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.