Traveling Through Time

Facade of Mission San Jose in San Antonio
I was not an only child, no matter how hard I prayed for God to take away my siblings. We did not have a lot of money so when we went on vacation all of us were crammed together into tight quarters in the family car. We slept on the floor with family/friends or in sleazy motels (think roaches and cigarette burned coverlets) and survived on McDonalds (you could get a sack of five burgers for five dollars). If we were super lucky, we got to take my grandpa’s motor home and ate hot dogs every day unless it was too wet for a fire, in which case we got spaghetti. 

Oh, there was bickering. Lots and lots of bickering…

Stop poking me!

Mo-ooommmmm! She’s looking at me again!

He’s breathing on me! Make him stop breathing!!!!

My father had a government job and my mother was a stay at home mom. As such, when we went on trips over the summer it was for 2-3 weeks at a time. I travelled all over the US learning things. I don’t think there is a place with educational merit in the continental United States that I have not visited except for things in the state of New York which I was told was “the den of sin and iniquity and the home of  those damn Yankees”. I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty something fierce but as far as my parents were concerned NYC in particular was not worth our time. 

I saw the VLA (Very Large Array) radio telescope years before the movie Contact made it famous. I learned about hydrology from the huge scale mock up of the San Francisco Bay Area complete with working wave maker built in the 1950’s by the Corps of Engineers. I learned about the Civil War at Gettysburg and Texas independence at the Alamo and Washington on the Brazos and fossil dating from Dinosaur Valley and the Petrified Forest. 

There were the obvious places like Yellowstone and Glacier and Mesa Verde. The contrasts of natural and man-made, like the arches in Utah and The Arch in St. Louis. And the obscure, like the Helium monument in Amarillo and what is left of Route 66 (no one cared about that back then).

I have so many good memories of those trips. For all of the bad my parents may or may not have done, they did get one thing right… those family trips. 

Well. Except for New York.

So now, as I am weighing an expensive trip to Disney World with my kids vs a cheap road trip with them somewhere more… interesting, I think about my own childhood. I have the means to make my kids’ dreams come true, if I wanted to, but do I really want to? I never did see Disney World but I think I ended up with something even more magical, an understanding and appreciation of where I came from… my own history and the history of others. That is what I want to pass on. 

So maybe Disney World is better left in our dreams and our imagination?



campfire at night
I made my list and I checked it twice. 

Three times, in fact. 

When I pulled out of the driveway, I did so with confidence that everything important was packed and loaded up in the back.

It was not until the next morning back at the campsite, as I was preparing to wash the 10K of sweat off of my body, that I realized I had not packed clean panties.


And eeeeewwwww.

Figured. My brain was mush after a full week of the new electronic health record. Hence the list. And the double checking. There was nowhere nearby to get new ones and no one to borrow from. I was just gonna have to suck it up. Maybe some hand washing. Still, soggy underwear? Ick.

Three days later….

As I was packing everything up I found where my kids stashed them when I wasn’t looking looking.

At least we had the food and toothbrushes.

Meanwhile, those stinky underwear? 


In Writing


She stood out on the balcony of the little hotel cradling a steaming cup of tea. Across the way stood a house, partially shrouded in the morning mist. She wondered who lived and loved there. What were they doing at this moment within those walls?

A sigh escaped from her lips. Was it happiness? Contentment? She was not sure.

His arms wrapped around her gently from behind and he kissed her neck. It made chills run up and down her spine. She smiled to herself as he whispered, “I love you…”

Turning, she looked up into his vacant eyes. 

“I need to write, dear,” she said.

He nodded understandingly and stepped back, allowing her to pass.

She made her way to the laptop resting on the corner desk, setting down the tea carefully so as not to spill it, then began typing away at the keys. She was getting better at this. Still, she needed to work on his eyes and his movements were not as fluid as she would have liked….

The words tumbled out as she wrote the day. She dressed him in jeans and a Tshirt that hugged his muscular chest just so. Should she change his hair color? She glanced at the figure standing still outside. No. Not today. She left it black. They would go for a walk in the hills, in the fog, but she had to be specific, detailed. No writing him into a corner again this time. And then tonight. Tonight there would be epic love making.

Finally she closed the laptop. He turned around at the sound of the click, smiling pleasantly at her again as he stepped back into the room.

“I have an idea. Let’s go for a walk,” he said.

“Yes. Let’s do…”

In a Bubble


My daughter said this afternoon, “Mommy, do you remember when we saw that dead rat on the street and its stomach had exploded and its guts were moving? Why were its guts moving?” 

Um. I’m not sure it was guts….

That made for an interesting discussion with a five year old in the middle of downtown Chicago. She won’t remember the museums or the parks or the Sears Tower. She will, however, remember the maggoty rat in the street. 

No matter how hard we try to create good memories, the most memorable are the accidental ones. 


yellow flowers in a field in front of the Chicago Field Museum

It is strangely disconcerting, taking my kids around to places that have held so much power from my childhood. Their little feet where my little feet once stood, staring in awe.

The circle of life?

Somehow it feels as if I could maybe reach out and touch that little girl and tell her it is all going to be OK, there is a happy ending after all.

Except this isn’t the end. It seems more like a beginning. 

Or at the very least, starting over….

The Pregnant Pause


When I was pregnant with my son, I ran away to Switzerland. 

I rode the trains all over the country and climbed to the top of the Klein Matterhorn, keeping track of all of the public toilets along the way.

To be honest, I was terrified. I thought it might be easier in some ways to just die. Not that I had a plan but if I could just die, it would all be over.

Fall asleep and not wake up….

I was not prepared at all for being pregnant. It was the last thing I wanted at that point in my life. I was under a huge amount of personal stress and I worried about whether or not I should even carry on with the pregnancy. As I sat around wracked with indecision, the weeks ticked by…. It was clear I was not going to have a miscarriage.

Then, an early ultrasound determined that the baby might have something wrong with the kidneys and something snapped.

Suddenly, I wanted a baby. I wanted that baby more than I wanted anything else in the entire world.

To get him, though, I was going to have to make some other very major, very painful sacrifices and rather than make them right then, I ran away. 

To Switzerland.

Away from everyone. Away from the pressure, the shame, the fear. Away from everything.

It was the best time of my life. 

So, Belladonna Took asked about the meaning behind my moniker, my gravatar name…. Victo Dolore. In truth, it has many meanings and I struggled with what to write about it.

There is the Latin meaning: “Pain Conquered.”

There is the historical meaning. Victo Dolore was written on the family crest of Dr. James Simpson. He discovered chloroform and was the first to use it in childbirth. Anesthesia in childbirth is something that is near and dear to my heart.

There is the historical implication. Many opposed the use of anesthesia during childbirth, arguing that women should suffer as much as possible in childbirth as it would bring them closer to God. Some argued that without the great pain involved in bringing babies into the world, mothers would not love their children as much. (It should be noted that these were arguments posed by men.) 

And then, there is the personal meaning. Life is about conquering pain. Sometimes that pain is physical. Sometimes the pain is something more. 

Much more. 

Switzerland helped get my feet back under me. There are plenty of things that have happened in my life that have caused me great pain. There are just as many things that have helped me find my center again. I write about some of those here. If I wait long enough, I can always get up again. Pain diminishes, it never goes away, but we can learn to control how much influence it has on our lives. 

Victo Dolore.

The Triumvirate 

crape myrtle petals in the street in front of my house

Name the three best days of your life, not counting having kids.

Jane from Out of the Rabbit Hole asked me that question. She also wants to know what all of you would say are your three best days so I invite you to write your own posts and provide a link here or you can answer in the comments below.

My three best days (I cannot talk about some of my good days, too risqué for some of you good people….):

1. Making an “A” on my first exam in medical school. (I really did belong there!)

2. The first time a patient said “thank you.” It was a great feeling, knowing I could make a difference for someone.

3. Standing inside Notre Dame in Paris when someone started playing the cathedral’s pipe organ. It was breathtakingly, achingly beautiful and felt as if it was the culmination of so many other beautiful and painful things I have seen and felt in my lifetime. If I had died right there, I would have been happy.

Your turn!

Also, is anyone else have WordPress wonkiness today?!??!??

Falling Back

This time of year we make a trip to the Enchanted Forest. This is where the birthday fairies live, ready to bestow gifts upon good little children who obey their parents *some* of the time. I created this pseudo-holiday because Santa is only good for about 4 weeks out of the year and quite frankly I need more leverage than that. Birthdays happen all year long…

We stayed in a duplex cabin which some may argue is not really roughing it, but the place was filthy and I swear the kid crying next door at 2AM and 4AM sounded an awful lot like a coyote…. 

Don’t feel sorry for me, though. I don’t like it too nice. Staying a few days in filth, semi-roughing it, teaches the kids to appreciate what they do have in the “real” world and emphasizes the beauty of nature. The Japanese call it “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku. They have something there, those wise people. 


It is too, too bad we cannot retreat forever….