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Grow Where You Are Planted….

…is something I heard for the first time about two weeks ago. I was at Trader Joe’s picking up some groceries. As the woman in the checkout line in front of me was finishing her purchases, she was picking up her bags and looked at the young, male cashier and said “Grow where you are planted”. While he looked at her strangely and repeated the phrase back to her, as though he mis-heard something, she repeated it for him to confirm what she had said. At that moment, I looked at her and said “Grow where you are planted. I really like that. Thanks for sharing”. She looked at me appreciatively and smiled, nodded her head at me. My first thought was that perhaps she was a widow as well, and this statement resonated with her the same as me because we both “got it”. That, however, would mean I was judging her, which is not acceptable. I let it lie in my mind and just appreciated the statement, the situation and the small gift it was to both of us; me for receiving such a nice sentiment and then being able to give her the validation of understanding it. The cashier still looked confused by the whole thing. I was amused. Another gift to me…tis the season :wink:

Flash forward to yesterday when I received a package in the mail for the holidays. Who the package was from and why I received it isn’t important, but inside was a card which on the cover had the words “grow where you are planted”. Once again, I took pause with this statement for a few reasons. First, when something repetitive like this happens, I can’t help but think the universe is speaking to me in some way. Second, I’ve said before, and I’ll stay it again, I do not believe in coincidences in life. I don’t think the encounter at Trader Joe nor was receiving this card yesterday a coincidence.

In between these encounters was a trip to Chicago where I spent an always-too-short weekend enjoying time connecting with my family and friends filling my “happy tank”. The weekend was full of good times, great conversations, fun and laughter, and for the first time I found myself questioning what I was going back to in Seattle. This has not happened once on my weekend visits. Usually, like most of my visits, by the time it’s over, I’m ready to get back home to Seattle. To my son, my doggies, my home, my life here. But this trip was different.

Now don’t everyone get too excited – I’m not going anywhere. In this challenge in figuring out who I am, what makes me “tick” and really starting an entirely new life of unchartered waters, where I want to do this is still questionable. I love Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. I have a wonderful life here filled with family, friends, support and just the everyday things one establishes in a home. My heart is here. I also have and will always love Chicago and call it home. My family and friends with whom I have the deepest of connections with are there. My heart is also there in so many ways. So in my confusion of thinking about where the next chapter of my life might be at some point in the future, the words “grow where you are planted” very much have resonated with me and made me realize that it doesn’t matter where I am located; my growth will take place no matter where I decide to be. In fact, my growth takes place daily and it does so only by my choosing to be present and making decisions with a clear head and calm heart.

This brings me to another area of growth that seems to be the one I am asked about most often, “Are you seeing anyone”? For whatever reason, there seems to be this notion that moving forward in life equals starting to date again. I think this is a natural default. If I think back to my 20s, there was a natural hierarchy of life that took place, and it looked something like this:

  • Once you were dating someone, the question was “Are you serious”?
  • Once you were seriously dating someone, the question because “When are you getting engaged”?
  • Once you were engaged, the question became, “When’s the wedding date”?
  • And as soon as the wedding reception was taking place the question became, “When are you going to start having babies”?

For most, this is somewhat the norm, and I say this with the highest of generalizations, but I think you get the point I am making.

There is nothing in the natural hierarchy of life where I am a widow at age 44 losing the love of my life.

I don’t think about dating not because I am still living with my marriage to Ed. I will never, not love him. He will never, not be my husband. He will always be the love of my life and he will always live in my heart. I do think about dating but haven’t pursued it because (A) I have other priorities in finding my way and happiness right now including writing, connecting with those I hold closest to me, and just getting through each day and (B) frankly, I don’t think I’d even know if someone was flirting with me, hitting on me, or asking me out on a date. I’m fairly oblivious to these things, and always have been and (C) there is no “normal” path in this life. The path I choose is up to me without judgment from myself or anyone else.

I’m thinking with a clear head and calm heart.

Interestingly enough, Ed and I talked quite a bit what my life might look like after he was gone. Some call these conversations “gifts”, and to an extent, I agree. I would however, like the “gift receipt” receipt so I can exchange the conversation to have him back. I digress…Anyway, in these conversations Ed and I had, he always told me he wanted me to be happy. I would ask him what that meant, and did that mean he wanted me to meet someone else. His answer was never specific and only to say, “I want you to do what makes you happy – whatever that is. And I don’t want you to live like Nana did”. It took me a while to fully understand what he meant by these words, but I am starting to understand it more and more.

The more I try to live life fully – be present, be aware, find purpose and most importantly – being vulnerable and opening myself up to new things which I may or may not be successful, I realize that this is what is hard. Not living life and just existing in it is what I feel like my grandmother did for so many years after my grandfather died. She too was a young widow at age 61, and I don’t think she ever really “lived” again. She existed never moving from the same home she and my grandfather lived in, worked at her same job until she retired, and centered herself with her children and grandchildren. And all of this was fine for her, and frankly, I understand it, and now I understand she didn’t “grow where she was planted”. And I don’t judge her decisions. They were right for her. She will always be the same wonderful, amazing and strong Nana that I cherished until the moment I watched her take her last breadth. I love her immensely and miss her tremendously. In retrospect, her life taught me that the easy path is for me to do the same as she did; Go to work every day. Stick with the same routine. Stay holed up in my house watching Bravo TV shows (don’t judge). This is easy. On some days, I give myself a break and take the easy path and that’s okay. “Growing where I am planted” is what I strive for more and more though.

Living life is hard, but living life and all of the lessons that come along with it are what makes it all worth it. This is what Ed wanted for me because he knew that living life fully and with purpose is what would create my happiness – and that didn’t mean necessarily prioritizing doing it with someone else right away. He wanted me to do what I wanted, on my own terms, when I wanted, without fear and without concern about what anyone thought….anyone but him of course ;-) I work on this daily and mostly struggle, but small steps will get me there – including at some point meeting someone else.

So if you want to know how I am doing – really want to know – ask me what I am doing to live today. Connect with me in some way – call me, Skype me, text me, whatever – just connect. Deep meaningful connections and conversations are what make me the happiest. And when we connect, I want to know how you are living life. And if you want a gauge on what is moving me forward; ask me if I have been writing lately. Ask me if I’ve made any progress on that so-called book I keep talking about. Ask me what I have done to make a difference in someone else’s life. I think these are the things that are what I am finding to make me happiest, and what Ed was trying to tell me.

As we move through the holiday season, I wish everyone the happiest and healthiest of times with family and friends. I am thankful to have each and every one of you in my life, and that is the only gift I need. I encourage you to think about how you might “grow where you are planted” and in that growth, make your choices in life with a “clear head and calm heart”.

Strength, Courage, Wisdom….Faith, Love and Hope



What do you do for fun???

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last night and was asked “what are you doing for fun”? And I had to really think about that one as I’m doing a lot of “stuff” but I’m not sure how much fun any of these things are.

But the overall question got me to thinking because the best answer I had was – “I’m trying to figure out what fun is for me”. And as I thought about this, I realized I’m not entirely sure what the definition of fun is for me any longer. I am a different person now trying to figure out who I am. What makes me tick? What makes me happy? And I have no idea what any of this looks like. My lack of a good response bothered me slightly, so I pondered this while walking the dogs this AM. Here’s what I have come up with so far…

I have things that I have to do, things I should do, and things I want to do. Making time for all of this, and more importantly, sometimes the energy that goes into this can be a challenge. I have a job that I am responsible for, a house to take care of, and let’s not forget the two dogs that run my life. I take a lot of satisfaction from my “to-dos” as well as a lot of pride in them on most days; a job well done, mastering taking care of my yard, skippering my boat, shoveling dead critters when necessary – all things that I have overcome and taken satisfaction from – yes. Fun??? Not so sure. This led me to more thinking…

There is a difference between fun, satisfaction, happiness and peace – all seem to be related but they are not all defined as fun. Here’s how I look at this further: I do a lot of things that satisfy me and this is often related to a challenge – getting from point A to point B with a set goal in mind. Much of my satisfaction and seemingly happiness comes from these types of actions, yet they are not necessarily fun for the sake of being fun. I think about my job – I have a lot of challenges and I get great satisfaction from solving problems and being successful at it. I have participated in two triathlons – each was a challenge and it felt great to accomplish these actions, but was it fun? It feels good to say I’ve accomplished something, but was the swimming in the cold water, biking the hills and running in the street fun?? I came, I saw, I conquered; I’m not sure I’m doing another triathlon anytime soon. So I thought about the notion of satisfaction and happiness…

I derive a great deal of happiness when I help other people or know I make an impact in their lives. Whether it’s writing something that resonates, a Facebook post in response to someone that needs genuine help, or a chance meeting at an airport bar, I have not just a sense of satisfaction, but happiness, when helping someone else. Just yesterday, I chatted with a friend that recently lost her job. She thanked me for the chat and said it was really helpful. Satisfied? Yes. Happy to help a friend? Yes. Fun? I wouldn’t say it was necessarily fun.

This friend of mine asked me the original “fun” question asked about my enjoyment of boating, which yes is fun. I experience great enjoyment when being out on the water, but I’m not sure if I’d describe it as fun for two reasons. First, boating was something that was a source of enjoyment for Ed and I. We discovered this together, and we had pure enjoyment when we were out boating together. We were very opposites in the things we liked to do, but boating was this space where we had common ground. Being out on the water is where I find my peace as did Ed. The stress melted away, we were disconnected from the rest of the world with each other. I don’t know if I describe this as fun, rather a space of serenity, and for me, this still holds true. But like with most things in life these days, without Ed, being out on the water is different. I still find peace and serenity, but it’s not the same. If I had ever described it as fun, then it just isn’t any longer. I will need to figure out how to achieve this again because I truly love being out on the water even in this new life. It’s something that is engrained in me and makes me tick.

So what does “fun” look like for me?

My quick response during this conversation was surrounding spending time with friends. I genuinely have fun when I am out with friends for any occasion just connecting. Laughing, sharing, more laughing and just talking. I am energized by compelling conversation that is meaningful. Anyone who knows me knows I have the “gift of gab” and am rarely at a loss of words. This is what I crave – deep meaningful connections with people. It doesn’t matter where it takes place just that it happens. This to me is fun. And I don’t always get enough of it, so it is sacred to me.

So as I thought about this more I came to this conclusion…fun isn’t be about getting from point A to point B with an end game in mind. It’s that thing you seek that is unique in its own right. It has a hint of satisfaction, happiness and peace from it even if for a brief moment in time. It’s something that is familiar that you can come back to over and over for no reason other than it is fun. It’s simple.

Tomorrow evening, I am going to have fun connecting with some of my closest friends supporting a good cause…and looking good doing it  :wink: What’s your definition of fun?

A Reason, a Season and a Lifetime

There is a saying that was shared with me about a year ago where someone told me that “people come into your lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”. It was interesting to me as I had never heard this before, and it was something I needed to hear in that moment. I was questioning my friendship with someone and sharing this information with a complete stranger; a nurse who was drawing my blood for my annual check-up, which by the way, I hate doing. Another story for another time…

I do not believe in coincidences. I do not believe that people come into our lives by chance, and this interesting piece of information was something that resonated with me in a huge way. I had never been able to rationalize my thinking of “no coincidences in life” and “the greater meaning of connections” and this person put the words out there plain as day. This particular nurse came into my life for that one, singular reason; to inform me of this interesting notion; people don’t come into our lives coincidentally. They are there for a “reason, a season or a lifetime”.

That was her reason. I will never see her again. But the impact she left with me last a lifetime.

On most days, we think we are connecting with people that we think are there for us. But I think most times we are actually meeting people we are supposed to impact. It can be hard to think of this the other way around, meaning; we actually connect with people we are supposed to impact, until it happens once or twice. I was at the airport last month and met these two women while having a beer waiting for my flight. We chatted and the one said to me, “I’m glad I missed my flight. Otherwise I wouldn’t have met you and I’m really glad I did”. The other woman offered to set me up with one of her single male friends in Seattle, to which my response was “no, thank you” ;-) But I digress…. I of course was having flight debacles galore this particular day, but perhaps this was the reason for my flight delays; to impact someone else in this case, these women.

There’s also another saying or theory that when you do through a major life change, be it loss or something else, you tend to find out who your real friends are – or are not. I like the idea of thinking that it’s more along the lines or a reason, a season or a lifetime. I’ve come to realize that everyone comes into your life for a reason – be it for your or for them. On most days I often think it’s for me, but I’ve gotten better at thinking maybe it’s for someone else. The woman at the airport, case in point; I impacted her that day. Doesn’t matter that I was having bad travel karma, the reason was I came into her life for a reason that day. That reason, I’ll never know. But it’s those connections that stay around for a while; those for a few days, weeks, months or even years sometimes. Those are our seasons. Until they become lifetimes.

Ed was my lifetime as are the kids. There is no question about that. And there is not further explanation or discussion that needs to take place. I know this. My kids know this, and anyone who knew us, or has read our blog knows this. Since his passing, I tend to see, and actually look for, the deeper meanings in the connections I make with people all of the time. And while often times the “reason, season, lifetime” can’t be seen right away, there are some connections that are clear as day, to me anyway. This is how it looks to me:

  • It’s a group of girls drinking Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas on a Saturday morning, or a different group of girls eating bar food and beers on a Friday night.
  • It’s a friendship that just ended for no apparent reason – the season just ended.
  • It’s a group of women who you have nothing in common with except you’ve all lost husbands. You just “get it” and that’s enough for a lifetime.
  • It’s a 21 year old young person that is seated next to you on a four hour flight that contains the most interesting and inspirational conversation. I know one day I’ll say “I remember her when…”
  • It’s dinner with an old friend where there is endless conversation and laughter and you can’t remember a word of what was said, just that it was great – and it makes you realize it’s time to think about moving forward.

My list is endless…

The reality is, everyone is a reason, most are seasons, and few are lifetimes. But I know who those are. Without question. I am lucky, grateful, privileged and honored to have them, as well as all of the “reasons and seasons” in my life. I learn from each and every one of them. Some just go deeper than others, and some just stand the test of time…and life.

I’ve had a lot of “reason” and “season” people come into my life; and I cherish the “lifetime” ones. They are all characters in my book of life. Some contain a brief sentence; some a page, others a chapter, and few are part of the entire story that is written each and every day.

Today, ask you to think about your “reasons”, “seasons” and “lifetimes”. We all have them. What do they look like to you?

Strength, courage, wisdom…faith, love, hope

It’s all I need to get me through each and every day.


Sliding Doors

There’s a movie made in the 1990s called “Sliding Doors”. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow and I think it was done before she was a big Oscar winner. In any event, the story is about a woman who has a moment in life that has the potential to change everything. She simply misses her train. The movie tracks both sides of her life; the one side showing what happens in her life because she misses the train; the other as if it didn’t. And the moment isn’t life altering itself. She misses her train. The chain of events that is shown indicates that interesting paths her life takes depending upon which “sliding door” you are viewing. In the end, her lives come back together in another life altering moment. The doors close in a manner of speaking. It’s a movie that didn’t win any awards, or probably wasn’t that well known. Yet a movie that always stuck in my head, and for whatever reason, started appearing on TV last year right after Ed passed away (I was doing A LOT of mind numbing TV watching at that time). The movie came on recently as well, and it’s one of those that I always seem to watch as I am surfing.

I rarely play this “what if” game. Even after watching this movie, I never have thought about what a view through my own “sliding door” would look like; until last Saturday morning. I was going through my very usual morning routine, when I walked over to where Ed’s urn sits (no ashes as we scattered them ceremonially in the San Juans last August, but the urn itself is beautiful so I keep it out in view), and I looked at it as I usually do. And while I would never forget his birthday, I was acutely drawn to the engraving of the dates on his urn. Yep, his birthday is coming up, and then his death date seared in my head. And it hit me; not only is it his birthday, but it would have been his 50th birthday. And like a bolt of lightning, I had a clear view through the “sliding door”. In that split second, I saw what would have been happening had we in fact been celebrating this major milestone of a date.

Had Ed not gotten sick and not lost his batter with synovial sarcoma, the past year would have been filled with intense ribbing on how “old” he was going to be. Hell, since he turned 46 I’d been telling him he was closer to 50 than 40. His age had always been a running joke between us. When we met I was in my 20s to his 30s. Never mind I was 29 and he was turning 34; not a big age difference but back then, 20s vs. 30s was a big deal. He would have continued to refer to himself as a “cantankerous old fart” and no one would disagree. Josh would have taken immense pleasure out of the entire “giving his old-man- dad crap” year, and Jenn would have continued to do so in a sweeter way. I would have planned a huge party to celebrate surrounded by all of our friends and family that could make it. Maybe we would have even taken that trip to Italy that we always talked about but never got around to doing. The glimpse through the “sliding door” was beautiful. It was brief and it was something I have not experienced before. I was grateful to have it for that fleeting moment.

Then I looked through the current “sliding door”. The one without him. The one where birthdays stopped just shy of 49. The one where we are all moving through life without him, creating newness that we never asked for. I realize how funny it is that in this “sliding door”, 50 seems incredibly young to have lost his life, yet in the other “sliding door”, 50 would have been considered old. I look back to the fog I was in a year ago at this time and realize that perhaps I can now look through the other “sliding door” because I can handle it. I hate every moment of every day without the love of my life being here with me, but I have gained strength to withstand it. I even managed a smile as I looked through the other “sliding door”.

The view was allowed in for a moment, and it’s not something I dwell on. Life “is what it is” and what happened happened. I couldn’t change it when he was here, and I can’t change it now. I can only continue doing what I am doing; trying to figure out life without him honoring him as best I can every day.

Today, on what would have been Ed’s 50th birthday, I continue, we continue, to honor him. I try to be the person he saw me as being as he always saw me better than I saw myself. I see changes in Josh and Jenn that reflect the same; being the young adults that their dad would have been proud of. The three of us will raise a glass to him today, probably taking a look through the “sliding door”, but more likely just sharing the memories we created as a family.

I invite you all to do the same at some point today; remember my wonderful husband. Honor him in some way by looking back at your favorite memory of him. I have to think it will bring a smile to your face…which is what he’d want for each of us.

Strength, Courage, Wisdom…Faith, Love, Hope – it’s all I need to get through every day.



A Week in Review…Let’s Discuss…

This week Angelina Jolie came out with her big news about having a radical mastectomy as a preventative for breast cancer. The knowledge that she has as a carrier of the BRCA gene and her mother’s history of ovarian cancer, puts her in a higher risk category of getting breast cancer. So she took the information she had and made a personal choice to have this procedure. There has been much media coverage on this, and I have more emails in my inbox from every medical journal and newsletter to which I subscribe with articles expressing opinions on her choice both to have the procedure(s) done as well as coming out publicly to discuss it. The press cycle has died down mostly, but let’s discuss…

I had lunch with a friend this week, and I asked what she thought about Angelina’s big news. Her response, in my opinion, was right on. She said “It has people talking, which raises awareness, which is good”. I couldn’t agree more. Because if we think about it, at one time, not too long ago, breast cancer was a “rare woman’s disease”. Until people like the one’s featured in a USA Today Photo Gallery this week, as well as Nancy Brinker, sister of Susan Komen and founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and now a very public Angelina Jolie, talked about it, people didn’t discuss this “rare women’s disease”. Now it’s all we are talking about…this week.

If I put this into sarcoma terms, I think about the similarities of the situation. No one really talks about this rare disease unless you know about it personally. And if you are reading this blog post, you do know about sarcoma personally. You know Ed. You know me. And maybe you even knew Sadie. And we know sarcoma. So let’s start talking about it. It’s very easy and here’s how. In the event you are talking about Ed, myself, my kids or any Blackburn and the question about how Ed died comes up (and it will), the response can’t be “he had a rare cancer”. Talk about “it” and the “it” is sarcoma. Please don’t describe it as just another cancer because we, as a people, have become so desensitized to the evil that cancer is, we blow right past it. Who doesn’t know someone that has been impacted by cancer of some kind these days? But sarcoma, that is different. It is rare. It is unknown, but we can change that. I will change that, but I need your help, and it’s as easy as what I mention above. You’ve all asked how you can help, and here’s how. When talking about Ed’s SARCOMA type of cancer, please use the word SARCOMA. Not just cancer, not just rare cancer, but SARCOMA. And then the words “rare cancer” can follow. As can that he had one of 50 different sub-types of sarcoma called Synovial Sarcoma. And if you want a more detailed “elevator pitch” that gives more statistics about sarcoma, I can provide that, or just visit our Facebook page at Team Blackburn – Fighting Against Sarcoma. In the meantime, I’ll put my useless knowledge of pop culture out there with some other very public, yet “quiet” examples of sarcoma that I am guessing most of us have heard of, but have not even realized to discuss:

• Sarcoma seems to get glamorized in Hollywood in such movies as Flight (the scene in the “smoking stairwell”), 50/50 (a true story based in Seattle), and Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice (the mom of Cooper’s son). These are only the ones that I have seen and/or noticed, but there could be others. It is this because sarcoma is such a rare diseases that no one will remember it anyway? Let’s discuss…
• I just went to to bring up a story that I had read about not too long ago regarding a high school girl, Katelyn Norman, who had osteosarcoma aka bone cancer, and had one wish to be able to attend her senior prom. Her high school brought prom to her, at her hospital bedside where should could fulfill one of her “bucket list” items. The next day she passed away. Let’s discuss…
• On March 5, 2013, Hugo Chavez passed away from cancer, and the media coverage focused on who he was as a leader, and not the cancer he died from. The type of cancer had not been mentioned in any coverage I had seen and I found it odd. Usually, the cancer that is the culprit gets full attribution on news coverage, giving a shining spotlight that it so much wants. I became curious as to what kind of cancer Hugo Chavez caused his death. So I did a quick Bing search to see what I could find and to my surprise, the cancer plaguing Hugo Chavez had never been revealed. For whatever reason, he, his family and his spokespeople kept this a huge secret. I cannot imagine why, however, that is everyone’s individual right. Not everyone is like me and wants to scream from the rooftops to let everyone know and raise awareness for the greater good. Reading as much as I could in the news coverage, things sounded eerily familiar; pelvic tumor, chemo, radiation, surgery – the general story that one hears of most cancers, until I added a few other things; unexpected bleeding episodes, cancer returning to the surgical site, spread to the lungs, and finally, his last hours were spent in acute respiratory distress, all in the timeframe of two years. Now I am not a doctor, but I am confident in one thing. I am an expert on sarcoma and guess what – this has all the likings of it. And further reading of news articles that got past the political implications of Hugo Chavez and delved into his health and cancer had doctors speculating just as I have. His cancer shows signs of both prostate and colon; however, there are enough idiosyncrasies of both that also have medical experts pointing to the potential of his cancer being sarcoma. Again, I am no doctor, but to a degree and expert, and I am telling you, in my opinion, this is what he had. Let’s discuss…

And that’s the week in review…let’s discuss…

  • Grow Where You Are Planted….
    …is something I heard for the first time about two weeks ago. I was at Trader Joe’s picking up some groceries. As the woman in the checkout line in front of me was finishing her purchases, she was picking up her bags and looked at the young, male cashier and said “Grow where you are […]
  • What do you do for fun???
    I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last night and was asked “what are you doing for fun”? And I had to really think about that one as I’m doing a lot of “stuff” but I’m not sure how much fun any of these things are. But the overall question got me […]
  • A Reason, a Season and a Lifetime
    There is a saying that was shared with me about a year ago where someone told me that “people come into your lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”. It was interesting to me as I had never heard this before, and it was something I needed to hear in that moment. I […]
  • Sliding Doors
    There’s a movie made in the 1990s called “Sliding Doors”. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow and I think it was done before she was a big Oscar winner. In any event, the story is about a woman who has a moment in life that has the potential to change everything. She simply misses her train. The […]
  • What’s Next???
    This time last Saturday, I posted an update to Facebook letting friends know that I had officially resigned my position from Microsoft. Resign isn’t actually the right word. I had been on a personal leave of absence (LOA) first to care for Ed, and then of course to care for myself and my family after […]


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