I laughed so hard my tooth fell out

How do you deal with stress?

I recently read that reminiscing about specific, positive memories during stressful times is a healthy way to deal with stress. Like taking a walk, meditating, listening to music, or eating an avocado.

Research suggests remembering happy memories, in times of stress, is an effective way to be more optimistic and cultivate resiliency.

These studies came into my life when, naturally, feeling stressed I did what most modern people do and I typed “How do you deal with stress” into that modern oracle known as Google.

This week has been stressful. I’m sure you’re familiar. You might be having “one of those weeks” as well.

Like you, I have several heavy things on my mind.

Stop. I apologize for writing “things.” A lack of specificity is one of my pet peeves as a writer. Good writing is always specific writing. But the purpose of this post is not to list all of my “things” because you have your “things” and I have my “things” and we all have a COVID “thing” and I’m not trying to one-up you with my “things” because that’s rude so let’s just agree on “things” and I’ll resume with what I really wanted to tell you. Okay. Go.

It happened like this:

On Monday January 18, 2021 (I know, it’s a recent memory but in 2040 it won’t be and I have a feeling it will still make me laugh) at approximately 6:00 pm, I laughed so hard my fake tooth fell out.

Taco night. A crock-pot of ground beef, bowls of cheese, and lettuce, and rice, and a bag of “authentic” Mexican tortilla chips, Multigrain Tostitos buffet the kitchen table. The five of us, ringed around the table, talk about, of all things, planets when Chase asks, “What’s everyone’s favorite planet?”

“That’s a silly question. Earth,” I say.

“I guess. But still, my favorite planet is…” his blue eyes rise like moons. Just the sheer thought of the word makes him smile. Laugh. His chest convulses. He grips the edge of the table with both hands. Ice tea trickles out the corners of his mouth. We laugh at him laughing. Chase swipes a napkin across his chin, takes a deep breath, looks up, and says, “Uranus.”

Though I’ve never seen or heard hyenas laugh, I imagine they look and sound like my kids did on January 16, 2021 at approximately 6 pm.

There is something cosmically comical when you learn the 7th planet from the sun is a pun for a private body part. When your teacher stands in front of the classroom with a starched shirt and a straight face and says, “Uranus is filled with hot gases,” it’s hard not to laugh. No matter your age, no matter what year you farted your way through 5th grade, Uranus is still and will always be the butt of the Solar System.

Cindy and I smile and roll our eyes at each other. When the kids settle and resume stuffing their faces with tacos, I ask,”Hey Chase what does Uranus smell like?”

The table grows silent. The hyenas stare off into the distance.

“I don’t know. What?”


They howl. This time it’s a wild, primitive catholic school children on the Serengeti howl. Chase falls off his chair. Haley buries her head in her hands. Dylan pounds the table with his little fist and squeals, “Tacos. Uranus smells like tacos.” Even mature and matronly Cindy chuckles and I laugh so hard my fake tooth falls out and bounces across the kitchen floor.

The next day, the dentist asks, “How did your tooth fall out?

“I was laughing.”

Above her pink mask, the dentist’s green eyes widen,”Wow. What was so funny?”

“Planets and tacos.”

Her eyes narrow, her brow furrows,”Guess, you had to be there.”

Okay, this is killing me. I can not not be specific. It’s too painful to write like an uninspired 10th grader. One of my “things” is this: I met with my neurologist this week. He was taken back by how much, in 6 months, my voice has deteriorated. I’ve been seeing him for 7 years and to hear him say that about my voice was hard. I mean, I knew my voice was deteriorating but to see my doctor type the words, “noticeable dysarthia” in his notes made it real. The speed at which my voice has deteriorated, to put it mildly, stresses me out. It’s a helpless feeling. I have “things” to say but sometimes I can’t say those “things.” My brain and tongue and the important cords inside don’t always connect. It sucks. It’s a source of frustration and shame. And sometimes, only the energy of happy memory gets me through those sucky moments.

The past year has been tough on all of us. We’re all stressed. We’re all doing our best to handle our “things” and make it from one day to the next. In spite of all of our “things”, maybe this is the time to find and reflect on those happy memories.

And maybe it’s time to laugh until your teeth fall out.

Be well,


If you like this post, you may also like:



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Good advice I wished I received on New Year’s Eve 2019


Pride before the fall

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 an 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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