Dr. Plastic Picker – A Personal Plastic-Picking Blog: Fighting Ocean Plastic Pollution One Piece At a Time
Just screen shots of a virtual tour of a big property somewhere on a big Island somewhere.

May 8, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I’m just having random fun. I told Dr. MM in clinic yesterday, that sometimes that dream you had of something you always wanted to do – it can be easy to get. The trip to Paris was just sitting there and staring her in the face. I said, “GO!!!” Just buy the flight and go with Dr. AF. He’s going anyway. $450 round trip for a flight and you guys split a hotel room, and go to Europe. Sometimes attaining your dreams doesn’t have to be hard, it can be easy. I told them I’d cover both their inboxes.

A similar dream, a dream that I never thought I had, was staring me in the face. It was looking at me and kind of danced around and said, “why don’t you grab this opportunity?” As the blog readership well knows, Dr. Plastic Picker is always financially savvy so if the numbers don’t add up – I’ll take a pass. But the dream was looking at me in the face and said, “HELLLLOOOOO, it makes sense financially.” I’m literally looking at the dream and flabergasted that it could happen? If the numbers work out, than it makes sense.

So I’m having just random big dreams and taking steps that financially make sense. I’m selling a rental property that I was meaning to sell for a while. That particular rental property was never a really great buy, but it wasn’t a bad buy. I was going to sell it last year, but it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t sell it last year. Right now the market is HOT HOT in our area, So I’m pretty sure it will sell for 50K more than the one offer we got last year. And then Mr. Plastic Picker and I since we have a 50% savings rate, have our cash cushion war chest ready. Between the equity on that rental property that I’m going to sell and our war chest, I’m going to buy some land somewhere on some big Island somewhere in the United States of America. This big land somewhere has foster cows, a lava rock bar, sauna, and two all done houses. Its just 25 minutes straight shot from an airport. It has avocado trees and citrus trees and solar panels. And I can buy it outright without a mortgage with a family member. Even if I keep just said land for fun, and just vacation on it – it will make financial sense.

But you know Dr. Plastic Picker! When there is land, there is opportunity. Thinking of earth and planetary and physician wellness. I’m pretty sure I can organize a physician wellness retreat on that land, and charge less and provide a better program than other people. I’m pretty sure I can use the profits to put back into my climate work. I’m pretty sure we can heal physicians and heal the earth at the same time. Because Dr. Plastic Picker just wants everyone to be happy. And my physician wellness institute will be better because I actually really care about my colleagues and I won’t be making money off them. I’ll charge a reasonable rate to cover the cost, and proceeds will go to paying the instructors who will be physicians themselves and everything going back to climate advocacy. But I’ll get to have the physician wellness proceeds pay for the land and I get to keep the land. But I will love the land and not hurt the land, and be a good steward of the land. That’s it. And below is more pictures of the virtual property viewing I had with a family member. It was so much fun and one of the most joyous moments I have had with this family member. Of course I blocked out his face because he is truly anonymous.

OMG I may by partial owner to 8 foster cows. If you come to this physician wellness institute, you will get to adopt a cow for your stay. LOL. Just thinking about crazy dreams and crazy things on the blog. Who knows, right? Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon. I may just land on this Big Island. If I don’t show up at work one day (because I’ve shown up to work every day for over 12 years without fail), you’ll know where I am. I’ll send a postcard and maybe some avocados.

Beautiful purple flowers.

May 6, 2021

by drplasticpicker

The art of storytelling, the art of writing – is something that is so powerful. It’s how we teach. It’s how we experience life. For me life has always been a series of interwoven narratives, of your life and my life. The threads weave and then unwind, and come back. They get frayed and then when we reform community and connections, we reweave them together.

When a new family comes in, I have always thought of it as another storyline that arrives. Each new baby is a fresh book, and the chapters may follow a similar arc – birth, breastfeeding, first roll, first food, crawling, walking and than toddlerhood, but the details of the stories are different. And it is those details that make life and families and patients so interesting.

I think I had realized that I was burned out when I no longer was interested in the patient stories. Maybe it’s called compassion fatigue. But taking walks now and taking the time to self-care, has helped me relearn that. Catching those details in clinic are so key. How a teen reacts to announcing there are vaccines. What the parent is wearing. What room they are in today. What activities are they doing now. Did they seem happy or sad. I used to be a voracious reader. I still read, but I read less now. I consume less TV shows as well. Filling myself with imaginary stories that someone else created preventing me from appreciating the real stories happening around me. And that’s my job, to notice those patient stories and notice the stories of the young physicians that inhabit the real world with me. It’s my job to notice the arc of the teenage drama that is my daughter and the quieter story of our older son. Even Mr. Plastic Picker has the arc of his story, physician leader, proud father, exasperated husband of wife who disappears to pick up trash.

I wasn’t able to notice the stories when it was noisy. When I heard upper management’s endless stream of emails about metrics. This is why I detest shortcuts on the electronic medical record (I still use them), but I want to write the patient narrative myself and give them the instructions that I have created. I felt the endless workflows and smartphrases was erasing me.

But I realize now that I can use these shortcuts created at work to spend more time with patients, because I keep the stories in my heart. I remember them. I write about them (vaguely) on the blog. I echo my memory of the day in my silly art. I wish this for everyone. To live your life purposefully and slowly. Treasure the details, the moments. That was the true answer to burnout really. Reclaiming the narrative of my life and just slowing down time. It was rushing too fast before, and now it is gloriously slow.

May 5, 2021

by drplasticpicker

It’s 141AM and I needed to brush my teeth. I usually would just go back to sleep, but I’ve learned to sometimes take these opportunities to do what every parent of a teenager should do – go check up on them. Our daughter’s room was dark and she was asleep. I crept downstairs and the grandparents room was dark and quiet. But from our son’s room it was quiet and there was light coming from the closed door. I’ve learned to knock, because one does not burst into a teenage boys room. It’s impolite. So I gently knock knock knocked. No answer. I knock knock knocked – no answer. I gently opened the door and my teenage son was sitting in front of his computer with his headphones on – which is why he didn’t hear me. There was a youtube video of a Obama political speach. But the boy was fast asleep while sitting in his chair. I gently woke him up and told him to go to bed.

And I got to send a very fun email to Dr. Perry Sheffield, who is a very accomplished environmentalist friend and follows Dr. Plastic Picker, asking her to speak about clean air in San Diego. And I got to tell her that I was able to lead our wonderful author group Durrwachter-Erno et al and how much fun we had. And I got to articulate for the first time my real dream of writing my book about this journey and the drive cross country that I want to do picking up trash with all my environmental friends. Because this blog has always been about the dreams of a liveable planet during the real work of cleaning up the earth, and activating environmentalism here in my little corner of the world.

But this book and book tour and dream of meeting all these wonderful people, is intertwined with making sure said teenage boy actually gets through highschool and goes to college. I’m really lucky because Mr. Plastic Picker is so good with the kids , and on top of them and their schooling. He made me review next year’s junior year schedule and it seemed really heavy. AP US History, AP Chemistry, AP Precalculus, AP English, AP Spanish and Creative Writing. He could take another class which is advanced programming, as he is really good at it and it’s an easy A for him – but I did weigh in that I thought it would be better to take 6 classes and have a study period.

So my job is to keep on picking up trash, making organic homemade food which hopefully will keep him well nourished, and pop in here and there to make sure he is in bed. He usually is in bed on time, but he is still my son and that is what moms are supposed to do. During the dark of night, one should sleep. And I will go to sleep. But at least I got to make sure he slept in his proper bed and did not get neck strain. I got to send an inspired email to the famous Dr. Perry Sheffield. She is really famous and has done so much to try to save the earth for our children. And I got to dream about the book I want to write and 2 summers from now when I can finally go drive cross country. And I will go to bed. I did a lot of work work today on vaccines, and reorganizing redundant committees, and doing the final submission on our article. I posted a bunch of times on facebook about the article and then took down the post. I realize the more I accomplish in our environmental work, the more quiet I need to be. I can be on this blog and write my truth, but to more the world forward in climate activism – I need to let people have space to grow in their work. And that is what I noticed about Dr. Perry Sheffield at meetings. She has this quiet confience and builds people up. That is true leadership.

The picture above is because we are presenting at that conference as Durrwachter-Erno et al !!!! We are seriously going to get Tshirts which I’m going to deliver on my book tour!

Real picture I sent Dr. Perry Sheffield. Because it all powerful persuasive writing there needs to be metaphors. I was a history of science major from Crimson Unviersity, I know. Ask my former professor Amy Slatton!

Mantilija Poppy

May 4, 2021

It’s someone’s birthday this week. Mr. Plastic Picker and I have two teenagers now in the house. One about to drive and another living in a world of dreaming about volleyball spikes and playing varsity. They both have such conventional lives with conventional concerns. For someone who grew up in a refugee household, I realize how unusual that is. Mr. Plastic Picker and I are who we are because of the way we were raised, within loving households that faced more struggles but anchored in a country that had opportunities for us. We are not trying to recreate ourselves in our children or recreate the circumstances that molded us. We are happy that the children have volleyball, and some of the biggest concerns is who is going to be taller than whom. Which SAT prep course to take? Summer house vacation with friend or go with your parents camping? I concentrate on them and also concentrate on the society surrounding them.

Did you hear about Bill and Melinda Gates divorce? Do you think money had anything to do with it? No money in the world is worth the dissolution of a marriage. I remember when Al and Tipper Gore annoucned their divorce. Because I had rewatched the Inconvenient Truth so many times, I was shocked. My own parents are still married. Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents are still married. And indeed when I was a young doctor mulling over the divorce of Al and Tipper Gore, a Dr. KJ who was older worked beside me and she came out and said “I’m still married.” That reminded me not to borrow the concerns of others.

Bill and Melinda Gates mentioned in their press release about their three children, and successfully raising them. Mr. Plastic Picker and I are in the midst of raising our two tweens. For me, our marriage and the family we’ve created which is an extension of our two families merged into these two teens – is the most important thing in my life. Maybe this is something a liberal feminist would disagree, but its more important than my career and more important than money. I don’t talk about my marriage and my family as much about plastic, but I wonder if my friends truly understand.

But that’s the wonderful thing about the new world. I can do it all. I can be married, have two teens, and be Assistant Boss and be an Eco-Avatar Dr. Plastic Picker. I can do it all and also be head of vaccine quality measures. It’s funny one truly understands who is supportive of your career, or those who gently push you along and help you along the way. Beware of those who subtly leave professional land-mines. Dr. Plastic Picker is all my years of being a mentor and Assistant Boss, I never told anyone to quit. I never told anyone that you could not do anything. I hope that I encouraged people along their career path and their family. There is no race. You can have children, a successful marriage, and be in leadership. I’ll clear the professional land-mines for you. Other people don’t see them, but as a litter-picker now I notice them all.

I absolutely lone this little guy. I know some kid is going to be very happy to take him home.

May 2, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I don’t have as much time to blog and write. I know I am still blogging daily but it’s not the quiet and creative writing that I enjoy. I am okay. I appreciate everyone reading. I’m pulled to do climate work which is meaningful and impactful, but I come back here just to be me – silly Dr. Plastic Picker. The way I decide what goes on this blog, is what make me truly happy and joyful. And above is a little friend I made that made me so happy.

In between trying to get comments from academic pediatrician friends on our upcoming journal article, working on the conclusion and citations, sending emails, helping others with their applicatiosn for various board positions, and generally doing things to help the earth – I sometimes make these funny little wine-cork people. Here are some more.

All beach trash but collected by an Instagram friend. I’ve been sorting through her stash.
This one is it’s twin with the same body. The arms are actually an old hanger I had fun trying to take apart.

And the three wine-cork people I made together. Here they are as friends.

Three wine-cork friends.

Even beach trash wine-cork people need friends. They travel in groups of three. I’m post my litter picking totals tomorrow. I got to 20 this month!

Pictures I sent to a dear colleague, when he asked me about urgent care staffing and that I had semi-fixed the system and delegated this task to someone else of the appropriate paygrade.

May 1, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I am still Assistant Boss. I still enjoy my job. I’ve been able to proactively change aspects of my job by going to the root cause of many middle management headaches and tweaking things. I have made my job easier and more appropriate for an MD and not a mindless hamster in the upper panel. I feel like the hamster in the lower panel. I’m ready to dive into the unknown waters, and not sure if I remember how to swim. I don’t really try to direct life, other than working to stop the headlong catastrophe of ecological collapse. I don’t worry about the what ifs and the endless tomorrows. I worry about our planetary future, but I’m sure enjoying the day to day part of life and how much I’m able to do just by being alive on this wondrous earth! One thing I know for sure, I will never be that hamster in the upper panel ever again. Trust me. I won’t and no one can make me because I’m free in so many ways. Free financially. Free mentally. Free from the colonial and misogynist mindset. Someone said something hurtful in an email, one of those little jabs that can destroy a woman leader after a million of them by small-minded people. And I replied back my truth and shined a mirror on that seemingly innocuous yet hurtful comment. But I did it in a clear-sighted and honest way. Just like if one litters in front of Dr. Plastic Picker, I’ll tell you that piece of plastic fell on the ground. It will hurt some living thing. And when I replied my truth and said lets move on, I felt very powerful and free.

I’m finishing the conclusion for our paper for the Journal of Applied Research on Children, and I am so proud of what we’ve done as an author group. It was a labor of passion and love. I think it will make an impact. Most importantly, it made an impact on us writing this piece together and collaborating. I had emailed our co-authors that this is one of the most meaningful projects I have ever worked on. We have decided to have Dr. Katie Durrwachter-Erno be first author partly because her section is first and partly because her name is unqiue and cathcy. We are tickled to be known forever moer as Durrwachter-Erno et al!!! I also finished inviting already inspired health professionals to the Eco-America Climate Health Ambassadors Training. That will be another 7-10 people I know activated or at least on their way. We are getting one of our colleagues from our Climate Change and Health Committee electred as AAP-CA3 Treasurer hopefully. Restarting efforts on the pharmaceutical waste project that will help ensure clean waters. The UCSD School of Medicine Civic Engagement Club is having their litter picking event soon, and the wonderful residents form the Kaiser Family Practice residents are going to go with them. I just have to buy the grabbers and I know where to get them at a discount. Hopefully high quality ones!

But with project after project complete, and making real progress in trying to save the earth – I still wonder at times about the future. I honestly have no further ambitions in middle management. I will finish my term which is two more years, and go where the organization needs me. I drank the HMO Kool-Aid years ago. But stepping off the figurative hamster wheel has been so liberating. What are Dr. Plastic Picker’s Plans for the future? Like the hamster in the lower panel – I honestly don’t know! But I’m so exicited about it! Maybe I’ll buy 20 acres in East County and turn it into a nature preserve and let anyone who wants to hike there hike there? Maybe I’ll start some business ventures and use some of the profits to further our environmental advcocacy? Maybe our premed interns who are absolutely phenomenal will have 100% acceptance rate to top notch medical schools? Maybe I’ll write a book about how 1000 bags of trash changed me, and go on a book tour and take a sabattical which the HMO owes me? Maybe I’ll finally get to drive cross country with Mr. Plastic Picker, but in an electric car and meeting my Durrwachter-Erno et al!!! friends along the way. Colorado, North Carolina, Puerto Rico. That would be an epic road trip. And maybe Mr. Plastic Picker and I will have our 20th wedding anniversary celebration next summer and we’ll invite everyone and dress like Vulcans and serve Vegan food. Yes the future looks wonderful. Get off the mental hamster wheel. Dr. Plastic Picker your assistant boss highly recommends it! Did you see the energy waves being sent to the white house? Was no one else suspcious?

Not sure if aliens are real, but this litte gopher at Rohr park sure is! Watch those little itty bit bits of plastic. It will go into his burrow where he lives!

April 30, 2021

by drplasticpicker

The above is a dear little trash art piece from a patient. Isn’t he darling???!!! They are all found pieces. He looks like a new species of bug. I really love him and this particular child is so creative! Look at those eyes and those atennas! I feel so lucky to be this child’s pediatrician, to know this family in all their complexities, and to have inspired this creative moment. Be creative. Make trash art. Write. It feels really good. That’s it. That’s my blogpost for today. And here is more plastic that has a complex story to it, that has been thrive washed and will be part of an epic Girl Scout Trash Art Piece.

Some land I’m thinking of buying. I’m going to buy and hold. But how can you own the earth? How can you own the birds and the trees? I’ll just drive out there and sit and watch nature. There are a lot of hiking trails on the land as well.

April 29, 2021

by drplasticpicker

It’s been a year and more. I think it will take a lifetime for all of us to process what we’ve all been through. And then our family, friends and colleagues – we’ve “seen” eachother but I don’t think each of us fully understands what each of us has been through. We all have our individual COVID stories. What a year. It’s still going on, and I just got into a heated argument with a young father who did not believe in the COVID vaccine. But the US is slowly opening up. COVID is still raging in India, and there will be ups and downs – but we are entering into the “new normal” and post-COVID world.


So many coffee grounds! They are really nitrogen gold!

April 28, 2021

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Once again my friend Dr. Young-Ho Yoon has transformed my life. I need to do an update on MD Eco-Warrior on him soon. It’s been so busy that I haven’t been keeping up with the MD interviews. But my former senior resident and friend from our Boston days had introduced us to the Aerobin400 and it’s been such a life-changer for us. It really has been amazing.


It was a whole process but I had to print out the Youth Arts Contest Poster my way.

April 25, 2021

by drplasticpicker

There is a newish term called neurodiversity. It can be used to describe children on the autism spectrum disorder and I think a better term. Can someone and the way their brain works be a disorder? Or are they just different? And on this blog different is 100% okay.

I was exhausted yesterday and did not play Catan with the children last night. Our son purchased Catan months ago and we still have not played. I had been up early at 4am sending emails and doing some climate work organizing, and we did go to volleyball. I did try to get the ocean beach plastic from #donttrashmissionbeach and it was very stressful trying to find parking in that area of Mission Beach. There is almost no parking. I know myself and I had circled around with my daughter in our car three times, and I ended texting her that I was going to head back home and try again some other day. The whole endeavor was very stressful because I know I am not a good driver. Well, I am a good driver because I know that I have to be very careful and I don’t take risks. I had my ex-28week preemie in the car and the last thing I’m going to do is risk her and myself trying to do a trash art advocacy project – especially since I’m trying to save the earth partially for my own children.