What a wonderful life

My life has been an amazing one (even if there are times I can’t believe that’s true), and this past month has proven just that. These past two days alone:

Portugal – spent this past weekend there. Left on Friday night and got back Sunday night. 150 GBP for flight, accommodations, food, taxis, wine. Hot sun, relaxing, and blue tiles everywhere – what more could a gal ask for?

Met with my friend Cedric and 5 of his friends whom I met in a chat room when I was 15 on AOL. We are still friends to this day, and keep in touch on a regular basis – have seen each other in NY, LA, Baltimore, Lyon, Paris, and now Porto. I love him to death, and 17 years later I still consider him one of my best friends.

Flew back into London on Sunday flying on the “worst” airline called RyanAir – however, proof again that people make the airline/experience. A father, worn out, falling asleep on the plane with his year and a half year old son. Four stewardesses came over at separate times to rock the baby to sleep. It truly takes a village.

Got into London, and started crying – no idea why. It was a full moon – that is the reason, I reckon. Emotions sometimes surprise me and can come out of nowhere. I had just had an amazing weekend with couples who shocked me how stable and lovely they are together.

Walked home from work today – 2 miles. Popped into several pubs on the way home by myself. It’s St Patrick’s Day, after all. The first pub: instantly a waiter asked where I was from when he heard my accent. He was also American. He gave me a 15% off discount card to come back whenever I please.

Second pub, two old ladies watched my bags as I went to the bathroom. Not unusual, but these two ladies had spunk. They were 80 years old, and made me laugh more than I had laughed in a long time.

Checked my email in the pub – my three articles I submitted for BBC America were approved! Including one that when I posted the question on Facebook about feminism that received 117 comments in just a few hours. It should be an exciting post!

Second email 10 minutes later – I left a locket at a person’s house I had met once in 2007 in Los Angeles. Somehow he was doing some spring cleaning and found my card. He emailed me to say that he had found my locket and wanted to mail it to me. He remembered it had sentimental value and inside was a dime. My mother loves dimes, and I do remember that locket. Love that he remembered me.

This past month has been full of surprises – I found myself at a wedding in Dublin to two people who met at a house party I threw in 2011 in Chicago last weekend. I’d love to take credit for their love, but I have a feeling they would have met without me regardless. They are that good together. He said to her that night he was going to marry her, and so they did.

I moved into an apartment in Primrose Hill exactly one month ago today with a lady who I already know will be a friend for life – a lovely American lady from Los Angeles who hung out talking with me until nearly 1am last night about life. I had never known her before a month ago.

I was in Paris three weeks ago visiting Cedric (see above) and his partner before they become fathers to a beautiful baby girl. That weekend, I popped into the pub in Paris I worked in when I lived there nearly 10 years ago, and my old boss just happened to be there for the first time in two weeks. He stopped in to grab a glass of wine before he went to see his mother. He shouldn’t have been there. I hadn’t seen him in 7 years. He just so happens to be in London this week as well – we are going to dinner with another good friend of mine that I met in Paris 10 years ago, James, on Thursday.

Went to my first horse race in London last week, and won some money! Actually I won every race I betted on – unfortunately I only bet 5 pounds per race, but still!

Just when you think things might not be going your way, shit changes and it’s amazing.

This past month has proved that to me – once again. Life is simply wonderful …

The Lady Who…is back!

But this time, she’s the “Lady Who Writes” – much more fitting than the lady who lunches. Don’t you think?

I’ve come back out of my shell, and have started writing again. This time for professional places like BBC America, and a lovely blog called Displaced Nation.

First up, blending weddings on BBC America’s blog Mind the Gap: “Throwing a Perfect Wedding: How to Combine British and American Traditions“. Read this if you’re interested in the subtle differences, and sometimes not so subtle differences, between British and American traditions. Sorry, Scots, it’s mostly referencing the English and the Welsh traditions.

british ladies in hats at a wedding

Second up, ML was kind enough to ask me to write a column on writing a novel! Writing these first two posts actually made me realize how much my location determines how often and how much I write. I knew there was a lack of writing while I was in Chicago, but I didn’t really realize why.

Here’s a part of it (if you want it all, click here):

The odd thing is that I found it difficult to write in my own country. My imagination isn’t sparked like it is when I am abroad, and out of my comfort zone. Living in America (where I’m from), I go through the motions of my day-to-day life without digging deeperand this, in my mind, makes my writing dull and uninspired.

When I’m in Europe, I question more, observe more, and simply write more because I have to in order to survive. My writing in Europe comes almost out of a necessity.

It’s more than that, though. For me, when I’m in Europe, I’m curious about everything around me—I am constantly walking around with a slight tilt of my head, wondering how humans are so much alike and yet so different. I question my own actions and why I do the things I do, because the Brits, the French, the Germansthey don’t act the way I act. Simple phrases I would say without thinking in an American bar, like “double fisting” (to carry and consume two alcoholic beverages simultaneously), can cause serious offense, or fits of giggles, in Britain. Saying my name in France makes people think of a car. Even walking on the sidewalk in England I don’t seem to do right.

When walking becomes a struggle, writing becomes a source of solace.

My next post on the BBC will be about repatriation – what you don’t expect to experience when you return to your own country…

Stay tuned!

Why age goals are nonsense

When I was 8 years old, I told myself that if I wasn’t famous by the time I was 18, then I should give up acting completely and just give up life. When I was in a previous serious relationship, I told myself that if I wasn’t married in 5 years, it was all pointless. When I was 25, I told myself that I needed to settle down in a serious job and find the place I wanted to live for the rest of my life by the time I was 30. When I was 30, I said, well those were kinda silly age goals.

There are so many things wrong with these types of thoughts, I can’t even begin. First of all, how can an 8 year old possibly know what it’s like to be 18, let alone what will happen over the next ten years? Also, what does 5 years of a relationship even mean? It means something different to each relationship and each experience range (notice how I didn’t say age?). For someone who is 21, 5 years could mean a lifetime, whilst someone who is 35 doesn’t have 5 years to test someone out if they want children. Finally, 30 is an age that society puts on us to mean something so much more than it actually does.

At the end of the day, our paths are our paths and putting an erroneous time limit on significant milestones is ridiculous. Goal setting is necessary, and a definite part of success and knowing what to aim for – but time limits are so ridiculous. Time should be more of a feeling than an absolute. Asking ourselves to understand the feeling of when something is over is much more productive than setting an end date before something has even begun. I’m notorious for this fault, and am slowly realizing that I can no longer live my life like this. If I need more time to complete something, I will allow myself more time. Why should I feel completely and utterly useless for not making a completely arbitrary goal that only I know about?

Again, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t aim for deadlines or goals, but as far as I’m concerned, I need to be a bit less stringent about it all.

The truth of the matter is that I’m finally at an age when I realize that I’m just figuring things out and it’s actually really cool. I don’t need to deny myself those thoughts any longer, or think I’m too young or don’t know enough, or even too old, for that matter. At the end of the day, I’ve led an amazing life with amazing experiences that I can only be so lucky to have experienced.

So, here’s to setting goals, setting deadlines with a clause that gives myself a bit of compassion. Because isn’t that the key to life? We work so hard being compassionate for others, surely we should be just as compassionate to our own selves.

I’m co-hosting for BBC America today!

You won’t see my face on television, but if you log into that social media site known for its 140 characters, you will! Still cool, and would love to have all you Twitter users join (I know, it’s a dirty word, Grampy :)

Please join me @meagan (easy to remember)  or and the hashtag #MindtheChat tonight at 7pm GMT/2pm EST as we discuss the cultural differences between dating across the pond. American and British expats are welcome to join – or anyone for that matter who have an opinion about dating!

You could win your very own Gavin and Stacey DVD collection: http://shop.bbc.com/us/comedy/gavin+stacey-the-complete-collection/invt/16184

Gavin and Stacy DVD Collection

From Ruth Margolis, the host:

I may not have gone on a first date in over a decade but this much I know: dating in Britain happens at night. There’s alcohol involved. And if you don’t end the night with a snog and cursory fumble then it’s safe to assume that one or possibly both parties was more turned on by the cutlery you used at dinner than the person sitting opposite. Here in the U.S., different rules apply.

Click here to read more about the Twitter chat.

Should be a lively discussion!

Join @MindTheGap_BBCA (Wednesday, January 22) at 2 pm ET on Twitter to discuss British vs. American dating rituals. Our guest co-host will be author and blogger Meagan Adele Lopez (@meagan). Tweet your questions using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win a complete collection of Gavin & Stacey episodes on DVD.

Grandmom Lopez – you will be missed, but you left your mark

I was lucky enough to know a woman who was strong, independent, beautiful and utterly unabashedly unique. She was my Grandmother. She came from Cuba, leaving behind a world of warm nights and even more humid days, a husband and the father of her only child in order to embark on a new life in America – smelly, dirty Manhattan specifically. It was her sister – Tia Juanita – who drew her here. I’m not sure she loved anyone dearer than she loved her sister (one of 15 siblings!).

Grandmom Lopez worked 12-13 hour days in a bra factory in Manhattan not speaking any English, but quickly learned and moved her way up to manager. She never lost her distinct accent. I can hear it ringing softly in my ears. As she was nearing death, she spoke to me more and more consistently only in Spanish – I didn’t correct her because I wanted to pretend like I understood her language, and I loved hearing her speak in it. I would answer her back in English.

She loathed her days in Manhattan, but wanted to create a world where it was possible for her son to flourish (albeit sometimes perhaps made it harder on him than she intended). I have two paintings she picked up during her days there hanging in my living room in London.

Finally, after many years of long, dreary winters, she made her way back to Miami – closer to her home country. Her husband Harry (boyfriend for 40 years before he was able to claim that title) called it death’s waiting room, but she soaked up the beach – walking a mile every morning on the sand until she could no longer. Up until her 80th birthday, she made extra cash by driving “old” people to and from the airport, and painting their nails.

She made my sister and I dresses when we were growing up when she couldn’t afford to buy us ones. When she could afford to buy us ones, she took us to Macy’s where she would use her coupons she had been saving for our trip.

She was a woman full of secrets and mystery – someone I’m not sure anyone fully knew in depth – but was certainly someone I admired. If you know me at all, you know how much of an effect my grandmother had on me – from the red lipstick she demanded I wear before stepping outside of the house, to the arroz con pollo she made unlike anything I ever had before.

Grandmom Lopez 180229_189453584415672_380951_n 536704_417950591565969_16831737_n 374136_417950401565988_2115037039_n 295115_417950451565983_1678477510_n 538780_437638206263874_1891254005_n (1) 292550_437637672930594_1194190446_n 535877_437637712930590_806574875_n

Below is an excerpt from my novel where I based a character off this remarkable woman. A light in this world has gone out, but as my friend Kathleen says, heaven is shining even brighter than before.

Every year since I was old enough to fly by myself, I would step out of the Fort Lauderdale terminal looking for the tiny legs, curly dark hair, button down shirt-dress and red lipstick, and there she always was. She would throw her slender olive arms around me and plant a big one on my cheeks, leaving a red smear in the shape of her lips. Her first question was always the same, “Where is yours?”

“Where is my what, Abuela?” I would ask, always knowing the answer before I asked it, but never remembering to apply it before I disembarked from the plane.

“Oh, mi amor.” She shook her head in a disconcerted manner. “Your….” She smacked her lips together, emphasizing the movement with her hands, as if to say, Need I really say what I mean?

To her, going out in public without the tint of red was like taking a walk in the buck, worse than that, taking a walk without her pride. She found power and confidence in that simple application of red aplomb.

“Abuela,” I said, the first time she told me about the red lipstick rule, “I don’t own any red lipstick. Plus, I just don’t think I can really pull it off like you can.” I hoped this would fly with her as a reasonable excuse. After all, I wasn’t the gorgeous Latina woman that she was. I was light-skinned. People assumed my last name was spelt “Cruise” rather than the Hispanic “Cruz,” and no amount of red lipstick would make them think otherwise. I was too white.

It used to confuse me. If I was half Cuban, why didn’t people think I was? Why did everyone tell me I didn’t look Cuban, if it was in my blood? A powerful Jewish woman finally answered my questions in a poem recited on stage with the words: “Impossible. Because you are your people. You just tell them they don’t look. Period.” From that day on, I embraced my mix with open arms prepared to take on anyone who wanted to question my race.

Abuela was prepared anyhow. To her, I was her Cuban granddaughter, and therefore should act like one. She had purchased her favorite Diamond Cosmetics ‘Get Red-E Here I Come’ lipstick with aloe vera just for me. She hustled me into the ladies room, watched me apply the lipstick and nodded at me with approval. I may have looked like a cheap whore, but she was happy. And, how could I have turned down anything that came from her?

She turned me towards her, and said, “Now, there’s my granddaughter. Que bonita! So beautiful. Why don’t you always wear that? You will never find a man unless you put red on your lips.” (Oh, so that was my problem.) If it was good enough for mi abuela, than it was good enough for me.

I went over to my vanity area and got out the tube Grandma Cruz gave me on that 16th year of my life. The Romans may have seen it as the mark of a prostitute, but Queen Cleopatra wore it as a symbol of her heightened importance and sophistication, and Grandma Cruz wore it as a representation of her greatest treasure – her ‘propre amour’, her self-respect. I was going to wear it to paint over my insecurity, for now.

2014 Goals – Writing ‘em down = 1st step!

I had all these plans in my head for what I wanted to do for 2014, and then I was speaking to this lovely lady that my company provided for me as of last February (I hate the word “life coach” so I will refrain from using that term, but you get the gist), and she encouraged me to write it down! It’s so silly as I know how important it is to write things down, but somehow the older I get, the more I think this sort of basic stuff is below me.

Well, the basic stuff is what needs to stick and be retaught over and over again. I’m not ashamed to admit I have probably re-learnt tasks dozens of times. After an amazing end to 2013 (albeit, a horrid beginning) I am feeling really confident about 2014.

Also, she encouraged me to get specific – I was saying lofty ideas like “I want to be more of a leader!” – which of course she said was a great statement. “Now, (she uses the word “now” rather than the word “but” – it must be part of the training) let’s figure out how to make those statements into actionable items.”

So, here they are folks! My actionable items for 2014:

  1. Finish my documentary by end of 2014
  2. Travel somewhere in the world once a month (this is my tentative schedule so far: I went to Brighton this month, Paris next month, Berlin in May, Cuba with my sister sometime, Southeast Asia in October…other places I’m thinking include: Norway, Lake District in England, Portugal, somewhere in the states)
  3. Lose 15 pounds in the next two months through healthy eating and running, yoga and karma, then maintain
  4. Tough Mudder in April
  5. Half Marathon in September (The Windsor Half Marathon looks nice!)
  6. Audition for 2-3 plays by end of February
  7. Act in a play in London in next 6 months (this one scares me! Please don’t make me speak in a British accent!)
  8. Save £1,000/month starting in February
  9. Get 8 hours of sleep per night! (on average)
  10. Call one of my closest family/friends once a week (can be a different one each week)

What about you folks?? What are your plans?

Body and Woman’s Self Image – What I really think

I just finished writing a post on my Facebook page, and thought I would post it here. My posts are fewer and further between, and to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out why. Perhaps this is a start of it. The figuring it all out.

The truth is, nothing is black and white. There are times when I think to myself – “Damn, I’m beautiful!” – and other times when there is nothing I can do to convince myself that I am not a fat, wide-faced, ugly spinster.

In this moment, this is what I felt and how I felt it. Would love to here how you feel about this topic since it’s something I’m constantly battling. I believe taking care of myself is important and looking your best only makes you feel your best, but distortion of reality and self-image is not something I condone. YET, there are so many times when I wonder what botox would be like, or I instagram the shit out of my photos to smooth out my skin.

It’s complicated, and the media sends us complicated messages. Time to think for oneself, and not buy into it. That’s what I say.