Assembly Required

On an unusually warm November afternoon, Sir Johnny Walker appeared on my doorstep inside a brown cardboard box marked with black letters announcing, “Assembly Required.”

A few days before SJW arrived, I’d fallen three times in three days. Twice at home in my living room and once on Election Day while casting my vote, on a hard, very undemocratic high school cafeteria floor.

Those falls resulted in a very sore right shoulder (which will require a doctor’s examination), a sore right elbow, sore tailbone and even sorer spirit.

Medical publications and my own experience verify that stress and anxiety worsen my symptoms. I try to stay Zenful as much as a middle-aged, suburban dad with three kids, a wife, a dog, whose baseball team just lost the World Series, and who has an incurable brain disease can. But sometimes, as you know, life is hard. And it’s easy to drown in the relentless waves of fear, frustration, anger, and worry.

In Bedtime Stories for the Living, I explained to my kids how I came to learn about the cleansing power of a good walk. How walking resets your focus and help discover perspective. Now, more than a year has passed since I encouraged my kids to walk and though I still prescribe to what I wrote, my disease has progressed and not only is walking more difficult, I have recently fallen a lot. These falls have resulted in ambulophobia: the fear of walking. Which is a common symptom among ataxia patients.

The National Library of Medicine explains, “that an underestimated consequence is the so-called post-fall syndrome, which is characterized by the fact that the person who has suffered a fall begins to limit their activity, fearing further ones.”

I sat on the living room floor and opened the cardboard box. Maggie May stood to my left, wagging her tail, and watching me unpack SJW’s wheels, aluminum frame, seat, cup holder and a bag of bolts.

This week, the family and I head to Miami for the Readers’ Favorite International Book Contest Ceremony where Bedtime Stories for the Living will be awarded the First Place Prize in the Non-fiction Parenting Category. The itinerary explained that the winning authors will be invited on stage, to receive their award, and have their picture taken. A seemingly easy celebratory stage walk has ebbed those familiar relentless waves of fear, frustration, anger, and worry in me for weeks.

What if, when my name is called, the fear of walking becomes too much and I literally can’t move? What if there are steps without handrails leading to the stage? What if the stage is crowded with other authors when my name is called? What if I decide to walk on stage and I fall in front of a packed ballroom? And what if the ballroom gasps? And what if the young MC attempts to ease the tension with a joke about “falling” in love with writing? And what if somebody records my fall? And what if they post it to Tik-Tok? And what if it goes viral? And what if I become famous for the wrong reason?

Maggie May sits. I open SJW’s thin instruction book. I’m 42 years-old. A former collegiate soccer player. I want to walk without hesitation. I want to play soccer with my kids. I want to run with my dog across the green lawns of suburbia. I want to be okay. I want to heal. I don’t want a walker.

I grab a wheel and slip it into the frame. I slip in the other wheel.

I know I have to take care of myself. If I can’t play soccer with my kids, I want to be there to see them play. I want to be there to see Maggie May run and jump and enjoy all the joy until her little puppy legs ache. And though I don’t want to fall anymore, I really don’t want to be afraid to walk anymore. I have to accept the hard truths of my life and learn to appreciate what is, instead of longing for what was and worrying about what might never be.

Assembly is always required. Building new, improved versions of our-unique-selves is essential for survival. However unlike SJW, there is not a personal instruction manual with fine diagrams for us to follow. Sure there are books, cautionary tales, and qualified therapists out there, but in the end it’s our responsibility to take the advice, those instruction manuals and have courage and discipline to apply their directions to our own lives.

I slip the third wheel into the frame. Then the fourth. I add the seat, screw in a few bolts, and clip on the cupholder.

I look at Maggie May and she looks back at me. With Sir Johnny Walker assembled, there was nothing left to do except stand up, grab the handles, and roll forward.

Be well,


Do you like t-shirts?

I love a good t-shirt. Especially a t-shirt that is both super-soft and super-comforting. Like receiving a hug from an elderly teddy bear. Anyway, the new Write On Fight On shirt was inspired by one of my favorite novels, “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy and a deeply personal need to remind myself not to give up. Especially when life becomes a bastard and there are not any elderly teddy bears around.

These t-shirts are on sale for a limited time only! Men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes are available. Also, they make great holiday gifts for friends, family, and elderly teddy bears.


November Book Promos:

Are looking for inspiration? 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, Become Inspired. Become You. 

Memoirs, Biographies, Self-help books…oh my!

This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors to promote our books in the inspiring November Nonfiction Collection. 

You miss 100% of the shots 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 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 Road by Cormac McCarthy

I taught this book for years to my 12th grade students (hence the tattered, Post-it filled copy). Most of the students hated it. It’s not a beach read or one you could casual skim like Tik-Tok videos. I mean, at 18 years-old, I’d probably hate it too. This is an “old” person’s book. I think the longer you live, the more joy and heartbreak you experience, the greater appreciation you will have for this Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Also, if you haven’t heard, McCarthy’s novel “The Passenger” was recently published. It’s his first novel in 16 years. 

If you like this post, you may also like:

The Big Reveal


How to Climb Today’s Mountain


Your Voice is the Most Powerful Thing You Own


A Letter to My Son (mostly about) Baseball


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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