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, September 20, 2007

Calorie King

No, this subject is not about Gary, although with his recent consumption of Halloween candy way before Halloween, it could be! The good news is that candy is his only "food vice." He has lost 35 pounds in the last year, ever since his hospitalization for kidney failure. Obviously, he gave those pounds to me because I've gained that much in the same time frame.

For many months, I've been having my way with food. I haven't felt like cutting back, so I just kept at it and instead, cut way back on exercise, relishing the life of a "desk potato."

Last Saturday, I almost fell while carrying my grandson. That made me very aware of my declining health due to impending obesity. I went immediately into healthy diet and weight loss research mode. Lindora was out of the question this time because I don't want to spend a gazillion dollars to lose weight and then gain it all back. Plus I hated getting shots five days a week - ouch. I was close to settling on Weight Watchers when I came across an article in PEOPLE about what's happened to some of the past "Biggest Losers" from the reality TV show. One woman mentioned that she had started to gain back some weight, so she began working with something called I checked it out online. I loved what I read and signed up Saturday night.

I've lost five pounds already and I'm motivated. The site is easy to navigate and the program is more about health than anything else. Their plan promises to let me lose 1-2 pounds a week (after the first week). It kind of reminds me of Weight Watchers without the meetings, and everything is online, including a huge food and beverage database and an "e-trainer" to guide me with exercise. I now have a blog on their web site too! If you're thinking of getting healthy, check out

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tackling Touchy Subjects

Most of my girlfriends know that I recently wrote a blog article for the WomanSage web site about a touchy subject. If you haven't read it already, check it out by going to this site:
and let me know what you think. I've had beaucoup experience tackling touchy subjects since moving from CO to CA five years ago. Some of those subjects have arisen in caregiving for my parents. Others relate to family members (including myself) with unrealistic expectations about one other. And some involve my new perspectives gleaned from simply growing older. One thing is always clear: I always learn something when I attempt to work through these subjects. A sense of humor helps.

A touchy subject this week is my friend's adult daughter who can't see the point in living beyond her current age (late 20's) because she doesn't want "to end up in Depends and using a walker." At least that's what she says. It could be she just wants a few weeks' vacation from a job she doesn't like. Whatever...she now thinks a small dog is the answer to her malaise. She wants one of those Paris Hilton "accessory dogs" that fit in a purse. She wants it NOW. And she wants her mom to buy it for her. She is so adamant about getting this dog that it's driving her mom insane. I had to laugh today when her mom said the dog was more important to her daughter than going to the psychologist. Duh. I think Paris would agree. It doesn't matter that she can't have a dog in her apartment. She says her mom can keep it four or five days a week and it can then "visit" her for two or three days when she's not working. Of course her mom said, "But I already have a dog and I don't want another one." Logic doesn't work in these cases and when the tantrum ensued, my friend took a tranquilizer. I would have suggested a quart of ice cream.

This situation reminded me of my mom's obsession with getting an electric wheelchair. Mom hasn't let up, even though we discovered Medicare will not buy it outright for her, but they will consider partial reimbursement if and when we buy it and send them a copy of the invoice and claim form.

I took Mom to the doctor today to check out a huge bruise she has from a fall that happened on Saturday. She said it was more important to get the electric wheelchair ordered than to be treated for her bruises. She said the fall would not have happened if she'd had the wheelchair. Mind you, she fell down while getting out of her bed and an electric wheelchair wouldn't fit into that tight space in her bedroom. She had left her cane and walker out in the living room, so down she went. I explained my point of view about using a cane or walker in her bedroom to prevent a fall, but she quietly looked away from me, gazing out the car window. I reminded Mom about paying up front for the chair. She had forgotten, and her response was to whimper, complete with trembling lower lip. It wasn't full-blown crying, but I knew she was feeling sad and perplexed about not getting a motorized chair. It was best if I said nothing, and soon she was able to compose herself. She walked with me to and from the doc's office without any problems and when we returned to the car, she said she'd like to go out to lunch. We decided on Blue Water Grill and had a lovely lunch on the deck. It seemed the wheelchair had been forgotten.

Wrong again. It came up as we left the restaurant. "Can we go to the medical supply store now and order my electric wheelchair?" she asked. "No," I said. "We have to get you back to your place so you can get your hair done." A quick diversion did the trick.

I'm hopeful she won't try to slit her wrists tonight over not getting the wheelchair. If she does, we'll surely have a huge mess to clean up because she takes blood-thinners. Which reminds me to tell my friend she's lucky her daughter's blood is thicker than my mom's; however I doubt either woman - young or old - will let up on the touchy subjects of the dog or the wheelchair. They want what they want and nothing else seems to matter right now. I think it's time for Ben & Jerry to step in.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Is Life Good?

Yesterday was the anniversary of the most horrific day I can remember - and it was only six years ago - 9/11/01. I lost my first husband, Bruce, on 4/13/95 and that was an awful experience. I came home from a girl's night out at a blues concert in Denver to find him dead on the basement floor. It was catastrophic and traumatic and a long, sad story. But it was something I could grieve and get through - see the light on the other side of my sadness. It was a scale of grief that felt personal and between me and God.

The events of infamous 9/11 were on such a huge scale that I have never been able to get beyond it, really. I know it's been that way for EVERYONE in the New York City area as it was so "in your face" for all of them. It was personal for those of us in other states watching it on TV, but we grieved from afar, and when planes started flying again and baseball games returned to TV, we heaved a sigh and went into recovery mode. Not so easy for the folks in New York City.

Yesterday, 9/11/07 brought a scary experience for close friends of mine. I won't go into it, to protect their privacy, except to say that it involved parents and an adult child who felt life was no longer worth living. Wow, on 9/11, it was hard for me to argue that things are great all over. You know what I mean. Life feels good to me, even on my darkest days. But that's not how some kids see it. How do we demonstrate to our kids that life is indeed good - especially over the long haul? I'd like to hear from you with answers, even if you have to register to respond via google. Please help - I need to know.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Aloha to Elder Whining

I took care of grandson Keegan (2-1/2) for most of the weekend, plus had another house guest, my dear friend, Gaye Nelson, Hollywood astrologer to the stars ( who was conducting business in the OC. Yesterday was Grandparents Day, so how appropriate to spend Saturday night and Sunday with Keegan - and how fitting to get only two hours sleep because he was coming down with a cold. None of us slept that night, including Gaye, whose kind comment was simply "poor little guy had a rough night."

I had agreed to do the closing message at both church services yesterday and we took Keegan with us. We were home by 12:30 PM and Keegan's parents came to pick him up. Gary and I handed him off to his mommy, then headed immediately to bed for a nap before a dinner engagement at 6 PM. While we were recovering from the busy weekend with a short siesta, Mom called with one of her typical messages, in the whiniest possible tone, "Hello, this is your mother. I saw more of you when you lived in Hawaii." Click. She hadn't seen me since Thursday. I'm sure she had forgotten when she last saw me, so I didn't allow myself to get triggered when I listened to her cryptic message on the way out to dinner.

I called Mom when we got home, greeting her with a cheerful voice, "Aloha and thanks for the nice message."

She uttered a little groan of indignance. In her best "itty bitty boo" voice, she responded, "I never get to see you."

Determined not to get defensive, I said, "Well, isn't it nice that Meg and Hannah came down from the ranch to see you yesterday?" POOF! The whining stopped. I got to hear all about Meg and Hannah and when she finally asked what I had done all weekend, I told her I'd been babysitting for Keegan.

"You could have brought him out to see us," she said.

"I considered it, but decided not to because he has a cold."

"Oh," Mom replied, getting a little whiny again. "Well, you certainly spend more time with him these days than you do with us."

"Not true," I said. "I spend at least fwo full days a week with you and/or Jack, taking you to doctor's appointments, helping you with your shopping, taking you out to lunch or dinner and just stopping by to visit. I see Keegan once or twice a month."

"Oh," she said again. "Can we go to Mi Casa this week?"

"Yes," I answered.

"OK, that's good. But I still say I saw more of you when you lived in Hawaii."

"Aloha, Mom. Sweet dreams." I replied, continuing to disengage.

"Good night, dear." And she hung up. I doubt she will remember any of it tomorrow.

Thank God for therapy!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Bug's Strife

My grandson, Keegan (2-1/2), recently developed a fear of all bugs. When he spent a few days with us several weeks ago, we had dinner in the backyard one night. A couple of pesky flies kept landing on the table near Keegan's plate. He would cower and scream when they flew anywhere near him. Gary taught him how to say "Go away, fly," and sweep his arm across his plate. He loved doing that - except when the flies came around, whereupon he would scream and shy back from them.

When we visited Crater Lake in August, we picked up a book called "1001 Bugs to Spot." Today, I took Keegan out in the front yard to show him a big green grasshopper and he jerked when it jumped and flew away. With that, I went inside and got the new book and we sat sat down together in the adirondack chairs on our front lawn and began reading about bugs.

A sow bug walked in front of the chair and Keegan jumped down and pointed at it. I told him what it was and he said "Hi, Sow Bug." He asked if he could stop on it and I said no, that it was a good bug. Instead he decided to try touching it with his finger, but suddenly became afraid again. "That sow bug is more scared of you than you are of him because you are so much bigger." Keegan tilted his head sideways and said, "Keegan is BIGGER than sow bug." He let the bug go this time.

Next we saw a couple of ants and he pointed and said, "ANTS" (loud enough for the neighbors to hear, but so what). Before his nap, he had fearlessly identified about 10 different kinds of bugs in the front yard and let them live. Life's little pleasures are often the most profound!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The STOP Hits the Fan

One person's gold mine is another's ceptic tank. Our stop sign is being challenged by our neighbors one block south, and they have good reason to complain. Their street is wider than ours and for years they've been trying to get stop signs installed at the same intersections we just did. Whoa, are they upset to find we were successful and they were not. They're ready to do battle with the city using every legal weapon they have. I know this because Tony, a nice guy from the wide street, came by today to ask me how we managed to get the stop signs.

Tony has lived in his home on the wide street for a gazillion years. He's been to City Hall many times. Now he's tapping into his life savings to fight what he believes to be grossly unfair. After three hours on our front porch with Tony, me, Gary and our neighbor, Bunker, we all agreed to support one another however we can. Of course Bunker, Gary and I don't want to lose our wonderful new stop signs (what will I tell Keegan?), but for the sake of community, we'll do what's right. It's a long story with beaucoup twists and turns. If you didn't know the whole thing, it's not worth going into, but hey, we're sympathetic to Tony and our other neighbors to the south, so we won't contest their fight. We're all in this STOP business together.

OK, now that I've done my "United Nations of Costa Mesa" thing, I'll tell you that my gut boiled, my skin heated up and my face struggled NOT to contort into nasty grimaces when Tony said he would be filing an injunction against our stop signs. I felt my eye twitch. And I told him he should talk with Gary. Just at that moment, Gary drove up in his truck, as if God was there helping me with this crisis. And then Bunker showed up too. I was able to go inside, take deep breaths and a shower, cogitating about the goodness that exists somewhere in my heart. I resolved not to chain myself to the stop sign pole and scream dark epithets about all the people on the wide street who want to ruin our newly won traffic control and my grandson's glee. I'll "get over it" one more time, then wait out the ulcer.

Best not to get too attached to anything this lifetime.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Stop Sign

Every evening from May to October, Gary and I sit in our glider chairs on the front porch and watch the world go by our little corner of Eastside Costa Mesa. Our neighbors call us "the porch people." The parade is incessant - moms pushing strollers, couples walking dogs, older folks getting some evening exercise, kids on beach cruiser bikes coming home from the beach, our neighbor, John, doing laps around the block on his old motorcycle, another neighbor bringing take-out food home on his Harley, and dozens of cars and trucks, even school buses, going way too fast in a 25 mph zone to bypass the stop signs on the main route across town, just one block north of us. The walkers and bicyclists wave or say hi and some stop to chat awhile. The car drivers flip us off when we yell at them to slow down.

Good news! The car stress ended today. No more yelling at the law-breakers. After months of working with our Costa Mesa City Government to do something about the speeders on our street, stop signs were installed in front of our home at 9 o'clock this morning! Earlier this year, Gary attended a City Council Meeting with our neighbor, Bunker Hill, to ask the council members to help us resolve the problem. Shortly after that meeting, the Mayor came to check out our corner with Bunker and me. There's been a lot of traffic research going on all summer and "Good Citizen Gary" has been interviewed and featured in newspaper articles more than once. Last week we received a letter from the City stating that we would get our stop signs at last. Life will be much safer for our grandchildren and all the other kids who play in the colorful front yards along Flower Street.

It was a great day for my grandson, Keegan, to be here with me while his mommy and daddy went to a doctor's appointment, because he got to see all the action out front. The city workers let us go out into the street and watch them paint the white sign on the asphalt. Keegan, almost 3 now, was thrilled when the big red stop sign went up. He knew exactly what it was and kept saying, "STOP sign" over and over. The workers laughed. They were a lot nicer than that nasty flight attendant who insisted a toddler stop saying "Bye-bye plane," and ended up throwing the mother and child off the airplane a couple of months ago. Nobody told Keegan to stop saying "STOP." Definitely a good day here.

And to make matters even better, notice that I said "our grandchildren" in an earlier paragraph. It's safe to say today that our beloved son and daughter-in-law are expecting their second child in March. Nobody could be more delighted than all the grandparents, especially Gary and me. I never expected to be a granny, so having Keegan around has been the greatest joy of my life so far. It's the kind of joy that will never need a STOP sign.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Laboring Day

Labor Day was created in 1882 to ensure a "day off" for the working stiff. For Gary and me, today was our typical "day off" - laboring at home and with my parents. Gary started early by mowing the backyard lawn and pruning bushes and plants. That was at around 8 AM when it was only 87 outside. By 10:30, when it was 98, he was cleaning out the fountains, "Keegan's" plastic pool and his barbecue. He drank "fountains" of water because he was a very sweaty guy. Side note - this is when I'm happy he doesn't like garlic or booze, because he never smells bad. He was laboring the same way he does on the worst of his workdays, and today was promising to be another record-setting hot day in So CA.

It's hard for me to claim labor today, but things didn't go as I'd planned. I thought it would be nice to do some laptop research in my air-conditioned bedroom (the only room in the house with a/c). Mom and Jack called last night, both in tears, to say nobody cared about them and they were the only people left at Geezer Palace because everybody's children or grandchildren had come to get them for a barbecue or fun day with family. They were all alone and feelin' blue. And they were out of Scotch.

I shared with them that most of the people who had come to take Grandma and Grandpa out for a joyride were probably visiting for the third or fourth time this year, whereas I see them at least three or four times a week. No response. I asked them what they wanted - always a good question. Mom spoke first, "We want you to take us out to lunch or bring us over to your house for dinner tomorrow." Good, she's being specific, but when did Labor Day become Thanksgiving or Christmas? However, I'm a sucker for them because they are my dear parents, so I said, "How about lunch?" because I knew Gary had work to do around the house and we were having neighbors over for dinner. With respect to my personal boundaries, I know I can't have them for dinner when I have people coming from outside of the family. They agreed to lunch and my Labor Day plans changed.

I picked them upat 11 AM...after I'd done all the prep cooking for the dinner party. We went to Tommy Bahama's, which had a handicapped parking space right in front. It took us five minutes to unload and get into the restaurant, then another three minutes to walk to the table, then another three minutes to take Jack back to the Men's Room, a 10 minute wait, and another three minutes to walk him back to the table, only to find that Mom wasn't there. Apparently she had managed to get up and walk out the back exit looking for us, because she couldn't remember where she was or why she was there. A kind waiter brought Mom back inside just as I had seated Jack and was going to leave and search for her. Thank God Mom remembered to take her cane when she took off, averting a probable catastrophe.

When we were finally seated altogether, the waiter took the drink order. Mom and Jack ordered fancy martinis and I suggested something less scary on a hot Labor Day. They agreed. I was beginning to relax. Long story short, we had a good time - albeit a tad stressful for me - and they were home by 2 PM. When I left them in the lobby, they were greeting friends and telling everyone about the super time they had at lunch and "touring the coast" - a fancy way to say that I drove them around CdM and bought them a bottle of Scotch.

Both Gary and I labored today. We compared notes and decided that our labors were rooted in love - working in the yard and caring for parents. No matter how hot it was outside for Gary, or how challenging it was for me to take the folks out for an afternoon, this kind of labor is fulfilling. Tonight we had a wonderful dinner party with our friends, Linda and Bob, filled with laughter, joy and the cooler evening air. Ultimately, our days off happen when we go on vacation - and those are good enough breaks for working stiffs like us.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A Crazy Start to the Holiday Weekend

Gary left at 5 AM to check on some work being done by his team in Beverly Hills. I stayed in bed, but the phone rang at 7 AM. It was Mom calling to ask what day it was. She thought it was Tuesday and she had an early doctor's appointment. Of course, my answer was, "No and no." I reminded her it was Saturday and even if it had been Tuesday, she didn't have a doctor's appointment. She seemed satisfied and said, "I guess I'll go downstairs and join Jack for breakfast." I fluffed my pillows and invited Vanna dog onto the bed.

At 7:45, the doorbell rang. Vanna went nuts, barking as she tore off the bed and down the hall. I threw on my bathrobe and rushed after her, nearly tripping over Poudre cat who was sitting in front of the bedroom door and refused to move as Vanna dashed by him.

I opened the front door to greet Bob, ex-husband of my neighbor, Betsy. Bob is a short, stout man in his 60's who always wears a hard hat and safety glasses - the original "Bob the Builder." Bob told me he was helping his son put in a concrete walkway along the side of Betsy's house. He wanted permission to cut a water pipe that he feared might be ours. I listened, squinting, and feeling aware of my disheveled appearance and Vanna's ardent sniffing of Bob's left leg.

When Bob finished explaining, I said, "You'll have to talk with Gary, but he's working today." What I was thinking was, "Only Gary or a plumber is qualified to talk with you - not me. And I'm sorry my dog is sniffing you as if you have a tri-tip in your left pocket."

Bob seemed a bit dismayed, so I said, "Let me call Gary and see if he can talk to you right now." Bob thought that was a good idea but said he didn't want to come inside my house because he had been digging in the dirt. I reassured him that I didn't want him in the house; I just wanted to get my cell phone and bring it outside. Vanna tired of sniffing Bob's leg and took off to check out other enticing odors in the front yard. After a brief conversation with Gary, Bob handed the phone back to me whereupon Gary told me he was returning home to handle Bob's issues.

I was alarmed. If Gary was coming home from LA to deal with Bob's plumbing problem, the solution might be expensive for us. Sure enough, Gary called me back to explain, and it was potentially scary. We might have a big problem if the pipe had to be moved. I sat down in the bedroom to meditate.

Gary was all business when he arrived home, talking about plumbing (Greek to me) with Bob and his son, using big, daunting tools and slamming doors. I was tempted to go back to bed and hide under the covers, but it was too hot.

After three hours of anxiety and trepidation, we discovered the plumbing issue wasn't ours - THANK GOD - and Gary gave Bob sincere moral support. WHEW! I was given the "all-clear" to shower and wash my hair. In the shower, I said a prayer and reminded myself that it's the little things in life - showers, washing your hair and not paying $10,000 for plumbing repairs - that are so precious.

By 1 PM, the outdoor temperature had climbed to 92 in the shade. Gary was sweating out the college football games, either in the living room with a fan or in the "cigar bar" (garage) without so much as a cross-draft. I found relief in our bedroom - the only room with air-conditioning - and conjured up many reasons to hang out back there, including ironing, cleaning out drawers and petting the intelligent cats who clearly understand it's the best place in the house to rest on a hot day. Meanwhile, our plans for spending the evening with our kids changed and we had the rest of the day to ourselves.

The heat finally got to Gary around 3 PM and he decided to take a cool bath. Afterwards he couldn't take any more heat and didn't want to be roped into helping with my cleaning projects in our air-conditioned bedroom, so he suggested we go see a movie. With so many football games on TV, I thought it was a miracle and immediately agreed.

After seeing The Simpsons (Gary's choice, enough said) and dining at The Yard House, we were home by 8 PM. The phone was ringing as we turned the key in the front door lock. It was Mom calling to ask what day it was. "It's Saturday, and it's 8 PM and we're turning on the USC football game." She yelled to Jack, a USC alum, to switch on the TV and find the game. I heard an alarm going off in the background - a clock beeping that started softly and increased steadily in volume and frequency. Mom said she didn't hear it till the beeping was really loud. I told her there had to be a button on the clock to push, but she couldn't figure it out. The beeping finally stopped, and then started again about two minutes later. Same routine - Mom didn't know what to do. After the fourth or fifth time, I was freaking out.

"Mom, you have to turn off this alarm noise," I said.

"It doesn't bother me," she replied

I asked, "How long have you been hearing it?"

"I don't know, probably several hours," she said with a sigh. I told her I would call the front desk and ask them to come and stop the alarm. "STOP THE MADNESS," I thought. Obviously this was my control issue, but I couldn't help myself. We shared a loving farewell and she said, "Honey, one more thing. Can you tell me what day it is?" At least I knew the answer, which is more than I could say about my conversation with Bob at the beginning of the day.