Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘acceptance

There are so many things we think we can’t do, so we don’t.

I always wanted to teach, but thought I couldn’t, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to travel, but thought I couldn’t, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to speak up, but thought I couldn’t, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to be athletic, but wasn’t, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to be emotional, but was afraid, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted lots of friends, but that meant talking, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to say what I really felt, but I was embarrassed, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to feel accepted for who I was, but felt I would never be, so I didn’t try.

But then something changed.

I started trying.

I am not a teacher, but I teach someone something every day.

I wanted to travel, so I did it. I have been to some great places.

I wanted to speak up, so I tried it, and now you can’t shut me up.

I wanted to stick to a fitness goal, so I started walking. I entered two races and I did them.

I wanted to be more comfortable with my emotions, so I have been trying, and its been OK.

I wanted more friends in my life, so I learned how to be a friend, and it worked.

I wanted to say the things I really felt, so I tried and it felt good.

I wanted to be accepted for who I was, so I started working on accepting myself. And its working.

If we never try, nothing ever changes.

I did it!

I like the sound of those three words.

Remember playing this game as a kid? I never liked it. I didn’t see the point, and it always seemed I got rope burn trying to pull so hard. And as the game goes, the harder you pull, the more effort the other side expends so they can win.

Speaking of rope burn, I also remember as a kid sliding down some huge slide sitting on a burlap sack. I can’t remember where , but the memory just came roaring back. That experience was like a tug-of-war too. I remember feeling gloriously free careening down the slide, caressed and stung  by the wind and having no worries during that fast and furious moment.

And then the moment at the bottom when I realized the ride was over and my butt had slid off the burlap sack and I had rope burn all up and down my legs. The price I paid for that exhilarating run. I wish someone had told me to wear pants!

I have discovered that you can also play tug-of-war with feelings. Someone reminded me that if I expect those close to me to know what I want and need without telling them directly, I will be disappointed. This is akin to mind-reading, which most of us don’t do very well.

I know this intellectually, but emotionally it is still often hard for me to be direct about my feelings and even identify what it is that I am feeling. There must be a way to strike a balance between the desire to show my feelings and pressing my autopilot button to conceal my truest self, which I did for a long time. It was my survival tactic.

Simply put, as I was gently reminded, I am not used to anyone showing care and tenderness toward me. I don’t know how to react, or how to let it in. I want to, but the feelings that rush up overwhelm me. They are a bittersweet mix of joy and sadness. Mourning, if you will, for not having felt genuine tenderness enough to know how to deal with it.

Feeling for real, and expressing how I feel, is still so foreign that I don’t trust it. I grew up thinking that if I let people know my true self, somehow they would get the upper hand, which everyone already seemed to have anyway. I have been told that this is common for children of alcoholics.  There were no emotions expressed – everything real was repressed and avoided. That’s how I got so good at covering up my stuttering.

So this tug-of-war with feelings is vexing me now. It is not as easy to hide anymore. As I heal and continue uncovering and exposing my true self, people are coming in. I have been so used to holding people and feelings at arm’s length, that usually I don’t even notice I am doing it.

Maybe I can have that glorious feeling of careening freedom again, right smack into life instead of down a slide on my butt on a burlap sack . Maybe I will figure out how to avoid the rope burns. Or maybe I’ll just figure out how to stop pulling so hard.

I will be leaving today for my 3rd Friends convention, held this year in Chicago, IL. If you have a child that stutters, Friends is a wonderful support organization that focuses on acceptance of self as is. There is nothing better than to see kids, teen and young adults spend time together, laughing and loving each other and themselves.

This is a parent driven organization and it is clearly evident when you participate in a Friends event. The convention details are handled by families from the host city, and attendees feel welcome and supported the minute you walk in the door.

Parents are the backbone of this organization,  under the guidance of Director Lee Caggiano. Lee is the mother of a son who stutters, and the whole Caggiano family is deeply involved in Friends. Dad Tom helps with all kinds of logistical things, including chief photographer during events. Daughter Jessie, herself a Social Worker, works with the kids and runs a siblings group every year.

People ask me how come I attend both conferences, NSA and Friends. They are so close – within two weeks of each other. It can be expensive. My response is always: how can I not.

When I first met Lee four years ago, her unconditional love, support and respect for people who stutter came shining through. She made me feel that my stuttering has purpose, value – before her, no one had made me feel that way about stuttering.

I went to the Friends conference in New Orleans in 2008, and was warmly embraced. Literally. When I walked in to the Friends area in the hotel, a parent of two kids who stutter, Gloria, warmly embraced me and made me feel so welcome. I will never forget that. I have been hooked since.

Countless times I wonder what my life would have been like if I had something like this when I was little girl, feeling so alone and scared with my stuttering. If I had known other kids my age who sounded like me – I know things would have been very different for me. I would not have felt like I had to fight the demons all by my self.

If you stutter, even as a adult, or know someone who stutters, take an opportunity to check out Friends. You will see why it is such a special place for kids and thier families. There, they are not kids who stutter. They are just kids. And we adults become kids at heart.

Visit Friends today. You will be happy you did!

Episode 11 features Anita Blom, who hails from Sweden, by way of Holland. I first met Anita two years ago. She attended a National Stuttering Association (NSA) conference, where she gave one of the keynote addresses.

I remember feeling inspired by her active involvement in the world-wide stuttering community. I also remember that she came to the Open Mic session that I hosted on the last day of the conference. I spoke to her afterward, and felt instant connection. Since then, I have “run into” her at the on-line ISAD conferences. We now keep up through social media.

I do hope I get to see Anita in person again sometime. It did feel completely right and comfortable chatting with each other via skype and webcam. Turns out, we both were wearing similar jams!

Anita is busy! She has a large family, is an adult education teacher, does IT support, helps with the family company AND plays in a marching band. She also does a bit of volunteer work – she is Chair of her local stuttering chapter, Chair of the Swedish National Stuttering Association, is Vice Chair of the European League of Stuttering Associations and sits on several committees. It tired me out just typing this!

We chat about acceptance, turning points, “lost and found” and even why Anita once wanted to be a boy. Anita has a wonderful name badge that she wears everywhere. It says, “S-s-sure, I s-s-stutter! What are you good at?”

Listen in on a great conversation, and feel free to leave comments for Anita (and me too!). Your feedback is always welcome, and helps me know that I am getting this right.

Musical credit for “I’m Gonna Go” goes to Dano Songs.

Episode 9 features Beth Bienvenu, from Olney, Maryland, located outside of Washington, DC. Beth works for the US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy.

As a woman who stutters, Beth has  used her personal journey as a stutterer to raise awareness at the federal government level. She offers advice about reasonable accommodations that one can ask for to make stuttering in the workplace a non-issue.

Beth has been involved with the National Stuttering Association for six years and attributes self-help and support to helping her move toward acceptance of her own stuttering.

In our chat, Beth shares valuable information and resources for career success. She has been very instrumental in facilitating a Career Track at the upcoming NSA conference in Cleveland in July. For more information on accommodations in the workplace, visit the Job Accommodation Network.

Musical credit for the intro and out-tro of  the song “I’m Gonna Go” goes to Dano Songs.

As always, your feedback and support is appreciated. Feel free to leave comments or ask Beth some questions.

Episode 6 welcomes Gloria Klumb from Madison, Wisconsin. Gloria is a NSA and Face book friend. She is leader of the Madison NSA Chapter.

She often reads my posts on this blog and takes the time to comment. So it was a no-brainer that she and I would eventually chat and put our great minds together.

We talk about different things. Her friend Bernie pestered her for a year to attend her first NSA conference. That conference was so life-changing that Gloria wound up moving from one city to another in Wisconsin so that she could be close to a NSA group, and then wound up being chapter leader. Another friend Bob “conned” her into eventually co-leading a stuttering workshop.

Gloria also tells about why she couldn’t tell her own children where she went or why when she attended NSA events.  And she talks about her “freedom trail”, work and even Botox.

These conversations with women are turning into exactly what I had hoped for.  We don’t need “famous” people to inspire us with their stuttering stories. Ordinary people lead amazing lives every single day, and it is important to listen to these stories.  Gloria’s “tell” is wonderful!

Musical credit for the intro and out-tro of  the song “I’m Gonna Go” goes to Dano Songs.

Feel free to leave comments and feedback for Gloria. (And me too!)

Episode 5 welcomes NSA friend Stacey Fitzenrider, who hails from Seattle, Washington. I e-met Stacey several years ago through various stuttering groups and met her in person last year at the NSA Scottsdale conference.

She and 5-year-old daughter Ava came to the Open Mic session that I hosted at 8:30 am on Thursday, as a favor to a good friend who asked me to fill in for him at the last minute.

Always the good sport, I was at the ready at 8:30am. Not too many other people were (!), so I had the chance to chat it up with Stacey and Ava. We chatted as if we had known each other for ever. And Ava did a good deal of the chatting. It was a treat getting to know them.

Really cool fact – Stacey’s “handle” is chattygirl. Don’t ya love it? And you will love Stacey’s gut honesty as we chat about all kinds of things, including choices, parents that stutter, feeling whole, and living life.

Musical credit for the intro song “Today Then Tomorrow” goes to Dano Songs.

Feel free to leave comments. As a matter of fact, I encourage it. Let Stacey know your thoughts.

I am always surprised when I hear myself express the need to be validated because I still don’t do it directly. I don’t come right out and ask someone, “Hey, can you validate me?’ I will dance around whatever it is that I need, until I hear either directly or indirectly that I am a good person or am loved.

We all need to hear that, right? This may be one of the most basic of human needs, yet for me, one of the hardest. I always believed I wasn’t good enough, or didn’t measure up, or didn’t even count enough to deserve good things said or felt about me.

A lot went into that: the ingrained belief I had that I was no good, that I didn’t matter and that my feelings weren’t valid. And of course, the fact that I stuttered. Putting that all together left me feeling I had no choice but to close myself off from the world.

Now I have opened myself to the world and allowed feelings to be felt. I let things seep in that I had always pushed away. I am beginning to see how good it feels when people affirm me, tell me I am good, and that I matter. Sometimes I still feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, maybe like I don’t deserve it, and other times it makes me feel warm and glowing inside.

I have almost reached a point when I can tell when I need that. And I will dance around the issue with a good friend or loved one, until they tell me something that makes me feel good.

I wish I could be direct enough to just let someone know, “hey, I need someone to tell me I have done a good job. Will you do that for me?”  I guess I also wish that I really didn’t need to hear that at all – that I just know it, that it comes from within.

But we are human. And need to hear others affirm us. We need to be validated. It feels good.

Episode 3 welcomes Annetta Price from Trinidad and Tobago. I first came to know Annetta when she started commenting on this blog and began sharing some of her own feelings about stuttering,which she had rarely made public.

We do a lot of honest talking about how stuttering makes us feel. We cover a lot in a short time, including some of the tough stuff, like feeling flawed, vulnerable and inadequate.

Annetta starts off by explaining that she prefers to be affectionately called Marie, because she can say that, instead of always stuttering on the “A” in the name Annetta.  I was very impressed that she shared that right off the bat – as that certainly is not easy to publicly admit.

This episode features my first attempt at adding a little intro music. It took me a long time to add a 15 second clip. I am confident that I will get better at this each week.  Musical credit for “Silver Shine” goes to “Free Royalty Free Music” by Dano Songs.

Annetta authors a wonderful blog herself, called Finally A Mom. Her blog has been commended by the community health blog-o-sphere, as her personal experiences helps many, many women. Check it out!

Feel free to leave comments or ask Annetta questions.

In this second episode, Pam is joined by Sarah Bryant, a woman who just recently graduated from college and is looking for a teaching job.  Sarah talks about some of the challenges she faced while stuttering in school. We also talk about advertising and acceptance, and how stuttering influences social relationships.

Sarah recently contributed her story to this blog in a written form, where her raw emotion and authenticity really resonated with readers. Her courage at still a young age is commendable. Read her blog entry here!

Sarah also shares how worried she gets about creating a poor first impression with people she has just met, because of the stuttering. We reflected on how many people worry about first impressions, stutterers or not! And Sarah acknowledges that she no longer focuses on the goal of attaining fluency.

So listen in as Sarah and Pam chat about how stuttering influences us. Feel free to leave a comment.

My live interview today on NPR radio went well. I was happy with the flow of our conversation. Round Table host Joe Donahue does a great job of making guests feel comfortable in the studio. It helped that I have been on the program before, so I was familiar with the set-up, how to use the microphone, how far away to sit.

The producer had me send some talking points, but Joe basically crafted the interview so it was a good back and forth flow between the two of us.

I was very happy that our local radio station, WAMC, and NPR welcomed me on to the show to discuss stuttering. Take a listen. I would love your feedback!

Pam on NPR to discuss National Stuttering Awareness Week

This week is National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States, specifically from May 10 – May 16, 2010. (It was proclaimed as such in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan).  May also happens to be Better Speech and Hearing Month. So this is our week to talk about stuttering, raise awareness and educate others who may not understand the stuttering experience.

For the last three years, I have tried to do something “public” to help spread the word about stuttering. In 2007, I was a guest on my local area’s NPR station during this week to talk about stuttering.

In 2008, I got the chance to appear on a public television station’s health channel to promote stuttering. Later that year, I got to do a similar community television program for our local library. They aired it continually during October, to mark International Stuttering Awareness Day.

In 2009, I wrote an article about stuttering and had it published in the Albany NY daily newspaper, The Times Union. I also had a blurb about stuttering run in the weekly “Check Up On Health” column right before stuttering awareness week.

This year, the features editor for the health column at the Times Union, Jack Leadley, ran my small piece again yesterday to remind people about what stuttering is, some tips for listeners, and links for support and resources.

And I will be a guest again on Albany’s  NPR station’s program “The Round Table” with host Joe Donahue on Tuesday May 11, 2010 at 10:35am. Here’s the station and channel information. I am looking forward to coming back on NPR radio, and gratified that they find it important enough to dedicate some air time to stuttering awareness.

I will point to the link when WAMC posts it, probably by the next day.

What will you do to spread the word and raise awareness about stuttering? One of the best things we can do is talk about our stuttering openly and often.

I am really excited to add an audio section to this blog that I hope will be at least weekly.  Good friend Daniele Rossi, creator of  the site Stuttering is Cool, encouraged me to start a podcast that would just focus on women who stutter and our stories. There doesn’t appear to be any other podcast devoted specifically to women and our stuttering journeys.

Danny has helped guide me through the basic steps of launching a podcast and adding it to this site. He may not realize it, but he will probably become my podcast mentor. He helped me get some (free) recording software and was patient with me as I worked with my first audio file longer than 10 minutes. I met Danny on Twitter, along with lots of other really amazing people who just happen to stutter.

I pretty much know this will be a work in progress. I hope to get better each week with the logistics of posting audio files. The most important thing is the honest dialogue with women who stutter as we share our stories.

I am pleased to welcome my very first guest, Tamara Nunes Williams. She is a wife, mother, daughter, college student, and care giver to persons with disabilities. And she happens to stutter. She has an amazing story.           Please listen to Episode 1.

When you get involved in the stuttering community, you meet so many really special people. As we know, stuttering is random and visits people from all over. Its so much fun getting to know people, hearing their stories and making new friends. Technology is amazing – phones, webcams,skype, video – everything makes our world smaller and allows us to share.

I have been tweeting with a guy who stutters from stutterblog, and also joined his community over there. (Check it out!)  He has recently taken some steps to welcome stuttering into his life and work towards acceptance. Part of this process is talking with other people who stutter, of course, whenever you can. We learn from other!

Thad invited me to chat with him about stuttering. We agreed we would record our chat, so he could post it on his site. And I couldn’t resist putting them here too, and giving a shout-out to Thad. I will admit that he is MUCH better with technology than I am, as he was able to put our two videos together side by side. The videos came out great. So take a few minutes to listen in, as we discuss some honest issues about stuttering. Thad took some risks, and has moved one huge step closer to acceptance by speaking out like this.

I was really honored to chat with him, and look forward to more honest dialogue about stuttering – which makes us unique and special.

Part 1 – Thad and Pam

Part 2 – Thad and Pam

I was fortunate enough to get some clips of good friends speaking at various points during the conference. I will post several of them here over the next few days. Here is Bob and Mitch. They both spoke genuinely from the heart, and have a message worth hearing. I am grateful that they gave permission for me to post their “story” here.

Please feel free to comment, or just let them know they did a great job!

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. 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 2022.
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