Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I look forward to a Christmas Eve of drinking reduced fat eggnog and coconut rum while being Santa's helper. To celebrate the season, enjoy this video of Mandy Miller performing at Buckhead Church last Easter:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Airline Fees


AirTran's CFO Arne Haak recently made the following statement in regards to the airline's new $15 first checked bag fee:

“Really what is happening is an unbundling of the services. … That’s how customers respond. Our customers will spend three hours on the Internet figuring out how to save $8 when they buy an airplane ticket. Then they’re going to come to the airport and spend $20 to buy a soda, a bag of chips, a candy bar and a magazine that they could have bought for half the price.”

As much as I pride myself on being cheap, I often do exactly as Haak describes. I will undergo extensive research to not spend a dime more on airfare, hotels and cars than I have too, but I don't think I can spend 15 minutes waiting in a airport terminal without "having" to buy some sort of overpriced item (and not think twice about it).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Carnival Victory



Our family vacation fund generally consists of whatever extra money we come across that we did not include in our monthly budget. Loose change, rebate checks, fat wallet cash, small group babysitting reimbursement, etc. Like Dave Ramsey says, the best vacation is one where the bill does not follow you home.

Last week during lunch I headed to the credit union with my latest contribution - a plastic box full of change. I poured it into the machine and the total came to $182. That gave us enough in our vacation account to book 3 tickets on the Carnival Victory in March. Leaving out of one of my favorite cities - San Juan - we will spend the next week stopping in St. Thomas, Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and St. Kitts before heading back to San Juan.

This will be the 4th cruise that Staci, Charlotte and I have gone on. We love cruises as there is always something for everyone to do. I also get a lot of good transfer opportunities as you are always meeting other people. One of my favorite cruise memories was on our last cruise.

One morning Charlotte and I went down to eat breakfast by ourselves wearing our Seattle Mariner Ichiro jerseys. We were seated with 2 older snowbird retired couples. Commenting on our jerseys led to a discussion about baseball. Both couples were big baseball fans and they started telling me all of these wonderful stories about baseball in New York in the 50's. I could have listened to their baseball stories all day, but after my omelet was finished, we had to excuse ourselves and take a very patient Charlotte to the Carvinal kid's club.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pistol Pete Maravich

I just finished reading Pistol - The Life Of Pete Maravich, about the great basketball player whose creative and flamboyant style was truly 15 years ahead of his time. I did not become a basketball fan until the year after the Atlanta Hawks traded Pete to the New Orleans Jazz. I vaguely recall watching him play with the Jazz and Celtics during the rest of his career. The video below is definitely worth watching:

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Belt Rack


Shameless plug for the family business - for all of your leather shopping needs, please visit:

www.thebeltrack.com

Staci just spent a lot of time building the website. She used a hat model who works for goldfish crackers and yogurt.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Support Network

A reader (one of the few who get lost and find themselves on here) left some good questions on a previous post:

I enjoyed reading your article, it was very inspiring! As a student working in the field of speech-language pathology I wanted to ask you if your family and friends were supportive during your therapy process as well as fighting your battles with stuttering as you grew older. Did you seem alone at times?

With the exception of my grandmother and my aunt, I never got much support in my life in regards to my stuttering or my therapy (or any other part of my life for that matter). In fact, whatever the opposite of supportive is, that is how I would describe my mother. A quick example - when I was growing up, my mother would often tell me that my stuttering was some sort of divine punishment for whatever perceived transgression that I had committed. Nice parenting!

Partly because you get to choose your friends, I have been fortunate to have had supportive people around me. I have a friend (whose identity I will protect and call "Murt") who works for a mapping company. In 1995, a few weeks before I headed off to the 3-week PFSP program, I received a package in the mail from Murt. Inside the package were maps for the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area that Murt had sent me. That was a simple gesture on his part - maybe taking 5 minutes of his time one day to throw some maps in a package and mail to - but it meant a great deal to me. In fact, I still throw that stupid 1995 Norfolk road map into my backpack before I head off to a Refresher.

Before I met and married my wife, the closest thing to a family I had at that time were my friends the "Fuglars" (another fake name). Once again, I am sure they did not think twice about it, but whenever I would go to Norfolk for the initial therapy or Refreshers in subsequent years, they were always very supportive of what I was doing. Simple things like calling me and checking on me while I was there and having me over to their house when I got back were simple actions that were huge to me, and made me feel like someone actually gave a f**k about me and my life.

My wife Staci (and her parents)have always been uber-supportive of me and my obsessive desire to attend a Refresher every year. The question is never "are you going to a Refresher this year", but "when is your Refresher". One year, I went to a Refresher 1 week after Staci had major surgery (her parents stayed with her while I was gone). Another year while I was gone, she redecorated my home office. One year we did not have the money for me to go, so her dad gave me the therapy fee as an early Christmas gift. I have seen too many people in the PFSP program whose spouses were not supportive, so I have always recognized how fortunate I am.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Satchel Paige's Rule For Successful Living


1 - Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.

2 - If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.

3 - Keep your juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.

4 - Go very gently on the vices such as carrying on in society - the social ramble ain't restful.

5 - Avoid running at all times.

6 - Don't look back, something might be gaining on you.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pivotal Circumstances

Last Sunday, Andy Stanley at Northpoint Community Church finished the 5 part series titled Five Things God Uses To Grow Your Faith. Our Small Group is also doing a study based upon the series. Part 5 of the series - Pivotal Circumstances - really spoke to me and my life dealing with stuttering. When I discuss the subject with people today, I often will tell them how my stuttering has been a Blessing from God. Often, people have a hard time seeing why I think it is such a Blessing.

When I was younger - mainly before my PFSP therapy - I would often ask God why stuttering had to be the cross I had to bear in life. At times I would be very angry about it, but mainly during that stage of my life, I tried to pretend it was not an issue or problem.

After I first went through the PFSP program in '95, I felt as if I had been reborn. Due to my success with the program, all of a sudden my life was filled with Blessings and an empowerment I had never dreamed of before. However, as my pre-therapy life was very faith-driven - my life in the first few years after therapy was not.

When I met and married Staci a few years later, I started making some connections between my stuttering and it being a Blessing from God. As she often blogs about, my wife is extremely bi-polar. I don't know what it is like to be bi-polar, and Staci does not know what it is like to stutter, but we both know what it is like to wake up everyday with this "thing" in your life that you have to work dilligently to control so that it does not control you. I think Staci and I both needed to be with someone who understood what it was like to have that "thing" in your life.

The other piece of the connection is that after many years, I realized that my life has turned out much better because I stutter than it would have I have been naturally fluent. A few specific examples:

> I don't know if I would have had the motivation to start and/or finish college. I finally realized I needed a college degree if I was ever going to have a decent job. I was the first person of my immediate family who graduated from college (and I am proud to say that my oldest cousin - with a little encouragement from me - graduated from college a few years after I did).

> If I made a short list of the made who have meant the most to me in my life, 4 of the names would be people associated with the program (3 who I see every year and 1 who was in my original 3-week group).

> Even though my fluency is a continuing work-in-progress, the knowledge of how far I have come is extremely powerful. There are so many times when I see people so discouraged about something relatively trivial that has gone wrong in their lives. Small problems don't tend to phase me anymore.

> There are (many) times when being fluent and executing nearly perfect targets is extremely euphoric.

There was a lot of pain and frustration associated with my stuttering, but not for a second would I give up that pain and frustration if I also had to give up the experiences mentioned above. This has grown my faith in God in that it made me realize that His long-term plan for my life was much better than any short-term plan I may have had.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Joe Biden is one of us!

I never knew Joe Biden was in the blessed 1% of the population when he was younger.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Felix (1995)


It is 2:30 in the morning and I am up watching CNN's coverage of Hurricane Ike. I have an odd fascination with hurricanes. I certainly don't like to see anyone harmed, but I will always watch as much hurricane coverage as I can.

My hurricane fascination started in August of 1995, when I went to my 3 week PFSP program at the EVMS, Hurricane Felix was forming and moving across the Atlantic. During the 2nd week of the program, the hurricane's projected path had it hitting Virginia Beach. There was serious concern that downtown Norfolk would be flooded. The other patients in the program were completely freaked out and ready to leave town. I told everyone it took me too long to get there, and I was not about to leave. Somehow that argument convinced everyone else to stay.

The day before Felix was due to hit, Norfolk looked like a ghost town by sundown. Virginia Beach had been evacuated and many Norfolkians had left the area as well. After dinner that evening, and a few frosty cold adult beverages, me and 2 other patients in the program came up with the idea that we should drive out to Virginia Beach. After making the short drive out there and rearranging some police tape; we parked the car and headed out to the beach.

The sight on the beach was definitely worth the trip. The sky was pitch black dark and the waves were huge. We were having a great time taking pictures when we were interrupted by the fine officers of the Virginia Beach police force. This was early in the 2nd week of therapy, and away from the clinic, we were still using the disfluent speech patterns we had arrived in Norfolk with. The police started asking us why we were there when all 3 of us started answering in a constant barrage of stuttered speech. After a few minutes of this, the police officer seemed relieved to let us walk back to our car with a warning and the promise that we would leave VBC and head back to Norfolk.

The next day Felix stalled in the Atlantic before heading up the coast to the northeast (possibly to do some whale watching in Maine). We ended up only missing 1 day of therapy in the clinic.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bob Barr in '08!

I think the Paris Hilton video is funnier, but Gina Gershon in a bikini and wearing glasses is too awesome for words.

See more Gina Gershon videos at Funny or Die


See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bad Week at Work

I am having a pretty lousy week at work. For the last few months, we were in a bidding process for a huge contract which would double the size of our Company. Now it appears that we won't get the contract. My boss has decided in a very Dilbert-esqe manner to take his disappointment out on the senior management team - especially yours truly. The other day another manager and I were discussing the situation when she asked me if I had thought to ask myself why the Company had 5 Controllers in the last 5 years and why my 18-month tenure has been the longest of any Controller employed there this century. I had not.

What I am happy about is that through this situation, I have put my speech and fluency first. What I mean by that is that in the past it has been easier for me to monitor targets and be fluent when things are going well. However during times of adversity, my concentration drifts away from my targets and my fluency suffers. I am very excited that is not happening right now.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Enough of the old white people crowd shots




Let me start this by saying that I am a card carrying libertarian. I loved Reagan and Clinton for the inspiration they gave me. However, my political philosophy is that government should stay out of my life and be as unobtrusive as possible. Nobody is Washington to going to fix my life.


Mercifully, the Sarah Palin speech is over. Granted, she is a 40-something hottie, but the crowd shots of all of the old white people (combined with the recurring shot of the 1 black guy in the audience) was enough to make my head hurt.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

IPOD Shuffle



I have accepted the fact that I have lost my beloved generation one IPOD shuffle.

The last time I remember having it was during my flight home from my PFSP Refresher in early June. On the flight, there was a couple (probably in their 50's) sitting next to me, who from the moment I heard them walking down the aisle were complaining about their flying experience. It sounded like they had not flown much in the post 9-11 era. Apparently, they were expecting much more luxury from their AirTran coach ticket (which I am sure cost them less than $200).

Ordinarily, right after a Refresher, I take the opportunity to talk with anyone who will listen to me so that I can work on my speech targets. However, in this case, I wanted no part of talking with these people. Nor, did I want to hear them complain about how much nicer it was to fly in the 70's. So I quickly pulled out my IPOD and put my ear buds in and had a peaceful flight back to Atlanta.

Financially, I can replace the shuffle for very little - I believe a new generation 2 goes for less than $50. However, this IPOD was very special to me as Staci and Charlotte gave it to me for my first Father's Day a few years ago.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Coulrophobia


As if stuttering has not always been enough of a pain in the ass, I am also coulrophobic. Coulrophobic, of course, is the fear of clowns. Everybody who knows me is well aware of issues with clowns. I won't get into my story about the girl I dated in college who I found out later was a clown, as many of my friends (and my wife) already know the story and love to remind me of it every chance they get. But, I have never gone so far as to join an anti-clown forum, or purchase merchandise which advertises my issues with clowns.

I never really knew why clowns freaked me out so much until last weekend. I was sitting in a theatre watching Health Ledger's awesome performance of the Joker in the Dark Knight and it hit me. When I was in the 1st grade, I would watch that lame 60's version of Batman starring Adam West. Cesar Romero played a very gay version of the Joker in the series. I went through a phase at that time where I would have a recurring dream that Cesar Romero's joker was holding me hostage in family's attic. Now I remember how and when my phobia of clowns started.

A few months ago, I picked Charlotte up from Waumba Land at our Church and she told me what she wanted to be when she grows up. Of course, she wants to be a clown. God has an excellent sense of humor.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Annie Glenn

Annie Glenn, wife of John Glenn, went through the program at Hollins many years ago. This is a good video of her and Senator Glenn discussing the program.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

AirTran Financial Woes


Since their days flying under the ill-fated ValuJet name, I have always been a fan of AirTran. I don't travel a great deal - usually 1 trip up to Norfolk every year for a Refresher and 1 or 2 family vacations per year. However, I am very interested in the science of traveling as cheaply as possible. As I have mentioned before, I love Priceline and Bidding for Travel. The cheaper I can pay to travel somewhere, the more often I am able to travel.
During an investor conference call this morning, AirTran CFO Arne Haak disclosed plans to shrink the Atlanta hub and move their focus away from"lower-yielding leisure customer". This is unfortunate news for cheap travelers like myself, but it does make financial sense for AirTran. I spend less money now on a flight to the Newport News/Norfolk area for a Refresher than I did in 1995. Cheap AirTran flights out of Atlanta were a good thing while they lasted.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

1995



1995 was a great year!

In October, David Justice hit a home run in game 6 of the World Series to give the Atlanta Braves their only World Series championship. As it looks to be a 3rd straight year of no postseason for the Braves, the memory of that season gets more special as time goes on.

August of '95 was when I went through the 3-week PFSP program at the Eastern Virginia Medical School. As I will often tell anyone who will listen (and has not heard me say it 1,000,000 times), those 3 weeks completely changed my life.

This morning I was in the middle of a very hectic day of work when I received a phone call from someone whom I had gone through the 3-week program with. We became very good friends during the program and stayed in touch for the next few years after that. However, this was probably the first conversation we have had in 9 years. We quickly caught each other up on what we had been doing since we had last spoke and then got on the subject of how our speech has been. We were both very happy with where we were in regards to our speech. She then said something that really made my day. She told me that "that 3 weeks was probably the best thing (she) had ever done for (herself)." I thought that was such a brilliant and concise statement. I have never been able to describe the experience better than that.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

5 Years

I am kicking around the idea of a HUGE life change. This life change would require an initial time investment of about 5 years to get started. Yesterday, I was thinking about how long 5 years really is. Then it occurred to me, that 5 years ago this weekend was one of the most event-filled weekends of my life.

The weekend started on Thursday night as I was driving home from work and was involved in a major 3-car accident. Friday morning our beloved dog died. Saturday, my wife's grandmother died. Sunday, our daughter was conceived. It is hard to believe all of that happened 5 years ago.