January 28, 2011

Let your star shine…

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Spirituality at 1:39 am by dinaheng

I don’t plan my life around my horoscope, but I do confess to reading one every morning.

I don’t believe that life is pre-destined. I believe that our choices and actions each day help to create the things that unfold in our lives. Reading a horoscope just triggers responses that may then affect what happens.

For example, if the astrological muse says it’s going to be a day where tempers flare, so watch out for potential arguments, I take it to be a gentle reminder to be kinder to others. Being a double Sagittarius — meaning that the Sun and Moon were both in the same sign at the time of my birth — I’ve always held strong opinions about things, so have to be reminded at times to watch my tongue.

My mom tells stories about me lecturing my father on his behavior… when I was five years old. He used to think my mom coached me on what to say to him, until one day, when I was sick and stayed home from school.

He walked into the living room and found me sitting in front of the television set, which was turned off. I apparently started criticizing my mom for not letting me watch TV, and he realized that my “opinions” were not just directed at him.  He then told Mom what a smart girl I was.

Since I’ve always identified with being the Archer in the sky, I’m not too happy with the  astronomers at the Minnesota Planetarium Society who have upended the zodiac calendar,. According to them, because of the moon’s gravitational pull on Earth, the alignment of the stars is now off by about a month.

Those of us who are Sagitarrians and Capricorns born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17 are now classified as Ophiuchus. How do you even pronounce that?

Apparently, the constellation Ophiuchus looks like a man wrestling a snake, dividing the snake’s body in two parts. The sign is linked to being a healer of men and a doctor of medicine or science, or someone who seeks education and enlightenment.

The Ophiuchu is an interpreter of dreams and premonitions, envied by his peers, and is expected to be a successful person.

The sign doesn’t sound bad, but I still prefer being a Sag. Whatever the sign is, I believe we all have to work to get our stars in alignment. We have to take responsibility for the choices we make, think positively, and act with love. Only then will our stars truly shine.

If the Western Zodiac gets too confusing, you can always look up your Chinese horoscope, which is based on the moon’s rotation. The Lunar New Year, celebrated by Asian countries around the world, falls this year on February 3, and ushers in the Year of the Rabbit.

According to Theodora Lau’s “The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes,” the Year of the Rabbit should be “a placid year, very much welcomed and needed after the ferocious Year of the Tiger. We should go off to some quiet spot to lick our wounds and get some rest after all the battles of the previous year… People will acknowledge that persuasion is better than force.”  (Are you listening, politicians?)

She says that the Year of the Rabbit is a time for people to enjoy ourselves, but not to become too indulgent. Money will be made without too much labor, but will also go out the door easily. (Hopefully, that means a continued uptick in the economy.)

“A temperate year with unhurried pace,” she writes. “For once, it may seem possible for us to be carefree and happy without too many annoyances.”

Now that’s a prediction I’d root for.



January 21, 2011

Skating star inspires on and off ice

Posted in Between Us column, Business, Entertainment, Health at 7:00 pm by dinaheng

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Smucker’s Stars on Ice show, co-founded by legendary figure skater Scott Hamilton. If you ask him what he’s proudest of achieving, his answer is both simple and profound.

“Longevity,” says Hamilton, winner of four U.S. Championships, four World Championships and a Gold Medal in the 1984 Olympics. “When I was competing, it was about winning. When you’ve won, how do you stay there? How do you grow, and make your career as long-lasting as you can? You make great decisions and work hard.”

Hamilton clearly made great decisions after turning professional and touring with Ice Capades for two years. When the show changed hands, the new owner didn’t want a male figure skater as a star, and Hamilton was out of work.

So he decided to start his own ice show, making it more of an artistic production, rather than an exhibition tour. The show started with eight to 12 champion skaters, playing in college ice rinks in the northeast to audiences of about 2,500.

The show grew in popularity, corporate sponsors came on board, and in 1992, Stars on Ice toured 72 cities in the United States and Canada to huge audiences.

“In 1994, there were a lot of current Olympic skaters who could turn pro,” Hamilton recalls. “The Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding incident caught people’s eyes and brought a lot of attention to the sport. From the mid-’90s to 2001, it was booming.”

Run by International Management Group, the show has had Discover and Target as corporate sponsors in the past, maintaining charity affiliations with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Today, Smucker’s is the title sponsor, with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America benefitting from the affiliation.

This year, Smucker’s Stars on Ice tour will go to 25 U.S. cities to celebrate its 25th anniversary. “We pride ourselves as being the place to skate and deliver to an audience,” says Hamilton, who stopped touring with the show in 2001 to become a consultant and producer.

The anniversary tour will feature 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek and Olympic Silver Medalist Sasha Cohen, along with a cast of champions, including Olympic Gold Medalists for pairs skating, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier (Canada), four-time World Champion and four-time Canadian National Champion Kurt Browning, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Ekaterina Gordeeva (Russia), World Champion and six-time U.S. Champion Todd Eldredge and others.

Hamilton’s career longevity goes hand in hand with an even greater achievement, for the skater, TV commentator and producer who won a battle against testicular cancer in 1997 and a benign brain tumor in 2004 is now recovering from the removal of another benign brain tumor.

“Last May, my peripheral vision had gone blurry again, and I knew it was back,” Hamilton says. “This time, it was self-contained, and the doctors felt the surgical approach would be best. Over time, after the surgery, it turned into an aneurysm.”

Another procedure dealt with the aneurism, but Hamilton woke up nearly blind in his right eye. He’s been able to regain some of the vision, and credits the “never quit” attitude of  Boston neurosurgeon, Dr. Edward Laws, with guiding him to recovery.

“It’s a benign tumor, but it’s a mischievous kind of guy, and we’re keeping an eye on it,” Hamilton says. “After several months of dealing with it, I know I’m a little stronger, tougher, and resilient than I was before. I have a wife and a young family, and I need to be here. I want to be active, and an important part of this family.”

Hamilton, who established the Scott Hamilton CARES (Cancer Alliance for Research, Education and Survivorship) Initiative in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, is a cheerleader for cancer survivors, reminding people that they can beat the illness.

“It’s amazing how fragile the human body is, but also how resilient it is,” he says. “When I underwent chemotherapy for testicular cancer, I saw dramatic changes. Whenever people hear the word chemotherapy, they immediately fear the side effects of hair loss, fatigue. I say, how about this? It kills cancer.

“One day, I hope we look back on chemotherapy as being in the Stone Age of cancer treatment. But the main thing is to keep your eye on the ultimate prize of beating cancer. What’s great is more battles are being won, and more research is being done. I’m grateful for each morning.”

Inspirational words from a champion on and off the ice.

A “Smucker’s Stars on Ice 25th Anniversary Tour’ one-hour special, hosted by Scott Hamilton, will air on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 22, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

The tour schedule is available at www.starsonice.com.



January 13, 2011

Shooting at shameful rhetoric…

Posted in Between Us column, Diversity, Politics, Relationships at 4:40 am by dinaheng

It was the bullet that shot fear into the heart of every politician who talks more than he or she listens.

Last week’s shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a meeting with constituents in a Tucson supermarket parking lot shocked the nation, and set tongues wagging as to what was to blame for the gunman’s actions.

While it’s yet to be determined why the suspect, identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, went on the rampage that injured Giffords, killed six, and wounded 13 others, one thing is clear — such actions do not happen in a vacuum.

As Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik indicated, the suspect had a troubled past, and whether he was mentally imbalanced or not, “the vitriol that comes out of certain  mouths” about tearing down the government and targeting politicians for their views has contributed to a growing climate of hate and prejudice in America.

It’s ironic that in a democratic society, where freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our beliefs, people have either forgotten the power of words, or are misusing the power to persuade. Those who have misused the power of words are now back-pedaling, trying to say they don’t condone violence, just healthy debate between people who hold differing views.

They say they can’t be held responsible for the way others interpret their rhetoric. So what are these politicians really saying? Vote for me because I believe in X, but don’t consider those who disagree an enemy? Treat them as friends and just agree to disagree?

The same can be said of media commentators who spew hateful words on the air, in print,  or online, trying to generate controversy, rather than solutions to problems. The same can be said of anyone whose words reflect fear more than respect and concern for others.

Many people don’t want to talk about politics anymore because they’re afraid they’ll be lambasted for their opinions, or pulled into an endless argument that will result in nothing but indigestion and a headache. So they remain silent and let the rhetoric swirl around them, hoping that the poisonous atmosphere will not touch them.

Instead of speaking up against negativity, those who have forgotten the power of their own words wake up only when someone is shot, jolting them into verbal action.

There’s no one “side” to blame for the shooting in Tucson — every one of us is at fault for not understanding and using the power of words to unite, rather than divide. To use our words to heal, rather than wound, another.

The question is not what could have prevented the shooting rampage last week. The question is what are we going to do to prevent the next shooting from happening?

If we all listened more, and stopped shooting off our mouths so much, we might be able to actually hear what everyone is saying, and create bridges between people rather than deepen the divide.

January 8, 2011

Resolve to be happy in 2011

Posted in Between Us column, Health, Spirituality, Women at 9:43 pm by dinaheng

My eight-year-old niece Emily and I were working on a jigsaw puzzle when she asked, “Do you like your work?”

I said yes, and she asked, “Would you rather be a full-time aunt, or keep working part-time and be a part-time aunt?”

I could try to explain that I work full-time, and am always her aunt, even if she only sees me several times a year. But in her mind, since I don’t live in the same city as she does and am not always available to play with her, I’m not a full-time aunt.

Life is a series of compromises, choosing one thing over another every day. The question is, are we happy with the choices we make?

Most of us think we’ll be happier if we lose that 10 lbs., get married/get divorced, get a new job, make more money. The list could go on and on. But real happiness doesn’t come with just changing our physical selves or surroundings.

True happiness comes with loving ourselves more, something that isn’t always easy to do.

When we make mistakes, how often do we mentally beat ourselves up over them? When we imagine the future, do we see a rosy picture, or a drab one? When we look at ourselves in the mirror, is the first thought a positive or negative one?

Here are a few suggestions for creating a happier 2011:

1. Spend more time with people you love, and who love you. Connecting with others strengthens the heart and gives life meaning.

2. Share your gifts and talents with the world. The more you give to others, the more good  will come back to you.

3. Treat yourself to a healthier body. If you hate exercise, and love shopping, park the car and walk to every store you love. If you hate dieting, eat whatever you want in small portions and drink three times as much water with each meal.

4. Find time to completely de-stress every day.  Try yoga, tai chi, meditation, massage, or whatever gives you a sense of peace.

5. Get enough sleep. Your body needs the rest, and others will thank you for being less grouchy.

6. Forgive yourself… and others. Holding grudges hurts no one more than yourself.

7. Play more. Do something that makes you laugh and lightens your spirit.

8. Let go of your opinions, and hold on to love. It would be a boring world if everyone thought alike, and getting along with others is easier than arguing, unless arguments are what you really want.

9. Imagine your greatest good coming to you every day. You’ll be amazed at how powerful thoughts really are.

10. Deepen your faith. No matter how you define Divine Wisdom, listen to your heart, and you will hear God speak.

Life may seem like a jigsaw puzzle at times, missing pieces that would make it truly complete. But the happier we choose to be, the more we’ll discover that the pieces were there all along.