Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's not so bad to be part of the human race.....

Good morning all my teammates around the world,

Today I was walking past the local CVS and couldn't help overhearing a very interesting conversation. Two elderly gentlemen were palying chess on a bench and they were sharing what they thought was the meaning of life, and I was passing them by, I experienced how fast emotions can change. Apparently the person who thought they were winning ended up being in checkmate, and I heard some very "ungentlemanly" like language.

The reason why I started off with this anecdote is because I had an experience like that recently, going from the high to the low point, and when I crashed, I really crashed. A couple of days ago, I had applied online for a customer service representative job with an upscale real estate property management company, and received an email to schedule a phone interview. Now as many NSA teammates would tell you, interviews are often the most challenging of everyday situations-for some it's ordering in a restaurant, others it may be walking up to a multiplex and buying a ticket at the box office, like me. That also includes in-person interviews, too. I can't explain this, but for some reason I'm more fluent on the phone than in real-life. There's actually a term coined the "Ma Bell Syndrome" to describe the intense fear of speaking on the phone. Well, the day came and went, and I was feeling very confident after I hung up the phone-I was not 100 percent fluent, and no one can ever claim they are, but I'd say I was 70 percent, and that to me is success. I proudly spoke about my NSA experience as it relates to leadership and teamwork, and the recruiter seemed really impressed. And then came the day after.

I logged onto my email and found an email from the company. I was gleefully opening it when I fixated on those dreaded words: "We decided to go in a different direction, and this in no way reflects on....." I began to quietly weep.....and then the dam burst. I started to cry, and let it all out. I've been struggling to find work for almost two years, but the NSA keeps me focused on what I need to do.

I always like to think I'm a person who is very emotional, even when I shouldn't be. I make no apologies for that. I'm human, after all. I hurt like others hurt, and feel like others do. This was a promising lead, and it just vanished. I tried not to let it get to me, but it did. And then, I felt the tide turn because of an email I got....from an NSA teammate.

I sent an NSA teammate of mine an email just to say hello-he was a presenter with another NSA teammate from the Midwest. He happened to attend my workshop and said it was great to hear from me, and that he enjoyed my seminar, and said "You're a commanding speaker." Just like that, my day turned around completely. That is the power of the NSA, and why I will always say the NSA is my rock, my strength, and my courage to do what's right. This was a setback for me. But I will rebound. Already I feel that somewhere out there, an employer will want to hire me. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but soon. And I'll look back on this lesson and realize that it's not really so bad to be part of the human race...when you know the NSA stands with you.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Miley Cyrus is not a role model....but the NSA teammates are!

Good morning everyone,

It's 12:30 on a Monday morning, only the start of life after the midnight hour, and as I am writing this latest edition of my blog, I'm listening to "Party In The USA" by Miley Cyrus and trying my hardest to understand why America seems to be in a snit about her performance on a certain awards show recently. So many parents can't understand why their teen daughters worship the ground that Miley Cyrus walks on, and why she's regarded as a "role model." And that brings us to the topic of today's blog-just who is a role model? Well, it sure as hell isn't Miley. If you asked me that question a few years ago, maybe I'd have said Derek Jeter. But the truth is now we're all role models. All of my teammates are role models, and although I am a chapter leader, I hold myself to an even higher standard. But even if I wasn't, as a teammate who stutters, I know I have to represent myself as a member of society who showcases all that he is: and my stuttering doesn't make me any less of a citizen.

For a long time in my life, throughout the days of high school and college and feeling tormented, building walls of emotional hurt and wreckage in my own prison, I could never accept being given a compliment. Even in the classroom I still struggled with social demons, imagined or not. If I received a compliment on a good paper I wrote, I'd be the first to say "Well it was someone else" rather than being acknowledged for my efforts. It would have been hard for me to see myself as someone who should be emulated. It wasn't until I took an introductory journalism class in college that I saw the true definition of a role model-one whose door was open to me at all times, one who bared her soul and was not just my professor, but my mentor. It's hard to believe in anything these days with all the negativity flying around, but I believe in the National Stuttering Association more than anything else.

I also used to be one who felt justified in putting others down to make me feel better about the fact that I felt like a weirdo and "freak" who stuttered. At these NSA conferences, a common theme expressed by parents and teammates who are first-timers is that "They wish that an organization like this existed long before," or that "We wish we found out about this sooner." I felt that if I had to suffer through a painful existence of spitting my words out and trying in vain to unlock the physical wheels spinning in my throat, then I'd make others feel my pain. The only thing I did accomplish was alienating my peers. How I wish I could change those times.

I am a firm believer that trauma does not have to be negative. In some ways, it can act as a blinding light, shining its soul onto us to do things with our life to better the quality of others. Sometimes the blows are harsh and very brutal to bear-the sudden death of a loved one, which was a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky. The loss of a job we love. My feelings of emotional trauma and a sheltered world of hurt, loneliness and tears led me to the National Stuttering Association. At this past conference, when I meet teammates for the first time, I identify myself as an NSA chapter leader. Of course we all wear ID badges and all, but to say that also shows my teammates that I refuse to give in to my stuttering. I stand up for others, and whenever there's a challenge with stuttering, I'll be there.

If you have the chance to attend an NSA conference, I want you to look around at all our teammates-it's not just those presenting workshops, or speaking at an Open Mike session, or volunteering at a table. The fact that all our teammates are together speaks volumes about the mission of the NSA, the desire to be something bigger than ourselves. I can show you role models from all ages and all backgrounds: How about a speech pathologist who was actually told by an SLP program she'd never make it because she stutters? How about an attorney who is going into lobbying? I am a role model....and all my NSA teammates are.

In a recent article, there was an interview with Drew Brees, the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and when talking about his charitable work, he said "We're all role models. Some of us just realize it before others do." Yes, I am a huge fan of Derek Jeter. But as for being a role model....I think Derek Jeter couldn't hold a candle to 600+ teammates.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is the NSA "Cool?" You bet it is!

Good evening everyone,

It's no secret that I am very passionate about the National Stuttering Association and I love it with all my heart and soul. Whenever there's a chance to advertise it, I'll do so. If there's an opening where I can talk about it, I'll happily take advantage of it. The funny thing about life and these opportunities, though, is you never know when and where the chances will be presented.

A few weeks ago, maybe a few days after returning home from Arizona, I had to bring my car into a body shop to be repaired because there was a scratch on the door, having been keyed. As I was in the Enterprise rental facility, I happened to be talking with the customer service representative behind the desk, and I mentioned I had returned from a conference out west. Naturally, she grew curious, and I happily shared with her all the details about the NSA experience in Arizona, which was also enhanced by my T-shirt from the most magical experience of my life. They say you never forget your first time, and Long Beach will always be the one I'll remember for the rest of my life. Atlanta was the one where I knew I wanted to fall for a Southern woman (and more LOL), North Jersey was a quantum leap for me, but Arizona was something else. As she and I began to talk further, I could see her eyes lighting up with fiery intensity, wanting to know all she could about this organization that I am head-over-heels in love with. Eventually after ten minutes, my car was ready, and we went our own separate ways, but I'll never forget how she ended the conversation. "I think it's so cool how you all have this special thing in your life," she said.

When I was younger and in my teen/college years, I doubt me or any of my teammates would have used the word "cool" to describe anything related to stuttering or the NSA. In fact, most of us would rather lock those memories away and imagine they never happened. Teasing is not cool. Bullying is not cool. Not being able to say hello and participate in social activities, and as a result feeling like you have live alienated from the rest of the modern world is not cool. But flying back home on Southwest to Long Island, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a woman who was a college lacrosse coach, who had accepted a position with a school in New Jersey. I was on one side of her, and one of my NSA teammates who was on the same flight with me was on the other side. And we too shared our stories with her, and we all enjoyed a great conversation. Hearing a complete stranger say how amazing the NSA is was such a powerful thing that I was experiencing the feeling that anything is possible.

I know in today's world, sometimes it's hard to find the genuine qualities in people. You sometimes don't know if they're really interested, or they're just saying "Oh, that's nice," because it's really impolite to be rude. Before I found the NSA, I would travel and keep to myself. And as I've grown socially, I feel that I've undergone the complete metamorphisis into a social butterfly. It really is about the journey, and I am learning that patience is a value we need to have. We all have things that we want, and want them now. Sometimes we'll get them, and other times we need to wait for the right opportunities to present itself. But I promise you this, and this is for all my teammates to hear: I'm going to be heard. I'm going to spread the love I have for the NSA all over this world. Do you know why? Because when you love something this much, you're going to want the whole world to see it. I know what I'm fighting for-to make the world aware of the National Stuttering Association. My teammates fight with me.

My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Everyone's sorry for something....I will never be sorry for stuttering!

Good evening everyone,

The summer often goes by so fast, and although I'm a fan of those cold, raw, and numbing winter nights, I have to admit that summer is growing on me. Not just because my summers belong to the National Stuttering Association, as every day of my life does because my involvement with them is the heartbeat of my world, but because summertime is all about movies. The studios bring out their "big guns," so to speak...all those jaw-dropping special effects that keep us coming back for me. And sometimes the movies released during the summer often have characters that we can relate to more because of the complexities of their depth.

Last night, I went to see "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," which I was a big fan of based on their Super Bowl teaser trailer. Toward the middle of the movie, one of the main characters is captured by the enemy-the enemy in this case is a character named The Baroness, and the kidnapped is Duke. It turns out that at one time they were both romantically involved with each other, and her path led her to the opposition. One of the lines she utters is "Everyone's sorry for something," a reference to how Duke got her brother killed on a mission even though he promised at graduation he'd look out for him. Feeling betrayed, she decided to get even by playing for the other team.

In regards to stuttering, more so in younger days, that's exactly how I felt. Several times on my blog I've made reference to a very important line that my speech pathologist has told me: "You don't feel bad because you stutter, you feel bad for the other person who has to listen to you." I did feel bad....I felt bad when I raised my hand in class and was ignored. I felt bad when I went up to someone to say hello and as I was fumbling the words, the other person's face expressions turned away from me. I felt bad when my family used to go out to the local diner on Saturday nights and my dad, thinking he was helping me by making me order for the whole family, had to hear me struggle asking for four entrees, and then at the end, saying "You could be better."

We all have faced times in our lives when we wish, sometimes in vain, to turn the clock back. We want to reverse a wrong-maybe we said something we shouldn't have, we lied and got caught in it. Sometimes we wished we didn't stutter. I used to feel that I was sorry I stuttered...that it was all my fault, and my cross to bear alone. Sadly, my mom didn't think so since she said Jews don't have crosses to bear, LOL..had to interject somer humor. But the more I think I about it, I know I will never be sorry for stuttering. I will never be sorry for blocking on a word. The teammates who stutter around the world have no reason to apologize for their speech. We never have....and we surely never will.

If you are a teammate who wants to join the world's biggest advocacy organization for those who stutter, please visit the National Stuttering Association web site at, and remember: In the eyes of the NSA, the word "apologizes" never exists.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Do we go "back to school" as teammates who stutter?

Good evening everyone,

I want to apologize to those teammates around the world for not posting in a few days. After seven years of being good to me, my computer finally gave out and went to the big cyber-heaven in the now I am resurrected stronger than ever, thanks to a brand spanking new HP desktop. And now, I can return to updating my blog, which I love so much.

It's the first few days of August, and depending on where you live, your thoughts may be running the gauntlet on any number of topics: How to hold on to those precious summer days, maybe you're prepping for college entrance exams or GRE work, plotting your Labor Day weekend getaway. As I was picking up my computer at Best Buy, I couldn't help but be inundated with advertisements for those "back-to-school" sales. And when I think of back-to-school, I can't help but wonder: Do we ever go "back-to-school" as teammates who stutter?

Like with most things in life, we as human beings never stay complacent. We can't afford to do so in so many ways, not with the way things are today. What worked today may not necessarily work tomorrow. As teammates who stutter, we are all students, no matter how old we are. There's always that sense of dread as September approaches. After all, on the first day of school, you hit the snooze bar, and you want to eke out every precious minute of freedom with the bed that you have. Believe me, I felt the same way. But I am 31 now, and my life is beginning again. Every day I used to wake up and determined that my only motivation is making it to the end of the day, or waiting for that paycheck to come. But now every day is another chance for me: you see, it's another chance for me to share with the world. Another chance to hear, and be heard. And most important of all, another chance for me to share the love of the National Stuttering Association.

On that first day of school, when you walk into the class, in a way it's like playing the lottery. You just don't know what kind of teacher you will have. Maybe you'll get the cool one....or the one who just speaks in a flat monotone all year long. Sometimes those teachers though are the ones who pass on the most important lessons. But, my teachers don't necessarily teach in schools. What do I mean by that? Well, my teammates at the NSA are teachers. I embrace their lessons every day. I learned from one of my teaching teammates that the choice is yours whether you have a good day or a terrible day. I learned from another one that it is OK, and encouraged, to advertise your stuttering. And they're at opposite ends of the spectrum: the former is retired, the latter is a college student. But they teach you....and it's never forgotten.

Our school year doesn't begin in September. For the NSA, it's every day. But instead of packing a textbook and graphing calculator (ah the days of yesteryear!), the most important thing you need to bring is an open mind. A willingness to embrace your stutter. And the knowledge that in order to learn, you must want to be taught. If you'd like to learn about us, check out We're ready to teach. Always have been, and always will be.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.