A song in their hearts
Elizabeth and Carl...
By Beth Volpert-Johansen
“I’ve stuttered for as long as I can remember,” says Elizabeth Schroder. “I heard it happened when I was about six.”
Growing up with a stutter can be painful. Perceptions are often skewed into thinking a person who stutters is somehow less intelligent than those who speak clearly.
Looking into the crystalline blue eyes of Elizabeth Schroder, you can hardly believe that anyone would be so cruel to her as a child, let alone as an adult. “Having a speech impediment can lead to very low self-esteem,” says Elizabeth. “I had to hang out alone for a while and work on that part of me.”
Working on that part of her led to a career in nursing and, eventually, to allowing her voice to be heard in both song and as an advocate. Currently, Elizabeth has a wonderful nursing career at the GMC NICU, an amazing and talented teenage son, and a husband who can see that she isn’t defined by the stutter that has been a stumbling block her whole life.
As if her life were not full enough, Elizabeth has made her voice heard by becoming the Co-Chapter Leader of the Sandy Springs National Stuttering Association Support Group. “I experienced loneliness and even shame...heavy shame for most of my life,” says Elizabeth. “Being with other people who stutter and share this with me is healing.”
Healing took many forms in Elizabeth’s life. After her marriage ended, she was content to work, sing and raise her son. Because music had always been a huge part of her life growing up and continued to help her deal with her stuttering, Elizabeth continued to sing. “As a young girl, my dad would work at homeless missions and I would sing for the people there,” recalls Elizabeth. “I can sing, I have loved music as long as I can remember.” Music was a refuge for the young girl with the stutter. She would come home from school and lock herself in her room for hours singing and listening to the radio. “It was a release into my comfort zone.”
After getting comfortable with herself, Elizabeth met the love of her life...again. Her husband, Carl, is a good friend of her brother-in-law. Carl also loves music. The whole family loves music. It just so happened that the pair had met, for the first time, some 20 years ago while attending a family get-together, so they knew of one another. “I play guitar,” says Carl. “Liz’s brother-in-law and I had been friends since we were teenagers and we loved playing music when we had the chance.” Their second meeting came some years later, at another family get-together. He was playing guitar with his friends when Elizabeth decided to join the fun. “My sister and I can be rowdy, so I just kind of jumped in there, grabbed a mic and began singing,” says Elizabeth. The results were amazing and Carl was hooked. “I learned that she was single,” says Carl. “I couldn’t let that opportunity slip by.”
They had a courtship of appreciation and respect which was bolstered by their mutual love of music. A self-described “incurable bachelor”, Carl thought that being friends with Elizabeth was way better than what he had been doing with his life. “At the very least, I thought we could build a friendship and hope it evolved.”
The friendship did evolve and the couple was married in June of 2013. Carl continued to learn about how stuttering affected the people who have it and learned a great deal about his wife in the process. “When she sings, it is a totally different means of communication,” says Carl. “Her voice is fluid and beautiful; I am stunned by how unique her voice is.” Carl admits he had preconceived notions and stereotypes about stutterers. He has found that comfort level with the people with whom a stutterer is speaking makes a great deal of difference with fluency.
Supporting Elizabeth by practicing patience while waiting for her words to form is something Carl and his stepson, Alec have in common. “When my mom sings, she seems to forget about the stutter and really expresses herself,” says Alec. “She is a songbird; she sings all the time.” Alec thinks that his mom’s stutter has made him more open-minded and accepting of other people. “She doesn’t tell people when she meets them to excuse her,” says Alec. “She just hopes people accept her for who she is.”
Pictured above right: Elizabeth with her son Alec
For Elizabeth, establishing friendships has had challenges. To see past her stutter, to see who she really is, Elizabeth thought would be difficult for others to do without becoming frustrated or perceiving her as unintelligent as had been her experience in the past. “Now I see that stuttering is actually a great tool to see a persons heart,” says Elizabeth. “ If they are rude about my speech, I can know right away that they are not the kind of person I'd want to invest my time building a friendship with.”
Carl was different. He heard her voice as beautiful whether she spoke or sang. “I’m not a perfect angel by any means,” says Carl. “I can easily see past her stutter if she can see past my imperfections.” Both Carl and Elizabeth consider each other to be their best friend which they both feel is the basis upon which they fell in love.
The love story continues for Carl and Elizabeth. They have begun recording cover songs and writing some of their own. The pair are self-proclaimed live music lovers and enjoy heading out to places like The Red Clay Theater, festivals, bars and other live music venues to absorb the talents of singer/songwriters like themselves. Their talents are enhanced by each other’s voices rising above the stresses of daily life complicated by a difficult time retrieving words for speech. But, when Carl begins playing the guitar and Elizabeth takes the mic, magic happens and the words become fluid, enchanting and all the more lovely as their gifts blend in song.
To listen to Elizabeth and Carl’s latest recordings, CLICK HERE. The video is also featured to the right in our Video Highlight.
National Stuttering Awareness Week will take place May 12-18. The National Stuttering Association seeks to work with speech therapists and the media in order to reach the thousands of people who stutter who still feel alone and isolated. For more information: www.westutter.org. The local chapter of NSA meets monthly at the Talbot Building at 2153 Peachford Road, Atlanta, GA. They also host an informal meeting monthly at different locations.
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