The unlikely perfect day…

Monday was just a normal day for me. I woke up late, had lunch with Adrian, and then came home and started working. Ruby, my 5 ½ month old chocolate lab, was normal, too; she was wide open.

Late that afternoon, that changed. Long story short, I could tell she was sick.

After showing no signs of improvement after a good night’s sleep, I took her to my vet within a half hour of waking up. We didn’t sleep late on this day.

That afternoon, I found out that although Ruby was up to date on all her shots, she had parvo. It was not pretty and I was a nervous wreck. Parvo can be fatal, but I had hundreds of people praying for my sweet baby.

I had to fly early Wednesday morning to Ohio for a show at the University of Findlay. I also had to write my weekly article for the Opelika Observer. I also had a million other things that needed to be done, but all I could think about was my sweet Ruby.

Because of time restraints and just not wanting to be around people, I cancelled my flight and decided to drive. My GPS estimated it’d take me 11 ½ hours. No worries. I got this, even on 3 hours sleep, right? Right.

I sat down to write my article but couldn’t think of anything. All I could think of was Ruby, so Ruby it was…

It didn’t take long to complete the article and I finished around 12:45 a.m. and got it bed around 1:00. I woke up at 4:00 and was on the road at 5:00 a.m……in the morning.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I’d never make my 5:30 appointment at Findlay. I had failed to realize that Findlay, Ohio, was on Eastern Standard Time. The show wasn’t until 7:00 but I was meeting with a member of the faculty, Lori, and some students for dinner at 5:30.

I almost called Lori to let her know that I’d be late for dinner but on time for the show. I hate not being punctual.

I failed to take into account the Atlanta traffic, too. This was not going to be a good day.

None of this mattered, though. All I could think of was Ruby.

Ruby

After about four hours on the road, I got a call from my veterinarian, Dr. Colley, who was extremely optimistic about Ruby’s prognosis. I immediately felt better.

He called back a little while later and said the she would most likely be going home in the next day or two. I was a happy man.

He called back again and said that since I was out of town that he would take her home and keep her there until I got back in town.

I was exstat, ecstac, esctact…overwhelmed with joy!!!

Thank God I noticed the warning signs very early and got her to the clinic in a timely manner.

If your dog all of a sudden becomes lethargic, won’t eat or drink, and has stuff coming out of both ends, get it to the vet ASAP! Time is of the urgency!

I still had a show to get to and still had a shot at making that 5:30 appointment. I hate being late.

And I wasn’t…I got to my hotel at 4:30, beating the GPS estimate by an hour.

I took a shower, put on my fancy clothes, sprayed on the smell good and met the good folks at Findlay for dinner at 5:30. I also found out the show was at 8.

Half way through dinner, Lori left the table only to return a few minutes later with a surprise and what a surprise it was!

Making the two hour trek from Cleveland to see me was my best friend from Basic Training and AIT. I hadn’t seen Jason in about 20 years, since our early days in Germany together. He also brought along his very lovely and very pregnant wife, Selma. What a surprise! Jason had contacted the school and they set that up. He’d seen my post about the event on Facebook.

I immediately put Jason to work as he helped me retrieve some of my junk from my car. As we walked towards my car, a gentleman approached us from behind. He asked, “Do you remember me?” It took me about half a second and immediately went in for the hug. It was my friend Marc from Officer Candidate School. I hadn’t seen him since we graduated from OCS on Jan 10, 2003.

(L-R) Jason, Jody, Marc

(L-R) Jason, Jody, Marc

I was so humbled that these two old friends drove to Findlay, Ohio, to see their old buddy tell some jokes. I am still humbled. It was special and I am very appreciative of their efforts.

Then there was the show and it went extremely well. It was a great crowd, no doubt about it. They wanted to laugh and that they did for about 70 minutes or so. I’m so glad I didn’t stink it up for my pals in the crowd.

After merchandise sales, autographs, pictures, and hugs, I joined two of the faculty members, Lori and Sharinda, and Jason and Selma for dinner. Marc had to get home to get ready for work the next day. The meal was fabulous and Jason even picked up the tab for the whole table.

Like I said, this day was perfect…

Never give up. Surround yourself with good people. Drive on and good things will eventually happen. You just gotta keep the faith.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier 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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“Don’t ever give up”

Sunday, I was at one of my favorite lunch spots and had a brief conversation with one of the restaurant’s employees.

“What’s going on, brother?” I asked.

“Working! Working…working…working. Seven days a week. That’s all I ever do is work. I never get ahead,” he replied, while bussing a table and shaking his head in doing so.

“But you’re making it; you’re not giving up,” I said. “Don’t ever give up.”

One of my most popular stories about my stuttering is that of being the starting quarterback of my junior high school football team, but, in reality, I was not the starting quarterback. In fact, I was not a quarterback at all. Furthermore, my football career lasted all of eight days. To be honest, I saw the writing on the wall when I was beaten in wind sprints by a guy named “Beefy.” I called it a career shortly thereafter.

I gave up. I quit.

Speaking of football, last Saturday, as I was preparing for a speaking gig at Saugahatchee Country Club, I sent a text message to a friend asking for an update on the Auburn – LSU game.

Just before I started my set, he replied, “21-0 in the second quarter.”

Because they were playing in Death Valley, I didn’t have to ask who was winning. I just shook my head and hoped they wouldn’t give up, and, much to my delight, they didn’t. Auburn didn’t win the game but they fought valiantly until the end. By all accounts, they outplayed LSU in the second half but the 21 points were simply too much to overcome.

The Auburn family was very proud of our coaches and players, and rightfully so, because they never gave up.

I tried swiping this from the Auburn Arena but it proved to be too big. I finally gave up.

I tried swiping this from the Auburn Arena but it was too big. I finally gave up.

In 2006, the New Orleans Saints signed non-stuttering quarterback Drew Brees to a contract. Due to a contract dispute and shoulder injury, Brees was not resigned by his former team, the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers instead went with Philip Rivers who was selected in the first round of the previous year’s NFL draft.

Brees almost landed in Miami but the Dolphins, fearing his shoulder had not yet healed, opted for Daunte Culpepper instead. Brees eventually found a home in New Orleans and did the unthinkable; he won a Super Bowl with the Saints.

Culpepper’s career fizzled and Rivers’ career has been one of disappointment, whereas Drew Brees has gone on to be a surefire, first ballot hall of famer.

He never gave up.

drew brees

In 1995, professional wrestler, Stunning Steve Austin, was fired from his job at World Championship Wrestling while injured. To, add insult to injury, literally, he was fired over the phone. After a couple of more speed bumps in his career, he developed his signature character.

Today, Stone Cold Steve Austin is arguably the most popular superstar in the history of the World Wrestling Federation and continues to be a prominent figure in the entertainment industry.

Why? He didn’t quit.

steve-austin

My Aunt Carol, Uncle Glenn’s wife, was a sweet lady and cooked a mean pot of chili. Sadly, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1991, followed by breast cancer in 1997. Carol eventually succumbed to the disease in 2011, but she fought courageously for 20 years.

She never gave up.

On June 21, 2012, four year old Emma Grace Mitchell of Oxford was diagnosed with a Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor (PNET), which is a rare tumor that usually occurs in children and young adults. The next day, she underwent surgery to remove it. However, the tumor quickly returned, and, over the next several months, Emma underwent chemo, radiation and a stem cell transplant at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

In August of this year, after just a couple of months at home, Emma underwent a second brain surgery for a third tumor and is currently going through chemo. According to her mom and her almost 10,000 followers on her Team Emma Facebook page, the fabulous Emma is always positive and is always spreading happiness with her infectious smile.

Emma is an inspiration to all and is not giving up.

Emma Mitchell

 

We sent Emma a shirt a few months back. She continues to be an inspiration.

We sent Emma a shirt a few months back. She continues to be an inspiration.

I could ramble on and on about the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced throughout my life but will spare you the drama for now. I will say, however, that there have been some very dark days along the journey but not finishing that season with my junior high school football team is the only time I ever quit anything worthwhile.

I can’t change that, which is okay with me, because a valuable lesson was learned from that experience nearly three decades ago, and, today, I can unequivocally say that I am not a quitter.

I never give up.

There is, however, one thing I can change. I want a rematch with “Beefy.” I think I can take him.

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up,” said an emotional and cancer stricken Jim Valvano at the 1993 ESPY Awards on ESPN.

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.

Promo pic small

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 .

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

In honor of this National Day of Prayer, I’d like to share with you the Power of Prayer.

I graduated from college in August 2001. A month later, the tragic events of 9/11 unfolded and changed my life forever.

Before attending college, I was an enlisted man in the Army. In the wake of such a catastrophic event, I felt the need to serve once again; however, that didn’t happen right away.

Foolishly, I’d quit my job at Kroger six months prior to graduation with the rationale that I’d have no trouble finding employment upon graduation. In fact, I anticipated having a job prior to graduation. Both were miscalculations on my part.

I’d saved enough money to make ends meet as long as no monkey wrenches entered the equation. Unfortunately, the monkey wrenches kicked in the door and brought baboon hammers with them.

To say times were tough is like saying Harvey Updyke likes Alabama.

I experienced everything from an eviction to a blown transmission to harassing phone calls from bill collectors to strained relationships with loved ones. If it was negative, there’s a good chance I experienced it.

My credit got so bad that I got turned down for a paper route. Times were tough.

Along this dark journey, I’d often find myself in prayer, simply asking the Lord to help me make it. At the time, I thought it meant I was asking Him to absolve me of the challenges in my life. In hindsight, He did exactly what I asked of Him. One day at a time, He helped me make it.

I reported to Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Georgia, on September 11, 2002.

OCS

As my luck would have it, I was assigned to Alpha Company, notoriously known as “Alphatraz”, for a grueling 14 weeks of training.

I’m not exactly sure when, where, or how but sometime early on I injured my right knee. What initially began as mild discomfort would eventually become unbearably excruciating pain.

I was hesitant about going on sick call, because an extended profile, which restricts physical activity, would cause me to miss training and to likely be recycled to another company.

The culminating event of this ordeal took place in the wee hours of a chilly Fort Benning morning as we started what was to be a relatively short road march fully equipped with ruck sacks and training weapons known as rubber ducks.

Within a matter of minutes, I was using the rubber duck as a crutch as tears streamed down my face. I was forced to abandon the march and take refuge in the truck that was following our formation.

Make no mistake about it; the pain was immense but the tears had more to do with the trials and tribulations I’d experienced over the past year coming to a head combined with a real sense of hopelessness.

By the time I got to sick call that morning, my knee was about three times its normal size. I was given an initial 10-day profile and would indeed be recycled. I was devastated.

I prayed that night. I mean, I really prayed. I felt connected in a way in which I have only experienced on one other occasion. Perhaps one day, I’ll share that story.

As usual, the lights were abruptly turned on the next morning at “o dark 30.” Upon first call each day, we had only five minutes to be standing outside in formation ready to start the day.

As I readied myself to jump down from the top bunk, I grimaced while anticipating the agonizing pain that would soon follow, but much to my surprise, I stuck that landing like Mary Lou Retton at the ’84 Summer Olympics in LA. There was no pain. Zero. Nil. Nothing. The swelling had disappeared, too.

I was astonished by what appeared to be a miraculous healing but wasn’t completely convinced so I maintained my profile for the remainder of that day.

The next day, however, I returned to sick call and convinced the doctor to rescind my profile. Although there were other speed bumps along the way, none of them involved a bum knee.

I went on to graduate from Officer Candidate School and was sworn in as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army on January 10, 2003.

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my "grandpa."

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my “grandpa.”

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.

The day I raised my right hand and stated the oath of office is undoubtedly the proudest moment of my life, and without blinking an eye, I can say that it never would have happened without the power of prayer.

The power of prayer got me to and through OCS and has allowed me to serve admirably as a commissioned officer for the past decade, which includes three tours of duty in Iraq.

Prayer fuels me daily and is a whole lot cheaper than that stuff you pump into your vehicle.

Without it, I hate to think where I’d be.

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.