Category Archives: Observations

Summer travel

I’m at the airport, waiting to board a flight-my first non-work solo flight since Diego was born. I’m flying to Dallas for very brief (less than 36 hours!) girls weekend with Kelleen and Katie. I’m so excited.

A week ago, exactly, we were at the airport in Maui, gearing up for our long, long post-vacation flight home.

Diego had a rough week in Maui-a cold, teething, heat rashes-but was surprisingly chipper at the airport. He crawled all over the terminal, giddy at all the open space after a week in a hotel. I naively assumed his good mood indicated an easy flight ahead.

Ohhh was I wrong.

I felt every minute of that 4 hour, 40 minute flight. Once we (finally) arrived in Oakland, David and I laughed at the absurdity of all of it: Diego, hardly sleeping, the food service running out just before our row, the fifteen lap babies squished into the back few rows-at least one (including ours) screaming, the poor but remarkably kind stranger who got stuck in our row, reassuring us of our “great parenting!” as we slowly fell apart.

A week later, I feel like we’re still recovering from the trip. I admit, I was entirely too confident about our capacity to travel as a family. The week in Maui (in Maui!!) was far more exhausting than I anticipated. It’s a weird thing to be in such a magical haven for restoration, staring at sparkly, clear-blue water, and think, ughhhh….I’m so drained.

When we got home, I felt kind of rattled by the experience. If we can’t hack it as a family in Maui-at a gorgeous resort-will we ever travel as a family? Of course, some of it was (hopefully) unique to this experience: hopefully Diego won’t cut a molar on future trips, hopefully we won’t all get hit by viral bugs-but maybe traveling with kids is way more tiring than I thought? And if that’s the case, is it even worth it?

All week, David and I joked that here on out: no big family trips. One hour drive or less. But I can already feel that creeping wanderlust in the back of my head saying, noooo….we can do this! We have to keep traveling. It practically our responsibility as parents.

Realistically, we probably don’t need (and can’t afford) to do another big trip like this for several years. Diego won’t remember it anyway. But when he’s older…I hope we re-commit to travel (and to exposing him to places beyond beach resorts).

I’m thinking of all of this at an airport, on a day when travel thoughts took front of mind. The first thing I saw this morning was news of Anthony Bourdain’s death. His loss hit me in an unfamiliar way. I generally think about celebrity deaths when they happen, or come up in conversation. They rarely provoke a sense of, wow, but my life wouldn’t be the same without that person. But it really wouldn’t.

When we went to Dublin, our bus ride from the airport was diverted due to protests. We spotted a restaurant we recognized from Bourdain’s No Reservations, and jumped off the bus to check it out. It was a highlight of the trip. In Istanbul, I remember following David, as he navigated us through the crowded madness of Taksim Square, on a search for Durumzade, another (incredible) Bourdain find.

It’s been interesting reading about his impact on so many. He wasn’t preaching anything revolutionary-just be curious. But it certainly hit a nerve, and is a perspective I’ll miss:

“If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.

Anyway, thinking about all of this as the season of summer travel begins. Maybe it’s the time distance from the vacation, maybe it’s all the reading about adventure, but it certainly wants to make me reconsider our travel hesitation. Maybe. But only if we get Diego a seat. Definitely don’t want to do any more long haul flights with a lap baby!

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Train love

Last week, I spent two days in LA for a training. I noticed these two cuties waiting for the metro on the way back to Union Station. The held hands waiting for the train…


And they didn’t let go as they got in the car…


And their sweetness just made me smile.

Happy Wednesday :)

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Five star health care inequality

As the Senate barrels forward with an attempt to cut our health care so rich people can get a tax cut, a new health care issue got my blood boiling this weekend: uber concierge medicine. This article, on the cover of the Sunday business section, enlightened me on a new inequality fronteir.  The story profiles the rising prevalence of private health care managers in the Bay Area.  These health firms for the ultra-wealthy command $40-80,000 a year in fees and ensure their clients have five-star health care experiences (i.e. shorter wait times for specialists, better referrals, coordinated services).

Can’t help but wonder when this story originated, but reading it at a time when Congress wants to take away health care from 23 million Americans (or, if they’re lucky, just increase their premiums by 800%), was extremely unsettling.

While I’ve always been concerned about wealth and income inequality, the move to Stockton makes me hyper-aware of the growing disconnect between the wealthy and poor.  (I can’t include the middle class in that sentence, because sadly, it seems as though the middle class disappearing. It terrifies me to say that, but living in the Central Valley and working in the Bay Area, I primarily observe examples of poverty and wealth–no real signs of a growing middle class in Northern California).  Anyway, one area of hope for equity, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, was health care.

With the ACA, in states that expanded Medicaid, the health benefits protection helped many more people get access to essential coverage.  As a Kaiser member, observing patients of all socio-economic levels accessing health services always gave me a bit of hope for the future.  In the last two years, between David’s pneumonia hospitalization, my miscarriage, pregnancy and delivery, I’ve spent time in Kaiser health centers in Oakland, Modesto, Walnut Creek and Stockton. These cities vary significantly in economic, education and health outcomes.  And yet, while economic disparity grows stronger between the coastal and inland cities, the ACA’s massive coverage improvements provided hope for a narrowing health outcome gap.  In my purely anecdotal experience, the quality of care and dignity of service in Walnut Creek was the same as Stockton, or any of the other cities. I can find few other public services examples where that is the case, and I attribute that to the ACA’s role in lifting standards and quality for all.

Apparently, feeling hopeful after observing waiting rooms of diverse patients is not a universal reaction.  From the article:

“Whenever I bump into a bleeding-heart liberal, which I am, I mention that schools, housing and food are all tiered systems,” he said. “But health care is an island of socialism in a system of tiered capitalism? Tell me how that works.”

Dr. Howard Maron, who founded MD Squared, is similarly candid about the new reality of ultra-elite medical care.

“In my old waiting room in Seattle, the C.E.O. of a company might be sitting next to a custodian from that company,” he recalled. “While I admired that egalitarian aspect of medicine, it started to appear somewhat odd.”

As we “bleeding-heart liberals” lament growing political and ideological polarization, we have to acknowledge it will only get worse if health care becomes even more tiered. (Should clarify, for all the ACA’s promise and potential, we are still far, far from an equitable health system. But the law was a step in the right direction).  The tiered system in public schools, neighborhoods, parks, transit, and more ensure the company CEO never brushes up against the company custodian.  And when that CEO never interacts with the custodian, what does she know of his experience? How will she ever favor policies that help him if she never sees him? It’s the classic Crash opening quote conundrum.

I recognize that viewing a hospital waiting room as a de facto town square, a public center where people of all backgrounds interact, is a deeply depressing statement. But in reality, what else is left? And if wealthy liberals want to take that away (to be clear, the article profiled wealthy Northern Californians; it’s not Texas oil tycoons normalizing this type of income separation, but our “liberal” neighbors) how can we possibly be surprised when Congress wants to barter away health care protections to gain tax cuts?

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Grand Designs


Wondering how much individual media consumption has changed post-election. Guessing I’m not alone in experiencing a significant media and TV habit-shift. Post-election, in an effort to retain sanity, I bounced on-and-off Twitter and FB and FINALLY subscribed to a printed newspaper (NYT, though the Washington Post’s coverage has been super impressive, love their new slogan).

TV-wise, I’ve deliberately slipped into a bubble. Even before the election, nerves already jumpy, I started avoiding shows with “scary” or “stressful” premises. This basically eliminated most thoughtful television. Post-election, I didn’t just want to avoid stress, I needed a distraction, total bubblegum TV to help (momentarily) forget about the concerning reality. 

And what’s the bubble-gummiest TV there is?

HGTV. 

Basically, since November, if I’m watching TV, it’s House Hunters or Fixer Upper. Consumption really picked up in the last few weeks of pregnancy, as we waited around for Diego’s arrival.

Anyway-all this to say, thanks to Netflix, there’s (FINALLY) a new show on rotation in our house: Grand Designs.


It’s SO GOOD. Like, good enough that I feel the need to document it in this little journal.

I read about it in the LA Times and was immediately intrigued: one of the most popular and longest running property shows in the UK, Grand Designs profiles: “a unique home-build or renovation from start to finish — however long that might take, whether a few months or many years…the common thread is ambition.”

As someone who loves-and surprisingly never grows bored of-House Hunters and Fixer Upper, it’s surprising how much better Grand Designs is. The determination of the homebuilders, the creativity in the design, te sheer British-ness of it. And this element:

“The show has much more genuine tension than you’d find in a comparable American series, maybe because the British aren’t so cursed with relentless optimism.”

Anyway, highly recommend it!

Photos via here and here.

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No one at the table 

Sitting here, with a nursing Diego on my chest, in my chair that supports my back and c-section soreness, and thinking about the billions of women who’ve done this before me. And yet…somehow, despite their volume and importance, these women were suspiciously absent from this table:


A bunch of old white men sitting around a board room, discussing their importance, is hardly a remarkable event. However, this group convened to discuss health care benefits. Specifically, whether insurance companies should be required to provide maternity and newborn care benefits as part of their core coverage.

And somehow, no one thought this topic warranted a woman’s perspective?* It’s deeply troubling to think that sometime this afternoon, these men, and their colleagues in the House, will vote on legislation to strip women of basic coverage protections.

Policy and optics aside, this whole AHCA proposal (and legislative process) is just completely bonkers. Our country is already so far behind the rest of the developed world in the support we provide for caregivers, for both children and older adults. Now we’re going to take away their care and treatment, as well?

Two days after the c-section, I was able to take my first shower. The whole cesarean process left me feeling incredibly vulnerable, and I was scared to see the incision for the first time. To calm myself from that fear, I thought about was how many other women have done this. And as nervous as I felt, I knew I was in a good hospital, with an excellent care team, and I would have support to help me heal and recover.  Thinking about that helped me feel stronger in that moment.

Everyone should have that reassurance in a vulnerable moment.

But here’s the thing-good care, strong hospitals, excellent coverage-they don’t just happen. It’s not like the “free market” suddenly makes insurance companies cover costly but necessary surgeries, or “charitable giving” alone results in a safety net program that provides low-income women access to quality hospitals. Of course all of that helps, and individual ingenuity and drive improve care for everyone. But the foundation of all of this is our laws and regulations; laws that require a solid Medicaid program, that require essential coverage benefits, that ensure we all have access to the care and services we need to create and maintain a life of dignity. 

The thought of that table of men making decisions that could impact future women, mothers-to-be, mothers and babies–and their partners!–without the input of a single woman is horrifying. 

Going to go make some calls and stay hopeful for this afternoon and the future.

Happy Friday :)

* One article mentioned there were three women in the room: Kelly-Anne Conway and “two unidentified women in the back.” Very reassuring.

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