#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.

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#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.

Excerpt from my (in-progress) book

Post 9/11

It was mid-morning and Chyna and I were still lying in the bed asleep.

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During those days, I slept with the radio on. To the best of my knowledge that’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever done that. As I awakened and became more and more alert, I realized that the radio was airing coverage of a disaster at the World Trade Center. For some reason, I thought it may have been the anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing back in 1993 but soon realized it was not. It was happening right then. We were under attack.

I wish I could say that I got dressed and immediately went to the recruiting station to reenlist in the army, but that just wasn’t the case; however, the thought did cross my mind more than once. One of the things I missed from my first stint in the army was the honor of wearing a combat patch on my right shoulder. I had a strong gut feeling that I might wind up there eventually, but I wanted to explore other options first.

Some of the job opportunities I’m about to go over happened before 9/11, but most of them took place afterwards.

One of my good friends sold insurance and asked if I was interested in coming to work for his company. My interest was piqued when he told me how much money I could make, so I took what I can only describe as a multiple choice personality or character exam to see if I’d be a good fit for the insurance business. As it turns out, I was not. I think I was too honest for the business. Honestly. They really thought I could excel and asked me to retake the test after a little coaching, but I declined. Insurance was not for me. Besides, I didn’t want people to scatter whenever they saw me approaching.

It’s funny, because nowadays, when people ask me what I do for a living and I don’t feel like telling them “comic, speaker, soldier, blah, blah, blah,” I simply tell them I sell insurance and the conversation comes to a screeching halt.

I also interviewed for a job at a furniture store. He made a snide comment about my stuttering but seemed like an okay guy. The interview went well but ended abruptly when he said he had to go run a credit check. He went to run it and I ran the other way. I never heard back from him.

The Duck Head outlet was next on the agenda. Due to my history in retail and my exceptional customer service skills, the interview went quite well. I likely would’ve landed the job had I not snickered when the lady mentioned that her cat had just died, and they buried it in a casket.

Adrian let me borrow a shirt for the next interview at the Hilton Garden Inn. I can’t remember what the position was, but the interview lasted a good 90 minutes and was filled with positive vibes. At the end, the lady was ready to offer me the job.

“Now this position starts out at $7.00 an hour,” she said.

“Do what? Why didn’t you tell me that 90 minutes ago?” I thought to myself.

Heck, I was making $11.95 an hour at Kroger. I told her thanks but no thanks.

Leaving Kroger before landing a job was a huge mistake. If I could go back and change anything about this period of time in my life, it would be that. My mindset was that companies would be lining up to hire me, not only because I was a veteran and a college graduate but also because of my proven job stability at Kroger. That was simply not the case, but I learned a valuable life lesson. Don’t quit your job until you have another one. It shouldn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure that one out, but I did have more opportunities.

Russell Stover Candies was a great interview and took place in Montgomery at a fancy hotel, one of those with the doors on the inside of the building. I vividly remember it being the Friday after 9/11. I was very excited about this opportunity and was confident that the job was mine to lose. I was very familiar with the company from my time working at Kroger. This job started off at $31,000 a year and came with a company car. I always thought that if I ever made even $25,000 a year, I would feel like a millionaire. Millionaire or not, it was not meant to be. I didn’t get the job and was highly disappointed.

I was struggling through it all. I was getting further and further behind on bills. I had to make choices between which bills to pay and which one to let slide. Of course, I paid the utilities first. They were necessities. One time, I went to pay my telephone bill after it had been disconnected. I needed it back on ASAP just in case someone called about a job.

“My phone was disconnected this morning, so I need to pay it,” I said as I handed her my check.

“Ok, let me see. It appears they are just doing some work on that line, so it’s not been disconnected,” she said.

“Cool. Can I get that check back?” I asked.

I was serious. She gave it back. My phone was disconnected the next week.

Stay tuned for future sneak peeks as I continue writing my still yet to be titled book about this poor stuttering kid from Opelika, Ala., who’s struggled to make something of his life with a whole lot of help from faith, family, and friends. Make sure you’re signed up on this email list. These previews are just the meat and potatoes, so please don’t notify me of any incorrect grammar 🙂

We’re also getting closer and closer to unveiling the brand new jodyfuller.com. Good things are happening. 

Does saying closer and closer actually make it any closer than just simply saying closer?

Thanks for reading,

Jody

Jody Fuller is from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He currently holds the rank of Major in the US Army Reserves. 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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Mr. Fuller goes to Washington

Last Monday, I had the incredible honor of attending retired Command Sergeant Major Bennie Adkins’ Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. Without hesitation, I can honestly say that it was and will always be one of the highlights of my life.

Bennie and me

The only drawback was that Lucy wasn’t able to go with me. She was planning on it, but Emily got sick and spiked a 105 degree temperature the morning we were to leave. Lucy did what military wives do. With very little fanfare, she took care of things at home while I went out and got all the glory. The next morning, Emily’s fever was broken. Chalk one up for mamma.

Although Lucy was unable to attend, I did spend a great deal of time with other friends during the trip. I think that it’s important to be able to share memories of such an important and monumental event with like-minded people. Having said that, neither Johnny nor Jay are as pretty as my wife.

Because of my lifelong stutter, I was hoping to meet Vice President Joe Biden, who is himself a stutterer. I wanted to give him an iStutter lapel that was created by one of my friends from the National Stuttering Association; however, the vice president was not in attendance.

The iStutter lapel was designed by my friend David Friedman to bring awareness to stuttering.

The iStutter lapel was designed by my friend David Friedman to bring awareness to stuttering.

Several of my friends were incredibly excited about drinking adult beverages in the White House. I can’t blame them. I was, too. We all took pictures and sent them back home. One father received major cool points from his two adult sons.

During the ceremony, I sat next to a two-star general from the United States Marine Corps. When I told him I was from Opelika, right next door to Auburn, he told me that he’d played football for Pat Dye at East Carolina.

MG O'Donnell played for Coach Pat Dye at East Carolina.

MG O’Donnell played for Coach Pat Dye at East Carolina.

The ceremony was absolutely incredible. President Barack Obama did a phenomenal job, and Bennie was as humble as ever.

Bennie POTUS

After the ceremony, we had another drink or two. Some of us found it so entertaining that we could put our drinks on the furniture without using coasters. The food was amazing, too. I took a couple of napkins home as souvenirs and may or may not have taken a plate. I’m from Opelika. I can’t help it.

I was talking to a friend when Chuck Hagel, the Secretary of Defense, walked by all alone. I started trying to say his name, but, as usual, was stuck on the letter S. “S-S-S-Secretary Hagel,” I yelled just before he rounded the corner. He returned and was very kind. After talking for a few minutes, I gave him the iStutter lapel and asked if he could pass it on to the vice president. He asked for my card and said he would but, due to his position, I had my doubts.

Me with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Me with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

I then told the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, how I came to be in possession of a Christmas card sent to him from the commander of Ft. Drum. He found it humorous, but I’ll save that story for another day.

Me with the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey

Me with the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey

Monday night, I had a phone call from an unknown caller, so I didn’t answer it. If it was important, they’d leave a message. We were still celebrating.

In addition to my friend CSM Adkins, I met four other Medal of Honor recipients on this trip. Maj. Drew Dix, LTC Ron Ray, MSG Melvin Morris, and Col. Roger Donlon are all heroes of the highest regard, and it was truly an honor to meet each of them.

Major Drew Dix

Major Drew Dix

LTC Ron Ray

LTC Ron Ray

MSG Melvin Morris and COL Roger Donlon

MSG Melvin Morris and COL Roger Donlon

The next day, CSM Adkins and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor the previous day, were inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon by Secretary Hagel. It was another incredible ceremony, and I was just honored to be there.

CSM Adkins being inducted into the Hall of Heroes by SecDef Hagel,  Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army General Allyn and the Sergeant Major of the Army Chandler.

CSM Adkins being inducted into the Hall of Heroes by SecDef Hagel, Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army General Allyn and the Sergeant Major of the Army Chandler.

As I was driving back to Opelika on Wednesday morning, I decided to check the voicemail from the unknown caller. “Jody, this is Joe Biden, Vice President Biden,” he said. I almost had a wreck. I don’t care where one stands politically, it should always be an honor to receive a call from someone of his stature. He left a really nice voicemail and asked me to call him back. I did, but he wasn’t there at the time. His secretary said he’d return my call. I had my doubts.

On Monday of this week, he called me back. We had a great 18-minute conversation pertaining mostly to stuttering and service. Thankfully, he didn’t ask me about the plate.

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. 

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What is a hero?

Is a hero “faster than a speeding bullet?” Is a hero “more powerful than a locomotive?” Is a hero “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?” The answer is yes when discussing fictitious heroes; however, we are not. I want to talk about real life heroes.

What is a hero?

According to Merriam-Webster, a hero is defined as a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.

When I think of heroes, I immediately think of firemen. I will always have the images of the firemen on 9/11 etched into my memory. I see them running toward the burning buildings as thousands of others fled the opposite way.

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When I think of heroes, I think of police officers, who are only a traffic stop away from not going home to their families each night.

When I think of heroes, I think of Soldiers. While I don’t think of every Soldier as a hero, we certainly have our fair share.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Bennie Adkins of Opelika is a hero and is very close to receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Bennie Adkins of Opelika is a hero and is very close to receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

Please read CSM Adkins’ story here.

I think of those who served during WWII to save our way of life. I think of those who served so admirably in the largely unforgotten Korean War. I think of those who served in the unpopular Vietnam War with little or no support back home. And today, I think of those men and women who voluntarily serve so others don’t have to serve involuntarily.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve

Reeve played Superman in four movies, so he knows a thing or two about being a hero. He did, however, star in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, so it’s his judgment that I question.

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The severe weather this past week brought out its share of heroes.

In Tuscaloosa, 21 year old student-athlete John Servati died a hero. While seeking shelter in a basement with his girlfriend, a wall began to collapse. He was able to hold up the wall just long enough for his girlfriend to escape. Seconds later, he was crushed beneath the crumbled wall.

A friend and Alabama teammate of Servati tweeted that his mother wished only for two things: That her son would swim at the University of Alabama and that someday he would die a hero. John Servati fulfilled his mom’s wishes.

Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama via Facebook

Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama via Facebook

In Mississippi, Ruth Bennett died clutching the last child left at her daycare center as a tornado wiped the building off its foundation. A firefighter who came upon the body gently pulled the four year old from her arms.

Bennett was among at least 35 people killed in a two-day outbreak of tornadoes and other violent weather that destroyed homes from the Midwest to the Deep South. The child, whose name was not released, was alive when she was pulled from Bennett’s arms and was taken to a hospital. Her condition was not known. UPDATE: She is improving! Read the story here.

Ruth Bennett had a passion for caring for kids. In the end, she gave her life so that 4 year old 4 year old Ashtyn Rose Mitchell could live.

Ruth Bennett had a passion for caring for kids. In the end, she gave her life so that 4 year old 4 year old Ashtyn Rose Mitchell could live.

Daniel Wassom, husband and father of two, was huddled in a hallway of his Arkansas home during the storm with his wife, daughters, and a neighbor. At the height of the tornado, a large piece of lumber crashed toward the family. Wassom, who served in the Air Force, shielded five year old Lorelei, taking the brunt of the fatal blow to his neck. Lorelei suffered a shoulder injury and was hospitalized.

Wassom, a father of two daughters — Lorelei, 5, and Sydney, 7 — died Sunday sheltering his family from the tornado. Photo courtesy of the Wassom family.

Wassom, a father of two daughters — Lorelei, 5, and Sydney, 7 — died Sunday sheltering his family from the tornado. Photo courtesy of the Wassom family.

Our parents should be a hero to each of us, respectively.

My dad was a hero to me. In fact, he might as well have been Superman, without the speed, the power, or leaping ability. My dad was a juvenile diabetic who lost his eyesight in his twenties. In spite of his inability to see, he still went to work every day, setting a great example for my brother and me. Our hero died at 35 but lives in our hearts forever.

For many of us, athletes are our heroes. Bo Jackson was and is a hero to me. Not only was he one of the greatest athletes the world had ever seen, but, like me, he stuttered. As a child, I knew very few people who were afflicted with stuttering. Bo could’ve simply let his athleticism do the talking, pardon the pun, but he had a voice, and he used it.

Bo knows.

Bo knows.

Today’s definition of a hero is perhaps subjective, but, whether we know it or not, rest assured, there are many heroes among us. More than likely, there is a hero in you.

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

Riding in a windowless Humvee on a cold, wet, and snowy morning in Iraq in Feb 2004.

Riding in a windowless Humvee on a cold, wet, and snowy morning in Iraq in Feb 2004.

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

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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.

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Embracing Uniqueness

As children across America head back to school, I find myself empathizing with those students who may be a little different from their peers.

My grandfather stuttered, as did my uncle. My brother did, too, and at 41 years young, I still stutter.

It wasn’t too terribly difficult the first couple of years of school. In fact, I don’t recall being made fun of at all, although there was a great deal of curiosity about my abnormal speech.

In the second grade, a classmate asked me why I talked funny. With a straight face, I told her I had a piece of meat stuck in my throat which caused my words to get stuck.

Poor, bad hair, and meat stuck in my throat…..this was 2nd grade for me.

Poor, bad hair, and meat stuck in my throat…..this was 2nd grade for me.

Years later, with a straight face, she asked if I still had that meat stuck in my throat. She was serious.

To this day, stuttering can be difficult, in more ways than one, to explain.

Kids love recess, naps, and show and tell, and I was no different. Recess and naps came easy, and in spite of my speech disorder, I still took part in show and tell just like all the other kids. I just did a whole lot more showing than I did telling.

It’s never easy being a kid, but it’s especially tough when you’re different.

I had trouble saying my name and would often give fake names when meeting new people. It was not uncommon for me to be Jason or Mike, Chris or Kevin, or Calvin. Yes, one time I was Calvin. I don’t really look like a Calvin but that’s what came out.

Most little boys are shy when talking to girls, but I was downright terrified. I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I talked to a girl in elementary school. Years later, many of those same girls told me they thought my stuttering was cute. I wish I’d known that then.

As I got older, some kids started getting meaner and the mocking ensued. Unfortunately, I let it bother me. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I put more stock in what they had to say rather than being thankful for the overwhelming majority of kids who treated me with kindness, respect and compassion. In hindsight, I know that it was a reflection of them and not me. Again, I wish I’d known that then.

My 4th grade picture…with a hair like this, not to mention the sweater vest and collars, I would have made fun of me, too!

My 4th grade picture…with a hair like this, not to mention the sweater vest and collars, I would have made fun of me, too!

It was not uncommon for me to know the answers to questions during class, but it was quite common for me to remain silent out of fear of being ridiculed.

Reading aloud in class was pure torture. The buildup and anticipation of being called upon created more stress and anxiety than I am able to put into words, which resulted in frequent tension headaches.

When it was my time to read, I would lower my head, focus, and stop breathing. I would instinctively hit my thigh with my fist over and over to literally beat the words out of me, whereas other times, I would hit the underside of my desktop.

Giving an oral presentation in front of the class was the ultimate challenge, which usually resulted in ultimate shame. There was nowhere to hide. All eyes were fixed upon me as the secondary effects of stuttering stole the show. My eyes closed and my face contorted as I struggled to get out each word. There was no desk to pound and beating my leg in front the whole class was incredibly awkward.

Kids were mean and I let that bother me. There were very few days this future soldier didn’t find himself crying by the end of the day. I didn’t like who I was and didn’t want to be me.

The funny thing, though, was that it wasn’t the stuttering that caused any of the negative feelings I had, and it wasn’t the bullies, either. It was my reaction to both the stuttering and the bullying.

I let it bother me, but it didn’t have to be like that.

Sometime in the eighth grade, my attitude changed. I don’t recall exactly when, where, how, or why, but I turned what I’d always perceived as a negative into a positive.

I wasn’t an athlete and I wasn’t a genius. I wasn’t in the band and I certainly couldn’t sing, but everyone still knew me, because I stood out, and that was a good thing. I was different and I finally embraced that difference and ran with it.

Instead of waiting in fear for the teacher to call my name, I raised my hand when I knew the answer to a question. 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.

In subsequent years, I’d go on to speak in front of the entire student body on multiple occasions.

Being in control eased most of the tension; inevitably, there were less headaches, secondary effects, and, to a degree, stuttering.

Self-acceptance is crucial to happiness and success in and out of the classroom. It doesn’t mean we can’t strive to improve upon our so-called flaws, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love ourselves and embrace our uniqueness either.

Individuality should be celebrated, not suppressed and certainly not mocked.

I went from a stuttering kid who seldom spoke a word to a stuttering man who now speaks for a living.

The Speaker

The Speaker

It’s never easy being a kid, but it’s especially tough when you’re different, but it doesn’t have to be.

The time to embrace your uniqueness is now.

Signed, Calvin.

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

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