Acceptance – Tools and Techniques

Another installment in the Acceptance series. What I said during my talk:

I have accepted that there are tools and techniques to use when I feel like I’m having a bad day. That there are things that I can control. I take a deep breath before speaking. I speak more slowly. I prepare myself and rehearse what I need to say. I’ve accepted this because these are things that work for me, and I’ve seen people who are fluent do similar things before talking.

The thing about stuttering and how I feel about stuttering is that it’s … complicated. On the one hand I want people to accept me for the way that I sound and come across. And I’ve written about not being perfect. On the other hand, there are those days when I just want to be fluent. When I want to say what I want, exactly what I want, but not stumble or get stuck on my words.

It’s really a question of energy then. Do I want to spend my time trying to educate someone about stuttering and acceptance and patience, or do I want to spend energy on technique and breathing and preparation?

I think it’s still both for me. And that’s just where I am on my journey.

So I do use those tools and techniques. I use things that have worked before in the past, that are reliable and helpful. They help me reduce my overall stress when speaking. They allow me to speak on my own terms instead of being rushed. I’ve recently been changing the cadence of my speech as well, and that’s helped with fluency. I’m not sure how it’s coming across to others — or if they even notice — but it’s helping me in some ways.

Maybe in some ways these tools and techniques have made me a better speaker overall. There are people who don’t stutter at all who don’t work on their speaking. They fear public speaking and getting up in front of others. At least as someone who stutters I have these tools available and have used them frequently. So the fear of being in front of others is lessened, allowing me to focus on the content.

Let me know your thoughts. This one is tricky.

Started a new job!

Clearly I need to share more. I mean, I started a new job back in October and still haven’t written about it. I was at the food company for three plus years, but realized it was time to move on. I didn’t feel great about where the company was going, projects being cancelled or postponed, and overall capital being reduced. As we all have seen, the market is really good for finding a new job. I wasn’t looking too hard, but when a former colleague reached out to me, I ended up pursuing it.

So now I’m at a smaller engineering firm again. I started at a smaller engineering company when I was just out of college. And now I’m working for the same boss who I had out of college. A small world indeed. The part of it has helped me with my overall comfort, but I’m still having to go around and introduce myself to people. It’s been … ok. I think after three years at a company you get to know everybody who you need to know. So anybody new is really introducing themselves to you.

I was put on an assignment for the past few months at a client site, but that’s now ending. So I’m transitioning back to the office in Philly. I’ll talk about the client part in a later post. But for the past few days I’ve been going in. I got a new desk which was near other people. So instead of letting the awkwardness build up, I just dove right in and started introducing myself when people were around.

I didn’t advertise. Eh. I forced out my name and just got right into it. They didn’t say anything about it. Maybe this is a good thing? Maybe I need practice telling people well after the fact. I don’t know. My speech has been pretty good, but I’m still not fluent here and there. One lousy excuse is that my boss took me around to introduce me to a few people, and he said my name, not me. But I’ve been on my own for the past few days.

So yes, advertising is hard. And I’ve said before how much it has helped. Maybe for me it’s easier to do in a group instead of one on one. Which sounds pretty crazy.

Acceptance – Reactions

Next installment on Acceptance – here’s what I talked about with regards to reactions.

I have accepted that some people will not react to my stuttering in a positive way. This is because I know some people have their own problems. I can’t control that. When you cut someone else down, you’re saying more about yourself than you are to them. I have accepted myself, and if they cannot accept me, that’s not my problem.

Through tv and film, those of us who stutter have been made out to be the laughingstock. We struggle to say words, we wave our arms frantically, we make faces … all for a laugh. So when someone hears us stutter, they may be inclined to laugh at us. They don’t know, and I shouldn’t expect them to know. They probably don’t hear someone who stutters regularly. They may not have a friend who does. Their friend who stutters may sound completely different than us.

I know it seems that I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, the allowance to be a jerk, to be disrespectful. And I guess I am. I’ve accepted that I can’t change years and years of tv and movies. I can only do it one interaction at a time. And I have done this. I’ve been laughed at, and then I rather firmly explain where I’m coming from and why what they’re saying is hurtful. I’m not in this to make myself feel better, but I want at least to educate them so that the next person isn’t humiliated. I know when I was younger being laughed at was devastating. I’d never wish that on anybody else.

I think where I’m coming from is that I don’t know anybody else’s background, and I shouldn’t expect them to know mine. But do I laugh at others when I first hear them talk or see what they look like? Well, no, I don’t do that. But that comes with maturity. To know that you’re supposed to listen for the content and not how the message is delivered. I think that’s the biggest problem today – people are just so quick to judge and give their opinion – on how something or someone stacks up against their expectation.

Acceptance – Still Communicate

Happy New Year, everybody. Hope your holidays were fun. And now look at me, still trying to make good on finishing out this series. Still talking about Acceptance. Here’s the next installment. This is what I talked about with regards to communicating.

I have accepted that I can still communicate when I am not fluent. When I sit in a meeting and raise my hand to speak, to bring up a point, people listen, and they listen no matter how long it takes the idea to come out. They are interested in the message, and not how it sounds. I have accepted this, and it’s because I have heard others speak. And how some speak slowly, some quickly, some with many hesitations. And of course I’ve heard my brothers and sisters who stutter as well.

For a long time I was silent. I didn’t want to say anything because it wasn’t going to be fluent. And if it wasn’t going to be fluent, then I thought it wasn’t going to be relevant. It wasn’t going to add to the conversation.

Over time what I noticed was that when I did say something and stumble over my words, people generally didn’t care. I would get the occasionally snicker, but the co-workers who I had who had been with me for a long time, didn’t care at all. I noticed that I was able to get my point across, and usually someone would comment that it was, in fact, a good point. Something valid. Something worth adding to the conversation.

When I moved overseas, the dynamic was different as well. My confidence went up exponentially during meetings. This was because there was a lot of respect for me and what I was bringing to the table with regards to people and project management. They wanted to hear how I had done things, and how we were going to move forward.

It’s always been easy to give up and just send an e-mail. Not pick up the phone or walk down the hall. But in a smaller office setting where I became very comfortable with my colleagues, in-person discussions became the norm. This allowed the exchange of ideas, developing solutions, and understanding where others were coming from. I had to then present in front of other leaders. Having gone through an idea so many times, I knew my message would be sound, and that always helped my delivery and ongoing confidence.

Of course age has helped as well. Nowadays I try to listen first and then ask questions. Listening allows me to understand. And then breathing in and out a few times … slowing myself down … allows me to form a response and think through clearly what I want to articulate. I know that I’m not in a hurry. I know I can go back and forth. I know my default isn’t to argue or judge. Just calm.

Acceptance – Not Perfect

Another installment regarding acceptance.

Here’s what I said in my talk regarding being perfect … or not.

I have accepted that I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. Not in how I speak, how I sound, how I do my job, as a husband, father, son and brother. I accept this because I have seen what I can accomplish without being perfect. And how much stress and energy I would need to be perfect. I know that nobody is perfect, and I would expect that grace from others. 

Let’s look at where this comes from, this idea of having to be perfect. At our core, when we are someone who stutters, we want to be fluent. That’s it. We want to sound like the people on tv. Movies. Friends. Bosses. Coworkers giving a presentation. They all say “oh, I hate public speaking” but yet there they are, up in front of others, being fluent. Not stumbling over words, not getting stuck on sounds.

So at a young age, we always see this. This fluency. It’s everywhere. And when we hear a stumble, a stutter, a hesitation, we are taught that it’s wrong. Abnormal. Not what we should sound like. The person is nervous. Trying to hide something. We are forced to then be perfect in the one thing that we physically cannot be. And that’s extremely stressful.

For me I started thinking about speaking as something equal to everything else that I do. It may not be, but this exercise helped me. I compared it with something like a written exam or a physical test. I don’t need to speak for those things, but they take some skill and talent and knowledge to do. And I can measure those things.

When I was growing up, I did well on written tests in school. Not always a hundred percent, but I got good grades. But a hundred percent is perfect. And I wasn’t perfect.

In gym I was overweight and slow. I finished last in the mile. I couldn’t do all the push-ups and sit-ups. I could play dodgeball, I suppose. But I wasn’t exactly making varsity for anything. So I wasn’t perfect. But I tried hard, didn’t complain, and got a decent grade in gym. Also not perfect.

As I reflected on these things, I realized that not being perfect didn’t stop me from moving forward in life, going to college, getting a job, making friends and having a family. People didn’t ask me about my grades before befriending me. Grad school wanted good grades, but not perfect. And they didn’t care about my physical prowess.

Once I applied this all to my speech, I was able to accept myself more. I understood that my speech will never sound like a tv commentator or movie star. That I will have bad days and great days. But I can still accomplish my goals and feel good as a person for trying and working.

Acceptance – No Cure

I wanted to expand on a few topics regarding acceptance, and this is the first of eight. I gave a talk at TISA a few weeks back, and I was able to talk about these a little bit. Now that I’ve had more time to reflect, here’s what I hope will be helpful with regards to acceptance and what you can do with regards to how you think about stuttering.

Here’s what I said for the talk:

I have accepted that there is no cure for stuttering. The physical act of stuttering. I have come to terms with the fact that there may never be a medical breakthrough to cure stuttering. To fix that disconnect between our thoughts and our mouth. I accept this because of the simple reality of pharmaceutical companies. They will make drugs for what impacts the most number of people. We are not dying because we stutter, and our numbers are relatively small. We will still live. So it’s not a focus, and I can accept that. I understand the business of it.

When I was younger, I certainly held out hope that they’d come up with some kind of cure. Some pill or treatment for stuttering. You’d just go and do it, and the next day, boom, fluent as a tv commentator. As the years went on, and I learned more about how the world works, I realized that this was not going to happen. I also realized that there are many out there who are keen to take advantage of those in need. There are a lot of so-called cures and treatments out there. Some are more effective than others. I’ve come to realize that there’s a standard for treatment — going through a rigorous process, doing studies, seeing results. And that for the fly-by-night stuff, it simply isn’t there.

A “cure” to me means a full solution, full stop. Not something halfway that works half the time. I can do that. I can relax, I can breathe, I can be prepared. I can do none of those things and have a good day of being fluent. I can do all of those things and have a bad day and barely be able to get out a word.

Once the studies are done and the speech therapists of the world tell us there’s a cure, then I’ll be happy to get on board. But as I said in the first paragraph, it’s probably not just going to be a therapy thing, it’ll be a medical breakthrough. And the likelihood of that is very small given where we are in line with regards to other ills of the world.

So for me I choose not to spend any energy on hoping and dreaming for this cure. I’d rather use that to get myself in a better mental state of acceptance.

Expectations met

Well, just as I thought, I didn’t follow up and expand further on the post below. But I wanted to get on here though to say Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, and I hope your stuttering is going well during the holiday season.

I have had a chance to think about hobbies and how I want to spend the extra hours of my week. After considering the impact on family time and work time, I think in 2022 I want to renew my interest in this site.

So what I’m looking for is encouragement and accountability from you, dear reader. I’m on twitter occasionally with this blog, so if you follow me on there, please send me a little something to know you’re waiting for the next post. That should make sure I keep things going. I thought I could stay motivated, but there are so many other distractions these days.

One thing I have done to help myself is get off of facebook. I know there’s a growing stuttering community on there, so I’m thinking about going back just for that. But for now I’m no longer spending time scrolling through.

Talk to you again soon.


I was asked by The Indian Stammering Association, TISA, to give a talk about acceptance and stuttering. I put down a few hundred words and had some specific ideas about stuttering and acceptance. And now, given that National Stuttering Awareness Day is only three weeks away, I thought I’d share a few bullet points and then expand on them as the days go on.

(Keep in mind that I’ve promised things before during the month of October, and I’ve not done them. Hopefully this will be very different since I’ve got a lot of the notes down, and I’m off next week as I transition to a new job. Which, of course, is a whole other discussion and series (hopefully, again) of posts.)

So here are the eight things that I said during the talk that I’ve accepted. I’m sure over the next few months I’ll realize a few more, consolidate some of these, and then have a new list. But until then, here we go:

  • I have accepted that there is no cure for stuttering.
  • I have accepted that I am not perfect.
  • I have accepted that I can still communicate when I am not fluent.
  • I have accepted that stuttering is unpredictable.
  • I have accepted that there are tools and techniques to use when I feel like I’m having a bad day.
  • I have accepted that some people will not react to my stuttering in a positive way.
  • I have accepted that I do not know what others are thinking, and that they may not know what I am thinking.
  • Lastly, I have accepted that stuttering is not all of who I am.

Over the next few days I’ll expand on each of these ideas. What they mean to me, and the work I put in to get to this point of acceptance.

Terrible at goals

Well, I had fun reading through this again:

That’s right — I set a bunch of goals for 2020, and … didn’t reach many of them.

Let’s see how badly I missed — the fact that I was supposed to do a quarterly check-in not withstanding …

  1. Reduce body fat by 7% – at one point, I think I had this done. I joined an online fitness program, and it really helped me for about 4 months. Then when I got married in October, that was it. I didn’t feel like I could focus on weight loss (because I needed another physical goal) since Covid was preventing me from really seeing that far out. I wanted to get in shape for something like a half marathon or long bike ride, but then didn’t have the ambition to find something this coming summer.
  2. Read 6 fiction and 6 nonfiction books – I read some this year, but not as much as I’d like. I continued to read a lot online (newspapers) and some magazines as well. I continue to buy new and used books, so this goal will just roll over.
  3. 25 blog posts – 22! That’s the worst. And the one I could have just knocked out in six months. Roll this one over again.
  4. 30,000 meters of rowing per month – well, I set this before joining Future in mid-June. But up until that point the workouts were pretty hit and miss. This year will be tough again. I need to find a decent place to work out (the garage is cold during the winter!) and the basement is stuffed with other things.
  5. Run a November 5k in under 30 minutes – they were all cancelled! I think this one was out of my control. Although I could have just done it on the treadmill. What fun would that be, though?
  6. Keep library fines to under $30 annually – I managed to miss this goal before the libraries closed, and then again after they opened up. I’m the worst.
  7. Reduce ten items per month from the house – maybe? I know I haven’t added too many things, but whether or not I tossed 120 items … probably not.

So what about this year? I think I need to keep them simple again. And focus on adding to this blog and any other writing endeavors that I have. Writing doesn’t cost me anything, and I can do it during slow moments during the day. I have a long list of topics about stuttering and not stuttering that I want to get to.

What about you? What non-stuttering goals did you have for this past year, and what got done or didn’t?

The end of 2020

There’s been so much written about this year. It was a Dumpster fire, it was terrible, let’s move on. I suppose I would have a lot to say about it, but I wanted to focus on my stuttering. Since this is supposed to be a stuttering blog. And how stuttering affected me this year, and how I was able to navigate this pandemic because of it.

I can’t recall making a huge stuttering mess out of anything this year. There’s not a time that I can look back and say, wow, I had a really hard time, and that was really embarrassing. That’s got as much to do with my attitude toward stuttering as using my techniques more and more.

I didn’t finish a lot of things on this blog. I was going to measure some goals, and that lasted a few months. I’m not even sure where they are right now. I know I lost some weight. I gained some back. I got rid of some possessions, and I added many more. I moved out of my apartment, bought a new house, and got married again. We traveled very little, posted on social media a lot, and read when I could.

Work consumed me a lot more than I thought it would. Working at a food company means having to keep the plants open and safe. When you’re doing projects, that means making sure the contractors coming in are following the rules. It also means deciding what’s really important for the plant and what can wait. And the goalposts moved every few days as areas became more and less restrictive.

I definitely talked a lot more this year than any other year of my life. Of that I am certain. At one point I was participating in 30 or more conference calls per week. And in most of them I had to either lead or heavily contribute. More than anything, that intensity helped me build up acceptance of my stuttering. I literally didn’t have time to dwell on a word that was getting stuck.

So what’s next for 2021? I think more writing. Here and a newsletter I’m thinking about. I’m not sure if a stuttering newsletter is necessarily in the cards, but I’d consider it. I wanted to do something for young engineers — passing on all the fun things I’ve learned over the years. I think there is a lot out there about software engineering, but not a ton about field engineering. What’s done out in factories. What that life is actually like, the kinds of things you should know, and what mistakes I made — so others don’t have to repeat them.

I know following this blog hasn’t always been easy with the sporadic publishing schedule, but I do appreciate everybody who has read in the last year, the last half-decade. I see the numbers (they are small) but hopefully someone out there is getting something positive out of this.

Secrets to Fulfilled Life, Part 3

Another post about the Secrets to a Fulfilled Life … inspired by this article from Oliver Burkeman.

One of his secrets is simply:

The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower.

He says, “It’s shocking to realise how readily we set aside even our greatest ambitions in life, merely to avoid easily tolerable levels of unpleasantness.”

My, my. Doesn’t that just sum up stuttering and being covert perfectly? I think back occasionally to a lot of things I wish I had done. Or decisions I had made solely based on stuttering. It’s impacted so many formative years for me. And why? Because I didn’t want to be laughed at, made uncomfortable. Or didn’t want to feel so small.

Things now are very different. Advertising my stutter. Putting my disfluency out there all the time — conference calls, meetings, inquiries at Home Depot. And what have I learned?

As he puts it, “You already know it won’t kill you to endure the mild agitation of getting back to work on an important creative project; initiating a difficult conversation with a colleague; asking someone out; or checking your bank balance – but you can waste years in avoidance nonetheless.”

So yes, I will continue to quote his entire paragraph on the matter. He then adds (which, again, is something I’ve been able to do over many, many years…)

It’s possible, instead, to make a game of gradually increasing your capacity for discomfort, like weight training at the gym. When you expect that an action will be accompanied by feelings of irritability, anxiety or boredom, it’s usually possible to let that feeling arise and fade, while doing the action anyway. The rewards come so quickly, in terms of what you’ll accomplish, that it soon becomes the more appealing way to live.

I really wish I had read this while a teenager, but I also wish I had someone to explain it to me simply. I probably wouldn’t have been able to make the connection to stuttering like I do so easily now. I think it would have been very helpful during my formative years to have a mentor or coach to help me with my stuttering journey. Someone who could ask and probe. Suggest a new way, a slightly uncomfortable way, but a way that would yield a lot of results.

The way my life is now is certainly more appealing. Even comparing it to 5 or 10 years ago. I no longer measure in weeks and months. I’m old enough now to realize change takes a lot longer than that.

Slowly updating

Along with a renewed vigor for posting to the site, I’m working through all the static pages and updating them. Today I refreshed the About page. It had been three years! I’m not 37 anymore …

I also updated the e-mail address at the bottom of the About page, but you can also always just comment on any post as well.

Also, at the end of this month, I’ll have been at my new job for two years. Hard to believe that I was just sitting in on several interviews. It’s the first job where I advertised from the start — screening phone call, hiring manager, plant folks on site, and then when I got the job, introducing myself to all the other managers.

I would definitely say it’s made life a lot easier. There have been some new folks at the plant and elsewhere, but the advertising to them has been very straightforward as well. My stress is reduced — when I do stumble on words, I don’t even think about the stutter. I just think, ok, let me regroup and get some words together. I also don’t swap out words — ok, maybe once in a while. Can’t lie. Sometimes I just don’t want to stop the speech!

I think that since the stuttering isn’t at the front of my everyday speech anymore, I’ve let the blog slide. But going through twitter and reading updates on Facebook groups, I realize there are still thousands of people out there who stutter who are on the same journey.

Friday Tournament

Here’s a better idea. There are 32 “teams” for my little tournament, which means 16 first round matchups. I’ll just do all of them on Fridays for four months! Starting with tomorrow.

I’m off for the next few days, and will have time to write them all up and put them in queue. So even if I faff about and can’t get to posting about real life, at least those tournament matchups will still happen.

In the next few days I will be trying to give up processed food. Focusing on mostly fruits and almond milk and chicken breasts. It’ll be awesome, I’m sure. Oh, and guacamole. Surely that can’t be processed.

He lives! And still stutters.

Yes, the tournament is still looming over my head. Must finish! Two quick things for now, and then much more later. Firstly, I’m solo these days as my family is overseas visiting … family. More time for writing and getting up to no good.

Secondly, I’m still stuttering, but also still getting out there. This evening I went to the local velodrome to take photos (you know, when you buy a shiny [used] lens you gotta bust it out occasionally) and had a friendly chat with the people in the office about taking photos. And I didn’t even plan what I’d say! Just went in, took a breath, and let the words flow out.

Ah, a third thing. I won’t be going to the NSA Conference this year. It’s in Dallas, so a bit further away and more expense. I’ll be sticking around here, and maybe just exchanging many e-mails with some stuttering friends. And of course keeping things better updated on here!

More Tournament Details

I wanted to expand a little on each “team” in my Stuttering Discomfort tournament. Then we’ll get going on head-to-head matchups over the next few days. It’s important for me to list what the basis is for each of them …

So here we go for Phone and Audiences:


  1. Cold-calling a senior person at a company – this requires all sorts of painful things — introducing myself, quickly explaining why I’m calling, and then answering some unknown questions. And then if I don’t plan it well enough, having to face the reality that I’ve forgotten to ask something, and I can’t very well call again.
  2. Making an urgent phone call – I had to make a phone call after getting into a car accident, and it was a miserable, stutter-filled mess. There’s a call to a complete stranger, having to quickly give information that you may or may not know (where you are, what’s happened, what do you need). Then there’s having to call a loved one, and that’s nervous because you want it to be quick in case someone is trying to call you back from the other calls you made.
  3. Calling in a food order to a busy, noisy place – phone calls are bad enough, but now it’s having to speak louder and more slowly. And the feeling that they’re under pressure to hear you and are in a hurry. Sure I could do things on my own damn pace, but then they might hang up. Also, whenever I call, it’s for a real custom order. I can’t mix and match words to fluenticate (ha!) the situation.
  4. “Going around the room” on a conference call – the phone again, and this time with the added hell of the in-person introductions. But instead of having all the eyes on you, everybody’s listening and if you take too long, someone will ask if you’re still there. Of course you are, but you’re out of air, so you can’t even whimper out a “yes.”
  5. Phone interviews – prepare, prepare, prepare. And then they approach it in a totally unpredictable way. The only way this gets better is by doing a ton of them. But that means living through a lot of awkward pauses and stutters.
  6. Cold-calling a business to ask them detailed questions – just another reason to turn me to the internet. But of course if I want a bike part this afternoon, calling the local bike shop is the only way. And then I have to introduce myself. Right? No? Then explain what I need. How much do I explain? Am I wasting their time? Are they busy? Wait, what did I need again? Crap, what time are they open until? I can find that out online, nevermind.
  7. Ordering a new service (i.e. cable, new gym, etc.) – the same information, again and again. Things I can’t skip out of. Name, address, phone number. Credit card number. And then wanting to ask some detailed question but not wanting to bother because I’m already exhausted and out of breath.
  8. Speaking to parents of your students (if you work with students) – a close stuttering friend offered this up, and I can only imagine how stressful it’d be. Especially considering how much detail you want to explain. And then feeling that maybe they’d like to ask you something but then don’t bother because they don’t want to hear you stutter any more.


  1. Being asked to make a speech on the spot (including introduction) – Ah, yes, introducing myself. So not only do I stutter through my name and role at the company, but now you’re asking me to do something unrehearsed. At least with a  take or two I’d be somewhat smoother. But nope.
  2. Giving a wedding speech – I might feel more comfortable surrounded by family and friends, but this is all on tape. And I hate hearing or seeing myself recorded. And in 15 years, helping the bride and groom clean up after a party late and night hearing the bride say something like, “oh, I still remember that speech you gave … it was just so … honest…”
  3. Reading religious text aloud at a service (church/mosque/temple) – tied to the above. All eyes on me for someone else’s moment that will live forever. And no other words to choose from! At least I could rehearse it a few times and practice breathing. And then forget the breathing when I see all those eyes …
  4. Meeting and speaking in front of the family of your partner – ah yes, high pressure small talk. I can rehash a bunch of old stories, but aren’t I supposed to come across as funny and interesting? That’s how I was advertised, right?
  5. Fielding questions from a group – I have no idea what you people want! I want to do the right thing and have a nice long think and give you a beautiful, well-thought out and eloquent answer. But that would require me not avoiding about two dozen words. Maybe I could e-mail y’all instead?
  6. Presenting at work – Not the most fun, but at least I can practice a few times and get a lot more familiar with the material. I can even set up the powerpoint so that it has way too many words on it and everybody can just read!
  7. Running a meeting at work – Not at all difficult, right? I put out the agenda, and then prompt others for updates. But still if I’ve got something to talk about it may get a little tricky. Thankfully it’s all internal, so I’m at least familiar with the crowd.
  8. Responding when called on directly in front of a group (class, meeting) – Well, sure, there’s a debate here of, should I stutter through the actual answer, or just say I’m not sure and let them call on someone else?

Boxed in and Stuttering

The other day I had to go visit a client at their site. They’ve got several buildings and parking lots, and although my boss had the power to park in a visitor lot a few weeks back (and have the guard inside not care) the guard was not so welcoming to me. He instructed me to head to a totally different lot. Fortunately I had gone there early enough that I wouldn’t be late for my meeting.

I drove around to the other lot. I think this is the lot? It had a gate. Oh boy. I have a badge. I took out the badge and waved it at the reader. Nothing. Again. And again. Nothing, nothing, sorry. I had to get to this meeting, and I had to park in this lot — the campus was big enough that the other lot would have made me late.

I pushed the call button on the keypad. I could hear it dialing. And then getting to a wrong number and switching and … dialing again and … connected. I looked in my rearview. I was being That Guy. I was boxed in. I couldn’t just back up and leave and give up (and hustle to the other lot).

I told them, without stuttering, that I was a contractor, and I had a meeting in a certain building. I had a badge that I held up to the camera. Right after they raised the gate, they asked me my name.


I started shoving my name out as I nervously looked again in the rearview. Ok, ok, gate’s open, can I just go? I finished saying my name (wasn’t too bad) and drove through.

I’ve had bad experiences with toll booth operators, border agents and drive throughs. This parking lot call box was a nemesis I hadn’t faced in long, long time, though. I think what I’m going to do next time is either park in a different lot or just go find out from security (in person, of course) what’s wrong with my badge.

Stuttering at the Hospital

So i’ve got this hernia. I’ve had it for a few years, and normally it doesn’t bother me too much. I try not to push it too hard, exercise-wise, but the other day … I did. I was working out in the evening, and I knew it was pretty messed up. Nevertheless, I thought I could power through it — maybe it’d go back in while I slept.


I slept for about three hours and was up at 2 a.m. Googling my ailment, what doctors and hospitals were covered under my insurance and whether or not I was going to die. Turns out a hernia can be really serious! The intestine can get suffocated and well, bad, bad things happen.

The next morning, my wife drove me to the ER. I suppose one benefit about suburban life is that the emergency rooms aren’t busy. At all. My belly was very sore at this point and didn’t seem to be going away (other times when I aggravated it, it’d go away after a few short hours). Then the ER doc came in and figured things out in less than a minute. Off for a CT scan. (I’d had one of these before for my eye twitch, so no worries there.)

When I got out of that, I sat in the room for a while until the doctor came. Things were feeling better (drugs, sitting up and relaxing all helped). He explained that the intestine wasn’t pushing through the abdomen muscle — it was my fat. Ah, my fat little belly. Causing all sorts of fun.

A few years ago, I would have been ok with his explanation and quick departure. Not so fast this time! I had questions. I stuttered through them, and he listened patiently. I got my answers. We even got to that point where he’s holding out his hand to shake mine, and I’m still stuttering on a word. I shook his hand while still talking and kept asking questions.

The outcome was that I was discharged that morning feeling alright. I took the rest of the day off from work and then stuttered through a voicemail to a surgeon’s office to set up elective surgery. (the surgeon’s office called me back the next day, so hey, they got my stuttertastic message).

I know I stutter. I know it’s hard to ask questions sometimes. But I’m also a customer. I’m a patient. I worry. My loved ones worry. I don’t want to have to rely on a hundred different internet opinions on something this serious. I didn’t die (because of the stuttering) and got all my questions answered.


Do we have to talk?

The other day I was at a Starbucks, and there were two men outside speaking Arabic. I wanted to sit outside. I passed them on the way in, obviously, so in addition to thinking about having to say my name for my coffee, I also got to think about going up to them and telling them about my Saudi experience.

I shoved my name out to the barista, whatever, that was done. I wanted to sit outside and read since it was a nice day. There was a table near these two gentlemen. I went outside.

As those of you who stutter know, there’s timing with all of this, and things “expire” pretty quickly. If you don’t go up to them when you first get out there, the window closes pretty quickly. Then you’re just being creepy and weird.

I thought about this. I thought about the stuttering. I thought about what I wanted to say. Then I thought, am I just being too hard on myself?

Yes, I’ve been getting better about speaking up. At work, at basketball practices, whatever. Do I have to do this everywhere? Am I obligated to practice? Aren’t I allowed to look at it form a non-stuttering perspective — maybe they just want to be left alone, my experience was boring, and really, are we somehow going to become best friends if I go up to them?

I didn’t talk to them. Yes, the stuttering did have something to do with it. But it was also about picking my battles. Challenges? And also the social picture. Maybe sometimes you just don’t want to talk to someone else.

Forgetting the pressure

My wife and I had an appointment earlier last week with an immigration officer. It was an official interview, something that would decide status. We knew about this for several weeks, so I had time to gather all the necessary documents.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect other than maybe having to tell the story of what we had been doing overseas and how the status had changed.

I consciously decided not to worry about my speech. In the past, I would have gone through every thing that could have been said, everything that I could have said, thought about all the words, all the combinations, all the avoidances …This time, no. Just deal with it when it came.

I was a stuttering mess. It was on camera and all that. It was official and in a small office.  But of course it was on the usual stuff — name, DOB, kids and their DOBs. Stuttered through it all. The immigration guy didn’t say anything, simply smiled and continued on. I got through my part, and she got through hers, and things were approved.

I’m glad I didn’t waste energy worrying. Sure, I stuttered a lot, but I didn’t die. I got the information across.

Talking to talk

This morning I went for my quarterly botox appointment. This is always less than fun. I mean, it’s a bunch of needle sticks to the face. A very tiny, skinny needle. But still. It doesn’t hurt necessarily, but it’s just uncomfortable.

Anyway, the point is that I usually have problems talking to strangers … just to talk. And no, my doctor isn’t necessarily a “stranger” because I’ve seen her a few times now, but still. Not very often. Normally when I go to the doctor I don’t talk that much. Or when I go for any procedure (donating blood) there’s not too much chitchat. But my botox doc is very open and nice, so it’s easy to talk to her about what’s going on with my face and a few other things in life.

So she started sticking me with needles while chatting, asking me about the kids. I kept on talking as much as possible. Nothing hard to say, but there was some stuttering. But the talking definitely kept my mind off the needle getting stuck in my face. And she didn’t mess around, one part of my face to the next, quickly and efficiently. Also helpful.

There are people who talk when they’re nervous or want to kill time or just … talk to talk. I’m not like that, and I’d say very few people who stutter are. But sometimes it helps. Stuttering isn’t always as painful as having an actual medical procedure!

Stuttering Basketball Update

I wrote a few weeks back about coaching boys basketball this year. So what happened is that they put the first time coaches together, so I’m a co-coach. Which is fine with me obviously. My co-coach is a great guy who’s very much into it which is great. I’ve ended up doing most of the backend stuff — sending out e-mails to parents and putting together the line-ups for the games. And then during practices I help out with the specific drills that we’ve come up with. My co-coach actually played (I played a little intramural during high school but was obviously terrible) and so he’s got a solid idea of how moves should be done and what skills need to be worked on.

I didn’t expect the co-coaching thing to happen, but I’m honestly happy it did. It’s a better transition for me. It’s easing into it vs. being thrown in (which I’m accustomed to). I can see what is working or isn’t, what should be said or not, and adjust.

I’m having a very positive experience and not letting any stuttering get in the way. Now they are talking about spring sports and needing volunteers. And I’m not even hesitating to volunteer. If my daughter wants to do softball, I’ll happily sign up as a coach.

Getting through it

As I said in my last post a long, long time ago, we moved to the States. This involves a lot of time on the phone, apparently. You have to call a bunch of people and give them a bunch of information. Over and over and over again. And of course it’s the basic stuff.

Name? Telephone number? Social security number? Wife’s name? Wife’s telephone number? Address? Last four digits of your social? Previous address?

And then, with a few calls to the doctor’s office for the kids, it’s all the above … for three kids.

But I’m getting through it all. It’s a once and done thing, mostly. And those on the other end of the phone have been patient. What I haven’t been good about is simply having a planned thing to say before making the call. I usually just call the doctor’s office … oh, right, I need to ask about an appointment. New patient, sure, soon as possible, stutter here, stutter there.

We ordered some furniture online and after a few days, I checked its status. It was something very vague, and we were hoping to get the stuff before some guests showed up. Pick up the phone. Make the call. They didn’t pick up, but they said I could press one to leave a message for someone to call me back. Ummm … I’d rather not … but I need this stuff! Ok, fine. I pressed one, and they didn’t ask for a message! Hurray! But then they asked for my phone number instead. Boo … And yes, they called me back and then it’s having to say a 16-digit order number to get service. At least they asked the address and had me confirm instead of me giving the address.

But the majority of the calls are done now, I think. I may need to call the BMV (bureau of motor vehicles) to ask them about where my vehicle registration has gone. But otherwise the doctors are mostly set up, furniture is all here, cable is ordered, and the power is on.

As a whole moving back and having to make all these calls wasn’t something that I was afraid of, stuttering-wise …and that’s simply because I never thought of how much there actually would be. But then I took it one call at a time, deep breaths, didn’t let a bad call get to me, and let the necessity push me to pick up that phone again and again and again, making it easier and a lot less scary.

Fine, thanks.

It’s been a while. Not since I stuttered, of course. But a few things have been happening, and I’m still struggling with this blog, a direction, and everything else going on.

Someone came to my desk the other day and asked me how I was doing. It was one of those “good morning” kind of greetings. The one where you’re just sort of expected to say, “good, how are you?” and get on with it. But after I told him I was “fantastic,” he said, “your face tells a different story.” I made a joke about how “dammit, it’s not working any more,” and we moved on. But it really got me to thinking about these quickie exchanges that we have all the time in offices.

I’ve never been one to give a long, detailed answer to “how are you doing,” when it comes from a coworker. That’s not what they want. That’s not the protocol. But then there’s a spectrum of colleague — from person you don’t know at all to person you’d consider a close friend. Although how does someone you don’t know become a friend? Or even get closer? Through these kinds of interactions? I’m wondering if I’ve been subconsciously keeping people at bay because I want to keep the numbers small, or if I just don’t want to talk to them because I know I’ll stutter.

I think there’s a lot of pressure in those small exchanges, too. It’s a fast, straight-forward query. Same as when someone asks you your name. You’re expected to give a quick answer. If you’re not doing well, then yeah, maybe a long sigh and a “well, it could be better,” is fine. Followed by a laugh, because well, let’s not get into why. This is why I always say “yeah, good,” or whatever I can feel is going to be fluent. I never thought to get my facial expression in line as well.

So what’s the path forward on this? Should I slowly give longer and longer answers? Feel out how much time we have to talk? How much I can get out of them as well? I’ve gotten really good at asking other people questions (even though they start with “w,” and I usually stutter on it). At least for me when I get to know people better, my stuttering decreases because my comfort level rises. (not always, but often).

Thoughts on the detailed conference program Part 1

Alright, a few days late (sorry, been busy at work plus thinking about packing for the trip home and then to France) but here’s a quick review of Day 1 of the more detailed program.

I am certainly most excited about the Wipe Away Your Fears Icebreaker. After last year’s first timer’s workshop, I was worried how a second timer would meet people. Yes, there’s just going up to people, but that’s still slightly intimidating — even though we all stutter!

Got conference jitters? Wipe them away in this fun “Getting to Know You” icebreaker. Come meet conference veterans and newcomers alike in a fun, interactive icebreaker activity. You’ll walk away energized and ready to face the first day of the conference.

The next one I’m interested in is, “Understanding the Medical Treatments of Stuttering. A Review of the Past, An Analysis of the Present and a View of the Future.” This reminds me of last year’s workshop regarding research. Not exactly the same, but that’s good.

Dr. Maguire will review the latest understanding of the medical treatments of stuttering and will review what may be on the horizon.

Along the same research lines is, “Genetics in Stuttering: A User Friendly Update” which would be up next.

Exciting breakthroughs in this research are providing a new perspective on stuttering, including: its causes, what this information means for those who stutter and their families, and how it may impact treatments for stuttering.

Programming note: I fly out of the Kingdom Tuesday and arrive in the States … Tuesday. What I’m hoping to do is auto-load the blog for the duration of the conference with what I posted last year about the conference as well as some other stuttering insights. Then I can lay out all the goodness of this year’s conference for you once I return. I’ll be going to France for a week after the conference to chase the Tour (like I did last year) and will be sure to bring back some stuttering stories from there, too.

Feeling sick …

I’ve not been too well the past few days. Been to the doctor and back. Nothing serious, just the annoying stuffed head, nose and scratchy throat. I suppose it happens once in a while and can be chalked up to not enough sleep and possibly too much exercising.

The one upside of course is practicing talking to total strangers (the doctors/nurses/check-in desk people). I’ve been able to stay pretty calm and collected and fluent. Although I have stuttered when the questions start going on and on (and of course my phone number). I also keep on forgetting to collect my thoughts before opening my mouth. And they’re simple questions! What’s the problem today? Well, my head is all stuffed up, my nose is runny, my throat is scratchy. And yet somehow I bumble through it.

I also had the follow up with my MRI. I was able to ask the doctor a bunch of things I already had pretty good answers too — stuttered a little here and there, but at least I got to practice. And overcome my fear of talking and asking things to somewhat-strangers.

I’ve got some Botox injections slated for this evening. At least it’ll make this annoying eye twitching go away. Lately it’s not only been a discomfort, but as the muscles get tired, it’s a little painful by the end of the day.

I have written out a list for the next few weeks of posts — don’t worry about that. I think the first thing will have to be another link roundup. I’ve been seeing some really good things on Twitter lately.

Stuttering Favorites

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of this blog. So I thought I’d take a look back at the year and my favorite posts. The other benefit is that I can update a few of them over the next few weeks …

Covert and Overt Stuttering — Transitioning from covert to overt was a big deal, and it’s not done yet. But I’m making progress every time I say what I want to say and not just what I can say.

Conference Calls — they’ve gotten much better already in the new job — I know most of the people on them, and they’re patient anyway. But it’s crazy how your mind works when the mute button goes on and off.

Summing Up a Day of Stuttering — a long thought exercise — something for those of you who know someone who stutters. This is what life is like. And this is what those of us who stutter go through to make ourselves feel normal.

My Kind of Stuttering — My early exposure (before the NSA Conference) to people who stuttered was very minimal. Almost nonexistent. So it was interesting to see that stuttering has variety of faces (and sounds … or not) and I do some and not others.

I’m Telling You That You Can’t Do That Job — Message boards, Facebook, wherever else — there’s a lot of negativity about what people who stutter can do. If you put in the effort and do the work, you can make a major change. And if you’re young and undecided, you still have every opportunity open to you. There’s no time for haters.

Meeting the Stuttering Brain — this capped off my Stuttering Vacation that included the 2014 NSA Conference. Tom Weidig and I talked about stuttering, and he offered blunt advice that really resonated.

Stuttering Link Roundup – Part 1

Finally after weeks and weeks and months and months (not really), here’s a link roundup in two parts.

This first is for blogs that are here on WordPress. They’re easier for me to find. I hope all of them continue to write about stuttering. We definitely need more voices and experiences.

I grew up thinking I was shy. In reality, I now realise that it wasn’t shyness but the fear of stuttering which caused me to keep my mouth shut in school, even when I knew the answer. At that first self help group meeting in November 2001, where I first spoke with others about stuttering, my eyes were opened and the wheels started turning in my head. I wasn’t the only one in the world who spoke like this, wow! It was an amazing feeling of empowerment.

When I was at school, I was good at pretending that I didn’t have a stutter or that it won’t affect my life in any way. In reality it was different. The life of essays, coursework and exams didn’t require much human interaction to succeed…

As a child and teenager, I was depressed and very quiet. I didn’t say much because my stutter was so bad that I would come home from school mentally and physically exhausted because trying to do something so simple as to talk became a huge chore. Fast forward to today where I am a happy 24 year old engaged woman who is pursuing her dreams…

What I’m Stuttering on Lately

I had a chance last week to travel around the Kingdom a bit. I took my 8-year-old son.

When we got out of the airport in Medina, I needed to get us a taxi to the hotel. I knew what I wanted to pay, and the first cabbie quoted me a price that was way too high. I waved him off. I strode out to another few taxis and asked their price. Too high again. I said no. I started to walk off. He lowered. I said no again. We eventually agreed on a price (that was still too high, but whatever). I was just happy that I bargained a little bit and saved $13. I hate bargaining, and I’m usually the kind of person who just settles for whatever someone says. But I was feeling a lot more confident, and I had options, and I wanted to show my son how things are done.

I was staying with family at the hotel, so I didn’t have to check in. And when my son got hungry (and he’s particular about his food) family ordered room service, not me.

I stuttered off and on with my family members who I hadn’t seen in a while. Streaks of fluency punctuated by long agonizing moments of silence or a consonant being dragged out. I had a lot of catching up to do, and most of the stories I hadn’t told anybody else. So I was feeling my way around their adjectives, trying not to avoid.

I suppose I should mention the “standard” stuttering at the Starbucks at the Riyadh airport as well as on “diet coke” in the airplane. Some things I can always count on. But I didn’t go uncaffeinated!

Again with my son, and again with ordering food — we were at the food court, and he wanted a chicken sandwich at Burger King. I was tasked with getting some Pizza Hut. I didn’t want to (try) to say “crispy chicken.” So I told my son, look, here’s the money, order what you want (cleared it with me first) and I’m going to go order the pizza so we can get back to the room faster. We ended up doing that twice.

Yes, I avoided. But see, it’s complicated, right? I mean, he’s 8, and he’s gotta learn this stuff. How to order what he wants, how to deal with some money, and how to stand in line and collect the same food with a receipt. Right? Right? Lessons on growing up disguised as avoidance techniques. I guess covert behavior can be enabled by children.

Flying back home, I got into a conversation with a stranger while standing idly at a phone charging stand. He just began asking things, where we were going, where we were from. And it wasn’t too bad talking. Just an easy, slow-paced conversation without too much stress. And it annoyed me only because it made me wonder how many other casual conversations (you never know who you’re going to meet!) I’ve avoided because of stuttering.

Stuttering Cousins

I had been told this before, but had completely forgotten — I’m not the only one in my family who stutters. My cousin on my dad’s side stutters, and well, he just so happens to live an hour away from us here in Kingdom. I’m pretty bad (horrible) with keeping up with my cousins (they’re all over the place, and I’ve got a lot of them!)

Anyway, this cousin of mine came to visit us the other day. (I only found out that he’s here in Kingdom this past week) I’m sure I’d met him before, but had never talked to him before. We had other family over, so the issue of stuttering never came up. So this brings up a point I made a few days ago about calling people out. And I realized how complicated stuttering really is and the feelings associated with it. He could probably quickly tell that I stuttered. I did it openly. But I never asked him about his, or being covert, or how things are with speaking at work.

This cousin is slightly older than me, and I could see what he was doing/saying/not saying. Covert! So sneaky. He didn’t “stutter” in the more “well-known” public sense. And of course I didn’t know if he was avoiding (he probably was). I could see the pauses, the starts/stops. He did repeat a few words here and there as well.

It made me think back to how my life used to be. Before the NSA Conference, before this blog, before making the transition (partially) from covert to overt. All the tricks, the quiet, the easier words.

I think I really need to make a goal of talking more to this cousin in depth about his stuttering. I’m curious how things were back in Pakistan before he moved to the Kingdom, and how the people at work see him or talk to him. And how they react to the stuttering (if he ever breaks out of his covert shell). He’s also bilingual.

Before that I need to sit down and think of some decent questions. Questions that I wouldn’t mind answering myself. And at least get back into that old frame of mind. Obviously I know how personal this is, so I need to tread carefully.

Getting the name out

Aside: This evening a neighbor stopped by to drop some food off. I had talked to her on the phone before, but never met in person. As she stood at the door, she paused, trying to think of my name. I could feel that I wouldn’t stutter on my name, so, out it came! I felt slightly bad because I know she wanted to remember it, but hey, it’s a victory, right?

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