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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Always a Bridesmaid

I've had the "27 Dresses." I've been a bridesmaid dozens of times and at post half-century age, I'm still graciously accepting the honor of standing up for my friends. Today I enjoyed being an attendant for my oldest (a.k.a. "longest time") friend, Gaye, as she married her partner of many years, Rick. A renowned astrologer, Gaye is known as the "Professional Fairy Godmother," so you know this had to be a GREAT wedding!

Gaye and I met on the beach at the North end of Collins Avenue on Balboa Island when we were barely four years old. I recall talking with a freckle-faced girl with the same pixie haircut I had and deciding we should build a sandcastle together. I also remember that her lovely mother had two other children - a boy and a girl - on a tether - each in a harness with a buckle that connected to a single longer strap. When we arrived at the beach, my mother gasped, "My goodness, that clever woman has her twins on a leash." She also had my fellow pixie, Gaye, freely making a drip castle near the water's edge. I went right to Gaye. We enjoyed countless hours playing in the sand and water that day while our mothers chatted. Somehow, even then, Gaye and I knew we would be friends forever.

Our families kept in touch over the years following those days of sandcastles, hula hoops and frozen bananas on Balboa Island. Our parents became close friends. Gaye's daddy was a famous professional musician and my dad was a talented musician who simply enjoyed any opportunity to make music.

As children, Gaye and I relished memorable times together in the company of musical genius, thanks to our fathers. We also had fun times on the TV show, "Chucko the Clown." Chucko was a friend of Gaye's mother, Anne, a CBS executive.

At many of Gaye's birthday parties, and those of her twin siblings, Amy and Harmon, my brother, John, and I had "up close and personal" experiences of another genius - a "clown" who stopped by to entertain us and then hung out with the adults in the backyard. In the weeks after these parties, I remember how exciting it was when Mommy and Daddy would bring us into their bedroom at night to watch this same clown on TV. His name was Red Skelton.

Sad things happened in our lives. My parents divorced when I was 14. Gaye's father passed away when she was in her early 20's. The good news? Our mothers remained close through thick and thin, which helped Gaye and me cling to our friendship for dozens of years. Good things happened too. We always kept in touch, even with a single holiday card. When Gary and I moved back to California, we connected with Gaye and Rick, and our friendship blossomed in new, increaingly meaningful ways.

I'm ecstatic for Gaye and Rick on their wedding day. In this season of Thanksgiving, with so many good astrological things happening that I can't begin to explain because I'm not Gaye, I'm happy that my friends truly "tied the knot" and were joined in marriage after years of partnership. They are blessed. I am blessed to have been a bridesmaid again...for a truly divine couple. And I loved my dress.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Simple Abundance

This year, Thanksgiving was heralded by good news for us. We closed escrow on our house and two days later, we found a sweet rental home in Mission Viejo with a huge yard and a landlord that will accept our pets as well as Gary's cigars in the garage. It's very close to the home of my cousin and best friend since childhood, Dru, and her husband, Larry, so we will always have trustworthy people to feed Molly Cat when we are out of town. We'll spend a year figuring out where we'd like to buy our next home, closer to our workplaces.

We couldn't be more grateful if we won the lottery. We're paying off credit card debt and medical bills, and getting back to basics. It's all about simple abundance. We have simple abundance galore: family, both immediate and extended, that we adore; good - no, make that GREAT - friends; entertaining pets; jobs; faith; our church; food in the fridge; cable TV; good tequila and wine; Ashton cigars; cars that run; memories we can turn to for laughs; reading glasses; ok health; forgiveness; music; football; each other to snuggle on cold nights; and we'll continue to have a roof over our heads that isn't mobile. Obviously, schmaltz figures prominently in simple abundance.

I'm not writing a holiday letter for 2008. Instead, I'm going to blog every day till Christmas with some little tidbit about this past year that you may find interesting, funny or somehow compelling. I'll have to print the postings for Mom and Jack, or maybe I'll write a holiday letter that's just for them. They don't do computers (or ATMs, DVD players, etc.).

After a long Thanksgiving day and night, I reflected on what I consider to be my greatest gifts this year. Here they are, Letterman-style...

10. WomanSage - Friendships, education, fun and inspiration for women like me - middle aged and hormone deficient. It's a great organization and I'm proud to be on the Board.

9. Poudre - The big "Bro" crossed over to hang with his first love, Bruce, and torment my cat-fearing Gammie on the other side. He was my 18-lb. baby kitty for 18 years. I miss him; and I'm happy he left the planet peacefully after enjoying a big bowl of pureed tuna.

8. Church - The Center for Spiritual Living Orange County is a source of joy and contentment. How many churches can pull off a murder-mystery fundraiser? It's home.

7. Bindi Sue Ingram - The stout little Corgi-Queensland Heeler mix makes life miserable for Vanna and Molly and makes Gary and me laugh uncontrollably.

6. Gary's Recovery - Gary has a mighty heart that fortunately didn't give up, although it gave us a mighty scare. Unfortunately, his cardiologist told him he could still smoke cigars. Maybe the mighty doc didn't realize that Gary inhales.

5. Jobs - I love my job, which is the most honoring thing I can say. I love Gary's job too; and together we will love it even more when the economy turns around.

4. The Home Sale - We are celebrating the courage we summoned to list the house, sell it and now to move on. Everyone said we were crazy. Duh.

3. Amazing Friends - Several dear ones - you know who you are - stepped up this year to help us when we really needed the support, but were afraid to ask. You "paid it forward" and in so doing taught us an invaluable lesson about receiving with grace and gratitude and doing what's "highest and best." We will remember always.

2. Our Grandchildren - Kendall Emilie Ingram - we call her "Keiki" - made her debut in the world on March 14th, joining her big brother, Keegan, a.k.a. "Moose" who's been the light of our lives for the past four years. Today eight-month-old Keiki sat on the floor of my living room and made loud fart noises by blowing her tongue between her itty bitty lips, like a giant whoopee cushion. It doesn't get any better.

1. My Brother, John - This Thanksgiving weekend, I can sleep peacefully at night knowing my brother is still my friend. His absence was like an open wound these past few years. His daughter, Lindsey, now 21, is always number one in our lives, blessing us with her presence and love. This year John and I faced our mom's mortality and frailty together and found comfort in renewed communication. Now, every conversation we have, no matter how few and far between, is like a giant glob of Neosporin on my soul.

With simple abundance, gratitude and love to all....

Monday, November 24, 2008


I haven't seen my sister in months. I miss her. She and her family will be coming to OC this week for Thanksgiving. They are taking Mom and Jack to dinner at the Yacht Club. Gary and I are having lunch with Mom and Jack at Geezer Palace then going to Cory's home for dinner. Unfortunately, I didn't want to drive Mom and Jack to Long Beach and back because of recent issues with them riding in my car. I had to pay $120 to have the car steam-cleaned. Let's just leave it at that. A month or so ago I suggested to Meg that we all simply have Thanksgiving at the folks' lovely dining room; and then she and her family could join us at Cory's for dinner and the folks could relax in their apartment, which is where they feel safe. Apparently she decided to take them to the Yacht Club. I'm just hopeful we'll get to visit for awhile at the Palace. They can't stay overnight because they're working on Friday, so our infamous Thanksgiving "baconfest" isn't happening this least not till Christmas. That's probably a good thing in light of my commitment to wellness.

In other sisterhood news, Vanna and Bindi Sue are bonding. They shared a bed on Saturday night, something that would have been impossible even two months ago. Vanna is tolerating Bindi. It appears that our needy Vanna, "Princess Dimstar," has become the Alpha dog here in spite of Bindi's alpha personality. Bindi sits and waits while Vanna eats first. Maybe that was the ticket to get to share the big bed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Abominable Pink Snowman

Chilly weather is supposed to be here in time for Thanksgiving. I can't wait because I'm ready for winter clothes. For women in Southern California, that means a light jacket and maybe some closed-toe shoes. I liked this time of year better in Denver because we could switch from light jackets to cozy sweaters, wool pants, warm coats and scarves. I had some rabbit fur ear muffs that I treasured, but they're of no use in the land of palm trees and yearround flowers. It was foggy this morning and we turned on the heat for the first time in eight months.

What I didn't like about living in Denver was that winter seemed to last forever. The trees dropped their leaves in September and didn't grow them back till May. The first snow in October or November was always fun. Snow in May was not. I'm happy to live in Orange County.

As you can see from this photo, my granddaughter, Kendall, was a "three-eyed monster" on Halloween. It was just cool enough for her to be all bundled up in a furry pink suit and not scream because she was overheated. We called her the Abominable Pink Snowman - a species that has to be native to Southern California.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blessed are Those...

My minister, the inspirational Reverend Sandy Moore of the Center for Spiritual Living-Orange County, had a great message yesterday. She started off her talk with a quote from Ernest Holmes, which I'll paraphrase: "Blessed are those who give without remembering and who receive without forgetting."

This year I have experienced the most amazing gifts from people who helped us during difficult times. I'll never forget them. They taught me about humility and dignity and unconditional love, as well as about fear and how it feels to make the right decision.

Reverend Sandy asked us to think about what it is we REALLY want to accomplish. She asked, "Where do you need to deepen the questions in your life?" I need to deepen my questions about the importance of health and well-being, physical and emotional, and why I have experienced the drama that has taken hold of our lives this past year. It feels like we're almost through the storm; but who knows? I want to accomplish peace of mind and wellness.

The answer that keeps coming up for me is that for my health and well-being, I must let go of what I think life is supposed to be like at this point and just allow it to evolve. This was my little inner Q&A: Why does it matter that Gary's job doesn't pay as much money as we think we need it to pay? He likes it. Why do I worry about not spending enough time with Mom and Jack? They are safe. Why feel guilty about working long hours? I love my job and I love to write. So what if we can't buy a home for a few years, or even never again? That's why God made rental homes. What's keeping me from choosing a healthy diet and exercise regimen? Fear of the answers to all the other questions. So there's the resolution.

It really is all good when you think in terms of possibilities instead of difficulties. One of Sandy's last comments yesterday was, "There's no such thing as a broken heart, only a place that lets light come in. The bigger the crack, the bigger the opportunity for more light."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Building my Wings

My meltdown continued well into last night. When I opened my eyes this morning, I saw the red light blinking on my "crackberry" that was sitting on a box of tissues on the nightstand. I thought about turning over and burying my head in my pillow to pick up crying where I left off last night. "Enough dismay," said Pollyanna. "Look at your message and then get up and go to work."

I reached for the magical little computer cell phone and saw the message was from my friend and associate, Nancy C, in Texas, who knew nothing about my mood or travails. She had written:

"You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." --Ray Bradbury. Do you see problems or possibilities? Reframe your thinking! See difficulties not as problems, but as possibilities. Consider the lesson you'll find in meeting each new challenge!!

I read it about six times, then sent Nancy a note of gratitude. Today I would vow to see the possiblities in the problems swirling around me. Possibilities are a valid framework for problems, right? I thought about the unbelievably awful treatment I have received from the bank that holds the first trust deed on our home. I thought about the pain of losing so much of our own money and all of Mom's money to pay for assisted living and other costs related to eldercare for both my mom and stepdad. I thought about my company's unique operating philosophy, "Love is greater than fear." The challenge for me would be to place all the pain, anger and difficulty confronting me now in a container that lets in light and love - a brilliant framework of possibility!

I've held that vision of a framework with light pouring into it all day today. It's been a good day in spite of the ongoing struggle with the wretched bank. I must admit that one of the happiest thoughts I have had - a possibility thought, albeit vengeful - is how good it might feel to bring a huge, successful lawsuit against the bank. The best punishment would be to force them to connect all callers to a human being instead of throwing us into the hell of voicemail abyss. That would undoubtedly be a great way for them to spend the billions of dollars they're getting in government bail-outs this year.

Thank you again, Nancy. You brought me out of the darkness. I can feel my wings getting stronger already.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keeping the Faith

I'm doing my best to channel Pollyanna today amidst monumental stress. In my experience, real estate transactions are not easy. I'd like to shift that experience, but selling the home we own with my mom has been just like all the others - a roller-coaster of challenges and unpleasant surprises. Today is one of those days I don't want to leave my office because there is comfort here...the comfort of knowing I have a job and that if something bad happens, I will survive.

I know the stress is high when I can't laugh at the antics of my dogs and cat, Sarah Palin jokes or the sound of my associates cracking up in the next office. Thinking about my grandchildren isn't making me smile either. Today I cried while writing a letter to a lender about why they should be kind to Mom and me. Not even my favorite four-cheese panini from Skimmer's could bring me out of the funk. I just feel sick, wallowing in that "oh poor me" thing.

In 1995 when I sold my home in Conifer, CO a few months after my first husband's death, I arrived at the closing and was told the buyer's loan couldn't fund because the survey showed the county road passing through my property which created a problem with the title. I told them that wasn't true or how could we have purchased it? We ended up having to find the same surveyor and have him go back up the mountain and do it over. I sought help from neighbors who had a home office fax machine and I lost a day of work and about five pounds from so much stress. After seven hours in the escrow office or walking around the parking lot praying, we finally did close, so I didn't lose the home I was buying that same day. It was the most stressful day of my life, other than the day after Bruce's death, but I still had tranquilizers then.

Thinking back on that awful time of my life, and how I made it through the storm, I hear Pollyanna telling me again that when you're going through a storm the important thing to remember is to keep going. Pollyanna is also reminding me that the mere act of smiling makes me feel better. I'll try to remember to smile when I throw up later.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Day at the Fountain Mall

We got a phone call early Saturday morning from our grandson, Keegan, asking if we would come with him and his sister and mommy to "the fountain mall." We knew that meant Fashion Island in Newport Beach because he has always been fascinated by the different fountains. At two, his favorite was the "Pop-Up" fountain, a flat surface with dozens of little holes through which water spurts upward to the surprise and delight of the children running across it. Now his favorite is "Old Faithful" which shoots water spouts as high as three stories. And he also carries a little bag of pennies so he can make lots of wishes tossing them into the fountains. Long story short, we accepted his invitation.

I've learned there's nothing like a few hours with grandchildren to improve the quality of one's life. It's true, we get to "give them back" to their parents at the end of a visit, but we always part with our spirits uplifted.

We met daughter-in-law Emilie, Keegan and baby Kendall for lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. It was the first time in a month that I've seen Kendall - whom Gary and I have nicknamed "Keiki" because her initials are K.E.I. or K.I. and also because it's Hawaiian for "beloved baby." It was so cool to see her new baby teeth along with her chubby cheeks and big blue eyes, as you can see from the photo.

During lunch, I held Keiki up so she could see herself in the big mirror above my head. Each time I did, she would laugh, squeal or make a gurgling sound and a couple of times she blew drool on my head in the process. People all around us were giggling because she was so cute playing peek-a-boo with herself.

Afterwards, we strolled around the mall, stopping at every fountain and water feature, throwing pennies, observing koi fish in a pond, and checking out the puppies and kitties at the pet store. I could have spent the whole afternoon there, but unfortunately Gary didn't fall in love with shopping when he was three the way Keegan did. We had to leave after a couple of hours so Gary could return to watching college football on his TV in the garage. Nevertheless, we went home feeling good about life, thanks to our precious grandchildren.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Joy of History

My love of history started when I was very young and loved to watch Shirley Temple's historical movies like Susannah of the Mounties. When I was in second grade, I fell in love with westerns and John Wayne. I watched Wagon Train on TV every week and enjoyed history lessons at school. I got A's in my favorite subject and won a prestifious Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) award for excellence in history on the last day of 5th grade.

My parents voted for Richard Nixon in 1960, but in our mock election at Corona del Mar Elementary School, I voted for John F. Kennedy because he was a World War II hero. All my mother had to do was tell me "history is being made," and I'd pay attention to her. That's how she got me to spend five long, hot, boring hours on bleachers in the dirt waiting for President Lyndon B. Johnson to arrive and talk for 15-minutes at ground-breaking for the new University of California, Irvine.

No wonder I became a history major at UCI, even though about the only thing I knew I'd be able to do with that degree was teach. I WANTED to teach history, but after graduation I couldn't find a teaching job any closer to Newport Beach than Barstow.

Today I'm still addicted to historic events. And this presidential election was one of the best and most interesting historic events I've witnessed in my half century on the planet! I didn't even mind the political ads this year (except for a few of the ones about CA propositions). I loved the infomercials. I watched the media's coverage of both the Democratic and Republican conventions. What fun to have a black man and woman on the ballot.

Last night, I cried tears of joy when Obama gave his acceptance speech, and not because Oprah and Jesse Jackson were crying. I was simply overcome with the joy of history. I had goosebumps similar to the ones I experienced in 1969, watching Neil Armstrong jump off that ladder onto the powdery surface of the moon. Once again, I get to be a part of something positive that generations to come will read about and discuss. The earth-shaking news that an African-American was elected U.S. president overshadowed all the earth-shattering news about the world economy downfall to create another truly historic, shining "Camelot moment." History rocks!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Moving on to Thanksgiving

The horrors of the US economy made for a pretty scary Halloween this year. Maybe by Thanksgiving, with a new president and a bunch of new government officials at every level, plus that gazillion dollar bail-out of the banking industry, we'll be back to cruising on love instead of fear. It would be nice to sleep through the night again without worrying about the sky falling. Thank goodness for football games on TV, wine, pets, Saturday Night Live, Mexican food, our grandchildren, friends and church (Center for Spiritual Living Orange County) - not necessarily in that order. And I must give thanks for Saturday or Sunday afternoon chick flicks like "The Jane Austen Book Club," which I watched yesterday. And I'm also grateful that so many people send me funny and inspiring email messages - especially during political ad season. It's so refreshing to open email from Jack Tatham, Marianne Towersey, Anne White and Charlene Leep, all of whom keep my inbox supplied with "good to great" stuff - not unwanted spam. Jack sent me one today - a YouTube video about a young man with no arms or legs - and it was one of the most inspiring videos I've ever seen. Luckily, I have a box of tissues next to my monitor. I'm going to watch it tonight before bed to inspire me to get a good night's sleep. Thank you, Jack!