The Big Reveal
On a rainy Saturday afternoon, with all soccer games canceled, with a ravaged pantry, with parents unwilling to drive to the movies or the bowling alley, my sons passed the time by attempting to fart on each other.
As I watched this spirited, albeit uncivilized, competition tussle about my living room, I was reminded of a simple question I often proposed to the teenagers I once taught when I wanted their attention: What makes us human?
The act of blushing.
In September 2021, I asked my longtime friend, Amy, if she would design the cover for my soon-to-be released book Bedtime Stories for the Living.
True to form, Amy jumped at the opportunity. We exchanged a few emails about how I wanted the cover to “feel” and a few drafts later Amy had designed the book’s cover.
I love that cover. It’s beautifully simple. Yet mysteriously complex.
However, over the past few months, the book has caught the attention of some people in the literary business. One person explained the book’s power lies in it’s willingness to converse. And that the book’s cover should reflect that power.
And so again, I returned the question that continues to saddle me from the classroom to the living room: What makes us human?
I believe our desire to understand each other is one of the things that makes us human. From Jeffery Dahmer to my sons farting on each other in the living room, we are curious creatures forever interested in the inner workings of others. We spend our whole lives trying to understand what other people think and feel and believe.
I wrote Bedtimes to explain to my children what I was thinking as I navigated fatherhood, marriage, and an incurable disease. So when my kids grow into adults, and maybe when they travel on similar paths as I did, they may take comfort in knowing their dad didn’t know what he was doing.
We learn about ourselves from the stories we hear. And we teach others by the stories we tell. And by writing Bedtime, I discovered my stories provided a map, a way back to finding myself. I discovered underneath my “grown man” façade was a kid wanting desperately to be heard.
So I took those beliefs, advice from the literary world, feedback from my wife, daughter, and two farting sons, some time to think, and decided to design a new book cover…
… and again, with some help, wrote a new back cover description:
A devastating diagnosis. A terrifying countdown. Could one stubborn father hang on long enough to share his stories with his children?
Jay Armstrong had big dreams. Barely in the prime of life, the thirty-three-year-old husband and dad expected the doctor’s call to be no big deal. But after learning to his horror that a degenerative disease was carving a hole in his brain, he fought hard to make every second count and build a legacy for his kids.
Watching the hourglass slide toward empty, Jay rode an emotional rollercoaster as he defied his prognosis and mystified doctors. And in the soul-searing task of recording himself for his children before it was too late, he learned how to savor each moment of vulnerability, laughter, and wild dream-chasing.
In this collection of insightful introspection, Jay recounts his journey through whatever fate threw at him. And as he weaves the story of his struggles, triumphs, and all the heartache in between, he demonstrates an impossible courage that will leave you teary-eyed and inspired.
Bedtime Stories for the Living is a heart-wrenching and raw memoir that confirms the power of storytelling. If you like brave narrators, witty observations, and lessons on finding the positive, then you’ll be moved by Jay Armstrong’s love letter to the future.
Maybe the man on the cover is me and the boy represents all three of my children. Maybe the boy is the man and the two versions of the same person are having an impossible meeting that defies time and logic. Maybe the father is asking his child if the child is proud of him.
No matter the analysis, the distance between the two, the quiet meeting, the anticipation, the desire to be understood, the sun’s ache–it’s what life feels like to me.
Moving on to a new cover was not easy. However, idioms aside, readers judge books by their covers.
Hopefully, the new cover will invite readers–to not just buy and read the book and tell everyone they know about the book–but to tell their own stories. Because telling our stories, revealing our most vulnerable selves to others, is the most human thing we can do.
On October 8, members of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group (my group) in unison with the Central Pennsylvania Ataxia Support Group are participating in a Walk n’ Roll event 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: www.ataxia.org/WalkCPA . 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!
October Book Promos:
Are you searching for a better version of yourself?
This month I joined literary forces for some best-selling authors to promote our books in the, “Become Inspired. Become You.” book promotion. Check out these awesome titles!
Memoirs, Biographies, Self-help books…oh my!
This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors t promote our books in the “Non-fiction Super Sale” book promotion. Checkout these awesome titles!
You miss 100% shot you don’t take…
A few months ago, with low expectations, I took a shot and 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 email@example.com. 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
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Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, former high school English teacher, and an award-winning author. Despite 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:
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 jayarmstrongwrites.com