Monday, December 11, 2006

Singing Sad, Sad Songs

In a Rolling Stone blog today, it was reported that a group of English scientists have determined that "The Drugs Don't Work" by The Verve is the saddest song of all-time. This was decided by measuring blood flow and brain activity while subjects listened to songs on headphones. This is, of course, insane. That is a pretty sad song, but there are much, much sadder. Considering this blog has pretty much degenerated to a list of the songs that I like, here is my list of the saddest songs that I've heard:

"Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton
"I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You" by Colin Hay
"How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?" by Al Green
"Charlene" by Anthony Hamilton
"Nutshell" by Alice in Chains
"Brick" by Ben Folds Five
"Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen
"Little Wing" by Jimi Hendrix
"Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd
"Morning Yearning" by Ben Harper
"High and Dry" and "How To Disappear Completely" by Radiohead
"Black" and "Come Back" by Pearl Jam
"My, My, Hey, Hey" by Neil Young
"The Scientist" by Coldplay
"This Brilliant Dance" by Dashboard Confessional

Any others?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

iMix Update

Quick update to my iMix because a few more songs have been on heavy rotation:

Deftones, "Hole in the Earth"
Ben Harper, "Faded/Whole Lotta Love (LIVE FROM MARS)"
Thom Yorke, "Harrowdown Hill" and "The Clock"
Boy Dylan, "Highway 61 Revisited"
Led Zeppelin, "Out on the Tiles" and "Achilles' Last Stand"
Gnarls Barkley, "Gone Daddy Gone"
John Mayer, "Stop This Train"
Jimi Hendrix, "Little Wing"
Dave Matthews & Warren Haynes, "Cortez the Killer (LIVE)"
Roger Waters, "Comfortably Numb (LIVE from the Berlin Wall)"
Radiohead, "Airbag"

Friday, November 10, 2006

iMixes Are Fun

Since my iPod is about to shuffle off this mortal coil any day now, this is the current playlist I've been bumping in the 'Stang until I buy a 30-Gig iPod Video over the winter. Consider this the Griffty Cent iMix for November 2006:

Ben Harper, "Morning Yearning" & "Alone"
TV on the Radio, "Wolf Like Me"
Wilco, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and "War on War"
The Beatles, "And Your Bird Can Sing" & "She Said She Said"
Radiohead, "Sit Down, Stand Up," "How To Disappear Completely" and "Sail to the Moon"
Bob Dylan, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" and "It Ain't Me, Babe"
Rick Ross, "Push It"
Coheed & Cambria, "Everything Evil" and "The Willing Well IV: The Final Cut"
Jay-Z, "Show Me What You Got"
The Prizefighter Inferno, "The Going Price for Home"
John Mayer, "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" and "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room"
Gnarls Barkley, "Just A Thought"
Josh Rouse, "Nothing Gives Me Pleasure"
Led Zeppelin, "The Immigrant Song" and "Custard Pie"
Lupe Fiasco, "Pressure"
Pearl Jam, "State of Love and Trust (Live)" and "Inside Job"
The Raconteurs, "Level"

Thursday, November 02, 2006


See, this is what I'm talking about when I say "bipolar disorder."

After a couple good sessions with each client, my attitude and self-image as a clinician have, as my case manager told me today, done a 180. Tuesday's session was great, as I utilized my improvisation skills by bringing a bunch of toys for the whole class to play with, in addition to wearing a Halloween mask. My client loved it and it was hands down the best session I've had yet. This morning's session, even though my client didn't show up, was very good in that I was able to give a lot of language stimulation to the other children and read them books I had prepared for my client. I've always thought my best clinical skills would lie in my ability to interact with children and make things fun for them. I think that is really starting to show.

My case manager told me in our meeting today that "you had a slow start, but once you got over that hump, you just took off," I have been "200% better" and that I have "certain gifts and skills that other clinicians do not." She acknowledged that I (and she, too) am the type of person who learns things when I strategically need them, as opposed to being able to apply directly what I learn from class. This is something I've always thought, but never wanted to mention it because I looked at it as an excuse for not performing. She even told me that I should consider looking at grants to do work with the preschool population. Doesn't this seem a little bit different than my thoughts from just a couple days ago? It's funny how success and getting better at your job can contribute to your attitudes. I've gone from Fredo Corleone to Michael Corleone in 2 days.

In other grade-related news, I scored 100% on my research article for fluency, a 96% on the corresponding presentation, and my big case presentation last night earned me an A- (though it could have been a solid A had I remembered to give my professor a copy of my research). I didn't think the case presentation was very good, but if she gives it an A-, I'll take the grade and the confidence boost. Let's see how I manage the rest of semester. I'm not expecting anymore Doomsday posts.
On Halloween, I bought the new Coheed & Cambria DVD, "The Last Supper," which is very good. Co&Ca is my favorite band of all time (though Radiohead and Led Zep are closing in fast), and this DVD is very good at showing why they are such an amazing band. I don't know if this is a better show than "Live At The Starland Ballroom" in terms of most of the performance (since Claudio can't harmonize with himself, Travis and Mike backing up his singing is just awful, and made great songs like "The Crowing" and "Ten Speed' lose some of their luster. Still, "The Final Cut" is amazing and showcases Claudio's and Travis' guitar virtuosity. They constantly tried to one-up each other's solos during the last song (Though, Claudio working overtime on his "I'm so good at guitar" faces was pretty odd. He's more animated than he used to be during shows, but I think I liked the reclusive Claudio who hated talking to the crowd better). The interviews sprinkled throughout DVD were a little disappointing and misleading ("Behind the Scenes Interviews with Claudio!" was a bit of an overstatement). A highlight of the show occurred during the bridge of "Everything Evil" when a giant dragonfly (the size of 10 men, I tells ya!) flew over the audience on wires while the band stopped playing, before going into the always awesome "JeeeeSAAAAY" part. All in all, the "The Last Supper" gets an A-, or a 91 on "Reeking-Of-Awesomeness Scale." The stage show was great, the songs had a newer, fresher sound, and Claudio and Travis had a good old fashioned guitar duel. Plus, it's a bargain at $13. Definitely worth a look.

I also bought Claudio's new solo album under his alias, The Prizefighter Inferno. The album, My Brother's Blood Machine, is an acoustic and electronica side story of the original Co&Ca plot, and it's pretty good. "The Postal Service meets Coheed & Cambria" is an accurate description, and I give it a B+, or an 88 on the R.O.A. Scale. I'll tell you, that Puerto Rican can write good, catchy songs as well as anybody in the game, but still manages to make it a very weird experience. The CD packaging is very cool, as the lyrics come on tarot cards. However, something feels off about the album. Maybe I'm just not used to the combination of folk music and minimalist techno, but it is taking me time to really like the music part of it.

This is a very obscure (and very stupid) reference, but the album sounds the way the cover of Led Zeppelin III looks, if that makes any sense (sorry, I'm channeling my inner-Chuck Klosterman). That's probably the stupidest thing I've ever written in this blog, but that's what it sounds like to me. My Brother's Blood Machine should hold me over until at least the next Coheed album drops.

That's it for now, peace.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Shine On You, Crazy Diamond

That was a worse retirement than Jay-Z's. I'm sorry, I'm back.

I am convinced that I have developed or acquired some mild form of bipolar disorder.

At least once a day, I am overcome with feelings that I have chosen the wrong profession, and this scares the shit out of me. After a couple hours of inner monologue, I calm myself down, realize that I have a better handle on things than I think I do, remember how I always overreact about everything, and smarten up.

I'm taking three classes this semester (stuttering, neurogenic speech disorders, and clinical practicum), I've got two clients at two different preschools in the Worcester area that I see once a week (been there for 6 weeks) and I'm screening hearing in elementary schools for the little childrens (two down, one to go). I'm still working a couple hours a day at Tatnuck, and then it's off to the old schoolhouse for the rest of the day and early evening.

It's accurate to say that I am struggling right now. I enjoy the two kids I work with right now and their classes are always entertaining, but I still feel lost most of the time and my confidence in what I am doing comes and goes. I bombed my first neuro exam, yet I think that can be salvaged fairly easily. I assume I'll do well on my fluency midterm (it would make goddamn sense) that has been delayed so long that it should be called "Chinese Democracy," but who knows. My case manager has told me that I have been making progress and my sessions get better and better, yet she also informed me that I am picking things up slower than the other clinicians. I always walk into a session thinking it will go terribly, and I walk out of it thinking I am the greatest of the great. I can't make up my fucking mind about how I am doing. Essentially, when I describe to people what exactly I am doing in grad school, I am completely talking out of my ass, yet it tends to sound halfway intelligent.

What worries me the most is not the fact that I am not a expert yet, it's that I don't find genuine interest in most of our field. I am interested in stuttering and stuttering alone. Some day I will have a private practice and specialize in fluency, but that will not be for a long time. Today in fluency class, we had a guest speaker who was a regional director of the National Stuttering Association. He talked about his past therapies and how he has improved over the years. Listening to him talk reminded me of why I am in this profession. Unfortunatly, so much of speech-language pathology is child language and articulation, and I flat-out don't like it. For years I had assumed that once I began working with people, that attitude would change. "Wait until you get into clinic, you know more than you think you do. You'll love it!", they all said. That has not happened. I feel that I know less than I thought I did, and I certainly do not love it. I hope some day this all changes. Maybe with time and experience it will, but right now I'm not thrilled.

So what are my options for changing these feelings? Basically, I can suck it up and be a man. Grad school sucks a fat one for everybody and there's nothing noble about suffering through it. I've got friends doing braver things than I'll ever do, (namely Dan Teles, History's Greatest Hero building houses in New Orleans) so I should shut up now. Time to take off the dress and end this tea party.


Surprisingly, despite the disdain for my profession right now, my stuttering during my sessions has been a non-factor. I thought that would be the main problem going into this year, but in the 21.5 hours of therapy that I've accrued so far, I have counted only 3 times where stuttering affected the session. I practice on and off, but for most of the time I have been able to control it. I've leaned more towards stuttering modification techniques in those situations rather than fluency shaping.
I'm fluent in the times where I need to be fluent, and that's all that matters to me.

Aside from school, the rest of my life ain't bad. Work isn't bad, the Patriots keep winning, the revamped Celtics are about to start, and I am completely head-over-heels in love. I've taken a real shine to politics, Radiohead, wine, cooking real food (celebrating my 100th fleeting hobby of the past year!) and classic movies. I actually kind of feel like an adult.

Now if I could only start acting like one in school.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Summer Ramblings [edited]

Once again I have returned from the blogging dead like The Phoenix (except less evil and more controllable. More on that in a bit).

[this portion of the blog has been removed for clinic confidentiality reasons. I am hereby using that mind-eraser thing from Men In Black and Men In Black: 2 to erase your collective memories.]

I have come to the conclusion that summer classes totally suck all. Nothing like sitting in a class on a warm summer's night only to come home and go right to bed because you've got to wake up at 5:30. I should be grilling, drinking, and watching baseball, damnit.

My landlord has been giving me guff about using the air conditioning, which is great considering it's about 130 degrees at all times in my apartment. He thinks I will burn it out by using it too much and that I should be "judicious in my use." So his idea was to leave the doors and windows open for circulation. In an ironic twist, a raccoon came in through the open door one night and ate a bunch of food from his kitchen and leaving my apartment untouched. Pat 1, George Evans, 0.

Work at ol' TCC has been about the same lately. Nothing major to report, except I think my shitty approach mowing has finally granted my wish of never sitting on that damn machine again. I'm back atop my throne on the precious fairway mower. As long as my iPod is charged and my coffee cup is full, I'll sit on that thing all day. Never leave me, baby.

I've been experimenting with the idea of getting a SLP-assistant job, which would pay more for less hours during the fall and would actually reinforce all the crap I'm learning at school. However I don't want to feel overwhelmed when clinic starts. Tatnuck is so flexible and corrupt in terms of hours that it might just make more sense to stick with what I've been doing. I'm still keeping an eye on the wanted ads for openings in the area, at least to call and see what they would want me to do. To actually feel like what I'm studying will be my job would be a welcome change.

"X-Men: The Last Stand" unexpectedly kicked an enourmous amount of ass. The reviews I read said that it lacked a real story and was only big on effects, calling it "flat." In my opinion, the story was better than either of the first two movies which were fantastic to begin with, and it was far more emotional. There could have added more recognizable mutants, particularly Gambit, but Beast was a good addition and Jean Grey's Phoenix was flat-out frightening (as you can tell by the picture). I also loved the little rivalries set up between Iceman and Pyro, or Storm versus Callisto. The end made it look like there would be another movie, but I think this should be it. I don't see the point as they have exhausted all good plotlines. Mutants have fought against themselves, humans, and now humans again. I don't see any other way they could go that wouldn't just be a rehash of the last two movies. Hopefully the Wolverine spin-off won't be beating a dead horse.

I am quickly becoming a rock star on the guitar...sort of. I know pretty much all the chords and am starting to get the hang of scales. I can do a nice little bluesy scale with a bend at the end that sounds pretty good. When I was home for July 4th, Molly taught me "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana and "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. I am getting the hang of both of those and it feels good to actually be playing songs rather than just practicing chord transition. Reading tabs is getting easier, too. In time I can see myself getting pretty good and having this as a real hobby I can go back to.

That's about all that's been going on in Worcester. Hopefully I can update this more often than every 2 months, but no promises. Peace.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dear Summer...

It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you, without a dope blog to step to...

Bad joke, sorry.

It's been over a month since I've written here. Between finals, work, and my new guitar (which I suck at), I've had very little time and little motivation to write in this. Maybe I am just out of stuff to address, or maybe I just haven't given any real thought to stuttering in a while, but the least I can do for my minions is update the goings-on of my life as of late.

Graduate School: Year One is over at long last. My grades are posted and I got an A- in Diagnostics (the hardest, most time-consuming course), a B+ in Aural Rehab and a B in Adult Language Disorders. I definitely worked hard this semester (though 90% of my focus went to Dx, the other two classes really were afterthoughts) and it payed off. In terms of class difficulty, I think the worst is behind me. However, the 800-pound gorilla (see right) known as "clinical practicum" is still lurking.

Starting May 22nd, I have four classes this summer, all in the evening. I take two 1-credit electives (though I'm not really sure about the actual dates. When I checked online it says I have them at the same time, but that couldn't be). After a few more weeks off, I take two more classes for 1 credit and 3 credits. I've worked a lot of hours in the past couple of weeks at the easiest job in the world and once class starts I don't expect to miss any time. Tatnuck Country Club is a diamond mine of awesomeness. Last Friday everyone left at noon because of the rain and I decided to stick around, paint a couple rocking chairs and read a book until closing time. I just like being allowed to lock up. It makes me feel so responsible. (By the way, if you ever want to steal mowers and shit, I leave the key under the tire near the front door.)

Speaking of responsible, I've decided to start my own mini landscaping business in my area on Saturdays and Sundays. I've printed up fliers advertising "affordable, expert care of lawns and gardens" complete with my marketable tattoo as a logo. Dr. Larrivee already said she has a big mulching project and I'm hoping she spreads the word to her neighbors. If I can get 6 or so lawns (3 on Saturdays, 3 on Sundays) for $30-$50 each, that's at least an extra $200 per week. Granted I drive a Mustang, but I figured out how to fit a mower from work into the trunk. Nick (the assistant at Tatnuck) said I could even borrow his monster F-350 truck if I needed it and that I could help him out with his side projects as well. By borrowing all the equipment from work, I'll save on capital until I can afford my own mower. As I've said a million times, Tatnuck Country Club is the greatest place on earth if you want to come in late, screw around, play golf, play poker, smoke weed (I don't smoke weed, but if somebody wanted to, they could) without reprecussions, AND get punched off the clock hours after you leave. Even the 50-year-old gardener drinks cans of Busch down by the dump at 9 AM. Someone was telling a story of how a kid got fired from there, and for the life of me I can't figure out what could possibly happen that would warrant a firing. I've narrowed it down to either: 1) doing donuts on the greens in a cart, or 2) stealing Rob's last handful of bacon.

Needless to say, I will have almost no free time this summer, and I consider that a good thing. I've been much happier since being back at work, and with summer classes and side landscaping projects on the horizon, you are looking at one rich, happy boy. I sometimes look back at all the things I used to be afraid of when I was younger, namely, speaking with other people and trying anything new, and I think I've made so much progress regarding that recently. I'll be dealing with clients and parents next year and I'm starting a small business where I'll be dealing with people I don't know. It might not seem like much, but they are still really big steps for me. Onward and upward.

As usual, stuttering has been up and down. These past few days have been hard and I can't seem to get my timing down on my breathing. That takes practice, which I am still out of. I know that I make the most progress when I make fluency the focus of my life like I did last summer. In my current situation and atmosphere I have no desire to do that. From the people I've met at support groups, the happier people tend to be the ones who stutter severely (and I mean SEVERELY) because they accept who they are. In a way, speech therapists are the enemy.
Still, I need to be ready for the fall. When I talked to the clinic director a few months ago to talk about having therapy this summer, she said she would put me in the pool and let me know. I haven't heard back anything yet, so I don't know what that means. I'll stop by sometime soon and see what the deal is.

I've seen 2 movies recently: Silent Hill and Poseidon. Silent Hill rocked and scared the absolute bejesus out of me, namely because the one known as "Buckethead" was back with his big cleaver in midseason form, ripping this girl's skin off and throwing it against a church door. If that isn't bad ass, I'm not sure if anything is. The guy (or whatever he is) just stomps people all day and night. Menacing.

Poseidon was pretty good, but very short (90 minutes) and had no character development at all. The movie was essentially: Boat. Wave. People trying to get the hell out of the boat. I never saw the original version so I can't compare it. It was pretty intense and one of those triumph-of-human-spirit deals, but I don't know if I would've seen it without free movie passes. Silent Hill, a triumph-of-Buckethead deal, will be a DVD purchase the day it comes out.

That's the breakdown. Enjoy your week.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Recent Transpirings: April 8, 2006

I woke up this morning and thought, "I should get around to making that podcast I've had on the back burner for about 6 months." In a couple hours I had it recorded (actually sounds decent) and published via Libsyn. I've also created a separate blog specifically for the podcast. It's essentially the script that I read during recording, but I didn't think what I would be talking about on this blog and what I would be talking about in the podcast would always match up, so it's an entity unto itself. The new blog's URL is and the podcast itself is named "A Podcast for People Who Stutter" as opposed to the unbelievable cheesiness of "Fluencycast." You'll notice that the title of this blog is once again "My Stupid Mouth" though the URL will remain because it's a pain in the ass to go through the process of changing that.

I want to keep the podcast and accompanying blog as simple as possible. You'll also notice that the smarmy ramblings of the Pat Griffin you know and love is replaced with the "Hello everyone, my name is Patrick and I've created this podcast blah blah..." generic Pat Griffin. The template is stripped down and I want to keep the entries short. This is probably the best way to get this whole thing started. My Stupid Mouth will be the home to the more personal side of how stuttering affects my life (as well as graduate school updates and terribly misguided sports predictions) whereas Podcast PWS will be a more general, professional-sounding journal.

The first podcast recording is about 4 minutes, with a clip of "My Stupid Mouth" by John Mayer as my intro music. It's an introduction to why I've started this and I give a little background about myself. For future episodes I am planning to talk about news in the stuttering world and other issues in short 5-10 minute segments. I'll cover topics like Tiger Woods' 60 Minutes interview, developments of the stuttering medication Pagaclone, and any new therapy techniques I read about. If I used Libsyn properly, they send out all my information and RSS feed to iTunes, Yahoo Podcasts, and other podcast centers automatically and they should be posted in a few days if not sooner. Once they are posted, I will send emails to everyone at the Yahoo groups to try and do some advertising. I'm definitely excited for this now. I've been sitting on this idea for months and after a few false starts, it should be off the ground, only taking me several hours this morning.

So that's the podcast. As for other news, school is going well. I got my first real "A" for an exam after a semester and a half of "B"'s. Unlike last semester I won't be tight-rope-walking the 80-line. This semester has not nearly been as hard as the fall was, but there is much more tedious work, especially for Diagnostics. After several weeks of working to get individual and group projects finished, this next week shouldn't be too bad. I've been bringing my laptop to class for the past month or so and I have to say, I don't know what I did without it. In undergrad there was always "that guy" who brought his computer to class and he was always a nerd who I wanted to punch. Graduate school seems very different in that respect as everyone brings theirs. Sure, I pay attention less, but my notes are neat and I can type a hell of a lot faster than I can write. I get all the notes I need and when I get bored, there is always and MySpace. I tend to zone out in Aural Rehab and Adult Language Disorders (which I would be doing without the computer anyway, at least this way I have something to do) but in Diagnostics I'm too afraid to do anything but raise my hand and pay attention.

I am starting work back at Tatnuck Country Club on Monday (finally), this ending my financial hemorrhage. I definitely didn't think I would spend as much money as I have over the past few months since being laid off, but let's just say that after one paycheck I could double what currently occupies my bank accounts. Scary.

Frankly, I'm getting kind of sick of living in Worcester. As nice as this apartment is, my landlord gets on my nerves (the single most eccentric man I've ever met) and I try to avoid conversation with him at all costs. I don't need to hear how "his constitution is not well" when describing his food poisoning and what to do if I ever get it. Nor do I need to hear about what to do in case "we should meet our demise" when talking if he and his wife die while I'm living here. I don't care. Just ridiculousness when dealing with this guy.

Stuttering lately has been a little below the norm. Ups and downs as usual, but I think the podcast will really help that. Just today I've practiced for the first time in a while and I think the more I focus on the podcast the more motivated I will be to put the effort in more routinely. Especially with presentations coming up and my routine drive to work in the morning, I can get back into a groove.

Enough for now, make sure to check out that other blog and be on the lookout on iTunes if you see my name. Peace.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Telephone and Why I (expletive) Hate It....and Spring Break

Spring Break has finally arrived! As Young Jeezy would say, "YEEEAAH!!!" And how am I spending my time? Getting a tan? Checking out a wet T-shirt contest? Anything fun with these two girls on the left?...Nope: morphosyntactic analysis. Christ, even last year's expedition to Colonial Williamsburg and the Coca Cola museum in Atlanta had more pizzazz than this. I'm not too coherent right now and I don't feel like editing, so deal.

I figure I might as well get as much work out of the way as possible with the time I have off. I called my boss yesterday and he told me that he can't have me back at the golf course until the first week of April, so I have to ration whatever money I have left until then. That way I can work as much as humanly possible and start to rebuild my checking and savings accounts. If I get my homework done now, I figure I can work more than the 30 hours a week that I was working in the fall. I'm always happier when have something to do and have money in my pocket.

One of the other assignments we have this semester for Diagnostics is to give 4 different stardardized tests to different age groups (preschool, school-age, adolescent/adult, and one more of our choice). I was smart and got two adult tests done the first two weekends of the semester, which has left me with the two youngest age groups left to finish before April. I finally reserved the tests I need for this coming weekend and I intend to borrow a couple of my younger cousins. I've had the phone numbers for their parents and I have been avoiding making the calls all semester.

For most, if not all, people who stutter, the telephone is probably the most frightening part of life. Not to get all pitiful, but not much hurts more than being hung up on because the person you called didn't realize there was someone on the line or thought it was a prank call. It's damn frustrating and after years of avoiding the phone, using it regularly becomes difficult. In my field we often talk about the benefit of visual aids to auditory information, especially for people with hearing loss. If they can look at the person speaking, they can pick up visual cues to help them understand the message. I think that often works the same for me. If I am speaking to someone in person and I stutter, at least they can see that something is going on and maybe gather what I'm trying to get across, whether it's at a restaurant or line to order something and I can point to something on the menu (I always come back to the food-ordering), but when I am on the phone, especially with someone I don't know, I don't know what they are thinking and the situation becomes very awkward. I've gotten past some of those things, especially with ordering food. I often refer back to the unspoken agreement between Ethan and I about weekend pizza delivery: he would call, I would go downstairs and pick it up. Junior year I was forced to do it myself once when he was out and I've been able to since.

My cell phone is the single most useless piece of electronics that I own. I have the cheapest plan Verizon offers at 300 minutes per month and I bet I barely touch 30 of them. I will literally go weeks without making a phone call. Granted, I don't have as many phone calls to make that most people do. I try not to order food anymore (in the interest of saving money), I talk to my mom over instant messenger a few times a week and I go home often to see the family, I don't have a nightly call with a long-distance girlfriend, or anything else that most people use their little folding silver blinky things for. This past weekend I left my phone and jacket at Dan and Karen's, and I was debating picking it up whenever the next time I happen to be there. When I came to get it, Karen said "That must have been horrible, a weekend without your cell phone." Until Dan called my house on Saturday, I don't think I even realized it was missing.

Sometimes people will call me and leave drunk voicemails or just to chat, and instead of picking up, I often let it ring and call back later. A more likely scenario would be that I wait until they are online and IM them. It's not that I am afraid of the phone, it's that it's a pain in the ass. I'm not afraid of calling my friends and family, but it takes so much effort that I get no enjoyment out of the process of talking to them.

Calling a girl for a first date has always been hell, too. When I get numbers I try to get their screenname as well, just because it's easier, and I don't care if it seems unorthodox. If I want to make a good first impression, it tends to go better through typing, despite the fact that girls prefer talking on the phone. I have a better chance of coming off well over instant messenger than I do on the phone. I think I'm playing the percentages. I tend to get the third degree from girls when I say I wait a week before I'll make that first call (because 2 days is normally industry standard, according to Swingers), but the truth is, I wait so long is because it usually takes me that long to work up the balls to go through with it. Like I said in the past, it's hard to seem cool and confident when you can't get a word out. I know girls will say "it doesn't matter if you stutter, if she likes you, she'll like you no matter what" and I've found that to be true, but when you are in the situation it feels different, especially when you are just meeting someone. Other guys can at least act the part, but if I'm nervous at all, it will show big time. I'm trying to think of a time when I just made a call in a reasonable amount of time without really hesitating (maybe Jenny?) but I know they are few and far between.

Personal life and woman issues aside, my biggest problem is going to be making phone calls in clinic to make and confirm appointments. I find it funny that the parts of the job that other people probably won't give a second thought to are the ones that scare me the most. I will be practiced and prepared in the future but I don't know how those will go, especially if I know I'm just going to rile myself up by getting worried. I've been reading more and hearing through different people about how antidepressants and anxiety medications can be used to reduce stuttering and I'm curious about that. I took Lexipro for a few months junior year and I don't remember how that affected my stuttering. If I don't remember it probably didn't help much. Though, I don't really think I got any benefit from that medication considering I was on the lowest dosage (other than being able to get drunk off one beer), but perhaps I would have better luck with another kind. I'll have to talk to my doctor about that, because I want to make sure things go well. The mood boost and improved focus couldn't hurt either...

In other news, my NCAA Tournament brackets are toast. I had a good first round, picking 72% of the games, landing me in 4th place. But one by one, upsets occurred and now I'm left with 8 teams left in the Sweet 16. I'm stuck in 50th place and no money in sight. Ohio St., one of my Final Four teams, was upset by Georgetown. I was wrong about BC and Gonzaga, and even though UConn is still alive, they are playing without a "sense of urgency" as the analysts say and will lose in the Final Four. Rudy Gay will be a lottery bust, I can tell you that. LSU's Glen "Big Baby" Davis is immediately one of my new favorite college players (in addition to J.J. Redick and Tyler Hansbrough) with an even better nickname. Big Baby! My revised, non-binding national champion pick is Villanova.

Till next time.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Recent Transpirings and March Madness

(Note: The date says 3/9 but I started writing the draft then.)

I wanted to update some things that have been going on, and just for kicks and the fact that I had pictures laying around, a picture of Cadbury my trusty guinea pig, Greta thinking about eating her, the man-child known as Tub Cat, and if you haven't seen the Mustang yet, that, too.

I've skipped the last three Toastmasters meetings because of midterms, papers, and projects (supplemented with Tiger Woods 06 and NBA Live 06), and considering I should be starting work soon in the next week or so (provided Rob calls me), I'm not sure if I'm going to go again for a while. The meetings I went to were nice, but because of my schedule and my dire need for money (and they started asking for dues), it might not be worth it. If I have a Monday off here and there I'll go, but it probably won't be a consistent thing. It's a shame but in a sense it wasn't really giving me the feeling I thought it would. I guess speaking in front of people was not as frightening as I thought. It's the little things like introductions and phone calls that bother me. In any case, I had a nice time, met some nice people. I know a lot of people who stutter are so afraid of speaking in public, and the people I told about it seem to be very impressed. At least I'll always have my "Best Speaker" ribbon and trophy pictures. Hopefully I'll be able to stop by in the future for a brush-up.
Other things:

One of our assignments for Diagnostics was to administer a standardized vocabulary test to someone in front of Dr. Larrivee for her to grade our skills as a diagnostician (to the layperson: someone who gets money to give and grade standardized tests). Since we were not allowed to give the test to someone in our program (we are supposed to be familiar with the test and would throw off results), I had my dad drive up. I was happy that he was so eager to come up, and my mom came also and we went out to lunch after.

I was surprised with how well I did. I prepared for hours earlier in the day memorizing the difficult words (especially "terpsichorean"). I had a couple of small blocks, though my major problems were that I pronounced a couple words incorrectly (namely, "indigent" as "indignant") and that I let my dad know which ones he got wrong by telling him "good job" when he was right and saying nothing when he was wrong. Dr. Larrivee gave me 10 out of 10 (which is great because I heard she makes most people do it over) and she told me overall I did very well. But the thing about Dr. Larrivee is, even though she always seems to give a decent grade, she will still criticize the hell out of you (I am still having my Vietnam flashbacks of last semester when she told me one of my literary reviews was filled with "good points, marred by bad writing, poor grammar, and terrible organization." She gave me a more-than-acceptable 83). She told me that my stuttering worries her because she has noticed more problems lately--which there certainly have been-- and that by the time I get into clinic in the fall I need to be better prepared because, as she so delicately put it: "I don't want there to be any reason for you to fail clinic." ....Are you friggin serious? Fail clinic?! That was something that hadn't crossed my mind as a legitimate scenario. I figured it might aggrivate my case manager and confuse parents from time to time, but I didn't think my clinic grade would be affected. Even with my perfect test administration score and the fact that I know when I apply myself that I can control my stuttering, I left that day feeling like shit. Later that evening I ended up going home for the weekend to spend time with my family and Greta and see if I could get back to feeling normal. Sometimes I feel like I can take criticism, and other times I cannot. I'm going to have to have a thicker skin by the time I'm in clinic. I don't want to be shaken easily, especially having to deal with an additional obstacle that the other grad students do not.

Needless to say, I talked to Ann a couple days later and had her put me in the pool for summer clinic sessions. She said she wasn't sure if there were open spots and she couldn't guarantee me anything. I'm gonna be scared shitless of not being prepared so I know I'll work as hard as I can whether I'm getting therapy or not. I never really thought it was weird to have a grad student clincian when I was at UMass, but to be getting therapy from a girl in my program who is in the same classes as I am might be an awkward experience. Whatever they want me to do, I'm down with. Just don't fail me in clinic, for christsake.

My last midterm is Thursday, 4:30-7:30, so once that is over I'm heading back here to get hammered and watch the start of the March Madness. I've been filling out my brackets and I have high aspirations. Two years ago I ran roughshod over everyone in my dad's office pool and had the damn thing won before the Final Four had even started, and this year I expect to do the same. So far with my first draft my Final Four is UConn, Duke, Memphis, and Ohio St. with UConn over Duke in the championship game (I think you can pencil in Ohio St. for national champions next year once Greg Oden gets there. Yikes, he is one large 18-year-old-who-looks-like-he's-pushing-40). I have Gonzaga losing in the round of 32 because that's just what Gonzaga does. Adam Morrison is a great player but the Zags never do anything in the tournement. I don't take Boston College seriously in the tourney either, because they always lose in the round of 32. Those two teams seem to be fashionable picks, and whenever everyone leans toward a team like that, go the other way. I don't have a lot of big upsets other than those two and a couple 9's over 8's, but it's still a first draft. There is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS a 12 over a 5, and this year my pick is Kent St. over Pitt. I'm gonna need that $250, so let's go Rudy Gay and the Huskies!

Remember, when you're right 52% of the time, you're wrong 48% of the time.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Famous People Who Stutter

f There was an article I read at a sports website that mentioned famous athletes who stutter. I knew a few of the names: such as former Celtic and current television announcer Bill Walton, videogame demigod Bo Jackson, Denver Nugget forward/asshole Kenyon Martin, San Diego Charger running back Darren Sproles--but two jumped off the list that I never imagined: the exiled Johnny Damon and greatest golfer of all-time Tiger Woods.

(side note: Johnny Damon is not a backstabber or a traitor. He took the money just like any of us would have. So let it go.) Anyway...

Johnny D surprised me, but after reading that article and hearing more about how his stuttering held him back when he was in the minor leagues and was afraid of talking to the media only to seek therapy and gain self-confidence as he rose to the majors with Kansas City, it makes more sense. As I hear him speak in interviews I can tell that he is picking and choosing his words. People often think that Damon sounds like an moron while speaking to the media, but from my perspective and experience it really just seems like he is avoiding words he thinks he will have trouble on. And I don't blame him. I can't imagine having to go through that every night after a game or during a live press conference. I've come a long way, but not that far. Luckily for me, unless my 40-yard-dash time mysteriously drops under 4.5 seconds, I won't have to.

Tiger Woods, on the other hand, I REALLY had no idea. He was quoted in the article as saying something along the lines of "I stuttered when I was younger so I went to a special school where they taught me to speak the right way." If only it was that easy for all of us. I'm guessing that Big Tig had normal childhood dysfluencies that many children have and simply grew out of it with the help of early intervention, but who knows.

As people who stutter, we are often told about famous actors, athletes, politicians, and historical figures who have dealt with stuttering problems themselves in an attempt to inspire us to work past it and become successful, meaningful contributors to society. Names off the top of my head include Walton, Winston Churchill, Jack Welch, Charles Darwin, Moses, James Earl Jones, and to a much, much lesser extent, Stuttering John from The Howard Stern Show. I have been trying to think how these celebrities and quasi-celebrities have really gotten over the fear of speaking and how they conquer their stuttering in such a high-profile career (granted, Stuttering John has made his career out of his stuttering, but that's not the point).

Last night at the NSA Stuttering Support Group meeting, Dr. Melnick, a stuttering SLP named Steve, and I had a discussion about these famous people who supposedly stutter and why we have never really heard them have any difficulty on television, in movies, or on the red carpet. Steve's theory was that they are always playing a character, not themselves. For example, almost any time I change my voice, whether I'm singing in the car, whispering, talking in an accent, yelling, or performing one of my abominable impressions of Stewie Griffin, my stuttering almost always goes away. I imagine "L-L-L-L-Luke I am y-y-y-your f-f-f-ather" would not be in the pantheon of memorable movie lines if Jones stuttered all the way through it. The same goes for Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, Samual L. Jackson, and any other stuttering actor.

If anything, I think the lesson to learn from these famous people who stutter is that stuttering is no excuse to not follow your dreams. The way to transcend stuttering is to find something in your life that means more to you than the way you speak. I know that I chose my career based on my stuttering, and while I know it will be rewarding in the long run I often wonder what it would be like if I had chosen something else, particularly sports management. Considering my favorite days of the year are in order: 1) the NFL Draft weekend 2) the NBA Draft 3) the NBA trade deadline 4) the MLB trade deadline and 5) the day free agency starts in any sport, sports management should have been a perfect fit for me. While at UMass I thought about getting into it but I thought that if I stuttered I wouldn't be able to make phone calls to teams trying to get rid of Brian Scalabrine's absurd contract, negotiate with Drew Rosenhaus, or just generally project the confidence I would need to be successful in that kind of job. In hindsight I sometimes wish I had gone down that path. At least when I am working as an SLP somewhere in a couple years I can encourage young kids to follow their passion. Not to say I won't enjoy my career (though I've already had my fill of graduate school), but potentially working for a professional sports team would be something special. I guess I'll just have to live vicariously through NBA Live 2006. With my New Orleans Hornets I just completed a blockbuster trade for Darko (see left; I figured people would recognize Damon, Tiger, and Vader, but Darko isn't any good so people don't know him.) Anyway, I'm turning Darko into a star, something Pistons GM Joe Dumars couldn't do, so maybe there is still hope for me afterall.

Monday, February 13, 2006

::Insert Relevant Song Title Here::

As I'm cruising iTunes I'm realizing I'm out of catchy song titles for these blogs...
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Back from a snowy weekend home, so I finally got my hands on my sister's digital camera (half of which I technically own). I also figured out the painfully tedious process of publishing photos on Blogger (I had to download 2 entire programs just to get it to work, completely unnecessary). In any case, here is a picture of the "Best Speaker" award I won last week at Toastmasters(and yes those are Christmas lights in the background. It's always Christmas at the Griffin house). I had to return it at today's meeting, but I came home with another, for "Best Table Topic," that looks exactly the same except the title is different. I was unexpectedly called to the podium today to talk about the Olympics and what I thought of when I saw the athletes accept their gold medals. I had no idea what to say, and blurted out some kind of I-wish-I-had-that-opportunity thing. I stuttered through something so completely incoherent with no real ending whatsoever, but I think I'm still at the stage where they think it's great that I'm even up there speaking in the first place, so they voted for me. I was also assigned the job of 'Um' Counter, so I listened to everyone speak and had to tally their "um"s and report at the end of the meeting. Some of these people are incredibly dynamic speakers. This one guy Anthony should have his own talk show or something, he's very good. He is the kind of speaker I wish I could be, and hopefully through enough practice at these meetings I will be in time. He's 40 and been doing this for years while I'm 23 and been to three Toastmasters meetings. I think I've got time.

During my meeting with Dr. Meyer last week, she told me she felt I wasn't able to really convey the message of my presentation because of my stuttering. She said my content and hand-out were good, but in conveying the ideas of my presentation (about hearing loss support groups), the stuttering was distracting. We need 4 out of 5 on our presentations as part of the program requirements, and she gave me a 3. I didn't even think it was that bad, but in hindsight it wasn't that good either. I have been writing about how most of the time I just want to speak and not really worry about stuttering, but situations like presentations and speeches are times where it is important that I am as fluent as possible, so by her reminding me of that, I think I will be forced to be better prepared. Granted, it didn't really help that I started presenting at 7:35 during a 4:30-7:30 class on a Thursday night when everyone was looking at the clock wanting to get the hell out of there, but nonetheless it could have gone better. I know what she meant and I didn't get defensive, but it still hurt a little bit because I'm not used to hearing it. Some times I feel that professors are actually too easy on me in terms of my presentation grades. Even Larrivee gave me a 23.5 out of 25 during our Artic presentations last semester, and there was no way I deserved that. Being patronized is worse than being made fun of, and it gets frustrating because I can't really defend myself. If someone makes fun of me I can at least send a "Fuck Off!" his or her way, but if someone is being extra-nice to me because they think I'm different or slow, it drives me nuts because I'm afraid of overreacting.

[On the superficial level, being patronized has it's advantages because in the short term it makes things easier, but in the end it just makes life harder down the road. When I was at UMass, I would go to the Mullins Center every morning for Dunkin' Donuts coffee (I singlehandedly kept that place in business). One day when I was trying to order I stuttered badly and the counter girl just ignored me and went on to the next person. I stopped taking that personally a long time ago, but it's still pretty damn aggravating. There was an old woman who worked there who saw what happened and yelled at the girl and demanded that she take my order. I felt kind of embarrassed, but I got free coffee for a week that the old woman had ready for me when I walked in. Now, free coffee is a good thing, even though she became a co-dependent for my $3 per day habit, but it still makes me feel like I'm being treated like a lesser person. A few Oh-it's-okay-honey-I'll-take-care-of-it's might seem like I'm being helped, but I'm not a child. I'm a grown-ass man...well, not quite, but I'm getting there.]

If anything, I think Dr. Meyer's comments were a wakeup call to prepare myself for situations where my fluency is just as important as the content of what I am talking about. A few months ago I wrote about how I found it difficult to find motivation to practice speaking because I spend so much time by myself with few important speaking situations. With another presentation for her class on Thursday and with plenty of time and a little added pressure, I'm going to put more effort it and I expect the presentation to go well. She said if I do well on this one she will forget about the 3 on the first one. That should be motivation enough right there.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Toastmasters, Part Deux

Quick update. Consider this the "More Cowbell" section of my blog.

Just got back from Marlboro. I gave my speech to the Toastmasters meeting today, and, as I guaranteed, won Best Speaker. Unfortunately, I get to keep the trophy for a week, then return it on Monday because they just recycle the same one every time. I think I'm going to parade it around Massachusetts like it was the Red Sox World Series Trophy. I did however, receive a ribbon congratulating me on a job well done for my first speech which is now on my bulletin board next to the picture of the Drink-O Board. Everyone seemed to like my speech. I talked about growing up stuttering and how I'm working to overcome it. I feel lucky that for any type of medium where I'm introducing myself and giving background, be it a speech or a personal statement for applying to college, I have a prepackaged topic ready to go. It was evaluated well and I was given criticism about how to improve it for next time, namely speaking louder and using more gestures. I think overall I did very well considering I wrote most of it this morning. For whatever reason, I have the ability to be honest and candid every time I speak or write (which is why, for better or worse, my blogs have always been so personal. I don't know any other way to be, it just seems fake if I don't tell the truth). People are usually drawn to me because of that, and I think it's a good thing. It shows that almost no matter what, I'm not trying to bullshit anyone.

On a conflicting note, Dr. Meyer emailed me today saying that she was concerned about my presentation last week in Aural Rehab, writing that we should "brainstorm ways to make it easier for [me] next time." I am not quite sure what she means, because I think I did a decent job with eye contact, projecting my voice, and getting all my points across. I stuttered a few times, but nothing that really took anything away from the presentation. I was the last person to speak and the class time was already up by the time I got up there, so I felt a little rushed. We'll talk on Wednesday to see what she means. I don't want to get all defensive on her and release the hounds, but I just won a goddamn trophy proving my skills as an orator are at least adequate. Unless she gives me some trophy or plaque that says "You Suck", I don't think she has a point.

I didn't get the score right (who does), but my Steelers pick was correct. I didn't think the game was any good. Was it me, or was that the most anticlimactic Superbowl in years? After it was over, the place seemed silent. Even though the crowd was 75% Steelers fans, it was dead in there. That's what you get for having two boring teams play the biggest game of the year in a boring city.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Toastmasters, NSA, and The Superbowl

This past week I finally accomplished a couple of goals that I'd been planning for months: attending a Toastmasters meeting and an NSA Stuttering Support Group meeting. It took me a while to finally get myself to go, but both were worth it.

Toastmasters, as I've explained before, is a public speaking organization. When I arrived at the meeting in Marlboro, I found out it was entirely comprised of middle-aged 3Com employees (a company I didn't think existed anymore, but maybe I was just thinking of the ballpark). I felt out of place but everyone in the group was very friendly and welcoming. Everyone seemed like seasoned public speakers, making eye contact and speaking with emotion even when discussing basic chapter functions. During a typical Toastmasters meeting, there are introductions, 2 people who give speeches based on the manual (you need to make 10 successful speeches before you are an official "Competent Toastmaster"), two people evaluate the speakers, one person times the speeches to make sure they are in the required range, an "Um" counter, and a section called Table Topics where people give 2-minute impromptu speeches based on topics given to them by another member. At the end of the meeting, speakers and the various jobs are chosen for the next meeting, and a vote is taken for the best speaker (the winner receiving a little glass trophy). During my first meeting, I didn't actually say anything, but I did volunteer to be a Speaker during the next meeting this Monday (something that drew Oohs and Ahhs from people who might not have expected me to be so forward immediately). As corny as it might be, I can never turn down a chance for a trophy. I think winning an award based on my speaking prowess would be pretty ironic. I'm writing a 5-minute speech about my background, my stuttering, and why I've chosen my field. It might not be the Heisman, (God, I wish it was the Heisman) but I think I have what it takes to win this week. I'm the Reggie Bush of public speaking. If anybody is in a corporate setting and needs to give presentations, I highly suggest Toastmasters, as there is probably a chapter near you, wherever you are. These people are serious about their public speaking, so if you want that promotion, Mr. Fancy Suit & Tie, go to and find a meeting.

Second item on the agenda last Monday was the local NSA Stuttering Support Group meeting at Worcester State. Last semester my Monday class with Dr. Wicka really cramped my style and I never had the time or motivation to go, but this semester I am free those nights. Run by Dr. Melnick, the NSA meeting was very similar to the ones I had attended at UMass, but fewer people attended (four people total including myself and Dr. Melnick). We still talked about our stuttering and addressed some common topics. I was hoping for more people and hopefully next month there will be, but it was still nice to go and I feel like I'm getting involved again. Always a good feeling.

So that's what's been going on. I'll give my speech on Monday and I'll update everyone on how that goes (something tells me I'll need to buy some trophy-cleaner). My Superbowl pick is Pittsburgh to win outright, 31-17, over Seattle. As much as I want Seattle to win, Pittsburgh is a team of destiny: winning three on the road, Jerome Bettis, and Big Ben's cool under pressure. I don't like Seattle, but once the Patriots win again next year, people will forget about Seattle just like they forgot about Tampa Bay in 2003. In any case, if the Pats can't win it this year, at least Indy won't either. We can thank the Steelers for that.

Till next week.

Monday, January 30, 2006

My Father, The Hero

This past weekend I went home to administer a language test to my sister (which took far longer than it should have, because when asked to create sentences with words that I gave her, she came up with smart-ass responses like "Let us both go to the matinee!") My ulterior motive for going home was to speak with my dad about stuttering. After speaking with Dr. Melnick, he mentioned to me that my father would be a good resource for dealing with the mental aspects of how to not let stuttering stop you, despite the fact that he had received no therapy. I had never really thought about it, I always made sure to mention "Well, my father also stutters" when I explain my stuttering to people, but I had never even thought about the fact that we never once spoke about it.

I had always viewed my father as someone who was very successful. He is a great father and provides very well for our family, is a great manager of people and the towns he works for, and has a good group of golfing buddies he spends a lot of time with. He was an unbelievable athlete in high school and college and though he was never drafted, certainly had the chance to play baseball on the professional level. If you've spent any amount of time with me, I've probably told many of his stories that he's told me: how he played with Jerry Remy in Little League, and after Remy moved they were rivals in high school, each was the best player in their respective towns (I never know if I have the pitching line right, but I think my dad threw a 3-hit shutout of Somerset, and the three hits were three triples by The RemDawg). He lost a Cape Cod League playoff game 1-0 against future major league closer Jeff Reardon, and he was still on the Wareham Gatemen's all-time ERA list until future Cy Young winner Barry Zito knocked him out of the top-ten a few years ago. He was thrown out of basketball practice by then-assistant head coach (now head coach and all-time great) Jim Boeheim while at Syracuse (he used to watch the practices at Providence College and when he went to graduate school in Syracuse, he assumed he could do the same, but when Boeheim saw him in the stands he yelled "Hey, get the fuck out of here!"). When he played high school basketball, the opposing coach at Westport High School was Jim Calhoun, now of UConn fame. There are countless stories that I tell all of my friends, just to say that my dad had done those things. I'm sure people get sick of them because I tell them so much. It sounds like I'm bragging--and I am--but I'm very proud of my father and maybe deep down I wish I had my own sports heroics, but since I don't I try to live vicariously through his memories. He's pitched in Fenway Park and played basketball in the Boston Garden, both as part of high school all-star games. Part of me feels like because I gave up on sports so quickly when I was younger that I disappointed him. I know that isn't true and he's told me that a hundred times, but I still wish I had my own sports stories to tell (at least ones that don't involve me breaking my nose at baseball camp).

What has always amazed me about my father is that despite the fact that he stutters, he has a job where he is in the public eye, at least on the local level. He is in the newspaper routinely, his job interviews are on television, and gets recognized by people he doesn't even know all over Plymouth (including police officers who let him out of speeding tickets, a luxury I don't have). If Plymouth became a city and there was an election for mayor (which has been debated), my dad would win in a landslide, and that isn't an exaggeration (though he has said he has no interest in being mayor: "Instead of golfing on Saturday mornings, I'd be cutting a ribbon at some convention center.") I had always assumed that because of his job and success in that job, he had conquered his fear of speaking, something I have yet to do.

In our 23 years as father-and-son, my dad and I never once had a conversation about the part of our lives that connects us the most. Because I have spent so much time around him, I tend not to notice it after a while, but he doesn't stutter as often or as seriously as I do when I have a bad block. After my conversation with Dr. Melnick, I decided it would be a good idea to get the ball rolling. I wrote him an email a few months ago suggesting we talk, and he responded favorably. However, during my time home over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday, I was afraid to bring it up. I wasn't afraid of his reaction, but when talking about something touchy, it's hard to throw it into a conversation about football. I made it a point to email my dad and make plans to go out to lunch to specifically talk about stuttering. We went to the 99 on Saturday afternoon, and had the best, most meaningful conversation we have ever had.

We learned more about each other in that 1-hour conversation than we had in 23 years. He told me he never once talked about stuttering with anyone other than my mother. I finally got to tell him my thoughts about therapy, why it works sometimes and other times not, and why I don't want to feel pressure to speak fluently when I'm home with my family, something that always confused him. I got to learn about his fears, he got to learn about mine, and we both learned how similar we really are. Growing up, we always butted heads about seemingly nothing, no doubt as an underlying symptom of the guilt we both shared about each other's stuttering. I know it hurt him that I gave up on things when I was younger, because he felt the same way and wanted me to have opportunities that he didn't have. He told me about the guilt he carried with him about being genetically responsible for my stuttering, and it felt good for me to relieve him of that. I told him that it hurt to feel pressured to speak at home with the people who should accept me no matter how I speak. He said that even though he was a great athlete and accomplished in his life, he still experienced the same self-esteem problems I had, proof that no matter how talented you are in different areas of your life, the pain that stuttering is pervasive enough to cancel that out. All in all, it was the best conversation I've ever had with anyone.

There always used to be something separating my father and I. We were close in one way, but very far apart in another. By having this conversation I think we made the connection that was missing. Before I left for Worcester yesterday, we had a sad goodbye, but I know we are both happier now because we finally understand each other after all these years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I'm out of my post-Christmas lull and motivated once again. I just celebrated my 23rd birthday, classes (and therefore productivity) have started again, my sister gave me a new baby guinea pig to keep me company around the apartment, I've been hitting the gym pretty hard, and I'll start working again before I know it. All of this has brought me back to life and I'm starting to feel like I did earlier in the fall.

With all of this motivation comes the podcast I've been planning for months and I've been working pretty hard to get that completed. It will be called "Fluencycast: A Podcast for People Who Stutter." I've decided on this title due to the fact that "Pat's Stupid Mouth" is too ambiguous and would not be recognized immediately in a directory such as iTunes or iPodder. I started this blog as a way of expressing myself to my friends, but the podcast is not going to be something that friends will find that interesting, especially if you don't already listen to podcasts in the first place. My goal is that other people who stutter will enjoy it and will find it to be supportive and sympathetic. I recorded several demos and uploaded one to iTunes, but it only shows a 1-minute clip and my voice sounds terrible (I definitely need to work on my Radio Voice). If you search for it at the iTunes Music Store, you can find it, but don't bother downloading it because that version currently sucks (though it is cool to actually be listed on iTunes, and it's still better than "Laffy Taffy"). I'll ask the guy from Middlebury who set up the first feed for me to create a new one with the new name. There are so many steps to podcasting that I didn't realize, but I am learning more about it thanks to the "Podcasting for Dummies" book I bought. I am hoping to have a good version of that within two weeks. As time goes on I'll buy a better microphone and better recording software and I'll get the hang of hosting a show. I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, I've decided to scrap the plans for the website for now. I purchased the domain, but I'm realizing that anything posted on the site could be posted on this blog, including links and pictures. I also don't like the name "Pat's Stupid Mouth" anymore. I think it's catchy, but overall I've gotten tired of it and it doesn't seem professional. I'm eating the $19.95 per year or whatever it cost, but the effort it would take to build the site would not be worth the content at this point. Thanks to those who offered to help.

My stuttering still has not improved lately, but I have not practiced at all and I am not as concerned with it right now. I am trying to stutter more openly with people. Practicing with a tape recorder by myself gives me some carryover, but what I need to do is become more comfortable talking to anyone whether I stutter or not, and with that comfort should come better fluency. One thing Dr. Melnick told me is that stuttering therapy should be used for when you do not want to stutter, not necessarily for everyday speech. That is something I've written about and always believed but it felt good to hear from someone else who stutters, especially someone with his Ph.D. in the subject.

I have contacted Toastmasters to see if I could attend their meeting tomorrow morning (January 19), and though they have not returned my email yet, I am going to show up and see what happens assuming I can find the place. Speaking in front of strangers will be a great way to desensitize myself to what other people think, and it could really help prepare myself when I record future podcasts.

The next NSA meeting is January 30, and now that I don't have class on Monday nights, I can finally attend that as well and I am really looking forward to it.

My old friend Brandon told me freshman year that, "the more you sit, the more life sucks." Sitting around for the last month or two has been rough, but now that I'm back in a routine and meaningful things are getting accomplished (and a baby guinea pig is running around my apartment), things are looking brighter.

Till next time.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Purple Pills

I've had a hard time thinking of topics to write about lately. I've written about many stuttering-related issues from my experiences. I'm sure friends who read this aren't exactly waiting with bated breath for every new blog I write (because seriously, how interested can a non-stutterer be?), but I enjoy this as a way to get things off my chest and help explain to people what happens to me when I talk and why I feel the way that I feel about it sometimes. I have always felt like a misunderstood person, and this is the best way for me to express my feelings. Lately, though, I haven't felt very good. I started writing this as a first step to promote stuttering awareness and eventually become a voice in the stuttering community. At first I felt really positive, but my outlook has been different.

I haven't been able to get a word out in a few weeks. I am in the middle of a stretch where my fluency is very bad and I've stopped wanting to talk because of how tiring it is and how much it hurts. I can't seem to control my breathing, I can't start anything smoothly, and when I do get words out, they are very fast and out of control. My SpeechEasy hasn't helped lately because of how severe my intial blocks are, though when I am around people I still wear it. The two weeks home for Christmas were nice at first, but again I became very bored and depressed, and I feel like my fluency went the way of my mood. I am currently dogsitting, which will be a few bucks for the week, but I'm spending it with a minature schnauzer named Watson, a Grishom novel, and omelettes seemingly at every meal. My energy levels and motivation to work on my speech are much lower than they were for the first few months of the school year, and I attribute this to the isolation. Who knows, maybe this is just downtime and I will pick myself up and get back in gear once school starts, but sometimes I worry that I will always be a tortured soul, no matter how much I say I want to change.

My landlord slipped a newspaper article under my door the other day about an experimental medication for stuttering. I called the number to see if I qualified, but the closest research site is in New York City. The medication is a failed psychiatric drug for panic attacks called Pagaclone, but the experimenters noted that several of the subjects who stuttered had drastic improvements when they were on the medication, but once taken off, went back to their pre-study stuttering severity. Obviously, I am intrigued by this. Actually, "intrigued by" doesn't really cut it here. Considering how badly I've stuttered lately and how bad I've felt, the correct phrase would be "desperate for." If this medicine gets approved by the FDA, I will be popping pills like I was...Lindsay Lohan! As much as I want to think I have improved my opinions about my own stuttering, the fact that I am praying to get this pill as another potential cure shows that I'm not where I need to be. There is a difference between working on stuttering and improving it and being free of it. I've written about this a lot, but so much time needs to be spent on maintaining fluency that a lot of the enjoyment of speaking is lost. Going for a drive is fun, but you lose some enjoyment if you don't take your eyes of the speedometer and white-knuckle the steering wheel while keeping your hands on 10 and 2 the whole time. You just want to let loose, and let loose without the bumper falling of the back if you step on the gas too hard. I imagine there is a certain freedom in just being able to speak your mind, raise your hand, tell a timely joke, interject, interupt, introduce yourself, give a speech, talk to a girl, or anything that fluent people take for granted. I know I'm lying to myself, and in my heart I am getting my hopes up, thinking that this Pagaclone pill will some day cure me and others, and that if I am in fact cured of my stuttering that I will be happy. Because of course, the only people in the world who feel depressed are those who stutter...that's completely rational thinking...

All of that being said, it still comes down to my choice of whether or not to let my stuttering hold my back. Earlier in the year, I chose not to let it, and I had some improvements. Nothing life-changing, but I was making progress. Right now, I've been an excuse machine. "I need my old practice tape!" turned into "I need my SpeechEasy!" which has now turned into "I need these pills!" Bill Parcells once said, "if you give your players an excuse to lose, they will." That's why football coaches don't talk about injuries and off-the-field distractions, because once you admit that something other than preparation and effort will have an effect on the outcome, the team will most likely lose the game. It's just what happens. That's why Belichick doesn't talk about how the team is crippled, he responds with, "Every team has injuries. Injuries are a part of football." The Patriots have had major players injured in the past and they've won three Superbowls in the last four years. If ever there was a better example of why not to give excuses for poor performance, I'd like to hear it.

I know the right path to take to accept both my stuttering and myself as a stutterer, and it isn't a quick fix. But when deep down all you want is to talk normal just like everyone else, you can't help but keep looking for the magic device or pill. Sometimes I don't think I'm strong enough to do it the right way, but if I don't I'll be a bad example and a fraud.

Why do I always feel like I'm sitting on the fence?