July 30, 2009

Romantic comedies for the heart…

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Spirituality, Women at 12:49 am by dinaheng

Some people may say romantic comedies give us false expectations about love and romantic relationships, but I say there’s as much truth as fantasy in this genre of films about finding true love.


A spate of romantic comedies is now out in theaters, ranging from the spiritual tale of “The Answer Man” to the stereotypical battle of the sexes in “The Ugly Truth.” What you believe is likely to be reflected in the relationships you see on screen.dinah-eng-21


If you believe that men are visual creatures who care only about a woman’s physical appearance, you’ll love the first half of “The Ugly Truth” where Mike Chadway (played by Gerard Butler) shares a racy, chauvinistic viewpoint of what makes men, well… men. Appalled at his “shock jock” style is Abby Richter (played by Katherine Heigl), an independent morning talk show producer who’s looking for love in all the wrong ways.


If you believe that underneath every macho man is a sensitive little boy wanting to be loved, you’ll love the second half of “The Ugly Truth,” where Abby confronts Mike about his fear of, well… take a guess. While the two characters seem to be total opposites on the outside, we learn that they have everything in common on the inside.


That, of course, is the true challenge of love — getting past the exterior mask to the true self most of us hide for fear of rejection and disapproval.


In “The Answer Man,” Arlen Faber (played by Jeff Daniels) is the author of a spiritual book who’s in hiding from his legion of fans and in search of his own peace of mind. Elizabeth (played by Lauren Graham) is a chiropractor and single mom, who isn’t afraid of Arlen’s eccentric ways.


When Kris Lucas (played by Lou Taylor Pucci) turns to Arlen for answers in his life, Arlen’s philosophical words seem to make sense. But it’s when Arlen chooses to act, rather than just give advice, that love truly manifests for all to see.


Love, after all, is the unseen force that connects everyone. Whether you believe we’re  pre-destined to meet certain people or not, those who come into our lives are there to teach us about love. 


Sometimes, these people are the most gentle, accepting souls we could ask for. Other times, they’re the most irritating idiots we’d rather not deal with, always pushing our buttons and showing us the limits of our love.


My favorite romantic comedy this summer is “The Proposal,” starring Sandra Bullock as Margaret Tate, a hard-nosed book editor, and Ryan Reynolds as Andrew Paxton, her assistant who hates his boss. When Margaret, a Canadian, is threatened with deportation, Andrew agrees to marry her and make her a U.S. citizen in exchange for a promotion and book deal.


When the couple visits Andrew’s family, pretending to be engaged, the two learn that there’s nothing more important in life than family, and that love blossoms in the most unexpected ways. This film offers hope to every single woman over the age of 40 that true love is still possible, and if he looks like Ryan Reynolds, so much the better.


Romantic comedies make us laugh and remind us of the unseen possibilities in life. They teach us that if we’re open to the magic in our hearts, and are willing to take the needed risks, we will find the love that we seek.


And that’s no idle fantasy. 


July 23, 2009

To every season…

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Women at 4:52 am by dinaheng

My friend and I sat and talked about her husband, who had died a few months earlier. Since I wasn’t able to attend the memorial service, she shared the day’s events in detail, needing to tell the story again.


Over the course of the weekend, she’d show me pictures from their past, what she’d done to preserve his memory in the house, and the container of his ashes.


Our lives are the stories we tell, and death is an inescapable tale for everyone. While many of us are uncomfortable around those who are grieving for a loved one, life would have no meaning without death’s existence.dinah-eng-21


“I’m doing okay,” my friend said, sipping a cup of tea. “My sister stayed with me for the first few weeks. Now, she comes over on the weekends and we go out for lunch. I’m learning to be an independent woman again.”


The five stages of grief — denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — may seem definitive, but there’s no telling how long it will take for any of us to go through the process. Those stages, of course, don’t happen in a straight line, either. 


One day, you let out the anger at your loved one’s death, and months later, more anger can come out. The important thing is allowing yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, and then be willing to let it go.


My dear friend Lynne, who’s now in her 80s, lost her husband many years ago. It took her several years to get through the pain, and part of being friends meant listening to the same stories over and over, until she was ready to move on.


One night, while we were on a short trip to Sedona, I woke up and heard her moaning in her sleep in the bedroom next door. She was having a nightmare about losing her husband. I didn’t want to startle her awake, so I stood outside her door, just calling her name aloud. Her unconscious finally heard me, and calmed whatever was running through her mind.


The next day, she told me she’d slept better than she had in a long while. I never said anything about hearing her cries in the night, but wondered how long it would take before the nightmares no longer plagued her.


Most of us find it easy to extend sympathy right after a death, but all too often, we get impatient if people share their bereavement longer than we’d like. It’s as if we fear that their sadness will somehow seep into the fabric of our souls.


Yet it’s the willingness to hold a space of light and love around another that allows grief to dissipate and healing to occur. 


In January, my friend Alice lost a longtime job. A month later, she lost her mother, whom she’d been taking care of for several years. A woman of strong faith, she shared her pain, yet was determined to move forward with her life.


Four months later, she called me to say she’d met a wonderful man, and they’re dating with an eye toward marriage.


“I felt like I lost everything in my life,” she said. “But now I feel like I’ve been given everything and more.”


Death, after all, is not just an ending. It also signals new beginnings.

July 16, 2009

Powerful magic awaits

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Women at 6:18 am by dinaheng

Ah, the sweetness of young love…

Fans of the Muggle and wizarding worlds are in for a lighter turn to the story of Harry Potter, the boy with extraordinary powers destined to fight the evil Lord Voldemort, in the latest installment of the popular movie franchise, “Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince.”

While dark magic still threatens the world, it’s teenage hormones that upset the normality of life at Hogwarts as Harry’s long standing friendship with Ron Weasley’s little sister Ginny blossoms into romance. Ron, oblivious to best friend Hermione Granger’s feelings for him, falls for the ever-eager affections of Lavender Brown.

The tender longing and frustrations of young love take center stage as the characters created by bestselling author J.K. Rowling come of age in a wizard’s world where damsels in distress have become heroines in their own right.dinah-eng-21

Little Ginny Weasley, played by Bonnie Wright, was taken over by evil Tom Riddle’s diary in the 2002 film, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” and then rescued by Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). Several years later, the young wizard sees that the girl he’s grown up with has blossomed into a confident young woman.

“In this film, girls are seen as being quite mature,” says Wright, who’s played Ginny in all the Potter films. “The boys are the ones who are slow on the uptake with everything. Ginny initiates the relationship with Harry because she can see how shy he is, and that he didn’t know what to do. This film gives justice to the power of girls. They know their feelings, and they’re more comfortable expressing them.”

Wright, herself 18, plays a 16-year-old Ginny who’s now got a boyfriend at Hogwarts, much to Harry’s dismay. (Why is it that boys always pay more attention when there’s a rival in the picture?) It’s not clear why Ginny dumps the boyfriend, but it’s easy to see why she gravitates toward Harry.

“Harry’s character is very humble and brave,” Wright says. “Ginny sees the hero in him, not just the hero that others see on the outside. Because they’ve grown up together, she’s never judged him as being famous, or been intimidated by his being ‘The Chosen One’ in the wizard world. There’s a sense of fearlessness to her, and she doesn’t care what others think of her.”Bonnie Wright and Daniel Radcliffe

Being fearless in the pursuit of love is one of life’s great challenges. No matter our age, we all blush, fumble and stumble over ourselves when we first feel attracted to another. Perhaps because a part of us realizes that there’s nothing more important in life than sharing the love that’s within us.

How we express the love within is different for everyone. Ginny’s personality is on the quiet side, unlike Hermione’s assertive, vocal nature, or Lavender’s wild, wizard-luring wiles. While Emma Watson (Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron) hold center stage with Radcliffe, Wright’s subtle portrayal of the girl who has captured Harry Potter’s heart offers encouragement to all those who have yet to express their own fearless nature in romance.

As all young wizards and Muggles must learn, love comes to those who are ready, willing and able to give their love to others, without fearing what may — or may not — come back in return.

For love is the most powerful magic of all.

July 9, 2009

In the good old days…

Posted in Between Us column, Business at 6:32 am by dinaheng

Louis A. Heilbron can remember going to the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, Calif. with his grandmother and cousins as a child in the 1950s. The kids would get bait from a little store by the pond, catch some trout, and go to the lodge restaurant, where the fish would be cooked for dinner.

“We have koi and swans in the ponds now,” says Heilbron, COO of Weintraub Financial Services, Inc., which now owns the Sportsmen’s Lodge. “The lodge goes back to 1930, and we’re hanging onto the older pieces of the property.”

Historic preservation is rarely easy. Getting people to agree that something historic should be maintained as it was originally built takes time, money and an appreciation for the past. When historic structures are smack in the middle of valuable real estate, they’re even harder to save.

The Sportsmen’s Lodge and Hotel are old Hollywood landmarks in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Originally a race track at the turn of the century, the lodge was built to cater to the stars of Republic Pictures Studio nearby, the biggest producer of Western movies of that era. Republic later became the CBS Studio Center.dinah-eng-21

“Howard Hughes’ favorite table was in that corner, and he’d bring the starlets over from Republic Pictures,” Heilbron says, pointing to a spot in the lodge dining room. “In that corner, the gangster Mickey Cohen would dine, with his bodyguards watching over him.”

Walking through the historic rooms, it’s easy to imagine the Hollywood deals that were made over long lunches with drinks from the built-in bars in most every room. While the lodge is currently closed for renovation, the past is keenly felt in the grand staircase foyer and ballroom where couples posed for wedding pictures.

The lodge and ponds will reopen later this year as a banquet facility, but the hotel next door is open for business. The hotel, built in 1961, reflects a later period in Hollywood’s history. The lobby, renovated with a fireplace and comfortable seating, has retained the original bar and high tables in one corner with the original front desk for check-in.

A working beauty salon off the lobby looks straight out of the 1960s, as does the layout of the motel-style inn, built around an Olympic-size swimming pool. For fans of “Happy Days,” Marion Ross’s jacket from the show is framed in the alcove of the booth where Ross sits when she comes to dine at the hotel’s Patio Cafe.

A Cowboy Hall of Fame can be found lining the walls outside the cafe, a tribute to stars including Dale Robertson, George Montgomery and Tom Selleck.

“John Wayne, Gene Autry and Kate Smith used to eat here regularly,” Heilbron says. “Today, we get a lot of musicians and rock bands who stay here. We get Pink Lady, KiSS, Randy Travis, Toby Keith, Loretta Lynn. Anybody who plays this area stays here.”

Cable TV shows and commercials are often filmed on the property, ensuring that some part of the Sportsmen’s Lodge and Hotel will live on. History, of course, is what we make it. Today’s trends will inevitably become yesterday’s memories. While this property is not a designated historic landmark, it’s clearly a survivor of changing times.

These days, that’s quite an accomplishment.

July 2, 2009

Dating do’s and don’ts

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Women at 2:41 am by dinaheng

Jess McCann started her own sales company after college, teaching her employees sales techniques to peddle wares for local telecom and office supply companies. Today, she’s using sales principles to coach women on how to successfully attract and get the men they want.

While there are no guarantees, the common sense tactics in McCann’s book “You Lost Him At Hello” ($14.95, Health Communications) get at the heart of why many relationships fail to launch.

“One of the worst mistakes is women will meet a guy and even though they’ve only been on one date, they’ll focus on him as ‘The One,’ “ McCann says. “They fall in love after one meal or one movie. They really need to fill the funnel by dating more than one person at a time. The more options you have, the more likely you’ll close the deal.”dinah-eng-21

McCann says most women waste time on pursuing the wrong men because they’re not reading the signs of interest correctly. She says look for eye contact — is he checking you out? Does he ask you questions about yourself? If not, don’t waste a lot of time trying to get his attention.

As with everything in life, successful dating stems from knowing who we are, and having the self-confidence to be that person with strangers. How we feel about ourselves is always transmitted to others, so attracting a partner requires feeling good about ourselves.

McCann says everything women say or do throughout the dating process will either move guys toward them, or away from them.

Some of her suggestions:

* Want a guy to approach you? Smile at him, establish eye contact and project good energy. Tell him non-verbally that you’re approachable.

* Don’t date one man at a time. You may cut off other potential mates if you’re focused on one person, and you’re less likely to feel needy if you’re dating other possible partners.

* End your date “at the height of impulse,” when the guy is really enjoying your company, and leave him wanting more.

* Don’t tell him everything about yourself at once. Let the relationship develop slowly.

* Find the balance between being enthusiastic and indifferent about dating him, so that he’s not always in control of when you get together. Say no sometimes.

“Most girls are needy, desperate, and overly aggressive,” McCann says. “Women usually relinquish their power completely, and men realize they have the control. I think women don’t find themselves to be special. If you don’t love your product — yourself — no man will love you, either.

“Life’s not a chick flick or a romance novel. A lot of women pick men apart. We’re all imperfect. If you look hard enough, you’ll find something to pick apart. What you should really look for is a good guy with character and a good heart.”

While few of us enjoy the “maneuvering” involved in finding a mate, it’s rare that two people will connect without bumping into each other’s fears, hopes and dreams on the way to figuring out whether attraction will turn into lasting love. Keeping McCann’s sales techniques in mind could be a real relationship starter.

McCann says she followed her own dating advice last year and has found the man of her dreams.

“It took him two months to start talking about wanting a relationship, and I told him I wasn’t ready yet,” McCann says. “A month later, he was still there, and at three months, we decided to be exclusive.”

Goes to prove, a good saleswoman knows how to get her man.