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 28, 2010

Suspending Judgment

One of the big challenges many of us face during the holidays is letting go of our expectations of how the season is supposed to be. I love to say, "Life is good." It became my mantra in the early 80's after I heard a catchy little John Denver tune titled "Life is so good." In the 90's someone sent me a "Life is good" t-shirt with a happy little stick figure wearing a beret. I wore it a lot but somehow the shirt and the slogan lost their luster when my first husband died in April 1995. The shirt went to the Goodwill during the holiday season that year along with lots of other stuff I could no longer bear to look at or keep. That was the year I realized how horrible the holidays can be when you are stuck in a place where nothing in your life feels good.

I'm bringing this up because this past weekend I had a delightful time with my family celebrating the lighting of a big pine tree in Idyllwild, CA. There was a serious chill in the air that seemed to put everyone in the mountain town in a festive mood. We drank hot cider and cocoa and talked with people in the street, watched Santa Claus arrive by fire engine and went to The Lumber Mill for a burger. At the restaurant I overheard some jolly young men dressed in camouflage uniforms tell the hostess they were from Camp Pendleton Marine Base. I wondered how they could be so cheerful given the nature of their current business. For a moment I was reminded that NOT everyone feels like celebrating during the holidays.

After dinner we visited the local shops, checking out trinkets, trash and treasures - all the stuff that makes a quaint little town even more fun. In the back of one of the shops I saw t-shirts featuring the familiar "Life is good" stick figure. As I got closer, I noticed the saying emblazoned on this shirt was "Life is crap." I laughed out loud remembering that awful holiday season in 1995 when all I could do was cry. And I thought about my daughter-in-law's recent run-in with the "hungry and homeless" guy she bought a sandwich for who practically threw the sandwich back at her, angrily calling her names because she chose to give him food instead of cash. As I wrote in a recent post, life's really what you decide it is, especially this time of year.

A great tip if you want to get more joy out of life is to suspend judgment - of your boss, your mother-in-law, the government, your children, retailers, shoppers, other drivers, the "system," the homeless, yourself - EVERYONE and EVERYTHING! If you find yourself judging someone, play that game where your right hand has one voice and your left has another. Let the judgmental voice speak through one hand, then allow the non-judgmental voice to drown it out, ever so politely. This process will make you laugh....and laughter brings joy.

Another thing you can do is pick the person or thing that bugs you the most and find a way to confront him/her/it through service. If it bothers you to see homeless people with signs asking for help because you're sure they're going to buy booze or drugs with the coins you might toss in their cups, then get in touch with your local shelter and offer to volunteer there for a few hours. If you are bothered by all the slow elderly drivers on the roads, volunteer at an adult day care center for an afternoon. Give the gift of your time to a senior, especially someone suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia. If you think the season is too commercial, purchase some "shoes for the soul" and give the gift of new shoes to a child in need. Get information from your church or the search engines about how you can sign up to make a difference for someone this year. offers a great place to start:

Finally, if you're the one in distress - financially, personally, emotionally - take a few minutes to consider how it feels to accept the kindness of friends, family or strangers. Suspend judging yourself as a loser, a taker, too old, too fat, too sad, and refresh yourself through gratitude. Many people out there want to give without expecting anything. Your acceptance is the gift they receive in return.

When you suspend judgment during the holidays and focus on either helping those less fortunate or accepting the kindess of those more fortunate, then believe me, Life is good . I think it's time I find another one of those shirts!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Five Things to Ask Yourself about Bookends

My husband and I enjoyed a discussion about bookends last night after he read my blog post. Our conversation was based on these five questions:

1. Right now, are you in a place of joy, up against a challenge (sorrow, anger, depression, etc.) or are you somewhere in between the bookends?

2. What is a challenge you face today?

3. Can you name three things you are grateful for at this moment? If so, what are they?

4. What are the names of three people or pets that bring you joy? Say them out loud.

5. Considering that gratitude and joy, does your feeling about your challenge(s) change? If so, describe that feeling.

After this exercise, chances are you are in a better place than you may have thought you were five minutes ago! ENJOY!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


With "The Boomer Can Can" reaching old friends far and wide, I was bound to hear good and bad news from folks I haven't connected with in years. Some are celebrating weddings, vacation travel, new babies in the family, new homes, new jobs, successful businesses. Others are dealing with financial problems, foreclosure, relationship woes, job loss, serious illness, and deaths in the family.

Hearing these myriad stories this week before Thanksgiving made me feel as if JOY and CHALLENGE really are like bookends in our lives. Some of the people who shared great joy have also experienced hard times the past few years. Others who shared tragedy and pain have had lots of joyful times prior to their shocking reality of today. And there's so much that happens in between the joy and sorrow.

I lost my precious mom, Marianne, last January and my beloved dog, Vanna, in July. We had some financial challenges that we didn't see coming. And that was on top of other unpleasantries I won't mention. We are getting through it with the support of friends, family, our senses of humor, and the grace of God.

I am blessed to have a wonderful job working with and for people I respect, and yes...even love. My family is close - well, most of us are. I have "new" family to treasure this year - cousins I haven't known for most of our lives. What a joy it is to have found them. My fabulous "old family" still rocks. And I've reconnected with a few long lost friends thanks to social media. Plus I have a bunch of new friends from WomanSage and work. And I can't forget the blessed animals who never cease to make me smile.

I must say, my best friends are still my superheroes - you know who you are. I believe my friends guide and support me through the rough waters and are always there to celebrate with me when the good stuff inevitably comes around again. You see, friends are the most important bookends of all.

This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the wonderful FRIENDS and PETS who serve as my bookends along with JOY and CHALLENGE. And most especially, today I am grateful to my best friend - my husband. It's comforting to have him as my "mirror" through thick and thin. WE are one another's most cherished bookends.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boomer Can Can Lyrics

Here are the lyrics to the "Boomer Can Can" song on YouTube:

Boomer what do you do when you’ve nothing to look forward to

Do you walk around the mall and not buy anything at all

Or do you volunteer somewhere to help someone and show you care

Do you sit and watch TV and at the breaks think “woe is me”

Just stay present

I can hear my friends tell me

Just stay present

Take a walk, look at the sea

Just stay present

Lucky that you have your health

Just stay present

Who cares that you lost your wealth

Just stay on track, and don’t look back, no don’t look back, no don't look back now

GO walking in the mountains, smelling all the flowers, picking up the trash that people leave out on the trails,

Stop at local Starbucks, start a conversation with someone you’ll never see again

And then

Get a Netflix movie, see it with your loved one, listen to him bitch about a silly chick flick

Or cook a pot of chili, watch some weekend football, eat and pray and love just for today.

Do you have a pet at home who helps to calm your urge to roam

Are you now a Facebook fan who stays at home for Farmville land

And what about your work today, is it enough to make you say

That you don’t care about what’s next long as there’s someone to text

A chocolate bar this afternoon, a glass of wine to cure the gloom

the gloom the gloom-the gloom boom-boom

CLEAR junk out from your attic, rent a little dumpster, throw away the stuff you really don’t need now that

Your kids are grown-ups and you’re already a grandma,

But you’re not dead yet, you’re not dead yet!

And YOU still can drive a car so drive it to a BAR and have some bottled water with a slice of lemon

Then use your sanitizer so you won’t get sick and have to leave the earth.

Wear big girl pants

Get up and dance

Look in the mirror

Shake off your fear

Dream one big dream you can today,

You still could meet George Clooney HEY…

And you can live another day

because your life is still okay

You can-You can-You can-You can ….



And YES, I copyrighted the lyrics! I had to, after singing them non-stop for six weeks, driving my husband and co-workers crazy, probably my neighbors too. Thanks again to wonderful WomanSage friends who not only performed, but laughed along with me and many who gave us a standing ovation! Boomers ROCK!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Boomer Can Can

The Boomer Can Can is Here

The grand finale for the recent WomanSage Conference featured me and the amazing WomanSage Follies in "The Boomer Can Can" - now on YouTube:

I have to thank my awesome follies, especially Linda Broderick, whose name was left off the credits at the end. The ladies of the follies represent some of my dearest old and new friends. Some are WomanSage board members. Others are business women. All are good sports and willing to be a little hammy in the name of entertainment.

Sometimes when you're feeling down, the best thing you can do is just put on a show, as Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney did during the Great Depression. That's what caused me to sit down and write the lyrics to this version of the Can Can. I needed a break from all the bad news that's still happening a couple of years into the Great Recession.

Enjoy the video. Pass it on to other Boomers who need a laugh today. I'll post the lyrics tomorrow!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Meeting Maria

I've been a Maria Shriver fan since a night in the early 80's when I bumped into her as I was taking my mom's luggage out of the back seat of my Honda at Honolulu International Airport. It was late because Mom was taking the red-eye back to Los Angeles. I wore a long, blue and white floral print muu-muu. I proceeded to step on the hem of my muu-muu as I tried to negotiate the curb with the gigantic red hardback suitcase. I dropped the bag, fell forward a bit and was saved from doing a complete swan dive onto the pavement by a uniformed driver who caught my right arm as I brushed against a very thin girl with long hair. A man with a thick accent said, "Are you ok?" I said yes, and looked up to see the foreigner picking up Mom's bag was Arnold Schwarzenegger and the thin girl was Maria Shriver. I blurted something about being sorry and they just smiled.

As Maria and Arnold walked toward the terminal with a porter, my mother stood there saying, "That's Maria Kennedy and the big barbarian, did you notice?" She repeated it a couple more times till I almost picked up her bag and threw it at her. In 2003, Mom and I laughed out loud recalling the "bumping and blurting" incident as I sat at my parents' kitchen table helping Mom cast her absentee vote for Schwarzenegger in the California gubernatorial election.

Maria seemed nice. That was important to me in those days when I was meeting lots of celebrities in Hawaii, and some of them were NOT nice. I enjoyed her reports on TV news and loved her first book, Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went Out Into The Real World (2000), which was given to me by my mom. When Maria's daddy, Sargent Shriver, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I became more interested in the disease and what was being done to find a cure. And of course, now I work for Silverado Senior Living, an innovative company dedicated to changing the world of Alzheimer's care for the better.

For the past five years, I've tried to purchase tickets to the California Women's Conference, hosted by First Lady Maria Shriver. Sadly, I'm never fast enough. Tickets sell out in 15 minutes on Ticketmaster. I don't know anyone connected with the conference who had access to tickets. But this year right after the tickets sold out during the summer, something magical happened. First, I was able to get two tickets to A Night at the Village, a special conference event featuring some of my current favorite celebrities - the chefs of the Food Network. When I saw that Paula Deen would be there, I had to get tickets. I called my daughter-in-law, Emilie, and invited her to go with me.

Second, the next day, I got a Google Alert about a new event Maria Shriver was hosting, "Maria's March on Alzheimer's." I called to find out how Silverado might get involved. Long story short, our company was the first sponsor signed. We became the "March Champion" and pulled together a team of marchers for the event. In the meantime, I worked to ensure the new book by Silverado's co-founders, The Silverado Story - A Memory Care Culture Where Love is Greater than Fear, would be published in time for National Alzheimer's Awareness Month in November.

Cut to October 24th, the big day of Maria's March. I joined the 50+ marchers from Silverado in Long Beach. We had a Silverado booth that was next to Skechers and not too far from Jamba Juice. A big crowd had gathered for the 5K. What fun to see Maria Shriver and her daughter, Katherine, on the lagoon walkway behind our booth. And what MORE fun it was to have Maria come into our booth, shake hands with me, thank us for participating, and politely accept the new book by Loren Shook and Steve Winner. She turned around and posed for photos with Silverado march organizers Carilyn Long, her son, Corey, and Robyn Phillips.

While at the March that day, observing Maria interacting with Arnold and other celebrities, I remembered that near-accident at Honolulu Airport 25 years or so ago. I thought about my sweet, funny mom who would have loved being at the March with me. Maria lost her mom, Eunice Shriver, a year ago and I lost mine last January. I thought about how people move in and out of our lives and how it's funny the way life places us in the right place at the right time when we simply allow it to happen.

The next night, Emilie and I went to A Night at the Village. When we entered the Convention Center, we received a beautiful big silver bag with "IT'S TIME" on the side printed in lavendar. We shopped, had a glass of wine, listened to Megan and Cindy McCain on one stage, then watched Maria interact with Paula Deen, Giada Di Laurentis, Ali Wentworth and Jessica Simpson on another stage. While walking across the Village floor, we literally bumped into Iron Chef Cat Cora, who agreed to a quick photo with Emilie. Another fun accidental bump incident! It was a delightful, exciting night. Next year, Emilie and I hope to be fast enough to get tickets to the conference.

Thank you, Maria, for hosting awesome events every year and for just being yourself while serving as our First Lady. You're way beyond're an inspiration!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Attitude Really is Everything

In this season of football, elections and "Dancing with the Stars," it may sound trite to say "Attitude is everything," but I just got a HUGE dose of that life lesson. I've told many friends that the past two weeks have been among the most challenging of my life.

It wasn't like planning a wedding, although I did feel like a bridezilla at times. It was difficult because there wasn't any downtime. I had four big, important events to manage in addition to running a new Silverado publishing company and making sure the new book by CEO Loren Shook and Chief of Culture Steve Winner was printed and delivered on deadline. I spoke at a big CA health industry conference, and said farewell to a treasured associate who moved to San Francisco last week leaving me with beaucoup interviews to find her replacement. I emceed the WomanSage Conference all day Saturday and kept the energy way up for the wonderful crowd of women (and a few brave men) who attended. On top of all that, we had to pack up everything for Silverado's corporate office move from San Juan Capistrano to Irvine, CA. Two crazy weeks!

At the onset of the busy time, I realized I would have to maintain a "Ruby Slippers Attitude" to get through it without second-guessing my commitment. Attitude would be key to staying positive and calm. I didn't even ask myself how to do that. I just committed to being in the flow, took deep breaths, prayed and visualized myself on November 1st, happily unpacking boxes in my office with "Flashdance-What a Feeling" playing in the background! Glenda the Good Witch told Dorothy that she had the power to go home any time and didn't have to go through all the Oz craziness with the Wicked Witch and her evil flying primates. After more than a little stress, more than a few mistakes, and one minor meltdown, I gladly confronted my own witch on Halloween last night, handing out treats and game scores to revelers who visited the Man Cave and showing off my scary devil dog.

Today, I followed the traffic-jammed yellow brick road to the new offices where I unpacked and sang "What a Feeling." NONE of the positive events of the past two weeks would have happened without my beloved team - the people who do what needs to be done, give up weekends and nights to stay on track and on time and don't complain because they, too, know the power of a positive attitude. They know attitude determines altitude....and they love to soar above the trivial and mundane. They are part of a big picture team that can execute the small picture. They know who they are....and I am blessed to work alongside them.

It's also great to have an enthusiastic partner by my side who cheers me on and holds down the fort when I'm away. He went out of his way and left his favorite college football games to come and watch me do a silly song and dance at the end of the conference on Saturday (more on that next post). True love is a brilliant attitude lift.

Tonight, I'm happy to say that my attitude is all gratitude.