Monday, May 12, 2014

My Life as a Cosplay Mom

Cosplay?! What's that?

When I tell people that my teenage daughter loves to cosplay, they often have no idea what I'm talking about.

About five years ago, my daughter created her first costume to attend a cosplay convention. What I quickly learned is that her love for "cosplay" (defined as costume play) would definitely involve her mom! Together, we have made countless trips to the fabric and craft store as I learned to sew, trace, and glue, create patterns from scratch, and apply stage make-up.

In the photo to the left, you can see my husband and I, with our daughter, in full Pokemon cosplay. Attending ACEN (Anime Central) at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, two mild-mannered parents were instantly transformed into Team Magma. Our daughter had full design control, helping me create our group costume. Apparently we did it right, because the moment we entered the conference center, we were stopped for photos. Milt and I had to fake it a bit because our Pokemon knowledge is extremely limited. At least we looked the part!

For the uninitiated, cosplay conventions are major events which are drawing tens of thousands of fans in most major cities to gather at convention centers. Participants are united by their love of anime/manga (Japanese animation - in my daughter's case) or their favorite comics (print and animated versions). In San Diego, Comic-Con International is exploding, drawing as many as 130,000 guests.

Most people who attend the "cons" as they are called, make a costume and dress like one of their favorite characters. Creativity and imagination is highly valued in this community, and if you dress in costume, it is expected that you've made most of it yourself. Store bought costumes are just not the same.

The conventions themselves involve video gaming rooms, discussion panels, costume pageants and competitions, autograph and photo sessions, concerts, shopping, and dances. Some activities are 18 and up, mainly late at night, but at the cons we have attended it is a family-friendly atmosphere with many parents and "kids" of all ages in costume. In fact, if you don't wear a costume, you will feel like the odd person out. Most people who attend are fully and elaborately dressed as a character.

If you have a teen who wants to cosplay, here's a few pointers from this mom's point of view:

1) Enter in and enjoy the bonding experience. You may think this new hobby is a bit odd - but reserve judgement. This is really an activity that my daughter and I have been able to enjoy together. It encourages individuality and creativity. I don't understand or appreciate all of the anime series, games, or movies, but I do enjoy the creativity of making a costume out of odd bits. We have shopped, sewn, crafted, sketched, and made some major goofs. But, I do think we have also created memories.

2) Be prepared to get it EXACTLY right. I am not a perfectionist. I like to do things quickly. However, I have learned that doing a costume part-way is just not an option for most cosplay participants. The precise details are highly valued by this community, so I've had to take a deep breath and allow do-overs. When searching for blue felt, it has to be precisely the right shade of blue.

3) Help select the costumes. Consider the difficulty, safety, and ease of wearing certain costumes. I discourage anything that is hard to see or walk in. One years she attached fake ears that covered her own ears. We did not think about the fact that she could not hear me when I called. Also, be prepared with supplies to take off make-up or glue. For one costume, I was smearing grey face paint everywhere. I learned to bring plenty of wipes and old washcloths with me along with a huge tub of Noxema for make-up removal.

4) Realize that some screening may be needed. Not all materials at conventions is appropriate for children or younger teens. Japanese manga, for example, has age ratings on the back. Some is perfectly appropriate for younger ages, others are clearly not. The same is true for video games. I don't think the convention atmosphere is any more dangerous than watching other media. But, as a parent, you will probably want to keep an eye on what your child is participating in.

5) Send your teen with snacks, a buddy, and a cell phone. When I am not with my daughter, I stay accessible to the convention site. She has a cell phone and stays with a friend. Even though I did not encounter problems and security is prevalent, it is not a good idea for younger children to attend alone. Most major convention centers are large and crowded. I also send small snacks with her as she gets too busy to stop and buy food. We talk ahead of time about times she should call and check in and where to meet when I pick her up.

Did you know?* 
  • 66 percent of cosplayers are women
  • Average age of beginning cosplayer is 21
  • Average cost of a costume $100 to $200
  • Hours spent prepping: 1 to 450

* Statistics taken from this interesting article on the trend. "Cosplaying is a genre-bending trend in San Diego"
- Another article on Comic-Con International: "San Diego Comic-Con International"

Friday, May 9, 2014

To My 16-year-old Daughter on Mother's Day

I've heard you say that you don't think you ever want to be a mother. And, I get that. Being a mother doesn't make a lot of logical sense. There's the pain part, of course, and the crazy amount of weight gain. My last month of pregnancy, everything was bloated and puffy - from my face to my feet. Delivery was no fun either.

Maybe you've heard too many stories about the day you were born. I didn't get the epidural as promised, and it was long and grueling, a blur of pitocin and pain. You arrived at the same moment they kicked off Monday night football - your dad remembers.

What seemed to go on for hours and hours ended in a crazy, climactic blur. I don't remember the moment you were born very clearly, but I do remember when they handed you to me, and I held you for the first time. You were messy and wrinkly - but also the most precious being I had ever seen.

I knew immediately you were my daughter.

You snuggled right up to me. You were so vulnerable and warm and beautiful. You took my breath away.

At that moment, it was completely worth it - all of it. And there's no way that you can understand it until it happens to you.

The birth moment is significant, of course. It's the moment where you get it - this is real. It is more than baby showers and decorating the nursery. I am responsible for another human being. How in the world will this little vulnerable person survive in my care! I can't even keep a house plant alive!

Yet you did. You survived and thrived.

You learned and grew and started to be your own person. You loved things intensely. You adored Elmo and kissed his nose, dancing with him in the living room. You feared Kermit the frog - his pointy face and beady eyes never seemed friendly to you.

Your birthday parties were always themed by your latest obsession: Mulan, Barney, Blue's Clues, Lilo and Stitch. You loved to read and craft and watch videos. You liked to dress up in the craziest outfits - Elmo nightgown, sweatpants, heart-shaped sunglasses and floppy floral hat, just to walk around the house.

Being a mom is such sweetness, even when it is exhausting.

People warned me that it was hard to raise a girl. But I have honestly loved it. We are friends, you and I, and nothing can be better than that. I followed your lead and read the entire Harry Potter series, carrying that huge book 7 with me on my Chicago commute. We have watched Gilmore Girls together, three times, in its entirety. We have a bit of Lorelai and Rory in us, I think. We have grown closer as we've read and talked about your school reading assignments (Rebecca, The Road, Death of a Salesman).

We have camped together, studied chemistry together, walked and cooked and crafted. We've dyed your hair bright red. We've gone to cosplay conventions. But beyond what we do together, you have a huge influence on me. You challenge my ideas and make me think. I am learning from you now, just as you've learned from me.

At 16, you are smart and compassionate and wise and confident. You inherited my shyness and my lack of athletic ability, but you also have my intelligence and my charm. You are more, so much more, than I ever expected. darling, please don't give up on the idea of being a mom. There is that painful part - true - but there is also a deep and lasting payoff.

Happy Mother's Day to the best thing I've ever done!

Love you bunches...


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Celebrating the BRAVE Women Among Us!

I asked you to nominate brave women for my book giveaway. Wow! I am inspired and humbled to hear their stories - and the obvious ways they have nurtured your lives. While my book was about inspiring women who lived in the late 1800s, it is clear to me that God continues to show Himself today (in 2014) through modern-day women, who live quiet, faithful, and generous lives.

In my own life, I have watched my sister (Julie Storms Lunt) and my mom (Jan Storms Czapla) go through incredible trials and yet remain strong and loving and beautiful. Julie survived a brain tumor that could have taken her life - but today she is a walking miracle: thriving, married, living in Chicago, and teaching school. My mom faced the loss of her husband (my dad), and her parents in an incredibly short span of time, yet she kept pushing forward, completing a lifetime of teaching and inspiring children - and even daring to find love again. I admire them both deeply and love them beyond words.

Let's celebrate ALL of the women in our lives today - and thank God for those who have left such a positive and deep imprint of love, faith, hope and encouragement. A special congratulations to Jeanne Jordie nominated by Terry Mikrut Bucknell both who will receive copies of my book (please message me your mailing addresses!). 

Thanks as well to everyone who sent these nominations.

PAMELA SUE (nominated by Allan Winters) - "My dearest friend and ministry partner co-founded our not-for-profit organization 30 years ago with myself. Pamela was and is an inspiration, not just for me, but all who come in contact with her."

ESTHER PIKEL (nominated by Linda Fawcett Valentine) - "An 80+ Energizer bunny who continues to serve the Lord faithfully well into her eighth decade. Her husband passed away suddenly over twenty years ago . . . not one to let grief overcome her, she has been travelling all over the Chicagoland area, visiting friends, ministering in nursing and retirement homes, baking goodies and encouraging dozens of a great network of people."

SHERRY RANGER RIAL (nominated by Liz Lawson Young) - "She has faced incredible challenges in her life, but she always seeks the Lord. She was one of the first people who put a fire in my heart for adoption. She is a great support in my journey of being a foster and adoptive parent, even though she is facing her own health issues. Greater faith, I have never seen."

LYNDA MOODY-KOPACZ (nominated by Elizabeth Nuo) - "Being adopted, I desire to belong to somebody . . . My adopted parents are back in China. Life was difficult as a missionary kid, and I have faced many challenges and changes. A good change took place during my student teaching in my life. A mother of four children took me under her wings, loved me as if I was her own... This is just a little portion of how she has impacted my life!"

CAROLYNN TENNANT (nominated by Mark Willis) - "I'd like to nominate Dr. Carolynn Tennant from North Central University. She was one of my professors and left a huge impact on my life."

JEANNE JORDIE (nominated by Terry Mikrut Bucknell) - She is, by far, one of the hardest working women I know. Jeanne is a caregiver to her husband Tom, who has had medical issues for over 10 years (and is a miracle himself!). She also works a full time job, is a mom, grandma, and friend. She doesn't ask for help, figuring God will supply her nees. I have never seen anyone show the love of God in practical ways like Jeanne does."

PHYLLIS (nominated by her daughter, Lisa) - "My mom is the epitome of what it means to be heroic, loving, and a true survivor (breast cancer). her life revolves around the people who mean the most ot her and who carry the keys to her heart. When times get tough, not only does she rely on her strengthened faith; renewed hope; and unconditional love; but she also follows her own blueprint, a road map of sorts, to help her muddle through good times and bad."