Monday, May 28, 2007

I Met Richard Dreyfuss

I am the inventory manager at my place of business (book store) and today I was called over to help a customer set up the wireless internet on his computer in the cafe. I was shocked to find that the customer was none other than Academy Award winner, Richard Dreyfuss. Apparently, he frequents our location about once a week and stays for hours.

I didn't react when I met him, just introduced myself. I was amused that he introduced himself, as well. I just smiled and say, "Yes, I know who you are. It's an honor."

I sat and talked with him for about half an hour...he was extremely personable, funny, asked me a lot of questions about my job and then went into an interesting discussion about the current state of technology and our access to information, etc. I didn't really catch all of what he was talking about...I was too preoccupied with the knowledge that I was talking to one of my favorite actors.

Some of my favorite movies that he was in: What About Bob...Mr. Holland's Opus...Nuts...JAWS...The Goodbye Girl...and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Anyway, after that, I left him and he sat working on his Mac for about 3 hours. As he began to leave, I was able to help him locate a specific book. It was all very surreal.

Yes, I'm given to being star struck. :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Advice for Parents with Children who Stutter

I am writing this in response to a question a mother posted on my recent blog entry about my video log on YouTube. She was kind enough to comment and wanted to know of my personal advice to parents with a child who stutters. Her little boy is five years of age and, like me, had (has) a severe stutter at that age. You can see her blog and her beautiful children here: (my Mac won't create a link, unfortunately)

The first piece of advice I will give not make it a big deal AROUND him, if you know what I mean. If a parent doesn't make a big deal out of it...he won't make as big a deal out of it. If he was like me...he's already aware of it and it's a source of frustration for him. If handled the wrong way by a well-meaning, but misguided could lead to some serious self-esteem issues very quickly. This was my case, unfortunately. My parents had no idea how to address stuttering and thought it was my fault...and tried all manner of directions to me to get me to stop.

"Son, talk slower. Slooooow down, okay? No, slow down. Think about what you are saying before you say it. Calm down! Stop talking so fast! Son, you can solve your own problem. Slow it down a bit!"

I say it was my parents, but the truth is, my mother left me when I was 3 and this was when my stutter first appeared. I stopped talking altogether for about 3 months. My grandmother took me to a child psychologist and when I began talking again, I not only had a severe stutter...but also an imaginary friend who lived under the kitchen table named "Amos". My stutter is still with me...but Amos made his departure not many years later.

My mother's first husband raised me until I was 10 and his method of trying to cure my stutter was to hit me in the stomach if I stuttered. He truly thought it was my doing and thought a little firm-hand training would do the trick. Unfortunately for me, it didn't work at all and only made it much worse. He stopped doing it once he learned that it wasn't working. I think he would have been much more suited to raising cobras than children.

Second, I would research long and hard before throwing your child into therapy of any kind. Again, the wrong therapist who doesn't understand stuttering and the emotional baggage it carries can create self-esteem issues with the child. You don't want him to feel he is "flawed" or "defective". I would personally interview any therapist you might consider to find out exactly what sort of methods he or she employs.

Again, unfortunately for me, I was placed in "school" speech therapy with a speech therapist who knew very little about the affliction. I would be removed from class twice a week to sit with her in an empty room, talking along with a metronome. Amazingly enough, it worked! I never stuttered once when the metronome was on and I spoke along with it. However, since I wasn't able to carry on normal conversations while speaking to a metronome, my stutter didn't go away outside of the therapy sessions and the therapy sessions only served to make me feel damaged...flawed...weird. A freak.

After watching my videos, you might think that life is great for me and that I'm very fluent...and those things are mostly true. However, don't be fooled by what you see. I am able to adaquately mask my stutter to a very large degree. As I said, most don't even know I stutter until they talk with me for more than 5 minutes. With the videos, I can capture very eloquent moments and edit out the stuttering. That's why my vids are never just straight through...they are pieced together. I have lots of unedited footage that I discard. Mostly, the methods I use to hide the stutter are:

1. Exhaling all the air out of my diaphram in order to force a word out. I can do this so subtetly that usually NOBODY is the wiser. However, if I do it too much, I come away from a conversation very fatigued in my abdomen and in my mind. It's very tiring doing that.

2. Faking introspection. I pretend to think of what I'm saying and pretend to pause to search for a word...when really I'm at a bad block. I would stutter pretty badly if not for this method. This works pretty darn good most of the time...unless I'm pausing in a place that nobody else would pause. "I was wondering if you think this shirt matches my.............pants".

Most people at that point would have completed my sentence for me, probably wondering why I paused.

Talking on the phone to friends and family is the worst. The worst. I avoid the phone at all cost and often get angry and frustrated when talking to my mother. She still gives the same stupid advice. "Son, just slow down, calm down. Don't stress." She means well, but has no idea what it's like. My son will sometimes find it funny when I get that way. Kids. :)

Recently, I was at a job interview and had no idea that the job required me to read from a script. It wasn't a telemarketing job, but part of my managerial responsibilities was to attend to a customer service issue...and they wanted to see how I would do reading from a script. It was a pure NIGHTMARE. They must have thought I was insane. They must have wondered why my interview went very well UNTIL I began to read...and then could never complete a sentence. You see, I didn't stutter...instead, I would just stop when a block arose. I would NOT stutter, because I was too embarrassed. Instead, I just kept apolozing for being nervouse.

Of course, they didn't call me back for another interview. Don't worry, I got a great job as an Inventory Manager for a book company. Better job, anyway and no script reading. :)

I think the most difficult thing for me today is not being able to say what I want, when I want to say it. I am a big talker by nature...and have a great sense of humor and I honestly think I would have made a great stand up comic...except that I cannot be spontaneous enough for it. And I absolutely refuse to integrate stuttering into my routine. I wish for the eloquence of Ellen Degeneres or Jay Leno or Robin Williams. I often think of (what I think are) clever funny lines to things people say...but can't say I keep silent. The few times I've attempted to tell a joke...the way I have delivered the punchline makes everyone forget the point of the joke to begin with. Thus...I turned my eloquence to writing. I enjoy writing probably more than anything.

Anyway, I've turned this more into a post about ME than about advice...but if at least one thing I said was of any help or illumination...then I'm satisfied. And of course, I can always write more later. :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Delving into YouTube VLogging

So, I finally did it. I want to delve into the VLOG world of YouTube....a lot of my friends are doing it, so I want to, as well. To hell with stuttering. As you'll see by the link, the video is not a trainwreck...but you'll also notice I pulled EVERY SINGLE trick I have out of my arsenal to *hide* my stutter. I think that stutterers will be able to tell...even if you didn't read this, if you stutter and you saw the video, you might suspect that I was stuttering, rather than hesitating as people sometimes ordinarily do. Also, I edited out blocks that I couldn't avoid. The version you will see is actually a lot better than the first attempt. The first attempt was horrible...I was so nervous. This one is much better. I used "word exchanging" so often that sometimes I think my sentences sound a bit awkward...or maybe I'm just be overly sensitive about it.

I think that some stutterers or therapists would tell me that this type of "masking" my stutter is not good for me...that I would do better to simply stutter. I disagree, however. If I was going to do that...I wouldn't even make any videos...and I can't imagine that's better for my self-esteem or social endeavors.

Any thoughts?