Tag Archives: foster care

A Thought Provoking Banner…

At an event this weekend, I came across a CASA banner posted in a hallway.  I read it, reread it, and took a picture before moving on.  It made me think, not only about the important work CASA does but the power of a strong role model and/or guardian in the life of a young child. Before I go on, let me share it with you:

CASA banner

As I walked down the hallway of the JW Marriott (to an event I was late for), I considered the banner and the story it told. How many children go through their lives without a healthy role model to guide them? Many, I’m sure. The challenge is identifying these children, identifying mentors, and bringing them together.

Identifying the children who need help is the first step, but there are many agencies and organizations already dedicated to this work. Schools, CPS, and even concerned private citizens look for signs of abuse, hopelessness, and depression in today’s youth. We have thousands of children in our CPS and foster care systems who, according to the state, need something more than their biological parents were providing. Agencies struggle to help the parents and the children. Oftentimes, though, children face uncertainty as they are moved from place to place, though the system, with no one person to lean on, look to, and rely on. That is where CASA, and organizations like them, try to step in.

I’m firmly convinced that, for every child in need in our society there are many strong adults willing to be role models and guides. America is filled with wonderful, giving people. The challenge is recruiting those with a little extra time to spare, showing them how they can help, and giving them the ability to do so. CASA aims to bring these people together – the children in need and an adult willing to be there for them as they work their way through the CPS and foster care systems.

Unfortunately for me, my profession keeps me moving and I don’t want to be in the position of leaving a child I’ve formed a bond with. The best I can do is spend a couple of months raising money for the people doing the work that I can’t. This banner reminded me why this project is so important to me.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks to those who have donated!

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Abused Children: Inside Out

INSIDE OUT: The emotions. Joy holds a memory.  ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

INSIDE OUT: The emotions. Joy holds a memory.
©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I had two things to do tonight – attend a screening of Pixar’s Inside Out and write a blog post. Although I intended to write about a costume item, I can’t stop thinking about this movie and its implications. The movie explores the workings of a young girl’s mind and emotions. Riley, the main character, is 11 years old and spends the movie struggling with a major life change. We watch the story unfold, both inside and outside her mind.

I promise I won’t give any major plot points away.

The world Pixar creates inside Riley’s head is complex and insightful. Her entire personality and her resilience – her ability to deal with adversity – is based on certain “core memories.” These are Riley’s foundation. For Riley, these memories are filled with Joy. Created when she was very young, Riley’s core memories are consistently reinforced as she falls back on them again and again while she grows. Because her core memories are happy, Riley is essentially a happy person and uses this happiness to overcome challenges.

Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black) guide 11-year-old Riley from Headquarters, the control center inside her mind. Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”), Disney•Pixar's

Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black) guide 11-year-old Riley from Headquarters, the control center inside her mind. Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”), Disney•Pixar’s “Inside Out” opens in theaters nationwide June 19, 2015. ©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The implication is that we all have core memories and strong personality traits defined by them. But what happens when our core memories are not happy, but sad? Or angry? Or Fearful?

The implications are tragic. A child whose core memories are any of these would be defined by the corresponding emotion. When faced with adversity, a child without joyful core memories would fall back on something else. Like fear. Purely fearful core memories would result in a child cowering and running when challenged. Anger would cause a child to lash out when dealing with hardship. Sadness could lead to deep depression.

This is what life must be like for abused and neglected children.  In this Pixar world, the traumatic events abused children experience would be so strong and defining that sad and fearful events would make up the bulk of their core memories. This would affect the way they act, the way they confront challenges, and the way they view the world. Sadly, it is very hard to change core memories. They are the foundation.

I, like Riley, was fortunate enough to grow up with joyful core memories, memories I can fall back on when things get rough.  Others aren’t that lucky and find themselves confronting life with a shaky foundation, one that leaves them prone to distress and anger.

Maybe we can’t change the sad or fearful core memories, but we can add a little joy to the lives of these children. Create happy memories and nurture them. Give the emotions living in their heads the tools and the base they need to deal effectively with challenges and, well, life. Maybe, hopefully, we can add a splash of yellow to memories that are currently blue or purple or red.

That’s what this project is about. I’m just a normal guy, but at least I can dress like a Marvel character and raise a few dollars for those trying to help them.

(Inside out is a wonderful film, by the way)

The pants are in!

I came back from a trip this weekend to find *drum-roll* the pants.

Not what I expected.

I mean, they’re not bad, just a little different. To start, they’re a little more lightweight that I thought they would be. When I think of motorcycle pants, I think of heavy material, with a little faux (or real) leather.  These remind me of the snow-pants I wore sledding when I was a kid. Without too much padding.

Star-Lord seem like the type of person to wear rough, distressed, leather and tough canvas pants.  The type of pants that can take a beating and keep on going. The type of pants that Peter Quill had worn for years and years…maybe without washing. These pants are not those pants. These pants might be able to take a beating, but not many more than one.

That’s not to say that they aren’t cool looking, They are cool. Darn cool.  Just not quite what I had imagined.

Anyway, now that I’ve conveyed my first impressions, let’s take a look at some of the details.

First, the obvious.  There are some logos and patches that need to be removed. Star-Lord was not advertising “Riding Tribe” in the film. Luckily, everything looks to be sewn on so that, with a care, I can remove the unneeded patches.

IMG_4466

Notice the stitching which should be easy to remove.

The stitching is harder to see on these, but is there. This logo should come off easily as well.

The stitching is harder to see on these, but is there. This logo should come off easily as well.

Here’s a close up of the material:

It is mesh in some parts. This is great because it somewhat mimics the multiple fabrics of Peter Quill's trousers.

It is mesh in some parts. This is great because it somewhat mimics the multiple fabrics of Peter Quill’s trousers.

Here is a side by side of the front:

Star-Lord on the left. My pants on the right.

Star-Lord on the left. My pants on the right.

As you can see, they’re not at all an exact match. However, they are a good baseline. As I said in a previous post, Star-Lord’s pants are custom so short of hiring someone to make me exact replicas – or miraculously developing some serious sewing skills – I was always going to have to make due with “close.” And these pants are close.

They just need a little work. First, I’ll have to remove the logos and pocket. After that, well, we’ll see if there’s any way to modify them further.

Thoughts, suggestions or comments? Leave them below…especially if you will make me a custom pair of Star-Lord pants in exchange for advertising to my four readers!

The Blasters…

For this transformation, I’m starting with the easy projects. First on my list: Star-Lord’s blasters.

His Quad Blasters, to be precise.

These things are cool looking, even for a casual sci-fi fan. Just look at the screenshot.

Yeah, these guns are cool. Uber cool. Photo credit: Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia. Click the picture for link.

Yeah, these guns are cool. Uber cool. Photo credit: Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia. Click the picture for link.

Like I said: cool. So where do I get my hands on a couple of these bad boys? After doing some research, there are basically two feasible options.

First, I could 3D print one.  After poking around online I found that an enterprising fan named Helagak on theRPF.com has painstakingly created a 3D print file for a Quad Blaster. Awesome. It seems that a number of people on the forum have printed copies successfully. Oh man, would I love to create an original prop with some 3D printed plastic weight to it that I can wave around (responsibly) the day of the race!

The biggest problem with this course of action is that I don’t have a 3D printer. I’ve never seriously considered owning a 3D printer. They intimidate me. They seem too amazing to be true, honestly. Like magic. Now, I could find someone to print it for me. There are services that link you up with 3D printing enthusiasts. I could also grovel on the RPF forums or go to a Fedex location (I hear they’re doing 3D printing now, right?). This is a lot of work for this ancillary prop, though, and I have no idea how much it would cost.

Luckily for me, there is a budget option. I present the Nerf Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord Quad Blaster:

Wait...why is it orange? Photo courtesy of Amazon. Click photo for link.

Wait…why is it orange? Photo courtesy of Amazon. Click photo for link.

This blaster is the right size and the right shape (and FIRES UP TO 25 FEET!). Costing a mere $13.50 (thanks Amazon Prime), this is definitely the way I’m going. I’m going to have to figure out how to paint the thing, but that should be a fun project. Hopefully.

I would love to have blaster with the heft of a 3D printed model, but with the potential cost of the rest of Star-Lord’s getup, I’m going with the cheap option here. Click. Ordered. On my way to being Star-Lord.

Why make this page?

I am not a cos-player.

Me

I don’t dress up and go to comic conventions and the like. Usually. I did once, but it was on a whim and I threw the outfit together in a day. Not terribly elaborate. You don’t know elaborate costumes until you’ve been to one of these conventions. People make some amazing costumes. They spend years on some of them.  Full suits of armor, epic Groot costumes, outfits with electronics, and more. I’ve never done that.

Until now. My wife signed me up for a charity 5K in support of CASA of Travis County. CASA is a pretty cool organization.  They help children in need – abused and neglected children. I won’t elaborate too much right now, but check future posts or the Donate page (or check out their website http://www.casatravis.org/).

Anyway, in order to run I need a costume. I could have thrown on a cape, rented a cheap Spiderman jumpsuit, or put a belt around by head and called myself Quailman. Unfortunately, I am incapable of doing anything half way. Nothing against anyone who goes like this…they help children just as much as I am going to.  But for me, If I’m going to dress as a Superhero, I’m going all out. Why?  Well for one, I want to bring a smile to the faces of children I meet at the event.  I want them to feel like they are meeting the real Superhero, not an imitator. I want to BE the Superhero. Second, it’s just the way I am.  I go all out.

After racking my brain, I settled on Star-Lord as my superhero. For a number of reasons. I will elaborate in a blog post later.

As I began the arduous task of fundraising, a very smart individual (by the name of Steven Olender) gave me some advice.  “People love stories and pictures,” he wrote me. Rather than just ask for money, Steven advised that I give people something back by documenting the creation of my costume and preparation for the race.  That way, it’s a two way street.  People donate money to the organization, and I give them stories, pictures, and highlights from the day of the event in return.  They SEE some of the impact of their donation!

What a great idea.  For the first few days, I began throwing random updates on Facebook and Twitter. After thinking about it (and learning how easy WordPress is to use), I decided a blog would be a better format to keep people involved and updated. For a modest investment of $18.00, I created this site. Cool, huh?

One note: All donations made go straight to CASA. Everything I am spending on the costume and on the site is coming straight out of my pocket! If you donate…fear not! All the money will go towards CASA’s mission of helping abused children.

So, thanks for joining me on my journey to become Star-Lord!