#Fulla5: Chicken Soup for the Soul

To quote another, yet fictitious, guy from Alabama, my concept of Fulla 5 will be like a “box of chocolates” because “you never know what you’re gonna get.”

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Mark Victor Hanson

I actually met Mark Victor Hansen, who is best known as the founder and co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

I’ve been very blessed to have 3 stories published in 5 different books the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The first two were about my stuttering and the last was about my faith and the power of prayer. Scroll down to see the covers of each book and a sneak peak at each story.

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Click here to listen to my 15 minute podcast with Amy Newmark from Chicken Soup for the Soul

If you notice, Amy’s name is on the cover of all the books.

“A Lifetime of Stuttering” was my first story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade: 101 Positive, Practical, and Powerful Stories about Making the Best of a Bad Situation. I just write about how I went from a poor stuttering kid in Alabama to where I am now…a poor stuttering adult in Alabama 🙂

Number 1

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Here is a teaser of the first page:

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A Lifetime of Stuttering was also published in:

Number 2

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“Embracing my Uniqueness” was my second story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids: 101 Stories about Good Decisions, Self-Esteem, and Positive Thinking. This talks focuses on my stuttering, but the bottom line is that we all have perceived flaws, and if you don’t think you have one, then guess what…there’s your flaw.

Number 3

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I found this write up from momsteam.com.

Be proud of what makes you different. Jody Fuller is a stutterer. As a kid, he hated that – it made him stand out in school when he wanted to blend in. He stayed silent a lot in class, fearful classmates would tease him about his stuttering. Then in eighth grade he realized being different from everyone else was a good thing! “I finally embraced that difference and ran with it,” Jody writes. “I always volunteered to read and even used oral presentations as an opportunity to showcase my comedic talents… I was in control and would not allow the anxiety or insecurity to control my feelings, attitude, or behavior.” Jody went on to become a speaker, comedian, writer, and soldier. “It’s never easy being a kid. It’s especially tough when you’re different, but it doesn’t have to be,” he writes. “The time to embrace your uniqueness is now.”

Read more: http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/connecting-with-kids-through-stories-of-other-kids-say-authors-of-Chicken-Soup-for-Soul-Think-Positive-for-Kids#ixzz45pSLlHn4

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It was also published in:

Number 4

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My third story has nothing to do with stuttering. It’s about how my faith and the power of prayer produced a miracle while I was in Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning. Over 13 years later, I’m a Major in the US Army Reserves. “Miracles in Uniform” was my third story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen: 101 Inspirational Stories about Hope, Answered Prayers, and Divine Intervention.

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My Combat Action Badge may be out of place. The struggle is real.

Number 5

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I often have my books for sale at my shows and speaking engagements. They can also be found at ChickenSoup.com.

There are more than 250 books by Chicken Soup for the Soul. Explore them all by clicking here.

Jody Fuller is from Opelika, Ala. He 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.

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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.

Make it happen

“Do not wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” ~ Unknown

My alarm went off at 5:15 a.m., but I was already awake. I had a plane to catch.

The flight was at 6:45, but I was only five minutes from Lawton / Ft. Sill Regional Airport. The size of the airport is comparable to the produce section at the Piggly Wiggly, so I had plenty of time.

I’d fly from Lawton to Dallas and then onto Atlanta from there. I was scheduled to arrive in Atlanta at 11:40 a.m., fast time, and would be home in plenty of time to perform at Auburn Arena for the Youth for Christ Characters of Character event featuring Si and Alan Robertson from Duck Dynasty.

YFC Event

At 6:00, I walked through the automatic doors at the far end of the building and dropped my rental car keys in the designated slot at the Enterprise counter. It was Saturday, so there’d be nobody there until 9:30.

I then walked toward the ticket counter to print off my boarding pass and to check my bag, but there was no one there.

Apparently that person also scans boarding passes at the gate, and likely cleans restrooms and maintains the airplanes, as well.

Figuring I could check my bag at the gate, I printed off a boarding pass from the kiosk and proceeded to security, but before I could even remove a flip flop, I was informed that I wasn’t allowed to check my bag at the gate.

I travel a lot and this was a first for me, as it was the other two would be travelers who were in the same predicament.

I wasn’t overly concerned because there were six other flights leaving Lawton that day, all for Dallas, and I was certain I’d be on the next flight out.

When that person, who turned out to be a she, returned to the counter, she informed us that the next available flight was at 6:55 p.m. Usually, there are plenty of vacant seats, but since there was a basic training graduation at Ft. Sill the previous day, all flights up to that final flight were booked.

I just had to get to Dallas. I knew there’d be a flight from there. Getting there would be the problem, but I wasn’t about to give up. I had a show to get to!

Since I couldn’t rent a car until 9:30, I decided to reacquire the key’s I’d turned in an hour earlier, which would be no easy task.

After inventorying my belongings, I removed the wire from my spiral notebook and made a hook out of it. Using the flashlight from my iPhone, I was able to “MacGuyver” my keys from the black hole and was Dallas bound within minutes with one passenger in tow.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

Sometimes, you’ve just go to make it happen.

Half way there, I called Enterprise to let them know my plans had changed. The guy, Pete, told me because of the changes, my rates would change. In addition to $300 more dollars, I’d also be charged $0.35 a mile.

That didn’t sound right, so at 9:30 I called the Enterprise agent in Lawton. She was very nice and said there’d only be a $50 drop-off fee. I was relieved.

When I turned in my rental at Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) International Airport, they waived the $50 drop-off fee altogether. I was ecstatic.

A previous version of me would’ve accepted the first option, but life has taught me to always explore other options, because there’s usually a better way.

My airplane departed DFW at 12:50, slow time, and I was in Atlanta by 4:00, fast time. By 4:30, I was headed south on Interstate 85, and by 5:00, slow time, I was home.

After a quick shower and shave, I put on my Army Service Uniform, my “dress blues,” and was rubbing elbows with Si and Alan Robertson by 5:30.

Si Robertson

Alan Robertson

Although I was just a small fish in a large duck pond, by 7:30 I’d performed in front of my largest crowd to date and left the stage on an on an all-time high.

Had I not been proactive, I would’ve been approaching Dallas about the time I was leaving the stage and would’ve missed out on an incredible opportunity.

There was a time in my life when I would’ve just sat at that airport on stand-by waiting patiently on the next available flight.

The expression “good things come to those who wait” is about patience, which is a wonderful virtue, but sometimes waiting is not in our best interest.

So don’t just sit there; get up, do something, and make it happen!

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

Get your grind on…Back to school.

“LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD” the orange sign with black letters read.

Upon reaching the one-lane construction zone, my car was seemingly moving at a snail’s pace.

It was about that time I started experiencing the flashbacks. No, they weren’t flashbacks to Iraq or the last two Iron Bowls; they were flashbacks to my college days.

The construction was taking place on I-85 between Auburn and Montgomery. I’d probably made this trip a thousand times in my life but the bulk of those took place from 2000 to 2001 while in school at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM).

Before transferring to AUM, I was a career student at Southern Union State Community College. In fact, one of the wings is named after me. Well, not really, but it should be.

I crept through Southern Union like a car going through a one-lane construction zone.

I actually attended Southern Union after high school but that only last one pathetic, measly, miserable quarter.

As many of you may know, I am a fan of professional wrestling. Don’t blame me; blame my grandparents. They loved it. At least I don’t dip snuff, but I digress.

I took three classes that first quarter, and when the quarter had come to a close, I’d withdrawn from the first two and failed the other, resulting in the grades of WWF.

Hulkamania might have been running wild but my education was not.

My photo ID from the WWF days.

(My photo ID from the WWF days.)

This was my lone attempt at college prior to joining the Army.

Within a year of the WWF, I raised my right hand, stated an oath, and my life changed forever.

After four years in the Army, I returned home and reenrolled at Southern Union. I was highly motivated and was dedicated to completing my degree.

I’d earned the Montgomery GI Bill and was going to use it.

Fortunately, I had a boss that allowed me to work full time and then some. I had bills to pay but the extra work didn’t jive with my education.

The grind was wearing on me.

I was burnt out, so I put my application in at the local tire plant, but, by the grace of God, my services apparently weren’t needed. The plant has since closed its doors.

I could’ve stayed at Southern Union and taken a few more classes but a change of scenery was necessary.

Although the main campus at Auburn was my first choice, I settled on AUM because it was more conducive to the non-traditional student. Besides, my money still went to and my grades came from Samford Hall. I was still an Auburn man.

Early on, I was reinvigorated, but it didn’t take long for the grind to catch up with me.

There is nothing fun about driving 100 miles round trip to school in a Jeep with a busted window held up with duct tape, allowing in cold air, making it difficult to hear the radio, much less stay warm. Some quarters, later semesters, saw me doing this four days a week. I’d often leave at 7 AM and not get home until 10 at night.

I was still working full-time, too.

The grind had caught me, and I was ready to quit.

That is until the blistering hot day I saw an orange sign with black letters that read, “LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD.”

As I crept through the construction zone at a snail’s pace, I couldn’t help but feel for the road crew as they worked in the sweltering heat. I know they work hard and some make good money. I have great respect for what they do, but I knew that’s not where I wanted to be.

I had no idea where life would take me, but I certainly hoped it would include air conditioning.

That was it. That’s all it took. After that, I never looked back. I was a man on a mission.

My Jeep Wrangler died on me, but, thanks to my brother, it was quickly replaced by a Jeep Cherokee, making the drive and midday naps much more bearable.

I was so motivated to complete my degree, that I took seven classes, the equivalent of 35 hours, that final summer mini-semester.

I graduated on August 3, 2001.

The fellas supporting me at graduatuon...from L to R...Adrian, Eloy, me, Dr. Curry, Brad, Shea

(The fellas supporting me at graduatuon…from L to R…Adrian, Eloy, me, Dr. Curry, Brad, Shea.)

I hate to think where I’d be had I not completed my degree. Education can often be a grind, but in the end, there are very few things as valuable.

Whether you’re entering first grade, high school, trade school or college, don’t ever give up, because education is essential.

If you never quite completed that degree, the time get your grind on is now, because with an education, life’s possibilities are endless.

It took me to Iraq three times, and most of the time, I had air conditioning.

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

Lemons to Lemonade

One day in first grade, I ran up to my teacher, Ms. Perry, and said, “M-M-M…M-M-M…M-M-M Ms. PPP.”

“Jody, stop, slow down, and start over,” she said.

So, I did. “M……M……Ms. P…P…P” I said, slowly.

My first grade photo

(My first grade photo)

I was an exceptional child, only I didn’t know it at the time.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t know it until I started writing this article. While looking at my first grade report card, I noticed the words PROGRAM FOR EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN atop my final speech progress report.

With the exception of a month long course while stationed in Germany in my early twenties, the only speech therapy I received was at Jeter Primary School. Why it didn’t continue beyond third grade is beyond me, but that’s all water under the bridge at this point.

At Jeter, I had sessions with Ms. Watson, my speech therapist, biweekly. Although challenging, my time with her was special.

It’s not easy being a kid, but it’s especially difficult when you’re different. Just imagine the pain, shame, and embarrassment of not even being able to say your own name.

While in therapy, there was no pain, shame, or embarrassment.

I’m very thankful for educators and therapists who help make life better for exceptional children, particularly those with speech impediments, since that is what’s so near and dear to my heart.

Last week in Fort Worth, Texas, I spoke at a conference for therapists whose primary mission is to serve children from low-income families. The group consisted largely of speech therapists, although there were a few physical and occupational therapists sprinkled in, as well.

Ft Worth, Texas, July 19, 2013

(Ft Worth, Texas, July 19, 2013)

I received a lot of positive feedback from the attendees:

“You were the highlight of the A to Z Pediatric Therapy conference. Thanks for coming out and speaking!”

“I heard you speak today at my company’s annual meeting. You are phenomenal and an inspiration to those of us who provide speech therapy! Keep on motivating and inspiring!”

“Thank you for an amazing testimony today! It was heartfelt and inspiring! Thank you for your great service to our country and for being such an awesome role model to many! We are so grateful to have had you there with us today!”

If you had told me 30 years ago that I’d be speaking to a group of speech therapists and being paid to do so, I would’ve said, “You’re c-c-crazy!”

When I was a kid, I wanted to be anyone but me, but, today, there’s no one else I’d rather be.

No matter what challenges you have faced, are facing, or will face, I hope you feel the same way about yourself, because if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect others to?

Life is not about the hand you are dealt. It’s about how you play that hand.

My story, A Lifetime of Stuttering is featured in the new book Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade: 101 Positive, Practical, and Powerful Stories about Making the Best of a Bad Situation.

For info on how to obtain an autographed copy, contact me at jody@jodyfuller.com.

(For info on how to obtain an autographed copy, contact me at jody@jodyfuller.com.)

Finally, at the risk of sounding arrogant, there was a time in my life where people made fun of me for the way I spoke, yet, today, people pay to hear me speak.

If that’s not turning lemons to lemonade, then I don’t know what is.

God Bless America!

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

Imagine…Reflections on the National Stuttering Association’s annual conference

As one can imagine, joining the military and deploying to Iraq on three different occasions has had a profound impact on my life that I oftentimes have trouble putting into words.

The same can be said for joining the National Stuttering Association (NSA) followed by my attendance at the last three annual conferences, the most recent being last week’s conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

This year’s conference featured inspiring keynotes from fellow stutterers Katherine Preston, author of Out with It, and NFL cornerback Trumaine McBride of the New York Giants.

Additionally, Morgan Lott previewed his new film, “This is Stuttering.”

It’s a four day conference. For any other group, it would likely be just two days, but I’m so thankful to be able to spend that extra time with so many amazing people.

Until recently, I referred to my fellow NSA members as my “stuttering” friends, which was a mistake on my part. They are awesome friends with whom I share a special bond who just happen to stutter.

My friend, Daniel, from Canada.

My friend, Daniele, from Canada.

My friend, Christine, from Indiana.

My friend, Christine, from Indiana.

I’m sure by the end of the National Pickling Convention that most people are just ready to go home, but it’s not like that with us. We truly hate saying goodbye.

I have a circle of friends there who inspire and motivate me throughout the year, and each year, that circle grows.

Make no mistake about it; the convention is not a pity party. On the contrary, it’s a fun and inspiring celebration filled with education, awareness, acceptance and empowerment.

Because of my upbringing and military service, I’ve always been a “suck it up and drive on” kind of guy, but by attending the NSA conferences, my eyes have opened up to see the challenges that many of my brothers and sisters face each and every day.

I’m always amazed at the attendees who assert to have never met another person who stutters prior to attending a conference. Imagine the shock and awe.

Growing up, I knew two other kids who stuttered, not to mention my brother and Bo Jackson.

Although I’d met countless stutterers throughout the years, I, too, was in shock and awe when I attended my first conference in Ft. Worth in 2011. Can you imagine a conference where close to 850 attendees talked like me?

Well, I need to be a little clearer about that. None of them talked like me. You see, a person’s stutter is as unique as a fingerprint or snowflake, as no two are alike.

Only 1% of the population stutters, so there’s a chance that I am the only one that some of you know and you might be saying to yourself that it’s not much of an affliction. Well, for me, at this point in my life, it’s not that big of a deal, although I still face many challenges. For others, however, it remains a very big deal.

Imagine not being able to say a loved one’s name.

Imagine not being able to order what you want at a restaurant.

We know that clear and concise communication is essential in most lines of work, so imagine being a super intelligent person and not being able to get your words out in an articulate manner.

For some of you, that’s hard to imagine.

Some stutter, stumble, or stammer on every word, whereas others speak fluently for two minutes straight and then get “stuck” for the next solid minute.

It’s not always a pretty sight.

Some close their eyes, stick out their tongue, or make seemingly exaggerated facial expressions, while others slobber and punch themselves in the leg trying to get the words to flow.

When I was in junior high school, I went through a phase where I stuttered so badly I had to literally beat the words out of myself. Oftentimes, I’d have bruises on my right hip and upper thigh. When having to read aloud during class, I’d often beat the underside of the desk. It was all good until I started beating my friends on their arms and shoulders during conversation.

My friends shied away from me and I really can’t blame them. Who wants to get beat up during a friendly conversation?

It’s tough being a stuttering kid.

In fact, it’s tough being a person who stutters, period, which is why the NSA is so vital.

The NSA is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing hope and empowerment to children and adults who stutter, their families, and professionals through support, education, advocacy, and research.

The NSA helps to empower awesome kids like my buddy Nate.

The NSA and its members help to empower awesome kids like my buddy Nate from Arizona.

Next year’s conference will be held from July 2-6 in Washington DC.

I get to do some pretty cool things throughout the year, but I’m here to tell you that the convention is always the highlight of my year. It blows me away each time. If you stutter, I highly encourage you and your family members to attend.

Speech-language pathologists are also highly encouraged to attend. Not only is it beneficial from a personal stand point, but it also qualifies as continuing education.

The beautiful and “normal” Marilyn Munster lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane along with Frankenstein, two vampires, and a werewolf, and she was the person who was considered odd by the rest of her family. The same can be said for fluent speakers who attend the NSA conference, but just like Marilyn, we welcome them in and treat them like family.

Please join us in 2014. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll leave there a different person.

The possibilities are endless.

Imagine.

NSA-LOGO.bmp_

Find out more information about the National Stuttering Association at http://www.westutter.org.

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