April 30, 2010

Motherhood comes with a loving heart…

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Television, Women at 5:33 am by dinaheng

If mother knows best, grandmothers know more.

“Meet My Mom,” a sweet Mother’s Day movie on The Hallmark Channel, which airs Saturday, May 8 at 9 p.m. Eastern, tells the story of divorcee Dana Marshall (played by Lori Loughlin), who moves with her son Jared (Charles Henry Wyson) back into her mother Louise’s house.

Louise, played by Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Stefanie Powers, encourages her daughter to go out with Sergeant Vince Carrera  (Johnny Messner), a career army man who’s got his own heart issues. While the movie centers on Dana’s dilemma, it’s Louise’s character that shows the kind of wisdom we admire in our mothers.

“Young women are finding themselves back on the market with young children today,” says Powers, 67, who is best known for her work on the iconic TV shows “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Hart to Hart.” “There’s a lot of pressure for young people to get hooked up with somebody, get married, have a baby, blah blah blah, and the end result in far too many cases is it ends in divorce, or the partnership dissolves. Then, the young woman becomes extremely wary and may not see the gold at her feet.”

Powers, who has been married and divorced twice, knows something about affairs of the heart, and the willingness to try again. She advises women who have been hurt in the past to open their hearts, and give someone new a chance.

While she never had children of her own, she’s helped to nurture many along the way.

“Parenthood is one of the biggest, most important jobs there is, and it requires an enormous sacrifice because the children must come first,” Powers says. “I respect everyone who’s chosen that path, but I did not. Early on, I made the conscious decision that motherhood was not for me.

“But society doesn’t tell people enough that it’s okay not to have children. It doesn’t mean you’re irresponsible, or can’t help society in other ways. Giving birth has nothing to do with being a parent.”

The actress, who has devoted her life to animal preservation and protection, conservation and the environment, serves as president of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, which preserves 37 species of East African wildlife in Kenya. Powers founded the charity in memory of Holden, her companion at the time of his death in 1981, and its education program serves more than 10,000 students a year.

“I have eight godchildren;  in Africa, I’ve sponsored 12 young people through university, and our education center has served many more young people,” Powers says.  Laughing, she adds, “I’ve got more school bills than anybody I know.”

Clearly, motherhood comes to those with a loving heart, whether or not marriage and a husband are part of the package. In Powers’ view, successful parenting means setting boundaries that prepare children for life.

“Modern parenting often leads people to think they need to be their children’s friends,” she says, “ but there needs to be an authority figure and the parameters, so the lesson becomes we’re always adjusting to the laws of the country, the mores of society, the dictates of our bosses, and the adjustments to relationship. There will be time for friendship with the children later.”

Powers is happy that  she was able to be close friends with her own mother, who shared a house with her for 27 years until she died last year.

“It’s unusual in show business to find a healthy and enduring relationship between mother and daughter,” Powers says. “We went through our hiccups, but once we were on the other side of that, we were able to see each other as individuals and respect each other. She was a wise mother.”

The character Powers plays in “Meet My Mom” is also a single mom, and while there’s no explanation of how this came to be, it’s clear that Louise is a woman to be admired. How do women reach this stage of wisdom in life?

“It’s what experience gives you,” Powers says. “Humans are a very dumb species, and it takes us a long time to learn something. The important things in life should be addressed from the inside out. Buddhism says if you understood the end of your life better, you might live the beginning of it very differently.”

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April 22, 2010

A celebration of friendship…

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Health, Relationships, Women at 12:57 am by dinaheng

My friend Christine and I live in different parts of the country, and while we rarely see each other, it never feels like we’re far apart because we talk on the phone regularly.  We kept saying we have to get together in person, but somehow the years went by without that happening. Until  last fall, when she received the shocking news that she had ovarian cancer.

Doctors did surgery immediately, and thankfully, the tumor that was removed had not spread. When she felt better, I scheduled a long-overdue visit.

Flying from Los Angeles to Nashville took all day, and since I wasn’t going to arrive until late in the evening, Christine suggested that we look into staying at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, a place she hadn’t been to in years, rather than driving an hour to her home outside the city.

We ended up making it a two-day girls’ retreat, enjoying the kind of pampering most of us rarely take the time to experience.

After meeting at the airport, Christine and I sat up talking until nearly 1 a.m. We talked about our families, a screenplay I’m writing, her work with the local Humane Society, health and nutrition… all without missing a beat.

That, I think, is the real measure of friendship — being able to be with each other, no matter how long it’s been — and instantly BE with each other.

Christine shared that she was awaiting the results of a blood test that would show if her cancer treatment was working. She was trying not to be anxious about the results, so our unspoken girlfriend’s pact was to just concentrate on having fun.

The next morning, we headed for Relache, the resort’s spa, salon and fitness center. The minute we walked into the women’s locker room, our shoulders started to relax as the sound of soothing music filled the air.

“People feel guilty when they think they’re about to pamper themselves,” says Yolanda Harris-Jackson, spa director of Relache. “They don’t want to take time away from family. But I tell people that going to a spa is not about pampering yourself. It’s about preventative wellness to take care of yourself.”

Harris-Jackson believes that five factors contribute to health problems — stress, sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and diet, and lack of a spiritual connection. If any of those factors are present, health concerns may arise.

“We make time for the things we want to do, so make time to sit still for five minutes and reflect,” Harris-Jackson advises. “In the evening, turn off the TV, listen to some soft music, and think about nothing. The mind doesn’t stop, but you can control what you pay attention to. People may have financial problems right now, but when you’re soaking in the bathtub, you need to be able to let go so that your mind can relax.”

For me, there’s nothing more relaxing than getting a great massage and facial. When you work with a truly intuitive massage therapist, who can feel where you’re holding stress in your muscles, it’s easy to let go and unwind. In this case, an aromatherapy massage with de-stressing essence oils and a moisturizing facial made me want to stay on the table and never get up again.

But all too soon, it was time for lunch outside by the pool. As Christine and I laughed about lounging in the sun in spa robes, we watched a group of teenagers splashing about in the water, and decided to take in a swim ourselves — in the quiet of the indoor lap pool. When we finally left the spa at 4 p.m., Christine sighed and said, “I never understood how anyone could spend an entire day in a spa, but now I do.”

After a short rest in our room — yes, I know, how could we possibly relax any more — we headed out for an evening on the General Jackson, one of the largest showboats in the nation. As the 300-foot paddlewheel riverboat moved along the Cumberland River, Christine and I stood at the stern, watching the paddlewheel turn below.

While today’s boat runs on diesel, rather than steam, it was easy to imagine days gone by, when people enjoyed the sights and sounds of nature more than the click of television remotes on summer evenings. The slow movement of the water encourages the mind to slow down and appreciate the moment.

Christine, a retired space biologist, was fascinated by the science and engineering behind our ride. As we talked, it reminded me of how we met, years ago, at Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. I was one of the first 100 semi-finalists in the Journalist-in-Space program, and Christine worked on NASA projects. Our common love for exploring the universe — above in the heavens and deep within the soul — has kept our friendship strong over the years.

When it was time to eat, we joined about 300 other passengers in the Victorian Theater for a delicious prime rib dinner. The alligator appetizer and spring roll needed a more deft touch, but the remainder of the meal was excellent.

The highlight of the evening was watching  “Country Music USA,” a musical revue of songs saluting noted country legends from Hank Williams and Patsy Cline to Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift. As the singers closed with a rousing rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud To Be An American,” the audience got up and cheered.

I loved the patriotic ending, and at the same time, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone in the cast on stage was white. One of our nation’s greatest strengths is its diversity, and the show would be stronger if it reflected that. Pulling in new audiences means finding ways to connect with them, and if hip-hop can draw Asian, Latino and white kids, there’s no reason country music can’t do the same.

The next day, as our visit to Opryland drew to an end, Christine got a phone call from her doctor. The news was great.  Her blood test showed no signs of cancer, and as we shared a big hug, I gave a silent prayer of thanks.

To celebrate, we went to Cascades American Cafe, which specializes in seafood and other entrees made with local and sustainable ingredients. In short, we ate our way to bliss.

Everything we tried — from the late season vegetable tempura to low country crab cakes — was superbly done, and the lavender lemonade was inspired. Christine ordered the skilled seared Gulf Triggerfish, and I had dressed local greens and fried calamari. The dessert parfaits were almost more than our tummies could stand, but we couldn’t resist.

Christine and I vowed that it would not be several years before we get together again.

“And whenever you come to town, we’ll come back to Opryland,” she added, “even if it’s just for lunch.”

I can’t wait for the next visit.

April 21, 2010

What Do You Really Want to Do With Your Money?

Posted in Business, Spirituality at 4:54 pm by dinaheng

Most people go to financial planners for advice on how to manage investments and save for retirement, but a new trend in money management is challenging investors to take a more holistic view of their money.

A new specialty called financial life planning encourages investors to explore personal values and take a life-centered approach to financial planning by allocating resources not only for the future, but for present-day life goals, as well.

To read the rest of Dinah Eng’s article on Entrepreneur.com, click here.

April 14, 2010

What would love do?

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Spirituality at 1:00 am by dinaheng

Negative words are like a toxin in the environment — the more you hear, the worse you feel. It’s no wonder people dislike reading newspapers or watching newscasts that fixate on polarizing political coverage or constant stories about crime and scandals.

Clearly, the negativity found in most news programs has made Oprah Winfrey the queen of motivational media. She talks to everyone we love to love, everyone we love to hate, and everyone in between — always bringing out their humanity, and reminding us to be our best selves.

What else do we really need to know?

Do we really need to know how many mistresses Tiger Woods had? Or whether his father’s words really make him feel ashamed enough to sanction a commercial aimed at saving a lucrative endorsement?

Does shame truly motivate us to become better people? I think shame can jolt us into realizing that our behaviors do have an impact on others, and it can cause us to hide bad behavior. But it doesn’t make us search our souls like loss and regret do. Until we lose something we truly value, we rarely get serious about doing better.

We’re about to lose the most liberal champion on the Supreme Court when Justice John Paul Stevens retires this summer, and the talk is already couched in terms of partisan potshots. If we really wanted to fill the vacancy with someone who would help the Court better reflect America today, we’d look at this as an opportunity to add a female minority to the bench, rather than see such nominees as being political liabilities.

We don’t need a compromise candidate who can pass muster. We need an inspired choice who will remind us what justice for all really means. Someone whose own heart is truly committed to serving the highest good for everyone.

We’ve gotten so used to the toxic fumes of partisan debate that we’ve lost our way in a  forest of fear. It’s time to start climbing the trees so that we can see from a higher viewpoint, rise to a higher level of consciousness, and let go of judgment. Not only our judgment of others, but our judgment of ourselves.

Inside each of us is an inner critic, born out of the disapproval and criticisms of others. We absorb toxic comments made about us as children, and grow up thinking we are who others have judged us to be. But what would happen if we stopped and tested those beliefs?

Well, if you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. If you squeeze toxic beliefs out of your consciousness, you’re left with… love. The barometer for what is fair and just in everyone’s mind would shift totally.

Imagine what would happen if our political decisions were made by asking, “What would love have me experience, or do, here?” Rather than by fearing, “Whose vote will I lose if I make what I truly believe is the right decision?”

There is no end to the number of people in the world who need love. The more we understand this, the less toxic the words we use about others will become. For whatever we say about “those people,” we’re really saying about ourselves.

April 8, 2010

Listening to Mother Earth…

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:50 am by dinaheng

The earthquake started gently. Just a little rolling motion. When you live in Los Angeles, you get used to the occasional movement below your feet.

But when the motion didn’t stop immediately, my mind started to tick off the seconds. The pictures on the wall started to rattle, and the vertical blinds at the sliding glass door continued to shake.

I got up from the dining table and headed for the bedroom to put on some running shoes. What should I take out of the house with me? Before I could think further, the earthquake stopped.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake had occurred just minutes earlier in Baja California and Mexico. A few days later, a 7.7 earthquake hit in Indonesia, on the heels of the quakes in Chile and Haiti. The news is full of advice on how to prepare for “The Big One,” making me wonder how much of our fear is helping to create these shifts in the Earth’s plates.

It’s interesting how Mother Earth’s moves grab our attention when we are jolted out of our ordinary routines. We pollute her waters and land with trash, and think little of its effects, until we’re faced with health problems that are proved to be the result of our negligence.

We think of the Earth’s ecosystem as separate from ourselves, yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Everything we do in life is connected, and the reality we create every day is affected by our actions — both physical and mental.

Sharp criticisms are being levied at Massey Energy Co., owners of a West Virginia coal mine that has been cited for scores of safety violations in the last year at the mine that recently collapsed and killed at least 25 coal miners.

It took a tragedy to draw attention to the lack of care that led to the accident and loss of lives. We may fool ourselves by ignoring warnings on paper, but eventually, the foolishness of such actions are always seen by all

Too often, we take the earth we live on for granted, until it sways or collapses out from under us.

Years ago, I traveled to the Amazon rainforest in Manaus, Brazil to study with an Incan shaman. He taught a group of us about earth energies, and how the planet itself is a living entity, to be treated with reverence and respect.

The more in touch we are with Mother Earth, the more grounded we become in who we are, and why we’re here. Those who love to garden, hike, or otherwise spend time outdoors know the deep connection you feel to something greater than yourself when you dig into the soil or stand on top of a mountain crest.

The Earth’s plates shift somewhere in the world every day. We don’t always feel it, but pressure builds up and is released. It is a good thing. What creates anxiety is not being able to control the shifts and their effects on our lives.

I’m not a doomsday type of person, so I don’t worry about when the next large earthquake is going to hit. I’ve prepared as much as I can by buying earthquake insurance, and having canned food and bottled water in the house. Beyond having emergency supplies, all anyone can do is not panic and pray for the best.

As Mother Earth teaches, life is constantly shifting and changing. It’s how we react to the shifts that will determine our survival — and hers.