July 2023 – Dr. Plastic Picker

Month: July 2023

slide I used for a recent talk.

July 30, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s the last day of July and I’m growing nostalgic. It’s the last few weeks before we take our son up to college, and the last few weeks both of our teenagers will be with each other in the way that children are together. And during this summer that should be bittersweet and nostalgic, I have been blessedly distracted by planning the H3SD San Diego’s Heat and Human Health Summit.

I’ve been more on Instagram making reels like the rest of the world, really just to listen to them myself. It’s like the quick ability to make your own music video. I think all of us are enjoying it quite a bit. The reels are mostly of the kids and childhood photos that have popped up the way they pop up now because all of our memories and photos are in the iCloud.

What I am most grateful for today, is the absolute sense of love that I have for those that I’ve met through this journey of climate and health work. As the world becomes more plagued with chaos due to extreme heat events, for me I’m in a place of complete quiet and absolute self-awareness. The breeze is blowing through our neighbor’s palm tree in the back. It’s overcast this morning whereas yesterday morning we had a sunny summer shower, just above our backyard. It was so beautiful and I shared it with my mother-in-law because we were the only ones awake. Last night, we waited for 2 hours to have my daughter’s ears pierced and birds flew overhead in the outside waiting area. I felt like the birds were commiserating with my husband and my daughter at their impatience – but I was honestly happy to sit there on a summer evening in Encinitas waiting with two people I love so absolutely. I didn’t necessarily want my daughter to get her ears pierced but it’s something she wanted and she is fifteen.

I see love everywhere these days. I saw it in North Park where I wandered to meet in person a passionate climate advocate, and I traveled there with my son. I could feel the passion and the goodness and the hilarity of the personalities that collected in North Park that night. I have seen evil also, if that makes sense. I had someone stare at me so intently in clinic, someone I had known for years but I felt like someone crawled over my grave it was so eerie the stare that they gave me. I was not scared but I absolutely believe in a spiritual world and I prayed that the spirits of my ancestors were looking out for me that day. That person left, and I continued with my work. The interaction was quiet and intense, and it was just a look that was exchanged.

And I walked my baby brother’s Corgi around the block this morning. We are dog/puppy sitting this weekend. She’s been a bit off lately but we wandered around the neighborhood and ended up at a corner where there is a church, and an older unhoused neighbor who often sleeps at that corner. I’ve seen him but have never talked to him. And he petted our Corgi and fed her sandwich meat and gave her so much love. I saw grace when I looked at his eyes, at someone who sleeps on that corner I think to become closer to God.

I was texting back and forth with one of my college friends who is also a pediatrician and we are both climate people. We know the ocean temperatures in Florida are warmer than there have ever been. Greece is literally in flames. And we continue to have extreme heat events in our region. But we both are Vietnamese and we believe in the afterlife and reincarnation, and that our families will be reunited again in the next life. That understanding brings us both comfort.

There is so much love in the world. So much goodness in the souls that I have gotten to know through climate work. The faces in the slide above and indeed the hundreds of fellow people I’ve worked with, I am so grateful for you and that you are here with me on this blog at this exact moment.

I am often baffled why I end up where I end up, at any particular time of the day. I go to work and finish the job that pays, and otherwise I parent my children and try to keep the house fairly clean. And in the rest of my time, I try to help save this beautiful planet of ours. I was telling some of my new climate friends that I am flowing with the universe, and have absolute trust that if I continue to live up to the morals and values my parents and ancestors have instilled in me – that I will end up where I am meant to end up. And flowing with the universe has led me to so many of you.

Inspiring carrots.

July 6, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m not sure why but I find these carrots very inspiring. I’m not sure why they grew the way they grew, but they are so interesting. They are 100% organic and taste better than any store bought carrot I’ve ever eaten. Each new carrot that comes out of the garden, is really a marvel. My mother-in-law planted them in containers and we have many more to go.

Our son turned 18 and it’s the summer before he is off to college at UC Berkeley. He’s really proud of himself for how he did on the one AP test that he really cared about. He showed me his reaction video when he got his score back, and it’s in the field of study that he is considering. His good friend called him from the Serengetti to let him know the scores were in. Who knows what time it was in Africa? But back here in San Diego in the downstairs room that has been filled with his childhood memories, he celebrated by taking a reaction video for himself. I was so proud of him, just like his first words and his first steps or the first time he made a friend at school. He’s learning how to drive albeit later than the rest of his friends. He made straight As his last trimester, and we realized that without the stress of actually worrying about getting into college – he performed better and was more joyful. We know he is well prepared for college, and more importantly he has stumbled here academically and recovered. So he’s already learned those lessons, that I did not learn until well into my training.

And there are other children that have turned 18 as well. Their 18 has been very different, and they are some of my patients. Someone who only the medical team knows and her mother knows, she turned 18 as well. Hers was a very different childhood. She never walked nor talked. She came in a few times a year, and more commonly in the winter for aspiration pneumonias. She had specialists and not friends. She had G tubes and tracheostomy sites and not AP test. But she also had a mother that watched over her as carefully and diligently as I watched over my son. Her mother protected her. Her mother made sure she was always well dressed. Her mother advocated for her.

So many 18 year olds in clinic these days, or maybe I’m just noticing them more because my son turned 18. I was happy to see an 18 year old in clinic whose parents have worked so incredibly hard to give her the same opportunities that my son has. When children are born, it’s not an equal playing field. Some are born with more opportunities as others. That my son earned his spot fairly in the system and is attending the same prestigious UC system as many of my patients, is a point of pride for me. None of these children are perfect, but they are each really amazing and loving. Society works better when the children of all classes mix, an that there is mobility within the social structure.

But mostly I’m grateful that I raised a caring young man who has empathy and compassion. Many of the other 18 year olds going to college have that same empathy. There are the other 18 years old that have such a different future, where their parents have to file conservatorship paperwork because they are special needs children. But they are all 18 year olds. Jumbled in my mind. Diverse, none perfect, and all very organic and real. None were store-bought. That is what the diversity of life is supposed to be like. I’ll never enjoy a perfect store bought carrot as much as the ones that come from our garden.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings.