Kevin Kline, POTUS, and Death

NaBloPoMo 2018:  What I’m Learning

***NO, I do not wish death on the president.***

Have you seen Dave, the movie about the temp agency owner kidnapped by the Secret Service to impersonate the president, and then forced to prolong the charade after the president dies unexpectedly?  It’s one of my favorite movies, and I love Kevin Kline, who plays Dave/POTUS.  There is just something so genuine and relatable about him and his character in this film.

I just finished listening to “Have a Nice Day,” an Audible* Original, written by Billy Crystal and Quinton Peoples.  It was recorded in front of a live audience, and once again Kevin Kline plays POTUS.  He brings the same lovable qualities to this role as he did to “Dave.”  Annette Benning plays FLOTUS, and Billy Crystal plays the angel of death with an anxiety disorder.  With more than a couple fun plot twists and the familiar voices of performers we know and love, I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up!

I appreciate humor more and more.  No other genre can tackle the hardest things about life and help us laugh about them, hold them a little more lightly, and continue with a slightly lighter heart.  Thinking about the immediacy and permanence of death can be frightening and acutely uncomfortable.  But it also often puts things in clear perspective, and it liberates.

It’s been both a dense and unproductive holiday weekend, relative to my lofty expectations.  Inspiration both overflows and stalls, thus no post last night.  Consider this to be the make-up assignment.  I have learned that true to my #1 trait as defined by the Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0 nine years ago, I have been inputting disproportionately and not leaving enough time to process, integrate, and synthesize.  But that’s okay, because little plays like “Have a Nice Day” help me reset.  I can forgive myself for falling off the NaBloPoMo wagon for a day.  Now I can regroup and catch up.  I’m so excited to share my learnings here!

My goal was to sit down, write, and publish this post before I started feeling cold from sitting in sweaty, post workout clothes.  Almost there!  If you have about 75 minutes, I highly recommend listening to this short, endearing little play.  Let me know what you think!


*I have no financial interests in any people, companies, or products mentioned here.


I Love Nerd Humor

Wanna hear a joke about sodium?  Na.  Wanna hear a joke about sodium hypobromite?  NaBro.

Okay let’s lighten things up a little.  Back to heavier stuff tomorrow. 😉

I love being a nerd.  I love learning new things, seeing how they connect to old things, and standing in awe at nature and how it’s all perfectly tuned and balanced, despite us and our meddling.  The parameters for normal function in the human body are incredibly narrow.  Temperature, blood pressure, pH, and electrolyte concentrations, for instance, all have well-defined optimal ranges.  But we have all seen one or multiple of these systems go wildly off track, and not only do we survive, we function!  For long periods, sometimes—our bodies compensate—all the while literally defying disaster and death.  And it all boils down to simple laws of physics, chemistry, and biology.  Amazing.

So whenever I see jokes about science, math, or medicine, I laugh out loud and show it to my kids.  They’re nerds too, you see.  We are a proud nerd family.  Here are some of our favorites; please share yours!

What do you call an acid with an attitude?  A mean-oh acid.

You matter.  Unless you multiply yourself by the speed of light squared, then you energy.

I lost an electron!  Are you sure?  I’m positive!

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.

first world problems


we cant eat the whole pie

stress fracture

stem cells

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, acapella science, who made the MOST NERDY cover of Despacito ever, and also this parody of Meghan Trainor!!  Oh my gosh I’m so happy right now.

#AtoZChallenge: Kindness and Kickassery

kick ass be kind

Image courtesy of Facebook/Pinterest.

I love this meme because of the unexpected juxtaposition of Kindness and Kickassery.  There aren’t many great ‘K’ words, but these are definitely my favorite. But what does it mean?  How can we apply this wonderful combination of words in everyday life?  My daughter gave me some ideas recently.  She has been interested in Japanese culture for a while, and recently got into the Inuyasha comic series.  I asked her why she likes it so much.  She said it’s helping her feel more brave, and that she likes the heroine, Kagome, because she’s “tough and kind.”  She is willing to go through hardships to help the other protagonist, Inuyasha.  That’s it!  Kindness and Kickassery!

We talked about some movie characters she also likes (I like them, too): Black Widow from the Marvel movies, and Ilsa Faust from Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.  We decided we thought they, too, were “tough and kind.”  We admire their Kickass fighting skills, their ability to hold their own among the boys, and their dedication to mission, as well as their ability to connect to other characters on an emotional level.  As I think about it I can’t say that kindness is their chief strength, but I can still apply this mantra to my own life.

Kick Ass simply means do it like you mean it. No holding back, be your badass self.  No apologies.  Because Kickass, and its cousin Badass, are the antitheses of Half-ass.

Kindness means do it in the service of treating others well, of holding them up—no matter who they are, no matter what you’re doing, no matter how hard.

So in a way, it’s the perfect combination. Because Kickass by itself has potential to harm—if we do things thoughtlessly, brazenly, and without regard to other people’s feelings.  Combined with Kindness, though, we are grounded in, once again, our connections with others.  Kindness channels our Kickass energy always in a positive direction.  Sometimes we may worry that being Kind will lead to others taking advantage of us.  But just picture it: Kindness with the force of a no-holds-barred-I-got-this-just-stand-aside-and-let-me-work-here-please attitude carries weight.  This kind of robust confidence, rooted in doing the right thing, commands respect and deference from would-be naysayers.

So let’s all try to practice some Kickass Kindness,eh?

#AtoZChallenge: More Fun, Less Frazzle

“Rule #6: Don’t take yourself so Goddamn seriously.” From The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

This can be a hard lesson for physicians. We do such serious work, after all. There is always another patient to see, another result to review, another call to answer—now! But I have to pee, when can I pee?

In my first year of practice, I remember a particularly hard day. I was running late (I’m still always running late) and the patients that day were all complicated. No simple UTIs or colds to give me some air. I huffed and grunted my way through the visits, occasionally buzzing by Rose, my medical assistant, to answer messages in between. My bladder felt like it might actually explode, but I could not stop to go to the bathroom—there was no time! I was so afraid to fall even more behind, to fail in some way. Eventually, Rose posted a sign above my workstation: “TAKE A DEEP BREATH.” It was an instant reality check:  I couldn’t go on like this, I’d burn out before my career even started! Immediately I realized how unnecessary, and downright silly, was all the rushing and grimacing—and I laughed out loud. Since then I have never again reached that depth of anxiety and sullenness in a workday. I am forever grateful to Rose for her sign, her loving reminder to slow down and take perspective. God bless her.

If we’re not careful, we physicians could all easily drown in the drama and strain, over and again, every day. And is that really what our patients need from us—to be Frazzled balls of tension and urgency, bouncing haplessly from one task or person to another, barely holding it together (and in)? Is that what we want for our colleagues and staff, to have to put up with our irritable and pressing demands?

It doesn’t have to be that way. In my third year of medical school, on my inpatient internal medicine rotation, Chip Dye was my senior resident. The service was busy; we always had a full census of sick patients. But I never felt harried or anxious because Chip set the tone for the team. Always smiling, always willing to answer any question, and finding any opportunity to laugh, he made it safe to learn. He exuded confidence without arrogance, calm without sloth. After rounds he led the team to attend morning report (daily educational conference and community gathering).  He always made sure we ate.  And there was always time to pee.

It’s not that he underestimated or ignored the work that awaited us. He just knew that we would accomplish it all better in a lighter, happier state of mind. When it came time to buckle down and divide tasks, Chip prioritized them with realistic expectations and we all got to work. No muss, no fuss, no stress. It would all get done because we laid out our plans in advance.  We self-respectfully reserved time and space for meeting basic bodily and communal needs. Thanks to Chip for leading by example.


From Facebook, I can’t remember where or when!

We can always have some Fun at work, no matter how hard the day gets. Whether it’s telling a silly joke, watching a ridiculous viral baby video, or posting a fun meme on the workroom bulletin board, lightening the mood helps everybody get through a little easier. Laughing relaxes us. Stephen Colbert is quoted as saying, “Do you know what I like about comedy? You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time—of anything. If you’re laughing, I defy you to be afraid.” And if we can overcome our fears of not getting it all done, of not being enough, we will all be better off—physicians and patients alike.


Also from Facebook…



I Am Edna Mode.

Okay, maybe not, but she is my hero! If you have never seen Disney/Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” I highly recommend it.  I was 31 years old, with a one year-old and a new job, when the movie came out in 2004.  I remember admiring Edna Mode, the half-Japanese, half-German designer of costumes to the superheroes of her day.  “Ultra-diminutive” in stature, as Disney describes her, yet towering in confidence and disdain for whining.  ‘I want to be like her,’ I thought.

11 years, two kids, three jobs and a fair bit of experience later, I dare assert a likeness to EMode that makes me proud. The parallels to physician work here may seem a bit far-fetched, but I invite you to suspend disbelief and allow me to explain:

Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible, seeks his old friend E for a ‘patch job.’ He needs his torn supersuit repaired so he can use it doing covert hero work behind his wife’s back.  Edna, ever forward thinking, proclaims that he cannot be seen in this ‘hobo suit.’  “But… you designed it,” he protests.  She retorts, “I never look back, dahling, it distracts from the now.”  She vows to make him a new suit—“bold, dramatic, HEROIC!”

You are an old patient of mine, and you haven’t seen me recently. But we have history.  We’ve been through some things together.  Now you want to take on a new project.  Exercise more, eat better, lose weight, manage your stress.  It’s nothing we haven’t discussed before, but now you have new motivation, you’re inspired.  I sense the resolve in you, and it inspires me, too.  Over the years I have continued to study my craft, integrating tradition with innovation.  Now you invite me to apply it all in the name of making you better, and I leap at the chance!

Bob anticipates the swank style of the suit—the cape, the boots–“No capes!” E exclaims. She proceeds to enumerate the multitude of superheroes thoroughly done in by their capes:  Thunderhead, caught on a missile fin.  Stratogale, sucked into a jet turbine.  Dynaguy, snag on take-off.  There is no arguing with the evidence.  No. Capes.

Safety first! I am open to a lot of things—we creatives often are, after all.  New trendy diet?  Sure, I’ll take a look.  Internet device that will help you lose 50 pounds in a week?  It’s your money.  I can withhold judgment long enough to review the data and, when appropriate, stand back while you try different things.  But I have my limits, and I will tell you straight.  I will be clear about my rationale, and give examples when possible.  This honesty and boundary setting helps you trust both my openness and my expertise.  We can proceed together because you know I am always discerning what is okay and not okay.

Bob’s wife, Helen, is also a retired superhero. She breaks down when she realizes Bob has deceived her.  She dissolves into tears, lamenting to Edna that she let it happen, that she is losing him.  Edna (recall disdain for whining): “What are you talking about?  You are ELASTIGIRL!  My God, (thumping Helen on the head with a rolled up newspaper) pull-yourself-together!  ‘What will you do,’ is this a question?  YouwillshowhimyourememberthatheisMr.Incredible, and you will REMIND him, who YOU are.  …You know where he is.  GO.  Confront the problem.  Fight!  WIN!  …And call me when you get back, dahling, I enjoy our visits.”


So there will never be newspaper thumping in my office…most likely. This scene is known as Edna’s Pep Talk, and I do a lot of that!  We all forget our strengths sometimes. We are allowed to crumple, temporarily, under sudden severe stress.  I am here to remind you what you are capable of, to restore your confidence.  Clearly, Edna trained in the School of Tough Love.  Fortunately for you, I have also studied empathy, compassion, and motivational interviewing.  I can help you persist.  I have patience for your journey.  I can be your pillar of consistency.  Edna is nothing if not consistent!

Five foot-two, straight black hair, glasses.  Expressive.  Self-confident.  Loyal.  Yes, I am Edna Mode.

For your viewing enjoyment:

[Second photo found at

I’m not a big fat panda. I’m THE big fat panda.

November Gratitude Shorts, Day 5

Thank the creative geniuses at Dreamworks for the “Kung Fu Panda” movies!

I appreciate the underlying philosophical messages in the cartoons, but oh, the humor!   “Shih Fu” means master in Mandarin–so Master Shifu is Master Master.  “Oo-gway” is the phonetic transliteration of the Mandarin word for turtle, and it just looks hilarious to see Oogway as a proper name, not to mention the toothless, dreamy, benevolent creature that Master Oogway is.

Really now, are these not the funniest movies ever made??  Maybe it’s just me?  No matter–that I have something this reliable to make me laugh and lift my mood, whenever I want, is priceless!  All I have to do is think of a quote and I’m happier!  Some of my favorites:

“There is no charge for awesomeness… or attractiveness.”  –Po, about himself, in his own dream

Master Shifu: “But who? Who is worthy to be trusted with the secret to limitless power? To become the Dragon Warrior?”  Master Oogway (after a pause, staring skyward, with a blank and awestruck expression): “I don’t know.”

“One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.”  –Master Oogway

“We do not wash our pits in the Pool of Sacred Tears.” –Master Shifu

“I’m not a big fat panda.  I’m THE big fat panda.”  –Po

Soothsayer (a sheep, foretelling): “If you continue on your current path, you will find yourself… at the bottom of the stairs.”

Po: “I just found out that my dad… isn’t really my dad.”   Tigress: “Your dad, the goose… That must have been quite a shock.”

Mr. Ping (Po’s dad): “So, how did it go, did you save China?”  Po: “Yep.”  Mr. Ping: “Well, I knew you would! That’s why I had these signs made!  ‘My son saved China – you too can save! Buy one dumpling, get one free!'”

*sigh* Aaaah, what a great way to start the day.  Maybe your day can be lightened sometimes, too, with a little children’s cartoon movie humor. 🙂