A very good life

I'm reflecting on something my husband said yesterday...something that is so TRUE. He said that we are doing everything we can to surround ourselves with LIFE - we have a totally insane and very alive Red Dog; we have an enormously fluffy and playful Black Kitten-Cat (fat like a cat, aged like a kitten still); we have 8 baby-adolescent chicks. I'm growing about 100 plants in my house because it is too cold to put any of them out in the garden. Everywhere we look, it is life, Life, LIFE!

All of that life and liveliness starts to get to a person, and you just can't help feel the enthusiasm. Hope romps around the yard for hours like that old, unwanted green toy of Dagny's is the best thing she's ever seen (though she's just about used every last bit of it to pieces). Nixie New writhes with affection and coziness like she never believed she could be so happy! And the chicks - they are always stretching their little necks to see "what's that? where are we? what is the giant unfeathered mother hen bringing us now?" The plants stretch themselves out like there will never be anything to stop them from reaching the sky.

And THEN...the kids! How fun it is to do geometry with Emma...we are finally doing some problem solving and teaching at home that doesn't put a mommy to sleep. She got a bigger girl bike, and now she looks little again (she was looking so gigantic on her first big girl bike). Katie turns 8 on Friday! and we are starting a new adventure together as a Brownie and her Brownie Troop Leader Mommy which I expect to be so fun for us. And, Nathan! He skipped learning how to ride a two-wheeler on his bike (the one that has training wheels we could have removed) and in about 1 day, learned how to ride Emma's now-outgrown bike. I didn't even have time to teach him, to get sore running around the neighborhood hunched over and holding a bike, time to cajole him into trying again...after a few tries with Bill, I "helped" him and I couldn't even keep up (and I know how to run, too!) He was going around the circle into the driveway, off into the street, riding like he was born doing it.

I will admit, that if I mention my pets or my gardening obsession to plenty of moms at the kids' schools I get "that" look - like I am crazy, maybe dirty, and certainly strange. Let's face it, not too many people in this area run out to get 8 chickens or consider it a terrific evening (not to mention it an accomplishment) if she pulls up 700 small buckthorn plants and has a wonderful bonfire.

However, let me just say that if you are in my situation in other ways, it is very liberating to do whatever you need to do to surround yourself with life, love, and your hobbies (life - chickens, love - being around and with my kids so much, and by staying at home, being around my husband so much too, and hobbies - 700 buckthorn in one night means I can plant so many things this spring and summer)! I'm glad I'm beyond worrying about what people think about me! It's so non-traditional, but what a very good life.

Overheard from Nathan

"I call that Dark Guy? The guy with the dark hair, dark clothes, dark everything? I call him Dark Vader."


My room smells like breast cancer, and...joy?

On Monday morning, after my family members were all off pursuing their various educations and professions, I walked into my room and I was taken aback with a huge sense of deja vu. It was quiet. It was clean. Bill had left on the air purifier (which had in recent months taken up residence in Emma's room). Most importantly, the light was just exactly the same as it would have been two years ago when I was in that same room, recovering from my mastectomy (daylight savings time, still no leaves on the trees, sunny but with no snow on the ground to make it shocking...). I was taken right back to those early days of my breast cancer.

It was almost a nice familiar smell and scene - the peace of kn0wing I was on an upswing (in one way - the cancer was cut out, and I only had one way to go - up and out of everything) mixed with the fear that I still had some hard things in front of me. I think remembering that upswing - feeling it, in that instant - gave me some hope.

Sometimes I feel like grieving is a cop-out. How can missing a person, missing being a daughter, and the pain of hard memories actually cause a person to be as "off" as I feel like I often am? Am I just lazy, and making excuses for that? I have a hard time feeling like it is OK to be "off", and I have a hard time believing that I'm not always going to be a little wrecked from all of this. I have not really been so certain that I could be on an upswing, any time soon (though I tell myself it will come, I'm not sure I always believe it).

Then I walk into my breast cancer bedroom - that quiet, clean-smelling scene - and FEEL something again...or then, yesterday, for just a teeny-tiny instant, while I was running on my treadmill, I felt one flash of my joy. Both sensations were so quickly gone that I can barely believe I felt them - but I am so grateful for those flashes.

I think they mean that the girl that I am when I am at my best might still be here, somehow. Could I manage to catch that upswing?


This is why I wanted this dog:


Also, though she has a whole acre to explore, she prefers to play right next to these kids.

OMG! They are happy and not fighting!!!!!!


Picture fun!

Just a few pics of a great excursion with my Bear...

Who wants this plant...

It's my first of what I imagine to be many plant giveaways, on my gardening blog... One woman just cannot garden this much without giving some of it away!

Go to onenewleaf.wordpress.com for details.

I'm not sure I can resist any longer...

I was going to try to keep some of my absolute weirdness on my other blog (which I haven't fully established yet), so as to save any of my breast cancer readers from thinking poorly of the person I was (and am) pre- and post-breast cancer! I have also been wondering if it would be better to keep all of the weirdness NOT connected with my name (i.e. not on pamlucken.blogspot. com), but on another site.

However, it is also time to face facts - the weirdness is me! And if I keep shying away from spewing the weirdness on the world wide web (ha ha - isn't it funny to think of it that way? Remember when we didn't know what to call the the internet - the web, the net, online, internet, whatever?), I'll never write on here again...and my memory of what happens in my day to day life is thus gone, which is a shame. (My other blog is fine and all, but I'm so used to this one...)

I thoroughly wish I was one of those wonderful mothers who records her children's childhoods with journaling, and scrapbooks, and constant picture-taking, but I'm not. I waste my time wrestling with them, and ignoring them while I try to exercise, or garden, or thinking of what activity I have to do next (email the class to remind them of some activity? Plan a girl scout meeting? Set up a playdate for Nathan?). It is a good thing that at least some of these activities include them (the things I have to plan for and communicate with others), and it is also a good thing that THEY have good memories (esp. Emma - she is my child who remembers to wear a "green" shirt to her Green Committee meeting, that it is "crazy hair day" etc. I notice it later and am so proud that she is more ahead of herself than I am.)

I am not one of those mothers, though...and tears did threaten when a lovely HR woman at IKEA regaled me with the precious story of her journaling of her 2 year old son's first "Momma". Emma has a baby book and a calendar and a scrapbook, Katie has a calendar (first year, like Emma), and half of a baby book, and Nathan has a first year calendar and a giant box of memories (the girls have these too). "Here, precious son, make your own scrapbook, I don't have time!"

Bad mommy. I WANT to give my dearests everything, I just never make the time. Bad mommy who doesn't prioritize well.

So you see, I need this blog! It's easy to do while I walk away on the treadmill. I remember things while I am exercising, and WHAM! I can write them down!

For example, I want to remember how I was putting Emma to bed last night...or reputting her to bed, as the case might be. She has totally learned to take advantage of her mother and father's absentmindedness and she has found that as long as she gets in bed and turns out the light, she can then turn her light back on in about 1 minute and read until it is WAY TOO LATE! So I was reputting her to bed, and it was exactly like this...which I know about because the Kay family has brought the joy of Sesame Street back into my life (and into the life of my children. We can now all reference numerous Sesame Street moments which we never actually saw on the show...we've only seen them on youtube with Matthew.)

I was singing, not this song, just a gentle and yet strange song of my own creation, and giving her nice pats on her head, and then I would -in a flash!- pull her covers up and leap onto her to tuck her in (in the middle of the song I was singing, to surprise her). She would scream (isn't that such a good thing to do, when there are 2 other children already asleep and a husband who is trying to sleep - make your 10 year old scream?), and tell me to do it again...and again...and again. At the end, I said, "Now, have you been put to bed with the respect you deserve, having been my daughter for 10 years, 3 months, and 19 days?"

She smiled sweetly and said, "No. Only after you do this 10 more times." Meanwhile, Dagny looked at me with a look that said, "Are you DONE yet? I'm ready to go to sleep, woman!" and Katie came storming upstairs to demand the same mistreatment (which she got, later, because she was the lucky child to share the menopausal suite with me last night).

How great that this was all happening at 10:30pm, on a night when I told Bill that the kids could NOT watch The Amazing Race! It's already 8:40pm!
They need to go to bed early! (They did watch a dvr'd episode, prior to this "bedtime"...and see, that is the problem! I try to be disciplined with bedtime, but if I am overruled even for a second, I can no longer keep up that fake-disciplined facade.)

SOOO...good. I'm glad I will remember that weirdness now. I'm also glad that now Bill knows I kept Emma up until 10:30pm, since he was the one to deal with her crankiness this morning.

And with that, I'd like to make a warning...I have much crazier weirdness to report. Such as this:

and that's only the half of it.


My personal trainer

Wii Sports has become my new personal trainer, but not for the reason one might think...
(And here is where I would be posting a picture of Nathan playing Wii Sports Resort while I walk or run on the treadmill...but it didn't work and I have no patience today!)
He has NEVER been so happy for me waste away the minutes exercising as he is now. The key is to make it sound like a treat - "Do you want to play Wii Sports while I exercise?" and to totally save such activities for only during my exercise time!


Goals for this glorious spring

I'm getting ahead of myself (as always)...first of all, it's not even spring yet! Secondly, who knows if the upcoming spring will be glorious (weather-wise) or not. However, one thing is totally awesome about this post...Mrs. Lucken is planning for something IN ADVANCE, instead of jumping into it head-first as is more typical of said woman. Yay!

So here are my goals - all thoughts geared towards solving my biggest spring problem - gardenlove:
  1. Keep running! (Usually I either injure myself gardening or I'm too tired to do it after hours in the yard.) How to accomplish this goal: run in the morning. Yikes. Seems impossible, esp. once school gets out (swimming is early for Emma, and I have not yet proved successful at being an early riser). Still, a goal's a goal, right?
  2. DO NOT GET INJURED! Or more likely - DO NOT THINK THAT I AM INJURED! All of these hours of heavy labor can make a woman sore (no you don't have cancer in that rib, you just pulled something). How to accomplish: Miracle Balls (do you have these, they are awesome!), yoga, stretching, less yard work, more running (hoping running makes me tired and takes up at least an hour when I would have been gardening).
  3. Do not neglect children! Yes, horrible Mrs. Lucken has been known to say "sure, in a minute" ALL DAY LONG to her poor children, forcing them to forage for themselves in the wilderness where all they can find to eat are cereal bars from Trader Joe's. How to accomplish: take breaks to provide snacks (also good for goal #2), good meal planning (instead of forcing husband to make all dinners from end-of-March until snowfall), use of crockpot, plan to do fun activities with them (also good for goal #3).
  4. Take more pictures. I've been avoiding this like a petulant child. (See previous post.) Case in point: Nyx! She is gigantic! Fluffy! Fat! Precious! And I have NO pictures of her kittenhood. How totally crazy. (And by the way, I just can't write her name down as Nyx anymore. I am taking the creative license to switch it to Nixie. Or Nixie New, as we call her, or New Cat, or Fluffy Cat.) This is also a great goal as I love to look at my garden pictures later....and I also have 8 new pets whose astonishing growth would be fun to look back upon later.
  5. Keep up with email, and DO NOT NEGLECT TO CALL MY SISTER! Darling sister in Evanston may go through serious withdrawl if I get lost again in gardenlove and do not keep up with the phone conversations. And she gets mad, something none of us want to have happen!
  6. Write more on my garden blog...for fun journaling I can look back upon later. This is another fun activity that should keep me from overexerting myself outside...

That's it for now, folks...I'm typing this while I do my warmup walk on the treadmill, and it's time to start "running". Progress reports to follow!



Thank You all so much!! I managed to raise $300! It means a lot to me that I got to help with saving other people lives. Now I know that I helped to make sure no one goes through what my Mom and Aunts had to go through. Thank You.


a note from Emma

This is Emma Lucken writing to say I am doing Jump Rope for Heart. I know that most of you donated to my sister (rats I never get to Jump first ). You don't have to donate but every little bit counts. I am jumping for my mom's mom who as you know died when my mom was a kid, and I have always wanted to meet her. I am jumping because I don't want anybody to have to go through what my mom and her sisters went through. So if you want to donate click on this link: Jump Rope for Heart Thanks!

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

It's hard to believe that this was us just a year ago: trying to have a good time in Roatan despite the terrible diagnosis...but still together.

It's harder to believe that this is my life now - with no you. I hate to whine about it...but it seems so unfair to me that our historian, our photographer, is gone (and of course, and more, that my father is gone). I don't see my children smile as widely anymore as I saw them smile in pictures you took...and I know that I feel different, ungrounded. I'm having a really hard time taking things seriously, with this feeling that life is so fleeting.

I'm never far from the pain, and from the memories. December: "A year ago we had our last Christmas being someone's children, being together as a family." January: "A year ago, Dad was diagnosed." "These were the days we spent learning everything we could about pancreatic cancer." February: "A year ago we were trudging through the snow in Bayfield and sliding down the hills." March: "A year ago we were celebrating Bill's birthday together in Roatan." "A year ago we were returning from our last trip together." I'm getting farther and farther from those though.

And even the good stuff causes me twinges - Noah's first haircut! Natalie looking so big and happy in her new backyard! Matthew's 2nd birthday party, at his house in Evanston, surrounded with family and friends. Katie will be making her first communion this year...and we're doing it all without our photographer, and without our biggest smiles.

However, dear Dad, I know that life isn't fair. I also know that I was gifted with a pretty good life, in the scheme of things. Yes, there is plenty of shittiness, but at least I am tough enough to handle it (or prepared enough - what's the phrase - tested by fire?) - MOST days.

So anyway, my progress report: I am not the all-A student you raised when it comes to grief management, but I am at least passing this class. I started running again (and that makes me cry, to tell you that! I would guess you can run again, too, now that your legs are not all ruined)...I'm not any good at it AT ALL, but I'm trying and not giving up for once. I'm not allowing myself to be intimidated by the runner that I used to be, and I am starting from scratch. It's like Fitness '93! I made a whole plan for myself and I'm sticking to it, and recording my progress and all. I may even cry myself through the Peter Cottontail Run, without you, just for old times sake...or maybe I'll bring Emma and teach her about how you used to drag me out and make me miserable while you sang that song the whole way. Or maybe I'll bring Katie and she can make me miserable and I'll feel the same way I used to feel (she won't be singing, she'll be berating me for making her do it, but the end result will be the same).

Next: I'm starting a Brownie troop for Katie tomorrow. You probably would not feel this is such a great thing - you'd prefer I was not always doing kid stuff...but I'm telling you anyway. I'm hoping for a whole new wholesome adventure and more special time with my precious and most dangerous child. (Dangerous for me, because she has my same bad temper and we can make each other crazy.)

I guess the point of all of this is, I'm trying to force my life to go on. I'm trying pretty hard to engage, even though sometimes I wonder if any of it is worth it. Losing you, and maybe also losing that role - "daughter" - still hurts an awful lot...so much that my other roles aren't quite filling up that spot (though I try pretty hard with the "mother" role...and the "aunt" role helps too). Maybe these new adventures will help me pass the time and one day I will look up and not feel that hurt quite so much.

Anyway, Dad, I'm sorry for the times that I didn't appreciate you as I probably should have. I should have probably worked less hard on my "mother" role over the past 10 years and worked harder on the "daughter" role - because it seems I wasn't ready to be done with that role yet! (And everyone knows, you can always mother harder...it is a neverending spectrum, motherhood.) Hopefully you know my intentions now, though, and know how much I loved you, even when we didn't always understand each other.
With love,
your daughter,



  • I can't really believe that I am a breast cancer survivor.
  • It seems so weird that such a womanly disease was written into my DNA...I feel like I am the least womanly person around (and don't mind being this way, either!).
  • I think it is funny that now I have so few "girl parts"! No real breasts, no ovaries, no periods to deal with, etc. So I guess I fit better now with who I always thought I was.
  • I can't believe I had chemotherapy for breast cancer.
  • I can't believe I am lucky enough to not be having it now!
  • I can't believe I found a lump.
  • I can't believe I was lucky enough to find it in stage 1.
  • I can't believe this will be my 4th 3-day!!!!
  • I can't believe I was lucky enough to find this event in the first place...I just love walking for 3 days straight (if I loved it when I was bald and with only half a reconstructed chest, you know I really love the event).
  • I can't believe we have 29 team members! With more on the way...
  • I can't believe I have no living biological parents.
  • I can't believe I am a parent myself.
  • I can't believe spring is really coming...I'm almost frightened by the prospect.
  • I can't believe I was once late picking up Emma from school because I lost myself pulling dandelions in my yard!
  • I can't believe I counted all the dandelions I pulled that first summer - 3300 (I did them in batches of 100, thus the late pickup).
  • I can't believe I am on my 2nd generation of pets.
  • I am amazed to have such wonderful women to call friends...
What are your Sometimes...?


OOHH Look at this pic I just found

The Lucken family mushers! This is what I did on my 2 year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis:

You should do this project with your boy (and your dogs)

(look closely, I'm no photographer - Pinecone birdfeeders!)

It's a winter favorite in my house...unfortunately, the VERY NEXT MORNING after I set out these cute pinecone birdfeeders they were gone!!! Very, very, hungry raccoons. Luckily, it is so fun, I plan to do it again.




Share some more!

See how cute?

The birds will love you - and they are hungry after migrating! We saw thousands of birds mid-migration in Nebraska as we drove home on winter break.

If I was not just now catching up with my pics taken over the past two months, you would have seen this much earlier...like mid-January, when we actually did this project!

Look at my invitations!

I had NO business spending much time on these invitations, with all that I have to do. However, I have been hoping for this girl scout troop for such a long time and I have such high hopes for it! It seemed like the extra effort and intention was worth it tonight.

You're not blown away? That's ok...they're so Mrs. Lucken - a little bit cheap and a lot resourceful. I made these invitations with little pieces of ribbon I have been stowing away in my house for years, along with these recruitment fliers from gssem.org (there are five to choose from - I used them all and just used whatever ribbon I had to match). I had to marry the two pieces of paper together somehow, because my busy husband most likely did not want to be messing around with the copier 1) at his work and 2) on his birthday...so I was just fancying up something that had to be what it had to be.
Still, I think the little extra effort is cute - it meant something to me, and it was a fun thing to do with my daughters. (Anything that has me sitting in one place for a period of time is good, in my family's opinion!)

P.S. - I put the ribbon on the side because I wanted everyone to flip the invite text over to see the Girl Scout flier on the back (and not ignore it)...this way, they see a little bit of the graphic on the other side and are teased to see what it says!

The word that strikes fear in every mother's heart


Oh, the days of mud, and more laundry (is it possible?), and SO MANY SCHOOL ACTIVITIES IT MIGHT MAKE A PERSON INSANE are nearly upon us! And with it comes something far, far worse, in Mrs. Lucken's world.

Today alone (and it's only 1pm!) I sent out fundraising emails, set up a parents' meeting for the new girl scout troop I am starting, sent out an email to our wonderfully large 3-day team about a team meeting I'm hosting in my fantastically dirty fixer-upper-that-hasn't-been-fixed-up-yet house this Sunday, volunteered in Katie's class for an hour, MADE 4 PHONE CALLS (not to my husband and/or sisters - this is amazing as I avoid the phone like the plague. If you have been called by me in the past 10 years or so, consider yourself one of the smallest minority in the world!).

I still need to put together two baskets for two classrooms' Fun Fairs/Blast auctions, I'm in the middle of at least 10 loads of laundry, need to make invitations for the 35+ girls who we are inviting to join this Brownie troop (please, don't all join it!) and need to make a birthday cake and dinner for my birthday boy husband, before I pick up the girls from school.

All of this marks the beginning of the uptick in activities that happens every spring (shhh! it's coming, don't tell all the moms of school-aged children!)...which would be fine, except for what is happening outside.

It is about 40 degrees outside and SUNNY right now...and the forecast is similar for at least 3 more days this week. That can only mean one thing - Mrs. Lucken is going to lose herself to the yard! I've already been out there chopping things down in my woods like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo. I don't know where I'm going to put all the stuff I'm about to rustle up - buckthorn, dead things, etc. - as the fire pit is about 7 feet tall from Monday's escapades outdoors.

Oh SPRING. I love you and yet...yikes. So much to do, so little time!