Monday, May 23, 2011

Spindarella cut it up one time! Let's talk about stuttering and why it is not fear....

Good evening everyone,

Before I begin my latest edition of the blog, I want to personally welcome and acknowledge each of you, my followers, who take time out of their day to read and think about my reflections on stuttering. I know that free time is at a premium in today's world, and many of us say "thank you," without even realizing that it needs to be genuine-we often say it just because it is polite. So please allow me to give a genuine, heartfelt "Thank you" to each of you. Regardless of where you live in this world, you are not only my friends, but my greatest allies in the world of stuttering. Together we devote all of our energies to make not only our world, but yours and mine, just a little bit more tolerant, a little more grateful.

The greatest thing about being a blogger, in my eyes, is not only the chance to impact my life and others, but to also learn about things from experiences of other people in my life who shape my values, not only as a person, but what I expect from myself as a human being. One of these individuals I happened to have the pleasure of meeting a few years ago at a charity gala for Our Time Theatre in New York City. You may have heard me mention how phenomenal I think Our Time is. Our Time was founded by an actor who stutters and it is a place where children who stutter can express themselves in a free, non-judgmental environment, based on love of performing arts and the theatre. Every year the children write plays and perform them, and there is a grand gala fundraiser which further helps to spread stuttering awareness. The person I met, "Mikaela," is also a writer and blogger (as well as a person who stutters), and is dating a young man whom I have had the chance to hang out with ,"Bobby," at several National Stuttering Association conferences. For a few years, they have lived together in Cook County, Ill., home to the City of Big Shoulders and the Second City, better known as Chicago, or Chi-town, or any other nickname you can identify the city by. That is, until a few months ago, when Mikaela and Bobby decided to leave the Midwest for New York City.

I am a firm believer in honoring the official writer's code, so I want to give her the full credit with regard to her feelings. She writes "As the snow formed four foot walls down the semi-ploughed roads, we were paying three times our old rent in Chicago. It was a baptism by fire and there were times when we questioned our sanity." She was scared. She was worried. Yet she was also doing whatever she wanted because she happens to have completed a book about stuttering that will be picked up by a publisher.

We often have moments in our life when we ask ourselves "What if I chose that? What if I had made a different decision?" without wondering what will happen. Sadly we do not have the preview of having a "coming attraction" in life and seeing what will develop. But I see people around me are not letting fear stand in their way of doing what they want. I just found out that a member of the NSA, who is a fellow chapter leader like I am, is actually going off to law school at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and he's in his late forties. But if you want any further proof that fear does not have to stand in your way, consider the upcoming National Stuttering Association conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

The workshop rosters were presented in the newsletter, "Letting GO," and I always love seeing who will be among the select few who will be sharing their experiences with us as presenters. I do want to emphasize, though, that you need not be a presenter in order to share with everyone. We are all educators when it comes to stuttering. Last year in Cleveland, I continued to see the evolving signs that the NSA is truly a global organization. I had the pleasure of meeting with "Robert," a man from Israel who stutters. This was his first conference and I spent a good deal of time talking to him over dinner, introducing him to many other members. I also explained to him there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to stuttering-but rather, think of it as being excited-you are excited because you are part of a very special community, where you can have the chance to be part of a conference where we all celebrate everything stuttering is. This is one of my favorite lines to use: "What stuttering is, what it can be, and what it will be."

What it will NEVER be is fear. I promise you that.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to describe your stuttering experiences in one word....Go!

Hello everyone,

We all have different routines that take place after work. For some of us, we're the first out the door when our workday is over. Others may spend a few minutes checking their BlackBerry or other PDA while juggling a conversation about what will be on the dinner table. The last few weeks, whenever I leave work, I've found myself listening to "Intelligence For Your Life," otherwise known as The John Tesh Radio Show. Syndicated from Los Angeles, and airing here on WKJY/98.3, the show (as well as his web site, offer valuable tips and great suggestions on all kinds of topics with every type of situation you can think of.

As I was perusing the site yesterday, I came across a phrase that stuck in my mind for a few hours: "The Great Humbling." According to career coach Judith Gerberg, who was cited in the article, there's been a drastic increase in unemployment among college-educated men 35-64, almost double what it was before the recession took place. Now, there seems to be a great shift in attitude, which is going a long way toward helping others find a good position.

I often ask myself how I can describe the experiences of being a person who stutters with one word. Many times when I have spoken to graduate students I am asked various questions, but never in that form. I think it is one of the most difficult things to try and answer something with one word. But if you pin me down and ask that of me, I would say "Stuttering has made me humble."

I've met many people who stutter and while the National Stuttering Association's conference has been viewed as the first day of the rest of your lives (which is emphatically 100 percent true), I think the world humble has shown me a lot because of the work I have done. First, being humble means knowing (and accepting) that it is not about you. Period. This is a lesson that I think unfortunately some people still have not mastered. I am 33 years of age, and it took me into my late twenties to finally understand it. When I was in high school, there may have been times when I wanted an extension on a paper-and granted, some teachers gave it because they felt a student deserved a second chance, etc. I feel that I often excelled in classes where the instructor was a disciplinarian-tough, but fair. While some other students may have been cursing under their breath, I actually relished the chance to sit up front and learn their styles, and the way they taught their classes. I'm the first person who will come forward to congratulate someone on their award if they are presented, and offer my compliments when someone has something wonderful happen to them-receiving a scholarship, being engaged, and so on. If you can't give of yourself to at least say "Congratulations," that's not an attractive quality. It's not fun being a killjoy and making others feel bad. I was that person for a long time. I don't want to ever become him again.

Being humble also means accepting that sometimes you will make mistakes and learn from them. One of the lessons I have stated in my seminars was something my late grandfather taught me: "The only perfect people are dead people. Because they do not have any problems." There's nothing wrong with setting high standards and wanting to achieve them. But if we make an error on the way to that platform, that too is OK. It can be saying something hurtful, breaking a promise to someone. If the executive director of the NSA asks me to do something, my word is my bond. If for some reason I am unable to do it, I will acknowledge my mistake and how to make it right.

Even more than the things I have described, being humble to me also means learning to accept others as they are and knowing you can try to help-even if the other person doesn't want it or can't see the reasons why. I have a good friend named "Johnny" who I grew up with in high school. "Johnny" is my age, 33, but he also has severe learning disabilities that make itvery hard, if not impossible, for him to hold down a job-in fact, his parents made him file for Social Security feeling that his disability will prevent him from any meaningful work. I've often asked myself why he is who he is, and why I am the way I am. We both have our challenges and work the best we can to overcome them. Maybe the rest of the world won't accept him the way he is. But just by listening, offering a supporting hand, that's being humble. Offering to take him out for an occasional dinner at the local diner can be a special gesture that can mean the world to him.

Yes, maybe that's a great word to describe my experiences: Humble. I was humble when I accepted my awards for Volunteer of the Year and Member of the Year and making sure that everyone is owed a part of it. My fellow NSAers make me humble. And I've never been more proud to say that, and always remember the current future lessons they will share 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.