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, April 29, 2009

Oscar and Drew Barrymore

Bet you thought I was going to write about the Academy Award and the actress, right? Well then, you are half right.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Hollywood premiere of a wonderful HBO movie, "Grey Gardens." I went with my dear friend, Gaye, who is a member of the American Film Institute (AFI). HBO and AFI sponsored the premiere in the breathtaking Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, and the party afterwards at the equally breathtaking Hotel Roosevelt. Gaye's mom, Anne, also an AFI member (and one of my mom's best friends), came with us, along with Gaye's daughter, Skye, who looks like a movie star.

This was my third movie premiere in the past three years, and I get an enormous kick out of each one! Last year I went with Gaye to the "Leatherheads" premiere and the year before that, she invited both Gary and me to the premiere of "The Pursuit of Happyness."

"Grey Gardens" is the story of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith, who were known as "Edie" and "Little Edie." They were eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy who lived together in the Hamptons, where they let their estate - "Grey Gardens" - deteriorate and their living conditions could only be described as pitiful squalor. Yet they were apparently quite happy in some respects, engaging and funny at times, and also pathetic and sad. The performances by Jessica Lange as "Big Edie" and Drew Barrymore as "Little Edie" were Oscar-worthy! And of course, Oscar - the award - was named by Bette Davis for her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson, Jr., who, after divorcing Bette, married Anne and had three children including my friend, Gaye. I've shared this story in a previous blog entry.

Because the movie was made for TV by HBO, these two incomparable actresses will have to settle for Emmy's instead of Oscars. Well-deserved. Fabulous movie. See it if you haven't already.

Drew Barrymore was at the premiere, of course, sitting six rows in front of us in the same row as Jessica Lange. I was struck by how adorable Drew is - very tiny, pretty and extremely kind. She made a point of talking to just about everyone in her immediate presence, even in the theatre's downstairs ladies room. A very real, lovely person. Her supposed boyfriend, Justin Long (the MAC guy), sat right behind her and they were obviously having a lot of fun. Jessica Lange is shy, but also very pleasant and was accompanied by her children. We also saw William Baldwin, Ali Larter, Lisa Kudrow and Jenni Garth. And I'll just say the party was fantastic and save all the details. I didn't get home till 2 AM. I had four hours sleep before I had to "open" the Silverado booth at America's Family Pet Expo at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

Working the Pet Expo all weekend was fun, gratifying and tough, all at the same time. Silverado imported Marley the baby Kangaroo from our Salt Lake City community, thanks to Noralyn, the administrator and her associate, Tammi, who drove the kangaroo in a rented van with the back seats taken out. Believe me, caring for a 14-month old kangaroo at the Fairgrounds with almost 30,000 people coming by the booth (and gasping) all day for three days is NOT an easy job. Noralyn and Tammi deserve medals. Marley was a good girl and cooperated most of the time by allowing children and adults to pet her. Only once did she jump over the table and hop down the row of booths, startling the crowds, which was fun for the Silverado team to observe!

Which brings me back to Oscar. On Sunday morning, Gary and I finally had a chance to stroll around the Expo to see the other exhibits. We found our way to the pet adoptions tent, with no intention of adopting. And then I saw him. A beautiful little Siamesy looking kitty with bright blue eyes staring out of a cage near the entrance to the tent. He had been shaved at his neck and on his legs and they told me thus 10-month old neutered male "Snowshoe" cat had just recovered from a serious poisoning. He had been in the vet hospital for months on a feeding tube and IV's, but was healthy now, and ready for adoption. I went to the other side of the cage and saw that his name was Oscar. That was almost too much synchronicity for me. He was supposed to come home with us. Not only because of my love of movies and Gaye's dad, but because Gary's all-time favorite cat - a big feral male that he and his son adopted many years ago - was named Oscar. I called Gary over and showed him the name. Needless to say, Oscar is now an Ingram.

Oscar is adapting well to his new surroundings. Molly cat is not as welcoming as the dogs. She was a bit riled up because he decided he likes her kitty condo and she doesn't seem to want to share. Bindi Sue is thrilled with a new playmate. Vanna ignores him. Gary is happy to have just a tiny bit more testosterone in our home.

Monday, April 13, 2009

An Easter Story of Renewal

Fourteen years ago tonight. It was "Holy Thursday," four days before Easter. I remember leaving the parking lot of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts feeling pretty good because I'd enjoyed a perfectly wonderful girl's night out. My four girlfriends and I had been out to dinner and then to a performance of "Ain't Nothin' but the Blues." The only problem was that I'd called my husband, Bruce Stewart, about 10 times throughout the day and he hadn't answered or called me back. I left messages at home and at his real estate office but hadn't received any calls or messages back from him. It was strange for me because he always called me at least once or twice during the day, especially to return my voice messages.

On this day, I had planned to stay in town after work for the show. I remember calling his office at lunchtime and asking if he had been in. They told me they hadn't seen or heard from him. "OK, he's busy elsewhere," I thought. No problem. The music was sweet and moving. It reminded me of my childhood and how much my dad loved the blues. At some point, I got lost in the music and forgot that I hadn't been able to talk with Bruce all day.

I called home when I left the theatre parking lot at 10:30 PM. No answer. I called again at least three times before I hit the HWY 285 climb to the foothills where we lived. It was an hour's drive from Denver to our home in Conifer. No answer. A quarter way up the mountain, I started to panic. I called my own answering machine at home and discovered all of my messages were there, none of them erased. I thought, "If I drive into the driveway and see his car and there are no lights in the cabin, he is sick or dead." I was shaky and began to scream as I rounded every bend on the mountain road. Panic gripped my entire body, and I had trouble driving coherently. When at last I pulled into our driveway and saw Bruce's car and no lights on in the house, I knew what to expect. I was sick to my stomach.

Entering the house, I was immediately stricken by the cold and stillness. Poudre, our beloved big cat, greeted me with fear in his eyes. He rubbed against my legs and then immediately went to the door to the basement, where he stood on his hind legs and let out a series of loud, gutteral meows. I pushed open the door and looked downward, calmly saying, "Bruce, Brucie, where are you? Bruce, I'm home..." as I descended the stairs. No answer. Poudre tore past me into the darkness. I was consumed with fear as I walked into the basement, flipping on the light switch, turning left toward the exit to the deck we had just built - and then, there he was, lying on the floor, stiff and immobile. I remember running to him and screaming, "NO! NO! NO!" No response. His eyes were open. He was cold to my touch. I screamed.....gut-wrenching screams that I didn't know I had in my power. Poudre fled back upstairs. He and I both knew that Bruce was dead. And the whole scene was beyond my comprehension. I could only scream and pound my fists on the floor.

I remember climbing the basement stairs, still screaming. My phone was in the kitchen and I called my friends, Michael and LuAnn. Lulu had been at the show with me earlier that night. Michael was one of Bruce's best friends. He answered and after listening to my hysteric ranting for a few seconds, he calmly asked me to call 911. He told me he was on his way up the mountain to be with me.

I called 911. The nice young man who answered asked me to hang up and call my neighbors to come be with me and then to call him right back. I called the best neighbors I've had my entire life, Ralph and Della Bouwmann, who immediately drove over, clad in their pajamas and bathrobes. The paramedics weren't far behind. The coroner came too.

Several hours later, I sat on my sofa clutching a pretty little quilt that local Conifer residents had made for these "situations" and taking comfort from Ralph, Della, and Michael. The coroner took Bruce's body to the mortuary. I was able to drive down the mountain to Michael's home where LuAnn and other friends were onhand to share my shock and denial. Deep down, I just wanted to die.

Today, I re-live this to remember that I survived, thanks to amazing friends and family who supported me, who believed that I could get through the experience of grief and renewal. Maybe they knew I would eventually meet people who could help me know that I had more to do this lifetime. I made a choice to grieve and grow.

I'm sharing this story to demonstrate that endings are also beginnings. We forget that. We think an ending is simply "the end." It's not necessarily the end - it's very often the "next chapter" or the "sequel" that can be surprisingly good.

Tonight I came home to Gary watering the plants in our backyard. Bindi Sue, our little Corgi, was in the house. I knew Gary had put her inside so she wouldn't get wet because she loves chasing the hose. Easter flowers were in bloom everywhere. I had awesome memories of yesterday's Easter celebration at our home, with family and friends, and especially the happy faces of my precious grandchildren. THIS is my life now. I would not have this blessed life with children, grandchildren and dogs were it not for the death of my wonderful first husband, Bruce.

LIFE is a gift with so many layers to unfold. Tonight I am grateful that a horrible, sorrowful tragedy evolved into renewal and profound blessings in my life.

LIFE is good!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Not Just a Ham

Enough already about the crummy economy! We get it. We'd like to hear some good news for a change. I'm trying to save money, but it's hard when you have a parent in assisted living who ran out of money a couple of years ago. So I've decided to celebrate the spending that I absolutely have to do, and even the spending I don't have to do, but do it anyway.

Last week I did a little budget for the Easter brunch we are having at our home for about 15 people including three little ones. I decided I could save some money by opting for a spiral cut ham from Costco instead of a Honey-baked Ham. And then tradition got the best of me. Gary said, "It's not just a ham, Shannon, it's the EASTER Ham." I've heard of the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs, but never the Easter Ham. Apparently it simply must be a honey-baked ham on the buffet table or it's not Easter. So out went the Costco ham into the same idea dump as cheap shampoo and two-buck chuck wine. The Easter Ham tradition is safe in our home. Take THAT, economy!