The coke is still in my system

Before you get worried and call poison control, let me just explain the title of this post. Last week, I said my week was like a coke fueled day-in-the-life of drug-dealing, gun-selling, gravy-making gangster Henry Hill.

Yet it turns out, this week, was more like Henry Hill’s day than last week. I’m sure this has happened to you. Just when you think life can not get busier, more disorienting, it does. As if Time, with his good buddies Gravity and Death, are laughing in the bathroom, getting high on coke.

Haley turns 13 on Friday. And my intentions were to spend the week crafting a post about how I began this blog when she was 8 and how it has been my greatest honor witnessing her grow into a small adult. On Sunday night, I began outlining. And then Monday came. And my good intentions spoiled like Henry Hill’s unstirred gravy.


A friend kindly orchestrated a family photo shoot, at a local park, for my book and for our personal photo album. The weather was gorgeous, the kids smiled, and no one fell in the pond.

Later, I received the fear-inducing 2nd Covid vaccine shot. I was concerned how the vaccine would play with my broken brain, yet despite feeling a little tired, I did not have any adverse side-effects. What was my elixir for avoiding a 2nd shot hangover? I ate an entire chicken pot pie for dinner that night.

After the pot pie, I thought about writing Haley’s birthday post and fell asleep on the couch.


The kids went to school, and Cindy and I finally had a day to ourselves. Just as I began writing, Cindy pressured me into going shopping with the promise of lunch afterwards. Our first in-restaurant date in more than a year was at a local pizza joint and we ate off paper plates. Romantic.


I had another health evaluation for retirement. This one focused on my cognitive functionality. The evaluation was held in a poorly lit office in what the French would call, “merde.” Or what a Philadelphian would call, “shithole.”

The office instructed me to arrive early, which I did. Then waited 35 minutes to be called. As I waited, I scribbled notes for Haley’s birthday post, but this “merde” was the least creative place I’ve ever been. No windows. Sterile white walls and sterile white tile. And no one was smiling. Except for the gentleman in the corner who had a chinstrap beard like Abraham Lincoln and wore leopard print yoga pants like Lizzo.

When called, a psychiatrist led me down a hallway from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest until he ushered me into a tiny white room, where someone no doubt received electroshock therapy.

The test was a 90 minute intellectual gauntlet. First, I was instructed to identify patterns in a glossy book you would find on the shelves in a kindergarten room. Next, the psychiatrist asked me a series of Trivial Pursuit questions like, “Who wrote Hamlet?”, “What is the capital of Italy?”, “At what temperature does water boil?” Finally, I was asked to answer math problems, like adding and subtracting fractions, without pen, paper, calculator, or Google assistance.

Later, when I returned home to my writing room, I couldn’t write. I just kept thinking about the test and how I should probably get a math tutor.


4:10 am.

Cindy: Someone is in our attic.

Me: It’s probably the rain.

Cindy: No. Someone is in our attic.

Me: It’s probably the wind.

Cindy: No. Listen.

I roll on my back and listen. She’s right. Someone, with claws, is in our attic. My first thought was it’s probably the mutant superhero Wolverine. But the attic is barely a foot high where Wolverine is crawling. No way could Wolverine fit in that space. I rub my eyes and, with a clearer head, conclude it’s not Wolverine. Maybe a mouse or a raccoon or a bear cub, but it’s definitely something natural from the suburban pines. Something I can worry about in the morning. I fall back to sleep while Cindy sits up, listening to the attic beast until her alarm rings.

Cindy goes to work and the kids go to school and except for the clawing and scuttling of attic beast, the house is quiet.

I pour a cup of coffee, open my laptop, and finally begin writing Haley’s birthday post.

What do you say to a newly minted teenager? How do you assure them all the confusion and fear and frustration they feel is normal? In fact, what they feel is what you feel? How do you get them to understand the contradiction that time is astonishingly short but life is a long journey with many twists and turns?

I sometimes have a silly fear Haley and I do not have a lot in common. And sometimes I have to remind myself, Haley and I are a lot alike. With nervous excitement, we’re both entering new phases in our lives. We both enjoy reading and writing. We both like to sit and wonder. We both like to laugh.

In the years to come, I know a lot of my dadvice will fall on deaf teenage ears. But for Haley’s 13th birthday, I have a simple hope. I hope Haley keeps trying. Keeps trying to find who she is, what she needs to say, and what she stands for. Keeps trying to be kind. Keeps trying when no one is looking. Keeps trying to find joy. Keeps trying despite distractions. Like the pot pies, the urge to go shopping, and the animals in the attic. And keeps trying to have a sense of humor about it all.

Be well,


PS: I want to give some love to the book, “Wandering Words” by my friend Gail Boenning. It’s an alphabetized book of soulful discoveries and private reflections and it’s available on Amazon.

I think you would enjoy it. I know I did.

If you like this post, you may also like:

A list of things I dislike about adulthood


A letter to my son about his dreams


Speech Therapy 


I laughed so hard my tooth fell out



Need some encouragement? Some perspective? This hardworking, almost-handsome, suburban soccer dad can help. Subscribe and, like a pizza, get my posts delivered to your door (your email inbox). No spam. Just posts.


Jay Armstrong is a writer, blogger, speaker, and a former award-winning high school English teacher. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents and a beer with his friends)

Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time. 

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2 comments found

  1. Just had a nice talk with Gail Siggelakis about how much you meant to me as a teacher. The only teacher, almost ten years later, that I remember your lessons on The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember your stories and your writing tips. I never cared much for school except your class, the only class I looked forward to. I remember you made us listen to Basket Case by Green Day so we could understand Holden Caulfield, and how you told us to always question everything. You inspired me. You taught me that someone in charge can be laid back. I don’t even remember if I talked much in your class or made any impact that you would remember me by, but just wanted to let you know that you had an impact on me, and I’ll never forget the lessons you taught me.

  2. Thank you JL! I really appreciate it. I’m humbled to know my class had such a positive impact on your life. I hope you’re doing well and yes, I do remember you!

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