Monday, September 24, 2018

Tales from a Homeschooling Mother

Hi friends!

Long time, no posting. That's my fault. You see, I started a new blog - Positive Practice Living. I needed a whole new identity to move forward in my own journey of self discovery.

However, Tales from a Mother is still sitting here, awaiting a new purpose. It has gone through several changes over the ten years I've been hosting on it, and it is time for another. I'm excited to share it with you.

This year we have decided to start homeschooling. It is a huge transition for our family, but one we are really enjoying. We are already reaping the benefits of this decision and we're only a couple weeks into the school year.

I want to share this journey with others. Several friends and family are curious how our days look as homeschoolers. As I researched homeschooling as an option, I also enjoyed reading about other family's jouney in homeschooling. There is a surplus of resources and ideas out there and it is nice to be able to see what others are using and for what purpose.

Thus, I've decided to try and record our journey as a homeschooling family. I'll share stories, resources and inspiration as it comes. This is all new for us, but we are learning as we go.

Welcome to The McCusker School, home of the Rainbow Dolphins!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pancreatic Cancer World Awareness Day - November 16

Today, November 16, I stand with hundreds of thousands of others to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer and to demand better for patients and survival!

Race Day at PurpleStride Puget Sound
#Wage Hope #PANCaware

The pancreas is a gland in the abdomen that lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. Its two main functions are digestion and blood sugar regulation. Pancreatic cancer begins when abnormal cells within the pancreas grow out of control and form a tumor.

The signs for this deadly disease begin with only vague symptoms, including abdominal or mid-back pain, loss of appetite, jaundice, weight loss, nausea, low mood or depression, pain in eating, change in stool and/or a recent onset of diabetes. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, especially without explanation, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network urges you to see your doctor.

Pancreatic Cancer Action

The exact causes of pancreatic cancer are not yet well understood. Research studies have identified risk factors that may increase the likelihood that an individual will develop pancreatic cancer:
  • Family history has a large determining factor. Like many other forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer is genetic. Thus, the risk increases if multiple first-degree relatives had the disease, or any were diagnosed under age 50.
  • Diet also plays a big part. A diet high in red and processed meats may increase risk. On the other hand, a diet high in fruits and vegetable may decrease risk.
  • Weight also plays a role. Obese individuals have a 20% increased risk of developing the disease compared to a person of a normal weight.
  • In addition, a long standing diagnoses of diabetes, defined as over five years, could increase the risk.
  • Smoking also increases the chances, including second hand smoke.
  • Also, those who suffer from intense or reoccuring pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, are at increased risk.
  • Studies conclude there are slightly more men diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than women and the chances of developing it increase with age.

The American Cancer Society states that pancreatic cancer currently has only a 9% five year survival rate. That is the lowest percentage of any major cancer. Pancreatic cancer killed more patients than breast cancer during 2016. The third leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States is pancreatic cancer. It is anticipated to become the second around 2020.

Many have stepped forward to say that these statistics are unacceptable. More than 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year. They deserve better than being told to go home and get their affairs in order. They are not statistics - they are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, colleagues and friends. Raise awareness for pancreatic cancer by sharing the risk factors and symptoms, which leads to early detection. It could mean saving the life of someone you love.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PANCan) is doing just that, raising awareness. They are also one of the largest sources of funding to provide advanced research opportunities. They push research forward through their nationally acclaimed grants program and clinical initiatives. Their goal is to double the survival rate by 2020. Their Vision of Progress is to rewrite the future of pancreatic cancer.

PANCan does so much more than just raise money for research funds. They also help patients and families by connecting them with the latest treatment options and by providing in-depth disease information.

Furthermore, they are in the community, leading and activating communities across the globe for the cause. They are also advocates for legislative support from Congress to increase federal research funding. PANCan is paving the way in its dedication to fighting the world’s toughest cancer. It is their urgent mission to save lives by attacking pancreatic cancer on all fronts.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. This year, PANCan encourages us to join them to Demand Better. For Patients. For Survival. You can Sign the Pledge and learn more about how to be #PANCaware.

Matt Wilson, a pancreatic cancer survivor from Portland, OR, says, “Reality set in at my nephew’s first birthday party. We had cake, friends over, and a firetruck. I thought, “This could be my last birthday with him.” Six years later, there’s no sign of disease. I want stories like mine to be the common ones, not the uncommon ones.”

You can read more Survivor Stories and the lives of those this deadly disease has affected. It is a huge step in understanding why so many people have taken action and made the commitment to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer.

This time last year, I knew nothing about pancreatic cancer, or the devastating affect the disease can have on those it touches. My education began when a friend simply asked if I would like to participate in a 5k called PurpleStide with her family. Since I’ve been trying to be more active, I readily accepted thinking about the act of running much more than the cause.

Getting my face painted before the big race.
#PurpleStridePugetSound #WageHope

However, as I began to understand what this event was really about, I became mesmerized by the encouragement and support of everyone involved. I was honored to run with the Love 4 Linda team and Wage Hope at PurpleStride, the walk to end pancreatic cancer.

My friend lost her aunt to pancreatic cancer in 2012. After her passing, her entire family began participating in PurpleStride. They Waged Hope this year as they have for the past four years, and will continue to do until there is a cure. Brenda Wendt, Love 4 Linda Team Captain, said, “This deadly disease has stolen our best and our brightest, but it can’t take away our determination.”

Love 4 Linda Team
#wagehope #bettertogether

PurpleStride Puget Sound, held on October 29, 2017, was a powerful and inspiring day. Thanks to the amazing participants and teams, they met and surpassed their fundraising goal of $325,000 to raise over $413,000. It is a beautiful show of support to give patients a better tomorrow and increase funding for more research, which paves the way for better, life-changing treatments.

Since PurpleStride was founded eight years ago, $87 million dollars has been raised for pancreatic cancer research and patient services. However, the true impact is not the dollar amount, but the progress to finding solutions. The once 6% rate has increased by 3% and is now solidly at 9%.

A 3% increase in the survival rate doesn’t seem like much, but it can make the difference when someone you love is in that small percentage. Moreso, the movement has come to enfold greater than one million people across the country to take action in the fight against pancreatic cancer. PurpleStride reminds us, “Purple ribbons don’t rewrite the future of pancreatic cancer. You do.”

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers Head Coach, Wages Hope at PurpleStride Charlotte.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers Head Coach, Wages Hope with PurpleStride in honor of his brother, Mickey, who passed away in 2015 after just two years battling the disease. “Partnering with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network allows me to not only honor my brother, but to take action against this deadly disease,” Coach Rivera said. “Too many people have lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer and without increased awareness and more people taking action, we cannot take down the disease.” Coach Rivera encourages everyone to take part in their local PurpleStride event, as he rallies in the streets of Charlotte, NC.

Fighting cancer is not only a struggle for the patients, but also for the doctors and researchers trying to find a cure. Funding is a large part of the ability to apply time and resources towards treatment and a cure. Channing Der, PhD, is a pancreatic cancer researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research is focused on finding therapies to “correct” the mutations in the KRAS gene, and is pleased that some of these strategies are now being evaluated in pancreatic cancer clinical trials.

Channing Der, PhD, discusses tough questions concerning pancreatic cancer:

Not only does Dr. Der work behind the scenes as a grant researcher, he is also a member of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. He devotes much of this life to improve the lives of those living with the disease, which includes participating in PurpleStride.

November 16

This is the day set aside each year to come together to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer. People from around the world will unite to Demand Better in the fight against the world’s toughest cancer. Through this combined effort, we are bringing greater attention to pancreatic cancer and better outcomes to patients. On this special day, we can make a world of difference.

Today you can Take Action against pancreatic cancer:
  • Spread the word on social media
  • Tell your elected officials
  • Know your pancreas
  • Register for PurpleStride
  • Fund the fight

Today I wear purple to share what I have learned about pancreatic cancer and to support the people whose lives are impacted by this deadly disease. #WageHope #PANCaware

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nanowrimo 2017 - Halfway There!

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash
This year me and Nanowrimo have been getting along just fine.

I participate in this writing challenge along with hundreds of thousands of others every year. Our collective goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Yes, it seems crazy to some, but to me it is just pure fun.

So far, I only have a one in four completion rate, but that is all going to change this year. Today marks the halfway point on day, but I am well over half way on my word count. I have already exceeded 30,000 words and I'm still writing over two thousand a day (well, on average at least).

However, with the holidays just around the corner, I have to keep my foot on the petal and keep my momentum going. I am very excited to see some friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, but it always poses a challenge for completing this project. Thankfully, I have some awesome family that understands my life as a writer and hopefully won't mind much when I slip away for an hour or so and enter in my word count.

Enjoying my local coffee shop to add to my word count!
#Nanowrimo #theworldneedsyournovel
I really do love this project and find a joy in creating new content. Especially when I write this intensely for this long, the characters seem to come alive and build a story all of their own. It is one of the most interesting things about writing fiction. I enjoy just stepping back to let the story unfold.

This magic of writing has incited me my entire life. I am never as happy as when I can sit down and just let my thoughts flow onto a page. Some words are for others to read and some are simply for myself.

There is this quote by Angela Carter: "Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. you bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms."

To me, writing is kind of like that too, especially when I can get "in the zone" of a new project. The characters just flow onto the page without me ever really having a clear understanding of how they get there. I bring the parts of myself and mix them with this magical property that we humans use to create. Somewhere along the way a novel is born.

Now I just have to figure out how to edit a document with a length greater than a blog post so others can actually read these creations that has made their way from my head to the page. That is the next step.

Right now, I am focused on Nanowrimo and my goal of 50,000 words before December 1st. I can do it, I know I can.

If you are participating in Nanowrimo as well, then you can do it too! I believe in you, now comes the hard part...believe in yourself.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

{WW 11/15/17 Linky} Fall is in the Air

Though it is starting to feel more and more like winter, we are still in the middle of autumn and it is beautiful. I love watching the trees change color and enjoying the cool days. Happy Fall!

Join in the Wordless Wednesday Fun and Link Up!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Today's the Day - Nanowrimo 2017 Begins!

I am so excited to begin National November Writing Month (Nanowrimo) today. I've had my novel ideas circulating in my head for weeks now, and it is finally time to start putting pen to paper - or fingers to keyboard as the case may be.

This will be my fifth consecutive year participating in Nanowrimo. I won it once, two years ago. There are all of these tips and tricks out there to help you complete the seemingly overwhelming 50,000 words. But honestly, it all comes down to one question. Do you want it?

I'm serious. Of all the years I have done Nanowrimo, the only year I won was the year I really wanted it. The first year, I had no idea what I was doing, so I didn't really write much. The second and fourth year, I was distracted by activities and social commitments. The third year, the year I won, I really wanted it and wrote constantly, making my writing a priority, until I made it to the end.

From my experience, if you want it, you will do it.

And that's it. Just do it. Write everyday. Write as often as you can. Write as much as you can.

When you hit writer's block, keep writing. Write the descriptions of your characters. Write descriptions of the setting. Write about why you can't figure out what happens next.

I entered in my first Nanowrimo update today. I'm so excited to begin.
Cheers to all who are participating with me! #Nanowrimo2017

One reason I love Nanowrimo is because it creates habit. The trick with writing, as well as other creative aspiration, is the more you do it, the easier it is to keep up the momentum. When life gets in the way, like during summer for example, it takes me a while to get started again. Nanowrimo is a jump start for me to get into the writing mode just in time for those cold winter months. I always want to hibernate during this time of year, so it works out well to be able to spend more time writing and editing my work.

Developing new ideas for novels is one of the easiest and hardest things for me. Usually, a small idea comes from something I read or experience. Then I build on it, continuously adding more details as I go.

I really like creating new content, but tend to have a really hard time editing. Thus, Nanowrimo is one of my favorite times a year.

This year, a series of events led up to my novel's subject matter. I recently helped a friend's grandmother write down her life's story to pass down to future generations. Her family was very comfortable in the outdoors and spent lots of time in the mountains hunting and fishing. In addition, I participated in a benefit run with another friend for pancreatic cancer awareness. These two influences blended together in my mind to come up with my Nanowrimo project.

I wanted to do a story beginning at the trail head of a backpacking journey. I decided to make the protagonist a female because that perspective is what I know. Write what you know, right? I tried to figure out why she would be going on this journey and decided it would be to overcome a loss. I wanted to use the stages of grief and the healing power of nature to lead her into self-discovery. Due to my recent interaction with pancreatic cancer awareness, I decided the trigger would be her mother dying of this deadly disease. It sort of all builds from there. Who she is, where her relationship stands with her family and so on and so forth.

The beauty is that a lot of the little decisions come out during the writing process. As I have discovered when writing previous novel ventures, the characters have a story of their own and they will let you know as you go if you just keep writing.

Today is only the beginning and I'm excited for this year's adventure. This year I really want it again, so I think I will win. I know I will win.

I'd love to hear from other who are participating in Nanowrimo this year! See you in the winner's circle!