Tell us about the first time you were in love.
So, this is gonna sound strange, but I would have to say the first person that made me think, “Oh, This is love,” is the person that I’m with now. I met David on a ski trip through mutual friends. Actually, his best friend from high school is married to my best friend from high school. We met 10 years ago and just got married in October. For a long time we didn’t see the importance of our relationship being endorsed by the state and we’re not religious. But then it became something we were interested in and we did it. We didn’t have a big wedding; I was never interested in that. But we made our commitment to each other a little more formal.
In high school there was one guy, Ron Francione. I would say we had a romance. But to say that I was “in love,” I didn’t really feel that way. But we talked on the phone, went to the prom, things like that. I was never the googly-eyed, in-love type of person.
I don’t know that there’s a topic necessarily that we argue about but I would say that we’re both pretty sensitive. Sometimes one of us says something that the other person thinks is hurtful, and that might lead to an argument. But it’s never over finances or something like that. We’re pretty easy going about those types of things. But sometimes we spark each other’s sensitivity and that will lead to an argument. In my friendships and relationships with my coworkers I don’t feel that same level of sensitivity. I don’t expect quite as much from them.
You grew up near Philly. How did you wind up in SoCal?
I knew I wanted to go a little bit away for college so I went down to North Carolina for college. Then I stayed on the East Coast (Philly, New York), then grad school in Chicago. In the graduate school I went to you have to do an internship where you match for anywhere in the country, and I matched for UCSD. I knew I wanted to be out west so I moved here in 2007.
I saw photos of you camping and hiking. How does a Philly kid pick up those skills?
By spending lots of time in the Pocono mountains as a kid. And both of my brothers are avid outdoorsmen. When I lived in big cities, I suppressed (for lack of a better word) my outdoorsy side. About nine years ago, I decided to align my life more closely with my values by moving West where I could more easily access the mountains and ocean. David had made a similar decision, albeit 15 years prior, so I had an experienced and loving guide with lots of the [outdoor] equipment. Best move of my life. In terms of connecting with what matters most, there is nothing like a backpacking trip where your access to food is limited, your connection to email and phone is cut off, your water resources are precious, and your attention is captured by the life that is directly in front of you.
In what is your graduate degree?
I have a PhD in Clinical Psychology. I work at the VA hospital and UCSD. All my clinical work is with veterans. There are a lot of people in San Diego who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan so our VA sees a lot of younger veterans. But we also see Vietnam Veterans and people who weren’t even in conflicts. Veterans have higher rates of trauma across their lifespan. And the VA serves people with lower socioeconomic status. We serve people that have had some real difficulties in life.
I’m a psycho therapist. The thing that I’m most passionate about at work is that I run a program called the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program. It’s been researched and disseminated for people with high levels of suicidal behavior and self-harming behavior. The woman who developed it combined behaviorism (I‘m a pretty hardcore behaviorist) with zen buddhism, and then added a humanistic client-focused type therapy. So I do mindfulness exercises with the clients I work with everyday.
What is a typical Wednesday evening? How do you unwind?
One thing that really helps me is that two or three times a week I ride my bike to work. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes each way. That time significantly impacts my mood in a positive direction. On my way to work I just ride along the coast. I’m out in nature, I’m connected with the phases of the moon (because in the winter it’s dark) and with the weather. Sometimes I’ll get finished at work and my urge is to hop on the bus. But as long as I get on my bike and start pedaling, it’s so amazing. I’ll ride in the rain and get dirty and wet. It’s kind of great.
In the weekend I’m generally looking to do yoga, surf and cook. I’m happy to spend a big chunk of my day cooking. And then maybe we’ll do something social like go down to the city to meet some friends. But I do like to hang out around Leucadia and in our house and our neighborhood.
Did you grow up cooking?
My dad’s Italian and my mom’s Irish, but my family felt way more Italian. My Italian grandmother taught my mom how to cook all this Italian food. So that was a pretty strong influence growing up. It feels like outside of Philadelphia there’s a way stronger Italian-Irish community than I’ve ever felt here.
When you’re cooking, do you adapt recipes to be more “SoCal” (gluten-free or vegan)?
(laughs.) No. In my lifetime I’ve dabbled with being a vegetarian but I’m never able to sustain it. I pretty much cook East Coast style, full of gluten and bread. But I am conscious about not eating too much meat. We get a box from a farm and that has totally expanded the type of recipes that we make. Like, I would never buy kohlrabi at the store. Or I never would have. But when I get that in my box, I figure out what to make with it and it’s fun.
I love to travel. I wish I could do more of it. If I am not doing an outdoor adventure, I travel to learn history and expose myself to other cultures. There is a limit to the amount of “touristy” type stuff I am willing to do in any one trip. We learned this after a two week trip to the Middle East. We spent the whole time visiting historical sites and walking around cities. It was super cool and we learned a ton, but we were wanting for some adventure. I think we struck a great mix on our last trip in which we biked across southern spain. This allowed us to alternate time out being active with time touring the cities and learning the history. Plus, when you add an activity like biking or hiking to an international trip, it results in interaction with local people in a way you might not experience otherwise, like walking from bike shop to bike shop all day in Granada searching for boxes to pack our bikes in for the plane ride home.
What’s an aspect of current politics/sociology that interests you?
I’m always interested in gender equality and equal rights for women. I’ve paid attention to the pay inequality but It’s also on my radar because I’ve personally experienced it at work. One of the colleagues I work closely with is a man and I’ve seen the different responses that he would elicit than I would elicit. Almost like we have a different stimulus value for people, the respect that he would engender relative to me. So yeah, it’s been on my mind. I get riled up that this is sorta of accepted. It doesn’t get the kind of attention that is should. [Inequality like] racism is obvious but sometimes gender inequality gets ignored.