12/25/09

Letters to Santa

Dear Santa,
Thank you for all the wonderful presents! Some people don't believe in you. But I always will. Even if my mom and dad say no, I will always believe. Have you met my Grandfather? He is a wonderful man. I really miss him. Do you have any pets besides the raindeer? I wish I could be like you.
I love you! And also Well Done!
Love,
Emma Lucken

P.S. - Oh and also "Merry Christmas and to all a good night!

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Dear Santa, thank you for all the wonderful presents! I hope you enjoy the present I gave you. Please write back soon!

(on another note) Do you mind that they add "in your underwear? Please write back soon. Siceraley Kate LUcken 23095 248-646-3309 bristle ct bingham farms

(and she left a revised list, on the bottom of which she wrote PLEASE & THANK YOU! Love, Kate Lucken)

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oh how i love my children.

12/22/09

24 years

Today is the day, 24 years ago, that we lost my Mom...and the day, 30 years ago, that we lost my Dad's brother. I normally go through this day with baited breath, hoping our family will make it through unscathed. December 22nd has been a day of worries, and sad memories, and loss.

This December 22nd, though, one less person is sad...and that makes me smile a little bit. Today instead of calling me, and calling my sisters, and remembering, and mourning his wife and brother, my Dad is hopefully with them! His cycle of sadness on December 22nd is over, and that is a nice thing.

Today, my burden of remembrance was made a little lighter too...how can it not be when the first thing my 10 year old said to me was, "We need to have fun today! It doesn't matter what we do, as long as you have fun, Mom." When I asked her why, she said, "Last night, I overheard Aunt Julie telling Uncle Tyler that today was the day your Mom died. So I want you to have a good day." I am acutely aware that my little sweethearts are my family now...and how can there not be joy in that, even on December 22nd?

12/20/09

A Letter to Dad

Dear Dad,
It feels silly to me to be writing to a dead person, and especially to be writing to a dead person to whom you never really wrote much in real life (we could always just pick up the phone). I'm feeling all bottled up, though - I need to write - and I miss you. Since I can't call you, and since I promised you as you were dying that I would keep talking to you, this seems like the best choice. So here I go.

I've gone though stages of missing you so far...but I feel like I can't take any credit for it as I've mostly been a passenger on this grief train so far. I was so angry - angry that I didn't have more time with you, angry that you didn't take any time to say or write proper goodbyes to your children or grandchildren, angry with how things sometimes were between us. I've been grateful, too, for the time that we had, and for the family that you left us. I've also been plenty sad.

I know I should be relieved that your suffering is over, and I remember feeling that way as you were dying - relieved that the suffering would soon be over. It was so crazy, watching your body shut down, and watching you slip away. I felt like my sisters, Nancy, and I were participating in the most extreme labor of all time, but at the end our reward was not a new life - or was it? I suppose you have been rewarded with a new life...but most of the time it feels like a lot of nothingness to me. We went through this crazy and magical journey together and at the end of it, you were gone. I don't think I ever understood the intense complexity of the human body until I saw how hard Nathan had to struggle to make that journey from my body to the outside world, and then again, and even more so - watching how hard it was for you to leave your body at the end.

I'll always remember what Nancy said after you died - that she wanted your tshirt (which we had cut open so that we could cool down your body - burning up from infection and fever) because "He fought a battle in this shirt." You did fight a very strong battle, and I was never so proud or inspired by you (even though you have done much to make a daughter proud) as I was at the end.

It's good to write - because I WANT to remember your stinky navy battle t-shirt instead of what I've been thinking about all day, and that is watching the funeral home workers hoist your empty, broken body into the body bag. I've been stuck on that image - my sisters and I, sitting so close together, with our brave cousin Kevin in the room with us, watching such an unpleasant scene because we knew it was the last time we would ever see you as you were. For the first few weeks I kept wanting to be back in that room, to see you again, even if it was just the broken body.

It wasn't all horrible, the laborious end...and I think you know that because I felt like you were so there - either in the body or watching from somewhere. I want to remember all of those precious moments, too - how we played your ipod, played your "recently played" playlist on shuffle, and how the most amazing songs came on, one right after the other. "The hardest part is letting go not taking part", "How can you just walk away from me, when all that I can do is watch you leave? 'Cause we've shared the laughter and the pain, and even shared the tears..." It was so supernatural...like we had our own little death playlist.

The things you said were so funny, and so cute as well...well, and before the very, very end, just as bossy as usual. "Pam, you hurt me more than you help me!" "Pam, you are TOO aggressive." (Both were true, but I was trying my best to make you comfortable and to make you understand that I insisted on helping you, also.) I will never forget how, when I spent that last night crying over your medical records, wondering why I had never demanded to see them before, wondering how things had gotten to where I thought they now were (with you dying before I had even realized that we were actually at that point), and I went into your bedroom, tears streaming down my face. "Dad, I'm so sorry - I never wanted this suffering for you!" and you said, (between horrible groans, and in that voice you had near the end when it was so hard to understand you - like you were so far inside yourself, or halfway away, and couldn't articulate), "It's ok, Pam." And me, "I love you Dad." And you, "I love you Pam."

And one of my most favorite exchanges, which I only remembered today at Mass when the congregation was praying for "those who have gone before us" - I told you to look for Mom, that she would be coming for you, and you said, "Where is she? Send her in."

Well, I hope you are together...and I hope you are with God as well. I feel like you must be, because I see signs of God's goodness and what I like to think of as your protection (though my sisters think I am crazy) in Julie and Tyler's move back to Michigan - in his good fortune with his job hunt, in their good fortune with the house hunt, in their good fortune with their safe drive and some pretty cooperative and amazing children (only 2 years old and 7 months old!). Sometimes it feels to me like things are working out so well, that it could only be a parent's love, nudging things in the right direction. I'm going to keep believing that, because it makes me feel like there is some benefit in having both parents on "the other side"...and so, thank you.

I'm sure you know, with the omniscience that death may or may not bring (but I like to think it does bring), that I'm doing fine - or at least I will be. I have faith that I won't spend all of my weeks walking around in a grey cloud, that I won't find tears rolling down my face like a crazy person every week in church. I know that you probably went through this same thing, after you lost your brother and dad, and then again after you lost your mom, and then again after you lost MY Mom/your wife. Eventually something will pop up that will spark some of the life back up in me, but until then I will just keep waiting patiently. And missing you.

Anyway, dear old Dad, thanks for the talk.

Love, your eldest daughter,
Pam

11/25/09

Giving thanks in a different way, because this is a different year

And I am a different girl.

So here we are, at Thanksgiving again...one of my Dad's favorite holidays, but he's not here.

As I think back to the person I was just a year ago at this time, and I feel like she's not here, either! I feel like I can't even relate to her. I can remember myself a year ago, being almost gleeful that I had made it though chemo, and the oophorectomy...and wanting my hair to come back in...and just being generally pleased with the idea of becoming regular again.

Today's Pam thinks last year's Pam was a little too naive, and certainly a little too focused on herself. Being regular is such a non-state, don't you think? How long does one ever exist in "regular"? I don't think I ever even got to regular before we were unregular again with my Dad's pancreatic cancer diagnosis. But beyond me...does anyone exist in "regular"? I doubt it. We all have our own challenges and hard times and good times - ups and downs.

This year's Pam sees all of that a little more. Whereas 2008 was maybe a journey of self-discovery, 2009 has taken the "self" out of that discovery a bit, which I think is a good thing. I think grief will do that for a person more than fear will - and while 2008 was more about conquering fears (such a personal thing, and puts you so in touch with your inner strengths), 2009 is more about losses and recovering from them, or grieving (which seems to also push a person in the opposite direction, like fear to strength...from grief to love.)

I can feel myself moving towards love. I have an acute feeling that I do need to embrace this life - to love life - because it can be so fleeting. Honestly, a year ago my Dad may or may not have had some abdominal upset...but would he have thought that he would be in another place 9 months later?

I also feel like I need to embrace the time I have with people, too...because people don't last forever, either. Here I lie in my house with my 3 children who are all so busy growing up and I know I shouldn't waste my time sitting around and feeling badly. Like it or not, this is my time with them before they all go off and live their own grown-up lives! Beyond that, do we know how much time any of us will get with each other before we are pulled apart? Not really...and I want to embrace the time that I have while I have it.

And then I think back to my Dad, who wasn't older than me when he had no parents left, too...and I think about how he embraced and loved his life. There is no denying that he really did that, in such a way that was really admirable. And though we might have gone in opposite directions when faced with how quick life is (he with work and accomplishing great things there, and me with my little family)...all in all we were/are exactly the same...going all-or-nothing towards something. That's a pretty cute thought.

And thanks to the help of several varied individuals (not just those I've mentioned, but also people who have sent me little messages here and there, or said little things to me in passing, and my sisters, who have gone over and over these things with me on the phone for hours upon hours - esp. Amy), I think I am coming around to the love in ALL of it. Because I loved, and love, my Dad...despite our differences and the way that our sameness was maybe hard for us (because how can two people really connect or make time to understand the other when they are going all-or-nothing for something totally opposite?). And I am thankful that I had him while I did.

And I'm starting to put away his shortcomings for good now, because he was human and flawed just like the rest of us...he just had the misfortune of being my father, and so I naturally expected him to be a semiperfect individual, which of course no one is. And I am wanting to think of our happy moments...the times on the boat together when he was so loving towards my girls, the times when he cozied up with Nathan in the chair in the living room, the time when I woke up flailing and yelling and in such confused and unbelievable pain from my mastectomy (there had been a problem with the pain meds) and he was there to hold my hand. And I remember him coming in with his work clothes from out-of-town to meet Katie for the first time, and I remember being so proud of him for the steps he had made in the 2.3 years since he had become a grandfather, begrudgingly and embarrassed, after my surprise pregnancy with Emma. He had stopped to get both girls a little teeny gift, but stopped for nothing else in his rush to get there.

And life does suck, sometimes...the losses and the pain and all the little hurts that pile up. But life is also so beautiful, too...the new little people that enter into your heart and your lives, and family in general - my uncles, my aunts, my cousins, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my two shining, wonderful sisters, and all of the precious moments that you never want to forget.

I'm thankful for it all.

11/24/09

Confession...

Tonight I went to confession! That sentence deserves an exclamation point because I have most likely not been to confession (well, reconciliation) since I was in 4TH GRADE. Or maybe sometime in high school, but still...that's a LONG TIME. But, hey! I like to surprise myself, keep things interesting, etc. and so as I was sitting there after Katie made her first reconciliation today (they do these things in 2nd grade around here these days), the thought popped into my head, and I popped into the confessional.

I was amazed. I had envisioned it being this gigantic thing, as it seemed in 4th grade, or even in high school...but it was more like a conversation with a very nice person, about something that was troubling me. I left feeling like, hey! How cool that my religion offers free therapy! I should do this more often...

And here's where this one thought keeps coming back to me, through other people. First, from Bill (but I never believe him...he's like another me around here and I always think he is too close to the situation to really understand it, or maybe blinded by his affection for his wife to be impartial): "It's not your fault". Then, from my Dad, on his deathbed, in his garbled speech, "It's ok, Pam." Then, from the naturopath, "it's not your fault - even the guilty feeling can be related to biochemistry"...and she even has a homeopathic remedy to help this guilt-situation, which I think is at the same time totally hilarious and not believable, and also totally awesome if it works! (dichotomy! ha!) And finally, from the priest, who clarified that he didn't know the situation, but that sometimes things could actually be just as they seem (not all sunny and love-filled)...which I took as another idea that maybe I am not wrong in my thoughts and feelings all the time. And then he steered me into a different way of thinking, which is exactly what the acupuncturist told me 1.5 weeks ago - she basically told me I may never totally unpack all of the garbage, but I may just decide to leave it and make and follow a new resolution for myself.

So HOW ABOUT THAT. I have collected quite a random sampling of opinions, and they are all leading me back to the same little thoughts. So freakily awesome, the interconnectedness of things, sometimes. (I mean, I know it is all talking about me...but still. I was never even discussing the same thing with each person...but they all give me the same advice.)

I know I am being cryptic here...but the main point in ALL of this, for me at least, is that I don't have to figure everything out, or work all the way through hard emotions in order to come to a better and happier place. It doesn't even matter WHAT the situation is, really - ever. There just comes a time when a person needs to say to herself, "Pam, you're a good girl. [the priest actually told me that I was a good person and needed to focus on what good I do, instead of what not- good feelings I might have]. Who really cares what is going on here, or what is at the bottom of this whole messy thing. Let's just pick up, turn our faces to the sun, and move on with spreading that sunshine to other people. And PLEASE, leave the garbage with the garbage, if it is bothering you that much."

I may just try that!

....
And now, let me just lodge a few other random complaints and observations, because all of this confessing has left me so sunshine-y and cheerful that I feel like complaining - ha ha!

How weird is it that all of these people are preparing for our Thanksgiving meal, for not very many people, and the sheer amount of things I need to prepare (less than 1/3 of the entire meal) is more than I have prepared for my family in one whole entire week? Either I need to start cooking more (yes, this is true) or people need to eat less at Thanksgiving (also true). Oh, I hate cooking.

I'm looking at my darling 15.5 year old cat, who is staring at me as she ferociously tries to get out of the cat door Bill installed on the door leading to the basement (installed a few years ago). I love that cat, but she is such a huge gigantic pain in the ass and if she PEES ON MY DAUGHTER'S BEDDING ONE MORE TIME I MAY JUST LOSE IT! I'm not entirely sure that it is Maddie, but let's just say this - Annie is gone and the occasional inappropriate elimination continues...and seems to be ramping up, actually. Yes, I do have two cats and until I can convince Bill to install a Cat-cam, I doubt I'll know for sure. And no, I don't want to take her to the veterinarian to see what is going on. (see appendix a, which outlines our thousands of dollars of vet bills over the past year and then see appendix b, which outlines the extensive research I have done both in the field and in other texts to see what can be done in this situation, and appendix c, which is also entitled "Fifty Things Pam Does A Day To Instill Domestic Harmony in Her House Between Her Pets"). Oh how I love and abuse my washer/dryer and carpet cleaner (and vacuum for that matter). I feel so young to be on my 3rd-4th generation of all of those things!

Lastly, whoa am I tired of painting. The de-brownification of the house continues, as I paint the the trim on the main level of the house. I am such a shitty painter, too. However, I don't really care. I have found a way to gain a little zen while painting (flashback to early 2007, when we had just moved into this house, and I could paint for about 4 hours before losing my *&$t and yelling at the whole family...and now I have just spent about 4 eight+ hour days in a row painting and doing other various home improvement projects - thursday, 4 hours, friday, 8 hours, saturday, 12 hours, sunday, 14 hours, monday, 10 hours): I envision myself having touched each square inch of this house, probably 2-3 times (by the time I prime and patch and paint) and I imagine myself applying love to this crazy house. So how can I hate that splash there, and that ugliness there? I was just trying to love this crazy beastly red/brown crapfest of a house! That I love so much! And how many people can say they have touched all 3000 square feet of their house, inch-by-inch? I guess some, but still...I think I should gain some sort of entrance into a secret society of home improvement dorks for all of my efforts.

I did tell Bill that we were certifiably insane when we bought this crapfest...how could we not have known exactly how much work would be required? (We did, I know...everyone did.) However, the crapfest has so much space for dreams, which is so undeniably cute of it. If I want to make a new garden, I have tons of space for it! If I want to learn how to paint trim - here you go! If I want to learn how to finish a basement - here you go, it's already so shitty that you can't mess it up any further...And my latest idea of full insanity is to transform our horrid hollow doors into something at least useful when I paint them - chalkboards or magnetic boards for the kids and their imaginations and lists (the side that faces their rooms).

OK, I was tired over 3 hours ago, so now off to bed I go. Actually, I'll do that just after I stare at my 15.5 year old through the cat door a little more and taunt her. It's my right after she gave me 4 more loads of laundry to do tonight, and a mattress to clean...

nighty-night.

11/22/09

Why 3 posts in one evening, after the lull? I've decided to return back to the basics - back to me and this little blog and my thoughts. I've felt a lot of pressure lately to only feel the right things, or to only say the right things, and especially, to only write the right things...and it hasn't felt so great. It doesn't help when I receive feedback that what I say has upset people!

However, I've worked through all of those feelings - and above all, the feeling of guilt that I always carry with me, for whatever I do, always. I don't know WHY I have such a truckload of guilt to push around everywhere - maybe some of it is circumstantial, maybe some of it is learned, and maybe some of it is just biochemical. Who knows.

I'm tired of it, though, and the other day I had a breakthrough. Yay, me!

I looked at myself in the mirror and thought of the many times I have spent wishing I was something different...or that I had a different path for this life, or different parents (for example, one that wouldn't die so early, and one that wasn't such a pain in the ass sometimes). And after weeks of complaining, and even praying, and thinking, thinking, thinking, this thought came to me - SO MUCH of this stuff was put in place before I was even born, and maybe, if I think about it, way before that. All that I can do is take what I have been given, and make something of it - hopefully, something wonderful.

I can't change the basics about the way I look just as I can't change my BRCA mutation...and with that BRCA mutation came my parents and whatever baggage they were carrying around (physical and emotional). It's possible that their issues (or, mostly, my Dad's) were so big and so inherent that he, too, could only take what he had been given and try to make something of it...just as we all do.

And suddenly, it all went away. The worry about my feelings - is it right to feel this way? Why do I feel this way? Why is my life this way? I sort of no longer care.

I also sort of no longer care what people think of me and how I am dealing with everything that has been given to me, too...which is amazing in and of itself. If you think I am wrong in what I say or what I do - well, you haven't lived my life, you haven't been there. On top of the fact that I know that I spent an inordinate amount of my energy and thought and time trying to make my father feel proud, and loved, and respected by me in his lifetime - and I know I succeeded - I do have a husband who has been with me since I was just a very young pup. It finally sunk in that I have someone who has LIVED so much of my life with me, who has loved me through even the worst of times, and who remembers all of the struggles along the way (through which he supported me, poor, poor guy). My little miseries were his miseries, too.

And as weird as this is to say, some of those little miseries should be gone now. If you can't have your father here on this earth with you, well, that does suck. But at least I shouldn't have to spend even another second worrying if I am being a good enough daughter...and why it couldn't just be easy between us, or what I did wrong, or what I should be doing that I'm not. Because hey, I'm no longer a daughter! I should be focusing my energy on my other roles now, and not beating myself up about what once was.

And wow...here's something funny (speaking about other roles!) I am a mother...and someone just called because she is having a hard time falling asleep at her friend's house, so I need to go get her! I'll finish this thought another night.

Conversations with children

Nathan, as we are getting ready to go pick up his sisters the other day: "Someone named Pam Lucken forgot to put on my socks."

What a wacko.

After painting the bay window in our kitchen, and admiring my work (over and over and over again), Me: "What do you think about this window?"

Emma: "Mom. I think I have answered this question about 20 times today already."

Katie: "This is what I think of it." Frown...turns to sudden crazy smile!

I love these crazy kids. Sometimes I can't believe I made it through all of the frustrating moments of being a mom to young children to get to this point - which is so fun and so fulfilling. So far, I would take being a mom to a 10 year old (almost), 7.5 year old, and 4 year old over any of the past ages that we have been at together!

I'm changing my middle name (again) to Sweat Equity

Where in the world have I been lately?

Well...the beautiful weather led to a bout of extreme craziness in the yard - if pulling out 300 buckthorn, hauling them to the fire, then cutting up and hauling tons of buckthorn Bill tore out of the woods, planting two strawberry patches and moving a bunch of raspberry plants, hauling at least 10 car loads of compost for the gardens, raking and mulching leaves.

And that led, of course, to me injuring my back a bit - maybe just soreness? I can never tell, but it was hard to move a lot...

And that led to a lack-of-exercise induced funk...

And after a nice appointment with my wonderful acupuncturist (who I hadn't seen since after my last chemo, but she was recommended by the wonderful naturopath), and a bit of rest for my back, I regained another incredible burst of energy...

And decided to paint all of the trim in the main level of my house in 4 days. Of course, I'm only on day 3, and getting rather sick of it...so maybe I'll stop where I am and be happy for awhile. It's hard to know, though...I've been so tired of the soul-sucking brown of this house for such a long time. (But I've been hoping to get a few big projects done before my sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, and their cat move in. Yes, and YAY, they have secured a job and are moving back to Michigan!!!!!!!!! And another yes, my house will be a bit crowded for awhile...what with the 4 adults and 5 children...but that is how we like it anyway.)

11/15/09

A common problem

Pam, complaining to her husband: I just can never get enough dirt! I could go to that free dirt* place every day, all day long, and never have enough for this yard and all the gardens.

Bill: It's a common problem among the wives of Birmingham.


*compost made by SOCCRA...it is such great stuff. But it is killing my back, dirtying my mini-van, and causing innumerable complaints among my children as they do not enjoy all of the stop-offs to fill up the dirt buckets as we run around the suburbs doing our weekly suburban mom things. And yet, I just want more and more and more...it's like my own personal crack.

11/3/09

Another one bites the dust


(My apologies to Oreo, I know that is a crude thing to say when your little guinea pig soul has reached the light...)

Yes, Mrs. Lucken again went downstairs to find another little animal soul had left this earth...this time Oreo, Emma's beloved guinea pig.

I'd like to say she was a good guinea pig, but she did sort of shred her sister Cookie Dough's ears...she was a speedy guinea pig, though, and pretty cute, and very well-loved by Emma (when she saw her - note: do not buy your 2nd grader a pet unless you are determined that YOU need a pet of your own. For me, the guinea pigs were a little bit overkill. Thinking back, I CANNOT believe that at one time I had 2 rabbits, 2 guinea pigs, 2 cats, and 1 dog. Let's keep this tangent going, though, and say that I love my husband for letting me be so crazy. I am over the small animal phase of my life, I believe...but feel lucky that I got a chance to be so off-the-wall and had so many at one time. More on this in another post.)


It was too early of a death, dearest guinea pig, and I'm sorry if I didn't take care of you well enough...but I think I did. I hope you are cavorting with your guinea pig friends in guinea pig heaven (or, if it is pet heaven, then you certainly have a lot of Lucken family up there - Frances the rabbit, Lydia the rabbit, Phineas the rabbit, and darling Nanners the cat).


Now, I'm off to finish cleaning the cage area and to dig a grave in our pet cemetary...

11/2/09

Let's post some pics!

More here!

Believe

OK, the last thing I should be doing is writing on this blog right now...I'm supposed to be helping Mr. Lucken with some work, or tending to the carpet of leaves on our lawn, or playing with the 4 year old...

BUT, if I don't take the time, will I ever get it back again?

So, let me take a minute to retell a bit of my conversation with the Naturopath...who wanted to know exactly what kind of depression I feel, or what kind of panic falls over me, because apparently homeopathy can get very specific.

I started to explain to her that I don't really have the same sort of depression or panic that I once had - that I have developed some very strong tools to deal with any sort of emotional tumult that might come up - but the explanation basically led to a 2 hour conversation about my life in general, and all of the different types of depression or panic or whatever I have felt, at different times.

I feel pretty strongly that right now I have been in pretty much a very normal state of grief...it's not the depression knocking on my door, I don't really have a whole ton of panic or anxiety...it's just that there has been a certain amount of emotion filling up my everyday life (the grief), so sometimes I get closer to depression or anxiety because I'm closer to the threshold where all of those things happen these days. I told the Naturopath that, which led to a discussion of my Dad, emotions surrounding his death, etc.

I mentioned that during my darker moments, I have had trouble believing some of the ideas I have held onto so tightly since my Mom died - that we are still connected to our loved ones, even after death, and that we can sometimes feel protection from them when we need it. Watching my Dad die, watching his body fall apart and watching what made him himself leave with absolutely no fanfare made me question all of my feelings about the spirits of the people you love after they physically leave you. It was all so crazy, so painful for him, and at the end, he was just gone - left the empty shell and there was nothing, just silence. My sister and I had each been holding a hand and feeling a pulse, until there were no more beats left. And that was that.

I knew the whole time and still know that I shouldn't have expected some bells and whistles...and there were very many beautiful moments surrounding his death which I will be so happy to share and remember for the rest of my life. The moment of his death, though, and also the lack of emotion from my Dad leading up to his death (maybe there was some anger, but it was hard to see if there was much else) - made me feel this huge emptiness set in.

So with the emptiness, and the feeling that his spirit had left, and also the pervasive feeling over the past 22 years or so that he was living his life and I was living mine, without a whole ton of emotional sharing going on between them (for whatever sad reason that happened), I began to have this (irrational?) fear that IF my mother has been the one to give me signs of her love and caring over the years, or IF it is God, or an angel or something...then maybe now that my father is joining them, the distance between myself and him will plant itself between myself and them (my mom, or God, or the angel). As if he could give me a bad recommendation in heaven.

I shared this with the Naturopath, and (maybe not knowing how far on the crazy spectrum I am with regard to angels and spirits...) she said, "You do know we aren't alone in here, right?" I said, "Well, I hope we aren't..." And then she said, "And you know, you didn't come in here with just one person...you have an army surrounding you!"

And I was like, WHAT? Just kidding. I only wanted to write that sentence. However, I that idea WAS a comforting one...like my posse had not left me, after all! The posse that helped me find keys that were lost in Metroparks, befriended me in times of sadness during the college days, and helped me find my breast cancer - still here! That would be such good news to Mrs. Lucken.

I don't require much in terms of uppers, I guess, because just a little affirmation had me feeling much better than I had felt in a long time. (Well, that on the waves of some kindnesses from friends.) I wouldn't say I was entirely back to where I started with my invisible friends, and all...

until about a day or two ago, when I received (what I would call) another little message from my invisible friends!

How else would you describe this: Cleaning my house (as usual), I glance at my old calculator, sitting on the kitchen counter. I've had the poor thing since at least high school, which is stretching farther and farther back in my memory. The poor little guy is irretrievably broken, I feel - I had it in the kitchen window trying to see if the solar panel wanted to give it one more go. It didn't; it had been at least 2 weeks of nothing.

In my cleaning mode, I was ready to say goodbye to the old thing, but as I reached toward it, I saw something on the screen. I quickly pushed the C (clear) button), trying to see if it really was working...and after my mind registered what I had seen on the screen, I really wish I hadn't cleared it so quickly:

BELIEVE

*and I didn't take a picture or anything...as I said, I cleared it immediately before the characters registered in my brain. They only registered after I cleared the calculator. But I did look to see if it was possible to see such letters on the computer, and apparently, all the letters are available (as upside down numbers) except for V. Close enough for me!

10/29/09

Update

On the Naturopath: LOVED her. I truly felt that with all the emotion I have been feeling lately, feeling guilty about what I've been eating and doing would be the LAST thing I needed to feel...and I was so sure that was what my 2 HOUR APPOINTMENT with the Naturopath would entail.

No, no, no! I couldn't have met a nicer person if I made it my mission to find one. We actually spent nearly the whole appointment talking about larger issues...and the last five minutes on the other stuff, which amazingly, was so the way to go. I found that she freed me up, by talking about my life, so that now I do have the reserves to think about other things - like my health.

And, as Bill suspected, she did not tell me I was total garbage...on the contrary, she seemed to think I was doing everything right. WHEW.

Update on Hope: Did I ever mention here that our puppy has cost us THOUSANDS of dollars? Yes, it is true. Please consider that, if you are considering getting a pet! (And yes, we did consider that beforehand...) Aside from the bee allergy and emergency medical treatment for her near-death experience, our wonderfully crazy animal had a surgery 2 weeks ago to see what was up with a GIGANTIC LUMP on her throat!

She was running around a day later. Galloping, actually.

Anyway, apparently, she may have ingested some sort of foreign body which then caused a reaction...draining of fluid, an infection, and then more fluid and a strange tissue build-up in the pocket made by the infection. The veterinarian made a 7 -inch incision! in her neck, removed tissue about the size of my clenched fist, and we are hoping it doesn't come back. YES, that's right! It could come back!

Precious was the site of D, though, when Hope came home after spending the night at the vet's office after the surgery. She was so happy to see her crazed sister.

Update on kitten: spayed today. Precious cat. Still miss my Nanners so much, but am finding Nyx to be such a nice antidote to cat-missing. She is similar, yet different - fluffy like Nan, but all black to Nan's tabby colorings. MORE affectionate, if that is possible - but she can't meow! That is a HUGE change.

I miss the crazy meowing of my darling Nanners...but she wasn't doing much of that in the end anyway.

Update on children: All truly number one. Emma is becoming a bit of a striker! instead of a defender, in her soccer career. After no goals all season (she played defense all last season) - 3 games and 3 goals last weekend.
Kates is loving swimming with her pals, and also has made up for her slow start with reading by reading everything she can get her hands on - doesn't matter how difficult it might be. Also, fiery Kate has received no fewer than 5 treasure slips for excellent behavior at school this year - and it's only October!
Nathan is loving school...missed 3 days of it due to a cold and his mother's obsession with recuperation...but can't wait to go back. Will be a Tiger for Halloween due to his obsession with the song, The Eye of the Tiger.

Update on husband: I miss the guy. He had to restart his whole implant procedure for his front tooth, making him a crabby guy...and then he caught some sort of virus. I can't wait for him to come back soon.

So now, you can see that I'm not only miserable and suffering around here. I save some of the heightened emotion for this blog...but mostly things are just good and wonderful, with some extra sadness and freaking-out thrown in for good measure. I'm coming to terms with everything, though...and feeling some spunk returning.

I knew it would...and that it would just take a little time.

And now to corral all of the individuals in my crazy household - children to dinner, crazy puppy from whatever she is barking at outside, check on anesthesia kitty...etc. etc. endlessly.

SO precious

This little girl, leaving notes behind for her Mom, Dad and Sister!

10/26/09

Dreading...the Naturopath

Going to see the Naturopath tomorrow! I'd rather dig a 6 foot hole and cover myself with the dirt I dug up...and I just might.

Oh Naturopath, I already know what you are going to say...lose those extra pounds, eat less dairy and carbohydrates, exercise more...and being who I am, I will only hear that I suck. And I'll go into some downward spiral of chocolate-eating which may never, ever end.

THE THINGS I DO FOR MY HUSBAND>>>>the exact same person who made fun of me for my vitamin-purchasing binges at Whole Foods Market when I had only about two dollar bills to rub together (one of them his), in my early twenties! You see, dear Naturopath...I used to be even better at all of these things than I am now, but something calamitous happened to stop all of that. Actually 3 such calamities, which stress me out and send me into chocolate fits, and prevent me from doing whatever I want all day long (or at least I think they do)!

Oh yes, I know mothers - don't we all?- who manage to run triathalons, and conquer the worlds of birthday parties right alongside their blossoming careers...but oh, I am not that mother! 10 years of whining and emotional tumult have gradually worn away at my steel exterior, making my exterior as lumpy as my inside always was! Oh well.

I'm just hoping that the plummeting self esteem that will be felt all over Southeastern Michigan tomorrow will somehow ressurect itself in time to try to fit in a run and a healthy dinner...sometime in the next month or so!

10/23/09

P decides to speak

Years ago, or even as recently as earlier this year, I thought it would be easier to deal with the death of a loved one if you actually had a chance to say goodbye - as opposed to arriving home from Mass to find your mother dead on the floor. The shock of something like that is just so crazy...and the guilt of a 12 year old girl who didn't kiss her mother goodbye is a pretty hard thing to handle.

I was wrong, though. Maybe I was not wrong about the goodbye part - it is good to be able to say a sort of goodbye - but I am not sure anything makes it easier to deal with the death of a loved one. I think the sadness, and the loss, and even the shock are ALL still there, even if you sort of had a clue that the death was coming, and even if there is a small window for a goodbye.

Even though my Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late January, and I spent much of February in a haze of research, and pain (2 kinds - I had a surgery of my own in January, and another in February...and then there was the emotional pain of my Dad's diagnosis ), I was still not ready for his death in August. I don't think ANY of us were. I know I was at least expecting there to be some sort of lengthy decline, some chance to spend time with him, to take care of him, and to say things people might say to each other when they are about to be separated forever.

My Dad had other plans...or maybe he just didn't know what was happening...or maybe larger things were happening over which he had little control...but my expectations were totally off. We went from a June filled with a random surgery, an infection, a Dad who was mad at me for babying him (at least a little - he didn't want to spend a minute in the hospital and so all of my efforts to make him comfortable and to help him to have a better time only bothered him), to a July where he was too busy to see me at all - even for my birthday - (though we did run into each other in our oncologist's office), to the end of July when he got word that his pancreatic cancer had metastasized...to August 5th. It was as if we were fast forwarding through his end-of-life scenes, and all of the scenes were condensed into about two.

I know my family members were all shocked by the speed of his decline - not to mention his coworkers and friends. I wasn't even sure when I made the call to my aunts that it really WAS nearing the end - I was just afraid to have his brothers miss out on it if it was, and went with a gut instinct. I even feel guilty - like how could I have surprised them like that! - but then I remember that even I had absolutely NO IDEA what was happening, so this guilt doesn't belong to me.

Then I feel guilty like I should have KNOWN...how does a daughter have no idea that her Dad might be dying in less than a month? And I need to remind myself that I wasn't even given access into his life for that month, really. He was running, running, running...doing things that I thought were so absolutely and totally stupid - croquet club, and his dumb cottage, and travel for his f$*&ing job, and never paying really good attention to his situation, and refusing to let me be the one to pay attention to it. He refused to let me go to chemo with him. He was a total snot when I tried to help him when he was in the hospital from his ridiculous surgery. He couldn't be in town for even my own birthday, his stupid social life was so important to him (while the rest of us had to change all of our plans around for his birthday, every year).

OR was it? I think of what I read in the book hospice gave us (really, gave my Dad and Nancy...I only had a chance to sneak a glance). There was a distinct part in it which noted that the dying tend to withdraw from the world 2-3 months before death. So maybe it wasn't his fault, or my fault, that I wasn't able to be around him, and to take care of him more. Maybe it was just the way it was meant to be.

But HOW could that be the way it was supposed to be? No one wants to watch her father starve to death...which is what essentially happened. The problem is, I had really no choice. I was given no access to the situation when there was something I could do, and then when I tried to help, I was also pushed away, and then it was too late. My sisters and I were on the phone for days and days in June and July, trying to figure out what was going on...but we had no real access, and so it took all of us by surprise.

Worse than all of these things, to me, is the question that remains to me. Did this take my Dad by surprise, too? If so, how horrible! How horrible to not be able to say all of the things that you might want to say, before you leave your family! And if not, if this wasn't such a big surprise - then HOW HORRIBLE! How horrible that he had nothing that he wanted to say to us!

And I feel guilty either way - either I should have forced access, so that I could have figured out what was going on and TOLD him, and MADE him talk to me (I should not have taken my cues from him, I should have forced my own way) OR, I feel guilty that I was not the type of daughter that deserved a goodbye.

And so, if it was at all possible, I'm left feeling JUST AS BAD from the death of my father as I was from the death of my mother. Can that just mean that death is horrible, all the way around, or can it be that there is a better way to do it?

All I can say is this: I WILL NOT leave my family without some sort of knowledge about how much they meant to me...my children AS WELL AS MY HUSBAND. If I have even a slight warning that the reaper is coming my way, I'm going to shower them with my memories, notes of my love, and wishes for their future. If my sibling asks, "Is there anything you want us to say to your children?" I won't say, "The Lord will take care of me"...I will say, "Tell them I loved them, and will love them, endlessly. And the pile of notes I wrote to them is in this storage facility...because I didn't have enough room in my house for the thoughts I wanted to share with them."

I do hope that my Dad finished things how he wanted to finish them...and I know that we made his last moments as special as we could. It is just a little heartbreaking when you feel such unreciprocated feelings...and when the conversation is unequivocably over between a daughter and her father, before it was ever even started.

A conversation with myself

P: Oh, Mrs. Lucken, you should really spend more time on here. You could use the therapy!

Mrs. Lucken: I know, I know...but I'm really tired of being that sad person complaining about things all the time, or the mom who has something cute she wants to remember her Cub saying, or the breast cancer survivor. Plus, time is so precious these days, and I feel like if I waste any of it, I'm sad for having wasted it. I actually have a sheet of paper in my kitchen where I am keeping track of how I am wasting my time, so that I don't make the same mistake the next day!

P: I hear ya. However, it isn't like you are going to see a therapist soon...and your husband has little patience for the tears. So start writing.

Mrs. Lucken: Hey, hey! He's a good guy! He just wants me to be better, and has a very low tolerance for depressive episodes before he starts freaking out.

P: Well, whatever. You have some grieving to do, so get to it. You can become rah-rah Pam again sometime soon, but you've got to be sad Pam first. You have a right to it, you know.

Mrs. Lucken: Well, how about YOU write? I'm the one who has kids and pets and a husband to worry about. If you want to be all self-actualized and delve into your grief, you go right ahead!

P: FINE then. I think I will.

10/19/09

Uh, Mom...

Me, yelling at Hope, after she jumped on the stove to eat brownies from the pan: HOPE!! Get DOWN! Stop acting like an animal!

Nathan: Uh, Mom...Puppies are animals...

10/15/09

Cozy Bear

After an exhausting round of MarioKart, Nathan sprawled himself out on the floor.

"Can somebody snuggle up with me?"

Well, I guess since there is no one else home, I'll do it.... :)

10/13/09

Another funny forwarded email...and by the way, I'm not having problems with my upgrade...

INSTALLING A HUSBAND

Dear Tech Support
,

Last year I upgraded from
Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1..0 and noticed a distinct slow down in overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewelry applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

In addition,
Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5, and then installed undesirable programs such as NBA 5.0, NFL 3.0 and Golf Clubs 4.1.

Conversation 8.0
no longer runs, and Housecleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system.

Please note that I have tried running
Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.

What can I do?

Signed,


Desperate.

--------------------------------------------------

DEAR DESPERATE
,

First, keep in mind,

Boyfriend 5.0
is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an operating system.

Please enter command:
ithoughtyoulovedme.html, try to download Tears 6.2, and do not forget to install the Guilt 3.0update. If those applications work as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5.

However, remember, overuse of the above application can cause
Husband 1.0 to default to
Grumpy Silence 2.5
, Happy Hour 7.0, or Beer 6.1.

Please note that
Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will download the FartingandSnoringLoudlyBeta.

In addition, please do not attempt to reinstall the
Boyfriend 5.0-program. This is an unsupported application and will crash Husband 1.0.

In summary,
Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly.. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend Cooking 3.0 and Hot Lingerie 7.7.

Good Luck ,

Tech Support

10/8/09

Why you should not have 6 pets, if you are going to have 3 children...

Once you are finally sleeping through the night with children, DO NOT go out and add to your aging pet family with puppies and kittens. Learn from my mistakes! (Just kidding, we love the kitten and the puppy...they are just SO. MUCH. WORK.)

Last night was a perfect picture of how I have made my life more complicated...by having 3 children and 6 pets...

10:30pm - We are finally all in bed after Grandma Nancy's birthday party, and the excitement of having Grandma Nancy spend the night.

11:00pm - Nathan is still awake, after a little catnap at the party. Madeline doesn't help issues by coming onto the bed for her nightly affection.

11:45pm - Mom is finally asleep...after taking out the garbage, the kitty litter, the recycling, taking all the pets out, etc.

12:30am - wakeup #1: kitten. Nyx (Greek goddess of night...I guess it was a good name?) wants to play!

1:30am - wakeup #2: Nyx knocks waterbottle off nightstand, onto Dagny. Stainless steel waterbottle. Loud and now I'm worried about my old girl.

1:47am - Hope is barking in her cage. As she has an infection and has been vomiting her antibiotics, I'm worried about her and let her outside. She takes long enough to come back in that I have time to clean the kitchen.

4:00am (estimated, so tired by now) - another escapade by Hope. This time I do laundry.

5:10am - UH OH, I'm all wet. I guess I forgot to put a Pull Up on Nathan last night! We wake up, change his clothes, change my clothes, change as much of the bed as I can (Bill is out of town and all the kids have come into the room to sleep, as is customary when they miss their Dad).

7:00am - UP AND AT 'EM! Time to start the off to school rush!

10/5/09

What did I do today?

Tonight I was talking aloud, as I nearly always do...to myself or to anyone who might be listening. I was wondering WHAT I had done with my day, because each day starts with high hopes and then it seems at the end like I have accomplished very little.

This time, two of my children were listening, and luckily their opinion of me is higher than my own opinion...while I felt like I did nothing, here is what Emma said:

"Well, you helped someone with breast cancer, so you did a good deed...

you saved energy by driving the carpool...

and you made sure your children were well-educated, and well-prepared for the day."

Nathan then added his two cents:

"And at least you and Daddy were beautiful."

WOW. I was going to say, "I did 6 loads of laundry, cooked dinner, and returned the cans and bottles to the store..." but it sounds much better the way YOU say it, kids!

I feel so blessed with these darlings...and I guess it is OK if I'm not out conquering the world on any particular day, if I can have this love at the end of it!

10/3/09

Before I do, though...


Here is the picture. I know when I go to read people's blogs, I am always scouring them for pictures that show what things LOOK like...it's the pictures into the lives that I appreciate. And so here's a picture into my life and my sadness. This is at Natalie's birthday party, just three days before I lost my Dad.
Also, if you still have a Dad...sit next to him, for me. I wish so much that I could still do that, even if it was only to be near him in his suffering. (And I know that is selfish...it is better for his suffering to be over.)

Autumn

I thought I was sad about October - the girls fully established in school, the weather (cold mornings, warmer afternoons, cold evenings, rain, 4 changes in clothing/day for me) and the end of the garden. Those things are sad...and sadder still is that in two days I will have lived 2 months of my life without my Dad.

I hate the way time stretches you away from loved ones...I can feel it stretch and I notice the days as they fill in, putting more days between today and the day when I last had him on this earth. I resisted this passage of time so strongly at first. In the first days I made a calendar of every single thing I did the month before my Dad died, and everything he did - trying to figure out how all this had happened so fast, and how we could have spent any of those days apart.

And it was sad, looking at those days, but that was how it was (how it is) - you live your own lives, and the days just pass. We weren't in the habit of seeing my Dad very much - he loved his job and he also wasn't the kind of person who loved hanging around soccer fields or swim meets or homework tables. And I was/am...in trying to make up for my lack of some of those things in my childhood I embrace the boring moments with my kids (most of the time). I at least want to BE THERE for everything...even if it isn't always totally thrilling for me.

So now, in my effort to always be there, more days are passing...from the last days of being with my dad, from summer and my time with the warm weather, from my garden in 2009. Nathan has had his first two school playdates, the puppy is full-grown, we've had a new kitten for a couple of weeks, new school pictures go up on the wall.

So I'm conflicted. I still feel those twinges of pain - when downloading pictures from my camera, I still can't erase the pictures of my Dad sitting on our couch at my niece's birthday party. He couldn't stand up to sing for her, or eat cake, but he sang from the couch. When I look at my playful new kitten I think she is so cute, but I still don't see any way she'll ever mean as much to me as Nan...and I want to look at pictures and think about those moments with the individuals who either formed my life, or brought so much companionship to my life. Time is stretching though...and I need to start living again too.

I guess I can't be all that sad about October, then. The time is going to keep stretching me away from my parent (and my pet), just as it did before. There's no going back to change that. The only thing that I can do is to make all of these days really worth something to me. If they are going to keep marching on, and I am going to keep noticing them, I want to notice them for the good, and not for just the passage of time.

So, Autumn, let's see what you have to offer.

9/24/09

Swine Flu paranoia

One of my dear friends passed this photo on to me in an email, and I could not help but share!

9/23/09

All the angels are covening in heaven...

It must just be the time for a new influx of angels in heaven...Cari, a woman I corresponded with after my diagnosis, joined them last night.

Two nights ago, I was back reading some blogs I have followed (and not kept up with as well, of late) and discovered that another woman I've been reading about and praying for, Susan, made her way up to heaven...5 minutes before my dad.

I suddenly feel much, much less sorry for myself as I imagine those bedsides - each of them were mothers with young children...and each of them had an even longer battle with death than my father did. No one wants to see that kind of suffering, and our society doesn't prepare us very well for what dying actually looks like. But if I am still a little shocked by my own father's last days - me at 36 years old, and his dying process having been rather quick, for a cancer death - all I will do is pray, and pray, and pray for the 7 dear children who watched their mothers slip away from them over months and years. I hope you will, too.

I know that each of their families and friends have done huge things to further the fight against cancer, but I also promise that I won't forget them, or their children, as I move forward. Everyone deserves a lifetime.

And to the angels, thank you for your inspiration. You've reminded me how hard a woman fights to be with the people that you love more than anything in the world. (Sometimes in one's sadness, she might lose a little bit of her survivor's touch...and you both gave it back to me.)

9/22/09

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about life, and about how close life is to death, and about what is most important to accomplish while I am on this side of death (the living side).

A bit morose, I know. A bit high-minded, I know. Also, it's not very easy to complete these morose and high-minded thoughts when you are in almost constant companionship with a 4 year old (soon-to-be), or helping at his sister's schools, or monitoring various pet situations (as all of my various elderly and bright and sunshiney baby pets get to know each other).

Anyway, I have come up with the following thoughts. I have much more thinking to do, by the way.

  1. It's time to get rid of my stuff. There's not nearly enough time in the day, week, month, year, or LIFETIME to use the amount of stuff I have accumulated. Back when I was hopeful and enthusiastic I could see the potential in so much of this stuff - "oh, I could use that someday!" "Oh, wouldn't it be fun to sit down and read this book again someday?" Well, now I'm mostly just picking up and putting away that stuff, along with my dad's stuff, and my mom's stuff, and my kids' stuff from all of the various stages of their short lives. I don't want to be doing that. So now, whenever I encounter something more than twice with distaste, I am going to send it on it's way in the river of life. (give it to someone else)
  2. It's time to be more adventurous, once I have gotten rid of my stuff. Yes, it is adventurous to have a mini-zoo, as I do...and yes, I feel like I have no time to be adventurous as I am so involved in this motherhood of mine. However, lately I have been feeling extremely old and washed up...and so I guess I need to switch things up a bit. More on this later.
I have 10 bags/boxes of things to get out on my front porch for the veterans to pick up in the morning...and I'm not done tonight! I'm making good progress today on thought 1 of the night, though.

9/21/09

Misery

This is so sad. (Read the caption under the picture.)

So is this. (Read what Emma wrote.)

If you would like to do something to help, please consider donating. We have lots of family members walking...you can have your choice of places to donate.

prayers

I'm praying for either more time in the day, or more patience to let some tasks slide without getting panicky (I don't like a cluttered house, and mine always is, and I don't have much time to do anything about it lately), or more guidance to let me prioritize what needs to be done.

I'm praying for more patience with my lonely little 4 year old. (Luckily he doesn't know I'm impatient.) I really hate the noise from the tv, or Mario Kart, or the Smart Cycle, and listening to it makes me crazy, and turning it on makes me impatient. I have so much stuff to do it feels like it is the best choice for him sometimes, though. Maybe I should pray that he would be so tired he would nap? :)

I keep trying to remind myself that these children won't be little long...but it is such a struggle some days to feel like I am doing a good enough job with them and still staying sane!

9/19/09

Determination, and thankfulness

Today I am determined...and thankful...and determined to be thankful, and thankful to be determined.

Here's why:
I'm determined to make it through this tough period in our lives healthier, and happier than I ever was before. It's been a rocky road, but as I told Bill the other day when he was wishing things would just stop being so hard, with all of the hard stuff that has been going on I am still happier than I was for almost the entire decade of the 1990s.

It's rough, living with depression, and not knowing how to make the grey cloud go away...and that was me for nearly that whole decade (with the exception of the time when I was rowing - producing endorphins). Emma was born at the end of 1999, and that is when I finally realized I needed help and started the road to a happier Pam.

So, darling friends, even if I get a bit morose on here, don't ever think I am really all that bad-off. I have tools to deal with my clouds, and I know how to use them.

As a matter of fact, it's the fact that I have these tools and I'm so eager to use them that led me to get worried about Emma. She's actually doing better than I may have led people to believe, but I'm not willing to see her suffer alone from the things I did, alone (well, with Bill and any other people who were that close to me during the 1990s. None of us really knew what we were dealing with, though).

I'm thankful Emma is doing so well with her transition to school this year. She has a lovely group of friends - considerate, playful, and youthful girls - and according to Emma, they are all playing well together and being kind to not only one another, but to all the other lonely souls in school. I can't help thinking of all of the lessons I've been determined to teach her (not that this is all my doing. In her heart of hearts she is the most naturally empathetic of all of my children.) - to look for the good in people and to look for opportunities to spread sunshine.

I am thankful that Miss Emma stuck it out and learned some lessons from how she was treated by girls who were maybe not-as-empathetic last year. I'm thankful that we chose to switch her schools last year, because I feel like this being-a-4th-grader in a 3/4 classroom has been very good for her this year at an otherwise hard time in her life. She is loving school, and school and her friends are giving her confidence and helping keep her mind off of her other worries. If any of her friends' moms ever read this - thank you for raising kind daughters!

I'm also thankful for other smaller things - my Irish Setter puppy (who is an almost constant source of joy for me these days), my two beautiful older pets who are still going strong (15 year anniversary of adopting Maddie yesterday!!! and both D and Maddie had good, but expensive, annual vet checks yesterday), and my little kitten, who is sweet. I'm thankful for this laptop...and for actually using my brain for once to figure out that I can USE IT IN THE GARDEN. (And I'm thankful for the bigger things as well - my husband, my kids, my sisters and their families....ALL of my extended family members.

I am determined to be thankful for all of these things, big and little, when I start to feel the loss of other things in my life - my father, my youth, and my brain! This back-to-school season has horrified me with my lack of mental clarity. I feel like something is missing...and that leads to:

I am thankful to be determined, because that is the only way I am going to regain some of my lost mental acumen. I'm going to have to be determined to fit in "sharpening Pam's brain" into our crazy daily, weekly, monthly routine!

9/15/09

My multi-pronged approach

To helping my darling daughter (esp. Emma, who seems to be manifesting more symptoms of grieving my father, and who seems more anxious in general):
  1. Have her keep a journal to write down her fears at night when she can't fall asleep (thanks to some good advice...didn't think of this on my own...)
  2. Starting family catechism this fall - maybe the extra time carved out, as a family, learning about God and spirituality will help grow her big picture and teach her about the loving God caring for each of us...
  3. Kitten...got her tonight (worried my husband regrets telling me yes, but it is a done deal. I know I will love her, but will he? Don't know.) Need to show darling daughters and son that there is room for more love...and the cycle of life.
  4. Testing out therapists and looking for the right one...meeting with them myself until I find the right fit!
  5. Considering Gilda's Club, where she might not feel like the only child who is living her life in cancer world.
I am open to other suggestions...do you have any?

9/14/09

Away from the Bell Jar and into...

I have some very, very, very funny and wonderful friends...that is one thing you can say about cancer world - it can connect you in special ways with great people. So thank you, to the girls who understand WHY I can get so morose, and then can help me get out of it! (Missy, Lori, and Laura.)

I would say that I am NOT on top of the world right now...but I am not writing dark poetry, either. I am worried about my little ones, and all of the losses that they have had, big and smaller. I feel absolutely and completely to blame for all of their struggles - my stupid gene, my old pets, my Dad dying, and even my mood disorder (which I am worried about them inheriting!) - all my fault.

I DID do something right, though, for myself and for them...I married their father!

And what a guy. (What a poor guy. I'm to blame for all of those same struggles for HIM, and even more.)

So what is Mr. Fantastic doing for his wife and children NOW?

Despite the vet bills and cremation charges for Nanners, and despite the vet bills for bee-allergic and expensive Hope...he is letting me charge on with my second generation of pets. The crazy pet lady lives on!!!!

She is getting a kitten. We all are getting a kitten.

So we are all about to experience, again, the joy of new life in our family - a fresh little baby (like our crazy girl Hope, who is fast becoming one of my MOST favorite crazy decisions we ever made). It is so exciting for me, so fitting for the memory of my darling cast-off kitty Nanners (cast-off before me, because I certainly treasured that little being from the minute I saw her) that I make room for someone else to enter into our house and hearts. I also think it will be exciting for the kids (for a moment, until they are annoyed, because I definitely know that none of these people are crazy pet people to the extent that I am) to see the positive part of loving...that you can love your departed dear ones, and yet still make room for new loved ones in your heart.

And yes, I know that it is absolutely INSANE of me to do this. I know I will be partially driven crazy...I know that Hope was JUST becoming a good puppy and now I am just stirring the pot again.

But that is what I do best!

And just like when we brought home Hope, I'm at a time in my life when I could use the excitement of doing something crazy. Again, I could use the new life around the house (esp. since with bee-allergic Hope, I feel like I can barely count on her to hang around for the next 12 years or so. It remains to be seen if we can absolutely control what happens with her, though I am trying, double-time.)

AND, it means a lot to me to say right now, "I am taking on the responsibility of caring for this creature for the next 15+ years"...because to say that, it means I believe I can be here 15 years from now...that despite my gene, and despite seeing the way cancer just ravaged my father, I am going to keep living just the way I want to live. No fear, no looking back, just doing what I want to do, and finding a way to make it all work. No worrying about what other people might think, embracing the kindness and generosity of the man who married me...and experiencing another adventure with my little family.

Life with our new fluffy black kitten. Name tbd, arrival into our home: tomorrow night, hopefully.

9/9/09

Grey cloud squaring off against silver linings

A woman can't always see the silver linings, all the time...even me. I've been on the treadmill longer than is rational for the past two days, and I still can't find them, and that scares me. I guess I should go down to the erg, but then I couldn't type and sweat at the same time.

The thing is, I'm not sure it is time for me to be finding something good about my Dad dying...and I take severe offense at any well-meaning citizen who tells me THINGS WILL GET BETTER. For anyone who is interested in spouting such language off at me, I'd like to just say, "HEY, I am the QUEEN of waiting for things to get better, and then guess what happens next? My cat gets cancer, my Dad gets cancer, my Dad dies, my cat dies, and then my brand new dog who is JUST STARTING to become a useful member of the family is nearly minutes away from death by anaphylactic shock. (Bee sting, yes it's rare...just like the BRCA mutation, just like a cat getting breast cancer, I seem to specialize in rare bad things these days). You try to handle these things - this momlessness, this breast cancer, this living with the gene, and then take these extra things, and THEN TELL ME THINGS ARE GOING TO GET BETTER."

I guess that's a little harsh of me, but my friends, Mrs. Lucken is depressed. No, I'm not suicidal, thank goodness...but I do feel that grey cloud settling in around me and I am practically welcoming it like an old friend. Hello, I've seen you before. Weren't you my best friend in the 1990s? Didn't I spend the first part of the 2000's figuring out how to make you leave? And why aren't my old tricks making you disappear again?

Oh, that's right, I'll never see my Dad again.

Oh, that's right, 5 weeks ago at this very moment I was keening in the stairway of his house as his lifeless body waited for the undertaker to hoist it up and into the black bag. While I watched, and took every moment of being in that body's presence because I knew that was all I was going to get for the rest of my life.

And all of the talks I was hoping for? All of the memories I was wishing he would share with me, sometime, once he slowed down a little bit, all of those moments together I was hoping he would want someday? They were hoisted up and shoved in the bag too.

So I guess this is where I become all Sylvia Plath-like, and lose all of the friends who thought I was so amazing and so full of vitality and positive energy.

I'm sorry. I just have a need for this grey cloud right now. I don't feel like being normal, or looking for the good silver stuff. It's not particularly normal to be very happy when your Dad (and your Mom in a way, as all of those memories are gone too) is now not of this earth.

If a woman only has a very extremely limited supply of sunshine and rainbows, she has to ration them...and I have three young ones who are in need of that sunshine and those rainbows as they process their own loss. So Sylvia, you stick to your blog...and Sunshine, time to get off the treadmill and make some lunches with smiley-faced notes for your progeny.

And maybe try for the erg tomorrow. It's better at finding silver linings.

9/4/09

Cubby Bear, the soccer player

Nathan Riley Lucken is very excited to begin his soccer career this fall...SO excited that he has been carrying around his schedule and team roster very possessively! I had to make a copy of the schedule, which I kept as the original is soiled and crinkled from all that love.

I have absolutely NO idea how Mr. William Lucken is ever going to manage being the manager of Emma's team, and coaching both Katie's team and Nathan's team...but that's not my problem, right? OH WAIT...it IS my problem, because 1) I am the one who suggested he coach, and 2) I am the one who always ends up as the default assistant coach when Mr. Lucken is stuck coaching the more exciting team (or managing it). This year, I get to have TWO default teams!

SO...if you are ever trying to find the Lucken family on weekends this fall, just drive around to one of the (many) local soccer fields. Chances are, we'll be there, at least some faction of us.

9/2/09

a song

I was talking with my sister tonight, and one thing that we spoke about was something that has struck me a few times over the past few years (and is striking her now): how close being dead is to being alive. It is actually amazing that we are all even here, considering how many things have to go right for that to happen.

Later this evening, I was listening to some music during "exercise at 8", and this song came on. It was one of my favorites when I was struggling with the idea that I had developed breast cancer so young, and it helped me tonight as I thought of my Dad. It reminds me that we're all "only dancing on this earth for a short while"...and it's what we do while we are here that makes the difference.

oh very young what will you leave us this time
you're only dancing on this earth for a short while
and though your dreams may toss and turn you now
they will vanish away
like your daddy's best jeans - denim blue
faded up to the sky
and though you want them to last forever you know they never will
(you know they never will)
and the patches make the goodbye harder still

oh very young what will you leave us this time
there'll never be a better chance to change your mind
and if you want this world to see your better days
will you carry the words of a love with you
will you ride the great white bird into heaven
and though you want to last forever you know you never will
(you know you never will)
and the goodbye makes the journey harder still



*(I copied these lyrics from a website...and checked several others. None of them had the same lyrics and some of them were so clearly wrong and idiotic, so I just changed them to what I sing when I sing along with Cat Stevens...so maybe this is just my version of Oh Very Young by Cat Stevens!)

Cute pictures of a sad time

My sister Julie's visit to Michigan...you will see we squeezed in some smiles and fun in the middle of some very hard things.

I'm so looking forward to the next sister visit in a few weeks! We are walking in the Purple Stride walk for Pancreatic Cancer at the Detroit Zoo...and it costs nothing to sign up (and there is no fundraising requirement...though they are hoping walkers will raise some money.) Why don't you join Team Carroll and walk with us?

Mrs. Lucken's new thing...

is exercise time for herself, every day, starting at 8pm.

So far I've done it twice. BUT it's fun! Here are my rules:

I have none. I just do something, anything, and then try something else. I figure eventually I'll get good at something.

Yesterday I ran for a little bit, with 2 girls on bikes, and a dog on a leash, and a dog who followed me (my own, slow dog, who believes she is above staying home and leashes). Well, being a complete idiot, I went to our favorite nearby off-leash location (totally unsanctioned by all people who might even consider sanctioning this activity), took my 1-year old Irish Setter off the leash, AT DUSK, and promptly watched my bird dog LOSE HER MIND and herself. My girls were climbing trees and my 12 year old pooch was meandering around who knows where.

As you can imagine, not much running happened after that.

Well, my two girls rode their bikes home in the pitch black, my 12 year old pooch became leashed (with the empty leash from Hope, the lost Irish Setter), and I began walking home, calling said lost dog. Through the grace of God and all other things that are good and forgiving in this Universe, Lost Dog had had her fill of running around the condos which are 1/2 mile from my home, and scaring up every single rabbit and bird that she could find. Thankfully, all the elderly people who inhabit those condos had long since been in bed and no cars were out to smush my Irish Setter to pieces during her adventures. Lost Dog came to me, was leashed, and I even leashed the Good Old Dog (with my iPod headphones. She obviously didn't really need a leash... it was more a symbolic leash at this point) and returned home.

I figure our emotions got quite a bit of exercise during that span of time, if nothing else.

Then I came home and did a smattering of other things which might be loosely categorized as exercise, followed by my yoga DVD (which soothed my emotions).

Today my 8pm exercise session was much less eventful...and that is a good thing.

8/29/09

A little 3-day help?

My husband's darling cousin (so my cousin-in-law!) is walking the Seattle Breast Cancer 3-day in September....with our Aunt Joann.

They are two wonderful people...one of the many reasons I was lucky to marry Bill (great family members)!

If you are, by chance, looking for a great cause...donate to Julie's walk! And let me know if you did so that I can thank you! And THANK YOU ALREADY to Aunt Barbara and Uncle Richard, and our darling friend Kathy Westerlund, who donated to Julie's walk after I posted the need on facebook.

8/28/09

A mini-retraction, followed by a mini-update

I always do this - blurt things out and THEN refine them in my mind, and hopefully, in the way I live. I should get over regretting the original blurt...especially on here. As this blog is so useful for cheap therapy, I'm bound to blurt, think, and refine.

And so the refinishing: I do still hate "cancer-free!"...but more when non-cancer people say it. If a person is a Survivor, she or he can still say whatever she or he wants. I may even be impressed that the Survivor can say "cancer-free!" (with the exclamation point). There is something awesome about putting aside all of the possibilities and going for pure hope.

Also in my mini-retraction, I should also write here that I DO like to get a rise out of myself and out of people, so I like to put the most miserable moments on the blog. One should never think that I am mostly in those miserable moments, though...not Pam Lucken! I like to visit them, touch them, make them hurt, and then go do something mindlessly fun and amusing like play Farmville for hours. So the amount of time I spend ruminating is less than one would think if they read my blog and didn't see the other (useless and amusing) ways I spend my time.

HOWEVER...I must still be sad and upset because daily I am looking for things to get rid of (donate, throw out, or just not buy). In addition, I CANNOT BRING MYSELF TO PLAN NEW GARDENS. That is shocking. It's a good thing I started 2 big new gardens this year already, and expanded one in a dramatic manner, and added significantly to three others. I can take a grief-inspired break and still have accomplished a lot in 2009, at least in the garden (though I do understand it matters to the world about as much as my playing around on Farmville...but this suburban housewife likes to feel like she has at least learned or transformed something in this year, aside from raising 3 children incrementally more).

Anyway, after a few weeks of craziness, it seems the Lucken family is hunkering down for some family time a bit. We had my Dad's crazed and fast demise, the funeral, the death of a kitty, the 3-day, then some cottage/extended family time, then a visit to my sister's in Evanston...and here tonight we are all back in the same room again. Dad and his Cub on the couch watching the Tigers, the girls lying around taking turns talking to themselves (usually Emma) and playing Webkinz (mostly Katie), and Mom walking on the treadmill and playing around on the computer. It's really nice to just be together and be relaxing for once. (And fitting in all the screen time we should have in one week in one evening!)

8/24/09

Gripe of the Day: "CANCER FREE!!!"

Here is my gripe of the day: I hate when people say "She is cancer-free!" (I've been surfing the 3-day pages too much.)

Let me start out with saying that yes, I was lucky to find my breast cancer early. My oncologist (and my husband) truly believe that I have been "cured." Furthermore, I AM proud to be a breast cancer survivor. However, I want to cringe whenever anyone says "she's cancer-free!" I don't believe in that statement AT ALL...not for me, and not for anyone else for that matter.

NO, I don't think I am having a recurrence of my breast cancer. I'm not experiencing any crazy symptoms. BUT, I will probably never feel "cancer-free" ever again - not after having given away my body parts, having watched the image of my youth shatter in front of my face, and most especially, having watched cancer take two of my loved ones from me this month. Cancer will always be a part of my life - every time I try to fill two cat bowls instead of one, and every time I think to forward an email to my family and realize there is no one at jcarroll@detroitchamber.com.

I am most in awe (and not in a good way) of people who can feel "cancer-free" after having had cancer in the first place. Here we all were, living our good little lives, and cancer came around anyway. So now, knowing that cancer can come and steal a little part of your world when you are doing everything "right", how can you go back to ever feeling "cancer-free!", especially after your bubble has been burst the first time? Didn't you learn anything the first time around? We aren't immune!

Well, my bubble has been popped for me. The preliminary pop occurred all throughout 2008...when I realized what I would have to give up, and then when I realized that I was going to have to live my life despite the idea that stupid cancer could pop back up, somewhere else, someday... and being a BRCA mutant, I feel even more at risk. This year really finished off the idea of bubbles for me entirely as I watched the life being sucked out of my loved ones.

So what do I think people should say? (Because if you haven't figured this out yet, I am totally opposed to the term "She's cancer-free!") I think I have settled upon the term Survivor. And yes, I hated that term, too, because I thought, "How do you ever really survive cancer? Doesn't it come back for you someday?"

Well, THIS is how you SURVIVE cancer. You wake up, and you decide to live your life, despite the diagnosis. And then, you wake up, and you decide to find something good in your day, despite the pain of cancer treatment, despite the nausea, despite the fear in front of you. And then, you decide to do whatever you can to help other people SURVIVE cancer...you try to show them It isn't that bad. You can still be happy, and crazy, and life a full life, even if you are bald, even if you have only one fake boob for awhile, even if cancer is threatening and taking other people in your family from you. And you take your steps against the disease - you ask people to help you raise money, and to help you make a scene of pink for 3 days in the summer, because even though you know that YOU can survive cancer, you also know that there is a scared woman (and her family) out there somewhere who needs that money, and who needs that sea of pink. All of those things make you qualified to say you are a Survivor.

I take being a Survivor seriously...not because I have survived into being "cancer free!", but because I have survived looking at my mortality and not going crazy. I have faced cancer, realized what it cost me, what it may do to me in the future, and what it most certainly has done to my loved ones, and I am sure that I will still live to be a (basically) happy, vibrant woman.

But don't ever put an exclamation point (or several, like it's a party), after the words "cancer-free". And don't expect me to do that, either. And I will tell you why, another day...when I feel like telling you what it looks like to see your darling cat's tumors grow and bleed all over your bed and make her cough and stop purring. And you can hope that I won't tell you what it was like to hold my Dad's hand for his last 10 hours of life, until it was cold and he took his last breath.

After that, you'd never be cancer-free!!!!! either.

8/21/09

Why does she write so much about the 3-day?

Let me just start by saying that I do not think about the Breast Cancer 3-day all the time. I actually think about it only just a little (despite all of my facebook status updates and my blog postings which seem to point otherwise)...my thoughts wander much more often to all of the sad things in my life these days. However, I do feel like I have a very serious responsibility to share my 3-day experience with all of my many wonderful donors, previous donors, and friends-who-might-someday-walk-with-me-and-share-this-wonderful-experience-or-at-least-donate-next-year. And thus, the updates everywhere.

So let's continue with all of these 3-day musings (which are more fun to think about than other things, very honestly)...I'll do it in Q and A format. I'll be asking the Q's and answering the A's.

Q1; What is your favorite thing about the 3-day?
A: This year, last year, or the year before?
Q1, continued: All of them.
A, continued: Well, the first year, I was very inspired by all of the kindness I saw. It seemed so wonderful that all of these people were taking such big steps to do things for other people - and not only the walkers and the crew, but the other volunteers who just show up, and even the people at the cheering stations!
I also can't stress enough how great it is to take 3 days out of your regular life...and when my children were a little younger, that was a huge benefit for me! I wouldn't have taken 3 days out for anything else.

Last year, I was inspired by my friends. I was thankful for those who walked with me...they gave me strength to do the whole thing bald, with one breast, and just after chemo. They gave me the strength to train when I felt like total yuck. Spending 3 days with people who would laugh with bald me and dance with bald me was really special. I also made some new 3-day friends...and that was great too.

This year...it's hard to say what was the best. All of it was wonderful, because I'm used to the event, and because I'm not bald! Yes, it was harder for many people physically, but for me, this year was easier. I wasn't bald, and I had just gone through such a horrific time in my life...and the 3-day was a great escape. Of course, then I had to face everything again once I got back from the 3-day...and that is not fun.

But one thing that crosses over all 3 days is this...I just really love walking!

Q and A continued tomorrow. Tylenol pm and melatonin starting to work!