Shannon Ingram's Place

My Photo
Location: Orange County/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. Now working at my Alma Mater, UC Irvine, as Marketing and Communications Director for the School of Biological Sciences.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy Halloween! I started the day babysitting for my grandson, Keegan, who will be dressing up as Sir Topham Hatt of "Thomas the Train" fame. Grandma Denise made the costume and it's perfect. Keegan practiced saying "trick or treat" over and over again, and also commenting that "Thomas is a very useful engine," which is what Sir Topham Hatt says. His mom and dad came back from a doctor's appointment to pick him up and when they arrived, Emilie said, "We have a trick for you on Halloween." For the past month, our family has been preparing for another baby boy to arrive next March. The trick is that now the doc is 99.9% sure it's a GIRL - and we are delighted! Keegan is a bit confused, but he'll get used to the idea. What a treat it will be to have a granddaughter!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Depression and Caregivers

Interesting article in USA Today about job categories with the highest rates of depression. Turns out "Personal Care Workers," especially those dealing with the elderly, are the most likely to experience bouts of depression that last longer than two weeks. Here's a quote:

"Women were more likely than men to have had a major bout of depression, and younger workers had higher rates of depression than their older colleagues.

Almost 11 percent of personal care workers -- which includes child care and helping the elderly and severely disabled with their daily needs -- reported depression lasting two weeks or longer.

During such episodes there is loss of interest and pleasure, and at least four other symptoms surface, including problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration and self-image."

Yep, we claim numero uno when it comes to being down in the dumps! DUH. It just ain't an easy job, folks. That's why we must find time for ourselves - and for God's sake have a sense of humor! Find someone who shares your caregiver angst and laugh together. For example, I couldn't live without an almost daily dose of my close friend, Kathy J (cheers - photo attached), whose mom is "the other diva in Depends." Not only do we listen to each other, we laugh - a LOT! That release helps me get back in the frying pan with my parents without over-dosing on Prozac or martinis. In fact, Kathy is the olive in my martini, she's that great! OK, now I'll go pick up my mom for her post-op eye exam.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Diversions and Drugs

Today Mom had her fourth eye surgery in five years. She has now had glaucoma surgery and cataract surgery on both eyes. She complained today that her right eye is her good eye and "they shouldn't be operating on it." I could see her point, but did my best to help her understand that it wouldn't be her good eye much longer without the operation. She asked about it again five minutes later, so I went and got her another warm blanket. I've learned that diversion is an excellent tool when dealing with a person suffering from dementia. It makes things less frustrating for everyone. Apparently she became more agitated when they took her into the operating room, so the "gas man" gave her an extra dose and I guess that worked too. I don't use that tool, so I'll stick with diversion. She slept a long time in the recovery room, but finally woke up to have some cranberry juice and ask for vodka to go with it. I knew she would be fine then. She's home resting tonight and tomorrow we'll go to the doc's office for the post-op. With my luck, everyone there will be riding in electric wheelchairs and I'll have to figure out a magical kind of diversion to avoid that conversation again! Maybe the gas man can help. JUST KIDDING.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Elder Carpooling

Here's a caregiver tip. If you care for an aging relative who doesn't drive, think about your friends and your relative's friends who are in the same situation. Connect with them and find out about opportunities to "carpool" to and from doctor's offices, the supermarket, hairdresser appointments, etc. A friend just shared with me that she is working with another friend who also has older parents. They've been scheduling appointments for both parents on a single day, then taking turns shuttling them. They trade off every other week or so. It's not too much to handle because both seniors are competent to walk with a walker and both friends have cars that can accommodate them. Don't be afraid to make this suggestion to a friend! It could give you back some valuable time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Family Fire Update

A quick post to let everyone know that our family ranch near Idyllwild, CA where my sister and her family live is not in danger from any current fires. That being said, it's very dry there too, and everyone is keeping a close eye on the conditions. Meg told me that she experienced her first-ever tornado yesterday as no less than two small twisters swept through the ranch area. Apparently one of them picked up our small hangar, ripped off siding and dropped it back down a couple of feet off the foundation. Meg was outside, heard the noise and dashed into the bunk house to take cover. Her dogs were outside too, and she was terrified they would be swept up and killed in the twister. Thankfully no one was hurt. The chicken coop was wrecked but the chickens survived; however Meg doubts if they'll ever lay another egg because they've been so horribly shocked!

My cousin, Dru, and her family own a small vacation cabin in Running Springs, CA that is in imminent danger. We are praying that it will not be destroyed. More importantly, we know that the winds are now dying down making it easier for firefighters to do their incredible work and that throughout Southern California people are cooperating with one another and with officials to make the best of a very dangerous, tragic and scary situation.

Monday, October 22, 2007

IMAGE Magazine

If you live in So CA, please check out IMAGE Magazine's Issue Nine 2007, where you'll find an article in the "BUSINESS" section titled "Becoming the Parent of your Parent" by Pat Michaels. I met Pat through the Round Table West Book Club and was delighted to be on his cable TV show earlier this year. In his IMAGE article, he does a great job of summarizing my book and also published a picture of me and my family! Copies of my book are still available on,, and from book stores, as well as from my web site! Let me know what you think of the article. Thanks!

Ashes and Facebook

What a mess we have on our hands here in So CA. Wild fires everywhere and high winds blowing smoke over the Southland. Under the yellow-brown sky, it's hot and eery all day - like a never-ending sunrise. The smoke in the house was so bad last night that we couldn't sleep and this morning the ashes on the deck looked like snow. We're praying for everyone whose homes and lives are at risk. Meanwhile, it's good to work indoors.

I'm having fun on Facebook now, mostly communicating with my cousin, Shannon, and my niece, Lindsey. Facebook is the social networking choice of most college kids, but someone told me I should have an account because I'm an author. Whatever, I just like hearing from Lindsey and Shannon every day now!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fire and Rain

My eyes are burning and ashes are falling on the deck outside my office window. The patio fountain has a thin layer of ash that looks like gray mold. My bedroom smells like a campfire. Welcome to Santa Ana wind season in Southern California. The wildfires are blazing everywhere. My cats are hiding under the bed, Vanna-dog is cowering in a corner somewhere because she's afraid of wind, my eyes are watering and Gary is coughing up a storm in the bathtub (we're talking whitecaps). We're happy that we are not in any immediate fire danger, but it ain't pretty here right now.

Last week we dealt with the rain on our estate sale. We were amazed that when we finally decided to get all the stuff out of storage, the universe dumped a bunch of water on us. This weekend, the driveway and RV slab are clear and it's "ashes, ashes, all fall down." Double yuck. Anybody have a marshmallow? I'd gladly settle for a heavy fog or mist.

If we need a red devil to fight this nasty fire for us, I volunteer Citizen Oreo, our kids' dog. Her photo is attached for your enjoyment. She's part lab and part beagle and we call her the "Blabrador Retreigal." Recently, she tore her ACL - just like humans do - and it cost the kids close to $3K in surgery. Gotta love those inexpensive rescue dogs. They're our babies. I'm going outside to sing a campfire song in her honor.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Farewell Mrs. Anna

One of my all-time favorite actresses, Deborah Kerr, has left the planet. When I was 14, I remember watching An Affair to Remember starring Deborah and Cary Grant, nine times in one week. This was long before movie videos came out, so I watched it on "The Million Dollar Movie" every night of the week, twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday. Each time I cried my eyes out, just like the ladies in Sleepless in Seattle (another all-time fave; I'm a chick flick addict). Soon after that memorable week of watching a movie over and over again, I caught The King and I on "Sunday Night at the Movies" and there was Deborah Kerr again, starring as the beautiful Mrs. Anna who taught Yul Brynner's King of Siam how to waltz. Mrs. Anna wore amazing satin and lace hoop-skirted dresses that were prettier than those worn by Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. And those big dresses were all she wore throughout the movie. I imagined washing dishes in a dress like that. I visualized stepping up to the sink and having that big skirt kick up in back to show off my behind. I'm getting off track.

Deborah Kerr's best-known scene was way out-of-character for her. There can't be many people over 50 who don't remember that amazing kiss shared by Deborah and Burt Lancaster (thank you Lindsey) on the beach with the Hawaii surf splashing over them in From Here to Eternity. Deborah's character was a sex-starved alcoholic. She reminded me of some of my mom's friends back then, but we won't go there.

My late good friend, the game show writer Jerry Payne, knew Deborah Kerr and her husband, Peter Viertel, and visited them in Switzerland. I loved to hear Jerry talk about what a "great dame" she was, but what I really wanted to know was if she ever mentioned who was the best kisser - Cary or Burt. Guess I'll never know.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Being a HUGE fan of the Colorado Rockies, I must post a big shout-out to the boys for winning the National League Pennant. They are headed to the World Series and Gary is wishing we were in Denver this month! We were glued to the TV for the baseball play-offs this year. I only fell asleep during four games, and I can usually count on TV baseball games to put me to sleep every time.

The Rockies ball club was my client when I worked for Navigant in Denver and I will always be a big fan. They gave me some great gifts like one of Todd Helton's bats and a gorgeous framed photograph of the team spreading out the American flag at the first game following 9/11. Gary and I went to games at least once a week when the Rockies were playing at home.

I was delighted when Regis Philbin announced on Live with Regis and Kelly a couple of months back that he was picking the Rockies as his favorite team to win this year. I think I'll name my next cat Regis. Or maybe I should name it Torrealba. I'll ask my son and daughter-in-law to name our next grandson Regis. Whatever. Rock on Rockies!

Liquidating Lots of Stuff

A very long weekend of high drama has finally ended today - on a Wednesday! Our family decided that after eight years, it was time to stop spending $500 a month for Mom's stuff from her big house on Linda Isle to be stored in vaults at Bekins. We made the decision last Monday that we had to liquidate, then called lots of friends and family to come help us unload the vaults on Friday. Little did we know how much stuff was in those eight vaults! And once we had all of it unloaded from the rented U-Haul and about five pick-up trucks belonging to friends, we had completely filled our RV slab, the garage, driveway and the grass in the front yard. Who knew there was so much stuff?! We started at 7 AM on Friday and ended at 10 PM, just as it started to rain. Thankfully we had listened to the weather report and knew rain was coming, so Gary raced over to Home Depot and bought tarps, plastic and rolls of tape so we could cover all the stuff, much of which we had put under our huge canopy on the RV parking spot. And of course, it POURED rain that night. Still, there were dozens of cars parked outside at 6 AM the next morning for the 7 AM start of the garage/estate sale. We lost a few items to the rain (some linens in a box that got wet and a red tablecloth bled all over them plus some books that got soaked), but most of it was ok.

We published the sale on Craig's List - and believe me, that WORKS! We got rid of a ton of stuff on Saturday, in spite of the rain. We continued on Sunday, and Monday, and Tuesday. In the end, we didn't make much money, but we got rid of a lot of junk. That's what was in the boxes - trinkets and trash, along with some big pieces of furniture that had been ruined by Mom's dogs peeing on it or chewing wood chair and table legs till they splintered. I had an expert come to look at the furniture to see if we could sell some of it at auction or on consignment. The only pieces she said were worth consigning were the two that I wanted. Oh well. At least we made enough money to pay for a week of Saint Norma's caregiving services along with the cost of U-Hauls, tarps, gas, pizzas, beer and sodas.

Speaking of Saint Norma, she sent her friends to buy stuff. And she kindly kept Mom and Jack from coming over to see us. I could only imagine how sad Mom would be to watch people going through all the things that meant so much to her for most of her 85 years. It made me sad too. But I got through it in spite of lumps in my throat from time to time. Thank God for Aleve.

I'm very happy to be on the other side of this painful process. There are a few items in our driveway tonight with a big "FREE STUFF/LIBERTE EL MATERIEL" sign and we've had a steady stream of folks stopping by to check it out and take an item or two or five. And no more big monthly payouts for storage. Hard to believe we paid over $40,000 to store that stuff, but we won't look back now, just forward to the joy of no more storage bills. Liquidation rocks!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Making Other Plans

One of my mom's favorite sayings throughout her life has been, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans." That's just come true for me again as I've been happily planning a trip to Northern California for a couple of weeks. I've been caught up in imagining all the fun activities because it's a reunion celebration of a friend's 50th birthday and people are coming from all over the country. I talk about it every day and think about it constantly. And then one of Gary's job sites suffered a big fire and my mom fell down and has several big problems including possible eye surgery to face in the next couple of weeks. Pop go the plans. Everything is suddenly up in the air as life happens and I get to choose my responses - not always easy.

In the meantime, I attended a three-hour workshop at my church (Center for Spiritual Living/Orange County in San Juan Capistrano) this weekend facilitated by Greg Mooers, author of Find Your Heart Virtue. I wasn't looking forward to it because I have so many other things to do. WOW, what a WONDERFUL SURPRISE it was. I'd put it in the top three workshops I've ever attended in terms of learning, environment, facilitator and results, and it was for a "love offering" (meaning you pay what you want to pay). There's a follow-up three-hour course in two weeks and I'll definitely be there, no matter who is in the hospital or what other drama is happening. At least that's my promise to myself today. I learned my heart virtues today and I can say I'm committed to Compassion, Hope and Joy. That commitment will guide me through the rest of the month, I'm sure. What do you think?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Cowboys and Parrotheads

My sister, Meg, and I hosted a lunch and tour for several members of the Williamsburg Film Festival Board at the Garner Ranch last week. The Festival celebrates the good old "B" western movies of cowboy heroes like Gene Autry, Tim Holt, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and of course, John Wayne. They like the "A" movies too. Bill Sasser, board president, told me his all-time favorite is The Searchers featuring the "Duke" and a very young Natalie Wood. Our ranch historian, Kathy J, was there to offer some ranch background. She was also happy to learn from the guys because they know more about westerns than Wikipedia. Papa Jack was on hand to share his stories. Everyone likes the one about Jack getting paid to "assist" Hopalong Cassidy, which mostly entailed tying the star into his saddle so he wouldn't fall off the horse. Kathy and I left around 3 PM to drive Jack home to Irvine and the Festival guys were still wandering around taking pictures. One thing we never asked was why the biggest and best-known Western film festival is in Virginia and not some place like Wyoming or Montana or even Southern California. I'll have to ask my new friend, Bill...

Our week went from cowboys to parrotheads when Meg, Ted and Hannah joined Gary and me for the Jimmy Buffett concert at Irvine's Verizon Amphitheatre on Saturday. We didn't take an RV, but we did take Gary's F-250 truck and had a fantastic tailgate party, albeit without taking our clothes off like many of the other people in the vicinity. We had a flag with "IT'S FIVE O'CLOCK SOMEWHERE" flying from the truck, plus a blow-up Margaritaville airplane (a G-rated change from some of the X-rated blow-up items on display in the RV area), lots of fishnet, a rattan table for our margarita bar and we barbecued cheeseburgers in paradise. A nearby truck was blasting Buffett tunes on giant speakers, so we didn't need our little boom box. We roamed through the RV area, mostly in amazement at all the antics, and decided at one point it would be wise to put a blindfold on 14 year-old Hannah. She loved every minute of watching adults gone wild and stupid. Her favorite sign was "SHOW YOUR RACK FOR IRAQ" - but we didn't see any activity. There were more people willing to take up the offer of "Shooters for Hooters" and "Daquiris for Dicks." The whole experience gave new meaning to the term, "Trailer Trash." And of course, we'll gladly go back again next year when Buffett graces Orange County with his barefoot band of merry Coral Reefers and island-style joy.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Free Willy

One of the joys of working for myself as a freelance writer and having a flexible schedule is that I can help friends in need. For example today my cousin had to transport a baline whale skull from South Orange County to the LA County Natural History Museum. I was invited to be the carpool lane support so that my cousin could take the speedy route to "free Willy." In exchange for being the extra rider, I would get a free lunch after we freed Willy. Such a deal!

I had a nasty sinus infection for nearly two weeks (hence no blogging), but have felt much better the past couple of days thanks to drugs (I tried tea and sympathy for a few days and had no improvement, so decided on more traditional medicine). It seemed appropriate to celebrate clear sinuses by taking a whale skull for a ride. We were kind of squashed in the front seat of an SUV with Willy taking up the entire back end. When we hit the road work at Exposition Blvd. in LA, we were very nervous that Willy might suicide into smithereens as we hit bump after bump after bump in the road. He made it. After he was removed from the car by three museum workers, we said our tearful good-byes and went to eat some good sashimi. The wasabi helped my sinuses even more than the drugs. Thanks be to Willy.