#Fulla5 National Stuttering Awareness Week #NSAW

May 9-13 is National Stuttering Awareness Week.

Courtesy of the National Stuttering Association

Courtesy of the National Stuttering Association  National Stuttering Association

So first of all, Stuttering is Cool and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

As proud stutterer, yes I say “stutterer,” there are five things I want you to know about us silver tongues, because chances are that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, no matter how fluent you say it 🙂

1) DO NOT finish my sentence. I have something to say, so let ME say it. Whether one stutters or not, it’s rude to cut people off. There are exceptions to this rule, though. For example, if I’m sinking it quick sand, and I start to ask for help and I get stuck, no pun intended, then, please, by all means, cut me off and free me from this often forgotten deathtrap that has swallowed so many stutterers who were unwilling to swallow their pride.

2) DO NOT post things related to stuttering that have gone viral on my Facebook page. Chances are that video has been posted to my page 68 thousand times. I think it’s great that a guy can get hit in the neck with a softball at 20 years and develop a stutter and go on to appear on national television as a comedian or a stuttering guy or gal is on another program. People who stutter do indeed have talent.

*Note: This rule does not apply to anything I post, so post away. Post like there is no tomorrow.

3) Do NOT try to cure me. There is no cure, so please don’t even tell me about your brother-in-law’s, third cousin on his mama’s side who quit stuttering after sipping on the tonic, naked, during a full moon. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work. Per Wikipedia, for centuries “cures” such as consistently drinking water from a snail shell for the rest of one’s life, strengthening the tongue as a muscle, and hitting a stutterer in the face when the weather is cloudy. Number 1, I drink water from a bottle. Number 2, my tongue is strong enough. I can eat ice cream with the best of them. Number 3, this is why I keep my stuttering butt at home on cloudy days.
4) DO NOT question my stuttering because I don’t stutter like someone you know. Seriously, stuttering is unique to each of us. It’s like finger prints and snowflakes. Furthermore, it often changes. We go through cycles, particularly during our formative years. There are those of us who get stuck on one word or sound. There are those of us who repeat the same thing over and over. There are those of us who lock up and nothing comes out. There are those of us whose mouth gets stuck like the end of a 70’s sitcom. There are those of us with closed eyes, facial contortions, and the desire to beat the word out of us ourselves. When I was a kid, I would beat the underside of my desk in the classroom, or I would beat my thigh like I was playing a tambourine without the tambourine. When my leg got too sore, I beat the arm of the person I was trying to talk to. I found out who my true friends were 🙂
*Note: And of you have the urge to say, “You’re not stuttering now,” then please do not. It happens. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. For some of us, it comes and goes, so please, resist the urge. I’d hate to have the urge to hit you in the face on a cloudy day.
5) DO NOT tell me “it’s ok” if I tell you (advertise) that I stutter. I know it’s ok. I’m just letting you know. Advertising, in my opinion, is a good thing, because it brings clarity to the situation. One time somebody thought I was about to have a seizure and threw their wallet in my mouth so I wouldn’t swallow my tongue. Not really, but I could see that happening. Advertising just lets you know that I’m ok. It might just take me a minute…or two.
For more info on stuttering, please visit, the National Stuttering Association, the Stuttering Foundation, and the American Institute for Stuttering.

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.

jody044 (1)

Advertisements

Stuttering in DC

This past week, close to a thousand of my fellow stutterers and their families descended upon Washington DC for the National Stuttering Association’s annual conference. It’s been decades since our nation’s capital experienced such clear and concise communication.

NSA-LOGO.bmp_

When I got into the taxi at Reagan National Airport, I gave the driver the address to my hotel. “999 9th Street,” I said. By the way, I wasn’t stuttering. That was the actual address. I knew from that point on, that this would be my most memorable conference yet.

We have a lot of fun each year at the conference, and it’s always in a great city. It’s not a pity party, although some tears are likely to flow. On the contrary, it’s education, empowerment, enlightenment, entertainment, and loads of fun.

Hoping to make the most out of it, I went up a few days earlier than usual. Be that as it may, the week just whizzed by. By attending the last four conferences, I’ve met many amazing people, and one week is simply not enough time, not only because they are simply that amazing but also because we stutter. Our conversations are seldom of the quick type.

Although we may not agree on everything, we are tighter and more cohesive than any military unit I’ve ever served with. In many cases, we are tighter than family. Lucy, my wife, arrived midweek and was welcomed with open arms. They loved her, and she loved them. Over lunch one day, she was brought to the brink of tears as she reflected upon her experiences throughout the week and how she could relate to the challenges of stuttering in her own way. It was her first time attending, but it will definitely not be her last.

Photo courtesy of Steven Kaufman

Photo courtesy of Steven Kaufman

Dinner with my lovely wife at the banquet. Photo courtesy of my lovely wife :)

Dinner with my lovely wife at the banquet. Photo courtesy of my lovely wife 🙂

We, along with our friend David, toured the monuments along the National Mall one night. David, a person who stutters, is an avid photographer. As Lucy and I sat on a step reflecting upon the National World War II Memorial, David walked up and sat down next to us.

“I s-s-s-set the t-t-t-timer on the c-c-c-camera for it to t-t-t-take a p-p-p-picture…Dang! It’s too late,” said David, as we all laughed.

Humor is all around us. We can’t sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. That gets us nowhere.

One of the highlights this year was being able to lead a workshop called “Connecting with Humor” with a room full of young children ages 6-12. It was my first time as a presenter, and I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd. I told them stories from my childhood in a humorous manner, and then allowed them to do the same. Although they quickly got off topic, knowing they had the courage to stand and stutter in front of a group of people gave me all the satisfaction I needed.

I had another role at this year’s conference, too. I, along with Rohan Murphy and Parker Mantell, had the incredible honor of being one of the keynote speakers. Murphy lost his legs at birth but went on to wrestle at Penn State. He was also featured in Nike’s “No Excuses” campaign. As you may recall, Mantell is the young man who stuttered his way through his commencement speech at Indiana University earlier this year. Both men were incredibly inspiring and are true testaments of what one can accomplish in spite of their perceived flaws.

Photo courtesy of Christine Dits

Photo courtesy of Christine Dits

I even met a gentleman from Huntsville who works for NASA, and, get this; he graduated from the University of Alabama. If that’s not proof that one, in spite of their perceived flaws, can achieve greatness through hard work, dedication, and self-confidence, I don’t know what is.

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.

profile headshot

Opportunity is just a knock away

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

On January 23, I had the extreme honor of opening for Jeff Foxworthy on the first night of the two day Hudson Family Foundation benefit at Auburn Arena. Since then, I’ve been asked repeatedly how I became a part of the show.

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

When opportunity knocks, one must answer; however, we shouldn’t always wait on opportunity to knock. Sometimes we have to be the ones doing the knocking. We must be assertive, face our fears, and never give up.

The opportunity arose back in August when I was one of several opening acts for Uncle Si and Alan Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame, at Youth First’s Characters of Character event.

The Duck Dynasty beard conflicts with the uniform.

The Duck Dynasty beard conflicts with the uniform.

My comedy was well received by those in attendance, but it almost didn’t happen.

Last year, I wrote about the turbulent morning I experienced on the day of the Duck Dynasty event. I’d been at Ft Sill, Oklahoma, for the week and had missed my flight for Dallas that morning. Lawton-Ft. Sill has a very small airport, and every flight for the day was filled. I’d dropped my rental car keys in the drop box at the rental car company. I wanted to drive to Dallas to catch a flight to Atlanta, but it was a Saturday morning and none of the car rental companies opened until 9:30.

Many folks would’ve given up at that point but not me. I put on my thinking cap and said to myself, “What would MacGuyver do?” I then removed the wiring from my notebook so I could make a hook. I then used the hook to remove the car keys from the drop box. Three minutes later, I was in my car headed to Dallas.

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.

My motto in life is adapt and overcome.

Here is that article

Had I not executed that motto and used my skills that morning to retrieve my keys, I never would’ve opened for Jeff Foxworthy because Kim and Tim Hudson never would’ve seen my performance that night back in August.

In September, I saw a post on Facebook from Kim stating she’d just finished the promotional flier for their annual fundraising event in January. She’d mentioned that Jeff Foxworthy, one of the most successful comedians of all time, was performing at the benefit.

I was hesitant about sending her a message, because I was afraid of the answer. I decided not to message her, but I prayed that God would show me a sign one way or another.

Lunchtime had arrived, so I was going to meet my buddy at Kitchen 3810, our favorite lunch spot, for a quick bite to eat. When I sat down in my car, God showed me the sign I’d asked for as Tim Hudson was staring right back at me. His face was on a water bottle that I’d gotten at Lynch Toyota while having my car serviced the previous day.

When I saw Tim staring back at me, I knew it was a sign.

When I saw Tim staring back at me, I knew it was a sign.

When I got back from lunch, I sent Kim a message but didn’t immediately hear back from her. Several hours later, while traveling to a gig in Florida, Kim and Tim’s right hand man, Brent, called me to inform me of the good news.

The opportunity was there, but I did the knocking.

In July, I’ll be the keynote speaker at the National Stuttering Association’s (NSA) annual conference in Washington DC. I’m every bit as excited about this as I was opening for Foxworthy. Keynote speakers in the past have included professional athletes; Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons; David Seidler, Oscar winning writer of The King’s Speech; and Vice President Joe Biden.

I’ve been an active member of the NSA for years but was still hesitant to ask considering the heavyweights who have come before me, but I prayed for guidance and God showed me the way.

NSA 2014 keynote speaker info

NSA-LOGO.bmp_

Once again, the opportunity was there, but I did the knocking.

Always keep your eyes and ears open, for opportunity is just a knock away.

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.

Promo pic small

Enjoy the ride!

Devil's Tower National Monument in Northeast Wyoming in May 2003.

Devil’s Tower National Monument in Northeast Wyoming in May 2003.

A few weeks ago, I went to Las Vegas for a gig. I was there for 3 nights before flying back for another one in Montgomery. I flew because I had places to be and was in a hurry.

But I prefer to drive. In fact, I insist on driving when time is not an issue.

I enjoy the alone time. I enjoy having time to think. I enjoy blasting my radio to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash, although, sometimes it’s Anne Murray, Carly Simon, and The Carpenters. It’s just me, so no one will ever know.

Oops…

carpenters

One of my favorite movies is National Lampoon’s Vacation starring Chevy Chase as the incomparable Clark W. Griswold. When asked by his children why they weren’t flying to the fictitious theme park, Walley World, Clark replied, “Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.”

I know that.

When I was in the seventh grade, we traveled in the family car to Washington DC for Spring Break. The family car was a 1980 Pinto with a spoiler.

THE 1980 Pinto with the spoiler!

THE 1980 Pinto with the spoiler!

While my mother and brother shared driving duties up front, I rode in the hatchback alongside the ham sandwiches and Piggly Wiggly sacks.

Had we flown, we would’ve missed America’s splendor along the Blue Ridge Parkway and throughout the Shenandoah Valley.

We likely would've missed a picture with the bowl-mullet, pies, and fake Members Only jacket, too.

We likely would’ve missed a picture with the bowl-mullet, pies, and fake Members Only jacket, too.

Oh, we also would’ve missed a chance encounter at a Shoney’s located 308 miles away from Opelika in Asheville, North Carolina, with our eighth grade home economics teacher, Miss Boothe.

There is just so much to see, do, and eat along the highways of America.

Another classic line from Vacation is when Clark says, “Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes… or perhaps you don’t want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?”

While I have yet to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, I have seen the world’s largest bottle of catsup in Collinsville, Illinois.

The world's largest bottle of catsup in 2003.

The world’s largest bottle of catsup in 2003.

Upon graduation from my Officer Basic Course at Ft. Eustis, Virginia, I was assigned to Ft. Lewis, Washington, which is a journey of 2,900. I know some people that would’ve made the trip in three or four days, but why?

I took 28 days of leave and embarked on the trip of a lifetime. I drove close to 8,000 miles and saw Yellowstone, Yosemite, Devil’s Tower, the Grand Canyon, and, yes, the world’s largest bottle of catsup.

I recently drove to Arizona for the National Stuttering Association’s annual conference. The drive out there and back added to the overall experience of the trip.

As this young man went west, I spent the first night with friends in New Orleans. We enjoyed an amazing meal at NOLA, one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants in the French Quarter. Bam!

The second night I had a great meal and conversation with a friend in San Antonio, before trekking through the seemingly endless West Texas at 80 MPH the next day. I stopped for barbeque, twice.

I also experienced a monsoon in rural Southern Arizona and a sandstorm in Tucson that came with tumbleweed and all. It was fabulous!

As always, I experienced a magical time at our stuttering association’s conference but knew the trip back would be the proverbial icing on the cake to what was already a wonderful trip.

On the way back, I stopped at Saguaro National Park in Southern Arizona, home to the nation’s largest cacti, before having dinner in Tombstone at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, located near the legendary O.K. Corral.

Saguaro National Park near Tucson.

Saguaro National Park near Tucson.

The next day, I was able to put a checkmark on my bucket list when I went to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Throughout the years, I’ve been to many caverns but none quite as spectacular as these. Pictures and words simply do not do the “8th Wonder of the World” justice. I felt as if I was on another planet. I was overwhelmed. It was truly awesome.

Likewise, it was AUsome hearing a “War Eagle” from the depths of the caverns, too. Although lighting is limited throughout the cave, my orange Auburn shirt clearly stood out.

The next day saw a stop at the Botanical Gardens in Ft. Worth, as well as lunch with an Opelika buddy featuring barbeque goat.

The last day of the trip included crawfish étouffée in Shreveport, a stop at the Duck Dynasty headquarters in West Monroe, followed by a sunset at Vicksburg National Military Park along the banks of the Mississippi River before embarking on the final lonesome stretch of highway through Mississippi and Alabama.

I could’ve flown, but why?

There’s just so much to do, see, and eat along the way, but we are often in such a hurry to reach our destination that we don’t take the time to truly enjoy the ride.

Besides, getting there is half the fun. You know that.

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.

Beer, Beer, Beer

When I was in basic training, one of my favorite cadences said, “Beer, beer, beer, said the private. Merry men are we…”

I was a merry man for a long time, but I recently went 40 days and 40 nights without flooding my body with alcohol. In fact, my body experienced a drought for 40 days and 40 nights, and, the truth is, I never felt better.

On the 41st day, however, I caved in and had three beers. Ok, that sounds a bit dramatic. One of my lifelong friends came over to my house to help me do some handyman work. Actually, he did the work and I just stood there, because my handyman skills are lacking.

Once the project was completed, we did what many guys do to celebrate the completion of a project; we drank beer. He brought over a 6-pack of really good, quality beers; however, we only shared three of them. No, we didn’t use straws and we sure as heck didn’t sip from the same bottle. We poured them into a couple of beer glasses that I’d acquired from microbreweries from across the country, so I really only had one and a half. Two weeks later, the other three are still in my refrigerator.

The last three times I cut the grass, I celebrated with a large glass of lemonade while sitting in the sunshine on my deck, and I’m here to tell you, it was just as satisfying as a celebratory beer.

I didn’t drink every night. Most weeks, it was only one night out of the week, but I would drink enough that particular night to keep a small brewery afloat.

Many of us have experienced those next day regrets after a night of excess consumption. Lord knows I have. At my age, those regrets spill over a couple of days, physically, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Did I mention physically?

I haven’t quit. I never said I quit. I’m disciplined in so many areas, so I just decided to add the consumption of alcohol to that list.

I still plan on having a beer from time to time. Beer in moderation makes me happy.

I still plan on having a beer from time to time. Beer in moderation makes me happy.

Knowing that the 10 biggest regrets of my life involve alcohol has a sobering effect (pun intended) on me. I can’t take any of them back. I can only learn and move on from here. For the record, no one was ever hurt; I just made some dumb decisions.

On the other hand, the only time alcohol ever got me in trouble was likely the best thing to ever happen to me. When I was 19, I was arrested for underage drinking which ultimately led to my decision to join the Army.

I feel confident that this new me is here to stay. I’ve been in some situations recently where I was able to maintain my discipline, whereas in the past, that would not have been the case.

I’ve frequented my favorite watering hole in Opelika on three different occasions since making the decision to scale back without falling back into the trap. Water with lemon is just as good, and so are the laughs with the fellas.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent four days and three nights in Sin City, Las Vegas, Nevada, without consuming a single drop of alcohol. That’s the equivalent of a police officer going an entire shift without a single doughnut. It’s simply unheard of.

On Sunday, I began my journey to Arizona for the National Stuttering Association’s 30th annual conference.

Because of my love of quality beer and BBQ, my cross-country escapades usually involve quite a bit of each.

I drove only a short distance that first day. I stopped in New Orleans to stay with my buddy and his family. The family stayed at home, while he and I went down to the French Quarter and ate at Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA, which was an absolute joy. I did have one really good local brew before dinner, but only because we had to wait a bit before being seated. We also had Emeril’s New Orleans BBQ Shrimp for an appetizer.

One beer in New Orleans is like one pair of jean shorts to a Bama fan. It’s simply unheard of.

I had dinner with water and a friend at The Cheesecake Factory in San Antonio on day two. We had a great dinner and conversation, in spite of the absence of alcohol. In the past, that would have simply been unheard of.

On day three, I drove the final 15 hours and arrived at the conference around 11:00 PM.

I’m sure some interesting stories will arise from this week’s conference. They always do.

For example, did you know that when there are three stuttering guys in a small room that the lights start to flicker? It’s a phenomenon similar to the Northern Lights. Now you know.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I had three beers last night, although it wasn’t entirely my fault. I ordered just one, but my stuttering prevailed and the bartender misunderstood me.

“Beer, beer, beer, said the captain,” he thought.

I’m convinced that the secret to happiness is discipline. Whether it’s beer, BBQ, fishing or women, quality is always better than quantity.

Speaking of quantity, I just realized I’ll have to cut the grass when I get home. Yuck! Oh well, at least I’ll have an ice cold glass of lemonade waiting on me afterwards.

Cheers!

PS…I didn’t really have three beers last night.

Only one drink so far at the NSA conference and that was this glass of wine.

Only one drink so far at the NSA conference and that was this glass of wine.

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.

Stuttering is Cool

I come from a long line of disabilities. I stutter, my father was blind, and my mother and brother are Alabama fans; however, since May 13-19 is National Stuttering Awareness week, I’ll st-st-stick to stuttering.

Image

When I was in the second grade, one of my classmates asked me why I stuttered. I told her that when I was a kid, I was eating a piece of meat and it got stuck in my throat, so whenever I tried to talk, it bounced up and down which caused me to stutter.

She bought it hook, line, and sinker.

I can’t recall whether she moved, transferred schools or what, but I didn’t see her again until we were in the seventh grade. After a brief conversation, she said, “Jody, it sounds like you still have that meat stuck in your throat.”

Indeed, I did.

Indeed, I do.

I’ve stuttered my entire life, although it was much more severe during my childhood.

There are varying degrees of stuttering, from mild to severe.

There are, perhaps, as many different patterns of stuttering as there are people who stutter. I’ve often said that a person’s stutter is as unique as fingerprints and snowflakes.

The exact cause of stuttering is not known.

Throughout history, some of the more laughable proposed “causes” of stuttering, per Wikipedia, have included tickling an infant too much, allowing an infant to look in the mirror, eating improperly during breastfeeding, cutting a child’s hair before the child spoke his or her first words, having too small a tongue, or, my favorite, the “work of the devil.”

People who stutter often experience physical tension and struggle in their speech muscles, as well as embarrassment, anxiety, and fear about speaking. Together, these symptoms can make it very difficult for people who stutter to say what they want to say and to communicate effectively with others.

I borrowed the previous paragraph from my friends at the National Stuttering Association.

The National Stuttering Association 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.

Image

For centuries “cures” such as drinking water from a snail shell, hitting a stutterer in the face when the weather was cloudy, strengthening the tongue as a muscle, and various herbal remedies were used.

These “cures” are equally as laughable as the “causes.” There is no cure for stuttering. Some of us may outgrow it or control it better than others, but once a stutterer, always a stutterer, and that’s okay. It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it should be embraced.

Danny, one of my Canadian pals who also stutters, says stuttering is cool. I couldn’t agree more.

Image

(My Canadian pal, Danny, eh….at the 2011 NSA conference in Ft. Worth)

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.

During Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, I was told by an officer from another company that I couldn’t be an officer because of my stutter. I wish I’d caught his name because I would’ve looked him up and sent him a message by now letting him know that upon arrival at my first assignment at Ft. Lewis, my bosses had enough confidence in my abilities to appoint me as the platoon leader of the third largest platoon in the Army.

Clear and concise communication is important; however, it is not the be all end all.

Only 1% of the adult population stutters but 4% of children do, which means 96% do not. If I had a nickel for every time I was made fun of, I could have retired at 12.

We all have perceived flaws. Yes, all of us. You, too. None of us are perfect.

We’re all unique in our own way and all have the ability to shine, regardless of the perceived flaw. 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.

Due to, in large part, to stuttering, there was also a time in my life when I wanted to be any but me, yet, today, there’s no one else I’d rather be.

My advice to anyone who stutters is to truly accept it. I know that can be hard for some of us, but if you don’t accept it yourself, then how can you truly expect it from others?

Accept it, embrace it, and let it shine, because loving yourself really is cool, no doubt about it.

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.