August 2022 – Dr. Plastic Picker

Month: August 2022

Pho Hoa in Linda Vista is decent.

August 30, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s 619am and I’m up with a beautiful cup of matcha green tea soy latte. To be honest, it’s not really a soy latte because I just use a little bit of soy milk. It’s really just matcha green tea with a teaspoon of sugar and a few splashes of soy milk. But it’s my morning elixir and I love it. I’m up a bit later than usual, but this is because yesterday was such a busy day. I had been up at 430am and had a flurry of activity yesterday morning. I had purchased with Mr. Plastic Picker 5 ears of corn from Vons that was on sale for $0.20 each. I was trying to avoid the plastic packaging from the preselected corn wrapped in plastic, and got the corn on sale still in the husks. Reminder to self that Vons does not have great produce. The corn was kind of sketchy while I removed the husks. But I was inspired and composted the husks, made instapot corn, and made some fried rice with the remaining corn. I pretty much just used a bunch of leftovers in the fridge to make everything. It was all very decent and the kids and husband ate in all while I was at work. But work yesterday was long (but meaningful), and I had a surprise advocacy project as SB1137 the oil and gas setbacks bill was up at the California State Natural Resources Committee and Dr. AM from San Francisco and I were trying to get AAP California to sign on to support with Physicians for Social Responsibility. In the end Dr. AM got it done, but I was part of the texting and trying to call our Executive Director to co-sign the letter of support.

Therefore yesterday was meaningful but exhausting in the end. I had Dr. MC, my new baby doctor I call her with me yesterday afternoon. It takes time to teach, and I taught and it was wonderful. But I wasn’t able to head home until 615pm last night from clinic and my charts were still all open. But I’m up now and I’ll close them while I finish the rest of my matcha green tea “soy latte.”

But in the daze of also making a quick instapot pasta dinner for the family, and laying my head on the kitchen table while everyone else was finishing dinner – I recounted the day and was happy to have lived it. I have no regrets from yesterday. But my daughter woke me up after I had stumbled up into bed and slept probably at least one cycle of REM sleep, and she had re-started her Vietnamese lessons.

We’ve been talking as a family about multi-layered identities. We have always told our children they are half Korean and half Vietnamese. But I think that is wrong. One of my friends told me, telling someone they are half means they are missing something. Now that the world is changed, I get that. I understand. And my daughter is pushing me to understand. She already speaks three languages decently well including Korean, but now she wants to formally learn Vietnamese. I guess I take it for granted because it’s my mother-tongue. I can teach her easily and I have in bits and pieces, and even have the textbook program from our old language professor from college. There was no reason for me to push my language before. Our oldest son had been language delayed so I worried about too many for her. But she has the ear, and actually has perfect tones and annunciation in Vietnamese. I’ve taught her how to count already to 100. She can count by 5s up to 100. She knows all the family honorific terms. She knows her colors. She knows some countries. She knows basic grammar. She can ask for any Vietnamese dish. She can tell her grandmother where her family members are. She knows some animals. Hey!!! Wait!!!! I got to give myself credit here!!!! I’ve taught her a lot already! LOL.

So it’s August 30, 2022 and my daughter has self started herself on formal Vietnamese lessons last night when I was in a daze of sleep. Her father was helping her because he learned Vietnamese (because he loved me even back in college) and turned on the program for her. She was working on her pronunciation drills as I was floating into another cycle of REM sleep. It was very melodious her going over the pronunciation drills with the recorded voice of our old Harvard Vietnamese instructor. And I’m happy this morning because I know she wants to learn Vietnamese because she loves me, and I’m Vietnamese. It will be fun and easy to accelerate her language skills. I never was concerned. She’s really smart, my ex-27 week preemie. She has an ear for languages. And now she has a friend at school in her homeroom that is fluent in Vietnamese too and she can practice.

My 14-year-old daughter loves me, her Vietnamese mother and insists on learning my language. She’s actually nagging me to teach her more. It’s a beautiful world and I’m grateful for it.

Mission Valley.

August 28, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

My real plan is to go for a jog this morning. That’s my real plan. I need to work on some basic cardio at least three times a week. I think I can safely go back to jogging regularly now that my foot pain is better and my back no longer hurts. Those aches and pains are gone now, and I feel fundamentally I’m healthier. But I want to work on my blood pressure, which had crept up to the high 110s and low 120s. I used to always be 100/70. Trying to find balance in how one moves ones body is very important. But I had to work on my mental health and my professional work-life balance. I had always been a fast runner, so picking up jogging again is going to be okay. I won’t go back to running half marathons. I don’t think it’s good for my knees.

My other real plan in life is how to save the earth, or at least try to avert the worse of climatic disaster. One of my climate friends asked if I wanted to go to COP 27 which is in Egypt this cycle. I could totally go to COP 27. I have friends that are going, and I’m sure I can insert myself into multiple delegations. But I don’t think the earth wants me to spew carbon from San Diego to Egypt. Lets use one of those on-line calendars. Keep in mind this is doubled, because it would be a round trip flight.

Wow. That is amazing. I also decided (with the earth) that I’m not going to AAP National Conference which is in Anaheim. There are going to be so many climate and health advocates there. We are awash with us in California, that can fill the speaking spots. It will be too overwhelming for me. I don’t need to be where there are enough of us. I will go to our HMO regional pediatric symposium in October. I will go to Oregon in October with family, and to check out our tree house. I will go to DC hopefully in April to present our vaccine equity project if I can get it written in time, as two of the premed interns want to present and need a paper to write for their medical school applications. I will speak at our HMO regional asthma symposium, which is virtual anyway. I will help my friend Dr. Elizabeth Friedman put on her Environmental Justice conference in Kansas City. I will plan on taking a sabbatical sometime next year. I’ve been with our organization now 15 years and I’m overdue and want to do this for myself and the earth. I have applied for a national HMO federation type sustainability position, and I’m still waiting to hear. I will continue to practice pediatrics and take care of my patients, and be happy at work with the actual practice and art of medicine.

And my major plan for the future, is that at some point when my children are finished with graduate school – I plan to be a grandmother. I would like a livable future for my children and their children, whether we can stay in Southern California or we will be part of the global climate migrations and migrate up to our properties in Oregon. Yes, climate change is happening and Dr. Plastic Picker has already made real estate moves to prepare. My daughter asked me yesterday if Korea will be too hot to live in at some points of the year, given the high likelihood that she marry someone who is Korean or part Korean. It’s hard to know. Right now in their father’s hometown in South Korea is in the 80s and raining. On our farm in Oregon, we are for now safe from the >2000 acres wildfire raging in Medford which is south of our farm. Our neighbor told us the air quality is OK right now. My mother’s hometown in Vietnam will likely be underwater with even a few inches of sea level rise.

And the funny thing is that worrying about the next next next , which is climate change. And then trying to slow life down by living with less plastic and generally living a more minimalistic life, has slowed the present to a beautiful snail’s pace. And in that restoration of the sense of time, has given me more time and space to do everything especially to be mindful of the two teenagers we are raising. They are turning out well. Our son has his college rank list and he’s chipping away with the applications. He’s appropriately stressing about senior year AP Biology, and getting ready for the start of classes. Our daughter is reading some good books (they are both good readers and writers), and taking time to develop her high school fashion style. We didn’t travel much purposefully because they have their things they needed to do. Cross country camp, volley ball setting camps, summer school, summer internships and on and on. They accomplished what they both set out to accomplish this summer. I am very proud of them. While I was cleaning the beaches and have been trying to save the earth for everyone, everything kind of righted itself. I actually think both will likely get into Ivy League schools, although Mr. Plastic Picker doesn’t necessarily agree. I used to stress about what kind of schools they would eventually get into, but now one realizes it’s more the kid than the school. And also I’m going to miss them if they go to far from me.

That’s it. Just my thoughts this morning. Mr. Plastic Picker is back from walking our crazy black poodle mix and he’s making his coffee now. I love the sound of family as they are puttering around the kitchen and I’m typing away in my own blogging world. The future is here now. After I chat with my original Kdrama boyfriend (Mr. Plastic Picker), I’m going to go jogging for 30 minutes and pick up one bag of plastic pollution.

On TV last week, twice.

August 27, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I made up the term “Secondary Environmental Net Positives” when I started this blog about three years ago. Has it been three years? It seems gloriously longer and blogging and picking up trash has helped me slow down time. That’s the great thing about blogging, it allows me to be creative and order the world and my life in the way that makes sense to me. There has been so many more “secondary environmental net positives” than I ever imagined when I started this whole thing. Case in point, being on local TV TWICE last week. It was all sorts of craziness and over stimulating to be honest. But it was definitely a secondary environmental net positive because San Diegans saw me talk about climate and mental health.

But here, I’m going to return to the original “secondary environmental net positive” which is other things I’ve physically done other than picking up litter, to help the earth. This blogpost category keeps me motivated as I keep track on my iphone on the notes section. So here they are!


Beautiful photo of beautiful faces.

August 26, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Yesterday ended up being a busier climate day than I thought. At dinner our daughter made a paella-like amazing dish of crispy rice and meatballs that she whipped together, just because she is one of those creative type minds. The tumeric gave it the yellow color, she explained, and she used tomatoes from the garden (I think she may have picked them herself while I was busy talking on the phone). The dinner was simply amazing with slices of organic white nectarines on the side. I was in the state of mind to really look at the dinner and appreciate the food and the moment, but my mind was still swirling with all the busyness of the climate projects of the day. Mr. Plastic Picker had picked her up from volleyball practice, She had come home with her father afterwards and I was in the middle of 2 hours of advocacy calls and meetings. At some point she glared at me because I was in the way of her getting a pan and listening to her music whilst cooking, and I was in my moment/zone of talking about a climate project over the phone with a colleague. When I saw her glare at me, I glared back at her.

We laughed at dinner as we tried to figure out what that odd moment was, as we don’t typically glare at each other. They were really intense glares my friends! It was just funny, and we were not mad at each other at all – but realized we were each in our zones and doing something we both feel passionate about. Those concentric circles of experiences were overlapping. Teen unwinding from volleyball practice in her happy zone of cooking, and her mother winding up on a big project and in my “I am being effective for the world” zone.


Toddler me in Clairemont.

August 20, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

This was an epic week. An unexpectedly epic week. I had expected this week to be the lone eco-activist pushing for fossil fuel divestment. I even took the courage to present another power point on the issue, and then blogged about it. But no one clicked on that blogpost. Goes to show, most people are too busy playing their parts in the healthcare industry machinery and their roles in their own families. We are all so busy! I get it. Everyone wants to help but there isn’t one person showing the way. I’m trying to point my friends toward the way. And even a well researched and well deployed power point, didn’t do the trick.


protests on the Harvard campus re fossil fuel divestment.

August 18, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’ve done my due diligence. I’ve presented at multiple high levels meetings and I’ve told the divestment story. I’ve shown pictures of students protesting at the UC campus and at Harvard. I talked about how members took over the Board of Directors within the Harvard governance system, and that is what forced the divestment issue. I showed pictures of union groups rallying regarding SB1173. I said specifically at least five times now to those in charge or with some level of influence, “there is a huge up swelling of grassroots support for fossil fuel divestment and this includes union groups. We need to be ahead of the curve to gain public support and gain trust equity within the community. It’s the right thing to do.”

I was met with the same expected response. Thank yous for my advocacy and passion. Thank you for understanding the system. Advice about how to proceed by taking smaller steps. I will continue to talk about divestment versus investment. I will work within our system. I’ll move our investments forward to more ESG funds and yes there are other projects to do like reducing the use of unnecessary surgical drapes.

But in the end, this blog is my emotional journey of a pediatrician who recognizes the existential crisis of climate change. And I had some big meetings and will continue to have these meetings, but I’m frustrated to the 100th degree. I’m a working stiff, who happily worked the staggered late shift last night. I’ve done so much for our medical system and I am very cost effective. And I’ve never wasted any money. And those that are sitting and being cogs in the HMO machinery. Those who are not listening to me, I get it. We are so big. But you are not being cost effective. You are wasting my time and my money. Fossil fuel investments are investments in climate disaster. What is your money and our real estate worth is the world keeps on warming?

We need to stop the existential threat of climate change, and fossil fuel divestment by our large HMO could pop the bubble in oil extraction. We could help bend the arc toward a sustainable future faster and maybe avert some of the dire catastrophic climatic disasters that are coming. The megaflood in California, the wildfires that are already here, the heat waves that are already here. But in the midst of all that, HMO you are asking me to take baby steps.

Yes I’ll work in the system and take baby steps. Someone else already tried to raise a rukus and got in trouble from another region. I’m a former Assistant Boss and I know not to do that. I’ll take baby steps and get that regional position that no one wants, because no one is being paid to do it – and I’ll do it for free. But in the end, I’m as crazy an environmentalist as those others that you fear who realizes what the threat is. I’m just old enough to have been in middle-management to know you need those within who support this.

But when the children come. When the protestors come. When the megafloods come (the wildfires and the drought are already here), I told you so. They won’t come for me because I’m Dr. Plastic Picker, and I was an inside agent anyway. I 100% told you so. And I put it on the blog and I’ve put it in at least 5 power point presentations. And that is it. This is the emotional journey of a litter-picking pediatrician who continues to try to move the needle on climate change within the very large frustrating HMO system.

Can hardly see their faces, so I think this picture is ok?

August 12, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Yes! I’m blogging while taking the PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) Pre Course Assessment. It’s an every 2 year course that most pediatricians take, and all trainees take. Since it’s been almost 19 years since I graduated medical school – this must be the 9th time right?

I’m right now on Section 3 on question 8/29. Since it’s the pre-course assessment, I can toggle back and forth between blogging and answering questions. So far so good.

But I really wanted to take this morning while I’m on my PALS journey again for the 9th time, to use a play on words and think of the real PALS in life. This week has been one of self-reflection. I’ve been asked and asked myself, what if I was asked to lead again? And the honest answer is, there has been a silence from the other side and I now realize that it was meant to be. I think initially I was a bit hurt, but now I know it came from a place of love. I was honest and open about my burn out, and why I chose an alternate path. I’ve blogged about it at least 700 times. I realize now that when I articulated my hurt, that I was listened to. And those that were higher than me with responsibilities, understood and have left me alone. Sitting here taking PALS for the 9th time. I truly appreciate it.

I was with my daughter at her physical yesterday morning, and I chatted with her doctor and my friend. My daughter’s pediatrician is the remnant of my Assistant Boss times, the one that I’ll keep in contact with. We talked about my daughter, and in general my family’s health and I had a stark realization yesterday. The kids are healthier since I voluntarily stepped down from Assistant Boss. I’m healthier. And I think as evidence from this blog, the earth is healthier. I took time for myself yesterday and visited my brother’s family, and laughed with my nephews and my sister-in-law. We ate carbohydrates and knew that was part of a our healthy life, because we were creating food memories yesterday. And I didn’t do that before. The way I’m wired at work, is that when I commit to something I commit with my whole heart. And honestly 90 fractious pediatricians to love with my whole heart, was breaking it. I couldn’t understand why sometimes when my whole goal was just to make everyone’s life a little bit better by reducing after hours shifts and managing the part-time doctors and trying to find the perfect schedule for everyone, that sometimes folks would lash out. Or at least I felt they were lashing out at me. Those comments still hurt, and I’ve dealt with it and just put distance between myself and them. Now that I have no official position, it’s easier.


one of the possible slides.

August 6, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

There was an important lunchtime regional meeting I needed to be at. I had to mentor the family practice residents and was mentoring also one of our premed Eco-America interns on our climate and art project. I was a good doctor in the morning, listening to my patients – some of them I have known since birth. In my new office in the new hallway of the clinic I have worked essentially my entire general pediatrics career, I’m allowing myself time to practice the way I think pediatrics should be practiced. I want to fundamentally heal children and families and that means taking time. The residents too take time. They deserve teaching and my consideration, as does my premed student.

But the only one I can control is myself, and my own time and my own efforts. This is partly why I’m satisfied to have finished my 5 years as Assistant Boss and not be beholden to anyone outside of my clinical duties, which I’m paid for. But in that balancing act and trying to get patients in, I didn’t finish into well into lunch. The regional meeting I wanted to present the #fightfor1point5 divestment talk finished early. I did get the opportunity to talk to our regional leads and review some of my thoughts.

My confusion today and yesterday is – will it really be just one slide? Will one slide or 5 slides be enough? I can put the rest of the slides in an appendix for sure, but is it really going to be that easy? I actually think it might be, because that is sometimes how great change happens. It’s the tide of history and the arc of collective human thought that bends toward justice, toward right – and I just happen to be within this tide this arc of history. It feels like the world knows what it needs to do. I don’t mind being the one to bring the proposal up. Everyone has leant forth some advice and basically said these big decision makers have just a few minutes to hear us, and keep it short and your request simple. But is divesting from fossil fuels really that simple? My request is simple, but it’s huge.

But perhaps it’s because they’ve been thinking about it too. This has been brought up before and in a more contentious way. I realized now I did dodge a big bullet by doing it my way. My son calls it weaponizing cuteness and working within the system. You can’t burn the entire institution down, and it’s not in my collaborative nature anyway.

So I’m here this morning and going to proceed with other projects and I need to do our taxes and be a volleyball mom this weekend. But I’m still confused but oddly think that this is meant to be. It’s probably going to take just one slide and the weeks I spent on my thought process and talking and preparing, was probably meant for my own growth and not to be showboated in front of others. That would be the greatest irony, because I was ready to talk and to change hearts. But the hearts were always there. And that is the beautiful thing about being open to nature, to emotions and to love – you see those hearts and can recognize it in others.

I still think I’m going to include this slide though. I just love it.

My opening slide.

August 5, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m choosing to be brave today. My eco-avatar me and the real me, that holds a position and a job. I have been working on this powerpoint for the last 2 weeks. It was mostly me sorting through my emails and messages from others, and collating my thoughts and furthering my understanding about fossil fuels and the importance of divestment.

My body was tired yesterday, but I realized after reflecting how much I had grown in my understanding of fossil fuel divestment and how involved I’ve been in this at the state level and nationally. My emotional fatigue and brain fatigue was well earned. I shut it off last night, and found a new sweet (but not too addictive) early 2010 K drama to watch. I slept deeply last night. When I do real impactful earthwork, that it what happens.

I posted around social media and the Facebook groups about the talk that I am giving. It’s more for me to remind myself to be brave in this work.

On our internal MD Facebook group, I was open and honest. And the positivity is real. The camaderie is real.


the slide that was funny.

August 1, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m still trying to process it all. It was such a beautiful day yesterday. Michael Tran who was our leader back in our undergraduate days was the Co-President of the Harvard Vietnamese Association and Director of RYSE, Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment. Mr. Plastic Picker and I had been involved with BRYE, Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment. Both had largely served the Boston Vietnamese refugee community back then. Dr. Michael Tran organized a reunion for Harvard Vietnamese Association alumni in California. A lot of people came. I mean A LOT!