Shannon Ingram's Place

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Location: So CA

Musings of a woman who left her corporate career to become a caregiver for elderly parents, wrote a book and found her way back to corporate - with love, instead of fear, leading the way.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Tree Stays

My niece, Lindsey, is coming to our home today to celebrate Christmas with us and her grandparents, Marianne and Jack. It's become a tradition that she visits us a few days after Christmas and I like stringing the holiday out until New Year's Day. My husband, on the other hand, would prefer that the holiday decor comes down by the 27th. He's a former safety professional and something about the "crispy" tree makes him a little jittery. I promised not to turn on the lights or put a fire in the fireplace as long as it's still up. I am still enjoying the fragrance of the pine needles. Thanks to Lindsey's post-Christmas visit, the tree stays!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Get Well Christmas

When I was 16, I woke up on December 24th covered with red spots. Mom called the doctor who insisted we come to his office right away and enter via the side door instead of the reception area. I was quarantined in a tiny exam room at the end of a hall. The nurse explained to Mom that the doctor had been called to the hospital for an emergency, but he would be back "soon." Unfortunately, "soon" turned out to be three hours later. They didn't want me leaving the exam room for fear of exposing what we all knew was German measles to an innocent pregnant woman. Mom asked me if it was ok for her to leave so she could get some last-minute shopping done at the mall near the medical building. I said yes, but I sulked to the point of sobbing as the minutes turned into hours of boredom. Every once in awhile a perky medical assistant would peek in and ask if everything was all right. I always uttered a tearful "yes," but she didn't notice that I was crying and said, "let me know if you need anything." I wanted to scream, I need to get outta here, that's what I need. It's Christmas Eve! I want to be shopping with Mom and making cookies and wrapping the gifts that I spent my babysitting money to buy for my family. I don't want to be in a doctor's office with a sore throat, fever and an itchy rash. I didn't scream. I just counted the ceiling tiles until I fell asleep, drooling on the tissue-covered exam table. Mom and the doctor returned at the same time. The diagnosis was made in about 30 seconds and I was told to stay in bed for three days. There went all the Christmas plans, but I was cried out, so I just moped out of the office and all the way home in Mom's Chevy Nova. Clearly this would not be the merriest Christmas.

Ultimately, Christmas was happy. I didn't gain any weight because I chose not to eat. Why waste good food if your taste buds aren't working? I was strong enough to open presents, and my gift from Mom was a Polaroid camera, which my brother immediately confiscated to take a picture of me looking like a rotten tomato. Everyone laughed, including me. Laughter was the cherished highlight of celebrating Christmas at home that year.

History is repeating itself today. My stepson had knee surgery earlier in the month and he's not quite up to speed yet. My sister had laryngitis and a cold, but we thought she was no longer contagious when she came to a family party last week. Now I have a horrible cold and so does Dad. Even Poudre the cat has been suffering from a stomach malady, with and without hair balls. With all due respect to Poudre, who is better today, his illness has made me laugh. Laughter is our great "get well Christmas medicine." I'll be taking heavy doses of it the next few days!

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Ingram Holiday Letter

The Ingram's Holiday Letter, December 2005

Desperate Housewives. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Lost. Grey's Anatomy. Starting Over. Who knew that the new must-see TV would serve to define the great soap opera that has been our lives in 2005?

Needless to say, I'm the desperate housewife, but not wearing size 2 jeans and Prada shoes. I ferry my parents back and forth to doctor's appointments, clean the kitty litter box, walk the dog, baby-sit for our grandson, Keegan (age 1), and dish with the neighbors about important issues such as why the city had to place a port-a-potty next to our driveway for three weeks while changing pipes on our street. We had a couple of untimely deaths, but thankfully no murders. No gorgeous young gardeners to ogle here, but the UPS guy looks a little like George Clooney.

Gary's work life is one big Extreme Makeover, but a lot less heart-warming. The only tears are the ones shed by Gary and his partners when a client turns out to be a deadbeat who refuses to pay for all the change orders initiated by his wife. Nevertheless, Gary loves the contractor's life and still enjoys wearing shorts to work year-round.

Our version of the hit sci-fi show, Lost, involves moving my parents into a lovely assisted living community in Irvine last February 14th. It was our family's personal "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." They hated it for the first few months, at least till Papa Jack went crazy on Mom's birthday in May and had to be tied to a bed in the hospital for several weeks. Thanks to an adverse reaction to some of the two dozen or so pills he takes daily, Jack was convinced that he was fighting WWII, the hospital was a prison camp, the staffers were "The Others," the hallways and gardens were mined and there was a secret underground tunnel that his fellow POW's used to escape. He snapped out of it in time to be home for July 4th weekend, or I'm sure he would have thought the fireworks were bombs going off. Mom handled all of this beautifully, listening intently to Jack's war stories and learning to love the relative sanity of her new home.

Grey's Anatomy is my favorite show. I'll substitute my animal friends for the main characters. Poudre, our 20-lb. cat, is Dr. "McDreamy" Shepherd, although more of a redneck version than sexy Patrick Dempsey plays on the show because Poudre only has two teeth. Still, he dominates the female "interns" - Vanna-dog, Molly-cat and frequent visitor, Crazy Oreo-dog, who belongs to our kids, Cory, Emilie and Keegan. When Poudre enters the room, Vanna falls on her back in front of him, submitting to what I call his "McDreaminess." Molly tails him like a wife who's being cheated on, and Crazy Oreo just wants to play doctor and sniff his behind. My kind of ER.

Starting Over is daytime reality TV that plays well to my professional life which has been starting over since 2003. In case you haven't heard, I finally embraced a new careeer and wrote a book titled The Heart Way - A Journey From Corporate to Care. It will be formally published in February '06. I'm finally doing what I love - wirting and talking about stuff I like. It beats selling computers or dealing with crabby corporate travelers. I'm just waiting for the money to follow!

Survivor is an old show that still hooks us from time to time. We visited Houston a week after Hurricane Katrina, at the start of a Caribbean cruise, and had the pleasure of taking extra suitcases full of clothing for survivors from New Orleans housed at the Astrodome. Then we survived the cruise in spite of consuming copious amounts of after-dinner drinks with names like "Buttery Nipple" and "B-52." I survived my first year of being on our church board. Jack survived his brushes with death and is now looking and feeling the best he's been in years. Mom Marianne survived cataract surgery. Niece Lindsey survived some very cold, wet days on the football field in her new role as saxophonist in the Washington Husky band. Niece Hannah survived her first cotillion as the tallest and prettiest girl on the dance floor. Keegan survived his new Nike Air Shox, the perfect first baby shoes. My sister, Meg, and her husband, Ted, survived a "vacation" in a motor home with another couple and four kids under 14. Cory and Emilie survived a round-trip to Minnesota looking like the Griswold's on a plane with Keegan. Poudre survived another year. None of us won a million dollars for our efforts.

We hope you had a great year, with or without a favorite TV show. Please read my book. Visit my web site often and add comments to this blog. Shameless self-promotion is another thing I learned from watching TV.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Hope for the Holidays

Every year on Labor Day, I begin looking forward to the holidays, which for me begin with Halloween and end with New Year's Day. I love decorating for fall with pumpkins and scarecrows, and then switching the theme to Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving. The invitations start arriving in November and I fill up the calendar with all kinds of festivities, from concerts to parties to simple luncheons with friends. It's thrilling for me to see the variety of activities in every square of the December calendar. By the second week of December, thrill has turned into stress and all those fun parties I anticipated seem like a massive dose of unhealthful pressure. Gary and I realize that we can't be three places at once, or even three places in one day. We are exhausted after stringing lights, shopping for and wrapping dozens of gifts, and addressing hundreds of envelopes for the infamous holiday letter I feel compelled to write because it feels therapeutic. In fact, it's the holiday letter that puts us back in the spirit of hope and good humor. Looking back over an entire year of good and bad times helps neutralize the pressure of the present and gives us the perspective that we can "just say no" and have a quiet day if we so desire. A day off now and then restores those precious holiday feelings of joy and hope. Enjoy the holiday season!