“Put your distractors in check”

By 8:00 a.m., I’d already showered, packed, and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee on my fifth floor balcony overlooking the unparalleled beauty of the white sanded beaches of the Gulf of Mexico at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach.

The morning view from my balcony.

The morning view from my balcony.

I felt great!

Twenty three hours earlier, I’d just completed the opening keynote speech of the Gulf Coast 9-1-1 Conference.

Enjoyed spending time with my buddy Marvin, the Coffee County 911 coordinator.

Enjoyed spending time with my buddy Marvin, the Coffee County 911 coordinator.

On past trips, I would’ve been full of beer and struggled just to be awake prior to the mandatory checkout time.

On this trip, I was full of energy, good food, and gratitude.

I’ve been making better decisions as of late, and my life, both personally and professionally, have never been better.

I’ve tried to rid myself of three things that took up much of my time. I had to put them in check.

First of all, I haven’t been drunk in over five months. To put that into perspective, barring my three tours in Iraq, I haven’t gone five months without getting drunk since the five months before I ever got drunk.

I’ll still have a beer or two here and there but those beers are far and few between, and, on occasion, I’ll have a glass of wine with dinner. Be that as it may, most of the time, it’s lemonade, water with lemon, or un-sweet tea for me.

Yes, un-sweet tea. If given the choice, that’s how I roll. Oftentimes, sweet tea can be just too sweet and can be poured on pancakes if you’re running low on syrup.

But, I digress; I haven’t been drunk since May 14, 2013. I had a slight “buzz” after a couple of strong beers at a brewery in Northern Michigan two weeks ago but called it quits when the buzzing commenced. I was only a block from my hotel.

The drinking and the extracurricular activities associated with it were very time consuming. Whether it was the consumption of alcohol itself or sleeping off its effects, it was just a complete waste of time. Oftentimes, I would drink enough to ruin the entire next day which lead to little, if any, productivity.

Secondly, I was spending way too much time playing stupid games on my phone. The objective of the first game I got hooked on was to knock things over with different types of birds. Yes, birds, angry ones, at that.

After I’d tamed the birds, I had words with friends in a game that was a lot like Scrabble. I really can’t remember what made it so special, but it was my longest addiction. One time, I had a word worth 180 points but it was still stupid, but I was even stupider.

Lastly, there was Ruzzle. It was stupid, too.

Thankfully, I was never involved with the mafia and never had a farm. Furthermore, I do not currently have a crush on candy.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, chances are you have a Buick in your garage, but trust me, you aren’t missing a thing. A glass of cornbread and buttermilk is much more interesting and beneficial. These are more stupid, time consuming games at the fingertips of many Americans who own smart phones.

To be called “smart” phones, they sure are filled with a lot of stupidity.

Luckily, I gave up the games, which lead to more time to focus on things that are truly important.

I said there were three things I’ve tried to rid myself of, but, for the life of me, can’t remember what the third one was. Now I know how Governor Rick Perry felt at the November 2011 GOP debate when he couldn’t remember the third government agency he would shut down if elected President of the United States.

I feel you, governor. Oops.

I guess, in my case, it wasn’t very important since I can’t remember what it was. That states volumes, so good riddance to whatever it was.

It wasn’t food. I know that for a fact. I will never give up my affection for good food.

We are all so busy these days and for many legitimate reasons; however, most of us have many unnecessary distractors in our lives, too. Try putting your distractors in check and focus on what is truly important. You’ll be amazed by the results.

Update on 10/26/13: I finally remembered what the 3rd one was…Fantasy Football. That took up so much of my time and I still routinely came in last place. 

Note: Recently, someone asked me if I was an alcoholic and without hesitation, I said, “No.” That is the truth but another truth is that you don’t have to be an alcoholic to have a problem.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Wants vs Needs

Recently, a friend told me a story about a good deed by his Sunday school class in Shreveport and it got me to thinking.

I’ll get back to this shortly.

I have so many funny stories from working at Kroger Pharmacy.

Young Fulla at Kroger

Young Fulla at Kroger

A lady once asked for “Soybean Jr.” That’s called Absorbine Jr. to you and me.

One Christmas, a lady asked me where the ointments were. After taking her to the ointment section, she sighed and said, “No, your Christmas ointments.”

I’ll never forget one particular day when the power went out. Whenever this happened, we had to lock the doors to the store. One gentleman, wearing an Alabama hat, almost walked through the automatic door when it did not open. He then failed about three times in his attempt to open the door. Finally, he aggressively knocked on the door like he was running from a serial killer.

I mouthed to him through the window that the power was out. He looked confused (remember the hat) so I opened the door and told him the power was out and we couldn’t let anyone in. He then proceeded to ask me, “When’s it gonna come back on?”

“A quarter after nine,” I said. We closed at nine.

I love this and so many other stories involving odd customers; however, not every story makes me smile.

One day, a guy threw a six-pack of beer on the counter along with just enough money to pay for it. He also laid a bottle of Kroger brand baby aspirin up there. Before ringing up either, he asked me if he could borrow (have) a couple of bucks to pay for the baby aspirin. I inquired about the beer and his reply has stuck with me for nearly a quarter of a century.

“Oh, I have enough money for the beer. I need money for the baby aspirin,” he said without blinking an eye.

So that brings me back to my friend’s friend from his church in Shreveport…

She was down on her luck and asked members of her Sunday school class to help her out with her monthly bills. Without hesitation, they helped their sister in need.

Two weeks later, she posted pictures on her Facebook page of her soaking up the sun on the beautiful shores of Panama City Beach, Florida.

Last year, Amanda Clayton, a Michigan resident, won the lottery. She was, however, receiving food stamps and other welfare benefits at the time, which created a national outrage among many.

I include myself among the many.

Ms. Clayton had enough disposable income to play the lottery, yet needed help from the American taxpayer to make ends meet.

My friend’s friend from church had enough money to go to the beach 580 miles from home, yet needed her friends from church to help her pay the bills.

The guy at Kroger had enough money for the beer but not enough to purchase the aspirin for his sick child.

All good hearted people want to help those who are truly in need. It’s the decent thing to do. The problem is that many, not all but many, of those who are down on their luck have enough money to make ends meet but choose to spend it on their wants and not their needs. Prioritizing does not seem to factor into the equation.

I’ve been poor through much of my life, so I know what it’s like to struggle.

There were times in my life that I was so broke that I considered Hamburger Helper to be a delicacy; a delicacy that lasted a few days.

One time, I was a couple of months late on my phone bill, so it had been disconnected. I went to pay the bill but after handing the clerk the check, she informed me that the phone had not been cut off; they were doing some work on the line. Naturally, I asked for my check back.

It was cut off a week later.

So, I know what it’s like to be broke, and I know what it’s like to go without.

I quickly learned the difference between wants and needs. I learned to prioritize.

Tough times build character; asking for handouts from good-hearted people does not.

Just imagine how much more efficient we could be in helping the needy if some of these folks could simply remove their head from their 4th point of contact. If you don’t know what that means, Google it.

For the record, I let the guy at Kroger have the money (have, not borrow, because no Kroger borrower ever paid me back a dime.) Kids shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of the father. Besides, it was only a couple of bucks.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.