Houston Hoffman: What’s the Difference?

As we have lost another contributor to the world I can’t help but ask, What is the difference?

Yesterday I was waiting to hear all the awful things about Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Waiting to see horrible pictures, cartoons, comments about his addiction.  Waiting to be completely disgusted by the lack of empathy and the judgements of others.  Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, I didn’t see anything like that.

When Whitney Houston died from an addiction in 2012 all I saw were horrible awful things about her.  What is the difference??

Both made outstanding, award winning contributions in their fields.

Both left behind children.

Both had been to rehab.

Hoffman was 46 and Houston was 48.

Both died in February.

Both died from addiction.

Both died in a way no one wishes to die with Houston in the bathtub and Hoffman with a needle in his arm.

So again, What is the difference?

Houston’s addiction was always in the headlines while Hoffman’s addiction was more private?

Houston was a woman/mother while Hoffman was a man/father?

Houston was a black woman while Hoffman was a white man?

Houston had to live up to a certain beauty concept for women while Hoffman was accepted just the way he was?

Does it have to do with their significant others?

Has society gone through some sort of enlightenment in the last 2 years… have we become more accepting of people’s circumstances?

What is the difference?

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

I just found out May 9, 2012 is the first annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day.  I have to say I was surprised this is the first annual and I am so grateful for those who got it all together.

Some of their suggestions to become more aware about accessible technology: (http://www.mysqltalk.com/participate.html)

Go Mouseless for an hour

Surf the web with a screen reader for an hour

Learn and use other OS/Mobile Accessibility Features

Try other Adaptive Software Tools

Contribute directly to the Digital Accessibility Efforts

A suggestion I have is to check out the Adaptive Use Musical Instruments (AUMI) Software Interface.  I work as the Project Manager on this project thru the Deep Listening Institute.  It is FREE to download and use and is for Mac and PC.  It uses video tracking so people with limited movement can improvise music.  Below is a tutorial I did with the last update of the software.  Wednesdays is what I call Music Making Wednesday because we bring AUMI to a school for children with special needs and have an amazing drum circle.  The students who can play the drums do just that and the ones who can not play the drums independently play AUMI.  Everyone in our group are independent music makers.  We are proud of our Play the Drum Band.  You can also check out AUMI on Facebook for the most up to date information.

Music by Prudence

Seems like this week I am in the film mood.

Music by Prudence is a definite must see if you have not seen yet.  Also if this band ever comes your way I hear it is amazing!

The film follows singer/songwriter Prudence Mabhena who leads the band Liyana from Zimbawe.  Liyana is a band made up of musicians with disabilities.

It won an academy award for best documentary short in 2010.

Here is the trailer below but you can watch more video clips on the Music by Prudence website.

A Child is Waiting

I am a HUGE Judy Garland fan and last year around this time I came across the film A Child is Waiting (1963).  Judy Garland is a music teacher just starting a job at a mental hospital and trying to help one of the clients at the hospital.  Burt Lancaster is also in the film as the director of the hospital  You can read more about it on Wiki.

This film really surprised me as to the thoughts of people with disabilities, that some of the cast were children with disabilities and the way children with disabilities were treated in education.  You can watch this film on Netflix 

There is a scene mid way thru or so where there was some sort of board meeting or funding meeting and the director of the hospital was explaining the importance of funding the hospital and the education of the children there.  The funders or whoever they were kept implying they would rather fund children who were able to ‘make a difference’ in the world so to speak… have jobs, lead ‘normal’ lives.  This seen was amazing to me and spoke loud and clear that today we are still lacking in the funding for education of children with developmental disabilities and the words in that scene still ring true in my opinion.  I was hoping I could show you that clip but the film has been removed from youtube.  I definitely recommend taking the time to watch this video.  It will make you go hmmm.

Here is the trailer

Long time no post

Hi all,

So sorry I have been a slacker.  Been in a bit of a cloud for the last couple months but I am back to being me… or as close as I can be to me for now.  So I will be posting some thoughts I have had for the last few months.  Thanks for stopping by.


Accessible Grieving

As I have been reading and watching the after effects of Whitney Houston’s death I can’t help but be sadden and just ashamed of the way people talk about a human being.  It isn’t just her death but so many who die from addiction or mental illness.

I can’t say I am a Whitney Houston fan… I knew very little about her.  I had no idea she had a daughter or that she had an album in the last decade… but again I don’t listen to the radio, read magazines or watch much of any TV… it doesn’t mean that I did not grieve for her death.  I have to say I am probably a little more sensitive to death and I grieve for anyone who has died… but mainly grieving for the people who lost someone they loved.

Whitney’s songs do bring up memories for me.  Her music came about while I was growing up… going to school dances, having crushes and a time where it felt like a song was written just for me.  I remember watching The Bodyguard and thought how strange it was for a white man and black woman to fall in love… how eye opening that was for me.  I was a freshman in high school maybe.. and came from a small Nebraska town so that wasn’t something I ever saw.  So to me it is more grieving of the memories than the actual person.

The way society focuses in on the ‘bad’ about a person who dies from addiction or mental illness is very disheartening to me.  When I was 9 years old my grandmother killed herself… living in a small town of about 6000 people the word travels fast.  My parents sent me to school the day after she died and because she committed suicide I was not consoled or even a hug from my teachers or friends… instead my teacher laughed at what my grandmother did and told me she was stupid, my friends told me she was going to hell.  I felt I could not grieve but had to put on an armor to protect her memory and myself.  Unfortunately, there is no armor strong enough to withstand negative comments about someone you loved who left way too soon.   To me my grandma was a good person who went to church on Sunday and loved me… and I loved her… so it was confusing and life changing to me that people would see her as anything different.

So when I see and hear all of these negative comments about anyone who has died, I grieve… I grieve for people who I have known who died from something society doesn’t think is ‘right’, I grieve for my grandmother, I remember the wonderful things about people whose demons were overpowering.  I remember their strengths, what they meant to me or to someone they loved.  I realize my own demons and the power I can have to shrink those demons and those times where the demons overpowered me.

As my grandmother was a great woman I believe Whitney was a great woman.  I think of her loved ones… I think of all who have lost someone from addiction or mental illness.  I hope for peace for myself and all who have been thru something similar.

I could not imagine what Whitney’s loved ones are feeling at this moment when every where you look is something negative about her.  I am thankful I only had to deal with a small town of people and it wasn’t plastered on the front page of every magazine and paper and all over the internet.. but to me that small town was all I knew so I guess it was the same for me… except I could move away and escape and it is everywhere for them… but does it really matter?  Why would anyone say something negative about someone who died?  where is the respect for human life?  all human life?  Everyone means something to someone so who are we to say anything different?  Who are we to judge another?… no one knows all the facts… or in someone else’s head… so how can we judge?

I guess a little empathy and compassion goes a long way.  Addiction and mental illness are not something to judge but something to help and to send a little compassion.  Everyone has demons… everyone has their issues… everyone deserves a bit of compassion and respect.

Thank you Whitney for paving the way for Women who want to be or who are artists.  You made a difference and you are FABULOUS!

This is Eating Disorder Awareness??

This post is a little hard for me.  I have been thinking about this for the last few days and I am hurt and furious in so many ways.

Let’s back track a little…I have had an Eating Disorder for over 20 years.  I am in a great place in my recovery and I have spoken about my recovery journey for the last 10 years.  I have spoken at my share of Eating Disorder Awareness Events but the last two years I have not been as involved in Eating Disorder Awareness.  I have to say I miss it even though I tell people I have retired from that part of my life… but I guess you never retire… you always fight so that someone else gets the help they need or someone else might not have to fight so hard for what they need.

A couple days ago I fell upon the Renfrew Center (an Eating Disorder Treatment Center all over the East Coast of the US) Facebook page.  I have actually done a lot of advocacy and was an alumni consultant for the Renfrew Center in Florida for many years.  Anywhos…they have a tab called Barefaced and Beautiful.  So of course I was curious as to what exactly that was.

It is a campaign created by the Renfrew Center for Eating Disorder Awareness. Barefaced and Beautiful… Without and Within.  For their Eating Disorder Awareness on Facebook they are asking for women to go without makeup and change their profile picture to themselves without makeup to start up a conversation about eating disorders, body image and true inner beauty.

I am sure some of you are thinking… well this sounds great.

This would be great if their product was cosmetics and all of their consumers wore makeup.

But this is an Eating Disorder Treatment Facility who educates on Eating Disorders.  Educating people that Eating Disorders are not about the food or about ‘looking’ a certain way but they are an inner struggle felt by both men and women.

I have personally had a struggle with this basic understanding from doctors, friends, family and acquaintances  that my eating disorder was not about me wanting to be a super model but about a self hate so deep that I was punishing myself every minute of the day.  I was worthless and did not deserve food.  I wanted to disappear because I was not worth taking up space.

This campaign coming from a place where I went to heal is appalling to me.  This campaign is saying very loudly with no words at all:

1. People have eating disorders by choice and only to ‘look better’
2. Only women have eating disorders

I only wear makeup for extremely special events… so this basic awareness tactic is unaccessible to me.  With this campaign I feel that my struggle isn’t as important as someone who wears makeup.

With my advocacy I focused in on the soul and inner thoughts and stayed away from all numbers and physical attributes so that people can start to realize that Eating Disorders are emotions and that the food and body image are symptoms.  I feel with this campaign, Renfrew is going the complete opposite way and erasing all that I and so many others have worked hard to establish.

I also have a concern about this campaign for people in the midst of the struggle.  Social media is not always a safe, friendly space.  When you are in a treatment facility the concept of going without makeup can make a strong impact when you are with a strong support group but in social media this is not always the truth.  People are constantly making fun of the way people look and if you are someone who wears makeup regularly and all of sudden changes, this will bring a lot of attention your way… but is everyone ready for that much attention?   The attention will not be on Eating Disorder Awareness it will be on someone’s physical appearance.  Comments will be made on physical appearance which can be triggering to someone within the struggle of an Eating Disorder.  Someone might not realize this and follow this campaign because they trust the advice of the Renfrew Center… but the Renfrew Center is really feeding them to the hells of social media.

For me this campaign is using women’s bodies as advertisement.  This is also something my colleagues and I talk about when we present on Eating Disorder Awareness…. and here is Renfrew using women’s physical appearance to advertise for themselves.  Again, if your product deals with the face or body then this is something that could work… for instance the Dove Campaign… but the Renfrew Center is not Dove.

The amount of people who are unable to be a part of this campaign is also something that just does not make sense to me.  What about women and men who do not wear makeup… mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, etc. who want to show support for someone they love who struggles with an eating disorder… who may not wear makeup.  All of these people are excluded from this campaign.

As I have been sitting here trying to figure this all out and really not feeling to fabulous about myself I decided to do my own Eating Disorder Awareness.

I personally do not read magazines, watch TV or listen to the Radio because of advertisements… I have tried going back every once in awhile forgetting that the standard of our body from the media is getting smaller and smaller.  I sometimes watch shows online but I am gradually pulling away from that also.  I love the older shows where people were all shapes and sizes… the perfect body wasn’t bones.  They still make their cracks about weight but we are all guilty of that… but seeing people with realistic bodies is really refreshing and now I have created an environment where I am not use to seeing these images of ‘what society thinks I should look like’… but lately I have noticed that what the media has been telling us for years about hating our body is gradually seeping into my Facebook home page from my friends.  People talking about how they hate their bodies, loosing a lot of weight in short periods of time, pictures and comments about strangers bodies, judgements about food… all things that when I was in recovery were never talked about.  Things I have taken out of my environment.

So my Eating Disorder Awareness is We Are Fabulous in February… (and all other days of the year).  I am asking my friends and Facebook/Twitter users to post 1 thing that is fabulous about themselves once a day in the month of February.  That is 29 Fabulous things about each person who participates.  I am hoping they will share with their friends and be able to help each other out on what is Fabulous about themselves.  My hope with this is that the Facebook home page starts to become more positive about our bodies and ourselves instead of a place of negativity about ourselves and other people.  The bonus of this is that for the rest of the year when you have one of those days where you don’t feel so fabulous… you can look back in the month of February or your friends can remind you of 29 Fabulous things about yourself.  Now how cool is that.




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