My film idea

Remember yesterday when I discussed film ideas I had for Backyard Sports? Well, as it turns out, I’m still focused on this dream! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, since 2004 in fact. To put in perspective: If my dream was a person, it’d be a high school sophomore (I say “sophomore” because, if we go by technicality, it was born in summer 2004, and so would presumably be a high school sophomore. You know, the one that goes clubbing with a fake ID because Mommy and Daddy don’t give it enough freedom.) Furthermore, Bush Jr. was still in his first term as president, Greta Thunberg is only one year older, and just to top it off, I know a young lady who’s the same age it is, and she just gave head to her boyfriend.

Now, most kids at that age don’t have very substantial dreams. In fact, most girls at that age either want to be pop stars or Disney Princesses. (Which I also liked at that age, but preferred the more “down-to-earth” ones with their own strengths and skills like Jasmine, Ariel, and Belle. Especially Belle.)

So why would I care? Because, I’ve always wanted to share my imagination with the rest of the world. However, it’s always been difficult for me to create ideas out of thin air. My father, who applies his writing skills to the academic world, has a similar problem. At conferences he’s spoken at, he’s said that, while he’s never written a fictional novel and never will, history comes easy for him “because everything’s already there.” While I apply my skills to fictional worlds, the dynamics are nevertheless similar.

When I was little and make stories inside my head, they always were based on some sort of cartoon, book series, or videogame series that I deeply appreciated. While I enjoyed making up said series, sometimes I would feel guilty, as I thought I was “stealing” other peoples’ characters. In 2012, there was some controversy about SOPA, which would censor about 90% of the internet, around the time I was writing my Backyard Sports fanfic, no less.

“Isn’t it illegal to take other people’s work?” said Dad.

“Not if they get permission. In fact, the Backyard Sports company will deeply appreciate Jenny’s work!”

Ignoring the fact that Humongous Entertainment was bought out about 14 years ago and would most likely not appreciate a story featuring one of their least popular characters becoming a panther-like superhero, Mom was, in a sense, right. Studios are always eager to make films based off popular franchises, especially classic children’s cartoons. (That’s why there are so many Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, even if the target audience for the first would be too old to enjoy The Road Chip) that they often ignore the quality of their finished work.

Recently, I shot an email to my cousin Ryan, who currently works as an entertainment lawyer in California, about writing for pre-established franchises. (I also mentioned writing for Manimal, which is only technically a franchise because it only lasted eight episodes, nine if you count the 90s crossover with Nightman.) Being the supportive older cousin he was, like always, he sent me a (very long, not copying it here) email about how writing for a franchise can be done, so long as you go through all the hurdles to get permission! Towards the end, he even mentioned the film adaptation of Manimal that Will Ferrell and Adam Mckay were working on (P.S. If either of them is reading this, please get Benedict Cumberbatch to play Dr. Chase. You’ll have the most amount of women orgasming in the theatre when he tears off his clothes as he transforms, and that includes Magic Mike.) He’s too young to have remembered Manimal (but Benedict Cumberbatch certainly isn’t!), and too old to have enjoyed Backyard Sports, yet he still found ways to help support my dreams. Now I have to help him get work on the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie just to be fair.

Anyways, as I’ve grown up, my idea evolved into something more comprehensible. The plot follows Jenny, a young autistic girl who moves to their neighborhood and tries to assimilate with them. Her mom says that this was the best school for her, as it’s the only one that can accomodate her disability- after all, everyone else is different, too! However, she doesn’t know how to make friends, so she eats her lunch her first day in the bathroom.

Taking pity on her, Angela (my second-favorite character from the series, you’ll never guess who my favorite character from the series is) takes her aside and invites her to eat lunch with her the following day, as it’s up to the whole school to make sure nobody feels left out. (Everyone here is different, after all.) After seeing Jorge adjacent to her, eat his pizza with a fork, she develops a crush on him and asks her to eat lunch with him. Angela says “Okay, but I don’t recommend flirting.” She sits with him anyway and starts chatting. After a a while, she asks him “Wanna go on a date?” Cue Angela’s disgust and annoyance. (This was actually based off my crush on him. Because I understand that making him a superhero would be too weird for the franchise, I’ve decided to compromise with them by making him fantasize about being a Batman-esque superhero, and discussing this dream with Jenny, which is a typical fantasy for little boys anyway.)

Does this sound like a good idea for the franchise? Please discuss it in the comments!

Remember that bizarre story you wrote at 15? Well, this guy on Twitter does

Ever since I was really little, I’ve always had a huge imagination. Despite- or perhaps partly because of- the fact I was trapped in my own mind- I could never fail to come up with ideas for fun stories. However, some of them, especially the ones conceived before college, were incredibly weird. Let’s just say, when God gave me an imagination, He forgot to make sure it worked properly.

When I was about 15, I wasn’t too sure of myself. While I was leaps and bounds above where I was two years ago, I nevertheless had a tough time at school. In particular, I was the target of a “popular” girl, who seemed to like everyone but me. I could just say “hi,” and she’s be all like “Get away, loser!” The other girls weren’t much better, not only did they defend her, they almost encouraged her. In particular, they gave her the attention she very much craved.

That being said, one thing I always had going for me was my writing abilities, something I’ve had long before I was talking up a storm. Not to mention, when I was about seven/eight years old, my dream was to create a film and/or animated series based on the Backyard Sports series of games. Long story short, I convinced my parents to send me to a computer camp circa summer of 2004, which led them to find the YMCA camp. (Which is not really a computer camp, but did have a computer area.) That’s where I discovered the series, applied my amazing imagination to the series, and the rest, they say, is history.

So, as a sophomore in high school, I was going to a special needs high school that could only charitably be called a “high school.” Because it was a “special needs” school featuring various grade levels, they couldn’t differentiate between various “functioning” levels. Not that they cared, because to them, nobody was studying to go to college- except maybe incredibly small community colleges, so why bother stimulating us? Clearly we’d just get frustrated anyway.

Naturally, this inspired me to follow my childhood dream. Technically, I’ve had the dream of writing movies long before I discovered the series, however, with the characters of the series I found a neat little outlet to show off my writing abilities. One interesting aspect of them, was that I typically wanted to give Jorge, the snobby rich kid who hates getting dirty, the role of the handsome action hero. Granted, he was my first crush (Okay, technically Mandark from Dexter’s Laboratory was my first crush, but I felt so guilty about liking a “bad boy” that I mentally classified the former as my first crush. To be fair, they do kind of look and act similar.) At first, the ideas were too bizarre to be written out, and I didn’t have the proper focus to write them anyway. However, as I got older my writing skills evolved, and I was able to write a coherent story.

So what did I do? I decided to make him a magical superhero in the vain of Harry Potter! And have him kick the ass of a super villain mean girl! And transform him into a panther while I’m at it, because people transforming into animals is the most awesome shit in the history of awesome shit! (Okay, if that was true, Manimal would’ve been a heckofa lot more popular than it was.) What could possibly go wrong?

Needless to say, I had no idea what I was thinking.

About two years ago, I found this gem while surfing Twitter.

“I just found out about a Backyard Sports fanfic involving Jorge getting superpowers and TFing into a panther.

Welp, time to grab the bleach.”

As if that wasn’t enough, the following tweet said: “And it’s about as well-written as it sounds, too. Lovely.” (Clearly he’s being sarcastic.)

Now, I’m one of the most sensitive people in the world. I couldn’t handle girls at school not liking me, and I especially couldn’t handle my dad making jokes about how my family “wasn’t that popular” after only one family RSVP’ed to our NYE party that same year.

And yet, I wasn’t offended. Not one bit.

In fact, I did a little dance out of my college dorm room. Somebody was noticing my work! My own work! Without me promoting it to them! (Did I mention I promoted the hell out of it because I had nothing better to do?)

Sometimes, on Twitter, my friend Robert Cargill, otherwise known as Massawyrm or the screenwriter of Dr. Strange (but sadly not the sequel), gives writing advice. Like, “Don’t be afraid to write something terrible. No one will see it until you let them.” Naturally, I responded to him with my story and the young man’s response, adding that “Autism is a hell of a drug.” You see, it’s one thing if someone makes fun of me (even Dad), I can, however, laugh at myself- for pretty much the same reason only black people can use the “n-word.”

Not to mention, the young man who made that comment actually found me on Twitter, and told me there were no hard feelings, nor did he mean to cyberbully me- after all, the stuff he made at that age wasn’t much better. The fact that he was also on the autism spectrum (and was a furry at that, to the point where he made another page for his furry blog) definitely helped.

It’s not even the first time I’ve had a weird idea for a fanfic story. Back in 2007 when I was having an even worse time at school, and found solace in watching and talking about my favorite movies, I, believe it or not, thought a crossover between Alvin and the Chipmunks and Family Guy, called Megan and the Chipmunks, was a good idea. Granted, I had noble intentions (I felt sorry for Meg, the punching bag daughter, and wanted to cheer her up because I saw myself as her) but frankly, the two franchises have so little demographic overlap that it wouldn’t work. And even if Meg needed cheering up, surely there were better ways to help than putting novelty-singing chipmunks into her life. Thankfully, I was too disorganized to put it down on paper, unlike my Backyard Sports story. I did, however, mention it in a Family Guy Facebook message board for its 20th anniversary last year- cue plenty of “laughing” emoji reactions. (And no, I wasn’t remotely offended, for pretty much the same reasons I wasn’t offended by the autistic guy on Twitter.)

Now, Deviantart is chock full of bizarre fanart of every well-known film, TV show, videogame series, play, book series, and webseries under the sun. Especially transformation fics. Girls getting bustier, more muscular, fatter, you get the idea. You should see the amount of transformation fics involving “animal-morphing” from series where there is none! So, you could say that, by having a fic where a character transforms into an animal, you could say, in a sense, that Backyard Sports has finally hit the big time. By 2018, even I could agree that taking the series’ least popular character and making him a superhero so weird that Dr Strange would’ve looked mundane in comparison was a little too much for the fandom to handle.

Be that as it may, I am still holding on to my dream of writing a film for the series. I am currently working on a film series where the characters spoof popular films and television (and even some unpopular ones, such as Manimal!) and sharing it was my writing group, which I’m seeing tonight. It won’t be easy, but soon I can get it off the ground. I do, however, need to make sure my ideas work before I put them on paper and share them with the rest of the world.

The dystopia of a perfect society

For the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz today, I’ve decided to write something different from my typical tales of enjoying life. This post was probably one of, if not the, most uncomfortable post to write for my blog, but I feel that it was appropriate for today. After all, I wanted to stand in solidarity with those remembering Auschwitz today, to show that, some things were so horrendous that they must never, ever, ever be repeated. Ever.

While none of my closest relatives were directly influenced by the Holocaust (my paternal grandparents’ families were already in the U.S. by 1932, raising them as small children) I nevertheless feel a deep connection towards those who suffered. Not only am I Jewish (technically 1/2 Jewish through my father’s side, but I was able to have a Bat Mitzvah) I am also disabled in a way that mirrors the experiences mentally ill person. Being the latter truly makes me disturbed by the way they treated those who didn’t fit in the “perfect specimen” box the Nazis strictly enforced.

Everybody knows the Nazis were terrible human beings, but seem to “pass by” the fact that the Nazis wanted everyone to fit a “certain box.” The Jews themselves weren’t passed over for being failures at life- in fact, they were deeply resentful of their success in the field of business, feeling that it negatively affected German success, which was why they were targeted most of all.

However, anyone labeled as “different” in a negative way (which meant anyone different) was targeted. Gays, blacks, Gypsys, and the like were all sent to gas chambers. Naturally, this included mentally ill/handicapped people, as to them, they were the “worst” kind of different- they acted in incomprehensible ways to the normal human mind.

I found an interesting series on Youtube today called “Autodale.” Not only is it living proof that cartoons should never automatically be given the “For Children” label, but it also defies the idea that cartoons and animation are lowbrow entertainment. (The only other example I can think of of a serious cartoon is Persepolis, and even that had somewhat of a sense of humor.) The dynamics are so similar to Nazi Germany they’re downright startling.

In Autodale, which looks like a 1950s utopian suburb but is really 1940s dystopian Germany, everyone is expected to look “pretty.” Dads look like smart businessman, women look like charming housewives, children are all adorable and innocent. Of course, God help you if you are unemployed, disfigured, gay, over 60, mentally ill, or worst of all, exceptionally intelligent. You’re pretty much fucked then- they murder you and dump your body into a ditch. In other words, you have to fit a certain, narrow mold to merely be able to live in this society.

Sometimes, I get concerned about my family being “pretty” like the people in the cartoon, which has only been elevated by the celebrity culture of the 2000s and 2010s, putting certain people on pedestals for looking the way “they” want them to, and rewarding people for emulating them. Of course, that means if you can’t and/or don’t want to fit a certain mold, you’re shit out of luck. And as a college student whose autism was far more obvious than my fellow peers, I learned that lesson all too well.

You see, I had enormous difficulties in my first semesters in college- I was recovering from a terrible reading problem where I was not only reading incredibly slowly, but I couldn’t handle hearing loud noises when I read- I could barely even hear myself think! Naturally, this led to horrible meltdowns in class, where everyone was “extremely loud and incredibly close.” But did my adviser help me? Absolutely not.

You see, she had the idea in her head that autistic people were just “mildly” different at worst and that could fit in with only incredibly minor accommodations. She would give me grief, not only for serious offenses such as screaming, but for merely wincing in class. That’s right- wincing. Not only was I not being bad on purpose, I was actually taking pains to stop negative behavior. But try telling her that.

My negative experiences at college not only took a toll on my mental health, but on my attitude. I would get upset and freak out over the “behavior” of lower-functioning kids and see them as stupid and annoying. After all, if I couldn’t get help or sympathy for not fitting the mold society wants me to be in, why should they? Despite lectures from my parents that attacking people for being different, let alone vulnerable, is an inappropriate way to handle feelings, I downright refused to listen. Needless to say, my insecurity only encouraged my adviser, as she fed off of it like a evil demon: “Repeat after me, Jenny: I don’t want people to think I’m weird.”

Then one night, I couldn’t take it anymore. I remembered what my mother had said about humanity can be awful, why does God allow terrible things to happen, blah blah blah and I lost it. I screamed “Stop raping me!” even though there was no one else in the room. So two girls came in and got concerned.

“It’s a little late at night to talk to the counselor, but maybe we can get you someone at the hospital?” said the policeman. I was too stressed to care, so I said yes. Needless to say, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into then. As it turned out, my adviser was indeed responsible for sending me to the hospital- she had a form written out saying if I acted up too much again, I had the psychward to look forward to.

While I did do some stupid/inappropriate things in college, like walk outside the dorms in only a pajama shirt for some soap, the way my adviser handled me and my issues was completely unacceptable. Downright criminal, even. She wouldn’t have looked too out of place in Nazi Germany, where they persecuted mentally deficient people unless they were the “right kind” of mentally deficient. (which meant practically no one.) Thankfully, this awful story has a happy ending- the guidance counselor was kicked out in December 2018 for incompetence. Ding-dong, the witch is dead!

Look, for all the improvements I’ve made since being diagnosed in 2000, I’m not a normal person, and never will be. I talk to myself in public. I pace back and forth. I think Manimal is quality entertainment. As long as I play by the rules, all I ask of the world is to accept me for who I am. And in turn, I will never walk outside my dorm half-naked ever again.

No Jenny, your neighbor is not a free taxi service

Last Saturday, I did something so irresponsible that even writing about it makes me feel guilty about it. However, all things considered, my parents not only did not kill me, but they were surprisingly understanding of me and my situation.

So, yesterday there was a “Onesie Bar Crawl” around Morristown. Now, Morristown isn’t exactly the Excitement Capital of the World, so Bar Crwals are basically the Entertainment highlight of such, so I could forward to beer, free food, and millennial rock. I thought to myself That sounds like fun, maybe I’ll sign up for tickets? Needless to say, my parents were also planning to go to an autism conference the exact same evening, so I reminded my parents about the event before signing up (I had to order my ticket online.) After all, Mom was controlling my finances, and I didn’t want to upset her by going behind their backs. I was looking forward to a fun night on the town, even if said “town” was technically a boring suburb.

Needless to say, there’s a lot to be said for great expectations.

You see, yours truly is terrible at organization. I spent about an hour looking for some eyeliner I had misplaced (It was Kat Von D, whom I deeply appreciated.) Needless to say, finding it became a moot point, and made me completely forget about putting my ID back in my purse (I had brought a really cute clutch my boyfriend gave me for Christmas.) Dad, being the absent-minded professor he was, didn’t even bother checking before I left.

So, yours truly stopped at the Laundromat first. As it turns out, they were fine with me giving me my Medicaid card as an ID, so I was able to enjoy the joint.

And enjoy I did! I had a blast drinking Coors Light, partying, and complimenting the other young millennials on their awesome onesies. I even told one guy in a dinosaur onesie about Velocipastor, a movie about a priest who transforms into a velociraptor. (Why yes, this movie exists. Look it up when you get the chance; it’s so terrible it’s awesome!) Needless to say, he was both shocked and amazed by it.

That being said, the following joint my friends decided to check out required an ID. Not a Medicaid card, a real, live ID. Technically, I’m 23 (I’ll be 23 1/2 in about a week, going by sheer technicality), but I’m so youthful-looking I could play a teenager on television, and nobody would say a word. (I do plan to play an animal-morphing teenager in a screenplay I’ve recently written, but that’s another story.) So I understand where the bouncer was coming from.

Because the bar section is technically (by which I mean “a good half-hour in the rain”) in walking distance from my house, I decided to walk home to get my ID from my house. However, I realized it would be another half-hour walking in the rain, so I decided to contact my neighbor about getting a ride. After all, it was only 10 minutes (at most), what could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, an awful goddamn lot.

I called up my neighbor, whom my family is very close to. (I’ve been taught by many people that I shouldn’t go into cars with people I don’t know almost as often as I’ve been taught not to text and drive. Almost.) Due to concern about me, he decided to call Mom and Dad to tell them what happened. Not only were they absolutely shocked, they- this is where the fun comes in- heavily discouraged me from going back to the bar place. Cue ten minutes of arguing and yours truly getting upset and angry at them.

“Jenny, it’s the middle of the night, you’ll get lost, there’s no guarantee they’re still there.”

“But I can call you to remind you guys I’ll be fine!”

“Jenny, I understand you want to go back, but the answer is simple: we say no.” Mom even tried saying it was technically optional, but still vetoing it. (Ask her how that system works.) Eventually, after seeing how upset I was and feeling terrible about merely standing there, (people who aren’t my parents tend to be nicer to me, my horrible guidance counselor at college notwithstanding) my neighbor tried to reassure them he was fine to drive, he wasn’t doing anything at home anyway. (Except sitting around watching football.) He even offered to give me a ride back. (I felt so terrible about what had happened that I passed up his offer; after all someone was bound to have extra room on their Uber ride.) Eventually, my parents caved in, but made me reassure them it wouldn’t happen again.

I did have fun at the next bar, but less fun than I’d thought I did because I felt guilty about what happened. I did pretty much the same thing at this bar- party to 2000s pop punk, compliment on peoples’ onesies, get a beer. They also, luckily, had some free food left over for dinner, so I didn’t starve.

As for my ride, I finally found my new friends at the bar. I merely asked them “What’s going on?” and they started saying things like “You’re so amazing Jenny, even though you’re weird, we totally get it, because you’re awesome” you know, being drunk and all. The way they put it, you’d think I invented the cure for cancer, danced with Beyoncé, and got elected Queen of the World, they were just that smashed. It was even kind of weirding me out for a minute. Oh well, at least they were nice to me, even if saying that was massive understatement. We finally got an Uber ride, and they adored me so much, that not only did they get the driver to add my address to their Uber (he appreciated getting the extra cash), but urged him to get me home first- after all, it was the closest one from the bar.

Now, I’ve always been sensitive to people telling me “no.” My parents, who are both baby boomers are old enough to remember when kids were expected to suck it up even though the world was really, really, really mean and scary try to reassure me that the world can be unfair (you wouldn’t BELIEVE how upset I was about Benedict Cumberbatch, my favorite actor, being on Jimmy Kimmel Live! after the latter mocked my parents’ autism work, and in his Dr. Strange costume no less! Now you see why I enjoyed my new friends putting me on a pedestal after they got smashed.) So most of the time, they interpret my behavior as me being a whiny little bitch. Yes, even with Benedict being buddies with Jimmy Kimmel. Especially with him being buddies with Jimmy Kimmel, because, honey, at least you aren’t severely disabled like so-and-so’s son, and celebrities are shallow and stupid anyway. Not that they’re bad parents by a long stretch, but sometimes I, um, kind of forget that.

That being said, even they understood being upset about not being able to go to a party was such a typical experience, it’s practically a rite-of-passage-my parents know a lot of families whose kids are so disabled they can only wish their kid would get upset about something like that- for a 15-year-old. I am, however, slow in maturity (small wonder the bouncer needed to see my ID), and was writing weird Backyard Sports fanfiction (How weird? Well, to quote some guy on Twitter who found it online, “Welp, time to grab the bleach”- autism really is a hell of a drug.) when I was actually fifteen, so I was merely making up for lost time. Oh well, just as long as they have that experience by the time they’re my age. Not to mention, nothing says “typical 23-year-old” quite like a fun bar hop! Small wonder I felt like my parents were “babying” me when they discouraged me from going back to the bar.

So, this morning my mother finally realized I needed a job. It would be extremely beneficial for me-I would get a sense of responsibility, a good social life, and most importantly, get out of the house. I was glad at my mom for a. Not being too upset at me. and b. understanding where I was coming from. The fact that nothing terrible happened to me definitely helped- as my grandfather himself put it, “Don’t worry about the bullet that you missed.” Hopefully, my local library will have a nice gig for me to work for, or at least a nice training job. Every little bit of experience helps towards my target job!

Off to Israel!

A couple of weeks ago, I started my journey in another country, for the first time. (Technically I was in Canada in 2009, but that was for a family vacation, and the country is basically America’s neighbor anyway.) However, I went through loops and hurdles to get there.

You see, in October 2019 I was all set to get on the Asperger’s trip on the Shorashim program. I was actually planning it for a long time, since my senior year of college, but plans kept falling through. So when the people at the program called me up on October 31st, 2019 (The ten-year anniversary of my bat mitzvah, no less) to tell me that the Asperger’s trip had been filled up, my heart broke. I tried to hold back tears but Dad kept chastising me because he thought I was acting out. (Apparently I’m not supposed to show disappointment because that’s a sign of my autistic immaturity.) While I was able to go to my local religious center and see my friend Ryan, I was still heartbroken.

The following day, I woke up crying hysterically. “I really don’t want to put up with this every day for the next year,” said Mom. I was even more hurt- after all, I was already disappointed about not meeting Benedict Wong at Comic-Con, even if I did meet my nice friend at the religious center the day I was supposed to go. (Needless to say, late 2019 was a nasty series of disappointments for yours truly; that year wasn’t the half of it.) My parents reassured me that it wasn’t my fault, the Asperger’s trips probably have such high demand that they have to take the oldest kids first because they’re reaching maximum age- which was raised from 27 to 32 to accommodate more people- but still.

Then, Mom did an amazing thing! (When you’re 23, you can finally accept that parents can be awesome. Most of the time, anyway.) She decided to Google “Shorashim trips” and found another trip for people with special needs! I took one look at the website, and while I appreciated the fact that they were doing this for disabled people, I wasn’t sure it was for me. After all, whenever companies have programs and/or events for special needs people, there’s a 90% chance they’ll treat them like little kids, even towards the more mature ones involved. “If this is a trip for people with special needs, aren’t they going to baby us?” I asked Dad. “If it’s a trip to Israel, why would they baby you?” said Dad. “Isn’t this a good thing they’re doing this for special needs people?” (That I had no problem with, in fact I appreciated the fact they were making disabled kids feel included; I was mainly concerned about not fitting in.)

“Well, I know some day programs for disabled people bore the participants, even the really smart ones, to death, like Dr. Feingold’s daughter Eliza.” (Dr. Feingold is an amazing doctor who specializes in numerous disabilities, and her story about her daughter is heartwarming, look it up!) Dad reassured me that no, it won’t be like a day program where kids sit around and do nothing; it won’t be that different from the other Israeli trips offered except for the increased supervision. When I mentioned the trip at Thanksgiving dinner, my aunt also mentioned that she knew someone who went on the trip, but was still mature enough for college.

One of my reasons for concern, however, were my negative experiences at high school. My parents eventually put me in a special classroom after aggression issues- this was around the time of my bat mitzvah at that- and while my freshman & sophomore years were fine, by 11th grade they finally realized that it was too easy for me. For example, my language arts teacher had a lesson plan where she would rush through books (classic ones at that), have us copy down notes on a Smartboard (which was more like a “dumb-board”), and then have us watch whatever film version was in existence, multiples ones if necessary. (Even if it was the 2009 version of Sherlock Holmes, complete with Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr- to be honest, I would have preferred the 2010 BBC series with my college crush, Benedict Cumberbatch.) Small wonder my reading skills slumped and I preferred to watch TV back then.

However, my experiences here were nothing like Montgomery Academy- we got to do fun things like sit on camels, go to museums, eat out at fun restaurants, and even have mock bar/bat mitzvahs. One young lady with high-functioning autism was really excited, by which I mean fixated, on her’s; I could relate/understand because I had shown similar amounts of enthusiasm toward my faimly for the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie 12 years ago. When we went to see the Wall of Jersulam, she even wrote a note saying how excited she was. (I myself wrote wellness prayers for voiceover actor Eddie Deezen, who was in the hospital recovering from a nasty infection and is now one of my new friends.)

In fact, while everyone was significantly impaired in some way or another, there were plenty of nice Jewish boys who had mainly Asperger’s/high-functioning disabilities and therefore “like me”- some of which were even staff! (Technically there was one exception of a young man with Down’s so intense he couldn’t speak, but had such a wonderful, charming personality that I enjoyed his company.) One of them even had a similar experience with trying to get an Israeli trip through Shorashim, and he was 32! I told him about what happened with me trying to get a trip, and he really appreciated it. “Well, they are kind of babying us, but not to the extent I thought it would be.” And I wholeheartedly agreed.

At the very end of the trip, right when everyone was about to leave for the United States, I went around and told everyone something I appreciated about them. For example, I told my roommate with Down’s Syndrome what a great friend she was and that I enjoyed her company (one evening she hogged the shower for a long time, to the point that some of the counselors had to intervene, but was otherwise great)- not to mention her amazing sense of humor! (At one point during an activity, I was in such danger of a panic attack I found myself nervously biting my jacket. She told me, and I quote “You can’t go around eating your jacket, Jenny, it’s not bacon!”)

One thing I took away from this trip, is that you should never back down when things get tough, or you’re blocked one way or another- you may be only a few steps away from a happy ending, all you need to do is change your route a little bit. And sometimes it requires more work, but the reward is all the more worth it in the end. To quote the speaker, former New York Jets player David Clowney, at my college graduation “So what? Now what?” (Who would’ve guessed a former football player could give such fantastic advice?)

Speaking of happy endings to bad stories, even my friend Eliza’s story has one. Eventually, her parents were able to get her into a nice community college, where she has an aid helping her and is getting the proper stimulation she needs. (Ironically, I found this out when we were getting the health forms filled out for the Asperger’s trip, go figure!) Oh, and if you’ve already read her story online, it’s amazing. It all goes to show that parents should never give up on their disabled children. Ever.

My surprisingly easy, self-inflicted Media Sabbath

“Take a media sabbath this week- put your phone away, leave the television off, and rest your body and soul.”

So were the fateful words of the “Moving Forward” section of my Forward Day by Day booklet that I got from my local Episcopalian Church, which inspired me to take a break from technology for a whole week. Why, you may ask, would anyone want to avoid technology for a whole week in the middle of 2020, let alone a technology geek like me? The answer is simple: because I’ve already done it enough.

You see, as a millennial and someone with autism, I’ve been especially fascinated by the computers and the internet. I’ve even been using a computer since I was four years old. (Granted, it was mainly to play children’s educational computer games, but still.) I’ve always gotten a rush whenever I find fun information about a favorite topic, or finally completed something on it. However, when I’m just mindlessly clicking around, I technically do receive happiness, but it’s mainly superficial happiness. Not the genuine happiness that comes from living a full life.

This was even a bigger issue when I was younger. I would spend a lot of my free time on it, and was so expectant of it, that I would expect to use it a lot every day. I would get fixated and hooked on favorite websites as well. (Neopets was a pretty nasty offender.) Whenever I would go to the doctor’s on a school day (which I did an awful lot to take care of my autism symptoms) and not get home until later, I would freak out and have an autistic meltdown. Once, I had a doctor’s appointment on the exact same day I was going to Ellis Island- I would be in thee different states, but only briefly at home. Naturally, I was very nervous about this.

Nowadays, it’s much easier for me to avoid the internet, if only because I feel bad for being so hooked in college- especially the final semester when I was in the middle of a “senior slump,” not helped by the fact that I was finally getting the freedom from living on campus for the first time in a year. I feel as though I need to counterbalance days with heavy internet use by either limiting it other days or even going cold turkey.

There was even an incident last Christmas that showed how I can surprisingly, maturely handle punishments.

You see, last Christmas I had plans to hang out with a neighbor, a sweet Irish grandmother, over Christmas (long story), however, I forgot to read the fine print- only if she was around for Christmas. Because it was so early in the Christmas season (it was still November when she made the offer, and not even Thanksgiving) plans for the holidays weren’t really set in stone. So when I found she had an invitation to be with a relative over the holidays, I freaked out. After a really nasty autistic meltdown (the less said about it, the better), I ran off to my local care unit and told them that my parents kicked me out of the house. After the police drove me back (my sister had her favorite video cassette on in the living room; there was no hiding it from my parents) my mother decided to take away my Chromebook, and not give it back unless I was good for three whole days.

I did bargain with my parents, because I wanted to post and see my friends’ posts for Christmas that year. However, I eventually caved in when I realized they weren’t backing down anytime soon, and that I could handle my punishment- after all, even I realized I kind of deserved it after what I’d done.

Unlike the above incident, however, my media sabbath was completely voluntary. (Technically it was suggested by my little book, but I could’ve chosen to ignore the advice and stayed on the internet.) Naturally, it made me feel a lot better about myself and my own life. My own mother knows a young man who took a media sabbath similar to mine, though he did it for a whole year, something I could never push myself to really do. Now, he gets straight A’s and has a nice job and his life altogether.

I’m not saying that technology and the internet is bad by itself, in fact they can be used in helpful constructive ways, which is why both my parents have special “work stations” for theirs. I’m just pointing out that negative impacts its addictive qualities impacted my life, and how I worked to stop them from ruining it.

Looking back on Haiti, 10 Years Later

Searching through my Twitter feed this morning, I realized that “Haiti earthquake” was trending. I was curious for a moment, then realized “Holy shit! It’s been 10 years; I’m old!” Naturally, I was curious, so I clicked on the link.

I still remember the devastating impact that people were faced with, long after January 12th, 2010. Because I was far too young to remember 9/11 clearly, this was basically my generation’s equivalent of such.

I was in Yoga Class at my school when the country was hit with earth-shattering novelty. I remember that, despite being out of the public school system, I nevertheless had just as many (if not more) issues in school. I called the cops on my parents after a nasty fight. I ran away to a friend’s house to get back at my parents for revoking some internet privileges. Once, I even told my mom “I can’t go to school; they’re going to hurt me.” (To be fair, there were plenty of nasty people involved in the school.) So in a sense, I was facing my own series of “earthquakes” in my own life. However, Yoga Class gave me a great break from the horrors of the rest of the world. Once, I even mentioned that it was like “a little angel was sitting on my shoulder” when the teacher asked about how the class made us feel.

As someone who was struggling just to get by, I feel for these people in Haiti who face one disaster over another. They do, however, have “angels” who rescue them the way my imaginary angel tried to help me at school. (Key word: “tried” but that’s another story.) I myself even texted multiple times to donate a few dollars throughout early 2010. There have been people pitching in left and right to help. As Mr. Rogers himself once put it “When scary things happen, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Naturally, I myself have had numerous helpers, such as my parents (most of the time), my friends at school, and even a few teachers (who ran the spectrum from amazing to downright awful, but that’s another story.) 10 years later, and we can only hope that Haiti is doing far better, and is, at the very least, not a “shit-hole” country as President Trump would say.