I Am Groot

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Photo courtesy of Disney and Marvel copyright 2014

I Am Groot

When I watch television, movies, and even the news in April, I see lots of stories and information about autism.  I am aware that April is Autism Awareness month, for my family autism isn’t relegated to one month, rather it is every day, every month, every year.  We are more aware of autism than the average family.  My son, Ryan has autism.

When I have asked people, who are not as aware as I am about autism, what they think autism is?  They point to characters on television shows, movies, and children and adults in the media, who have autism.  Nearly every single person, or character, with autism is high functioning.  Prime examples are Forrest Gump, Max from Parenthood, Dr. Latham from “Chicago Med,” even the kid who shot all the baskets, the kid who was voted homecoming king.  The media turns a blind eye towards people with autism, who are not high functioning.  My son is one of those people.  Until very recently, there are no mention of lower functioning adults and children in the movies, television, or even in the news.  In 2014, Marvel Comics finally produced a movie that showed a character with limited speech in a very positive light.

You may ask who?  My answer is “I am Groot.”  We first saw the first “Guardians of The Galaxy” movie a few years ago, and my daughter was the first to notice that Groot was my son.  She said that our family was Rocket.  For those that do not know comic book, Marvel, or the movies, I’ll explain.  Groot and Rocket are a pair of bounty hunters that are looking for Star Lord.  Groot is played by Vin Diesel.  Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper.  Groot is a large tree creature.  The only thing he says throughout the entire movie is— “I am Groot.”  His partner Rocket, a walking, talking raccoon, translates based on context, body language, and intonation what every “I am Groot” means.  That’s what we do with my son.  Our family has become master interpreters for our son.  We know the meaning behind every phrase.

My son on the other hand is just like Groot, from his mannerisms to his monotonous speech, but he is also like Groot in other aspects.  Groot defends his friends with ferocity.  He has a really wicked sense of humor, and pretty good dance moves.  At the end of the movie, Groot sacrifices himself for his friends.  He grows into a dome that protects the rest of the Guardians from dying while their ship crashes.  While he grows, he transforms the environment to a beautiful starlit dome.  And he says one phrase while sacrificing himself, “We are Groot.”  This statement makes Rocket realizes Groot’s intention, and he begs him not to sacrifice himself.  In the epilogue we see a new baby Groot, who dances and sings to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5.  Like Groot, my son is brave, strong, caring, with a wicked sense of humor, he is smart, and when he says something, often it is so profound and meaningful.

In the waning days of the month of April, I changed my profile picture to Baby Groot.  I have posted “I am Groot” (sometimes I include emojis to show my mood) at random times throughout the day.  I have responded to other people’s posts with “I am Groot.”  Most people haven’t asked me why, some think that I’m being facetious, sarcastic, or I’m just a moron.  To the few that have asked why, I messaged them my reasoning (I have also posted it on my wall), and I encourage other parents to do the same to bring awareness of children (and adults) with autism and other developmental disabilities with limited language skills.  So in honor of my son, Ryan, “We are Groot.”

Day Five: The Perfect Day

I am weightless.  I float through my home uninhibited.  Each day I see the sun rise and set 16 times.  When I look beyond the Earth to dark sky, I see the universe completely different than I do when I am Earthbound.  I imagine that each speck of light is a planet, galaxy, or star in far off land.  I wonder if there is someone like me in a space station looking through a small window staring at the dots of light in their field of vision wondering who is looking back at them.  Every so often I see an identifiable planet.  The one that is most recognizable is Mars.  I think of a book I read recently, “The Martian,” and think to myself how much more I have in common with main character in the story than I do with most of my fellow Americans.  I feel more at home weightless and in space than I do on the ground.  Today, though, Venus is more visible today than any other planet.

I switch windows every so often and look down at Earth.  It looks so peaceful from up here.  At night, you can tell the developed countries from the undeveloped countries based on the twinkling lights of the cities.  There are no land boundaries, the only boundaries you see are land and sea.  You can’t see war, you can’t see poverty, you can’t even tell the race of any of the multitudes of people living on Earth from up here.  All you see is land.  You see the lush green of the forest, you see the white mountain tops, you see the vast oceans, and you see browns and greens of deserts and plains throughout the world.  At night, you can see the storm fronts that move across the United States by the lightening that flashes from above.  During hurricane season, you can see the frightening beauty of a storm.  You can see the slow shift of the clouds with every sunrise and every sunset.

Every so often we pass between the moon and Earth.  The sunlight reflects off the moon’s surface, and the view is phenomenal.  It is not like a full moon that you see on Earth.  Instead, I see the moon in all its phases multiple times each day.  I see the crevices and pot marks made by meteors.  I see the Sea of Tranquility as the moon rotates with the Earth.

From space you see how perfect the Universe is even though I know that it is utterly imperfect.  My perfect day is waking weightless in my temporary home.  Looking out through the tiny windows of the International Space Station, and observing the universe in all its perfection and glory.  My perfect day is the first day and the last day I spend up here, and the realization that comparatively speaking I am so small and the Universe is so large.  Even though each star I see in the sky appears to be a mere speck of burning gas and dust glowing in the night sky, it is far larger and more significant than I am.  While my life, the world, and everything else is imperfect on the surface; in space everything is perfect, peaceful, and real.

I am an astronaut, and this is my perfect day.

This is a short fictional piece.  I have never been in space.  The references to space are from various sources, but primarily from Kevin A. Ford.  I had the pleasure of meeting Colonel (ret) Ford in 2011 before his mission to space while he was visiting Wright Patterson AFB, OH.  After a day of briefings, and being escorted around by my husband, he stopped by my home for apple pie and ice cream.  It was humbling speaking to him, because he was the most down to Earth guy you could possibly meet.  In 2012 and 2013, Colonel Ford was the flight engineer on an STS mission to the International Space Station.  He has also flown the August 2009 mission on the Space Shuttle, and is one of the last space pioneers.

He smiled while my daughter asked countless 4-year-old questions, and my son with un-diagnosed Tourette’s yelled swear words.  I have met a few celebrities in my time, but this was one person that I was utterly star struck by.  He is probably the closest I’ll ever get to space.  I am writing a novel about a space traveler, who comes to Earth, and Colonel (ret) Ford is truly an inspiration and a hero to me.  To read more about Colonel Ford, and the rest of heroes at NASA visit: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/

Source:  Colonel (ret) Kevin A. Ford, USAF/NASA, http://www.jsc.nasa.gov

Day Six: Tell a Short Story that Starts With a Ransom Note

We Don’t Need Another Hero…

I’m going to talk about my new novel, even though the first one is not yet published.  I’m tabling “Adam and Eve” for a little bit, because the timing doesn’t feel right to me.  I’m going to delve a little bit into plot, character development, tell you a little bit about why I have decided to do a typical “ADD” thing and change mid-course, but first I’ll give you a little bit (OK, a lot of background).

Storm From Movie Pilot.com

I love superheroes.  I have always loved superheroes, particularly the vulnerable ones.  The superheroes, who are imperfect, flawed, make mistakes, have missteps, have good intentions that sometimes go awry.  The problem is that every single one of the superheroes I love are men.  None of the female superheroes I used to watch in television and the movies were ones I particularly enjoy.  They always took a back seat to men.  Most of the women heroes in movies, television, etc are clones of men.  For example, Super Girl.  She is from the same planet as Superman.  She shows up on Earth, and does pretty much the same exact thing as Superman, except she’s a girl.  Same thing with Batgirl.  Wonder Woman is the only one that kind of breaks this model, but she came into being in the post-feminine era.  I’m not a huge fan, because ultimately she is still a “sex symbol” rather than a hero (that’s just my humble opinion).  The more complex super hero female characters are side characters– Storm (manipulates the weather), but she is often overshadowed by Wolverine, Cyclops, or Nightcrawler.  The women of the X-Men, who have the more interesting powers are the villains– Mystic (shape shifting is awesome) and Catwoman– a combination of the same bad ass skills as Batman, but killer costume and character added.

Princess Leia

Besides superheroes, as of late there have been many strong central female characters.  The first of these characters is Princess Leia from “Star Wars.”  I think about it this way, this woman was tortured physically and mentally, and still didn’t give up the location of the rebel base, despite her home planet being destroyed.  Another strong character I really appreciated was Hermoine Granger from “Harry Potter”.  Hermoine was unique in that she was far more talented and intelligent than her male counterparts, but she was a secondary character in the entire series.  Readers (and film goers) watched her (and Emma Watson) grow up in front of our eyes.  But in every novel and movie it was highlighted that she was a incredibly witch, and she was also amazingly smart.  Finally, one of my most favorite modern feminine hero is Katniss Everdeen.  Katniss, unlike Hermoine and Leia is a survivor.  She is kind, but she is also somewhat ruthless.  Everything she did she did for the simple reason that she wanted herself and her family to survive.  She volunteered for the reaping, so that her sister would survive.  When it was convenient she teamed up with Peeta, even though in the beginning she preferred Gale.

So when I set down to write my novel, I wanted a strong female character.  Unlike other superhero novels, comic books, and movies, this character was going to be the only character with super powers.  Like other superhero media, she is also has weaknesses.  Her experiences have tainted her existence.  When the reader is first introduced to her, she is a preteen child in 1910s in New Mexico.  She is vulnerable, because she is a child.  She has powers that she doesn’t understand, and she is just figuring out what she can do and how to do it.  I selected New Mexico as a setting, because it was the first military base I was stationed at.

The next chapter the reader is introduced to the my female lead’s caregiver from the “dimension” or planet they had originally come from.  I won’t go into how they ended up on Earth, but the setting of the chapter takes place in the 1920s near Biloxi, MS.  It is the height of Jim Crow, when the KKK was at its most popular, and there were also a record number of lynchings.  She looks at her male caregiver as a father figure even though he is not her father.  The main character should have aged 18 years between the first chapter and the second chapter, but she has not.  She does not age like others.  This aspect of the character is like one of my favorite heroes, Wolverine/Logan.

  

The following chapters follow the character’s development into adulthood.  She doesn’t age much between 1923 and the 2000s, though we learn her motivations.  The third chapter takes the character to Germany during WWII.  In a surprising turn is at a convent as an initiate.  After witnessing the holocaust in a very first hand account, this changes the character for both the better and the worst.  The fourth chapter and fifth chapter she works in a MASH unit in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.  In the sixth chapter she is in Kuwait as a pilot.  It is getting harder and harder for her to hide that she is almost 100 years old.  She becomes adept at stealing identities, and eventually shows her technical savvy.  But at the end of chapter seven she is discovered.

The seventh chapter reveals why her and her caregiver are here.  What her destiny is, and why her existence is significant.  It is the point where she has to decide whether she is a hero, or not.  I am only on chapter two, so much of the plot beyond this is in development.  I have outlined everything.  I have come up with settings and situations for this character.  I’m more than excited about this novel.  The story of this hero has been in my head since I was a 4-year-old sitting in a theater with my dad watching “Star Wars,” and now she is coming to life.  I can’t wait until you meet her, and discover the biggest secret and plot twist.

I finished my first novel in March 2015.  I decided to table the novel for a few month and work on this one after my dad died.  This novel is the one I was born to write, and it’s the story I have always wanted to write.  It is the one I have dream of being developed into a movie, or a television show.  I couldn’t stomach having this story in my head, and not even starting it.  So I did what every woman (and man) with ADD does, I stopped mid-stride an started something new.