Shannon Ingram's Place

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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.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Newman's Own Fans

This morning I learned the world has lost the wonderful Paul Newman. It's the end of an era for me. I discovered Paul Newman on New Year's Eve, 1964. I remember it well because I was spending the night in Pasadena at the home of my cousin and new best friend, Dru. Aunt Bettie, Dru's mom, was planning to go out to a party that evening with her boyfriend, Ralph. Dru and I had to decide between going to an early movie or hanging out at home with her grandmother who lived with them. We loved Gram, but chose the movie. Naive 9th graders, we selected a Jerry Lewis film called "Boeing Boeing." It was part of a double feature. The other movie was "The Prize," starring Paul Newman and Elke Sommer. We had never heard of it, so we arrived late. All it took was one close-up of Paul Newman's blue eyes for Dru and me to fall instantly in love. Forget Jerry Lewis, we just waited for the next showing of "The Prize" and watched part of it again, till we knew we needed to be home.

It was dark as we walked along Colorado Blvd. back to Dru's house. There were lots of revelers cruising by on their way to the Rose Parade Route. We talked about Paul Newman and how gorgeous he was and how great the movie had been, even if it was scary at times. We were so involved in our movie review that we didn't notice a car following behind us, close to the curb. When we did realize the car was trailing us, we screamed and started to run. We heard a car door slam and a voice yell, "Dru, stop, it's me, Ralph." Apparently Ralph had decided to come out and look for us to be sure we made it home safely, but he didn't want to interrupt our walk home, so he was just following in his T-bird. He didn't interrupt, but he did scare us so much that we were almost too tired to TP the next door neighbor's home in honor of the New Year. When we finally went to bed, we dreamt of Paul Newman.

For about a year, my love life was all Paul Newman all the time. Dru was into him too. We found out he was filming a movie in Pasadena and stalked him for days. We fashioned ourselves the young groupies in the Peter Sellers' film, "The World of Henry Orient." Unfortunately we never got close enough for an autograph. Then our worlds changed thanks to REAL boyfriends; but the crush never went away, even after all that salad dressing and spagetti sauce. We still love Paul Newman today. And we'll mourn his passing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dating & Relationships at Midlife

I met Gary after he responded to a personal ad I placed in "Westword," an alternative newspaper in Denver. "Westword" had a great editorial staff and interesting articles but it was famous for its "personals" - you know, "Men seeking Women," Women seeking Men," "Men seeking Men," Women seeking Women," Men seeking Sheep," - that last one being Gary's favorite.

A couple of years after my first husband, Bruce, died of a sudden heart attack and left me distraught and scared, I literally woke up one morning and said to myself, "Holy crap, I'm 45 and single!" It was fun to be single and still relatively attractive. I went through a short "bar phase," going out with friends from work and meeting a lot of married men, most of whom spun sad stories of being horribly unhappy at home. I politely declined advances and referred them to sheep. One insisted he was separated and I fell for that. Turns out he was only separated while on business trips to Denver.

With a job that had perks like season tickets to Colorado Rockies baseball games, Denver Broncos football games, Colorado Avalanche hockey games, and dinners at Hooters, I thought it might be nice to share the bounty with a male once in awhile, instead of Judy, Victoria, Ann, Shelley or Lisa. I pondered how to go about meeting someone who could be either Mr. Right or a hunky friend with benefits. Enter Bonnie Barnes, an advertising sales woman for a local Denver magazine who invited me to a business lunch. We talked for five minutes about her magazine and then, out of the blue, she said, "I hear you're a widow." I said yes and she replied, "Are you seeing anyone." I blushed. "If not, I'd love for you to take my class in dating and relationships for women." I continued blushing.

Turns out Bonnie had written a book on the subject of dating and conducted workshops too. The four-week workshop was held every Tuesday night from 7 to 10. Her pitch for her own class was way sexier than the one for her magazine. I signed up on the spot.

I loved Bonnie's class. I had to write a personal ad and place it in "Westword." The first week it ran, I had 28 responses. The second week I had another 30. My headline was, "SMART, SEXY, SOPHISTICATED, SUCCESSFUL" - which was a huge stretch for me because I would have been more comfortable with "CAT LOVER WANTS SOMEONE WITHOUT ALLERGIES" or "LOVE ME, LOVE MY CAT." Bonnie said that would only attract deviants. When I told my mother I was placing the ad and seeking Mr. Right, she said, "You're going to meet an axe murderer." Always so positive, my mom.

Gary was the seventh man I spoke with on the phone and the third man I met. It was basically "love at first phone call" for us, but neither of us admitted that till we were engaged. I dumped him after six weeks because the whole idea of really finding the right person - and of letting go of Bruce - was more than I could handle. Fortunately, my friend Lu Ann talked me into calling Gary back about a month later. That was it. I did everything Bonnie said to do and sure enough, I found my sweet prince - benefits and all!

Mind you, this happened before the Internet replaced personal ads as the preferred way to seek a partner. Yet I realize that much of what Bonnie taught me is still apropos today. So now I'm going to teach a workshop of my own and the first one will be at the fourth annual WomanSage Conference, themed "Own Your Power" and being held October 25th at the Hilton Costa Mesa. My break-out session is titled "Midlife Dating & Relationships: 10 Steps to Finding and Keeping Mr. Right." I have great input from other fifty-something girlfriends who met their husbands online. And best of all, I have input from Gary - the STUCCO GUY. He said I need to let everyone know the importance of the "F" word, and I blushed. Then he said "The 'F' is for FLEXIBILITY." I can use that!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


There's movement in my life. It's not just that which comes from eating lots of fiber; and it's not from following politics less than a month from the presidential election. It's in just about everything.

I'm still enjoying a new job...the honeymoon one hopes will never end. There are projects and deadlines for important "stuff" that needs to be done. Everyone around me, including me, cares that we complete these projects in the best possible way and on time. Yet it's hard to meet everyone's expectations when they are not totally spelled out.

OK, that being said - we do our best. We're rewarded for doing our best with a decent paycheck in an indecent economy. Plus we enjoy our work and in my experience, it doesn't get any better than that in a work environment.

So where's all the movement? My family, for one place. We are moving and shaking. There's been an earthquake in our underpinnings. We're trying to hold onto dreams of the past - everyone for himself, but with our parents leading the way. OOOOPPPS - nobody told our parents. So now we young'un's are digging out to lead the way, and it ain't easy. We're intelligent but inept when it comes to making choices for our folks. Each lesson in our ineptitude makes us smarter and stronger. Maybe the lessons we learn while supporting our parents during this painfully difficult time will make us stronger so that by the time we are in their shoes, we win the game via an easy transition. The operative word is "maybe."

Today I believe the biggest challenge prior to the big wipe-out is for us to remember when our family relationships were all good, focus on friendships old and new, and on love and blessings - sharing humor with friends and family before, during and in spite of all the drama that comes with old age. Saving the good times in a healthy corner of our minds might be all that matters in the end.

Gary and I will list our home next week. We've had amazing support from family and friends who hoped as we did, that we could stay here, but who also understand, as we do now, that we must move on....We're in the best hands and we know there will be a quick sale. We'll move from this wonderful home we have loved to a new home we'll also enjoy, because that's supposed to be our experience this lifetime; we get what we ask for and at some level, we're asking for change.

We've decided to move to South Orange County because that's where our work is now. It's also where our church is and where many of our friends are. We know it's the right thing to do, and that knowingness makes everything easier to confront.

Mom is on Hospice now, along with Jack. The Hospice team keeps things UP and flowing. Hospice is not the "death sentence" that some people think it is. It's a great way to come to grips with end-of-life transition - for the patient and their family. Hospice isn't just for "the last few days," as my mom thought it was. Hospice may go on and on for months or even years, as patients confront living their last days comfortably and without going back and forth to the ER or into a nursing home all the time. It may last only days or weeks. Whatever - hospice makes life easier for everyone involved. I thank Silverado Hospice for helping me and my family to move through this part of the journey with my parents - day by day.'s a good thing.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Martinis R Us

My friend, Linda, likes vodka martinis for the same reason I do - big, juicy stuffed green olives. I have a long list of favorite places to order martinis. My top five would have to be The Blue Beet (where this photo of Linda was taken) my "home-bars" where I enjoy the mixology talents of Peter Jones or Bob Coluccio, Fleming's and La Cave. Sure, I love cosmo's and lemon drops, but nothing really compares to a super cold "dirty" martini. And by the way, Linda made that gorgeous big turquoise ring she has on - and I have one too, as does our friend, Jane. Find out more about her jewelry: