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!"