Summer 2020 Catch-Up

If 2020 was a drink, what would it be? Vodka in a water bottle when you were expecting it to be water. Now, this is from a funny person on the internet, but I laughed so hard since this has happened to me, it is a horrible surprise, and it aptly describes 2020.

A quick round-up of a few highlights on the Summer.

SpaceX rocket launch 5/30. It was successful. It was also preceded the doubling of Tesla stock which, alas, we missed out on. But $2000?!?! I never would have dreamed. Need to dream bigger, I guess.

On May 30, SMS and I watched the SpaceX launch of two astronauts to the International Space Station. It was a success! Our little stuffed owl put on his cosmonaut helmet but, given the size of his wings, stayed firmly grounded.

Left: Luminous Starter and Right: Proofing loaves

I continued a few quarantine hobbies. I received the gift of a sourdough starter from Stacy and Michael and made some pretty decent sourdough loaves. It took me a few tries to get the leaven concept, but then it was pretty awesome. I haven’t made any loaves recently but we had some deliciously fluffy pancakes this morning!

Cucumber blossoms, a baby cucumber, and tomatoes!

My garden ended up being a little bit of a bust. I need to do some more research on optimal sun and water for specific plants, but it is also true that the soil is only so-so. Especially when inconsistently watered.

SMS and I in Bird Rock, CA.

SMS and I were apart for part of June, together in July, and then up in Menlo Park for his birthday. We celebrated his birthday there and then I drove back down to SD alone, which was unplanned. He had been put in charge of a short timeline, high stakes project at work so he stayed back in case he had to go in. So, for August, I was back in SD alone and it was a tough month to be apart with heat, wildfires, real estate misadventures, and work stressors. Even though we are still incredibly fortunate and we can still find silver linings, August was definitely the month that 2020 became very 2020 for us.

Brady-bird also had a rough month. I rescued her from behind the wine fridge though. She was ungrateful.
Cynthia’s super-cute dog at the Oceanfront house!
“No workie.” Fortunately, there was a back-up that did, in fact, “workie.”

I went to NMCP for the last week in August, which was a great trip professionally but still stressful since the surgeries were high-stakes and required a lot of concentration. Everything went really well and it was super rewarding. I also had an awesome visit from Mom and Dad, who came down from DC to visit Thursday evening through Saturday. The highlights were our amazing dinners at Luce and York 411, with excellent food and great conversation. I wish I saw them more!

From L-R: Sutro Height Lion and me, view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sutro Baths

I went back up to the Bay Area and SMS and I had a fun trip to San Francisco. We actually had an impromptu stay overnight after deciding to treat ourselves to a hotel room for the a/c. We used points and definitely like they were points well-spent!

From L-R: A marriage proposal, Saint Frank coffeeshop, Andytown Coffee Roasters
9/9/20: A really weird day, super orange-y with the wildfire smoke blowing through. This photo is unaltered/unfiltered.
Suuuuuuuuuuper lazy gardening hack, Palo Alto-style.
Robot vacuum, hard at work.

SMS’ work had their big reveal on 9/9 and it went really well. He made the decision to give up his apartment in Menlo Park and move down to San Diego. Working remote will still be “a thing” for several months and it just seemed time to be together. This was/is very exciting news!

And finally…

San Diego Quaren-Queen!

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Me on the bow!

What does a blog that mostly focuses on trip reports and travel do when travel is off-the-table for awhile?  Go dark, in this case!  But I want to continue writing so while COVID-19 is limiting travel, I’ll start writing my deepest, darkest, TMI secrets.  I kid.  There is absolutely no way that’s happening.  I have been reading blogs that are on pretty impressive writing streaks so, no time like the present!

After spending the first part of May in a hotel room in LA, I came back by bus on 13 May. The Mercy pulled in on Friday, 15 May and, overall, it’s great to be back.  It’s an honor to serve and be part of a ship whose mission brings so much hope.  It’s also nice to be back home since the surge/backup capabilities of the Mercy weren’t needed- which is a good thing! I’m glad LA didn’t have an overwhelming situation similar to NYC.

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USNS Mercy, back in San Diego (5/15/20)

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We rule the roost!  Deal with it!

You know who else is happy to be home?  The birds.  That may be an overstatement.  They loved my in-laws house.  They seem to tolerate me.  But at least they were good houseguests (by report) and they certainly don’t seem to have missed any meals.  #quarentine15, but maybe in grams.

Things looked pretty good when I got home.  The houseplants and garden looked good, and I have one baby zucchini, one stunted tomato, and lots of blossoms.  Fingers crossed!  I also fixed the internet, aka, waited for the Spectrum Repairman to fix the internet.  Two-part solution: replace the corroded external connector and, when the connection was still dead, replace the modem.  Success!  The internet is now “blazing fast!”

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So many pieces that look the same. Sand!

I have started many quarantine hobbies.  SMS and I are working on a puzzle.  I cannot think of a more mentally draining endeavor.  I sit down enthusiastically and within 5 minutes, I feel like an eye-strained, pattern-blind monster with no energy.  It’s great!

I also made sourdough bread, which turned out pretty well.  Starter thanks go to my sister- and brother-in-law.  I followed the Tartine recipe, which is insane.  I took it one step at a time.  It made for a delicious loaf of bread.  My tips for next time (oh, yes, there will be a next time) are to use my standmixer at the first combined dough step and, biggest thing, use baking flour, not all-purpose.  I mean, the recipe even said this but I had what I had on-hand.

Finally, I bought knitting kits and started the first one.  Now, I’m the proud maker/owner of a cowl, perfect for the start of Summer!

I have read a lot over the last three months.  I watched Call My Agent/Deux Pour Cent, which is an amazing French show about a Parisian talent agency.  I’m trying to figure out a show that SMS and I would both like, but that’s sometimes tough.  The Great is out.  SMS knew that from the period piece costumes alone.  I’ve heard great things about Ozark but we watched the first episode and he thinks it’s a show I’d quit because of violence/nightmares, a là Breaking Bad.  That could happen.  The search continues.

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This past weekend, we extended our quarantine bubble and had a Medlock Ames wine tasting with my in-laws (4 other people, 6 total).  The takeaway lessons were low since it was easy to talk over a Zoom tasting but everyone thought the wines were great.  We also talked about the book Cork Dork and the utility of the Coravin system.

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Finally, I got some super-cool Facemasks as a frontline worker from Mark’s cousin’s company Goldsheep!  They are great and I’m really appreciative to Keri and her team!

More Mercy

Hello from Restriction of Movement (ROM) status!  Since SARS-CoV-2 decided to show up on Day 16 of the mission (boo!), our leaders not only moved quickly to take care of the patients/close contacts, they also decided to minimize the hazards of close quarters shipboard living by sending most of us to hotels.  Today is Day 10 since I moved off the ship the morning of 4/16.

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So, the above picture shows my last lunch on the USNS Mercy and it was delicious!  I’m dining al fresco because one of the initial social distancing measures was putting a mess tent/dining area on the help pad.  It was a gorgeous afternoon.  They must have known we were about to leave for the deliciousness of hotel food and they decided to up their game.

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On 4/16, I woke early for my last Mercy donut 5K.  I was a little slow but I knew that this would be my last chance for awhile.  Gorgeous morning.

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Here I am on the bus with our silly t-shirt masks.  The rules kept changing, which is fine. We’ve never been through anything like this before.  We now have to wear N-95 masks outside of our rooms.

The first hotel I stayed at was the Doubletree Downtown.  It was nice.  The room was a reasonable size and there was a small area that I could roll out my exercise mat.  Each lunch and dinner came with a DoubleTree cookie which is delicious but they are very rude and put the calorie count on the back of the bag.  Why is a cookie that small 330 calories?

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The food was fine, but not great PLUS my friend and I had a craving for delicious food.  The above picture is of my friend Sable (urologist) and I having a socially distanced lunch of Onigiri.  Yum!

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And I had visitors!  Mark’s cousin Amy, her husband Johnny and their son came over.  They were so nice and brought presents!  They are the best and repping their GoldSheep masks, a company owned by another one of Mark’s cousins.  We had to follow ROM rules so I couldn’t invite them in but it was a nice moment of social contact!

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On 18 April, my family had a Zoom promotion ceremony for my brother’s promotion to Major!  Huge news and an amazing achievement.  I had the honor of administering the oath.  It was awesome and we had a great family conversation afterwards.

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The next day, I had an awesome Zoom meeting with my college friends.  It seemed a little touch-and-go based on schedules but it worked out!  We had a great hour-long hangout and it was really special!  What’s also special is my face- thanks for picking the best picture, Karen.

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On the 23rd, a significant number of people were switched to the Westin Bonaventure. Not sure why, but it is nicer and the food is a lot better.  Above, you see my current level of critical decision-making regarding which bed do I sleep in.  Sigh.  I’ll get back into the OR someday.

In the interim, I have been on Instagram a lot.  Popeye the Foodie Dog is an old favorite and fjamie013 is pretty funny with his fulfillment of photoshop requests.

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I have also started to take online Blender tutorials.  My goal is to learn how to use the software package to make medical models off of CT scan DICOM images.  For now, I set monkey heads on fire and make doughnuts (in progress).

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Finally, here’s my cute cloth mask from a general surgeon’s Mom.  He got a lot and offered a mask to all the surgeons in our chat group.  I also have my own care package on the way with Goldsheep– I can’t wait!

 

Mercy, Please!

Hello, from the USNS Mercy!  Here are two very different pictures of me but I’m smiling in both, I swear!  The left is me eating cake on 4/1, a day before my 40th birthday and the day of the Chief’s establishment/birthday.  My birthday was much more wine-free than I would have liked but it will be made up for at some point.  On the right is from today when I decannulated a trach, aka pulled it out.  It was not really a big deal but PPE is a big deal these days so I was protected!

Things have been slow, but this is a good thing!  That is, we’re here to be emergency back-up and LA has it under control.  I am a little bored and wish I were doing more but since elective surgeries are a no-go until at least 1 June throughout DoD, I wouldn’t be doing a lot more back at home.  So, instead, I eat.  Above are a few meals that I’ve had.  A little lacking on the fresh veggies but tasty.  Bonus: no dishes to clean!

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So, how do I keep from looking like James Garretson in Tiger King?  Exercise!  I’ve run a 5K almost every day and I’ve also done a good number of yoga sessions with the urologist.  She’s the only other female surgeon so we call it the Ladies of DSS meeting, usually at 10 am.

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My fastest 5K so far!

I also avoid the ship’s store, which sells unhealthy snacks as shown below:

They are also not good breath friendly, which is tough when we are supposed to wear masks.  We are following the CDC guidelines, meaning cloth masks which we are pretty sure do next to nothing.  But we are an organization of rule-followers so there’s that-

I have also run the ramps:

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I have also run outside, where I sometimes see my friends, mask-free!

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Joseph-bird paid me a visit!!

We keep a running casualty report.  It usually involves the toilets/head:

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The galley has machines with bossy signs, some inscrutable and some obvious:

We also stuffed plastic eggs for Easter.  The eggs were provided by the USO- thank you!

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View from the brow- we are very close to land!

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My new favorite painting:

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Catch-Up and Upcoming Trip

Over the years, I have had sporadic breaks when I wasn’t traveling/I was busy/I was lazy/etc.  There has never been a month break where so much has happened.  I don’t have any deep thoughts about the COVID-19 pandemic but I implore anyone reading to please listen to the experts. By this I mean, CDC, WHO, and the national treasure Dr. Anthony Fauci.  My career is based on science, facts, and a healthy respect for the number of unknowns that exist in our understanding of exactly how our miraculous bodies work.  Acknowledging these unknowns is a sign of humility and strength, not a reason to thereby dismiss everything someone is saying.  Total certainty is impossible and while it’s comforting when someone offers it, it is likely a shallow and fallible.

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So, how has COVID-19 affected me?   Well, I’m embarking on the USNS Mercy to our mission in LA.  While things could always change (and we were told something different up until yesterday afternoon), it seems this will likely be the destination since it was announced by the President.  SMS is here in San Diego and we’ve had a great week together.  Our families are healthy.

Since I do like to document my travels on this blog, I’m going to briefly sum up the last month prior to 12 March or so.  This is not to trivialize the current situation.  As for updates from the Mercy, I will certainly be writing privately.  Not as certain what will be on the blog but I will try!

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SMS and I are social media stars.  Ha, ha, not really.  But we are in Lucid Motor’s promo video from the reveal event.  So, I grabbed a screen capture for posterity!

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Michelle’s cute dog and me!

On 19 Feb, Michelle and I had a ladies of ENT workout and slumber party.  In the evening, we went for a run in the beautiful Del Mar Heights area.  Then, we drank some wine.  Not a lot, but I had planned to stay over so we could workout early (5:15 am) in the morning.  We took an ok aerobics/toning class, followed by an awesome spin class.  Hooray for work colleagues/friends!

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That next weekend, SMS and I went on a hike on 2/23 to Muir Woods.  We went in the “back way” so we could park on the road along a trailhead up Mt. Tam, near the highlighted Mountain home parking.  We went on a 5 mile hike and it was awesome!  There were beautiful redwoods in the gully and, as we went higher, we cleared the treelike and saw beautiful vistas.

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Afterwards, we went to Sausalito and had some oysters and soup to re-energize us.  We went to the Fish Peddler and it was really good.  It was also a little less expensive than the restaurants in the heart of “downtown” (it’s really a small place overall).

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The next weekend was the Lucid battery team’s 4th annual ski trip.  We skied at Northstar and were finally able to use our Epic passes, which really do save money.  We won’t get to use them this Winter but since we skied two days, we saved about $50 overall.  Maybe next year we’ll try again.

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Parking Lot Selfie

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Lake Tahoe in the background

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Lakeside selfie on a dock near our AirBnB

We stayed at a really cute AirBnB.  I would want to stay there again in the Summer, but can I tell you one annoying thing about AirBnB?   The cleaning fee, taxes, and admin fees aren’t included in the room rate that pops up during the initial search.  It really can add quite a large percentage to the actual amount paid.  However, in fairness, AirBnB has had an amazing (for the renter) cancellation policy for COVID-19.  So, I’m not anti-AirBnB, I’m anti-hidden costs and fees.  Also, hosts that add a sizable cleaning fee should just rethink their room rate.  Unless maybe there are tax reasons for doing so?

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It snowed our last night there, which led to some adventures with tire chains on the way home but it was very pretty to look at from the inside of a warm house.

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Then, things started changing.  This is my colleague when we went to PAPR training.  This was Tuesday, before I knew anything about the Mercy, which I first heard about on Wednesday.  Such a compressed timeline!

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The cutest bird in all the land!

And, in case you want to know about another problem of mine, here’s a screen capture of my camera roll.  When I get home, please stage an intervention.