Swine Flu paranoia

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


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.)


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.



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.


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!


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!


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.