January 2023 – Dr. Plastic Picker

Month: January 2023

He loves to read.

January 28, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It was an odd night. It’s 644am and it was a fitful night of sleep. The black poodle fluffy puppy (who isn’t really a puppy anymore) kept on trying to squeeze her little body between Mr. Plastic Picker and I and trying to find the warmest spot in the bed. I needed the comfort of my husband’s arms and kept on moving from one side of the bed to the other side, to avoid the little fluff ball who wanted to be in between – all the time trying to not trip over my brother’s Corgi who has taken to sleeping on our floor during her stay with us. It’s frustrating trying to get into Mr. Plastic Picker’s arms. Maybe because I didn’t have that comfort, I had dreams that I had small wart like growths on the dorsum of my bilateral feet. But then in my dreams the growths became little totem like people. Almost like my trash figures! I was so busy in my dream that I didn’t have time to make my own dermatology appointment. And then suddenly I was in a car driving with Dr. Dear Friend, and then Dr. Dear Friend insisted I drop her off at Pediatrics first before I could go to the ED to ask for a dermatology consult regarding the little people growing out of my feet and body. Isn’t that weird???!!!

It’s the morning and I’m going to try to go for a short jog to get my heart rate up, but mostly this morning I’m going to work on reformatting the Fossil Fuel Divestment paper. I’m going to work on the citations and at least I started getting the addresses from our authors for part of the paper (the Yale journal needs the actual addresses of the co-authors). It’s a relief knowing whatever I do will be semi-helpful to the writing team. We are all committed to getting these three writing projects done, as it is vital to stop the climate crisis and part of addressing that is fossil fuel divestment in the healthcare sector. It’s amazing how unimaginative and scared two editors are at other prestigious journals. In the end, our author group will know that they were UNHELPFUL in trying to save the earth and SCARED. I don’t know what is scarier than our world ended up like Vulcan?

But the reason I think I had a fitful sleep and odd dreams, is that we are still waiting to hear from colleges for our oldest. I had no idea that college applications would be this stressful. Mr. Plastic Picker and our son are in a good calm state about the process, but this mother is starting to panic. I had ten thousand and one scenarios in my head. I always have back up plan upon back up plans in life, and it’s unlikely that I’ll need to enact those back-up plans. But they were racing in my head last night. I’m sure other parents who have children applying to college go through the same mental exercises.

But what I will remember yesterday the most, was my sense of surprise and pride. Our son, like all his classmates, has worked incredibly hard through his four years of high school. Mr. Plastic Picker and I absolutely could not have asked for more. He’s taken challenging classes, taken advanced placement exams, sacrificed summers and free time to prep for tests and met his goals for scores and GPA. And during that time, he was a good son and a good friend. He stayed up late studying more nights than I care to admit but also has been part of his school community, laughing with friends and volunteering to do goofy senior things because he genuinely loves his school. He’s done cool internships, done well in college summer programs, and written articles and been on TV and radio broadcasts. And he is a fantastic kid and as parents we know he has the skillset to thrive in his chosen field of study and will do well at any of the schools that he has applied to. And we are still waiting, and we’re absolutely still in the mix. And as some classmates are hearing from schools already and their futures are set, he is so joyous for his friends and celebrating their successes. And he is gracious and there is no sense of entitlement. And that is actually pretty rare for a kid raised in the social circle that he is being raised in. He knows that he’ll earn whatever spot he earns, and he’ll go there happily.

So we wait. We got a no from one school, and now waiting for the other fourteen. But honestly with the handsome kid in the picture, I think we already won the college admissions hunt – because we found him and we’ll keep him! If you are a college admissions counselor, you should honestly just admit him because he’s a really nice kid who is good-looking. You need a couple! LOL. Continuing to be really superficial on my blog. Okay, I’ll log off and try to save the earth now by writing an academic paper.

my new facebook profile! for my personal page.

January 27, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m midway through my 40s, and I realize that I’m naturally a very cheerful person. I was cheerful when I arrived to Cambridge at 17 to start my studies at Harvard. I think I generally was still cheerful after graduating from medical school, but somewhere in between being hazed as a medical student and resident and just life as a mommy doctor – I became less cheerful. But now I’m cheerful again, and back to my natural happy self. It probably helps that I’m back in San Diego, the city that raised me to be generally cheerful. It must be our generally good weather.

So here I am at 5:42 AM and I’m still plugging away trying to help our author group reformat our paper “Child advocacy through fossil fuel divestment.” There are illustrious co-authors on the paper, and somehow through my being cheerful and dedicated to the cause of saving the literal earth for our children – I am also a co-author. I have contributed I believe a good amount to the paper, but it’s again my turn to step up as the other co-authors have grant and IRB deadlines to make. I have some time to sit and try to further the manuscript to the finish line.

But it’s like having an essay due for class. I have to do it! And the last two days I’ve been not actually procrastinating but having to sit and dwell and figure out how to do something that I’m not really well-versed at. I want to learn the skill set, which is why I volunteered to take a stab at it. But it’s taking me longer than likely my same age academic colleagues, because I’m a clinician and not an academic physician. But you know what! After this abstract, and the next paper – I am academic! I declare myself an academic! I have more publications now and I’m super proud of them!

So I’m going to cheerfully go back to the word document I’ve been staring at and dreaming about, and construct a 250 word informative abstract. I have to do it, as fossil fuel divestment is likely the most impactful thing I can contribute to in the fight to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C.

A positive relationship with food.

January 24, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I had started two blogposts yesterday, but deleted them. They each started with two different images, and were actually almost complete blogpost. But after I had put my thoughts on the screen in semi-coherent fashion, they lost their power and the self-centeredness of the posts were not the right tone for this blog. The narcissistic tones emanating from Dr. Plastic Picker (me) didn’t sit well. So I got those thoughts out, and I then deleted them. Blogging never seems entirely right to me unless it’s that morning time to myself. It’s 5:53 AM and I’m about to make my matcha green tea with organic soy milk, and this is the blogger me that I want to present to you. The early morning quiet is always a better space for writing, especially having had a good nights sleep.

I had taken Monday off as a vacation day, since it was one of those odd Professional Development Days for the kids’ school. I had a long weekend then, and the weekend never ends up being what I expect. It was wonderful nonetheless, because I am very present for those precious moments with our two teens. We were all together, the entire family as the teen children are progressing in their maturation. And it was that, painful growing up through the weekend. Teenage moodiness. Slammed doors. Warm hugs and reconciliation. College interviews and shared worries. Trying to plan for a college future, that we don’t know where our oldest will be. Georgetown, U Penn, Harvard and Cornell – all names that were floating around this weekend. For the other, dreams of Yale, memories of Harvard, and wistful thoughts of as yet unknown cute boy that will one day appreciate how awesome a certain volleyball cutie is going to be. Mr. Plastic Picker and I holding each other tight, as same volleyball cutie storms through another 14-yo emotional maelstrom. And then the beauty of what emerges, two teens and a set of parents every day growing wiser and closer as we spend time together and noticing each other. It was an absolutely beautiful weekend.

It was also an epic climate work weekend, which I did not intend. I had scheduled already an HMO meeting where I was the one who connected our physician wellness director with San Diego Audubon Society. And we have an amazing collaboration that will be announced by others, and media will be there because I stay connected with everyone who loves the earth. And in the end of the day, physicians will be better and the least tern species that nest in our local wetlands will be better due to this shared event. Two other events are in the works and a journal article that will highlight this collaboration has been started, and one of our premedical interns will be helping to organize the writing.

It’s 6:24AM and my matcha green tea with soy milk is half way done. The volleyball cutie is downstairs now and I have to start my mommy duties and doctor duties soon. Much love to the readers of this blog. Thank you for listening and thank you for caring for children and the climate.

Snapshot of the posts that get the most hits.

January 19, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s Dr. Plastic Picker!!! And a top of the morning to you! Is that how you say it? English is technically my second language even though I was born in the United States, and I sometimes still need to play around with idioms to fully embrace them. And that is also what I do on this blog, mentally explore and creatively play. The goal is to save the earth, but along the way to entertain myself and entertain some of my community – FOR FREE!!! Yes, this blog is non-monetized and actually costs me about $200 a year. It’s not too bad for the cost of a hobby! It’s the fee for the website, and then mostly it’s $150 to protect the site against hackers!

But you have to wonder if it’s the hackers that are reading “the day the doctor had diarrhea”? That was a funny blogpost and it was Mr. Plastic Picker approved. I mostly wrote it to amuse myself and my dear husband. But it definitely made me laugh! And I guess it made some other readers laugh as well!

But I am busy trying to save the earth, and I’m up at my optimal time blogging in the early morning and doing what is most important to me – which is climate work. I ran into a colleague who I would call a friend now, and just stopped by to chat. Even those that know me, I don’t think fully understand how desperate I am. This is still an existential crisis and it’s all hands on deck. I get exhausted sometimes trying to move the needle, and trying to bring along my community. I guess you could call it a hobby, but I’d like to say it’s more of daily acts of survival. We all need to lean into this work. The only way we can stop the climate crisis, or at least try to mitigate it, is to work together.

So with that, thanks for reading along about Mr. Plastic Picker’s diarrhea and my own daughter’s struggles. Your empathy and comments are cherished. They truly are.

But there is so much work to do! Yesterday I made a big splash at the District 1 Decarbonization Community Meeting, and my comment/question was read by Dr. Wilma Wooten.

Was quick to get a picture of the question.

I’m still unsure how the organizers decided which questions were asked. But my question made it! They didn’t read my position or name, but did read the question. I know the answer, but my job was to bring up building electrification as a health need! So it was definitely successful. The secret most people don’t know, is that I was napping for some of the presentation since it was virtual. I know my stuff, and I have listened to multiple presentations on this.

What else am I doing for the earth today? I’m helping my niece organize a Barnard/Columbia panel discussion on several interesting topics on Asian Americans and Environmental Justice. I need to send the emails out about the next SDPCA/AAPCA3 Climate Change Committee meeting. I’m in the process on being part of another author group on an exciting paper regarding strategic alliances between pediatricians and more traditional environmental groups. I’m interofficing posters of our Youth and Art Exhibition out to colleagues. We have an intern meeting tonight, and I’ll call in to chat with the group. We are getting ready for Love your Wetlands day, and the intern group will be helping. So I’ll try to remember to go over that tonight. I’m trying to make contact with the New Jersey Audubon society to cosponsor or cobrand the New York State Youth and Climate Art Exhibition. I asked for the coffee brands at the HMO coffee shop, and the new employee seemed so tired and sad. She also seemed somewhat annoyed that I would ask for the coffee grounds. I think it added to one more thing she needed to think about. Honestly I needed to get them, and it’s an easy ask and I need to avert methane. But I noticed her shoulders and how tired she was. I will try to stop by and say hi today.

That is enough. Thank you for helping me sort out my thoughts this morning. I’m going to start my climate emails now. Saving the earth, by mostly sending emails! That is the honest truth about how climate work is done!

The dress and the heels, and the girl.

January 15, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s at an end. It’s at an absolute end, and it’s for the best of everyone involved. It started with a cute boy, then a dress and the heels. And it ends with the dress and the heels. The dress will be worn again, as there are actually two size iterations and two pairs of matching heels. And there is a little 14-year-old girl who had her pride and heart dented. It was so confusing and complex, but in the end it was all very real. And what emerged was a still very young and innocent 14-year-old girl who would rather dream of boys in books, and a pediatrician mother who realizes how absolutely amazing and mature and loving this 14-year-old is. There is so much affection and awesomeness in this person, that it’s hard to not want to share how awesome this person is.

For me there was absolute closure last night, because at some point you know when things are not productive. It’s been healing to be at a place in my life when I realize I don’t need to understand everything, and I don’t have the right to pry. And most importantly I know it’s not my place to judge circumstance, and I don’t need to question intentions. My job is to save the earth, and raise my awesome human being.

And that’s what I did last night. I asked her to take a risk, and to be a kind person and try to be friends. And it was so absolutely hard for her to agree to that. She spent time making something special and was willing to share it, and it didn’t work out and the gift left ungiven. She was confused. And she was honestly hurt again. And the greatest two hurts in her life, I inflicted by being open to new connections and now experiences and wanting those for her.

But the rain that likely contributed to gifts being left ungiven has stopped this morning. Mr. Plastic Picker, her father is up working in his home-office to earn extra money as that is how he loves his daughter. He loves her so much, as do her grandparents and her brother and as do I. And she’s asleep after talking to me late into the night, about her dreams and how somewhere out there – there is an awesome boy who will be her partner in life, but that we don’t know what that boy looks like or who that boy is. We just know that he’s awesome like her.

That things did not work out is okay. Because I seek not to judge, and to make sure I guide my own child through these tough years – I have the freedom to remember and to thank. I’ve since deleted all the images and emails and text messages, because it’s somewhat painful for me too. But I will remember the humor, the writing, the mutual exchange of anecdotes. I will remember a lovely family that I do not understand fully despite so many commonalities, and a family that will go forward and continue to make the world a better place. But mostly I will remember our narrative which is the dress and the heels and the moments my daughter and I dreamed together.

I love you so much. And I actually continue to love the other family and son, as they are beautiful people but just not the right people. Climate work has given me that. To realize I don’t have the answer and that all of us understand the world incompletely, and only have glimpses into the heart of others – no matter how many emails were exchanged.

It’s an unexpected and abrupt end, that I initiated. I wanted to give her closure but it was not the closure I imagined. But it’s closure. And there is a beautiful world out there, and the next half of being 14.

Mr. Plastic Picker found these on amazon.

January 14, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s going to rain again this afternoon. There has seen an atmospheric river and apocalyptic amount of rain is being dumped upon California. The pictures from Northern California look horrendous. Here at our house, our saved bathwater is not that useful since there is so much actual rain.

On this rainy day, what does one do when one is used to perfect weather in San Diego? Our two children are in Korean lessons. I’m just thinking about how lucky Mr. Plastic Picker and I are. We had these vague ideas when the children were born, that we would like them to speak multiple languages since we ourselves are native speakers in two different languages. Getting there was more difficult than we thought, even with the family resources and having our own language skills as another resource. But our freshman and our senior are sitting in their respective rooms, taking their virtual Korean language class and I am happy. Both required speech therapy at some points in elementary school, and I honestly was very concerned. But now, our son speaks solidly three languages. And our daughter speakers very well three languages, and now going to formally start studying the fourth.

It’s hard to know how they will use these language skills. But we did our part, we gave them a head start.

Operation Creme Puff was ultimately a success.

January 11, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Last weekend was the weekend of the Creme Puffs. Our baby (who is 14) decided to make 150 creme puffs. These were hand-made and hand-delivered by said 14-year-old. The creme puffs turned out wonderfully, but all the recipients were not exactly who were planned. We let our natural relationships and who actually likes creme puffs and who lives near us and who responded to emails timely, dictate to whom the creme puffs went to.

She thought the creme puff baking experience and delivery were disappointing, but now that we are a few days from the actual creme puff delivery – all I can say is that they were an absolute success! The actual creme puffs were light and airy and delicious. And unbeknownst (did I really use that cool word) to her, the intent of the creme puffs reached their destination and there is a lot of humor and good will between two families right now. The actual children are not really aware, but two families are aware. We are at a good place in our family pseudo-kdrama, waiting for two people to go through the pangs of adolescence.

But the entire creme puff episode reminded me that even creme puffs are a lot of work! I thought Mr. Plastic Picker and I were destined from the first meeting, but I had forgotten the years of friendship and all the encouragement and support our parents and friends gave us. We tend to recreate our own narrative, and I had written out in my mind all the others that supported and encouraged our relationship on the way. It’s funny the perspective the decades gives you.

Raising teenagers that will embrace adulthood and meaningful work and meaningful relationships is a lot of work as well! I think Mr. Plastic Picker and I are doing a decent job of things as we get our son through his senior year and our daughter through a more challenging freshman year than we expected (not academically but the entire social dynamics of being a teen girl). They are two funny and loving teenagers, and their lives are more nuanced and complex than I ever understood. But I love having the time to hear the changes day by day, and witness them and sometimes participate in their lives. These teenage years is absolutely absolutely beautiful. And one of the joys that climate work has given me, is being more present for them – more present to see the adults they are becoming. The particulars I’ll keep close to my heart. I have a rosy view of the world these days. Remember I’m the litter-picking pediatrician that believes I can save the earth (along with you), so of course I believe in the happy ending of the 100+ episode family pseudo-kdrama. Allow me my dreams dear reader, it keeps this climate activists going. And they are innocent and actually I think helping everyone.

But yesterday was an epic climate day. We had our first meeting of the 2023 Public Health Advisory Council for Climate Actions Campaign. I’m still trying to figure out my leadership style, or my co-leadership style with Dr. Katie Crist. And at the end of the day, the results are the truth and we had an engaged and dynamic PHAC meeting. So many beautiful faces and talking about advocacy. Our group feels closer together, and we have a lot of shared projects that we are doing. PHAC is going to gather at our home soon to talk climate and health, and eat vegan food!

Also yesterday I pushed forward the shared event with San Diego Audubon Society and our HMO. It had been in the back of my mind, but at yesterday’s meeting we hashed everything out and I think it will be easier than expected to bring our two organizations together to help with the upcoming Least Tern nesting season. More to come!

And the youth and climate art exhibition is going very well! The premed interns are really knocking it out of the park with their work. So proud of them. Hopefully today I can find a gallery space for us to show the children’s work.

Doing a lot of climate work here. I didn’t go to an HMO department gathering where it sounds like there was a lot of fun to be had. But honestly I have no regrets and don’t think about it much. It honestly did not sound that much fun to me, and I’d rather spend time with my own teenagers and I have more than enough friends in my life and don’t need anymore – especially if they aren’t climate friends. So I didn’t go. But I’m honestly glad everyone else had fun. Middle-management meetings seem so far away these days. I’m happy I’ve drifted off to climate work, which I’m much more suited.

Happy rainy day to California. I’m off to take care of some minor medical/dental things as I need to take care of myself so I’m taking a preplanned sick day!!! Yes I am. And you should too! We get dental coverage for a reason, to take care of your teeth! You don’t have to have a sob story to explain taking a sick day. Your health is your business so take care of yourself! In my world, no explanations needed. I trust you to love yourself.

Our two bunnies, Bella just passed away.

January 8, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I remember when we adopted our two bunnies six years ago, they were a bonded pair. They were bonded at about 2 years of age, and stayed bonded until Bella just recently passed away a few weeks ago. We are worried about Peter, the boy bunny, as he is slower than before. Bella’s passing was unexpected as we thought she would be with us until our youngest graduated high school in about three years time.

I don’t have many regrets in life, as I think our paths are meant to be. I don’t ever think you meet the wrong person, and the universe has someone destined for you. And Peter and Bella were destined for each other.

One of my few regrets in life is that we never officially had the bunny wedding we were planning when we first adopted our bunnies. I was then, and am still now, a fairly traditional person. I believe you should love who you love, and I believe in marriage equality but I believe in marriage. And my one regret is that we never gave Bella and Peter, the spring bunny wedding – I always wanted to organize!

RIP beautiful spunky Bella. I didn’t have time to make sure you were a beautiful bunny bride. We are taking care of Peter though, and we did take him to the vet to make sure he was okay.

Posted on one of the social media sites.

January 5, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

The entire thing is beautiful. The UCSD premedical students involved. The collaboration with other states and climate and health advocates, now Oregon and Missouri and New York. Reaching out has been so powerful. Reaching out on a shared project that has been meaningful, has been an exercise in building community. Connecting premedical students and future physicians throughout the country, and re-energizing exhausted pediatricians deep in the weeds of climate work, has been partly my goal in this project. I always tell everyone, I 100% don’t know the answer to solving the climate crisis – but I know the answer includes you.

And that you – included the children that we are doing this for. In the end the title of child advocate is special. And as a pediatrician, we have the preservation of life as we know it on earth for our children and grandchildren as our goal.

Just typing away my thoughts here so I can sort through them, and move through the projects. Our leaded aviation paper was accepted through the Journal of Community Health. I am so proud of our team, but in particular Riley Gilbertson our premedical student. He’s been accepted to several very good medical schools, and I’m so proud of him. And the fossil fuel divestment paper is about to be submitted one last time to Pediatrics, and it is so good. So very well written. I am proud to have added a few key sentences and ideas to the writing of that paper.

I’m still having silly thoughts of our family’s pseudo kdrama. But I know they are silly, and I’m tucking them away. But when a climate advocate begins to dream of her future grandchildren in the many possibilities of what they will be, than you know there is hope. Hope through action. Hope through community. Hope through taking at least one action every day on behalf of the earth.

Just showing my trashbird one last time. I think I’m a savant LOL!!!

January 1, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Yesterday was an epic day. There are two doctors in our household, although I’m the only Dr. Plastic Picker, and one of those doctors had diarrhea and it wasn’t me. The reason it was an epic day, was because the diarrheal illness for that other doctor in our house, started off with excruciating generalized abdominal pain. This particular doctor has been through back surgery so I know this doctor has a high pain tolerance, but he called 911 without his Dr. Plastic Picker wife knowing during that early morning bout of abdominal pain.

What ensued was . . . memorable. One ambulance and one firetruck arrived to our house in the Pacific Beach area. The lights were flashing but thank goodness the sirens were silent. I had done a quick assessment of him when I saw him laying jesus-like in the foyer in his San Diego-style sleep-wear, moaning in his pain. It was generalized and a bit left sided, and his appendix was fine. Despite his prostrate position and my deep love for Mr. Plastic Picker, I told him “I can’t believe you called them! I can drive you to the ED. It’s 100% infectious and likely gastro.” He then at some point ran to the bathroom, and nature took it’s course. But by then the four tall good-looking EMT/fire-fighter people were nearly at our doorstep. Thank goodness I had the where-with-all to have put on foundation and drawn in my eyebrows (that had disappeared sometime in the 90s). My husband at some point returned to his prone position, but he confessed later that he was already feeling better. I helped him to the ambulance and the EMTs with training less than the 20 years we have been practicing medicine, reassured the still very handsome Assistant Boss of a specialty department that he had the best vitals that night. Outside the ambulance, the very imposing firetruck was also parked in front of our house with very good-looking young firefighters. I told them in my exasperated middle-aged Asian wife voice, “He’s fine. I checked his appendix. He has a very high pain tolerance and I think he was just scared of the pain. It’s probably gastro. He’s the chief of radiology!” Which is not true because he’s the Assistant Boss. But I was having fun playing my outraged role. Maybe in the back of my mind I knew I would be recounting this at some point.

In the end, the firetruck with the two handsome firefighters drove away. The ambulance with the equally handsome but slightly shorter EMTs let the doctor with diarrhea out of the ambulance, and his wife (Dr. Plastic Picker) walked him back into his house with the 15 year mortgage and low interest rate. His wife then ran back and gave the two young EMTs random unopened chocolate gifts and wished them a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and sheepishly apologized to them. They were gracious and said, “it happens all the time ma’am.” And smiled very nicely and respectfully toward me.

The doctor that had diarrhea continued to have a few more bouts of diarrhea through the day. He still went to work to his solitary office, but likely spreading his diarrhea germs everywhere. At some point, he texted me and said he walked himself and his diarrhea germs to the emergency room to visit his ED friends and get himself an IV and some labwork. Said labwork made no difference in his clinical course, but it made him feel better.

And then at some point, he came home to greet his parents who had to take an Uber from the airport with his niece from New York. The niece is visiting from New York and that makes our children very happy to have some of that new york vibes soaking into our San Diego home. Plus she’s a cool college Sophomore. But as we were sitting and having dinner, the doctor with diarrhea was sitting in a slightly raised chair about 2 feet away from the main table and wearing a mask. Why he was wearing a mask, I’m actually not sure. He should be wearing a big diaper instead. LOL.

The doctor with diarrhea is my dear Mr. Plastic Picker and he was a big baby yesterday. But at some point after the ambulance left and before he went to work to spread his diarrhea germs, he recounted his lived experience as a doctor with diarrhea and his perspective as the patient who had panicked due to the pain – laying prostrate on the ground. And we laughed and we laughed. And in the back of my mind I thought, I hope this laughing doesn’t increase his intraabdominal pressure and a little bit of diarrhea comes out and makes me sick.