12.24.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

Nana’s Kitchen

Today I want to wish you Happy Holiday’s and send best wishes for a wonderful New Year. I also wanted to let you know that I have started a new blog with my mother called Nana’s Kitchen. You can find it here. We plan to post yummy recipes and other things that catch our interest. I hope you will like what we find.

PS. Is anyone else having trouble with titles and lables self translating into some foreign language?
12.19.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

The Late Great Jacob 'Big Dumb'

I hadn’t intended to post this week…my heart just wasn’t in it. Even when I saw the prompt it didn’t hit me for a moment how appropriate it was…I don’t know how they did it but many thanks to Laini and Megg for posting it. I have been working on this tribute for a few days never getting very far because it was just too painful…

I wanted a dog. I had just taken the entrance examination for medical school and while awaiting the admission process, I’d decided to move to Eastern Oregon where my parents now lived and had a rental house. The house had a big, fenced back yard with plenty of room for a puppy to run and I rationalize that I needed a friend. I agonized over ads in the paper. What I really wanted was a mastiff—big, gentle, and playful. Unfortunately, my budget didn’t run to the nine-hundred dollars that a mastiff would cost so in the end I got Jacob. Half-German Sheppard, Half Rottweiler. His parents, both purebred, had somehow gotten together accidentally and at one-hundred dollars, he was within my budgetary means. Easily the friendliest and most energetic of all his littermates, he immediately caught my attention. Before long, I was in love.

When I left Portland for my parents place, he rode in the car beside me, gleefully sticking his nose out the window feeling the warm air across his muzzle. He was the happiest dog I had ever met—a goofy attitude toward life reflected always in his eyes. A conscientious ‘mama’, immediately upon our arrival, I found a veterinarian and he had a checkup and vaccinations. I listened carefully to the portly elderly doctor extol the dangers of ‘people’ food and promised never to feed it to my ‘baby’.

Jake was an easy-going dog. He happily adopted the two stray kittens I took in a few weeks later, grooming them as if they were his own puppies. We went to dog training school and while he may not have been the smartest dog in his class, he was the most enthusiastic. Our lives settled into a lovely routine. In February of the following year, I met and started dating a handsome young man who also had a dog and together we had fabulous adventures. In the spring I started getting letters back from medical schools and found that my college guidance councilor was an idiot as all of the schools to which I applied except three, only accepted students from Montana, Idaho, Washington or Alaska. However, by this time I was seriously infatuated with the young man and considering changing my plans to go to medical school (there is a very high rate of divorce in med school).

In October, Jake and I moved back to Portland and bought a house with a nice yard in the suburbs. The nice young man and his dog soon followed and before long, we were a family. Jake was no longer a puppy now. He had grown tall and taken the body of his German Sheppard mother, with the coloring of his Rottweiler father. It was a lovely combination. I had kept my promise to the doctor and as an adult, Jake wouldn’t eat table scraps. You could give him the choicest piece of steak and he would daintily take it in his mouth, walk a few feet and drop it on the floor. Our friends and family remarked that he was the strangest dog.

Despite the fact that he had grown and was no longer a puppy, Jake couldn’t settle down. He was still a puppy at heart. He never walked sedately; he bounded and bounced—a goofy grin on his face. Kevin, the nice young man, jokingly called him ‘big dumb’ because he was such a silly idiot at times.

A few years later, a beautiful baby girl joined our family. Jake adopted her and became her greatest protector while at the same time, gracefully and a little sadly taking a back seat to the baby. He never lost his puppy like demeanor throughout his 13 years with me. He was ever loving and loyal—the bestest of friends.

We had known for months that he wouldn’t last the winter…he was an old man—91 in human years and his hips had bothered him greatly this past year. He could no longer go for walks or climb the stairs into the house. The past two weeks brought a progressive worsening as winter started to set in. He was incontinent and embarrassed about it, unable to get outside through the doggy door. Worst of all, he finally lost his bounce.

He died on Monday and I miss him horribly! I miss him coming to greet me no matter what time I got home. I miss his goofy grin and the way his tail would wag like crazy at anything you said as if he knew exactly what you were saying. I miss his bounce. There is a hole in my heart that I know will heal in time but for now, I’m just sad and I miss my dog.
12.13.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

Of Work, Storms and A Full Moon

I woke up Friday morning and knew instantly it was going to be the weekend from HELL—a perfect storm of moon, weather and work. Reports from the national weather service had been dire for the past four or five days with weatherman using words like ‘white-out conditions’, ‘heavy snowfall’, ‘high winds ’, ‘blizzard’ and ‘Arctic cold front’. Most reports said driving would be difficult if not impossible.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would be ecstatic. Dancing and singing “Here comes the snow…do…do…do…do” (Think the Beatles here). I’d do the ‘Happy Dance’ and jump into snow clothes with the kids for joyful trompings through a pristine white wonderland. Hot cocoa and cinnamon toast upon our return from adventures in the wild outdoors. We would be exhausted, but elated, that our longed for snow had finally arrived. Unfortunately, these were not ordinary circumstances. I was due to work the whole weekend.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I haven’t worked in conditions such as these but the dire weather report was topped off by a full moon at its perigee and as any nurse or cop will tell you, it is no myth that a full moon always brings out the ‘crazy’ in people. Last night the moon was almost 18,400 miles (30,000km) closer to the earth then usual making people even a little nuttier than normal.

I left for work at my usual time of 11:45 in the morning. I have a thirty-mile drive and it usually takes me about 35 minutes to get there. The pictures above and below, I took shortly before leaving for work.

It started snowing lightly when I was half-way to work and by the time I arrived it was snowing heavily. The ER was ‘quiet’—a word we never use while in the ER for superstitious reasons—when I arrived with just one cardiac patient who was on discharge. That of course was about to change.

The first call that came over the dispatch scanner was for an ‘unknown injury accident’ on Hwy 95 south of the Long Bridge. Minutes later a second and third accident were dispatched. Both police and dispatch scanners were suddenly spitting out directions and further reports. The police scanner informed dispatch of multiple slide-off’s and then reported that a fire truck dispatched to an accident scene had also slid off the road. A call came in that there had been a head on collision on Hwy 2 blocking both lanes, extrication required. This was followed by a call from a local rest home that a resident had fallen and they were sending the patient for a routine exam. A PA from Montana phoned that she was sending a patient with a critically low sodium level and a call went out for a cardiac patient in Priest River. Within the hour every ambulance and fire unit in the county were dispatched and calls were stacking up. Medics were asking dispatch which scenes needed priority attention. After that, I mostly lost track beneath the on slat of walking wounded. Between patients, I phoned family members who were traveling and encouraged those who called to stay home.

My supervisor let me go home an hour early, as she knew I had a long commute and she had adequate staffing due to some unanticipated discharges from the ICU. I brushed about 5 inches of snow off my car and headed out. An hour and fifteen minutes of white knuckle driving and I was home safe.
The rest of the pictures are from when I got home and what I found upon waking this morning.

I’m off now for more of the same. I have three more days in this work cycle and I know they’ll be interesting. Come Tuesday morning however, you’ll find me in my snow clothes doing the ‘happy dance’ with 10 glorious days of freedom!

PS. The total snowfall accumulation thus far...12 inches. Yea!!!

12.06.2008 | By: Alisa Callos


Today’s Sunday Scribbling prompt fell right in with a scene I was writing for ‘the novel’, so here’s to the tradition of writing and all the fun and gratification it offers us.

Scotland, 1747

Tradition dictated immediate revenge—a life for a life. Ian glanced over at Alec who sat hunched over his bowl of stew near the hearth. Grief had etched lines in his youthful complexion and he looked grey with fatigue. They were both exhausted and Ian imagined he looked no better. A hard and bitterly cold ride from Oban had been met with the heartbreaking news that they were too late. Uncle James was dead. Knifed down by a McLaren blade, his body desecrated and tortured.

Outside, December winds whipped freshly fallen snow into drifts as icy cold draughts penetrated the thick stonewalls of the castle. Occasionally a particularly strong gust would rattle the tapestries but otherwise all was quiet save scrape of spoon against bowl. It was near to midnight as he and Alec sat vigil with their uncle’s body. The witching hour his granny called it. A time for ghost’s and spirits.

He looked up as his cousin Francie entered the hall, her eyes red and puffy from crying. “It’s up to you Ian. It’s your responsibility,” she said as she sank laboriously into a chair near the hearth. Ian watched as she ran her hand over her belly, heavy with child. Instinctively he hunched lower in his chair. “The clan looks to you now. For leadership. I know it’s not what you were expecting but it’s what’s right and proper.”

He sighed and returned his gaze to the fire. “You know he was like a father to me Francie. I always thought your brother would be laird. I didn’t even aspire to it.” He ran his fingers through his hair, a headache beginning to brew. An overwhelming sadness, coupled with resignation settled over him. Another senseless death—there had been too many. “Did Angus bring a name when he brought the body?”

“Roland McLaren.”

Ian felt the weight of a thousand years of Scots tradition crash down on him at her words. He knew the man. Had raised a pint with him over business in Edinburgh. Liked him well enough to call him friend. He looked to Alec still hunched by the fire before returning his gaze to Francie. “Was Angus sure it was Roland?” He asked.

“Yes.” She replied. “When will you leave?”

“First light, I suppose.” He shut his eyes and leaned his head back in the chair.

“Will you take the men?”

“No. Alec and I will go alone.” He replied his eyes still shut. “Roland’s a friend, Francie. I have to give him a chance to answer the charge.”

“He killed my father in cold blood Ian!” she retorted. “If you won’t do it I’ll find someone who will!”

Ian jerked up in his chair and pinned Francie with a glare. “That’s all I’m willing to give you Francie. I won’t kill a man on an accusation. I want to hear his side before I decide what’s to be done. I mourn our uncle too. If revenge is to be had it’s for me to decide and that’s final.”
12.04.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

Longing for Snow

Today is the most beautiful day.  Not a cloud in the sky and it is crisp and cold.  The thermometer out below the bird feeder reads 22 degrees and it is noon.  The air has a clarity that we have not seen in the past few days of fog and drizzle.  In art class, Sami’s assignment was to make a ‘cityscape’. 

(Note for new friends and readers:  Sami is my seven-years-old daughter.  She is attends a virtual school and is in a gifted and talented class.  In practical terms, this means that while she has a virtual classroom and teacher, we do most of her classes off-line, with me as the teacher.)

Schooling a G/T kid is sometimes challenging and I have virtually given up on the idea that she will ever do an art assignment as it is given to her but today her assignment reflected our longing for snow.  A cityscape with snow.  Weeks ago, we went to the ski swap.  I got the kids fitted for their skis and boots, and we got all our snow gear washed and ready to go.  Sadly, no snow!  We had a dusting at the beginning of November—just enough to get excited about—but it all melted by midday and we have had none since. 

Every morning the kids run to the window looking to see if it has snowed.  Zach, at three and a half, doesn’t understand that no snow means no skiing because every morning, regardless of the fact that he can see there is no snow, he asks if we can go skiing.  And of course, every morning I explain that we have to have snow first.  We’re going a little nutty indoors.  We want to ski, sled, snowshoe and tromp trails in the snow.  The temperatures are cold, the days are short and it seems like winter.  The beautiful fall colors so vibrant at the beginning of fall have gone, leaving us with a dreary brown monochromatic landscape.  We can hardly wait for snow to turn the dismal landscape a brilliant white.  Everyday we wait and hope…any day now I’m going to research the ‘snow dance’ because if we don’t get snow soon, the kids are going to drive me crazy!

cityscape with snow by Sami C.

11.30.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

Small Beauties

It is winter in more ways than one, thought Johanna as she stared out across the newly fallen snow from inside her room. She sighed and closed her eyes for a moment noticing how the reflected light turned the insides of her eyelids a brilliant pink. Opening her eyes again she looked away from the window and around her room with it’s sterile white walls and institutional hospital bed. Today she couldn’t see the small beauties.

Her sixtieth birthday—the irony of it struck her again. She’d had a speech to give that evening on the importance of good nutrition in early childhood. New study data to go over, a graduate student to mentor, papers to grade…a busy day planned. A day I didn’t get to live, she thought. The end of her life really. She remembered the paralyzing fear and confusion when she realized she could not feel her left arm. The agonizing pain that struck her head so suddenly she fell to the floor unknowing for a time. The awakening in darkness and frantic desperate scramble for the phone to call an ambulance. But worse, the desperate knowing that this was the end. Knowledge is an evil thing sometimes.

That had been ten years ago. It seemed like fifty some days, trapped as she was in this wheelchair. She stared down at the rolled white washcloth limply clenched in her left hand. She could smell the sweaty rancid odor of death. Her nails were getting a little long, maybe she’d ask the aide to trim them. Thank-goodness tomorrow was bath day. Anymore it was the highlight of her week. She loved the sensuality of the warm water running over her skin. When she’d been a whole person she’d bathed everyday. Now she was a half person and got a weekly bath…she tried not to think about it for it was an issue that could make her fall.

In her mind, everyday was walked on a precipice. On either side the deep abyss of depression with its siren’s call of darkness. The trick was to not fall. She’d fallen many times and the climb out was agonizingly difficult. One never knew what it would be. Yesterday it had been the Jell-O. Lord, how she hated Jell-O. They served it here practically everyday. Where was the apple pie, chocolate cake, blueberry cobbler? If only they knew how it was made, she thought. It had been one of her favorite nutrition labs to teach. Grinding up the cow hooves and bones, purifying the collagen, adding flavoring. The ‘eeww’ factor for the students had always struck her as funny…and she was sure none of her students had ever looked at Jell-O quite the same way again.

Today the snow had helped her climb from the abyss. A thing of beauty, she thought. So fresh and bright and new. It dazzled her senses. Beauty was her saving grace in this lifeless place. It was her most often request. “Bring me something beautiful.” She’d say to her caregivers. Her windowsill contained a cornucopia of beautiful things…a bluebird feather and a small purple stone, a prism with its rainbow splashes of color, a small book of poems and a twisted piece of driftwood. Her small beauties.

Her thoughts drifted, tomorrow was her birthday. She’d be fresh and clean from her bath…she gazed at the bright light out side, suddenly brighter. She looked away and blinked her eyes rapidly, transported dreamily back—back to when she was young and whole—to when she had her whole life in front of her. She remembered the laughter, the loving, and the birth of her daughter. It is over, she thought. Lovingly she gazed down at the bit of sunshine that Dr. Gibson placed in her arms. Pure beauty. Yes, she thought, winter is a lovely season to be born.
11.22.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

Of Beads and Ears and Gratitude

I was in the shower when Sami burst into the bathroom. “Mom! Zach stuck a bead in his ear!” I don’t know if all seven year olds have a propensity for drama but it is Sami’s forte. “You have to come right now! He can’t get it out!” I heaved a sigh of exasperation—peaceful, uninterrupted showers had vanished at her birth, right along with my serene and tranquil life. “Go tell Zach to come see Mama.” I said hurrying now to finish my shower.

A few minutes later, three-year-old Zachary wanders nonchalantly into the bathroom. “Hi Mom.”

“Zach, did you put a bead in your ear?”

“Nope. Sami did.” Yeah right, I think, wondering if this is all just a story or if he really does have a bead in his ear.

“What color is the bead?” I ask. Details are good. The more consistent they are the more likely the story is to be true.

“Red.” He states very unconcernedly.

“How big is it?” I ask.

“Like this one.” He hands me a tiny white bead about two or three millimeters long. Great! I thought. Where there is one bead you are guaranteed to have more. He most likely does have a bead in his ear.

“Why’d you stick a bead in your ear buddy?”

“I didn’t. Sami did.” Likely story. I smile.

A short time later, I was dressed and ready for battle with flashlight in hand. It is practically impossible to see into a child’s ear canal without an otoscope but I was going to give it my best shot. Zach had consistently pointed to his left ear when asked which ear the bead was in so fine—we would start with the right. A few long moments filled with squirming and squiggling and I caught a glimpse of a shiny tympanic membrane. Good. Now I had something to compare the other side too. Over we go. “Zachary James! Hold still!” Nothing but darkness.

I went in search of a brighter flashlight. After about ten minutes of looking, and a holler at my husband asking if he knew of where the ‘good’ flashlight was, I gave up. The ‘good one’ could be anywhere. My littlest child has been fascinated with flashlights for some time now and was infamous for stealing and hiding them. I asked him if he knew where the flashlight was.

“I think…maybe…at Nana’s house?” He has the ‘I’m just an innocent little child’ look on his face and anything missing is always at my mother’s house. Ha!

Resignedly, I sat him back on the table and gave the left ear another go. Eureka! For a split second, I glimpse a red bead sitting cross-wise in the ear canal. OK. We’ve verified there is a problem and here is where I felt profoundly grateful. I am an emergency room nurse. My training in the ER had prepared me for just such a dilemma. We did not have to go to the emergency room, which is 32 miles away. I grabbed a small syringe and a glass of warm water and a few minutes later out popped the little red bead. Crisis averted.

A big sigh of relief—he hadn’t even cried. How grateful I am when little solutions like this work as they should.
11.15.2008 | By: Alisa Callos


They are all strangers.
Pressing in around me
Closing off my breath.

Sidelong glances, judgment,
Revulsion in their eyes.
No Emergency.
Twitch of coat or skirt
Quickening of step.

Pass by swiftly,
Hurry down the hall
Noises, clashing, laughter
Too loud, too loud!
Rocking, rocking.
No. No.

Running, shuffle, run.
Towering, ominous sky buildings
Crashing down.

Where? Looking,
Bright lights,
Blue men.

This is my first attempt at poetry/prose. Constructive criticism gladly accepted!
11.07.2008 | By: Alisa Callos


Change is every minute, every hour, every day and every season.

A butterfly flaps his wings in—my daughter spins the globe. “Now you have a place to put it Mama.” I start over. A butterfly flaps his wings in Bulgen, Mongolia—where my finger landed—starting the wind that brings change—our first snow, so briefly here and now gone. It marked a change in our thinking. From fall to winter. The kids dragged out their boots and snow-pants and spent the morning changing the pristine landscape to one crisscrossed with trails. We head to town. They have haircuts today, and come home changed from how they left.

It has been a week of change. Both locally and globally. A season of change—the adventure is seeing what will happen next.

Writing on my computer, I hit spell check before posting this. Oh! A spelling error. I hit the change button.
11.05.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

Historic Moments

How could I not write about this? Yesterday, I participated in a glorious historic moment. I filled out my ballet, voted, and helped to elect the first African American to the presidency of the United States. It amazes me that it has taken this long.

I was fourteen or fifteen the first time I saw Star Trek—and loved it. Star Trek showed me a world radically different from the one in which I lived. It was a world united. The human race united with one purpose, where country or color was no longer relevant in the bigger universe. The idea took hold, and I held such a world up as the ideal to which we should aspire.

Yesterday’s election has given me hope that such a world may someday be possible. Hope that we can reach across our racial prejudice to see the human in each other. Hope that our nation can come together to solve the real problems we face. Hope that we can come to the middle and find common ground. Hope that if we can become a country united, we can also become a world united.

So here is to the future of our multicultural country. Here is to the hope that our country will finally acknowledge the founding fathers beliefs—“we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
11.01.2008 | By: Alisa Callos


“Betty, you’ll never believe what I just heard.”

“Marge. I swear you always have the most delicious gossip. Do tell.”

“I was just down at Truman’s Department store—getting David some new shoes—and I ran into Doctor Bakers nurse. You know Helen…she never could keep a secret to save her life. Well! You will never believe. I mean never, believe what she just told me.”


“Deputy Scott is pregnant!”

“Really? Our first woman sheriff’s deputy and she’s not even married. A fine example to the community she’s setting.”

“I know. But that’s not even the best part.”

“It gets better?”

“Unbelievably. You know all the training courses she was supposedly going to up in Portland?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well. Seems she decided she would rather get pregnant on the county dime. Helen said she went out every night—looking for a sperm donor! She picked the best-looking fella she could find and asked if she could have his baby. Can you believe it? The nerve. I mean really! It’s absolutely scandalous!

This very short sketch is, with a few details changed, based upon a scandal I remember from childhood. At the time, the thought that a woman would go to a bar and pick a father for her baby was shocking. That she would do so with a gay man was even more so. She had two babies with him, went on to marry, and as far as I know, had a wonderful life.

In today’s society, very few things scandalize anymore. Think about it. A president’s affair? Nope. Your priest’s love of little boys? Nope. Your congressional representative soliciting sex in the airport bathroom? Nope. Your Wall Street banker causing the economy to crash? Nope. What would truly scandalize you?
10.31.2008 | By: Alisa Callos


A restless wind rustled the leaves as Jonah and I crept down the dark street toward Mr. McGregor’s house. Clouds covered the moon and then skittered away creating deep shadows that drifted and crawled ahead of us. On the next street over, we could hear laughing children run door to door with delighted cries of “trick or treat!” Mr. McGregor’s street was empty.

Mr. McGregor’s house sat back from the sidewalk, across from the cemetery, and all of us children knew that it was haunted by the ghost of Mr. McGregor’s dead wife Jennifer, who came out every Halloween night to walk among the graves. Mr. McGregor, we knew, was not far behind, being the closest thing to a walking skeleton that we had ever seen. We would watch him from across the playground next to our school as he tended the graves in the cemetery. On sunny days, we would sneak into the graveyard through a hole in the fence to play tag or read the headstones, but always with a watchful eye for Mr. McGregor who took a grim view of children.

That Halloween night, Jonah and I were on a Scavenger hunt. It was hosted every year by our best friend Michael’s mother. Our list of items was almost complete. We had a dead spider with web, a feather, a pebble from the lake, a purple leaf, a broom, a piece of candy—the easiest one, a cross we’d made from two twigs and a piece of straw, and a head of garlic. The only thing left was a picture of a haunted house thus the reason we were sneaking past the graveyard to the only ‘genuine’ haunted house in town. Jonah had gotten a digital camera for his birthday last month and we knew no one else’s list would be as complete as ours—if only our courage would hold.

Walking past the cemetery, shadows from the moon, made the stones seem to shift and shudder. We walked a little faster. Neither of us would dare to speak for fear of attracting unwanted attention. The sound of our feet on the sidewalk seemed unnaturally loud. We paused briefly as a low growl came from up ahead, it was followed by a spate of barking. A cat yowled to the right—a short screech and then silence. The trees that lined the street menaced, branches taking the shapes of skeletal fingers with long black nails. The house ahead loomed, growing taller and more sinister the closer we came.

Jonah had his camera out and ready. Just a little closer and we could run for it. The house was dark. Deserted. We stopped at the end of the sidewalk, and Jonah raised his camera. Screeeech…the front door began to open. Was it the ghost of Mr. McGregor’s wife? Hurry up Jonah! My heart racing, I grabbed his sleeve. We have to get out of here! The words stuck in my throat. Suddenly, a sound behind us. “Booo!” A flash of light. Not waiting for my friend, I turned and ran.

We were right of course—the picture clinched it—but forever in my nightmares, I will hear Mr. McGregor’s laughter following us all the way down the street.
10.25.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

The Obituary

Today’s prompt for Sunday Scribblings (#134) is bragging. It is my first posting as a Scribbler and thus somewhat intimidating. I guess maybe this is why I wanted to try, because while I may not be good at bragging, I can always imagine ‘what if...’

The obituary in the paper could never begin to capture her life…the subtle nuance that enfolded the sum total of her days. Her philosophical mind that always inquired into the ‘why’ or ‘how’. The vivid laughter that rang out at the absurd or whimsical. The words in her mind, always seeking to be written in an order that would explain the world and paint a vivid picture. Or the thrill and tingle that would go down her arms when those words ordered themselves into a masterpiece and made her fingers tremble and her heart shake. It could not capture her love of the forest and mountains or show how her heart ached when she was away from them. It could not show the joy her children brought her or tell of her belief that a child’s laughter could cure all the worlds’ ill’s if it would but stop and listen.

The obituary was dry and boring…when she was born and when she died. It did not show her love for sunny yellow daffodils or the giddy delight she felt when the first winter snow fell. It didn’t show her love of all things artistic or her secret wish that she could paint beauty. Nor did it show her talent for cooking. Her fondness for all foods foreign…Thai, Greek, Mexican, or Japanese…she could find a recipe and make it shine. It didn’t show the pleasure she felt after a run well skied or her terror of going too fast. It didn’t show her love of history or how much she loved a good cup of coffee while talking with friends.

The obituary showed nothing of her caring. Caring that had started in childhood with the first stray kitten brought home from Bible school. Caring that made her a loving daughter, mother, nurse, and wife. It showed nothing of her faith, or politics, or hope, or knowledge. Nothing of her belief in humanity’s goodness. Or her belief that someday the world would be a better place. No. None of these could be captured by the words in the paper. Instead, her life is captured in the mind of every child hugged, every cut that was bandaged, every meal cooked, every friend laughed with. It is written in every story she told, every person she loved. It is my story.
10.23.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

Tamarack Pines

The Tamarack Pines have burst in to flame this past week. Everywhere I look the forest is bright with their golden beauty. Fall has come in full force here in my little hollow with the pines and birch competing for the brightest colors. Icy crisp mornings turn golden in the afternoon. There are still a few Shaggy Mane mushrooms bold enough to poke their heads above the frosty lawn but the smell of snow is in the air and I think it will not be long before we are again in a winter wonderland.

My harvest is mostly finished. Ruth is bringing apples this weekend, which means that sometime in the coming week or so, I will go to my parent’s house to “do applesauce.” My sister-in-law Mae, who is beginning her own journey into the world of food preservation, will be joining us for the first time this year. Yesterday, despite a wicked head cold, I cleaned out the freezer to make room for a hundred pounds of elk meat coming from the meat processor. This courtesy of Kevin’s hunting partner Craig. While cleaning, I found three lone quarts of raspberries sent to me last year by Aunt Nancy and made them into jam.

The bulbs have been planted, the pots put away and the garden hoses stored. I’ve still a little work to do in the garden, but it feels good to be wrapping up the season as fall temperatures drive us more and more indoors. The forest glen below my house has taken on that special fall smell that so drew me to our property… an odd mixture of Christmas tree, rain, wood smoke and frost. It always makes me think of forests and camping…a smell of my childhood. To be completely honest, I have to admit that because of my cold, I can’t really smell it right now, but the air does feel crisp and cold in my nose. It's the perfect temperature outside, for a warm cup of cocoa.

10.15.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

On War and Leadership

I wanted to share a quote for your consideration. It was given to me recently by a friend. Ask yourself: How could we let this happen? What do I need to do to make a difference?

"Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country"

-Herman Göring, Nazi leader

Recorded by psychologist Gustave Gilbert who spoke to him at the Nuremberg trials - April 18, 1946
10.14.2008 | By: Alisa Callos


I wonder if the word ‘harvest’ has much meaning for most Americans in our society today. I imagine that most would envision fall, Thanksgiving maybe, Halloween and pumpkins, autumn colors: green, gold, orange and red. For me and other gardeners and farmers however, the word conjures a completely different meaning. Namely, lots of hard work.

My grandfather was a farmer. He grew wheat, potatoes, mint, alfalfa, flowers and gardens. For my grandfather, harvest was a backbreaking, never-ending, daily grind. As a child, I remember harvest times as great fun. Mint harvest was my favorite. It meant riding on the combine behind my grandpa, watching great rows of green as they were picked up and shot into the truck we were towing. April would drive the truck and sometimes she would let me ride with her. I felt so grown up riding with her because she let me shift the truck as we slowly wound our way up and around Haystack Butte to the mint still. I remember the sharp, eye burning, nose tingling, overpowering smell of mint when you went in the still, the ancient refrigerator where everyone kept their lunches and the drizzle of gold coming from the trucks into great metal barrels. One summer, my aunt and uncle stayed in a travel trailer out back of the still. They had a cocker spaniel puppy named Tuffy who loved to bite my toes. That summer my aunt and I painted the still doors a lovely pea green. I was six. It was 1974.

My grandfather has been dead for many years and harvest has new meaning for me. I’ll probably never know it as the chore it was for him, but I can now more fully appreciate the work it entails. The harvest work that links me to every ancestor who harvested before me is part of my family’s legacy. It links every mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather who harvested, canned, or froze the fruits of a summers’ garden. It links my family as we get together to share the labor of canning salsa and shucking corn with all those who came before. And despite all the hard work, I realize how lucky I am to have such a wonderful gift from them.
10.04.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

The Bird Feeder

Sam and I have set up a bird feeder outside our front window. It sits on the rail of the deck and we have filled it with black oil sunflower seeds. The song sparrows have come in droves…along with about eight pairs of Red Crossbills, a small chickadee and a couple of very shy Black Headed Grosbeaks.

Immediately after setting up the feeder we got out our field guide and set to work. The Crossbills were easy as they have a very distinctive bill and there aren’t very many species in our book. The Grosbeaks took a little longer because they never stay at the feeder for long and they spook very easily. The sparrows are almost a lost cause for amateurs like Sam and I. There are so many of them, they all look alike and they won’t sit still. We have several different sizes however and so I think that we have probably 3-5 species.

The sparrows are by far the funniest. They fly at each other, flutter their wings and get down-right snippy. They’ll fluff up their feathers and open their beaks as wide as possible when trying to intimidate their neighbor. Sometimes they’ll even land on each other as they jostle for space at the feeder. Yesterday I set another pie tin of seeds out on the deck because there were just too many of them. Now we have our very own flock of birds. One minute they will be at the feeder and then for no apparent reason, all will swoop off to the trees, sometimes leaving only a straggler or two. A few minutes later, they are back again. What amazes me is that despite all the twitting and fluttering, everyone gets fed, they don’t seem to mind if the fellow next to them is the same species or not, big or little, one and all eventually get a turn. Nothing is wasted. I’m sure there is a parallel to be drawn, a possible commentary on our society, but today is Saturday, and I am content just sitting here with my cup of coffee, enjoying the show.
10.02.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

A Zachary

“Hi Mom,” says Zachary looking in through the drivers window at me. “There’s two horse poo’s up here.” He is standing on the back seat leaning out the car window looking at the top of the car. We are waiting for his sister’s dance class to end and the car has suddenly become to small to contain his imagination.

“I can see your ‘peuter’. He says, again looking in the window at my laptop this time. I glance up to see his pixie smile above my left shoulder. I have always loved his pronunciation of this word.

“You can?” I say grinning at him.

“Uh huh. And your glasses, and your phone, and your seed.” This last a horse chestnut picked up by his sister to take home and plant.

“I can sit on the window and not fall out.” He says with a three year olds confidence. “Wanna see?”

“Yea.” I say with a grin. He sits in the window to prove his point before moving on to climbing into the cargo area. A friendly yellow tabby cat jumps up on the hood of the car and proceeds with curiosity, to explore the outside of our car before climbing in the front window and walking across the dash.

“Why’s Sidney wanna come in our car Mom?” He asks, back from the cargo area to the backseat again. Sidney, our own yellow tabby, is quite a bit larger than this kitty.

“That’s not Sidney, love.” I say. “Sidney’s at home.” We both watch as the cat explores the dash and then walks daintily out the front passenger window and along the backseat window before jumping to the roof of the car. A large blue Suburban parks next to us in the parking lot. Another Mom here to pick up a child from dance class. Zachary looks on with interest. She gets out to go into the studio.

“Hi!” Zachary calls to her, getting a friendly “Hi there” in return.

“That’s my friend.” He says of this complete stranger.

“You’re a good friend.” I reply sagely.

“No I’m not.” He says.

“You’re not?” I ask puzzled.

“No. I’m a Zachary.”

9.28.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

My Garden

When I was a child, my father grew a garden. He grew it for his love and fabulous talent for growing beautiful things, and for the much-needed food, it provided our family. Most summers would find my brother, sister and I spending time in the garden pulling weeds. This chore we hated above all others except maybe picking up rocks on our property and putting them in the big rock pile back of our house. My father still grows a garden and it is a thing of beauty. Lush green plants yield bushels of tomatoes, green beans, beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, and corn. He grows strawberries and rutabaga, Swiss chard and cabbage and a huge variety of herbs. Much of his produce he gives away to neighbors, friends, coworkers and of course his family.

Every year I too attempt to grow a garden. Not only for the fresh vegetables and knowledge that they provide better nutrition but also from some bizarre notion that if catastrophe should strike, I would be able to provide food from our garden. I do not necessarily enjoy growing a garden and as such, my garden never looks anything like my fathers. I have scraggly plants that do not grow and harvests a quarter the size. Nevertheless, every year I make an effort. I till, fertilize, water and hoe-a task I still abhor.

This year has been no different. My father’s garden is lovely and mine rather pathetic. I don’t necessarily mind the difference so much for I have come to accept that it may always be so. (He says it is because he has so much more experience in growing a garden but secretly I wonder.) This year however I am rabidly angry and frustrated. The deer have discovered my garden. I found this out half way through the summer when I went out one morning to pick the zucchini and found most of the beans tops eaten off. After a frantic call to Daddy, I was out with a spray bottle filled with egg water. The problem with this is that you must spray after every time you water or it rains. In other words…it’s a pain in the butt…especially if you have fast draining soil as I do and must water every 2 days or so. A week or so later and a missed spraying and it was the chard and beets. Mowed to the ground. I put up a makeshift fence to no avail. This morning I awoke to find they had moved on to the tomatoes. (Everyone said deer don’t like tomatoes…ha!) There is not a tomato bigger than your thumb left in my garden.

Up until this year, I would have said I didn’t really care what happened in my garden but I now know different. These deer have produced a desire in my heart to commit harry-karri on their souls…and much discomfort for that feeling in my own. I never knew I could have such protective feelings towards a place I have never much liked.