Thursday, November 30, 2006


It has been 5+ months since my last post, but I thought I would try to ease back into this.

I have been going to Refreshers with my friend Dan for 8 years. He is currently in meteorology grad school at Ohio State. He left last Sunday on a trip to Antarctica to do something meteorology type stuff. He has set-up a blog for the trip.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Refresher time

I am leaving Saturday morning for my annual Refresher at the PFSP at the Eastern Virginia Medical School. I will be meeting my friend Dan in Baltimore (who is driving down from Ohio) and we will then drive down to Norfolk.

I obsessively look forward to this every year. I love fine-tuning my speech, and even though I am unable to maintain the near perfect fluency I have on the Friday I come home, every year my speech shows a consistent improvement from where it was at that time the previous year.

What I don't enjoy is leaving Novelchick and the little one for the entire week. The first 2 years we were together, Novelchick would come with me, but for the last few years that has not really been viable for a variety of reasons. I am very grateful that my wife is so tremendously supportive of me in this. There are many reasons why I love her, but this is certainly on the list.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Curious George

I have always been a big Curious George fan. My home office is filled with items either relating to baseball or Curious George. After plenty of encouragement the last 2 years, the little one has finally given in to the allure of "Monkey George" as she calls him. She now asks to be read a Monkey George story every night at bedtime.

Reading to her every night is excellent practice for me to transfer my targets. I could easily read the stories fluently (except for some class IV's) without targets, however I have been trying my best to make sure that I am monitoring targets while I read. She is off to visit the Grandparents for a few days, so I guess if I really want to practice, I could read Curious George stories to the cats.

If I am not available, sometimes Novelchick will read to her. It is quite funny to listen to my wife make some of the Curious George stories more politically correct. Most of the stories of written by the Rey's in the 40's as they were fleeing from the Nazi's. George being sent to prison, smoking a pipe after a meal and his kidnapping from the African jungle are examples of some of the stories details which are changed in Novelchick's interpretations.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Movie Night

Since our "unofficial" Northpoint Community Group wrapped up Beth Moore last week and disbanded, Novelchick (who currently has a great post on her blog about our attempts to de-clutter our house) and I took the opportunity of having a night of arranged babysitting to go to the movies and see The DaVinci Code. As we had the book, we both enjoyed the movie a great deal. Irregardless of what you think of the fiction aspect of the book, (and I do generally love conspiracy theories), the book and the movie seemed to have generated some healthy debate regarding Christianity and the Bible, which certainly cannot be a bad thing.

Going to the movies, made me think that is another transfer opportunity that might be eliminated if you are not careful. Most big theatres have the ticket kiosk now where you can either order online and pick it up at the machine, or just purchase your tickets there. Usually the ticket kiosk line is shorter than the line to buy from a real person, but last night there was no wait in the regular line, so I had the opportunity to pick-up a transfer there. Talking to the person behind the glass who is using a microphone to respond always make a transfer challenging for me, so it is generally a good opportunity whenever the situation presents itself.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I did not post anything last week as Novelchick, the little one and myself were in Seattle on vacation. Everyone had a great time going to Pike Place Market, the Zoo, the Children's Museum, the Tiny Tot Symphony, the Salish Lodge for breakfast, Alki Beach, a folklife festival and a Mariners game (where the little one and I wore our new Ichiro jerseys). We flew there using our Air Tran credits from last year's Wendy's/AirTran promotion and we got some great deals on Priceline to stay at the Westin and Hotel Monaco (where they sent Henry to Goldfish up to our room to stay with us during our visit).

Overall, my speech was not as sharp the whole week as I would have wanted as I became so focused on all of the details of getting ready for the trip itself, I neglected to incorporate any formal practice into my schedule. Thankfully, I leave for my next Refresher in less than 3 weeks.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Eye Exam

Today, I have to go for my annual eye exam. That reminds me how much I used to hate to do things like eye exams before I went through my PFSP therapy. I would go there and stutter through the whole thing, and if that was not bad enough, I would feel like whomever I was talking too was feeling sorry for me. I can't tell you how much I hated feeling like that. Thankfully, those days are long gone.

Speaking of eye exams, a few weeks ago Novelchick got new glasses, giving up her sexy Lisa Loeb-style glasses. Though, Novelchick is still plenty hot, with or without glasses.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pagoclone and The One-Armed Guy

This morning, Indevus Pharmaceuticals issued a press release and hosted a conference call to discuss the phase II results of their Pagoclone testing. Tom Weidig has been discussing this drug for quite some time (including the possible sexual side effects) on his Stuttering Brain blog.

Whenever I hear the words pharmaceutical and testing, why is it that I think the one-armed guy from The Fugitive (1993) movie will somehow be involved?

Though I am very happy with the improvements in my speech due to the Precision Fluency Shaping Program, and am not looking for a miracle cure, this is an interesting story to watch.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I Love Baseball

I Love Baseball. Not like I love Novelchick or the little one, but I have always loved sports - specifically baseball. One of the reasons I have always loved sports is that they are fair. When you are playing a sport, it generally does not matter if you stutter, where you live, how much money you have, who your parents are, or even if you have any. As a stuttering white kid growing up in a black neighborhood with not the most pleasant homelife in the world, sports gave me a chance to feel equal to everyone else and gave me a chance to find commonalities with others, instead of just seeing the differences.

At times, I am reminded that people obviously must like sports for a variety of reasons. Last Friday, the little one and I were at the TED (as we are for every Friday night home game) for the Braves game against the Washington Nationals. The little one was sporting her new Jeff Franceour jersey and showing everyone her mastery of the tomahawk chop. During the game, we are sitting in our seats (left field, 2 rows up), when this young man staggers down the aisle and sits in the seats right in front of us. He looked like Willie Aames from Eight is Enough and Charles in Charge fame and is wearing a red golf shirt 2 sizes too small, jeans and dress shoes. He is also carrying 4 Budweiser bottles - though 3 are apparently empty. He starts shouting at the Nationals leftfielder Alfonso Soriano, specifically concerning Soriano's defensive lapses in the outfield. It was a rather strange scene and after a few minutes of this, this rather bizarre gentleman was escorted away by the ushers. I wonder what it is about sports and baseball that attracts this guy, and made him want to spend his Friday night getting drunk and shouting at a Dominican baseball player about his defensive liabilities in the outfield?

I wonder why Alfonso Soriano-hater-guy-in a tight red shirt likes baseball.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Stuttering, Insurance and Marilyn Monroe

As most anyone who stutters (or has a spouse or child who stutters knows), many health insurance policies exclude therapy for stuttering. The National Stuttering association has an interesting brochure on their site which may be of use, if you find yourself trying to get your insurance company to pay for your therapy.

When I first went through the 3 weeks of therapy at the Precision Fluency Shaping Program in Norfolk, VA in 1995, I was told by my health insurance company that stuttering was not covered. However, after I attended the program, I kept submitting claim forms for the therapy. I would get a letter declining the claim, and would immediately send another out. After about 9 months of this, I went to the mail one day and found a check from my insurance provider for 80% of the therapy fee. So, I guess the lesson from that is that it is always worth a try.

On a different topic, the other night Novelchick and I were watching The Seven Year Itch on AMC. It is interesting that possibly the most beautiful woman to ever appear in a motion picture stuttered, was bipolar and spent a good part of her career with her weight around 140 pounds and wearing a size 12 dress.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Goodbye Community Group!

I had a Cinco de Mayo lunch with Dorky Dad this afternoon. Actually, neither one of us realized it was Cinco de Mayo until we got to the restaurant at 11:45 and saw a big tent and crowd in the parking lot.

Dorky Dad and his wife lead our Northpoint Community Group. To make a very long story short, he told me over lunch that the rest of the group had made the decision last Monday to end our group 7 months early - after we finish the current study we are on. The timing of it was a little surprising, but it had been painfully obvious for some time that this was a group that just did not click on a Community Group level.

So, that is one less external transfer opportunity for me for a while. I classify transfer into 2 categories - internal and external. Internal transfer consists of any transfer I have with Novelchick, our daughter or my manager at work. Conversations with these 3 people probably account for 75% of my total time spent talking. External transfer is, of course, time spent talking to everyone else in the world.

Of course it will be great to spend some additional time with Novelchick and the little one on Monday nights.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

19 Ounce Pint

On a personal note - yesterday pretty much sucked. I am starting to have some conflicts between work and home, which resulted last night around 6:30 with me needing to be in 2 places at one time. Unfortunately, at the time that I am writing this, I am unable to do that thing that Hermione does in Harry Potter.

Whenever I get frustrated like this, there is a story I like to remember. Once upon a time, I worked for a chain of drinking establishments (which shall remain nameless). The company's Chief Operating Officer (COO) wanted to add some corporate level staff, but the CEO told him he could only add staff if he cut his beverage costs by 5%. In regards to suppliers and pricing, things were pretty much at a standstill, so it appeared there was not much to be done. Over the next few months, we noticed a trend which culminated in beverage costs reducing approximately 5% from where they started. At this time, the COO asked for his additional staff requests to be approved.

The COO finally explained how he lowered beverage costs 5%. He found a glass which held 19 ounces, but looked identical to a traditional 20 ounce imperial U.K. pint glass. Gradually over the course of these few months, he phased in these new glasses to all of our locations.

I will leave it to you to discuss the ethics of how this was handled, but the story always reminds me that for every problem, somewhere out there is an answer.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Refresher Strategy

As I have mentioned before, I usually attend a Refresher once per year - usually at the same time of year. This year, I will be attending at the end of June - roughly 2 months away.

I usually come back from a Refresher extremely fluent, as a result of monitoring and executing targets very well. As the year goes on, my fluency tends to decline a bit, as I do not execute my targets as well, nor do I monitor them as often as I should. However, I feel that at the end of every 1 year cycle, my overall fluency is much improved over the year before.

I am fortunate to not only be able to afford the costs of attending the Refresher every year, but to also have a very supportive spouse (Novelchick), who encourages me to do so. My plan has been to keep attending Refreshers every year until A) I am completely fluent through flawless execution and perfect monitoring of targets or B) Ross Barrett retires. I don't know which one will come first.

With that being said, I am trying to close out my "fluency year" on a strong note as I come down this last 2 month stretch. I am in the middle of a very busy time of year at work, so I get the opportunity to transfer with many different people on a daily basis. However, I need to do better job in incorporating some formal practice into my daily routine. That is my objective for the next 2 months.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

3 Gifts

Like most people, I get caught up in the rush of day-to-day life, and forget how wonderful my life is and how incredibly fortunate I am. However, last Friday, I was quickly jolted back into reality.

That morning, I got a call from my "work wife" (who I worked with at a previous job). If you don't know what a work wife is, it is the phrase for that opposite sex co-worker you become good friends with. If you are really smart and wise (like me!), you allow your work wife to become friends with your real wife. For various reasons, I had lost touch with my work wife over the last few months, so I was a little surprised to hear from her. Though more surprised when she told me why she called.

She told me the week before, her husband had a massive heart attack at work and passed away that same afternoon. He was a fairly young man (mid 50's) and not in bad health.

Aside from the obvious feelings of sympathy for my friend and her loss, I was also shaken by another thought. My friend and her husband were married around the same time Novelchick and I were 6 years ago. I wonder if we knew beforehand, exactly how much time we have and when we would die, if we would live our life any differently. I know that if I had of known before our wedding that I would only have 6 years with Novelchick, I think I would have been a lot less inclined to engage in some of the truly stupid fights we have had over the years.

That being said, below is a list of the 3 gifts I thank God for every day of my life:

* Novelchick
* My 2-year old daughter
* My PFSP speech therapy

Friday, April 07, 2006

Quarterly Forecast time

I have not had a chance to post the past few days, in part because I have been tied up with a project at work. The project involved changing how my company performs it budgeting and forecasting process. Later this afternoon, I will be sending my newly-designed Excel budgeting template to our user group for them to complete.

Approximately 15 seconds after I hit the send button, I expect my phone to start ringing off of the hook. It will probably keep ringing until the deadline for the users to return the templates, at which time, it will be my turn to start calling people and inquire as to why they have not returned their submission. Thanks to our caller ID, I will mainly be leaving voicemail messages.

This is always a really good transfer opportunity for me. In addition, I really enjoy the truly idiotic questions I get from people. Last year, this guy (and not some newbie staff level person, but a VP-level employee) kept calling me and telling me he needed to see the "right numbers." My explanation to him that these were the same numbers we had filed with the SEC and had been audited by a Big 3 accounting firm, was not sufficient as he eventually went to the CFO demanding to be given the "right numbers" on which to base his budget. The CFO eventually told him to quit being a dumbass and give me a budget.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Goodbye Chef!

I could not let the untimely passing of our beloved Chef pass this past week without a mention. Goodbye Chef, may you rest in peace. Damn you, Super Adventure Club!

What does Chef's unfortunate demise have to do with stuttering. In the last scene of South Park, we see Chef resurrected as Darth Chef,

in an homage to the resurrection of Darth Vader, who of course, was voiced by the coolest stutterer of all time - Mr. James Earl Jones (who I hope is not a dumbass scientologist):

Monday, March 27, 2006

7 days and counting until opening day...

Last week I came home and found a wonderful package from DHL waiting for me. The package contained my Atlanta Braves tickets and parking passes for the year. As much as I love baseball and the Atlanta Braves, the best part is that I get to take my daughter to games with me.

Two years ago when my daughter was born, my lovely wife told me I could go to as many Braves games as I wanted to that year, if I took the little one with me. For almost every Friday home game that year, I packed up the little one (along with all of her various nesessary items), dressed her in Braves gear and headed off to Turner Field. Last year, she loved to watch all of the people, clap enthusiastically at every play and eat the baked beans at Pete and Skips Barbeque. Though I doubt she will ever enjoy the experience as much I have the last 2 years.

These have also been tremendous transfer opportunities for me, as well. Something about having her with me, attracts people to start conversations with me. Last year we went to a game that I did not have tickets for. While I was standing in line, this nice rural couple comes up to us and asked if we would like the 2 extra tickets they had available. I accepted and then realized the tickets were 9 rows behind home plate. I spent the game fielding questions from the couple about my daughter (yes, I was weary of a possible scam). Another game I had a pack of little girls sit themselves in the empty seats in front of us and alternate questions about my daughter with details of their lives (including a 3-inning explanation on how their father lost his job and they had to move in with their grandmother, but then their father got another job and they are celebrating by going to a Braves game that night and horseback riding tomorrow).

I have always had extra trouble being fluent in situations with a great deal of background noise - resturants, sporting events, Iron Maiden concerts, etc. However, situations like going to Braves games with my daughter have really pushed me to put extra effort into monitoring my targets.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I need a dog?

Earlier in the week, I received a chain of emails from a stuttering message board in response to a woman who had posted on the board an issue she had about her young son who stuttered. This is one of the responses she received:

Perhaps a dog would help. Stuttering comes from fear and anxiety and some of this is from the response stutters get as listeners get impatient. This causes a snowball effect. The best listener... One that never rushes you... Is a dog.

It never ceases to amaze me the depths of stupidity that some people are able to reach. Whenever we treat stuttering as anything less than a physiological disorder, we are making what is a difficult situation to begin with, that much more challenging. I understand that this happens because people want the easy answer. They want to explain that the stutterers disfluency is a direct result of some psychological shortcoming. That is the easy answer because it provides the easy solution - get a dog, stop being anxious, stop being fearful, etc. If you still stutter, it is your fault because you are not following these easy solutions.

This really hits home with me, as I grew up being told by a family member that my stuttering was a result of 1) something wrong that I did, 2) my punishment for a lack of respect I showed a family member, 3) a result of my self-centered nature, or 4) a combination of the above.

However, if you are smart enough to be reading my blog (and have made it to the 5th paragraph of this posting), then you are smart enough to realize what the truth is. Stuttering is a physiological disorder - all credible, unbiased research tells us that. However, it is a physiological disorder with no known cure. No magic pill to take, no needle injection, no device to plug into body parts, no ancient home remedies and no positive buzzwords we keep repeating to ourselves in order to keep us in denial have proven to be the cure.

Our best bet appears to be therapy with a qualified therapist. That is not the sexy, easy answer that people want to hear. The bottom line is, speech therapy is expensive, time consuming and very hard work. It is much easier to tell people to go get a dog.

I am getting down off of my soapbox now. Have a great Sunday!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New Laws for People who Stutter

Every fall, Minnesota State University, Mankato hosts the International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference. During last fall's conference, Dale Williams, a Professor and Fluency Clinic Director at Florida Atlantic University presented his New Laws for People who Stutter.

Read and enjoy!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bob Love

In May, Novelchick, the little one and myself are going to Seattle for a vacation. Novelchick loves it there and I have never been, so when AirTran announced their new service there, I jumped at the opportunity to use my AirTran credits for some free flights.

The flagship Nordstrom's is in Seattle. This reminds me of the story about Bob Love. Bob Love was a basketball player for the Chicago Bulls in the 70's, who also happened to be a severe stutterer. He played his college ball for Southern University where he was a friend of my academic advisor (the wonderful Dr. Harold Joseph) at Clayton State University where I received my undergraduate degree in Accounting. This is where I first heard Bob Love's story.

Bob Love played with the Chicago Bulls in the 70's. He led the team in scoring 7 times, something of an accomplishment considering his teammates included Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier and Chet "the Jet" Walker. After a bad back forced him out of the NBA - an injury serious enough that doctors told him he might never walk again - his wife left him, saying as she walked out the door, that she "did not want to be married to a cripple and a stutterer." Though he recovered physically, he found few attractive job opportunities. He eventually landed a job as a busboy at Nordstrom's in Seattle. You can imagine what an embarrassing time in his life this was - from former NBA All-Star to a middle-age busboy. However he performed his busboy duties to the best of his abilities which attracted the attention of a Nordstrom executive, who offered to pay for Love to undergo speech therapy.

As time went on, Love was able to attain a great deal of fluency. Love became fluent enough that in the early 90's, the Chicago Bulls called and offered him the position of Director of Community Relations. In the years since then, he has become a very highly paid promotional speaker. The Bulls retired his jersey in 1994 (he is the second leading scored in their history - behind some Jordan guy) and Love got remarried in 1995 (during halftime of a Bulls - Spurs game).

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Every St. Patrick's Day, I am reminded of my favorite professional job. During the late 90's I was the Cash Manager for the Fado Irish Pub chain. In addition to working with a great group of people that made the job very fun, professionally, I was able to leave a very strong mark on the direction of the Company.

When I first came onboard, the Company had faced some challenging times in regards to having sufficient working capital to not only sustain operations of the current locations, but to expand, as had been the Company's original goal. I was able to identify and correct some inefficiencies in how the Company handled cash, in addition to developing a MS Excel-based model which very accurately forecasted our cash position. As a reward for solving this issue, I got plenty of free Harp to drink, many pats on the back, but the same mediocre salary, thus a time came when I decided to move on to higher paid/less rewarding and fun postions with other companies.

The other thing I recall when I think about that time in my life was how far my speech has come since then. Like most stutterers, I had serious issues with the telephone pre-therapy, but after going through therapy at the PFSP at the EVMS in Norfolk, VA, I became fairly comfortable making and receiving most phone calls. However, when I worked at Fado, I had a tremendous aversion to 2 things - calling pub managers and answering the main phone line for the corporate office (as everyone had to do in the small office setting). I don't know what it was about each situation, but I would do everything I could to avoid each one.

However, 6 years later, that seems so very strange to me that I would be in a postion that I would avoid such routine tasks. Hopefully, I can attribute this to the continued efforts that I have put into my speech therapy.

Just Because You Can...

I am always having to remind myself that just because you can say something fluently, does not mean you should. I remember that was one of the last things Ross Barrett told us that Friday afternoon in '95 at the very end of the 3 weeks of intensive therapy at the PFSP at the EVMS in Norfolk, VA. I especially have to remind myself of that when I am out in public and dealing with some of the upstanding minimum wage employees in the retail and dining industry.

Thankfully, I often have my wife with me to give me "the look" if I say something I should not. If you are a single or gay male who does not know what "the look" is, please google "Barbara Fusar-Poli & 2006 Winter Olympics" for an example. (However, I would like to note, that I never wear shirts this puffy.)

I had a few instances in the past week when my wife was not with me to monitor my behavior. One day I was walking in the door of a Target and a woman asked me "if I would like to save 10% by opening a Target credit card?" I politely declined. A few moments later, the same woman asked me the question again as I was heading to the checkout line with my pail of Scoop - Away. I asked her "What do you think happened to me during the 10 minutes since you asked that question before to make me reconsider my decision?" - with perfect targets, I might add. As she mumbled an apology and wandered away, I thought I probably could have declined a bit less sarcastically.

There is a drugstore down the street from our house that has a mandate to attempt to upsale at the counter whatever random featured item is on sale. On my way home from work Monday, I stopped there to get some juice for the little one. As I had anticipated, the clerk asked me if I would like to take advantage of the 3 for $1 deal on Chunky candy bars. As I was expecting this sales pitch beforehand, I told him "this is why I hate coming in here because y'all are always trying to waste my time selling me something I obviously don't want." After saying this - once again with perfect targets - it occurred to me that this poor guy is probably only doing what he has been told to do.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I Love Priceline

This posting is marginally about stuttering. As I have mentioned before, I have a Refresher coming up at the end of June. Since Novelchick and I have another trip coming up at the end of May to Seattle, I wanted to go ahead and start getting travel plans out of the way. I tend to be a bit obsessive about travel plans.

I love Priceline. I also love BiddingForTravel (although one of the moderators for BFT can be a bit nasty if you don't follow all of her rules about posting). Everyone knows you can use Priceline to bid for travel - specificallly hotel rooms, rental cars and airline flights. Bidding For Travel is a user site where Priceline bidders can post their bid attempts and allow other users to know what hotels in what cities are going for what price.

This afternoon I went ahead and bid $45 per day for a 2 1/2* hotel in the Norfolk Airport zone. I based this information upon what other users have had success with. After a few exciting moments, the acceptance screen popped up and I found out my bid had been accepted for the Holiday Inn Executive Center. From my research on BFT, I knew I would either get this Holiday Inn or a Courtyard by Marriott. I also knew had I of waited later, I might have gotten it for a few dollars cheaper, but it was worth it to me to go ahead and have the room reserved.

I did manage to get some transfer out of the transaction. Immediately after winning the bid, I called the hotel and requested a non-smoking room with 2 double beds (Priceline only guarantees you a room that can sleep 2 adults). In addition, I gave them the number for my Holiday Inn rewards membership program - though I don't get credit for the stay, there tends to be less chance hotels screw me due to my getting the room through Priceline, if they know I am in their rewards program.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


The other day I read an interesting blog comparing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and stuttering. This really interested me as I actually started college as a Psychology major, but switched to Accounting when I realized that was where all of the hot girls were. But I digress.

I believe the greatest benefit that I derived from my therapy at the PFSP at the EVMS in Norfolk has not necessarily been the degree of fluency by itself, but in the power I have over the role of stuttering in my life and the fact that stuttering is no longer this huge obstacle I have to confront in every activity of life. The fluency shaping tools I have learned in therapy have allowed me to redirect the focus I previously had to put towards dealing with my stuttering into other areas of my life.

Let me lead you through an example of what I mean: I was about halfway through my undergraduate courses in college when I went through the PFSP. Before I went to the PFSP, every class I took, the first question I had would be “do I have to give an oral presentation?” For the next few months, that would be the central focus I had in that class – “how was I going to get through this oral presentation – would it take me a normal length of time to finish, or would it take me 15 minutes to say my name?” After going through therapy at the PFSP, I never gave oral presentations much thought – usually, just writing down a few key words and phrases to mention. I knew that with targets, I might not be 100% fluent, but I ultimately had control over how much I did, or did not, stutter.
This newfound ability I had to give oral presentations served me well as I progressed through classes in undergrad and then, finally, on to graduate school where I earned my MBA. Instead of having to waste time focusing on getting through another oral presentation, my focus was on the content of the class itself.

My point is that my understanding of what Abraham Maslow was trying to say was that you can’t be self-actualized if you are forced to expend all of your focus on basic life activities (which fall at the bottom of his pyramid). I would consider the act of speaking in a relatively fluent and efficient manner a bottom of the pyramid activity.

Friday, February 24, 2006


I love my FMSA, or Flexible Medical Spending Account. An FMSA is a benefit provided by some employers in the U.S., where you can have a fixed amount deducted from your paycheck over the course of the year. Then, as you pay out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, you can be reimbursed from the funds in your FMSA.

The benefit to the employee is that the paycheck deductions are not taxed. I am in an approximate marginal 30% tax bracket (i.e. from my expected family yearly income, any marginal increase of 1 dollar will result in an increased tax liability of 30 cents and every marginal decrease of 1 dollar will result in a decreased tax liability of 30 cents). Therefore, any out-of-pocket healthcare expenses that I can filter through my FMSA will save me 30%.

I mention all of this because FMSA accounts are wonderful tools to help a stutterer minimize the expenses of whatever therapy program they may be involved in. The therapy that I am involved in the PFSP at the EVMS in Norfolk is an excellent bargain in regards to the benefit derived, however it is even more of a bargain discounted at 30%.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Why I Blog

Monday night in my NPCC Small Group, Marla was asking a few people in the group what motivated them to start blogging. Dorky Dad blogs as an outlet for some of his social and political angst. My wife uses her blog as a sounding board for ideas and goals she sets in her aspiring writing career. I have never stated why I started this blog.

Flashback to another Small Group meeting about this time last year when our group had just formed. We were doing prayer requests and I had a long-term prayer request that I my life had been very blessed due to my involvement in the therapy at the PFSP in Norfolk, however I have never given anything back in return. My prayer request was that I did not know what to give back. Yes, I give some money to the EVMS foundation when I can, but what I really meant was I have never given anything back to the stuttering community as a whole.

Occasionally I will search the internet to see what is new in the stuttering community. I am always running across people with negative comments regarding fluency shaping programs. Some comments are actually from people who have had experience with fluency shaping programs, though most are from people pushing their own method, device, agenda, etc. Fluency shaping does not seem to be a therapy sexy enough for most people in today's society who want the miracle cure, magic pill, etc. It seems like the only positive thing I ever read regarding fluency shaping was published by people actually running the programs themselves - hardly material that people can evaluate as being unbiased.

Recently I came across John MacIntyre's blog. John is someone who has just gone through a fluency shaping program in Canada. I found his blog to be very interesting, but what I thought might also be of value to some people would be the same type of account, but from someone who had been through therapy many years before. Possibly the main point of my blog I would like to make is that you can have success with the program many years down the line, and though it does require significant hard work, that hard work can be leveraged for tremendous results.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Parable of the Talents

While working on my Bible study lesson yesterday, I came across one of my favorite passages (from Matthew, chapter 25):

The Parable of the Talents
14"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
19"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'
21"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
22"The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'
23"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
24"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'
26"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28" 'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

What does this have to do with stuttering?

In my world, pretty much everything!

Weekend Targets

Novelchick and the little one were out of town over the weekend, hosting a wedding shower for a friend, so I had nobody to transfer with at home the last few days. As a result, my targets seem worse than usual for a Monday morning. Since our North Point Small Group meets tonight, I need to make a concerted effort this afternoon to get back on track. Below, are my action items for accomplishing that:
  • I have a few external phone calls to make this afternoon, so that will give me an opportunity to exaggerate my targets.
  • On the drive home tonight, I will listen to the PFSP practice CD.
  • I will pay extra attention to monitoring full breath while I work at my desk this afternoon, in addition to exaggerating targets while transferring with co-workers this afternoon.

I was reminded this weekend how important it is to set the tone for any conversation I have. Over the weekend, I ate at a few restaurants alone. It has always been my experience that if you want really fast service, eat by yourself. When you are at a table alone, any decent waiter will do their best to get you served and out the door so they can turn the table (presumably to a party with multiple diners and a larger check and tip). Over the weekend, I found myself allowing waiters to dictate the terms of the conversation, which prompted me to rush and push my syllable durations to a speed as to where I could not feel my targets. I need to continue to work on that.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Technology and Transfer

As technology advances, it seems as though we have fewer opportunities to transfer:
  • Pizza, flowers, airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars are generally easier, quicker and (sometimes) cheaper to order online.
  • More people are using their cellphone as their primary phone, so when you call someone, you are generally calling them directly.
  • With caller ID, if someone calls us, we know who they are before we answer
  • Email in the workplace has gotten completely out of hand - it has gotten so much easier to send someone an email instead of calling them or talking to them in person.

Thankfully, we still have that staple of target transfer, the beloved fast food drive-thru window. Fortunately for those of us who are searching for an opportunity to transfer targets, the fast food resturant industry has not developed a faster, cheaper or more efficient way of providing us with our food that does not involve us yelling into a speaker and waiting for a barely audible response.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Wendy's + AirTran promo

Monday marked the official end of the great promotion Wendy's and Air Tran teamed up on beginning last November. On every medium and large soda cup, there was a coupon for an Air Tran flight credit. 64 coupons = enough credits for 1 round-trip flight anywhere Air Tran flies.

Since I love to "try" to be cheap, I was all over this promotion. My friend Shoes and I had a friendly competition regarding collecting the coupons, though since he has 3 children to my 1, he had more coupons to collect. By Christmas, NovelChick was getting very tired of seeing Wendy's cups sitting around the house - however she will forget that when she gets to go to Seattle or San Francisco for free.

An added benefit of this promotion was the great transfer experience it became. Over the years in the PFSP, I have become much better at the drive-thru window, however participating in this promotion made transfer more of a challenge than usual. My transfer at the drive-thru speaker generally involved asking if they had the cups, asking if I could buy more than 5 (which was one of the promo rules) and asking that they give me the cups empty. In addition, the Wendy employee always had to ask me obvious questions such as "are you trying to fly somewhere?", which gave me even more transfer experience.

Of couse, had I gone dumpster diving for the cups, as many of the people on flyertalk did, then that would have been a good transfer experience as well as I explained to the police why I was in the Wendy's dumpter at 3 am.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Refresher Countdown

Similar to other programs, the PFSP at the EVMS schedules "Refresher" programs. A Refresher is essentially a shorter (generally 1 week) review of the full therapy program. The cost for the refresher is approximately 1/3 the full program tuition cost

I am not really sure why I attended my first Refresher in 1996. I did not feel like my targets were as sharp as when I first left the program the previous summer, but I was still very pleased with my fluency. However, I met someone in that first Refresher group who made an indelible impact on the approach I took to my speech therapy. Jim had been in the PFSP program for quite a few years (approaching 20) and had been attending Refreshers for almost as long. What made an impact on me, though, was the intensity he put into his therapy and the Refresher week. Spending the week working with him made me realize that even though I had tried to follow the practice program Ross had sent us home with the previous summer, there was a whole different level that people like Jim played on.

That first Refresher encouraged me to try to attend one every summer - which I have since then, with the exception of 1 year. A few years later I met my wife and she went with me a few times, which helped a great deal in that I always had someone available to transfer with. A few years ago, she was unable to go with me, so I agreed to share a room with a fellow PFSP lifer named Dan from Wisconsin. I had met Dan a few years earlier, and although he is a few years younger than me, he had that same enthusiasm and commitment to the program that I had. Going to Refreshers with Dan the last few years has really helped to push me up to another level in that now, there is really no down time from the program when I am there. I aways have a sense of accountability there, so if I am not monitoring targets 24 hours a day, someone else is aware of that.

Looking at the calender, my next Refresher is in about 4 1/2 months.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Get Some Sleep

A few days ago, John MacIntyre discussed in his blog the issue of having trouble being fluent when you are tired and sleep deprived. My lovely wife has always told me my fluency declines when I get very tired. I have discussed this with Ross in the past and it makes perfect sense. With all the attention to muscle movement patterns in the PFSP, specifically the diaphragmatic breathing, without giving giving your body adequate rest, you are making it harder on yourself to be fluent.

The idea of getting an adequate amount of sleep and rest is a concept I have a hard time getting my mind around. I have always considered the fact that I was able to get by on less sleep than most something to be proud of. I can't imagine going through my 20's and most of my 30's sleeping 6-8+ hours per night. I don't think I would have gotten as much done if I did. However, now I am in a stage of my life, where at least for the sake of increasing my fluency, I should go to bed at a decent time every night and not feel guilty that I should be doing something more productive with my time.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Chasing The Fluency god

I have always thought the phrase "chasing the fluency god" was too funny on many different levels. I will let you google the term and find out what it means - I just like to say it every chance I get.

Here is my backstory:

In the early 90's, I was a severe stutterer and struggling college student working 2 jobs to survive. One day while reading the newspaper, I came accross an article on Ross Barrett and the Precision Fluency Shaping Program(PFSP) at the Eastern Virginia Medical School. I requested some information from Ross, in addition to doing some research on my own, and kicked around the idea for a few more years. Back then, the program cost around $3,000 to attend, though to me at the time, it might very well have been $3,000,000. Whenever I would have a bad "stuttering day", I would go home, pull all of the research on the program I had out of a file, look over it, put everything back and wake up the next day and try to forget that my stuttering was a problem.

As 1994 drew to a close, my social life pretty much hit rock-bottom. Though most of my friends, and people I met, seemed to care less how much I stuttered, I withdrew from my circle of friends and worked as hard as possible to avoid all social situations. My life consisted of work, school and Sega Genesis. On New Year's eve of 1994, I made the committment to make a change in my life, and that change meant attending the PFSP program in 1995. When I made that decision, I had no idea how I was going to finance the trip. When I got back to work after the New Year's break (I was working the midnight shift loading trucks at Airborne Express), I was presented with a very unexpected promotion and raise - raise which would allow me to afford the tuition for the PFSP program. In my opinion, that was a "God thing" at work, if ever there was one.

A few months later, in August of '95 (just as my beloved Atlanta Braves were on the path to their only World Series title), I boarded a Valu-Jet flight to Norfolk, Virginia for my 3 weeks of therapy. The 20 days I spent in Norfolk that summer completely changed my life.

Fast forward 11 years, 1 beautiful and wonderful wife, 1 silly and amazing toddler, 3 college degrees, 1 CPA license, 4 cats, 1 beloved dog waiting for me in heaven, a home in one of the most sought after suburbs of Atlanta, a very good job and numerous wonderful friends who have passed through my life since then and I wake up every day and look in the mirror and ask myself, "What the f**k did I ever do to deserve all of this!"