Friday, November 20, 2020

Bowls into Cabinets


How does a clean bowl get put back into the cabinets?

Not a trick question, but a real dilemma if you are a little one.

Dwarfed by the imposing height of the cabinets, my kiddos huddled to discuss.

Eavesdropping, here is what I heard,

Small legs.

Big cabinets.

Clean bowls.

Should we just go play?

I need to go potty.


Like any respectable adult, I tried to re-focus my mind on real things. Quickly move on from this frivolity to things adults should be thinking about

What shirt to re-wear for work from the couch today? Pajama pants again?

How to balance personal wellness and being up-to-date in my pandemic news consumption today?

Why aren’t there any clean bowls in the cabinet?

Should we just go play?

I need to go potty.


About a week later, not intending to get to the bottom of the mystery, I did just that. Catching a glimpse of the children shuttling clean bowls to empty cabinets, I snuck with fatherly deftness around the kitchen’s perimeters.

Channeling my inner James Bond, looking over my shoulders for any sign of “bad guys”, I crouched low.

Ouch. A bit too low.

Should have stretched out before trying that.

Here is what I saw:

When life gives you imposing challenges today and in these next weeks, become the child you still are. Throw away ego and figure out who it is around you who can help you reach the cabinets. 

As COVID roars, the cabinets seem higher than normal, the kitchen is lonely, and the bowls are staring at you. In those moments, become a little one again. Reach out, reach up for the support you need. Think about friends, family, neighbors who might be reaching for the cabinet, and offer a hand before they ask.

And finally, give in to those two nagging thoughts we adults so carefully suppress:

Should we just go play?

I need to go potty.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Writing to Heal: The 45-Word Edition





Breathe them in, slow and deep





Embrace your antidote


                                    COVID Craze

                                        Virtual Daze

                                            Dizzying Maze


Calm fears with gratitude


Tranquility ur new attitude


Breathe them in, slow and deep

Grow your own healing

If necessary, use words.

This week, I wanted to play with a self-imposed challenge: what can I say in 50 words or less that is meaningful around the climate where election and COVID spike has everything stirred up. Take the challenge yourself - 50 words or less 😊

Friday, November 6, 2020

A vision for undoing racism + achieving equity in health

Thirty-three times I have written.

In gratitude.

In confidence that we can turn our world toward hope and healing. 

Of our planet. Of ourselves. Of our communities.

This week, I want to focus on someone else’s writing.

A long time ago, back in October when COVID numbers were low, we were asked to give a keynote address at the New Mexico Public Health Association (NMPHA) conference on racism and health equity. Adults speaking to adults.

It seemed like a perfect moment to get creative and bring youth voices into the conversation.

So, we asked young leaders from our Native Health Initiative partnership to meet at Robinson Park on a pandemic Sunday. Bring an open heart and dress in a way that reflects your cultures. No other instructions.

We sat beneath a tree. Air was calm, birds chirped their hellos.

The youth began to write, speaking to their experiences of what they had to tell the world on undoing racism, to working toward equity in health. They spoke about not being listened to enough by the adult world.

Their voices were captured on film, with my brother leading the way on the videography side of things. I had contributed the concept for the film, but the youth wrote all of their own lines.

Hip hop culture, both in the art and the music would provide the backdrop for the film.

The conversations were interesting as we moved from one location to another.

“Does mentioning this take away from our work, implying that despite the handicap of being young, that we still made big things happen?” they discussed.

Does focusing on healthcare miss the larger picture of what allows people to have health?

What does a healthy education system look like?

What does a healthy food system mean?

What does a healthy neighborhood feel like?

Without further ado, I would like to present their vision, their answers. This film was premiered at that NMPHA conference, saved as the last part of the address. 

Youth speaking. Adults listening.

Click here to watch the 2-minute film

After the film showed, Emelia spoke and we put up the last slide, to make sure everyone had heard their call to action:

Friday, October 30, 2020


 Like a good dad, when my kids talk I listen.

“Dad, we want a trampoline.”

My mind went where most parents’ minds go when expensive, potentially dangerous requests are made from our well-intentioned little ones.

“Which neighbor has a trampoline so that I can fulfill this request?” I pondered.

Luckily, I could answer the question. A lovely neighbor does indeed have one of these jumping, bouncing polypropylene sandboxes with springs. And in good condition. And with netting to make me feel safer as a parent.

So, after gaining permission to jump, we headed over to try it out.

Our three oldest got right to jumping. No hesitation. Barely a “Thank you for letting us invade your yard and use your trampoline for our dad who is too cheap to buy us one.”

Our smallest watched for a few moments, trying to figure this out. Clearly, she had second thoughts. Has she read the Pediatrics guidelines around injury risks from such devices?

I picked her up and placed her on the springy surface.

Her look back to me communicated a strong skepticism.

“Dear, you jump up and then have fun falling down.”

In her mind: “Fall. Falling down. That means getting hurt, boo-boos, ouchies, band-aids.”

Despite my pleading, I couldn’t convince her that this was a safe place to jump and fall. I carried her off the trampoline.



We don’t jump because we are afraid to fall.

We don’t take that leap because of the security of feeling our feet on the ground.

We miss the exhilaration of being airborne because we are so focused on what happens when we come down.

Fear of failure holds us back from envisioning the heights we can reach.

Focusing on past “ouchies” and falls keeps us from jumping ahead.

Trauma and scars from hitting the ground in the past trip us up in the present, both keeping us from jumping and putting us into a “fall mindset”

So much so that when a trampoline moment presents itself, with possibilities of reaching superhero heights, we turn around and ask to get off without having taken a jump.

Even when trampoline moments ask us to suspend our beliefs around falling, ask us to re-consider the equation falling = failing, it is still tempting to back away without ever going airborne.

Excited to where you all take this analogy, how you choose to finish the piece…

Excited to hear whether this piece helps you jump!

Friday, October 23, 2020




Flames tenaciously, menacingly bursting upward

The truck sat in the middle of the road, consumed by the fiery uproar

Its driver remained in the vehicle

Smoke signaled impending doom



Of humanity rushing from their vehicles

Thirty or more sprinted in superhero form toward the vehicle

Using their strength, wits, and first responder skills to

pry open passenger door

pry hope from despair

pry life from death’s grasp

We worked in harmony like ants bringing an injured comrade back to the colony,

Successfully bringing the driver out safely,

Stopping traffic and all that we might have been rushing to do.

No one cared about political affiliation, where you worshipped, views on abortion, immigration status, bank account balance, color of skin, educational status, sexual orientation.

All unimportant.

We were unified in saving a life.

We were connected in a struggle to

                                                                      pry open passenger door

pry hope from despair

pry life from death’s grasp

We needed each other.


Why can’t we similarly unify, dropping everything that divides to find our mutuality, our common bonds on the other fiery emergencies of this moment?

Systemic Racism that threatens to burn us to a crisp.

A virus that laughs through its flames as politics infect public health to the detriment of us all.


Let us need each other more

Let us connect with each other’s humanity

Ignore the bumper stickers on the car

See the beautiful being who sits amidst flames within

Fire that threatens both of you

                              all of us

Act accordingly

                                    Explosion of love

                                    Explosion of love

                                    Explosion of love

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Mask up!

I wear a mask

Some might label me a sheep

Yes, proudly I am

In fact, it is something called herd immunity*

Proudly part of the herd

Baah’ baah’


I wear a mask.

Even as a doc, I can’t cite you the risk level as another person passes

But I wear the mask to show respect for their life, their health, and their family at home

And yes, for myself and my family at home as well


I wear a mask

Not any more as a political statement than

getting a flu shot

flushing the toilet

or picking up my dog’s poop

I wear it because it is the right thing to do as a member of a larger community that relies on me to make the right decision

I wear it because I don’t want to see communities of color suffer any further in this pandemic

I don’t want anyone to suffer


I wear a mask

Believing in science

And a crazy principle called “disease transmission through air particles”

Not because of how I vote or my religious beliefs or my political party (feminist)


I wear a mask and ask that you do the same


Because you are too important not to be here because of COVID

Ditto for those in your family

Ditto for those you might infect


I wear a mask and ask that you do the same

Because it is a statement of love for your community

Because together we can bring reason, humanity, and caring for each other back into this polarized, angry shouting match we find ourselves in

Because we are together in this herd called humanity

Baah’ baah’

* As a professor in population health, I need to clarify that herd immunity is not quite the same as wearing a mask. Herd immunity is the idea that if enough people are immunized, the herd as a whole is protected. But in this case, I couldn't resist the poetic connection between sheep...herd...herd immunity. This blog is an escape from my academic life, after all :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Bass and Treble


Way back when, humans listened to music without Spotify, Air Pods, smart phones, and blue teeth/tooths.

In those B.S.P. (Before Smart Phones) days, people would actually get off their tooshies (medical term for gluteal area) and walk over to a thing called a stereo to adjust the sound using something called an equalizer. Crazy huh? Millennials reading this are already distractedly Googling all of this to verify I am not spinning tall tales.

Let’s use the equalizer analogy as we consider what music we play for ourselves today. 

Treble represents the positive in life – the beautiful moments of each day, the practice of gratitude and the people and experiences that make us grateful. All that sustains us will be treble.

Bass, meanwhile, represents the negative – things that stress us, things that cause us to worry, fear, and which bring on anxiety.

Yes, life does give us a starting material for the music we hear, but it is our decision of how we adjust the equalizer that makes the difference between symphony and cacophony.

“Woe is me” is not a reflection of the orchestra, but is a reflection of that person’s inability to lower the bass so that treble can ring.

And if treble weren’t easy to tune up, the majority of media even exist. Regurgitating the same bad news, knowing humans will consume it over and over and over. In those rare cases of treble amongst so much bass, you would never hear a “feel good” story repeated one day to the next on the 10pm news.

“Now to follow up on that incredible tale of the boy who raised $10,000 for his classmate with cancer from yesterday. We thought we would take another look at this tale since we felt it was so important for our city.”

Nope. But crime, natural disasters, political squabbling attract attention day after day. I think our own internal “news feed” plays out similarly. Much easier to regurgitate and perseverate on the bass in our lives.

My friends, play with the equalizer today. Play with that innate ability to attune to treble and let the positive dictate your thoughts and actions. Bass will still be there, but it will exist in balance with, and in the context of the treble sound. You might even appreciate new and more constructive angles on the bass sounds by not focusing on them.

Today, life will not give us treble or bass. No, today we get to choose how to manipulate the equalizer and make music out of the sounds that life presents.

A simple exercise for those interested in tuning their equalizer:

Write down 3 things that have most bothered/worried you in the last week. These are your bass.

Now, take those 3 things and come up with the opposite statement. Ex: “I am worried about my grandmother’s health becomes “I am grateful to have my grandmother in my life.”

Today, as you go about the day, when you find yourself beginning to think in “bass”, simply adjust the equalizer and turn that worry into its “treble” opposite.

Repeat as needed.