I’m at bag #534. I gathered two bags yesterday waiting for our daughter to finish her volleyball practice at Salt Creek Recreational Center. It’s a beautiful riparian habitat around the field, and I walked around the perimeter of the field that borders the actual creek. There are wild places even in suburban areas, and I gravitate to the wild places and views. I heard birds at the edge of the playing fields and the sounds of insects. I tried to gather the pieces of human litter that were close to the wild places, caught within the protective armour of the reeds and wildgrasses. The plants and the trees were trying to keep our plastic out.
I’m halfway to my goal now. My goal is 1000 bags of litter. I’ll post this months total later, but it was a more productive month than what I expected. I walk up the slopes and inclines where others forget to look, and find the debris of our lives. I have to believe I am making a difference. My activism is very literal. I have to see that I’m doing something everyday. I need to see the litter. I need to see that I am removing the pollution. I have to see that I’m helping bring back life to our earth, and have to see the carbon sequestering into the soil.
Every bag has been meaningful. It’s helped me figure out my life, and has helped me figure out how to help the earth. No matter what happens, at least I have a hobby now that I enjoy. As I was telling a patient I have to keep on being a doctor too, because I’m Dr. Plastic Picker not Mrs. Plastic Picker or Miss Plastic Picker or Hey You Plastic Picker. And a doctor needs patients including the earth.
I made two robot like trash-art people. They are super interesting. Check out my instagram @drplasticpicker if you actually want to see them. They are made from interesting bits of non-recyclable plastic that I found around the house. Mr. Plastic Picker’s small fancy box that his new annoying watch-buying collection came in. The two spouts from to-go coffee carafe that I tried to save from years ago. Nerf gun bullets repurposed into robot eyes. And the plastic carrying handle from the non-coffee breakfast drink almond/walnut mix that I occassionally get from the Korean market now. It all came together as two robots. And on an early Monday morning. I wonder if it means anything? LOL.
I didn’t blog this weekend. I actually didn’t do much of anything purposeful this weekend, other than go to the Climate Leader Garden Gathering on Saturday night with our Public Health Advisory Council. I dressed up fancy, but didn’t really worry about how fancy – if that makes sense. I just wanted to make sure Mr. Plastic Picker and I showed up. We had so much fun. Climate leaders and especially their spouses are really fun to hang out with. We networked and made real human connections with friends that had been mostly virtual.
In times of great emotion or confusion or happiness, I make trashart. I know it’s weird but it’s true. Last night I made this from bits and pieces of plastic from our lives. The bottle caps are from the two Izzy bottles our kids drank during our San Francisco vacation. The winecorks are from @donttrashmissionbeach famous litter picker fame. I’m almost through all the bits and pieces she dropped off at our house. Most I recycled or had to go into the garbage. I saved most of the winecorks. And most of the “head” of this trashart piece is from the packaging from the new headphones Mr. Plastic Picker purchased for me. Most the packaging was cardboard and recyclable but not the handle part.
I have the HMO Family Practice Residents this morning. I helped start this rotation with my old mentor almost a decade ago. Now I just give one lecture on Pediatric Obesity and mentor one morning. I used to think it was a burden, but now I really enjoy my one day. I make muffins for the three residents and I take them on a field trip to visit a former resident who works upstairs. He is a friend. I have a bag of our family’s garden produce with tomatoes, eggplants and peppers to give him. Today I did vary it up a bit. I usually make the HMO residents banana walnut muffins but this morning I was up at 430am and wanted to use up the semi-mushy apples. So I made almost vegan apple cinnamon muffins. I also cooked down most of the apples for my own kids for breakfast/lunch. My teen daughter is needing more fiber, if you know what I mean.
This beautiful wooden date blocks was lovingly given to me by a patient’s family. This is to help me remember what day it is. It pictures very well on Instagram too! It was so kind of them. It really was. Yesterday was the first clinical care day after 1.5 weeks of vacation. Most of that vacation was home, but I we did have that wonderful trip to San Francisco. It was so nice to see my patients again, and I reconnected with a few families I had not seen in a while. I met a nice new family as they are embarking on this adventure called parenthood. I missed a call from another parent, who I will try to call again today. I was able to stop by the HMO coffee shop to get the coffee grounds. It was 7.6 kg of coffee grounds. Our HMO patients were drinking a lot of coffee yesterday! It’s all in the composter now.
It’s 645AM and it’s a work at home day. I have our middle management meeting today. I need to actually listen to the COVID lectures really carefully now, and review all the American College of Immunization Practice updates well. I’m responsible for signing all the immunization orders in our entire organization now. I need to pivot and be more detail oriented, but I don’t mind relearning that skillset. I was an endocrine fellow at some point, and we were if anything but detail oriented. The devils is in the details.
And this week on my OFF time it’s all Green Team for the HMO (which is actual real HMO work that I’m doing for free) and meetings for practice runs on two big presentations. I don’t mind though and actually excited about those tasks because vaccines and climate work and healthcare sustainability practice is now my focus. Thank you for following along. I truly appreciate it. Just blogging and writing a bit every morning clears my mind and helps me figure out what I need to do with life. I have time these days because we just decided not to buy things we did not need. It frees a lot of mental space and time. For exampled, the used uniform sale at school ws 45 minutes and done. The entire process of buying uniforms for our kids was usually $700 (versus $70) and take weeks of agonizing.
I think the reason I’m so enamored with Dawson’s Creek right now, other then the really good script writing and dialouge, is the idea of home. I’ve realized now that those stories and books that are “friends,” the ones that I read over and over again – have that theme. Where is one’s home? What is one’s relationship with place and how do you define it? For me, my environmental activism like many others is anchored in the idea of the places I call home and trying to literally clean those pieces of earth or the sky above it. That it is all related to the need to preserve the amazon and the water quality in the entire ocean, is why it now encompasses literally the entire world.
But it’s the end of August, and although the work of earth-saving will continue – the kids’ summer break is drawing to a close. They have another two weeks until school restarts. They are still at their fancy prep school and I’m at peace with the exorbiant tuition that we pay which is the antithesis of much of what I stand for. But I accept that it’s okay to have contradictions in one’s life. I’m Dr. Plastic Picker but we still get sushi in styrofoam once in a while. I extol the cost savings and health-benefits of making your own home-made pizza, yet I buy salt and pepper fried chicken wings for our clinic at moments of weakness.
Yes it’s the end of August and it’s been a really good summer for the kids despite the altered vacation plans and the COVID delta surge. We stayed mostly in the house, still social distancing. We did have the kids do a few outings mostly with family and to family houses where everyone who was able to , was vaccinated. Our son had his 16th birthday with two vaccinated friends at Liberty Station where they had lunch at the outside food court and masked. My sister came into town, and our family got together several times for dinner. That was probably the best part of the summer. And instead of Oregon and Montana, we instead did a short driving trip to San Francisco where we wandered around up there.
But sitting back and reflecting during this summer, I’m really proud of our kids. They both grew intellectually and emotionally quite a bit. Both took risks. Our daughter threw herself into volleyball and found something outside of academics that gives her passion and purpose. She’s made such a good group of friends through volleyball that I’m forever grateful to the Neptune Volleyball Club. We were buying used uniforms at the fancy prep school used uniform sale, and we ran into some happy friends but mostly what seemed to us unhappy acquaintances. It’s been good for her to get out of her friend bubble and get to know other people. She delved into her love of ceramics, and it’s something that she is exploring now. She’s going to join the ceramics club and also taking another course as an elective. I fully support this. And our son finished Advanced Chemistry over the summer and surprisingly enjoyed it. He did very well, and will take AP Chemistry this next year. He was proud to have finished his SAT prep course that took up a lot of the summer. And the summer writing course that he was resistent to doing, he actually really enjoyed.
Mr. Plastic Picker and I are so proud of our kids. For us, focusing on them as intellectuals and giving them the room to take intellectual risks has been very important. And for us that has helped us as people too. I’m trying to take risks in my career and to grow professionally and intellectually. Mr. Plastic Picker is still trying to figure out his path as well. It was overall a really good to summer for the kids and our family.
Everything about yesterday was just great and fun. It was also one of the most impactful things I’ve done. Will it end up in the closure of this methane-spewing peaker power plant in the Environmental Justice community of El Cajon which is surrounded by black/brown children who happeend to be born into poor families and kids from refugee families? I don’t know. Will it make a dent in the fight against this existential crisis of climate change? I don’t know. But I tried. I tried so much with my whole heart. I did it with joy. I brought my friend Dr. Dear Friend along and re-inspired her into activism along the way (she had protested as a child along with Ceasar Chavez). We had a great morning and day together.
Okay. I’m up and the comments are written. Dr. Dear Friend and I are representing San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air at a rally in El Cajon, and I’m speaking about the health affects of power plants on pediatric asthma. It’s funny when you speak on a topic that you know well and are passionate about, it comes very easily. I started writing my comments about 45 minutes ago and I’m done now. I used bits and pieces from our journal article. Since I wrote the words with my friends, it’s okay for me to use those phrases directly. I intermixed health facts with a story. Patient stories are always powerful.
I thought I needed strength when I started blogging this morning, but I’m okay. I fill myself up on real food that is mostl vegetables and a lot of really delicious tomatoes. I also got a very good nights sleep last night. Without coffee, my body naturally quiets toward the end of the day and I don’t wake up at 2-3am anymore. We are supposed to be there by 930AM, and I’ll leave here in about an hour. Pick up Dr. Dear Friend and we’ll meet the other climate activist at 930AM. We’ll walk one mile together to the rally. I guess I don’t have as much time as I thought. My speech is done but I need to practice. Okay. Here it is.
I’m drinking a cup of black tea plain this morning. It’s been probably six weeks since I stopped drinking coffee, naturally. I went for a very long walk yesterday. I was intending to just do a quick walk around the neighborhood and get one bag, but I ended up at the beach again and it was very wild and dramatic. I saw a father furiously and franatically waving to two young boys who were caught up far from the shore. The waves were very strong, and he was gesticulating wildly to get them to come closer to shore. I saw the ocean tide come in very far, and I couldn’t walk home on my usual path North, and had to turn south. The ocean had created a watery barrier dividing the beach. Rather than risk getting very wet or jumping across the few feet of shallow sea that block my path, I simply headed south.
But I’ve been thinking about the idea of True Noth lately. We talk about that at our HMO a lot, that quality is our true north. I heard it again on the literal 8th time I’m rewatching key scenes in Dawson’s Creek (yes I think it’s like the 8th time) where Joey Potter looks at Dawson Leery and asks him if he’s lost his true north. It’s the fixed point in the sky that you can always use to guide and navigate.
Many people seem to have lost their true north. Mr. Plastic Picker was very frustrated with work, and I was frustrated for him as well. We were not even supposed to be back in San Diego, and were technically still on vacation. But 4 sick calls in his department later, somehow my husband is working overtime shifts and filling a need. He doesn’t need the overtime and we certainly don’t need the money, and he’d rather be home. But there are patients that need procedures done and that is what happens when you are a doctor. His true north I think is his patients. He does really care about his patients.
My true north is the earth and the climate. And with that, everything is connected. And stories. In the end I’ve realized that I’m interested in stories. Fictional stories like Dawson’s Creek but also real stories. In this time of great hardship due to COVID, political and global upheaval, and also of the existential threat of climate change – what role did you choose to play? Mr. Plastic Picker chose to be the quiet hero, and show up to work. We had to cancel family and business meetings today so that he could do procedures. I’ve chosen to write and do this weird @drplasticpicker journey that helps a little and certainly doesn’t hurt. And if you’ve chosen to play the victim or the villain, than that is okay. We all have our roles. But I don’t think the victims or the villains ever get sequels. Thanks for hearing my continued ramblings regarding life lessons and the earth. Doing a lot of climate work still. Yesterday was an epic day. Dr. Dear Friend and I are going to a protest/rally. Hopefully we don’t get arrested. LOL. No we won’t! But we may make the news. Will let you know! Watch out fossil fuel company, Dr. Plastic Picker is coming to get you!
I’m storing up the memories still. Between my little sister’s visit with our nephew and niece for the first time in almost 2 years, and then our road trip to the Bay Area, our family is storing up those memories. We are back a day earlier than expected and I still have two day of vacation and two days of a weekend off, and now I realize that time is mine and does not belong to the HMO. I’m going to give that time to my climate work and getting the kids ready for the new school year. Our daughter wants to refresh her room, hang up some new posters and swap out some furniture. Our son doesn’t want to do anything with his room, but I need to venture in to dust and declutter.