Our Tween/Teen – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: Our Tween/Teen

She was incredibly beautiful child.

February 19. 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m working the Sunday shift from 830-5pm and I’m at peace. I did a three way trade so that I could make an HMO Wellness and San Diego Audubon event in two weekends. That is for the earth and work, but I do that on my own time. Of course even though I am increasing our visibility in the community, and indirect advertising and membership growth and general goodwill – I am not paid for it. I created this opportunity for the earth, our HMO and myself through my own networking and creativity. It’s difficult because I don’t think the HMO upper leadership really gets me. Most people who work within the system – actually don’t. They are creatures of being told what to do, what do think, and have their times micromanaged down to the millisecond. After breaking away from true middle management, there is so much room for creativity. But I still work in the system I work in, and I do believe for now it’s the best system out there – so I will show up to work happy today. But I did a triple way shift trade in order for a friend to make a skiing trip, and myself to make the HMO Physician Wellness and San Diego Audubon event – and it all seemed to work out. This event is really the first of it’s kind. So I’m able to make that event and fulfill my obligations at work, which I used to find annoying because who likes to work on the weekend?

But I’m not annoyed this morning having to go to work even though my children have the day off. There is someone special there working also. This someone is someone who I haven’t seen in a long time. I want to give her a hug because we have a close friend in common that died. We all miss her acutely in different ways. I talked to another friend about her, and we used to talk and meet constantly during the years I was Assistant Boss. It’s hard. The sadness comes back once in a while when issues come up, where she would have had a fierce and just and insightful opinion. That passionate voice and that beautiful person is gone now. But those of us who knew her, were made better by her.

I’m not as annoyed to go into work because my children are doing well in life. That’s the honest fact. Physicians are stressed due to extra work duties, not because they want to go party. Come on! We were all studious premedical students. Most of us are annoyed to go into work on the weekends because we are worried about our families and want to spend time with our children. My own children are doing well for various reasons, but some of the reason is that after I decided to do climate work – I became happier. And a happier and more present parent, is a more effective parent.

And the beautiful toddler in the picture is now 14 going on 15, and I am so incredibly lucky. I am incredibly luck to be so loved by my daughter. She tells me often, and I tell her often the same. I still don’t know what I did to deserve such a living being in my life. She has so much love in her to give. Mr. Plastic Picker and I are not parents to overestimate our child’s abilities, but she is also incredibly intelligent. That is saying a lot when both parents are Crimson trained to the 8th power! Her spanish is progressing very well, and she is the honors track. She will get to the AP Spanish Literature level and will always have that skillset. Spanish is relatively easy to maintain since it’s so incredibly useful and an important international language. She also speaks Korean very well. She’s been in Korean language studies since she was four, at a Korean language school and now with a language professor who teaches her weekly. She does duolingo every day for both Spanish and Korean, and speaks with her grandparents every day. Most importantly, every day she takes linguistic risks and moves her language skills further and she enjoys languages. She’s been asking me to start Vietnamese language studies for the last few years. We’ve had fitful starts and she has learned some from me. Her intonation is perfect in Vietnamese and I’ve never been concerned since she’s heard the language her whole life. Now we have met with an excellent college Vietnamese language professor who is local, and speaks the more proper and easier to learn Northern dialect. So we start tomorrow with her official studies, and I’m confident that she will at least be conversational. Four languages isn’t bad! It’s the same four languages I speak, but other than the Vietnamese – I an honestly say her English, Spanish and Korean are better than mine!

That our children are better than us, and we try to leave the world better for them – is a central tenet in my life. But today I’m amazed that my daughter wants to learn my mother tongue, Vietnamese, mostly because she loves me and she hears me speak it often. After I had a prolonged conversation with our new Vietnamese language professor and she overhear, she turned to me and said “Mommy you are really awesome.” So that’s the happy mommy that doesn’t mind working the Sunday extra two shifts today.

Me being loved by my sister-in-law. Our wedding over 20 years ago.

February 15, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

The climate work has been remarkable the last few days. I’m in the midst of San Diegans who truly care for the earth and a livable future for our children. I’ve been on the phone and in conversations with such influential people in San Diego, and our ultimate goal is to build some climate resiliency for our region. The one thing I contributed is my creativity and thinking of the name and idea of a “Heat and Human Health” Summit to be held at UCSD, and bringing all the healthcare groups in San Diego together to tackle this issue. This will be the first of it’s kind in the country and hopefully a model for other regions.

But in the process of truly reviewing the data from Scripps Oceangraphic Institute and the power point presentations on heat from the County of Public Health, one again realizes how absolutely dire the climate crisis is. The heat waves are here already, and they are only going to get worse. We have to continue to try to address the climate crisis by plummeting our green house gas emissions, but we have to also plan for the more likely future of worsening heat waves. Heat waves drive premature birth, smaller babies, cardiac deaths, mental health flares and violence of all kinds. In looking at the data objectively, I again was met with a wall of climate grief.

Climate grief is real. It is so very real. And when you are a deep in the weeds climate and health advocate, you know what it means. It weighs on your heart, as you look at your children and realize the world that we’ve handed them. It weighs on me, and I’m holding back tears this morning. Last night, a few slipped out as I was laying next to my peacefully blissfully asleep husband. I still have dreams for my children, dreams for my son and my daughter and for their families and future grandchildren. But when you dream, one has to acknowledge that when we make the predictions for a 7x fold increase in heatwaves in 30 years in San Diego – that those that will be bearing the brunt of this are the current children we have when they are adults raising their own children.

Realizing the existential crisis of climate change, opens ones heart. My heart is so open these days. I was chatting with a work friend who is also a climate friend, and we talked about how we are different. Exploring passions and talking about our work and climate with others.

This morning I’m realizing I need to give myself some time. I’ve been on a whirlwind of planning and brainstorming for this conference. “Heat and Human Health” Summit! I think that is a great idea! I just need to bring everyone together, and other’s will be standing on the podium when we do the opening sessions. But you heard it here first dear readers!!!

Love this morning as I think about those that are on this journey with me. Love for our premedical students who have been spreading ideas and inspirations. Love for those at UCSD who have opened their hearts and their physical facilities to this prospective conference. Love for my future family, those that will join us when my daughter and son decide whom they will love. Love for my future grandchildren, in whatever form they will take.

And love for myself today. I still need to remind myself to take care of myself. I went for a short jog yesterday. This afternoon I think I’m going to take a break from the frantic emailing, and buy myself some vegetables and try a new recipe. And despite my teen daughter reprimanding me for mentioning a certain boy’s name yesterday, I will refrain from mentioning that boy’s name but I can still dream for her. I can still plan and think of a fuzzy future. But I realize that I don’t want to be thought too weird so I’ll keep those thoughts to myself! So if you see me humming and thinking, just remember I’m imagining my daughter in a hanbok like myself on her wedding day.

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.

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.

The end and the most beautiful view on the way.

December 26, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

The time was wrong on the microwave clock this morning. I had forgotten to reset the clock when the power went out on Christmas Eve. The children were fast asleep, and it was really just Mr. Plastic Picker and I that noticed since his HMO computer thingamajiggy was beeping. It was very brief just a minute or so, and things were reset and we went back to sleep.

We didn’t mention it to the children when we awoke on our slow and peaceful Christmas Day. There are so many of those moments in life that even when you are together in the same household, like the power going out on the in-between time of Christmas Eve finishing and Christmas Morning beginning, that you don’t share because the others did not notice. It happened, but really only two people experienced it.

This weekend was filled with those moments that we all shared. We all noticed. We were together. One set of grandparents are up in Utah, making memories with another set of grandchildren. And my two children, after a wonderful day filled with the smell of my daughter’s homemade cinnamon rolls filling the house and our bellies (in appropriate portion sizes of course), agreed to walk up with me on my most favorite walking path from our house to their maternal grandparents’ house.

Sometimes I wonder how that became the walk to the grandparents’ house, but it literally is the walk – that hugs along the Pacific Coast along one of the most scenic and biodiverse areas in the world. And we did that walk, and saw them before they head back to their new home away from us and their old lives.

It was such a beautiful and memorable walk. Just 45 minutes really. I showed them the sandstone cliffs that are often on my Instagram feed, and the rocks that I balance on as I’m cleaning the ocean. We went to deliver some medical things I had purchased for them at the HMO company store, and for our daughter to show them the actual print out of her report card which she can explain in pretty good Vietnamese that they are all As and A+s in honors classes. I’m most proud of her for knowing that phrase well. And we sat on the couch that is on the beautiful balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

It’s real life but it’s also a metaphor. I saw with my father for a few long moments, and we talked about their 50th wedding anniversary next year and how they want to celebrate. We talked about Hawaii and San Diego, the weather and their happiness in their new home. We talked about memories and health, and we talked about death. At some point, we found my mother as she was furiously trying to clean the outside of a house that she is passing on to my brother. She doesn’t need to clean it anymore, but she can’t stop herself when she is in San Diego. At some point, we got her to sit down and enjoy the view and the quiet. We talked about the big 50th anniversary coming up again. Mr. Plastic Picker didn’t come on the walk with us, but he did arrive shortly afterwards to pick us up since we had made it to the grandparents’ house just before dark. He chatted with my brother and laughing with our son. Through the clear balcony doors that are so much cleaner than mine, my father commented at how handsome our son is. That he didn’t get into his early decision school doesn’t really bother us now, because he’s going to do well no matter where he ends up and we have a lot of resources and I admit privilege to be able to support him along his journey. We talked about the other equally wonderful schools that he is applying to. And I’m very much like my father, I’d rather our son be good-looking then anything. This is why my father and I are very much alike. Good-looking and a good person.

And then the princess walked in, our princess at least. Our daughter walked in and hugged her grandparents and she kissed them. She’s the embodiment (like all the other grandchildren) of the love of many generations. She’s the embodiment of the love of my parents who survived war and displacement, racism and macroagressions. She’s the embodiment of the hope of my family. I quietly told my father our plans, about college and law school and how she can be molded to be an activist as well.

But as she walked away to join the others in the kitchen, we commented and thinking the same thing. Gosh, she’s good looking and she’s ours.

Afterwards our daughter was laughing much of the night, about how funny her grandparents are. They are like most grandparents on this earth of ours. Marveling at the miracle of how love and beauty can be passed on to the next generation.

Sweet moment at Downtown Disney this weekend.

December 19, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I wanted so badly to talk to my friend who I’m not allowed to email. It’s a self-imposed “not allowed to email” situation because I don’t want to bother them, and my family does not want me to bother them. My friend is a father and I imagined him to be the perfect father-in-law to my daughter. But obviously that is not my decision to make right now. My friend was an educator for a long time before becoming an important player in the University of California system, so he knows children well. He is also a father to a boy and likely understands some of my confusion and parenting dilemmas (wow that’s a hard word to spell without spellcheck).

But I’m a pediatrician and I should be the perfect parent right? That’s what the world expects of me. Am I allowed to struggle? Am I allowed to make mistakes? If as a pediatrician your kids don’t “turn out well” isn’t there more judgement? I’m not worried about the judgement part, because I’ve moved beyond it. But I’ve always known that parents who work a lot and who are forced to place other’s needs in front of their own family’s needs and who have little control over their schedule, we’re supposed to be the perfect parents? In fact, good parenting is antithesis to the work-life of most doctors even pediatricians. It’s a fact.


Trashart and being a speech tournament mom.

December 7, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

My big task this morning is to figure out a title for the HMO Regional Asthma Symposium Presentation I’m giving on Friday morning. I think I’m going to name it “45 and my 2nd Act as a clean air advocate: @drplasticpicker a burnout story.” I’m opening up powerpoint right now and going to update slides I used for the MGHfC/Harvard Grand Rounds I gave in November.

Actually I renamed it. I think this works better “My Second Act as a Clean Air Advocate and SDPCA.” I’m going to talk about burn out, but focus on two recent projects we are working on which is rallying against the Mitsubishi Cement Plant and thousands of more diesel trucks in the Environmental Justice neighborhood of Barrio Logan. And also I’m going to touch on indoor air pollution and the push for building electrification.

I don’t really tell anyone other than the SDPCA/AAPCA3 email list and then my immediate clinic friends about the things we are doing. The clean air work and this beautiful alternate world as a climate and health doctor has been this beautiful thing that has happened. It’s connected to our department as all the players are also part of it, but it’s also outside of work as it’s all volunteer for us and for me. It’s a non-transactional relationship and completely a transformational journey for many of us, and has been for me

With that, it’s been hard. I left middle-management willingly and enthusiastically to pursue environmental health advocacy. The outside work needed to be done, and it was volunteer and honestly not enough people are showing up to do this work. With small efforts, I have a greater impact on child health than sitting at middle-management meetings. I had no grand plan for when I felt quietly exited middle management, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I’ve moved on to more regional and national work within our HMO. I’m making connections with climate and health advocates in Oregon, Northern California and other regions. We are all working toward the same goal and interestingly there are a lot of people like me, former chiefs and assistant chiefs, who realized we had to work outside to change the inside.

But I do get sad sometimes. I’ve chosen to be very quiet and let my former middle management colleagues figure out their second act. But as I see what I had worked on for five years be dismantled piece by piece, I get sad. But I know that everyone has to recreate their own reality. If you don’t make it yourself, you never feel that sense of ownership. I had thought I had been doing that work collaboratively, but as little things are changed that had remnants of my former administrative self – I naturally feel hurt. That had been years of effort. Years of worry. Years of how I felt things were efficiently organized to make life better for all of us. I had my colleagues wellness and my own wellness at the forefront always during those five years as Assistant Boss, and then the previous 5 years as lead of our clinic. It was a decade of my life, and a decade is a long time.

But one has to say goodbye and a department moves on. I’m a bit player sitting in my corner, and going to just wait it out. Wait until the new generation takes over at some point. It’s too painful for me emotionally to go to meetings and to participate. I listen in, or listen to the recordings. I find so much joy in my actual patients and clinical medicine, and I often wonder what insanity led me into management before. And I’m reminded that it was because the work was being dumped on me anyway as a young mommy doctor, and I had decided that if I’m going to be pressured to do the work than I might as well have the title and get the tiny little bonuses that are associated with it. I think that was the right thing to do as a woman doctor. And that led to the next which led to the next, which led to burnout.

But I’m happy and it’s best not to question our life’s journey. I have realized now that it’s in my own self-interest to acknowledge my emotions and that how I’m feeling is important too. So that’s how I’m feeling now. I’m also incredibly sad about our family’s pseudo kdrama. Nothing has happened otherwise, but it had been such a beautiful time of dreaming together about a shared future and family and friendship. We are doing very well and our daughter is flourishing in her speech team, and academically and in the midst of normal 14-year old worries about her sports teams. I learned so from that time. I learned that I need to place boundaries around how much I am involved in her life. I learned about para-social relationships (she taught me that), and to cherish the real relationships I have. I learned about my own intrinsic biases and we confronted at least a decade earlier than planned, how we at parents want to begin to navigate having young adults who will at some point date and hopefully create their own families. But the most important thing I learned is how incredibly wise my own daughter is, and how also incredibly young. I get flashes of the future woman she will do, and then stark reminders that she is firmly fourteen.

Rather than trying to meddle in her life or have para-social relationships with future in-laws and future son-in-laws, I’m allowed to lay in her bed and watch her study at her desk. She’s a beautiful child and of course I know I am biased because she is mine. But I lay there and I look at her, and I see her profile with her blue-blocking glasses perched on her beautiful nose. She’s always working on her schoolwork, and perfecting the presentations and making sure she presents her best work. I’m proud to say she’s one of the top students in her class, which I’m still puzzled about because not once have I asked her to do that. In fact during elementary school when the students were allowed to test into the higher spanish and math, I did not sign her up because I didn’t want my former preemie 28 weeker to be stressed. But she ended up in those classes anyway just through her performance. But I get to lay there and watch her study. She’ll ask me questions here and there, and smile at me. But I get to hear her quiet mutterings and comments to herself. She is one of those, very chatty to herself. She sings in the bathroom. She talks to herself at times. And two nights ago, the fourteen year old who now knows she can wear a shade of lipstick and pull an outfit together and wow some speech judges – had in her imagination already told her same-age law-school boyfriend that he’d have to wait for her at Yale Law because she had to go to fellowship and live in a flat in London. So she has been dreaming too along with me, about the future. But I’m glad now that it’s an amorphous person that does not have a name yet. Just a fuzzy thought it the back of her mind.

So we are firmly at fourteen and she turned to me yesterday and I told her I was done with my musings and imaginations about her future husband. And she looked at me with wise eyes and said, “That is good mommy. You told me I can’t date anyway until after my SATs.” She’s got better things to do. But I’m so happy we got to go shopping again for shoes and she looked beautiful at her speech tournament. I’ve realized that she’s very picky about friends and likely about future romantic interests. And I’m so proud of her for that. She won’t settle for just anyone and doesn’t encourage others to pay attention to her in that way. She just wants to preview what it would be like to be a “fancy lawyer lady.”

So I’m lucky, inordinately lucky. My department has moved on. Our family has moved on from our family’s pseudo Kdrama (although in the back of my mind it was just a weird coming of circumstance that I think they’ll meet again in a decade by accident). And I’m still here happy to be a general pediatrician and get to do clean air work. I get to be the mother of two great teenagers, and a 14-year-old who likes to go shopping with me. And I get to be with you dear reader on my blog. Oops, she’s coming down the stairs. Let me sign off!

From Instagram and real friend @flavors4wellness

November 30, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Yesterday was a wonderful climate day and just a wonderful day in general. I was sitting having a quick lunch with Dr. Dear Friend. I often just go into her office and grab one of her prepared meals (yes, we are those kind of friends). I was sitting crossed legged and walking around in my socks (I’m Asian) in her office, and we were catching up. Dr. Dear Friend was busy multi-tasking making phone calls at the same time. I told her, “I’ve been truly happy since May 24, 2022.” Dr. Dear Friend kind of paused and said, “Have you been really happy?” I looked at her, and yes this is in the midst of one of the busiest respiratory seasons of the century and life is crazy for everyone and I haven’t really given many of my overtime shifts away, and I looked at her and said, “Yeah. I’m truly happy and I kind of feel guilty because everyone else is kind of sad and stressed.” I happily finished my meal, and said good-bye to her as she finished her phone calls. It was my off-time and I certainly was no longer being paid to do my clinical work, and I had worked the late shift the night before. So I left. I left the office when my allotted work time was done, and I left to be a parent.

It was certainly busy yesterday. I was amazed I was able to do all my afternoon errands which is a mix of climate work and parent work. I picked up scout patches for the Green Team IRC clean up event in early December. I’ll interoffice it to my program coordinator friend. I picked up my daughter’s Silver Torch Award for Girl Scouts at the same time. After leaving the Balboa Girl Scout Campus, I headed to pick up my daughter but stopped by a local Starbucks near her school. I felt so luxurious and bought a $5 matcha green tea soy latte, and I sipped that warm cup of goodness and I was so happy. I then picked her up at her school on time. She was happy and we went off to DSW to shop for shoes. She’s going to a speech tournament the Winter Invitational at La Costa Canyon High School. We bought the cutest pair of boots for her. She has a burgundy wrap dress, and the small little boots have a little heel and she feels very pretty in them yet professional and they are comfortable enough to run to the events. I even signed up for the rewards VIP program, because we expect to be buying other fancy shoes as she explores being a “fancy lawyer lady” (her words) which warms my mommy heart.

I was even at some time in between all this had time to get gasoline (we are not fully electric yet) for our plug-in hybrid. And we stopped by CVS to get two shades of nail polish to match her dress. (yes she is much more girly-girl than I am, and I love it).

And after we settled at home, I spent two hours in climate related virtual meeting. Riley Gilbertson , one of our premed interns, and I spoke at the Youth Advisory Council for the UCSD Refugee Health Center. It was a worthwhile presentation, and oh yes – I had in the morning spent about an hour updating a presentation for them. And then we spent an hour delivering the presentation and leading the discussion. And then our SDPCA and AAP group met, and it was a joyous and time efficient meeting lasting 30 minutes. Lots of discussion and work and projects planned out. I need to kind of sort everything in my brain, and then I’ll summarize things this afternoon and send out the updates.

And during this entire time, especially when I’m with our daughter running our errands and having her live her 14-year-old beautiful cocooned and safe life, I have lingering thoughts and smiles and sadness and curiosity regarding our family’s own Kdrama. I see pictures pop up on Instagram once in a while of someone, and I think about emailing someone I admire that I still think would be a wonderful person to be related to. But I stop myself and realize that it’s not my Kdrama but belongs to two young people. I still think there is destiny and fate, but I’ll let things happen or not happen and just be the shoe-shopping chauffer for a super cute 14-year-old.

But it was too much last night. The solar panel inverters were fixed. I saved thousands of dollars managing our finances correctly by electing to participate in AB150. I can’t believe my fellow physicians did not partake. It was a lot of money. And our children went to bed semi-reasonable time. I went to bed early and got a good amount of sleep. And then everything became not too much, but just enough. My mind is so clear in the morning, especially after blogging.

I sometimes am not sure why I am happy these days. But I’m grateful for it. I get to type out thoughts to myself and do meaningful climate work, and live in world filled with youth and students and be the encouraging cheer-leader to my climate friends and to my own children. We had two papers rejected yesterday and I was kind of peeved at the editors, but our two respective teams are going to resubmit and we’ll get it done. Those editors have NO IMAGINATION. None whatsoever, and are so scared of the world. Little do they know, that they have actually moved the climate work backwards. But there are so many of us now green warriors and we are SO POSITIVE and HEALED, that we will push forward because there really is not choice. Our motivation in these papers is simple. It’s really to avert cataclysmic climate change, and advocate for children’s health.

I whispered to Mr. Plastic Picker several times last night, that I still think our family pseudo Kdrama will in a decade be what I imagine. But certain people are growing up and we hope that they will meet again when it’s up to them. At least they know each other exists. Mine is super-cute wearing a burgundy wrap dress and low heeled boots to the next speech tournament. She is so cute! We are too busy in our house for actual boys, but not too busy to dream innocent dreams of saving the world and future cute little grandchildren. I think I’d be a really good grandmother, after she finishes graduate school and wins a bunch of fellowships of course. We dream big at our house.

Much love to you and my rambling thoughts and dreams of your local litter-picking pediatrician.