Finding Gratitude at 42 MPH

I’m writing this letter to you in a traffic court waiting room. I’m waiting for my hearing for a speeding ticket I received a few weeks ago.

On an open, suburban road the local police lay a speed trap. The waiting room is filled with people who were caught by the speed trap. Except for the man in black jeans and a black polo shirt speaking an Eastern European language to a court appointed translator, the waiting room is silent. This is my first traffic violation in 25 years. This is my first time in traffic court.
I was pulled over driving 42 mph in a 25 mph zone.

No one looks grateful to be here.

Is it just me or is it, at times, difficult to feel grateful?

I mean, when I spend too much time on Facebook or when a drive, responsibly, adhering to the speed limit, through a fancy neighborhood with three car garages and outdoor kitchens, or when someone tells me about how much Kohl’s Cash they have in their Kohl’s account, I get the feeling I’m doing something wrong.

Sometimes, I’m ungrateful–from material possessions to loving relationships– for the things in my life. I know this is wrong but I can’t help it.

Am I the only one who thinks this way?

According the to Dr. Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, gratitude is the simple recognition that life owes me nothing and all the good I have is a gift. My body, my breath, my shoes, my wife, my children, my freedom is a gift. Gratitude is a way to slow down and appreciate things.

(This would be a hard sell for Dr. Emmons in the traffic court waiting room.)

Dr. Emmons also explains, “the humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed. Humility ushers in a grateful response to life.”

So how do we learn to recognize the good things we have instead of fixating on the things we don’t have? How do we become appreciative of the gifts we have? How do we slow down? How do we embrace humility?

This week, Mariëlle S. Smith, stopped by Write on Fight on to talk about her new book 365 Days of Gratitude Journal: Volume 2. She explained that she falters and becomes ungrateful ( just like me) all the time. “If you slip up—and I slip up all the time—the feeling practicing gratitude gives me returns as soon as I pick up my journal again and start anew.”

(Read the entire interview)

Like most things in life, there is no right way to feel more grateful. It’s a unique, private experience that we’re solely responsible for. If your intentions are true, if your gratitude is coming from a place of humility, then there’s no wrong way to gratitude.

Mariëlle explains in her book, gratitude is the foundation for happiness and we must learn to practice gratitude to be happier.

One technique that has worked for me is the however; technique. It’s simple. You state something negative, follow the negative statement with “however;” and finish the statement with something positive.


I have an incurable brain disease however; the disease inspired me to achieve my dream and write a book.

My disease caused me to retire early from my budding teaching career however; I now get to spend a lot more time with my family and food shop on weekday mornings.

My disease is affecting my voice and sometimes verbal communication is stressful however; I have a blog which allows me to have continued, relaxing communication with people.

I don’t have any Kohl’s Cash left however; I received a Kohl’s gift card for my birthday.

I received a speeding ticket however; at the trial the police woman amended the speeding ticket, lessened the fine, and called me “a gentleman” for apologizing.

I find this technique of acknowledging the negative “things”, announcing “however;” hinges my perspective, and resets my focus on positive “things.” This helps me find the gratitude I’m lacking.

I mean, gratitude is hard. Feeling ungrateful is easy.

Am I the only one who thinks this way?

As I drove home from traffic court, with my seatbelt firmly buckled, with both hands on the steering wheel, obeying the traffic laws and the speed limits, I thought about how ungratefulness is a lot like speeding.

It’s easy to go to fast. It’s easy to be unaware. Too be self-absorbed with our schedules and concerns and desires. It’s easy to endanger others.

Maybe sometimes we need a speeding ticket to humble us. To increase our awareness. To think of others. To slow us down.

Be well,


Dear Reader,

On October 1, I’m participating in a Walk n’ Roll event, with members of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group (my group) and the Central Pennsylvania Ataxia Support Group to raise awareness for another cruel symptom of cerebellar degeneration, ataxia. Ataxia is a neurological symptom that causes movement difficulties, impairs balance, and compromises motor skills.

Our goal is to raise $5000 for ataxia research. To donate now, you can use the following link: . You can also text AtaxiaWalkCPA to 71777 to donate, it links directly to our fundraising page. 

If you enjoy my blog and book please consider donating. Thank you for your support!


As part of my current virtual-book tour, check out my recent stop at Sandra’s Book Club. And while you’re there, enter for a chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card!

A few months ago, with low expectations, I entered “Bedtime Stories for the Living” in the highly regarded, highly competitive international book contest presented by Readers’ Favorite. Readers’ Favorite is an established force in the publishing industry. They have worked withPenguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors.

Anyway, just before I was about to take a midday nap, I was informed that this suburban dad had won…

First Prize, the Gold Medal, in the Non-Fiction/Parenting genre!

The award ceremony is in November and is at Hilton Blue Lagoon in Miami, Florida.

It was totally unexpected. I’m totally honored. And I totally can’t wait for my kids to question my parenting skills so that I can gently remind them I wrote a Gold Medal winning parenting book.


Quote of the Week:

If you would like to share something with others (a photo, a poem, a song, a quote, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes into the world, please send your suggestions to me at Thanks!


Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.

Here’s what I’m currently reading: The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi 

If you like this post, you may also like:

Procrastination Comes Home


How to Climb Today’s Mountain


Your Voice is the Most Powerful Thing You Own


A Different Kind of Hope


Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, former high school English teacher, and an award-winning authorDespite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, 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 or a drink with his friends)

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

You can also visit Jay at

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