It’s the last day of April 2020. Blogging has become an important part of my day. Sometimes I will write a heartfelt piece that really stirs me emotionally that can be submitted to be published somewhere else. Sometimes I will write nonsense. In the beginning of the blogging I wrote a piece on “It is poop or is it plastic?” https://drplasticpicker.com/is-it-poop-or-is-it-plastic/ I don’t think anyone read that one. I wanted to recount the time a seagull pooped on my head in seventh grade. It was a powerful memory. All the blog pieces serve a purpose. I like rereading all of them and going back and editing minor grammatical errors. I am definitely of the school “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”
It is just past 5am, and I am sitting in our kitchen in the dark except for the light of this laptop. There was also a small flame from the stove and it’s brief illumination, because my father-in-law made his cup of morning coffee. He heats the water on our gas stove in a small pot. He has gone back to his room now, and it’s just me with this laptop and my coffee and minimal light. I used to turn on the small overhead light above our coffee area, but I worry about the insect apocolypse and artificial human light disrupting insect circadian rhythm. So I type in the dark with minimal light.
I can hear the crickets outside our screen door. I know my makeshift birdhouse made from an old shoebox is just outside as well. It’s a funny little thing covered in small round plastic images of past presidents, that I cut and glued on from my favorite mousepad cover that Mr. Plastic Picker wanted to throw away. Now I get to look at those presidents still when I check my upcycled birdhouse. For some reason that birdhouse brings me so much amusement. Mr. Plastic Picker bought the premium birdseed for $20 and the actual birdhouse is made from things that were about to be discarded, a broken hanger, a cardboard shoe box, the plastic mousepad cover, a cardboard image of a Kodiak bear that adorns our pancake mix all hot glue gunned together. When I first sprinkled birdseed on top and then inside the birdhouse, I was unsure if any birds would come to my Upcycled Presidential Bird House.
Did I ever tell tell you I am our daughter’s Girl Scout Troop Leader? It was never anything that I sought out to do. Our daughter was finishing kindergarten and the moms in our grade wanted to form a school-based troop. There was plenty of interest among other families to form a troop, but as with most things few people wanted to take responsibility. I am the Co-troop leader. The other mother is the driving force behind the troop. I volutneered six years ago to help lead because I wanted this experience for our daughter. I also won’t let her go to sleep overs without me. I am an overprotective mother. So I became a Girl Scout Co-Troop Leader.
Our crazy black puppy was barking at 3am and woke us up. She once woke us up to lead us to Mr. Plastic Picker’s mother who was febrile to 105, vomiting and looked really really bad. Grandfather was later diagnosed with urosepsis after a dramatic ambulance ride to our hospital. The crazy black puppy saved grandma’s life that day, so we take her barking seriously. But this morning’s 3am barking, I am not sure what that was about. She barks when there is going to be thunder, and when there are minor earthquakes we don’t notice. We discovered the backyard barking is due to the neighbors who regularly walk the back alley way. The frontyard barking is due to the racoon that lives in a neighbor’s palm tree. But at 3am, I am not sure. I think it may have been because Mr. Plastic Picker’s father was up early downstairs. I think she barks at any ghosts as well. Do you believe in ghosts? Nonetheless I am up, and it felt like the right time to blog.
Yesterday was an odd day for me. I started it off semi-euphoric. We had solved a complex scheduling conundrum and it will likely improve the lives of all our department Post-Covid19, and that made me euphoric. I composed a third of a Hopeful Wednesday post early morning in that euphoric mood, but did not finish. I have learned with this blog to let the rhythms of life and nature lead me what to write, what to publish and when to just leave things. Since there is no other motive to this blog other than documenting plastic-picking adventures and really giving me an outlet to journal, it is very freeing. So I will leave that post and see if by next Wednesday it can be completed, or needs to go to the half-written blog post graveyard.
I did write one non-Covid 19 post this weekend about parrots, which was very fun https://drplasticpicker.com/parrots-of-pacific-beach/. But even that post was tangentially related to Covid 19 because I only noticed the parrots because the single-use plastic gloves were around our neighborhood. That got me thinking about all the things that I have done only because of this quarantine. It’s almost the 6th week of our self quarantine, although Mr. Plastic Picker and I are still going to work.
It was almost a month since I did any serious litter picking, and the ocean is closed. As you well know, we are still in statewide COVID-19 quarantine. The quarantine is a good thing because we all need to #flattenthecurve. I also was not sure if I was exposing my patients and my family to unnecessary risk if I litter picked. But yesterday I saw a purple single-use disposable glove on the street in front of our neighbor’s house, and that just is not right. I was masked, used gloves and a metal grabber and picked up a small bag of litter. I washed my hands also and showered afterwards. I felt so much better after picking up those few pieces, and am confident I did not catch anything. More importantly, I think I am preventing social unrest because trash like that will push people to the brink. Maybe that is why there are protestors now at various state capitals. I bet you they live on littered streets, but really they should just pick it up. So I will litter pick in the early mornings now with a metal grabber, mask and gloves.
Twenty-five years ago this month, I was seventeen and would lie on a hammock in our back yard that overlooked the winding road that led to our mailbox. My father always complained about that road because it was asphalt and technically private, so all the neighbors had to agree and contribute money anytime the road needed repairs. It’s a windy road that is shaded by a canopy of non-native eucalyptus trees. I remember seeing those same trees in Austalia with koalas. I saw these same trees in Peru last year up high in the Andes during a medical mission trip. They are non-native to Peru, encouraged by the government in the 1970s as a fast growing cheap source of fuel-wood. Those trees have contributed to the disruption of the water cycle there. In Australia and Peru, I oddly felt at home because I knew those trees despite their invasive nature.
Twenty-five years ago the teenage me was laying on the backyard hammock with one foot slowly pushing off to power the rhythmic motions. I would just quietly watch the windy road below . I loved hammocks as a child. As a mother, a few years ago I had this moment of determination and marched to Home Depot with my skeptcal non-hammock- loving husband. That weekend, I taught my half-grown children how to correctly use one. Seeing them try to sit and subsequently fall onto the ground, dazed and laughing as the hammock continually flipped over was wonderful. Laying correctly on a hammock is an artform that I mastered as a child. When you lay on a hammock you have to move with it, and somewhat let go of control which is difficult for uptight people.
We are in the middle of unprecedented times, when much of the world is in quarantine and COVID-19 is a menacing danger. I am sitting at home in Southern California, and most of my department are not doing any heroics. Most outpatient pediatrics is doing virtual visits. As Dr. Plastic Picker, I don’t know when I can return to the beach to start picking up plastic again. As Pediatricians, we don’t know when we will return to seeing face to face patients or what medicine will be like after this is all over. We are blessed that for the most part children are doing okay. Rates of respiratory illnesses are down because kids are not swapping germs anymore, a side effect of quarantining. Even with New York City still in the midst of a true crisis and the rest of the country is anxiously watching to see if the curve truly flattening – I still have hope.
It’s easy for me to have hope, because I have not been asked to do much. I have tried to help as much as I can but it seems woefully inadequate in comparison to the sacrifice others are making. I have helped distribute a few thousand masks, tried to make sure my little corner of the medical world is flattening the curve, and continued to have the environment on my mind. But I have hope because from great hardship the world can change. It sometimes takes momentous challenges for us to reach our true potential. Personally for me, the greatest times of personal growth have been after great personal and professional failures. So I am hopeful that we will make a better world post COVID-19.
This is definitely one of those topics that Dr. Plastic Picker is a much better pediatrician now than I was at the beginning of my career. It helps that I myself have gone through puberty, completed a clinical year of pediatric endocrinology, and am semi-successfully guiding my own two children through this process.
This can be both a stressful and wonderful time in life. There is a sense of loss for the littleness of your children. I had this profound sense of loss because I worked so much when they were little. I miss the warmth of those young bodies snuggling up to me at night. The promise of that time would often get me through the long overnight calls or urgent care shifts. Our daughter had a profound sense of loss as well. When her body began changing she said that she did not want to grow up. Our son was very nonchalant about the whole thing, which is true to his easy going personality.
But as I tell my children and my patients, puberty is a wonderful thing because it means the body is working! It means that your hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis is functioning as it should and you’ve reached this milestone. If you didn’t go through puberty by a certain time, it would be a medical problem. I would have to start getting blood work, radiographs and maybe MRI your brain. As a pediatrician, I am aware of the dangers of being little as well. You are more susceptible to diseases which is why there are more vaccines when you are young. Little children can’t physically protect themselves as well. So I look at puberty, as a wonderful time that children are gaining bodily strength. They are developing themselves to be adult people. Because in the end the purpose of raising children and protected them while they are young is to get adults, and then they can protect and fend for themselves. And now my own teenagers can get things I need from the upper shelves that I can’t reach! Score!