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.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Not So Sweet Surrender

OK, I admit it...I'm a control freak. I like to say that I'm a "recovering control freak," but hey, this control thing really is worthy of a twelve-step program. Maybe someone has already invented that, but I didn't find out about it in time to avoid my latest control freak drama.

Ten days ago, I was packing for a two-night business trip to Scottsdale. In my mind, as I packed, I was also thinking about what I was going to pack for this week's five-day business trip to Houston and Dallas. When I returned from Arizona Friday, I was planning to spend half the day at the office and then have a relaxing weekend at home with Gary before taking off on the road again. Then Gary dropped the bombshell that he had been invited to attend a 10-day series of National Association of Home Builders' classes on "Green Build," in order to become an instructor himself. That sounded great until he told me that he would be "leaving for Orlando at 7 AM on Saturday." My heart started to race and I felt a wave of nausea.

"What about the pets?" I asked. "Get a pet-sitter," he responded.

"How will I get to the airport on Monday?" I screeched. "Find someone to give you a ride or take a cab," he said calmly.

"What's this trip to the East going to cost you?" I squealed. "Nothing except for the plane ticket and some meals," he said even more calmly.

"What about all your other work projects?" I said, voice now cracking. "It will be fine, Shannon. I have everything handled."

As I started to cry, I wondered why I couldn't comfort myself with those same words, "It will be fine, Shannon. I have everything handled." The answer came to me mid-sob. I'm not in control here. This trip he's taking was not part of my plan. "I have to be flexible, but I'm feeling stiff as a board," I thought. My heart ached. Tears poured out. I collapsed into a huddle on the edge of the bed, slumping next to my open carry-on suitcase. "I don't want you to go now!" I said repeatedly between sobs.

Gary sat down next to me, put his arm around my shoulder and said, " Look, Shan, it's going to be ok," trying to comfort me with his enthusiasm for what this trip would mean for us in the "big picture." I was having too hard a time with the stressful "little picture" to break into the big one. Eventually I fell asleep with a clump of tear-soaked tissues clasped tightly in my hand.

I woke up at 2:35 am, with that woeful feeling that something was wrong. My eyes were practically glued shut with salty tear residue and I could feel their painful puffiness. Gary was sound asleep. I thought about what was happening. The word that suddenly popped into my mind was "surrender." This word always floats into my consciousness when I am in a massive control melt-down. I'm beginning to think it's a recurring theme in my life. But there in the darkness, I laid on my back and took a few deep breaths, which I knew were the first steps on my journey to the big picture Gary had been talking about earlier that night.

I realized that what I wanted in the little picture was downright silly compared with what Gary was seeking in the big one. So I started doing what I always do: Plan. I began thinking about what I could do that day to get to that gentle place of acceptance of Gary's trip. I could find a pet-sitter. I could arrange my airport transportation. I could take Gary to the airport at 4:30 AM on Saturday, then go home and go back to bed. I could still have a relaxing weekend with the pets. And in the middle of all that mind-planning, the "I" became "We." Because when Gary came home from his classes on the East coast, WE would most likely be looking at a much brighter future.

Today I sit in Dallas after a splendid, productive and rewarding work week. Gary has been enjoying his classes in Orlando. We have been talking and texting at least once a day about our experiences. It's the longest time we've been apart since we were married in 1999. Our house-sitter has been texting me with photos of the pets. She has also taken care of a cable TV problem and all we had to do was approve her to deal with it. We are both feeling great, and our future is looking really bright for the first time in several years.

Sometimes, in my experience, surrender does not feel sweet. It certainly doesn't feel good for a "recovering control freak" like me. Yet most of the time, when I do surrender to faith in face of the unknown and to my belief that LOVE is greater than fear, I find the divine safety net that's been there all the time. That not-so-sweet surrender is part of recovery from the need to control. Surrender ultimately brings me the peace of mind that makes everything worthwhile.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I am a big fan of HARO - "Help a Reporter" - founded by the amazing Peter Shankman. They are celebrating their second year today! Hooray for HARO!

Get sourced, get quoted, get famous:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Easter Joy

This was my first Easter without my mom. There were years when I lived out of state, but when I wasn't flying home for a family Easter celebration in the desert, I was talking on the phone with Mom about what we were going to wear to church or brunch or about grandchildren, coloring eggs and who would find the prize golden egg. We also talked about the importance of the Easter message - sacrifice, hope, resilience, resurrection. And we always enjoyed our Easter egg malted milk balls and if we were lucky, a chocolate fudge egg from See's Candies.

Getting ready for church on Easter morning, I had to shed a few tears in the shower, grieving that sweet Mom and Jack, my beloved stepdad, were not here to enjoy the celebration with me and our family. Suddenly, mid-sob, the sun peaked through the window above the shower and I just knew it was a sign. Mom was encouraging me to get out there and have a good day with the family. It was going to be a great day and I should focus on being "Granny Shanny." So that's what I did. And it worked because we had a fabulous day in our backyard with kids and dogs running around and lots of adults sipping punch or Mimosas. Even the earthquake didn't dampen our spirits, although it was cause for the iPhones and "crackberries" to come out of purses and pockets as we sought information about the epicenter. We said a little prayer for the safety of those in the hardest-hit area.

This was a simpler Easter than in years past. It felt more blessed, too. We are grateful for the family and friends who surround us with love, for our work that allows us to play on a special Easter Sunday. I still smile thinking about "Papa and Kendall" pictured here in matching outfits. Actually our granddaughter, Kendall, matched her mommy, daddy and brother and we took photos of them under a tree in the backyard prior to the egg hunt. I topped off the celebration with a handful of colorful Easter egg Whoppers - yum!

Life is good, and somewhere my mom is smiling knowing that she still made a positive difference in my Easter experience.