Maggie May and The Hamburger Incident

My mom is always asking if I found time to relax.

“Jason, did you relax today?”

“Jason, are you going to relax today?”

“Jason, do you think you’ll have time to relax?”

By “relax”, I don’t think Mom means “calm down “or “take a deep breath.” She wants to know if I had a chance to put my feet up, sip something cold, recline, and laze like a Midwestern tourist on a California beach.

By nature, I’m not an anxious or nervous person. I think given my diagnosis, my kid’s active schedules, and the stresses of middle-aged life, I have accepted such things with mild resistance, dare-I-say, a cool demeanor. Or as my friend Rich once called, “a kind of grace.”

This past weekend was the first summer weekend all five of us were finally home together. No soccer tournaments. No baseball. No birthday parties. Just a quiet, relaxing weekend home with our dog, Maggie May.

To celebrate, I fetched “the best homemade hamburger” recipe from the internet and went to work. I tossed ground beef in a bowl, added the secret ingredients, kneaded it all together, and shaped five hamburger patties on a blue plastic plate. I washed my hands, walked to the back porch, scrubbed the grill grates, lit the grill, and walked back into the kitchen to find the blue plate empty.

Maggie May was in the kitchen, sitting by the stove, wagging her tail. Her head slightly cocked to her right.

Cindy called her Mom. Haley and I googled, “What happens if your dog eats a pound and a half of raw ground beef.” Chase and Dylan stood by trying hard not to laugh.

Maggie May ran to the backdoor and one of the boys shouted, “I think she has to go!”

I hustled to the door and ushered Maggie to the backyard, clipped her collar to her tie-out and, with my heart thumping, sat down on a plastic Adirondack chair. Haley came out and told me that the internet says that dogs who eat raw beef should be okay. Cindy said her mom said just to keep an eye on Maggie May.

The fading sun streaked the blue sky with wisps of gold. The shadows from the trees stretched long across the soft green grass. Crickets hummed. Fireflies flicked on and off. And as Maggie May squatted in a deep corner of the yard unloading a pound and a half of raw ground beef, I laced my hands behind my head, and began to relax.

Be well,


PS: Maggie May was just fine. In fact, she was sniffing around the kitchen for dessert not long after. She is now 7 months old, 34 pounds, barks at birds, loves to eat toilet paper, and is deathly afraid of the vacuum. In fact, if Maggie May wasn’t like every other puppy I would think she’s insane.

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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, 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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