Our Tween/Teen – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: Our Tween/Teen

The protagonist.

November 20, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s been an epic week at our house and family. But come to think of it, I can say that most weekends now when I reflect. Perhaps it’s truly because we are living very mindfully in the present and take joy in the present. I was at our daughter’s first Speech Tournament yesterday which brought back all kinds of memories from my high school days. I judged three rounds (they have parent judges now), and one of the speeches from a Varsity Orator was on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It was a powerful presentation and one that will make me think for a while.

The speaker used this same image in her presentation.

How does someone so young have so much wisdom?

I’m continually amazed and grateful for the young people in my life. And of course as the readership knows, the star of my real-life walking Kdrama – our daughter. She was at her first speech tournament yesterday at Canyon Crest Academy. She won several awards for which I’m inordinately proud of her. But I’m most grateful for the experience she had yesterday and that I was able to share in that experience. She dressed up in a beautiful elegant sheath dress with high heels, and looked like an elegant human rights attorney. Her pony tail was high and smooth. She delivered her oratory with a bit of flair, as she was doing poetry. She won 1st place in the Novice Declamation category. But most importantly she got to spend the entire day with her good friends, and live through the ups and downs. I’m typing a text message that I want to send to a mommy friend, but I think she is tired and it’s more my thoughts so I’ll just share them with you.

I’m just reflecting on yesterday and it was such a beautiful day. The kids got to spend the day together doing something they prepared for, and are passionate about. They got to go through the ups and downs of advancing or not advancing to semi-finals and finals. We got to get a glimpse into their lives and how they process and handle these challenges. Our daughter had a meltdown last night despite winning because her feet hurt so much from the high heels, and I’m sure your son was exhausted after such a long day. We (mommies) got to talk and share stories, and see a new school that we have never seen before. Thank you for spending the day with me.”

The award ceremony.

And in this mass of children who were competing, there were new faces and new interactions. Each time our daughter delivered a speech, she learned something about herself and the other speakers. Every time she met a new person, it made her reflect on the people she already knows and those she has chosen to love.

I had started this blog post with the title a few days ago. I’ve since deleted the content but I’ll keep the title. I don’t think you ever meet the wrong person. For her she met an important person and it didn’t go well, but I honestly think it was meant to be and a learning experience. She’s now found an outlet where she can wear a beautiful dress with high heels, and have plenty of people listen to her. She talked to a good number of cute boys yesterday that were interesting but honestly not that romantically interesting to her right now. She practiced her Korean, and had a fun interaction with another boy competitor at another school and it made her think of another boy that goes to another school – that is not in the speech world for sure. And it’s all safe and truly like a big giant playdate, where kids are learning about themselves and learning about each other.

Watching and judging the speech tournament, reminded me how articulate and smart but also how young high school students are. They are so young. And this activity is the perfect outlet for our high-strung daughter right now. She’ll see these fellow students including some boys here and there, and they will be weaving in and out of each other’s lives. I still have dreams but I realize they are my dreams, and she is having her dreams and dramas in her own head. We’ve just introduced many more characters into her storyline.

But in the end of the day, as her parents she’s our protagonist. And this is the image I’ll remember. Tired and exhausted, and had a temper tantrum because her feet hurt because she felt entitled to it – because she won two important speech awards and is invited to an invitational speech tournament.

Father and daughter.

October 31, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It was such a wondrous and glorious and unexpected weekend. I did get to the beach and picked up two bags of trash. There was an odd buried towel in the sand, and I had fun trying to dig out the bits. I ended up tearing off the pieces that were exposed and discarding them, but there is still plenty of towel buried in the sand for the next litter picker. Some nice middle-aged gentleman-surfer thanked me as I was wielding my litter-picker, and I think another middle-aged academic was trying to chat me up at the posh little bookstore while I was on a mommy date with a friend! I don’t wear my wedding ring because the hand sanitizer these days gets into the nooks and crannies so maybe that is why. I smiled and quickly walked toward my other mommy friend as I don’t want to send mixed signals. But I am looking very happy and glowing these days! Plus I had recently dyed my roots (I detail that also on this blog LOL). That’s what living a sustainable life will do for you.

I am ever the devoted spouse and I have my one and only, which is Mr. Plastic Picker. I love him very much. At first when we were young it was in large part because he was good-looking! Hence why my daughter is so pretty. But now thank goodness middle-age has come, and he’s not as pretty anymore. Still handsome. It was sometimes annoying having such a pretty boyfriend in college. But good-looking husband and pretty daughter are pictured above in the initial picture. It was an unexpected weekend all around, and that impromptu dinner at The Tofu house on Convoy street was part of it. We had fried tofu, and bulgogi. Both were pretty good, and Mr. Plastic Picker said the side dishes were decent. In the midst of Asian restaurants, community members of Asian descent, and eating Asian food – we told our daughter that she didn’t have to marry someone who is Asian. That was a big moment for us. We asked her not to discriminate someone from her own culture, because there is a comfort in being with someone who knows that part of you so well. But we freed her this weekend. We freed our beautiful daughter from all those generations of expectations that weighed her down. I think this is partly why she reacted so strongly to our family pseudo-kdrama. She and the other protagonist may well find each other later, but it will because they are compatible as people and not because of made-up expectations of ethnic loyalty that I never meant to place on her.

And I saw the beautiful whimbrels this weekend.

Birds of the same species do often flock together. We are all the same species.

And this weekend was unexpected in the friends that reached out to myself and my family. We shared movies, coffee, sweet deserts, walks and wanderings with those that we love. I veered toward Bay Park (a local neighborhood) unknowingly and we had breakfast together at the Farm Table, and I realized that I had no business being in Bay Park. That morning we had finally finished our daughter’s passport renewal.

In all this, our son also finished his early decision application to his top school that is not Crimson University. Going through his application that he mostly worked on by himself, Mr. Plastic Picker and I are so proud of him. He is his own person. Really 8 months left of him being with us as a high school student, and I am savoring each and every day. And our daughter, really three and half years left of having her to myself because I have to share this life-force with the world.

I was walking and chatting with a fellow mommy-friend, and we realized that when our mutual daughters grow up – they well may not come home. Their life course may take them somewhere else. I’m planning on being there for both of them, to travel often where they live. I’m already making financial moves to buy a small place in New York City if I have too, if the little one decides she really dose want to do human rights work which will likely be in NYC. We already have a rental property in the DC area. I’ve covered my bases. And I forget that part of my pseudo kdrama psychosis was really wanting her to be with me in San Diego. And what better draw than a cute boy who is also from our area.

But I’ve released her from those expectations. I’ll be there and help you, I promised her. You go and wander and don’t be afraid. Mommy and daddy will visit often, and I’ll help you however you need me. Having a pediatrician for a mother is a pretty awesome thing. And she said as we walked home after our evening walk, “by then you would have saved the world from climate change, right mommy? You can help me when I have a family, so I can work?” I said “yes, by then we will have known if we were able to save the earth or not. I’m hopeful because I want to take care of grandbabies.” Not sure what those grandbabies will look like, but I intend to love them so much and love their father as well. Mr. Plastic Picker will do all the driving, and I will clean the house!

The teenager when she was 7, reading.

October 28, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

News of our family Kdrama made it’s way around the private school Korean parent circles. The story is simple really and very innocent, but still private for us. But the ending ending, is really something absolutely beautiful. I want to write a novella to the other protagonist family, but I realize that it’s time to let that family go. They got swept up in it too, but have better things to do than read my long emails. But thank goodness I’m a blogger!!! I can blog into the ether and live in my own world!

Our children have been studying Korean at Korean School and then with a private instructor since they were both 3 years of age. We live with their paternal grandparents who only speak Korean, and so our teen girl is particularly good with her Korean. It’s a point of pride for her, and hence what led into the Kdrama as she values those that share her heritage. It’s hard to be a blended family, and we are what I now understand as an Asian blended family. The children demand that they are equally Korean and equally Vietnamese.

But the Korean identity is blossoming today! Because of the news of our family’s pseudo Kdrama made it’s way round-about the parent circles, and then we were contacting to talk about our school’s Korean community. We were actually helpful in starting the lower school private school Korean enrichment language program! It’s actually our instructor that we’ve had for years that will be teaching. And our daughter and she is going to recruit all her Korean friends (who by the way are all super-cute boys that she has been friends since 4!) to be the high-school contacts for the younger children! It’s going to be so much fun. Our daughter is looking forward to mentoring these super-cute little children who are both interested in learning Korean and some will be Korean-Americans! She is tickled at the possibility of being called

  • noona (누나) = older sister and unnie (언니) = older sister

She has been wanting to work and mentor younger children anyway, and had mentioned something about that a few weeks ago. We’ll have a forum to share with the community the Korean holidays that mean so much to my children, as they have that connection with their grandparents. And it’s going to look fantastic on her resume!

She’s feeling truly beautiful these days for the best reasons. She realizes that she doesn’t need a boy to reinforce that reality. She has us and her friends, and most importantly she has herself. And Mr. Plastic Picker said yesterday as we were reflecting again about the drama that occurred, “you know, she doesn’t ever have to get married and she can choose who she loves.” We were absolutely not doing an arranged marriage but the drama had echoes of those issues. And I having been raised in a very traditional household and having played mostly a traditional role as wife to Mr. Plastic Picker, I now whole-heartedly agree! My daughter is so awesome and so beautiful. And her light will shine forth in whatever way she chooses. I do think she’ll date (after SATs) and get married (after law school) and have children (hopefully somewhere between 27-35 because I don’t want to be a super old grandmother). But it’s her journey and her life, and I’m so lucky to be here to see the twists and turns.

Our family is so excited about this new development and this new opportunity to create empowerment for our Korean/Vietnamese/Asian daughter.

My daughter wrote this as we were processing recent things.

October 27, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m sitting here at 539am and I’m on drop-off duty this morning!!! I’m not usually asked to do drop-off because we have three adult drivers in our family. It’s kind of a competition in terms of who gets to drop off the two teenage children at their little bubble of a private school high school. Mr. Plastic Picker loves to drop-off when he can, and the next is my father-in-law, and I’m last. I think it’s mostly they want to share in the child-rearing tasks and they don’t necessarily trust my driving. But I haven’t gotten into a car accident since at least 20, and I drove all the way to LA for the first time in my middle-aged life last weekend! But old habits die hard, and they remember the Medical Student me who refused to drive in Boston/Cambridge.

So here I am in the morning excited about driving the kids to school, and trying to time things so I can dye my roots in the morning and do some important tasks and send some emails. I am reminded that the whole world needs to prioritize. I think this is one of the most underrated skills in the universe, and a skill I am very good at.

We have to prioritize! And that’s the problem with poor leadership. Leadership needs to prioritize or they start confusing everyone who is not in leadership and does not have the access to to the information leadership is given nor the time to process the information. When poor leaders fail to prioritize, then they need to own up to their complicity in causing the problems for whatever they are leading. That’s a whole other world I’ll leave to fester in it’s stink. This can be applied to many parts of our world right now.

As for my life where I am leading myself, my family, my finances, and my budget of $0 volunteer advocacy group that is trying to save the earth – I am prioritizing this morning. I am prioritizing by drinking matcha green tea soy latte, which makes me so happy and gives me a steady amount of caffeine without the highs and lows of coffee. I am paying my quarterly taxes in an orderly manner. I invested some money in a cool education start-up in a country that means a lot to me. We have a new possible renter to our downtown condo, and it will start cash-flowing again. I spent an extra three hours yesterday off the clock taking care of my own patients and my own results, because the patients right in front of me are really important and that is why I get my paycheck.

And I was trying to figure out love. I’m still confused and delighted and at times sad and happy about our recent family pseudo kdrama. I know this will be at least a decade in unfolding. But I realized something last night as I was tossing and turning and thinking about events, in that it’s okay to think about who your children will eventually love. It’s okay to talk to them about values and traits, and share stories. Guiding them is okay. In the end my daughter felt absolutely loved. I hope that the other protagonist felt that too. I honestly felt the universe guiding me to my actions. I could not explain it. I would not usually do what I did, and draw that much attention and be so persistent. But what is done is done and it’s now the 20th text message stream on my daughter’s phone. Pumpkins have been exchanged. Impressions have been made. And two children are moving on with their lives. And I’m honestly left with a sense of peace. In the end of the day, its true what everyone says. People always remember how you made them feel. And feeling loved and opening yourself up to another family that mirrors one’s values, I hope reaffirmed how important those values are.

I was talking to my mother-in-law yesterday morning and she comforted me with her words. It’s a simple word in Korean, and one she uses all the time. But for me it’s such a powerful word. 괜찮아요 It means it’s going to be okay.


I'm sitting here this morning with tears streaming down my face. For me parenting our youngest has been every day a reminder that there is goodness in the world. However you want to understand it, the hand of God, the hand of Buddha, the universe or the earth. And that Sunday as we were wandering around Balboa Park and she was processing emotions and holding my hand and restoring her sense of self, I questioned my parenting.  I questioned my common sense.  Other parents made me question it again. But my mother-in-law and my husband and my children reassured me, that it was okay and that I had made a good judgement.  

And with that reassurance, I'll go forth today and tuck my daughter back into her bubble. She has speech team competition coming up, and I'm excited to judge. She's helping her older brother weather some academic storms. She reminded me to get her eczema cream and take care of her skin. And I know when she wakes up, I'll get to look at her beautiful face with her profile and her smile. She'll worry about her skin and she'll wear her uniform.  And I'll get to keep her all to myself at least for another few years.  I didn't want to share anyway. But the amount of love and absolute goodness that radiates from this child, I almost can't understand how it's possible.  I know it's because of all the love that has been poured into her by her grandparents, her father, her brother, myself and the entire extended family.  When you're born so early and were so sick, and emerged as a healthy and bright and beautiful child - that is what happens.  And she wants to go forth to help the world. She understand that to those that much is given, much is expected.  And she can do it herself and does not necessarily need someone like her father to protect her.  And that's what I was looking for. Because the world is still scary for a young girl. 

But I'm reminded to live in the present and not to let the worries of tomorrow rob me of the beauty of today. She was asking already about internships for later on in high school, and worried about how safe it would be to be away from me.  I told her and I'll remind myself.  Let's enjoy you being a freshman. We have to figure out all your stuff this year before we worry about next. And how absolutely beautiful and surprising and challenging and memorable has freshman year been already.

Thank you for reading dear readers.  I'm going to dye my roots now and get my two teenagers off to their little bubble of a private school high school and see some patients. I have climate work to do as well, one patient of mine is going to be on a major morning news show regarding air pollution and asthma! Pays to be Dr. Plastic Picker's patient! Green hugs to everyone and I hope you have a sustainable day!
Books from my daughter’s personal reading list.

October 25, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I haven’t been blogging as much lately. The reason why is that I’ve been exchanging emails with a now family friend about our children, my own family’s pseudo-kdrama. The story has come to a beautiful end/pause/conclusion/season 1. One of my patient families was telling me truly that if we ever published the emails (which I would never do without said other person’s permission) it would make a great teen angst novella. As the ending is something unexpected, friendship.

Which makes me realize that I’m a pretty convincing person that lives in my very active imagination. When I was young and in between English and Vietnamese, the world was very silent. During that time I think I was learning English by immersion as a Vietnamese-speaking child and somehow emerged in 1st grade fully fluent without an accent, I just remember silence. I remember my imaginary friends that I would make up from the paisley swirls of the brown sofa in our Clairemont living room. I remember faces of friends and images, but those memories are strangely silent. I don’t remember any words neither Vietnamese nor English? I’ve always been curious about that. Maybe I should make some more friends with neurologists or speech pathologists or linguists?

But I do realize I have an active imagination, as I’m always imagining that I can literally save the earth. I someone induced myself and another very intelligent family to go along with a kdrama-like series of events that ended up beautiful and innocent, but gosh really took up a lot of time of a very busy academic. I’m not sure if I really feel guilty about it, but more bemused and very child-like – were you binge-watching the same show as I was? But in the end I know the association and the connections between us will help move the world toward equity and justice and hopefully a livable planet. It’s been very nice being the do-gooder Dr. Plastic Picker. I get forgiven many things, and I am hopeful and confident that this family has forgiven me my kdrama shenanigans.

I’m back in the world of occasional daydreaming, but awake now and blogging again rather than daydreaming. But the daydreams were so beautiful dear readers!!! I would sit and smile by myself and giggle in between patients. It was such a beautiful dream that I’ll hold dear in my heart. But when I realized those dreams were not productive for those that are the inspiration for those dreams, the pediatrician adult in me – did put it all to a stop. I’m mature enough to do that.

But I’m continuing to dream about our planet and our children’s future, and realizing I’m pretty good at selling my dream. I hope it’s your dream as well. I was selling this dream of climate and health advocacy and activism as an antidote to physician burnout. I was selling it at the HMO Regional Pediatric Symposium. Gosh this last Saturday was impactful. I’m still floored that it happened. Our climate friend Dr. Elizabeth Friedman from Kansas City was flown out and given posh accommodations to give a talk on climate and health. She was in our HMO space now, and her off-beat and somewhat sarcastic and intelligent take on the climate crisis was honestly pitch perfect for our clinical practice crowd. Then we came in, the three physicians from San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air with our panel discussion and twice really knocked it out of the park with a “Deeper Dive in Climate and Health Advocacy.” I honestly did not know how it would go, and just putting our hearts and our full-selves into this work, it resonated. It absolutely resonated with other physicians in our large regional group.

At the same time I was collaborating again with Dr. Elizabeth Friedman, and she was able to get me involved with a paper that hopefully will be published soon. I’m trying to focus on how I can be most impactful and I’m working on the fossil fuel divestment side. At least I can help try to get us off investments in coal!!!! Pollution from coal mining and the GHG emissions from this are the absolute worst! The edits to the paper were scattered and I tried to help paint the divestment story as more grassroots to tell the real story of how divestment happens. My edits I have sent in but here are some of the notes I had jotted down while thinking of what I could add to this paper.

“Scope 3 Investments, 8% of GHG emissions in from the health care section. Indeed, there was a recent white house event joined by major health care organizations calling for the decarbonization of the health care sector. but of that scope 1, scope 2, scope 3. 28% of healthcare emissions are from investments.

For pediatricians to be involved in addressing GHG from healthcare section investments, we must be familiar with not only the health effects from GHGs but also how we can influence GHG emissions from healthcare sector investments.  We are investors ourselves who choose funds. We are members for healthcare organizations and sometimes physician groups that have retirement committees. We are administrators and managers, who have influence over funds. 

We must become familiar with the nomenclature of healthcare sector investing. Only then, can be understand and advocate and unravel.  For example, for those that are part of retirement committees they have fiduciary responsibilities. (list what is talked about in the slide?). Due diligence and green washing ((slide).”

And then I got to have a wondrous late lunch with my also friend Dr. Elizabeth Friedman now at Balboa Park. We walked and chatted and shared. We shared about our lives, but we mostly talk about the earth. Yes I’m one of those. I’m a crazy environmentalist. That’s all I think about. And as I was updating her on the end/pause/season 1 of my family’s pseudo-kdrama, she told me the ending was because of the patriarchy! I don’t believe it, but having green friends and working together – I listened to her and I considered it. And when I told my daughter about Dr. Friedman’s thoughts on the patriarchy. My daughter truly perked up. “It was the patriarchy mommy!”

I don’t pretend to know the answer to saving our earth, but I do know that it includes environmentalists who are as diverse as myself and Dr. Elizabeth Friedman. We are such an diverse and off-beat group. But we all know it will take all of us, right-wing and left-wing, religious and irreligious, patriarchy and matriarchy, and all those ying and yang terms that balance each other out. As I was leaving my friend after an absolutely lovely late afternoon walk, lunch and brain-storming and dreaming session, we gave each other the tightest green hugs. I also gave the same hugs to that family that dreamed with me in our pseudo-kdrama. After you get past the climate anxiety and climate grief and how bad the state of the environment is, than the only hope we have is to dream together. We can have a group psychosis together, that we can avert this code red for humanity.

And I believe it. I absolutely do. Still doing so much just me a single pediatrician picking up plastic in San Diego. And I just need to convince a few people who will convince a few more, than you can make a difference. It has to be grassroots. Every great endeavor begins with the people. And pediatricians and UC system provosts, we are pretty great people to influence others. Can you sell your dream? I absolutely am. But my dream is 100% free hence the free entertainment on this blog. All you have to do is read and care, and think about helping out one piece of ocean bound plastic at a time.

It’s 6:43 now and I’m going to dream by myself about my daughter’s future, but I hope you’ll dream together with my about our earth’s. Much love from your pediatrician who is going to work soon! My matcha green tea tastes great this morning with a side of macaroons.

View during my walk around the farm.

October 15, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m home. I’m home in our Oregon farm/ranch home. Primarily my life is in San Diego and Southern California, but we truly are Oregonians too since we own two properties up here in Oregon and one is an almost 200 acre tree farm/ranch that we love dearly. I’ve always been part of a real estate family, where that is all we talk about at dinner. But climate work made me realize the dangers of climate change, and honestly some of this is us getting ready for our own family’s climate migration. We’d like to avert the apocalypse, but just in case it’s good to have several contingency plans. There are never any guarantees, but there is water here and there is land.

I have so much more hope these days than when I was in the midst of burn-out and after emerging and beginning to work in climate and health. I think the importance for me is to keep on dreaming about the world I want for our children (including my daughter’s own Kdrama that I’m making up in my head that includes homecoming!!! LOL) and our world. Up here on our farm, I can dream. I wandered yesterday just walking around and around the pasturelands and getting good exercise. But I was just also just thinking my own thoughts. We need to restructure the entire way we live, and involve everyone in the process. We can’t save the planet with just half of us.

But I’m happy this weekend to disconnect a bit with some in my family. We are dealing with some interesting property issues specific to having an Oregon tree farm. I’m looking forward to meeting one of the Oregon fish biologist to talk about our plans to continue to preserve some riparian habitat on the Upper Cow Creek that transverses our property. It originates from the Cascades.

But it’s 616AM and I’ve had a gloriously restful sleep. I always have the earth in mind and I have to put comments in for a divestment paper, and also editorial comments for the economic impacts of climate change (a billion dollar disaster paper out of Harvard). I also need to get in the rest of my tax information to our accountant. The deadline is Monday! Darn, I’m cutting it close! But so is the world with climate change. But I’ll deal with both today, our own family’s finances and the finances of our planet (or at least make comments on it).

This is a short trip but so needed. I haven’t been up in 6 months, but I’ve had two climate friends both named Rachel come up with their families. It was so nice to be able to provide their families with sustainable travel and free accommodations just because they are green friends. It was better for the earth as well, because they are like me – fighting for a sustainable planet for all of us. Only green friends welcome here on our Oregon farm!!! And also the other protagonist of my daughter’s Kdrama but their family is pretty green too. But that’s the 100 episode Kdrama and they don’t hold hands until episode 50! Maybe someday up in Oregon they can hold hands.

Green hugs to you my friends. Thank you for delving into the world of Dr. Plastic Picker!!!

The dress, and the hair down, but it will be up.

October 6, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Do you really want to know what I’ve been up to? I’ve had this perpetual smile on my face for at least the last few weeks. I’m being a mother of a pretty teenager that wants to go to home-coming. She wants to wear a pretty dress and pretty shoes, and take innocent pictures with a boy that is tall enough that she can wear heels. And I’m happily living in this space. The details I’m keeping close to my heart, and it’s so beautiful and innocent and my cheeks hurt from the smiling and the email exchanges.

Mindful of privacy and not sharenting (sharing on social media my parenting) too much, I’m keeping the details private. But the beautiful email exchanges could be a book one day and I’m keeping them all in a digital folder.

But back to saving the world!!! As an environmentalist, it’s beautiful when we are able to dream of a future for our children. It’s a good sign when environmentalist are having children, because the ultimate expression of climate grief is to believe the world is unsafe to bring a child into it. That despair absolutely cannot be the answer. Children give us hope. My teens and their future gives me purpose to continue to #fightfor1point5.

So Dr. Plastic Picker has been very very busy. I took a great risk and prepared four iterations of a talk on ESG investments for our regional green team. The funny thing that it ended up we already have that option in our retirement accounts? After all that, we have those options already? I was very brief as all the iterations of my talk had been paired down multiple times for well-meaning friends. It was for the best though, because the CFO and head financial folks had already heard the angry climate and health person. They had not heard me. I was more humble and quiet and questioning. It takes a multi-pronged approach to get things done. I’m completely new to this space so still learning and figuring things out. I’m still going to run for the retirement committee, because I think they need someone like me there. I said at the end of the meeting, “I care about the earth and climate, and I care about money. And I didn’t know these options existed? I wonder if others know. What can I do to help?” And I think that was actually a helpful comment and the two big financial people left the meeting I think with a reminder how important this work is, and a parting comment that they too cared deeply about our environmental mission.

But in between I was rereading email exchanges about home-coming and looking at pictures and thinking about shoe-shopping with my daughter. I missed so much of her early years, being a young working pediatrician and trying to navigate a still male-dominated hierarchy. I’ve decided these days that joy is important, and what brings me joy is saving the planet for our collective children and thinking about her first homecoming.

And here she is pouty when she was little. I was extolling on what a wonderful student and kind person she is. And she is truly that. The best of both Mr. Plastic Picker and myself.

Many moons ago, pouting. That face. She’s a beautiful girl now and I don’t see the pouts that often. But watch out if she doesn’t get her way. LOL.

Dapper parents.

September 11, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I hadn’t realized it was the 20th anniversary of September 11th? It’s 421am and I’m sitting in the quiet and semi-dark of our kitchen. I want to go for a run this morning and try to get some more cardio in. I slept very deeply yesterday in a fundamental way after a wonderful night with my family. My parents are visiting from their island home, and we gathered together in a beautiful house near the beach. I walked in and I told my younger brother, “I’m curious to see what is the ruckus you caused!” And indeed the whole house was in a ruckus because he was moving from one house to another, and the new house held mementos.

I’m still watching a lot of Kdramas lately but I realize for me and for others, it’s fun and silly and addictive because we are not Korean. I’m certainly a Korean daughter-in-law and the wife to a very Korean man, and I speak decent amount of Korean and eat mostly Korean foods these days – but I am not and have never claimed to be Korean. I am fundamentally comfortable with myself, and as I was eating this lovely banh cuon my older brother had brought to the gathering – I leaned over to my daughter and said. “No matter how much I love your father, Vietnamese food is better.” And indeed dear readers to my palate, it is. The banh cuon yesterday was so delicious. I savored each bite. The thin rice noodles were so thin, and soaked up the nuoc mam so well. I will never forget the banh cuon from yesterday. Even Mr. Plastic Picker admitted that the food was pretty amazing.

My children will often times try to correct me when I make pronouncements like that. But in the setting we were at, the food was indeed extraordinary and no one dared argue.

Banh Cuon, it’s really good. Don’t mind the styrofoam.

We ate, and for a time my daughter was looking through old photos from Vietnam. Most were of my parents when they were young. It was interesting to see which photos she decided to take digital snapshots. There is the romantic one at the beginning of the blog that she took.

Mr. Plastic Picker’s cousin almost 20 years ago, gifted us a pair of wooden ducks on our wedding trip to South Korea. Twenty years ago my parents-in-law had taken us up and down South Korea to meet relatives and introduce us to family and friends. We were in the midst of our third year of medical school at Harvard as well, and had been married just four months at that time. Now 20 years later, I’m truly realizing the significance of that trip and the love and care my parents-in-law bestowed on me. I had bought special winter clothes at Ann Taylor to wear to the various dinners, and we even went to Jeju Do and stayed at a traditional Korean home of a wealthy friend who owned a plantation.

Back to the wooden ducks. It was after watching Kdramas and then looking at the wooden ducks that were gifted to us twenty years ago, that I kept not knowing the significance as we moved from Boston to DC to San Diego and to various homes in San Diego. The ducks are still with us and seated with some succulents right now in our garden. I think they are happier outside. Aix galericulata, Mandarin ducks, in Chinese and Korean culture symbolize “peace, fidelity, and plentiful offspring. Similar to the Chinese, they believe that these ducks mate for life. For these reasons, pairs of wooden-carved mandarin ducks called wedding ducks are often given as wedding gifts and play a significant role in Korean marriage.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandarin_duck

And I’ve been thinking about monogamy and family, and having the normal worries of a mother of two teenagers. We are very strict with our children, and even our high school senior has not started dating. Certainly my daughter knows to respect herself enough to give herself time to become a full person before entering into any sort of romantic relationship. I’ve been trying to teach my children about monogamy and the word has come up multiple times at dinner. My son will push back and say the world has changed. I’m liberal in most ways, but I still fundamentally believe that a healthy society is one that encourages life-long partners be in whatever gender you prefer. I am certainly progressive and realize that there are many societal reasons (war, genocide, historic injustices) that have prevented some that should have mated for life, to have been ripped apart.

But yesterday I think my campaign to instill in my children the importance of valuing oneself and valuing one’s life-long partner much easier. My daughter chose to remember the picture of my own parents over 50 years ago, when they were young and carefree students gazing at each other. They are a pair of ducks, mated for life. Mr. Plastic Picker and I are the same. And those examples are important to uphold, and I didn’t realize something I take for granted is actually uncommon. Everyone at clinic was amazed that Mr. Plastic Picker and I had been married happily for 20 years. Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents have been married now almost 60 years, and my own parents 50 years. This is through war, immigration, poverty and many adverse life events. It’s easier to go through life with one person. Whoever that one person is for my daughter (and my son), I will love you. Just like my parents-in-law love me, and my parents love Mr. Plastic Picker.

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.