Make Room For The Stuttering

PamEpisode 187 features return guest Christine Simpson, from the British Stammering Association. Christine lives in London in the UK and last year retired from a long career in library services. After retirement, she was looking for a project and found herself on the organizing committee of this year’s BSA conference, coming up in several weeks.

There’s a lot of work involved in organizing a conference, but Christine knows it’s going to be wonderful, because it’s always wonderful when people who stammer come together. We talk about what’s in store for conference participants and the wide range of diverse, yet inclusive opportunities available for everyone from first timers to veteran attendees across the age spectrum.

We also speak about what’s near and dear to both of us, continuing the tradition of offering a space just for women who stammer. Women who stammer face unique challenges and experience stammering through a different lens obviously than men. So I was pleased to hear that’s being honored and offered and at the same time I was sad that I won’t be there.

If you are at all unsure what to expect from a BSA conference, be sure to listen in. Our conversation paints a great picture of how much benefit you will gain from attending.

I made a pact with Christine that I will get to the next one, wherever in the UK it will be, in 2020.

As always, the music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

PamEpisode 186 features Maddy Bognar, who hails from Woodstock, New York. Maddy is an occupational therapy student and also a member of a band called the Turn-Ups. She has recently taken a leap to commit to booking two performance shows featuring Kirtan, which is a call and response chant style originating from the Bhakti Yoga tradition in India and is done traditionally in Sanskrit.

Kirtan first caught Maddy’s attention in 2016 when she attended an arts festival, called the O+ Festival, which is really cool to learn about itself. O+ artists and musicians receive health and wellness care in an Artists’ Clinic staffed by volunteer providers and in local dentist offices as a thank you for their creative gifts. O+ calls this exchange: the art of medicine for the medicine of art. I love that!

Kirtan allows Maddy to find peace and a sense of calm, which she then shares with audience members, who participate because Kirtan is also interactive. And Kirtan  means “storytelling” which is so cool because that’s exactly what we do on this podcast, share our stories.

In our conversation, we share how we met a few months ago when we both attended a performance by a stand-up comedian who stutters and wound up sharing that we both stutter and went to dinner together.

Podcast note: I tried as hard as I could in this episode to remove the annoying echo, but just didn’t succeed. Sorry, after all these years, I’m still an amateur.

The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

PamEpisode 185 features Natalie Park who hails from Loughborough, East Midlands, England in the UK. Natalie is a certified vocational assessor and tutor, currently taking courses in counseling and psychotherapy so she can one day help people who stammer.

We start off the conversation talking about job hunting. Natalie actually loves job interviews, which is quite contrary to most people who stutter. We also discuss education and advocacy and how important this is for future generations. She mentions that openly talking about stuttering smashes assumptions, which we know can be very dangerous.

We talk about how we have the opportunity to use our stutter/stammer in very powerful ways – we can control conversations, slow them down, actually listen to the words being said, instead of just listening to respond.  People who stutter are very powerful people, just not enough of us know that yet. YET being the key word here.

We wrap up this amazing conversation talking about the profound experience that Natalie had at the end of June with 40 other people around her age who stutter. The theme was performing arts and Natalie shares how hard it was to actually put into words the amazing transformation she saw in people after they embraced new ideas and pushed out of their comfort zones. She explains it beautifully here in this blog post called The Week That Changed My Life.

The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

when I stutterI recently had the privilege to see the documentary When I Stutter, a film by John Gomez. This is a film about people who stutter and portrays how people who stutter actually feel about stuttering, which is not always talked about. It is an honest examination of the sometimes dark side of stuttering, which often doesn’t get explored.

The film is currently making the rounds of private screenings and film festivals. It is being sponsored by colleges and universities that have communications disorders programs and being promoted by the National Stuttering Association.

It is a powerful learning experience for speech language pathologists and students studying to be future therapists. But it also demands and deserves to be seen by anyone who has an interest in the power of people who stutter daring to express themselves no matter how their voice might sound or how long it may take to speak.

That’s what hit home for me. The power of the voices. These are real people who stutter. Not actors portraying people who stutter, which is the sad norm when stuttering even gets a mention today. And we hear from both men and women and people of color, again an anomaly. So the film, by its intentional design, promotes diversity and inclusion.

Listening to the voices and seeing the facial expressions of people like me sharing their stories was visceral. Partly because I knew some of the people, especially the women, Rachel and Jenny, who have both been featured as guests on my podcast, Women Who Stutter: Our Stories.

So, knowing these people made it personal. Knowing the stories as my own made it real. Understanding the dynamics and complexity of stuttering made me nod my head in some parts. And tears welled up easily at other parts.

This is a must see film if you have any interest at all in the human condition. Even if you don’t stutter, you will identify with the shame, isolation and feelings of inadequacy that anyone with something that makes us stand out from everyone else can so easily relate to.

Kudos to John Gomez for bringing this film to light and to the stuttering community and the communities at large that we inhabit. We all have something that makes us different, stand out, unique. It is vital that we share our stories about whatever that is in as authentic a voice as possible. And “When I Stutter” accomplishes this, with grace and respect and actually honors the people who dared to be real with us.

Go see this film. It’s important.

 

PamEpisode 184 features Madeline Wahl, who presently lives in New York City. She moved to NY from Florida five years ago to take a job with the Huff Post. She currently works as an opinion editor with the Huff, has always loved writing and writes a lot in her spare time. Madeline also greatly enjoys solo traveling and talks about how your “travel self” is your “true self.”

I first “discovered” Madeline when I read a few of her articles about stuttering that were published on the Huff Post. I remember being so thrilled to see pieces about stuttering in a popular site that I read and I really wanted to see if I could get Madeline to come on here as a guest. I emailed her, but didn’t hear back. So, I honestly forgot about it!

Then, shortly before this year’s NSA conference I  heard from Madeline. She had archived my email and reached out, saying she’d love to be a guest if I’d still have her. Of course, I was thrilled to hear from her. We started corresponding through email, as Madeline was planning to attend that NSA conference for the first time. I offered her some tips and suggestions and we vowed to meet in person at the conference.

Well, we did, very briefly. Then we followed up about two weeks later, and here’s this conversation we had. Listen in as Madeline shares what that first NSA conference was like, some really deep thoughts about the value and importance of words, and the deep emotions that get stirred up when being surrounded by other people who stutter.

We also talk about intense listening, patience being mindful, and the true spectrum of stuttering that exists within the stuttering community.

I was grateful for this “deep dive” conversation and hope you find it as compelling as I did.

Here are links to several of the articles that Madeline mentions in this episode.

What It Actually Feels Like To Stutter

Why I’m Thankful That I Stutter

As always, the podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

PamEpisode 183 features Emily Anderson, who hails from Anchorage, Alaska. Emily is 27 years old and just recently started the first ever NSA Family Chapter in Alaska.

Emily works as an environmental technician doing water sampling and monitors contaminated water sites. She also does outreach with native Alaskan tribes. Emily also has a second job as a server at a steak house restaurant.

Emily shared an interesting phenomena about her stuttering. It actually works to her advantage when speaking one on one with tribal residents. In Alaska, it is custom and tradition to speak slowly and take long pauses, so it works perfectly with her stuttering!

Listen in as we discuss Emily’s impressions of her first NSA conference. She shares that she thought it wasn’t going to live up to the hype she had heard about. Well, she was proven wrong! She talks about the comfort she found being in a judgement free zone where other people had the same weird insecurities she has had.

We talk about workplace stuttering and how she manages in both jobs she has that require a lot of communication. Her favorite workshop was the one on stuttering in the workplace, where she heard the stories of people who have not let stuttering limit their career goals. We even talk about how cool it was that in that workshop she met a real rocket scientist who happens to stutter.

And we talk about the fact that Emily’s mom has been a SLP for 40 years and was the perfect role model for Emily growing up. Mom is so proud that Emily decided to go to her first conference and is actually thinking about going herself next year.

Emily has written a couple of articles about stuttering for The Mighty. Here is the links to two of them.

Finding My Confidence Working In Food Service With A Stutter

When Stuttering Makes Me An Extrovert Stuck In An Introvert’s Body

The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

 

I promised two weeks ago that I would offer a short summary of a few of the powerful, especially meaningful workshops that I attended just for myself at the recent National Stuttering Association conference in Chicago. I say “just for myself” because as usual I did find myself busy at the conference helping lead a few workshops and helping with other things. It took me two weeks to write this because I’ve been busy and I needed time to process how wonderful some of these workshops were.

So it was important to me to attend a few sessions that I was just a participant and could enjoy the experience facilitated by others. One such workshop that I found profoundly important was “Writers Who Stutter” which was presented last year and again for the second time this year. I couldn’t attend last year because of a schedule conflict so I was excited and intrigued to see what they might offer.

“They” were people who stutter who all happen to be women and immensely enjoy writing. In fact, they started a “writers who stutter” Facebook group within the last year and encourage others to participate and share some of their pieces with each other. These women – Elizabeth, Jaymie and Chani – all express themselves exquisitely in writing and in voice too. They have all been guests on my podcast and are great storytellers.

Since I didn’t get to attend last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect. And it was a 9:00am workshop, which honestly I choose to skip most of them in favor of squeezing in some needed rest. Which, at a stuttering conference, you don’t get much of, so you take it when you can get it.

As preparation for the this year’s version of the writer’s who stutter workshop, the facilitators offered a warm-up writing exercise through the Facebook group. They offered a “writing prompt” used from last year and asked participants to write a six word story about stuttering. I was thinking, “yeah, right, like that’s possible.”

But I thought about it and offered my thought to the group. “Stuttering is about me, not you.” The facilitators commented right away that they loved it and even asked permission to use it in some other way. So, I was hooked and knew I’d find time to go to that workshop in Chicago. Even if it was at 9:00am.

I’m so glad I did! Elizabeth, Jaymie and Chani talked about the important of our writing voice and how it becomes part of our identity. I could so completely relate with that. For years, because I stutter, I often found the only way I could express myself was through writing. I believed the voices in my head that said my voice wasn’t worthy of being heard.

But with writing, the words would flow, fluently and fluidly. I remember in the early days of this blog, I recall writing things but don’t recall the actual process of typing them. The words just sort of magically flew from my fingertips and often just appeared on the screen and I’d stare incredulously and wonder how did those words appear. And sometimes those pieces were my best writing and didn’t need any editing. It was amazing to me to see that unfold time and time again.

It still happens once in a while. Like right now, I am not thinking any thoughts as I type this, but somehow the words are coming together, so effortlessly and fluidly filling the page,.

And I think that was the point of the writers who stutter workshop, at least to me anyway. It may not have been the facilitator’s main premise at all. But my take-away was that we should respect the identity we create as writers and go ahead and let stuttering inform our stories and what we choose to write about. Stuttering experiences provide rich, compelling stories that belong to us, the community that stutters. And we need to have a space to do just that – write and create and share and get feedback and write some more.

This workshop gave attendees a chance to break into small groups and write a bit on a prompt that we were given to get us started. Then we could share within our group if we wanted. Or not. Maybe we just wanted to soak in the experience and keep our musings private. Then the last fifteen minutes or so of the workshop brought the smaller groups back together to share out and process as a whole and see the beauty of our creations, our identities and the power of our voices – both in writing and voiced out loud.

How lucky I was to attend that workshop. It reminded me how many of us who stutter have often gravitated to pen and paper to express ourselves. Because that often felt better, right and eloquent like we think we aren’t. But we’re wrong! We are eloquent both in writing and in voice. When the two collide and we’re given a space to explore that, great things happen.

Thank you Elizabeth, Jaymie and Chani for staying true to you and sustaining your group for a year and giving writers who stutter a place to realize our words are worthy, no matter which way we choose to express them.

I look forward to next year’s version of this workshop.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2017.
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