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.