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, May 23, 2009

Dirty Dancing French Dip

Memorial Day weekend called for a little overnight trip this year. We left the pets in the great care of Lindy our friend & pet-sitter and journeyed to.....LA! I got tickets to see Dirty Dancing at today's matinee at the Pantages in Hollywood. Knowing that would thrill Gary as much as being circumsized at 14, I knew I would need some other activities to sweeten the weekend. I found one on the "Man v Food" TV show. One of Gary's favorite foods is a French Dip Beef Sandwich. The Food Network show recently featured a place called The Original Philippe - home of the original French Dip - and it was in downtown LA. I also got a great deal on a room at Le Parc Suite in West Hollywood for a big suite in a beautiful, quiet neighborhood. And finally, I found a cigar bar that had big screen TVs showing the basketball playoff game so Gary could root for the Denver Nuggets. Those considerations made up for the insufferable chick show. He didn't hate it because there was so much more...I loved every minute of the musical and have enjoyed Gare-Bear's good mood buoyed by excellent French Dip, cigars, nice suite and...well, we won't mention the basketball game.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Parrotheads Flock

After my last post about my adventure in Tijuana with a parrot many years ago, it was somehow appropriate to join a gazillion parrotheads at Jimmy Buffett's concert in Irvine last night. Doing the parrothead thing has become an annual tradition for Gary and me. We especially enjoy the "pre-show" in the parking lot where thousands of adults make complete idiots of themselves in the name of Margaritaville. The legendary "RV area" was in fine form again last night featuring "shooters for hooters" and a souped up golf cart with blenders ablaze on the back, making margaritas to give to anyone who would show an I.D. and a "private" body part.

Inside the amphitheater, things were a bit more tame, although security was called - as it is every year - to smooth over a fight because drunken parrotheads refused to remove big hats that were blocking the view of the more sober folks behind them. Our section was colorful. We had the dude with the parrot on his head, pictured here, as well as Nan, Ron & Marilyn, also pictured. One of my favorite moments came when Nan was trying to engage Ron in a parrothead dance, but he was too pre-occupied trying to get the basketball game score. Fourth generation Coloradoan Gary, in one of his more serious moods for a Buffett event, lightened up considerably after learning the Denver Nuggets had beaten the Lakers.

Heard all my favorite tunes, plus some new ones. Loved the one about surfing in a hurricane! The best part of the concert for me probably went unnoticed by most of the crowd. It was old film footage on the big screen of Jimmy on the boat he owned when I was living in St. Thomas back in 1978-79. He was staying on his sailboat in a slip at the marina where I worked as Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League. My office was right on the dock and I would say hi to him almost every day when I walked to work. He always greeted me. I remember he had lots of wavy "dirty blonde" hair. He was a babe. This had to be right around the time he struck it rich with "Margaritaville" because I recall singing it in the Crow's Nest Bar that was above my office on the dock. Jimmy, the "son of a son of a sailor," was alone most days, and he did his own sanding and varnishing. Occasionally he would sit in the cockpit and play his guitar.

I'm glad I did my retirement in reverse. Those priceless days of living on a boat, spending lunch hours snorkeling off Water Island in Charlotte Amalie Harbor, joining friends on their boats for pina coladas at sunset, swimming naked at Christmas Cove, and listening to a famous pirate make music dockside are invaluable memories today as I face the reality of working until I leave the planet. They actually give me the strength to carry on and enjoy everything while it lasts...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Col. Robert Walker

One of the greatest gifts of my first marriage to Bruce Stewart has been the wonderful Walker family - Bruce's sister Evelyn, her husband, Robert and their daughters, Kathleen and Janine. They began showering joy on my life in 1976 when I first met Evelyn and Robert for a memorable weekend trip to Ensenada that Bruce had arranged. Like Bruce, Evelyn and Bob were a lot older than I was; but we got along famously, thanks to our mutual love of good Mexican food, beer and margaritas - and especially cactus candy. The cactus candy helped us cross the border with a live parrot sitting inside a partially covered clay pot in the back of Robert's VW camper. Bruce offered some of the sticky candy to the border patrol agent as the rest of us sat transfixed with fake smiles covering our terror at the thought of being arrested and thrown into a Mexican prison. The agent accepted the treat from Bruce, laughed at the gringos eating such a local type of food, and waved us on.

We took a deep breath as we drove away from the border crossing station and the parrot let out a very loud squawk. Timing is everything.

Bruce told us the parrot was a gift for his hairdresser in exchange for free haircuts for life. "Life" turned out to be about two months because the stylist moved to another state and took the parrot with her. Thinking back, and knowing Bruce, there was probably more involved than haircuts in the payback. He was a very creative ladies man.

Back to the Robert Walker story. Robert was kind, calm, gentle and incredibly wise. He was from Grand Island, Nebraska. During World War II, he was one of the lucky few to come out of D-Day alive. He rose to the rank of Army Colonel and became an attorney after the war, eventually becoming a Judge Advocate.

Some of the best stories I ever heard have been told by Robert. He always had a twinkle in his eye. He wrote the family Christmas letter every year, complete with rhyming verses. His patience was well-known and had a calming effect on the more dynamic personalities in his household, namely Evelyn and Kathleen (Janine is more like her dad). Evelyn can talk a blue streak. She's VERY fun and always has something to share. Bob could listen to her for hours and enjoy every word. He was deeply in love with his "sweetie."

Evelyn and Robert were awesome role models for me in terms of creating a mutually respectful and loving marriage. Robert was more like a father-in-law to me than a brother-in-law. I always welcomed his advice and counsel. Evelyn is more than a sister-in-law - she is a dear friend. Their daughters, Kathleen and Janine, have been like sisters or cousins to me - and very close friends because we are the same age.

After Bruce died, I stayed in touch with my precious Walker family, seeing them once or twice a year to catch up and enjoying the occasional long phone conversation. They welcomed Gary into the clan in much the same way Gary welcomed the presence of Bruce's memory in my life. I know it may have been a bit hard for Evelyn and Robert to embrace Gary because they adored Bruce and were as shocked and distraught as I was to lose him in 1995.

Robert passed away on Monday, May 18th at the age of 91, with Evelyn and Janine at his side. Kathy was at work, but she rushed home to be there with her mom and sister to say good-bye before the coroner arrived.

Gary and I will spend this Sunday with the extended Walker family, including Janine's husband. We'll talk for hours about Robert and the magnificent story of his life. Evelyn and Kathy will talk about their many trips to France with Robert to celebrate the anniversaries of D-Day. Kathy and I will remember the time we spent sailing around the Virgin Islands with Bruce, my brother, John, and our old friend, Jerry Payne. Janine and I will compare notes about caregiving and our mutual love of The Crab Cooker in Newport Beach. We'll discuss the many building projects Robert carried out over the years including when Bruce helped him put the roof on the house in LA that is still the family homestead. We'll reminisce about our fun times together in the Virgin Islands, Hawaii and Mexico. Gary will talk about home remodeling with Janine's husband, Steve. And no doubt Evelyn and I will relive that infamous parrot adventure and the cactus candy in Robert's trusty old VW camper at the Tijuana border. Somehow I just know Robert will be there listening...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

MacGyver's Fountain

The true spirit and essence of MacGyver lives in my husband, Gary. He can improvise a solution to almost any complex building dilemma in a matter of minutes, usually involving yards of duct tape, a nail gun, a cigar and loud noises.

While enjoying the park-like setting of our backyard during the recent Easter party, I mentioned that it would be nice to have a mobile water feature, something we could take with us, if and when we decide to buy another house. We had to leave behind the two fountains that we permanently installed at our home in Costa Mesa and I missed the sweet sound of water, especially after a long, stressful day at work. He agreed, but he didn't offer a solution.

Cut to April 22nd when Gary took seven baby chicks he'd gotten from a coworker up to the Garner Ranch. When I arrived home that evening, he was unloading a rusty old Maytag ringer washing machine that he had found in the ranch "bone yard" behind the barn. Our brother-in-law gave it to Gary with his blessings.

"What are you going to do with that?" I asked.

"It's a surprise," he replied.

When Gary says it's a surprise, I never know quite what to expect. It might be something fabulous like the deck he built in the backyard of our home in Parker, CO. Or it might be something useful but ghastly looking, like the shelves in my kitchen in Costa Mesa. Either way, I decided to wait and see what he had in mind before risking a comment that might damage his creative character.

Last Friday, I came home late from a grueling day at work and heard what sounded like a fountain gurgling nearby. I ventured into the backyard and there on the patio was Gary with his new prize - the old Maytag ringer washing machine had morphed into a fountain - my dream come true! There was no duct tape in sight. I squealed with delight and clapped my hands as Gary puffed out his chest and puffed on his cigar. "I'll install it against the fence somewhere in the yard next weekend," he said. My beloved MacGyver strikes again!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Overcoming Guilt

Mom's hospice nurse called me two days ago to ask if I could pick up four pairs of compression stockings because her legs are bleeding again. Of course, the call came in the midst of one of the busiest weeks I've had in years. And it's good old "Mercury Retrograde," a three-week period when all kinds of annoying things happen, generally not life-threatening, but painful nonetheless. Do a search on "Mercury Retrograde" to learn more. While talking with the nurse, I remembered that I had some med's to pick up for Mom in Costa Mesa, and I was supposed to have done that last weekend. Feelings of guilt and sadness overcame me and I wanted to cry. After all, on Monday I found time to take Bindi Sue to the vet for an eye infection courtesy of her best friend, Oscar kitty. But I didn't remember Mom's med's. As the guilt turned into tears, I remembered to BREATHE. Nice, long, deep breaths. And then to forgive myself. And finally, to have a brief laugh about Bindi and Oscar and the "Circle of Life" (see photo) at our home. The pets are such good therapy. So now I'll allow myself to go and get Mom this afternoon to take her to have her hair cut and styled and to pick up her supplies. And then I'll breathe some more...

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mom Turns 87

The party was a lot smaller than those we've had in the past, but Mom still enjoyed celebrating her 87th birthday this year. It was made more special by a visit from my brother, John, who had dropped by earlier in the weekend. The peace of mind that John's visit gave Mom made a huge difference in her level of engagement in her birthday activities. I thought she might feel somewhat sad because of Jack's recent passing; but she consoled herself by looking at photos of past birthday parties - his and hers.

My mom has always been a party maven. She used to throw amazing parties, from the first one I remember - a Roaring 20's themed event at our home in Long Beach when I was four - to all of our family weddings to hoe downs for 300 at the Garner Ranch to her own 80th birthday at Bayside Restaurant in Newport Beach. She had the party gene, a little bit of which I inherited but don't use as often as she did. She loved to entertain - still does in her own way. She has friends over to her studio apartment where she shares wine and stories.

I had to share a couple of photos of her from yesterday's celebration. I hope they make you smile.

Friday, May 01, 2009

There is Nothing Like a Train...

....Nothing in the least according to Keegan Ingram, age four. He discovered Thomas the Train when he was two and has been train crazy ever since. Gary found a small battery-operated train at a garage sale a couple of years ago and Keegan insists on setting it up every time he comes to our home.

Last weekend, we had both grandchildren for three days and two nights. Every time we take them for an overnight, we realize that we are really close to decrepitude. By the end of the day, we are so tired that we literally collapse into bed. And just after we did that on Saturday, little Kendall began to cry...and then scream. Gary was up most of the night with her this time. The guy is a champ, albeit a timeworn one.

After only a couple hours of sleep, Gary was back outside with Keegan, helping to keep the train on the track and making sure the whistle was blowing and the bell was ringing, no doubt because he wanted me to share his pain. I told him to turn off the noise or I wouldn't help him get up off the concrete patio floor.

It's good to be grandparents.