Monday, April 15, 2013

High School Girls Never Learn

So my son, my husband and I all share one major thing in common besides our last name, we all have Asperger's Syndrome. My husband and I were diagnosed when our son received his diagnosis. The diagnostician thought it might help us relate to our son. It did. It also helped explain a whole mess of stuff my husband and I have been carrying around since childhood that we couldn't figure out. Old emotional scars now made sense cast in a new light. We suddenly felt, understood.

The initial sadness of receiving a diagnosis quickly passed and gave way to a tremendous feeling of self-empowerment. I was able to explain my feelings and my way of thinking. I wasn't crazy, or Bi-Polar, I am Autistic, even if I am highly verbal and highly "functional" I still am a person living with Autism.

I can relate to my husband, my son and others who have Asperger's in a new and healthy way. We literally speak the same language. And I put "functional" in quotes because our life is harder than the average person's for many reasons I will share with you.

I suffer from low self-esteem unless I can master my world. I have panic attacks. I don't always get along with people. I am paranoid. You would never know these things unless I told you. I look totally normal on the outside as I freak out on the inside.

You're sitting there saying to yourself, "This is ridiculous. Everyone feels this way at one time or another." And you're right. But most people don't feel this way everyday, almost all day, especially during social interactions. I do.

I can't speak for my son or my husband. Their Asperger's displays differently. We have enough in common to understand the pain we all experience but we handle our social anxiety differently. One of the most challenging aspects of Asperger's is how it is different for each person, yet how it is always the same for all who are diagnosed.

My anxiety comes in a very girly form, people-pleasing. I want desperately to be liked, by everyone. This is not just a saying. I literally need to be liked by everyone I come in  contact with or I silently, privately freak out inside. I spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about what I said that may have offended and what I can do to "fix" the situation.

I'm getting better. I'm learning to let things go and not care. I'm learning that I don't have to be liked by everyone, all the time. This fear gets me into trouble on a daily basis. It causes me to have money and time management issues. And it leaves me vulnerable to bullies and social vampires. I'm learning how to say no and stand up for myself without becoming a bully myself. It's a process.

So today I go to my son's school because he had a special part of the morning school assembly to say aloud into a microphone. We practiced over the weekend and he had a hard time taking his performance seriously because there is no "real rock star stage" in the gymnasium where the assembly takes place. He is five-years-old and knows he is a rock star and movie star and he requires a proper stage.

I told him he has to pay his dues and he'll take any gig and practice or he'll be replaced. He decided no stage was okay as long as he had a microphone.

We arrived at school on time, a difficult thing to do for both my son and I, and my son melted down and started crying. He said he was tired and didn't want to go to the assembly. His social worker helped him to his classroom to calm down. While he was regaining his composure two teachers I have had ongoing disagreements with about the proper and timely use of time-outs passed by me in the hallway.

These two girls, I can't call them women because they don't act like grown-ups, passed by me in the hall without even glancing at me. They had their bodies stuck together at the arms and looked down at the ground as they shuffled past in their stripper style 6 inch high heels. I have a fundamental problem with three things they did. One, teaching kindergarten in 6 inch stripper heels. Two, passing by me in the hallway and not acknowledging a parent. Three, acting like they are still in high school.

I stared at them as they walked past me. I still can't believe it is April and they have been acting this way since the beginning of the school year. I also cannot believe I am in charge of Teacher Appreciation Week and I have to "appreciate" these two "teachers."

As they passed me in the hallway, looking down and giggling to one another, my stomach clenched and my hands formed into fists by my sides. I flashed back to high school when girls like them used to bully me. Girls are nasty little creatures. We lie, cheat, steal, gossip, whisper, laugh and point. We are passive-aggressive. We bully while no one is looking. We make it look like it's no big deal. We make sure to arrange it so it looks like it's your fault. We make you look crazy for complaining about perfect little us.

I know these girls scam. It doesn't work on me anymore. I'm a woman now. These girls have never had children. They are still acting like children themselves. But life has a way of evening the score and teaching lessons. One of these girls is pregnant. I can hear you laughing.

She has prided herself on being a size zero all school year long. Now her face is chubby, her belly is sticking out of her too-tight jeans and it won't be long before her feet swell up beyond the point of being able to wear her stripper heels.

Motherhood will change her. She will become a woman because of it. And the day will come when some teacher, some caregiver, some girl in line a the supermarket is mean to her or her little angel and she'll know how it feels to be me. If someday someone bullies her child she'll get a taste of what she has done to others with impunity her whole life.

I have no idea if she'll actually understand the irony, or change her nasty, selfish and rude behavior. At the very least what she is doing is unprofessional and unbecoming to teachers. At worst it's a purposeful and willful attempt to be rude to another human being.

And if at the end of the day I am that powerful and intimidating and I simply scare her, then I guess I should learn how to pity her and forgive her cowardice.

Although that shit won't fly after she becomes a mother. No then she won't have any excuse not to "woman up."

My and my Asperger's, which I keep in my pocket like a pet, are going to be just fine. I can't change this rude little girl. I can only ignore her, but my Asperger's can't. If she knew how much her rude behavior bothered me, how much it hurt my feelings, how I flashback to all the times girls like her snubbed me in school hallways and called me names and pulled my hair and made me cry, would she care? Would she change? Or would she secretly love the fact that she is getting to me and causing me pain?

I like to think she is an adult and if I were able to explain to her how hurtful her actions are that she would change, but I know better. My Asperger's makes me a keen observer of human behavior. I am sure to be sadly disappointed by this girl, until she becomes a woman. Because a woman would never treat another woman this way. No, only little petty girls who still think life is like high school act like this towards other adults.

I will turn the other cheek. I will be the bigger person. I hate being the bigger person. I hate ignoring bullies. I guess that is why I am writing this blog today. Maybe secretly I am hoping she will find this post someday and realize it is about her and know that I think she dresses like a slut around little kids and acts like a high school girl and maybe I am hoping she will cry and feel bad about herself so I won't feel so alone in my pain and bitterness.

Maybe it's the Asperger's or maybe I'm just a girl, stuck in high school, waiting to get even.  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ready, Set, Reset

I've been earning a second Master's degree, this one in Creative Writing. I'm telling everyone this to explain my long absence from blogging. I understand that no one really cares how many degrees I've earned unless they're hiring me for a job, in which case I hold a BFA in Cinema with a double minor in English and Photography, a Master's in Teaching (English) and a MFA in Creative Writing. If you're not a potential employer then I apologize for bragging or boring you. I'll be posting on a more regular basis about topics of interest to me and things that are happening in my life. I hope my posts will inform and entertain. I welcome comments. I'm pretty sure I enabled the comments button on my blog. I'll check that and get back to you.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Self-Publishing In The Digital Age: The Workshop

If you are, or someone you know, is a self-pubber, then read on. Last Saturday I lead a workshop for self-publishing in the digital age and it was a tremendous success. We covered a lot of ground, but not everything on my list, due to time constraints. My attendees were amazing. Several of them have already become my friend on Facebook, and a couple are now following me on Twitter, and I am following them too. I'm hoping to help everyone who attended my workshop to sign up for these services and connect with one another. Which leads me to a most important topic, connectivity.
Connectivity has many definitions these days, from cell phones and wifi, to business marketing and satellite dishes. In this case I'm talking about the human kind. Creating authentic connections takes time, even in the digital world. In today's market writers have to find a niche where they can serve the needs of their audience, entertain, inform and build trust.
Connections can turn into support and a solid following if writers are willing to do a few keys things online.
1. Be consistent. Decide on a day that you can commit to and blog, Tweet, email, and Facebook every week. Your fans will appreciate hearing from you on a regular basis. They will start to look forward to your posts and will come to rely on you as a trusted source of information, tips and entertainment.
2. Be authentic. When you write, make sure you find your voice and use it. Don't try to sound like someone else, be who you are, like what you like, and back up your opinions with facts, articles or blog links. Don't feel pressured to be funny, just be yourself and people will become your fan because of who you are and what you have to say and share.
3. Be specific. Research your niche and narrow your blogging, posting and comments to your specific field in order to build a niche network. Creating a network is the basis of connectivity in online marketing. As you build a fan base of interested, like-minded people online, those fans will share your work and tips with other interested, like-minded people, thus growing your network.
4. Be interesting. The key to being interesting is being interested. When discovering your niche you should be focusing on what makes you excited, happy, enraged, or motivated. What effects you will affect others, share it.
5. Be connected. The more you share with people the more opportunities you create for authentic online connections. These connections will lead to sales, guest blogging, virtual book touring, exposure and marketing opportunities.
Being connected is the key to online marketing and it all starts with your willingness to put yourself out there in a consistent and authentic way. Your hard work will pay off, but it will take time. Keep your expectations realistic, remember the rule of AAV (always add value to people's live through informative and useful links and information), and expect things to take longer than you think they should. If you put in the hard work and make authentic connections you will see the pay-off and your network, along with your sales, will begin to grow.

For anyone interested in my workshop who could not attend, it is now available on DVD, CD and in digital format. Please email me at, or on Facebook at Erin MacMillan-Ramirez or Twitter me @doitgirl365 for more information. I'm also planning more workshop dates for October and November, more details to follow soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Did I Mention That I Blog for USC?

In case you didn't know I earned my Masters degree from USC in May of this year in Education and Teaching and I now blog weekly for USC. Here's my most recent blog.

Edu-punked: Is the Edupunk Movement Helping or Hurting the Educational Reformers Cause?


Erin MacMillan-Ramirez

I finally rented, and watched, Waiting For Superman. I’m embarrassed to admit it took me so long to see it except for the fact that I was earning my Masters degree online in the MAT@USC program and therefore I was really busy when it came out in theaters and on DVD/Blu Ray. I received a free rental at my local Redbox and thought it was something interesting to watch on a Monday night. The good news is that I forgot to return it the next day so I ended up paying for it, although I don’t technically know if the filmmakers get paid for free rentals, or if late fees go to Redbox directly. To relieve my guilt I am buying a copy of the film on DVD, and a second on BluRay, and I am organizing a viewing party in my neighborhood. We will discuss what changes can be made to the educational system in order to improve the graduation rates in our community and to ensure that the children in our community receive a quality education, no matter which public school they attend.

In doing the research to find a place to hold the screening party and the people to invite to the party I’ve been talking to the people in my community. I’ve spoken to a couple of people from my church. I asked if I could use the church space for this event and I was asked to email one of the members of the Board of Trustees and then speak to our head Pastor. Not a firm no, but not the open arms of the community I was hoping to instantly receive. Then there is the “community” building at the front of my subdivision that I can rent any night of the week for a hefty fee plus a deposit. I was hoping not to come out of pocket for this event. Then there is the invite list. I can’t simply hold this event in my living room if I want my local State Representative and the Principals of the local public schools to attend my event. I really can’t even fit more that six people into my living room comfortably for a screening that will last 120 minutes and a discussion that will hopefully last just as long afterward.

Now I understand I think a little bigger than the filmmakers intended. They were thinking more along the lines of getting a few of my friends together to watch the movie and make small talk about it over some smoked Gouda and a fine wine. I fail to see how this kind of action would effect any change in my community. How would this approach help me to better understand other points of view, or hear from my public officials or the administrators of our public schools? How would watching a movie in my living room and simply talking about it do any good other than to make me feel better about a very difficult problem facing my country?

By now you’re wondering how this has anything to do with the Edupunk Movement. Well here’s the link: what do I want out of public education that I am not currently receiving? The Edupunk Movement is attempting to ask this question about K-12 and beyond. It is daring to take matters into it’s own hands and attempt to educate people for free and ask people to actually go out and do things with their knowledge rather than talk conceptually about it. This is also Vygotsky’s Socio-cultural learning theory, but we’ll leave that for a future blog.

So that’s when I realized that what I am attempting to do by organizing a rather large and ambitious screening party of Waiting For Superman is in fact an act of Edupunking the education system. I’m going to ask those in power and those who are served by public education to clearly define their goals for education. I will not be satisfied with overly simplified answers such as: “We want our children to receive a “good” education,” or “We want our kids to be able to get “good” jobs after they graduate,” or my personal favorite, “We want every student to go to college after they graduate high school.”

I was reading a fantastic blog called “Half An Hour: A place to write, half an hour, every day, just for me,” written by a man named Downes ( about a review of The Edupunks’ Guide, by Anya Kamenetz and a lightbulb went off inside my head. Education is not preparing students to do anything in the real world. This erroneous education of American youth must stop if we’re going to go somewhere new. We are all experts within our own lives. We know what we know about what we know when and how we need or want to know it. So what makes people believe that school is any different? What exactly are we asking children to “know” these days and what will they be doing with all of this “knowledge” after they leave school?

I wrote a blog last month about the value of a Liberal Arts degree. Now I’m asking, “What was the value of my high school, middle school and elementary education and how does all of my school learning compare to my education in the working world after leaving school?” What did I learn and how did I learn it?

The concept behind Edupunk is to deconstruct learning, teaching and education then empower the students to re-construct it in their own way, through their own filter system by actually doing things within that discipline with the help of mentors. This sounds exactly like the education I received from the MAT@USC, the most effective learning I’ve ever experienced.

My cohort embarked on a new way of learning, through a new online platform and with the help of “more learned adults” we muddled our way through experiential and experimental learning whereby we tested the theories we were reading about in class. Dr. Sylvester, the head of Spring ISD’s Human Resources department said it best when he said, “You’re going to close your books, walk into a real classroom and those theories are going to grow legs, walk around and throw things if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

I’m willing to take this theory one step further. In life, if you attempt to do anything without knowing how to do it, you’re going to fail. What you do after you fail determines your overall success. If you choose to ask for help, find experts to mentor you, pay for classes, do extensive research, practice until you approach perfection and give yourself several thousand chances to do it right, you’re going to succeed. If you look for a “quick-fix” you’ll find one and then you will fail to get what you really wanted in the first place: to become something you set out to become (Downes). This is the best message of the whole review of the Edupunk Guide. Only through supported effort can we accomplish our goals, but first we have to know what our goals are.

Therefore, I will be setting some very clear goals for what I want out of my upcoming town hall screening party. I will also require my guests to clarify their goals for reforming education before we grab the pitchforks and torches and take to the street. My community might be surprised to realize that we all want the same thing, to feel like we matter, our voices are heard and our actions count, no matter who we are, or which school we attended. If America hopes to reform education, then we all have to be a part of knowing what kind of change we want and why we want it. The why may be the most important part of our answer. The most powerful motivation a person can have is a great reason why they want to do something, everything after that is simply something they have to do to get what they want.

As for me, I want to make sure Mother Theresa and Ghandi are honored everyday. Mother Theresa once gave the advice to find someone who has no hope and convince that person they have a reason to live. And Ghandi suggested that we become the change we want to see in the world. I’ll get back to you on the details of how a person can live by these guiding principals in the real world. In the meantime, it’s just nice to know I have some.

This article was originally posted on the University of Southern California's teaching blog.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Megan Fox is Ruining My Marriage, Well Sort Of...

Transformers: Dark of the Moon has started a very big fight in my home. My husband and I are filmmakers and we usually agree on everything, or we at least see eye to eye, until now. I read an article in Details magazine about Shia LaBeouf and his scrapes with the law, his drinking habits and his next film. Pretty normal young Hollywood behavior. Shia was quoted as being dissatisfied with the second Transformers and Indiana Jones 4. Blah, blah, blah. It's been two, and three years, respectively since these films bowed. They've made a lot of money. Shia has gone on to other films. Whether he liked them or not is immaterial, whether he feels his performances were good enough in them also does not matter. He will be judged by fans, and history. Film, if nothing else, is a permanent record of your moment. As long as there is a fan watching your film, you are a part of history and frozen in that moment.

Having said all of this, you may be asking what caused the fight? Megan Fox did. I made an argument that Shia's comments degrading the films he's been in lately, were bordering on unprofessional. Then I asked my husband why it was that Megan was fired over her comments but it's okay for Shia to say whatever he wants without consequence? I also asked why was it that Megan's complaints about her character, her wardrobe, or her make-up in Transformers 2 was called a feminist awakening instead of a maneuver to get more money? I argued that Megan was required to run around and perform at an athletic level just like Shia, only she was required to do so while wearing 6 inch, stiletto high-heels. In the first Transformers film her character hot-wired a tow-truck and drove it backwards so that Bumble Bee could fire at the Decepticons. In the second she was in charge of a leg-humping Decepticon defector. Why was her role diminished into nothing more than eye-candy and sex jokes? Why was she paid so much less than Shia?

My husband argued that she was "worth less" in box-office receipts and therefore she was paid less. I can understand his logic, Shia's other films made more money that Megan's outside of the Transformers franchise. I argued that a true comparison could not be made. Audiences went to see Indiana Jones 4 because of the franchise, not just Shia. The same is true for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Shia chose some very smart properties to hitch his rising star to. The same cannot be said of Megan. She chose to team up with Diablo Cody (who was being mentored to some degree by Steven Spielberg through a production deal to create The United States of Tara). Megan was working for Spielberg through the Transformers franchise. This should have been a good match for both women, but it turned into a nightmare and ruined both of their careers. Maybe it was the advertising, the timing, the genre or giving Cody too long of a creative rope with which to hang her self. Whatever the reason, it simply did not work. Megan was blamed for the failure of Jennifer's Body singularly. She was then ridiculed for her role in Jonah Hex. The only thing Megan was guilty of was choosing a couple of bad movies that seemed great on paper.

Now let’s look at Shia’s choices. Some fans were disappointed by Indiana Jones 4 and the Wall Street sequel, but no one blamed Shia for the short-comings of either film. Actors don't have that much power over movie audiences. Fans become excited by ideas, images, or a director's reputation for delivering a certain experience and they crave that feeling again. Some people will go to a movie to see a certain actor if the movie aligns with their taste, and some will avoid certain movies because an actor they hate is starring in it. But overall, actors do not make or break a film. Films make stars famous. Stars do not make films famous. In the end, the directors are usually blamed or praised for the failure or success of a film. Blaming Megan Fox for the failure of two films didn’t seem logical.

Therefore, my husband's argument did not make sense to me. I can understand if Spielberg had a personal problem with Megan, did not want to work with her, and that his solution was to fire her. I can also understand if Megan saw that Shia was paid more for Transformers 2 than she was she may have asked for (or demanded) more money, and that’s the real reason she was fired. It could have really been because Megan equated Michael Bay to Hitler and Spielberg did not take kindly to that metaphor. It may have been that Shia and Megan hooked up and one or both of them did not feel comfortable working with the other.

We'll never know what really happened behind the scenes. We can only assume, speculate and piece things together from interviews and rumors. My guess was that Megan's attitude was less about feminism and more about money. The final proof that actors don't mean much to a franchise, the box-office receipts for Transformers:Dark of the Moon. We'll see if replacing a director has any effect on profits when the newly re-vamped Spiderman franchise hits theaters next summer. I hate to think of artists as replaceable but Hollywood has proven that the only thing it's loyal to is the bottom line.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Is Michael Bay a Republican and Does It Matter?

I saw "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" last night at midnight and I loved it. I loved the violence, the level of mirth and the dark, sardonic mood it struck. Calling it "Dark of the Moon" was appropriate considering the dark nature of the content and tone of the film. I was literally shocked to see Optimus Prime portrayed as (spoiler alert) an assassin. Not to mention the three, count them three climactic turns in the third act. I was thinking near the end of the film, "If there's one more 'all hope is lost' moment I'm gonna be really pissed off." Thank goodness there was an actual final climax and a quick denoument unlike "Lord of the Rings:Return of the King" which seemed to be never-ending in the theater and worse on DVD and Blu-Ray.
BTW there's a big controversy over the new Director's cut Blu-ray release of "The Fellowship of the Ring" over the digital color timing. Peter Jackson went back and did a new 4K master and new color timing for the new Blu-ray release, so it matches the color tone of the last two films in the series. It does not match the original theatrical film release, or the original DVD and Blu-ray releases, so some fans are a wee bit angry. I'm a filmmaker, so I say, "Get over it."
The color tone of "Dark of the Moon" was also impressive. I'm a huge Michael Bay fan. I have put up with his ultra-close-ups, his shakey camera, his frenetic cutting and his swooping camera moves for years. Finally, he's had to grow up and mature visually as a filmmaker thanks to 3D and IMAX. Just as Christopher Nolan found out with "The Dark Knight" you have to adjust your shot choices to what the physics of the camera will allow you to do.
This may have forced Bay to make more mature visual choices and slow his pacing. I appreciated this from an audience member's point of view because I was able to follow the action, and there was a ton of action to follow.
I credit James Cameron's influence on Bay for the amplification of cliff hanger moments and additionally excruciating action sequences. Cameron lent his opinion, technology and expertise to this shoot after Bay asked for some advice on shooting in the new 3D format.
The results are amazing 3D imagery that serves a dynamic and interesting storyline. Bay's surrealism is now complete. Dali would be proud.
Yet, I was left to wonder if Bay is a Republican due to some of the lines in the script and certain story and character choices. I enjoy Bay's Pro-American stance and his obvious patriotism in his films, but sometimes I feel a very distinct push in a Republican direction. It's only strange since his producer, Steven Spielberg, has a Democratic slant to his work, as does James Cameron's work. I wonder if this made "Dark of the Moon" better. Can a bi-partisan approach work in film as well as politics?
I'm exploring this in my current film that I'm writing now. I'll let you know.