fingers through the keys. It’s been so long. But when I touched the keys, everything came back me, my childhood, Chops, Ms. Acosta, and my father. And I decided right then and there  to bring the music back. I will, this coming month start piano lessons again.  Piano lessons at sixty.


SALAD DAYS (and pizza) Ahoy


I had a lovely apple and walnut green  salad and fresh burrata and basil pizza and just water please, with a slice of lemon  lunch last Monday with 2 friends from high school.   Lunching with my 58 or 59 and above friends is so much more meaningful now.  On different stages of our lives, both of them already grandmas  —  one just widowed, but already picking herself up and getting back on track with her projects.   The other (the good news first is that she only recently got engaged and already making plans to wed next year)  is  in town for a visit,  to be with her in-his-80s father who just finished a round of chemotherapy.   And I am just settling down in a new home  –  about time, my friends say.   We are happy to be where we are now.  We agree on One Day At A Time (hey, can that be a mantra?  “Odaat…..” )  and while we are smarter now to not dwell on the seemingly world-ending episodes of our lives, we still acknowledge the presence of uninvited frequent twin guests, Duty and Guilt.  We have spent most of our years, being the Dutiful daughter, the Dutiful wife, the Dutiful mother and still, we wrestle with self fault-finding  Guilt for not having done enough when, in fact, we know in our heart of hearts, that we have indeed done the best we could.  And, “So,” I ask my visiting friend while waiting for someone to come take our order, “what do we do with this GUILT thing?” I secretly want to play the blame game and she gives me an answer, an acceptable solution.  “GUILT.  When you feel it coming, say ‘Oh hello, Guilt.’” She pats the empty space next to her, inviting, “Have a seat. But …,” she says something like “I have other things to do or think about and so, really, you can’t stay.”   Now, why didn’t I think of that?  There is no blame, no rush to resolve, no martyr-like, chest-beating drama.  I am almost tempted to say it’s very ZEN. Well, there, I said it.   I thank her, or did I just exclaim a winning “YES!”  for this compassionate technique.  She smiles and cocks her head and I read in her eyes that she must have done this more than a few times to know that Guilt doesn’t really go away for good and, like all things we think that are troubling us, it just comes and goes.  We make peace with our Guilt for not doing more, at least for now.

The salad and pizza are served at the same time, and my just-widowed friend says a prayer of thanks for the friendship,  and blessings for the hands the prepared our meal.  The salad does not need a lot of tossing as the dressing has been carefully drizzled on the greens, fresh tomatoes and onions,  sliced apples, slivers of cheese and no, I  did not  imagine the  sprinkle of roasted walnuts.   We help ourselves, and I think to myself how strange  that “Salad days” is  a time of joyful youth and wild imagination and indiscretion when today,  our order of fresh salad,  no longer represents a life  without experience and youthful folly but rather a bowlful of  carefully thought out mix of vegetables and nuts, and some protein; each ingredient helping  bring out the best flavor of the other. That, for me now, is a Salad day.

The lunch does not go over an hour and a half (because we each  had something else to do at 2pm)  and between bites of our pizza with fresh burrata and basil leaves, we remind each other to TRUST in the goodness that is to come, never mind the short visits of our sense of Duty and Guilt.  We first  agree on this second chance to live our lives, this time to go on the next part of our journey with Purpose and Joy.  What? My widowed friend laughs, I am on my third chance!  And we laugh with her.

We split the bill, give each other hugs and go on our separate ways, for now. So much care, love and wisdom and sweetness served at lunch.  No wonder we forgot to order dessert.


  • delish salad photo by Inky Dario; follow him on Instagram 🙂 ink.stagram

In Praise of Not-Yet-Empty-Nesters, otherwise titled: How to Enjoy Having Adult Children at Home

     I have a full nest.  My children are all single adults and fairly – am trying to be humble here – doing well.  My 31 year old son, an Aspie (person with Asperger’s Syndrome, Google this please), takes short certificate courses, busies himself decorating and redecorating his room with corkboards filled with photos of anime characters he loved as a teen, and photos of him and Honey in radio stations around the country.  My eldest daughter, 27, a marine conservationist, (shh, don’t tell her I still don’t understand what she’s doing) and is a consultant for marine protected areas.  Youngest daughter is a 23 year old yoga instructor and recently got her training to get yet another certification, this time to teach yoga to children and families. She is also my writer, contributes to beauty blogs, etc.   Like some millennials they can and mostly work from home, join me and Honey for breakfast, sometimes still in their PJs. They know there is always ready hot lunch, mid-day snack (merienda) and dinner, if they still like having the evening meal. I get a chance to date them one-on-one so that I keep up, not only on their lives but on their generation. I like it – I know the latest hits of  Drake, Bruno Mars, etc. I just shout from my room, “Babe, how do I edit this picture?” or “Babe, how do I download this video?”  and “Babe,  I don’t know how to install the new ink cartridge in the printer!”  And surely, one Babe will show up, sighing, “Google it, mom” or “Ok, let me show you but try it out yourself next time, ok?”  Ha ha, but I love it!  I love the full nest.

     Of course, this is not for everyone. I have friends who can’t wait for their adult children to go out and “spread their wings,” they say.  I have friends who have children who don’t live with them anymore, maybe because they are married already, or their jobs take them to another country, or maybe within the country but still far from home.   And they love their empty nests too!  Whichever works, yes?  But this is for me, right now.  And so, to enjoy this time of my life, and maybe for you out there who have single, adult children who still live with you, I have done a bit of research, talked to people in a similar situation and have come up with my

                                  8 TIPS TO ENJOY A FULL NEST OF ADULTS

  1. ACCEPT.  Repeat after me, “My children are now adults.”  Accept the fact that they are now adults.  And they WANT to feel “adult.”  They struggle, experience the good and not-so-good, they have joys and hurts. Accept the fact that they have their own plans that do not include you. Accept, too, that they need their alone time and don’t have to talk to you all the time while they are at home. Accept the fact that they are making plans to move out and go on their own someday, but while this is not happening, accept and enjoy their company.
  2. HOUSE RULES.  Everyone needs rules and structure in their lives. This brings about considerable order and hopefully some peace in a set-up where there are more than 2 adults in the house. Sit down with your Adult/s and go for a win-win arrangement.  Sharing expenses?  Or not? Sit down and talk about it. Talk to them as you wish to be talked to.
  3. LET THEM EXPERIENCE. Let them make their own decisions and figure out what works for them. Once upon a time, I would have said, “let them make their own mistakes.” But that is so last generation and now we know that in life, THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, ONLY LESSONS.  The sooner you understand this as a parent, the less judgmental you will be and you will be able to communicate well with your adult children and have a good relationship.
  4. DO NOT STOP TELLING THEM STORIES OF YOUR LIVES, YOUR CHILDHOOD, YOUR PARENTS.  Believe it or not, your adult children will begin to understand YOUR fears, YOUR quirks, YOUR dreams. Ignore the eye rolling if someone mumbles, “I know this story already, mom.”  And please, never say “It was better during our time.”  What – are they doomed to live this one out?
  5. LISTEN. Listen to their fears, their worries and their dreams. You just might be able the share a bit of your experiences. But don’t make it all about you.  The word is LISTEN.  They need you to hear them.
  6. RESPECT. Respect your adult children’s beliefs and opinions. This includes their choice in friends, lifestyle, the type of religious service, if so inclined and their political views.   Yes, this can make everyone uncomfortable and defensive. But again, if you have established your HOUSE rules well and  firmed up your Communication skills, you can, and will learn to live with each other’s differences, at least for now.
  7. SELF-CARE. You spent many years taking care of your children, and while you really should have done  this for  yourself at the same time, if you haven’t, do it now.  Eat healthy and exercise (note to myself, ugh).  Have more Me-time. Me-Time with a loved one, Me-time with friends.  Travel, dine out more with your loved one who, hopefully, is also slowing down.  My adult children love it when my Honey and I go out for drinks (even we have our own beer or wine at home) or when we dress up for dinner.   When Mommy and Daddy are happy, the children, whatever age, are happy. Oh yes, you can choose to invite them when you have a night out, but they need to see that you are, indeed, separate from them now.  And that’s ok.  Also,  nothing, absolutely nothing lowers blood pressure like having a good laugh with friends who you grew up with, reminiscing about teachers, other friends and even ex-boyfriends or ex-husbands!    My daughters see the glow on my face whenever I come home from a get-together.  They are learning the importance of years-long friendships. And finally,
  8. LET GO.  One day soon, maybe later, it will be time for them to go off on their own in to the vast unknown.   Enjoy the letting-go. Trust. Pray for them.  Read on separation anxiety and make it easy on yourself.



And when that time comes, you know that you would have taught them, as best you could, how to be an adult among others.  Mission accomplished.

*original painting by Carlie Dario



Travel blog: Season 1 episode 1: AN INTRODUCTION to TRAVEL THROUGH POSTCARDS

     TRAVEL BLOG.  Side by side with food and fashion, mommy and parenting, health, beauty and fitness, TRAVEL is arguably the first for the Blog spot checkered flag to wave for.  It’s the distraction, the constant change and move, the wanderlust.  For some, it’s part of or comes with the job. For a sad few, it’s  “anywhere but here.”  A honeymoon, a family holiday, a chance to get away with friends and for most, another tick on their bucket list.

    I grew up with a father who never, ever asked me how my grades were in school, but instead asked, always with great interest, what I thought of the cities, the towns, the castles, museums, the people we encountered, the exotic foods we tasted each time we travelled. He also had a friend who was older than he and so had just started travelling when he retired, who sent him postcards.  “Wish you were here.” His friend would always write in the back of a beautiful postcard. Nothing else.  He just wished that my father was there with him while he was on his trip.   My father would show me these postcards, and talk a bit about the place, if we had never been there, and showed me how the stamps added to enjoying a card from another country.  I was hooked. While at that young age, I had no one to send me a postcard from anywhere, and so  I looked forward to my father’s friend’s “Wish you were here”s.

     I longed for someone to write to me and wish I was there, too, and to  tell me their first hand experience of life in another country.  And because my father got me a subscription to the Barbie Magazine from the US, I did receive regular mail – and always looked at the PenPal page, where I finally picked out a pal from Peru, I still remember her name, Verna. I was in fourth grade, in the early 70s,  when we started to exchange letters, and it was Verna from whom I first learned of Machu Pichu  — now a favourite destination.

    Today, I continue my love for the written travel exchange.  I tell my friends to send me a postcard because it is so exciting  to see another country from other people’s eyes.  I want to know where they have been, what the weather was like when they were there.  I  get to “visit” splendid museums, unbelievable public libraries, and grand churches I’ve never been to and enjoy the “revisit,”  if I’ve been there as well through their postcards. I have reached rocky shorelines to enjoy beautiful lighthouses.  I have “tasted” a sticky rice cake here, local cheeses from a tiny town, and the sinful richness of paper thin slices of pork. I have “heard” the clicking of the castanettes and the stomping of the feet when I received a postcard from Spain. I continue to learn bits of history of Unesco heritage sites. And I get emotional over historical towns and even over endangered animals.  Oh the 4 to 5, maybe six liner stories I read when I receive a postcard.

    Yes, my father’s friend’s postcards started it all.  “Wish you were here’” he would  always write.  This time,  when I receive the postcards from friends and family, I am always there, with them.



Good Days and Bad Days

It’s funny now, but it wasn’t a few days, up to a few hours ago.  See, last month I read something that went like this — EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY.  So if something wonderful happens to you, enjoy and really savor the moment.  But do not forget that it’s temporary. And then.  Something not-so-nice will take place and you just might get upset, even depressed, but you must keep in mind that even that is temporary. And so the cycle.

I thought, oh wow, this is true.  I must remember to milk the happy moments. And  when the not-so-nice happens, must let the moment pass —   must not brood, must not stew, must not stress.  Besides, “Stress, mom,” my daughter Cathy, the yoga instructor reminded me, “will age you.”  That’s it!  I decided to be happy, and try to always look at the happy side of things.

It’s been good for me lately, actually. New home, new interests,  especially when I started to blog (uh, this is my third post, happy-happy feels) and my close friends all “rah rah-ed” and were so excited and happy for me!  Oh yes, I was happy to be happy!

But really and quietly, I have been worrying because I could not find my ATM card for 3 weeks now. I know it’s just somewhere at home. Checked my bags.  Still no ATM card. 3 weeks.   And then last week, while I was putting on my earrings, the earring lock, you know what I’m talking about – I call it chapita, slipped from my thumb and pointer finger, made a clink sound when it hit the wooden floor and DISAPPEARED from the face of the earth.  No kidding! Went down on my knees to look for it, asked the maid  to sweep the floor. That was last week and still no chapita.    I wore my other pair. The one Honey gave me one Valentine’s Day.  When I removed it that evening, I placed it on my dresser, I call it tocador.  The next morning one earring was missing. I was beginning to worry.  Bad days.  And then yesterday, I could not find Honey’s ATM card, which he let me use for the past 2 weeks because I couldn’t find mine, remember?

And then it was hot today when I took my son to his art class. And when I dropped him off, I went to the drugstore (that’s how we call it here in the Philippines. Not chemist, sometimes pharmacy.  But mostly, drugstore and /or botica), I had to turn around 3 times before I could get a space to park. When I finally entered the drugstore, there were so many people!  Ugh!! And while I was waiting for my turn, I remembered that I had nothing in the refrigerator for dinner!  So after I fetched my son, who was already hungry like me, we dropped by the deli to buy sausages.

I was tired, hungry and starting to get hangry — and angry at myself for losing an earring and a chapita and worried sick about the 2 missing ATM cards.  The Bad Days were here alright! Did I think of EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY?  NO!  By the time I got home, I felt so spent I wanted to cry. After leaving the bag of sausages in the kitchen ( and what was annoying was I found out that there was left over chicken from lunch, and so really, I did not have to make that side trip to the deli) I went straight to the bedroom, emptied my bag, again hoping to find my ATM card (yes, I was stewing still.)

And then Honey walked in and did the EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY thing for me. He said, “Let it go, Hon, you’ll find them.”  And then, “Go have a shower and prepare for bed,”  after I told him I did want to have dinner. Next he said, “Why don’t you apply your essential oils?” Oh, I love that he believes in my new obsession.  And finally, he changed the subject and talked about what his schedule was going to be like tomorrow. (I didn’t envy him.)

My yoga instructor daughter entered the room, listened patiently to me while I ranted  and told me that everything was going to be ok. And she bought me 3 face masks :-).  My son said Good night and he was going to turn in early, and my other daughter, who was not home, checked on me through Whatsapp and told me to rest, after sending me funny memes in my Instagram.

Good Days, Bad Days. And so tomorrow is another day. I’ll make it good, thank you for allowing me to vent.

By the way,  I found the earring partner and chapita. Honey found his ATM card and put it on my dresser where I could see it while I put on my PJs.  Will let you know when I find my ATM card.  Maybe tomorrow.  It will be a GOOD DAY.  I feel it already.





We moved to a charming ‘80s house a few months ago and I can’t tell you how many friends I have asked, those who moved, and those who have moved again and again, how long it took them to unbox everything, discard from the old and finally settle. Change and movement, I understand, is a good part to achieve our purpose or intention to get into the next part of our lives as a family.  It takes time, I was told, like everything else, before one can put one’s feet up on an easy chair and say, “Ah, there!”

I must admit, though, that Honey and I do that almost every day, “Ah, there,” we say, and then we get up and move a chair here, add a plant there. Yesterday, I opened a box – one of 2 — that’s been blocking the cookbook shelf of my kitchen island.  When I removed the old newspapers, I found the set of china my mother in law gave me many years ago.  My in-laws moved homes when their children, one by one, moved out to start their own families.  So, MIL boxed her stuff and gave me a set of ironstone china she bought in Spain in the 70s. PONTESA dinner, bread and butter plates, soup bowls with matching soup tureen, tea cups and saucers – a whole set.  Pretty orange and green.  Nothing like ironstone china. And nothing like something that has a little history.

Unfortunately, and expectedly, there were cracks and chips on some of the pieces. Cracks and chips which are all part of my honey’s history before we were married. Can’t throw away, and won’t.  Instead, I had my gardener, who was here today, repot some baby plants, using some of the chipped and weathered looking ones.  Re-purpose, that’s what I did.  I think Honey will like it.

It’s how I like to describe BIRTHDAY. You’re in chapter 12,  chapter 15, and 18 now, I would tell my kids  – and now that they are in Chapters 23, 28 and 31 and Honey is in 60, I am looking at my Chapter 59.  Thinking am not quite “there” yet, whatever “there” has in store for me and so I decide to Blog in the meantime and see what I get to as I go along.