Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Saturday, July 12, 2014

As I continue to suffer from dizziness every day, my brother reminded me that our mother also suffered from vertigo and dizziness. Wonderful. I’ve inherited everything from her except her petite figure and full head of hair. Just charming.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:43 AM •
Friday, July 11, 2014
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I always suspected that deep in your heart you were a real animal lover.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:30 AM •
Thursday, July 10, 2014

My heart goes out to all Alaska Native speakers asked to translate anything into their Native language. It’s not easy. The English language has many words that simply do not convert to a language that never had that concept in its past. Let me give you an example.

Many, many, many years ago, I worked at the North Slope Borough’s Health Department. With a predominantly Inupiat population, we recognized the need for translators in the hospital and clinic for people with English as a second language. Anyone who has tried to convey their symptoms to a doctor in their shared primary language knows that it’s hard enough to get across what you are actually feeling. If you and the doctor do not share a primary language, this can become an impossible task. Not only is it hard for you to explain your problem to the doctor, it is equally hard for the doctor to ask you questions or explain the tests they will have to do.
But if your language does not have a word for the symptom the doctor is questioning or the test he or she is recommending, the whole situation can quickly devolve into a comedy of errors. Needless to say, this is frustrating for all concerned. The patient doesn’t know how to communicate to the doctor. The doctor can’t find the right words to convey his meaning to the patient. And the poor translator sits in the middle of it all unable to offer the service so desperately needed.
So, way back when, staff at the health department asked Elders to help us out by working with one of our Inupiat staff to translate some medical terminology into Inupiat words and phrases that would make sense to those for whom it was their primary language. When we made this request, we didn’t think it would generate the amount of laughter that continually emanated from the room where the Elders, for no particular reason all women, sat to craft the words.
After one peal of laughter that simply went on too long for me to withhold my curiosity any longer, I asked our translator what was happening that was so funny. She looked a bit abashed and then, shyly fumbling for words, said that the ladies had been trying to craft an Inupiat word for the medical term “colonoscopy”.  No further explanation was needed.
Anyone who gets the voting pamphlet from the Division of Elections is aware of just how confusing many of the issues can be when “explained” in such a way as to meet all legal standards. This is probably why most of us toss them fairly quickly into the recycling bin. Imagine trying to take that language and translate it into a language that doesn’t have the words or concepts for that material. It is a Sisyphean task and, in the end, you will never make everyone happy with the results. Quite frankly, when I look at some of the ballot measures I’m asked to vote on, I feel exactly like someone for whom English is a second language in that I find it almost impossible to decipher or understand.
Alaska Native speakers have every right to have the ballots they are asked to vote on translated into language they understand so that they can cast informed votes. So do English speakers. Because if informed voting is not the basis of our democracy, then I don’t know what is.
I don’t pretend to know how to solve this problem but I’d like to request that if and when any given ballot is translated into an Alaska Native language in a simple and understandable form, can they please translate the simple form back into English and send it to me. Because just once before I go off into the sunset, I’d really like to say I understood the gobbly-gook I find on my ballot. Or maybe the answer is to simply have the ballots printed with all the legal words and then a simple couple of sentences in everyday English at the end that explains what all the craziness above it means.
And to all those heroic translators out there who are trying to span two worlds and explain concepts that never existed in their traditional world, kudos for doing an often thankless and extremely difficult job.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:06 AM •
Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Dizziness not associated with pot or alcohol is not half as much fun.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Tuesday, July 08, 2014

I recently spent almost nine hours on an ER bed waiting for a hospital room. I’ve decided, based on the soreness of my ass, that ER beds are made of the same material as airline seats back in the cattle car section. Yep, those same airline seats they always tell you can double as flotation devices. Just stick your arms through the straps and float. Right. You will sink like a rock. Those airline seats have all the floatibility of a cement brick. And less comfort. So I have to wonder why hospitals went to the same manufacturers to get ER mattresses.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Monday, July 07, 2014

When I nursed, we had no pretenses about what you were served for meals. It was hospital food. No frills. No muss. No fuss. No taste. No visual appeal. But it did not pretend to any other aspirations.
Now in hospitals they call it “dining”. You order your own personal preferences from a menu that would not be out of place in a decent bistro. The descriptions were clearly written by the same person.
Then the food comes. And guess what? They can call it what they want, but it’s still hospital food.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:04 PM •
Sunday, July 06, 2014

Spent the night in the hospital with dehydration and other stupid things wrong. I knew I was in trouble when I lost my appetite and didn’t want to eat at all. I always figured in my life that would be the first sign of imminent death.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 01:02 PM •
Saturday, July 05, 2014

A wasp gets in your house and you still can’t move fast to get rid of it. Not only that, you don’t even get that excited since excitement would require a level of energy you simply don’t possess.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:52 AM •
Friday, July 04, 2014

My birthday wish for you this year is that the US Congress stops fixing the infrastructure in countries all over the mid-east and instead concentrates on making you whole again.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:14 AM •
Thursday, July 03, 2014

I grew up in a time when Americans did not run around waving rubber fingers and screaming, “We’re number one” at every possible opportunity. Of course we believed America was number one. We felt we proved it every day in the way we lived and thrived, in the way our middle class grew stronger, in the way the world looked to us for moral authority because, in America, we didn’t torture, kill or discriminate. At least, that was the illusion.


The truth, sadly, was that we did discriminate against any citizens we felt were different. If you were black or brown, Italian or Polish, mentally or physically handicapped, you felt that discrimination on a daily basis. Our moral authority rested on the cooperation of the media in not publicizing the extracurricular sex lives of politicians or the CIA backed government overthrows and assassinations that seemed endemic in those “innocent” days.  These things were just not discussed in polite society and respectable news organizations cooperated with government by covering up, not covering, these stories.
The other thing polite society didn’t do was run around tooting its own horn when the toots being broadcast could be, to put it mildly, somewhat suspect. Americans seemingly have lost that sense of propriety. We now run around waving rubber fingers and screaming “We’re number one” whether or not we can actually name anything at which we are still number one. It’s not health care. Almost every first world country has better and more accessible health care for its citizens. It’s not education. Our students are lucky to be in the top ten in science or math rankings. Children’s health… not number one. Enlightened day care and family friendly sick leave policies… not so much number one as nowhere in the top ten. Space race… we rely on Russian rockets to get us to the space station.
I could go on, but you get the idea. As we approach the celebration of our nation’s birth, we should really take a look at the road we’ve gone down in recent years and assess whether or not we’ve taken a very wrong turn.
The American Society of Civil Engineers gives America a D plus for its infrastructure and estimates it will take an investment of $3.6 trillion by 2020 to bring us up to minimally acceptable standards. Congress says we do not have that kind of money. We apparently blew a great deal of it building Iraq’s infrastructure after we blew that infrastructure to pieces searching for WMDs that have mysteriously never been found. Now that same Congress that can’t find money to rebuild America wants us to go back to Iraq and rebuild it again. Or bomb it again. Depends on where the insurgents are. But I’m sure if we bomb it again, we’ll rebuild it again. And then their bridges will be safer to cross than ours.
Somewhere in the past few decades America has decided that it is more important to police the world than take care of its own problems. Interestingly, the nations we choose to police, the nations we choose to “free” from the heinous dictators in charge, are only those nations with oil. I’ve yet to hear a hue and cry for America to invade North Korea. And seriously, if you are looking for a crazed, repressive, repugnant little twerp to take out, how much further do you have to look than Kim Jong-un. And we probably wouldn’t have to look hard in Africa to find some scuzzy leaders as repressive and evil as Kim.
But when the repressive dictator is our “friend”, like the Saudis, we give them a pass. Women are treated as less than cattle in their country, but because they sell us their oil, we look the other way while they allow men to rape and murder women in the name of family honor.
While our bridges and roads crumble, while children go to bed hungry, while our schools struggle to fund the programs needed to propel us back into the number one spot in the world, while all this is going on, Congress wants to rebuild Iraq, not America.
I love this country. I want the best for it. So how about we stop rebuilding other countries and rebuild our own. It’s time for that to again become America’s number one priority. 
Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
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Happy Anniversary, Snowy. You came to me one year ago today and, in a house already filled with love and animals, you showed me that there is infinite room to add more love and animals. No matter what BuddhaBubba and Carm might occasionally mutter, and no matter how much the birds scream at you, our lives would not be half as full of love and fun without you.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:01 AM •
Tuesday, July 01, 2014

No offense, Hillary, but would someone please make Elizabeth Warren run for president. Please.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Monday, June 30, 2014

Being a dizzy blond is fun. Being dizzy because you’ve puffed on a joint is fun. Being dizzy because you have vertigo and fall over if you turn your head the wrong way is not. If this is the flashbacks our parents warned us about, I, for one, am terribly disappointed.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bubba doesn’t like the rain. She sleeps curled up on her bed for as long as possible without moving on rainy days. Then, when the poop and pee are about to pop out of her because she’s waited so long, she jumps up like she was shot from a cannon, races to the nearest pee pad, does what she has to in the fastest time possible and is back curled up on her bed before I can scream, “No, wait. Go out!”.
I guess ending my life as the chief pooper scooper for birds and dogs isn’t the worse thing in the world.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:19 AM •
Friday, June 27, 2014

You’ve got to give it to him… just when we thought he couldn’t be more embarrassing, he went and one upped himself. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:14 AM •

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