Friday, January 14, 2011

Meet Toledo, a city on the Maumee.....

Good afternoon everyone,

As we begin to creep ever so close to the next National Stuttering Association conference, one of the things that I relish the most is doing research and reading up on the culture of the state and metropolitan area I will be in. I enjoyed learning about Ohio and the unique aspects of the state. For example, you might enjoy devouring JoJo potatoes, which are apparently very popular at pizza places here-they are quartered potatoes rolled in the same flour as the broasted or pressure fried chicken and then fried in a pressure cooker. (Good luck getting that elsewhere). However, you never know what kind of things you will find that could inspire you to write about stuttering. And for this edition of my blog, I want to talk about.....Toledo.

A city located on the Maumee River very close to the border of Michigan in Western Ohio, Toledo is home to a sports team called the Walleye. It's a minor league hockey team affiliated with the Detroit Red Wings, and it is in the East Coast Hockey League. Most people hear that, and just think, "Well, it's just another team. Why should I be interested?" Well, this little nugget of information happened to catch my eye. According to a piece in The Hockey News from Jan. 17, 2011, the team is operated by a nonprofit organization and the fans will have to pay the cost of running the team, with all the revenue going toward the mortgage on the rink. As the director of public relations, Jason Griffin, said in the story, "They all feel like they have a stake in it. Fans come to the rink just because it's the place to be."

For the longest time, I felt like I was owned by stuttering. When you are growing up, it's kind of hard not to feel that way. You want to do something specific. You want to go up to someone and say hello, but you're frightened of what's going to happen. So you see them in the mall, and nod at them instead of going up and talking to them. You want to tell someone that they aren't helping you by finishing your sentences, but yet you feel that it is just not possible. It took me several SLPs and a lot of frustrations to get to the point where I can say, "Stuttering doesn't own me, but rather I own my stuttering. And I will dictate what happens from here on out."

The National Stuttering Association is very unique in the sense that we, too, own a piece of it, and it's very important that we develop that to its fullest fruition. I am always acknowledged and I often hear "But you do so much." I am a person who stutters, but also, I am an individual owner-of my feelings, of my goals, and how I conduct myself in relationships with my peers and others.

When I look back on the first time I did an open microphone session at an NSA conference, it feels like a moment frozen in time. Here I was, just some scared twentysomething from a suburb of New York, who had traveled 3,000 miles from home to be with others who stutter and were running the gamut of emotions. On that day, even if I didn't realize it, I started to become an owner. An owner of a new life that I could create. There will be setbacks. There will be times when I wonder if things will get better. But I know they will. Because being an owner means that you have ultimate control of your stuttering. And that is more powerful than anything else.

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

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