Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It seems to me that the same people screaming that abortion should be made illegal are the people who should be most in favor of teaching birth control to every teenager in America.  But they seem to be the ones who want to only teach abstinence.  You remember abstinence, don’t you?  It’s that thing that goes out the window when hormones hit.  Get real, people. Either agree to each adopt at least three children born to mothers who are not ready to be parents or support teaching birth control to our kids. Oh yeah, and those may not be perfect little babies. They may have FASD or other mental, emotional or physical problems. But you don’t care, right? You’ll adopt them anyway because you don’t believe in abortion.  And yet I watch so many of these kids languish in state care for years that I wonder. Are you really as hypocritical as you seem?

Elise Patkotak • 06:18 AM •
Monday, November 19, 2007

There is a radio station in Anchorage that has already been playing Christmas carols all weekend. Take me, Lord. Take me now. I can’t do this for two months.

Elise Patkotak • 06:44 AM •
Sunday, November 18, 2007

I can’t begin to imagine what computers would have to do to convince me that reading the Sunday comics in any other fashion than with a cup of coffee at my kitchen counter with the paper in my hand is worth it. But then again, I guess twenty years ago, I couldn’t imagine what it would take to convince me to keep an online diary that the whole world could read.  Time marches on, right Satchel?

Elise Patkotak • 06:29 AM •
Saturday, November 17, 2007

If you plan to take the plastic cover off your florescent lights to change the bulbs and maybe clean the cover, you definitely want to make sure that the person helping you is a very good friend. That way they won’t gag and look disgusted when the get the plastic cover off and discover all the dead bug bodies in there. Gross!

Elise Patkotak • 06:55 AM •
Friday, November 16, 2007

I had a friend tell me that at a recent gathering of many people she’d not seen for years, old acquaintances kept coming up to her and telling her she looked just the same, just the way they remembered her. She said she was tempted to ask them if they meant that she looked 80 twenty years ago.  Hmmmm.............

Elise Patkotak • 06:45 AM •
Thursday, November 15, 2007

She sat at the front of the room, poised and looking sophisticated beyond her obvious years.  She was young, beautiful, and dressed for success in Bush Alaska. She faced a semi-circle of people who sat behind tables with the debris of their catered breakfast scattered amid the papers, pens and agendas.

Anyone popping his or her head in the door to look at this scene would think it was nothing extraordinary. A conference of legal, educational, counseling and social services professionals waiting for a presentation from one of their peers on the issues faced by foster children in getting their education.  But this poised young lady is not a social services professional. She is a senior at UAA in the field of sociology. Her credentials for being a speaker at this conference peppered with lawyers, a Superior Court judge, teachers and social workers, were the simplest and best credentials possible. She’d been a foster child. She’d been in the system. And she’d not only survived it, she’d managed to thrive. Coming up behind her was her little sister, also a foster child, who is a freshman this year at UAA.
When you work in the field of abused and neglected kids, kids in trouble with the law, kids whose families have given them unspeakably horrible childhoods, you don’t often get to see success stories unless you define success as providing the child a safe, sober home until they turn 18. Once they leave the system, all bets are, unfortunately, off. Many return to the dysfunctional family from which they had to be removed. Many immediately start down the path of replicating the more destructive behaviors they saw modeled in their birth families.  Many are simply so screwed up by their families before the state takes them that it would take a services beyond anything we could ever offer to actually get their lives on track again.
And then there was this young lady, exhibiting a calm courage as she spoke about her mother, a raging alcoholic, and the pain of being called to the principal’s office at least once a year throughout her childhood to be interviewed by a social worker or police officer about what was going on in her home.  She spoke of the embarrassment of it all and how difficult it was to speak about the unspeakable happening at home to strangers who wanted her to tell all.  She related how her mother didn’t even make it to the trial where parental rights were terminated. And then she quietly proceeded to tell us how her mother subsequently had a stroke and she now has power of attorney for her. The child has become the mother and gives to the mother the love and stability she herself never received.
I sat in that room and looked at that young lady and wondered where she found her courage, knowing that if I had lived her life, I would never have been able to land on my feet like she did.  I would never have had her strength and determination to not give up, to make the next part of my life so much better than the first part had been.
The purpose of the conference was to talk about the difficulties children in state custody face in completing their education and being successful academically.  She succeeded, she said, because she’d been lucky enough to only have one foster home and to have foster parents who encouraged her and her sister to reach for the stars. She now lives only a block away from them and has a key to their house so that when their refrigerator needs raiding, she can still handle the task. She’d also lucked out in that she and her sister were placed together so that they always had each other.
For anyone looking for how success happens in a scenario like this, at least one part of the answer is simple - the foster parents who took these children in gave them a future that they would otherwise never have had. They gave these children a sense of stability and belonging. Aging out of state custody did not mean aging out of the only safe home they’d ever known.
These young ladies, who found a way to beat the odds and create for themselves what their birth parents would have denied them, are a true miracle in our system. It was their foster parents who gave them the means to create that miracle. In my mind, that makes them heroes.

Elise Patkotak • 06:11 AM •
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

... in my mind, nothing quite measures up to the lasagna noodle that doesn’t have to be boiled first. Alleluia!

Elise Patkotak • 06:24 AM •
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

When the snow first falls and the trees are full of white and everything is clean, it feels like the world must have been at the beginning, before we made it so dirty.

Elise Patkotak • 06:45 AM •
Monday, November 12, 2007

Today is the day we in Alaska get a chance to say goodbye to Ken Petersen.  If you didn’t know Ken, it would be hard to explain how great a loss this is for those of us privileged to have known him.  Suffice to say that somewhere in heaven, god is grinning broadly because she has one of her favorite sons close by her side again.

Elise Patkotak • 06:50 AM •
Sunday, November 11, 2007

If they can send us to the moon, why can’t they invent a TV camera that makes me look young and beautiful? Or at least not bald?

Elise Patkotak • 06:36 AM •
Saturday, November 10, 2007

I don’t know why the political parties any longer pretend they are different. Each seems to be owned by its own group of outside interests and what the general public wants seems to come last on their list. How sad. There has been a Democratic congress for almost a year now...or is it over a year? Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?  At any rate, maybe I’m just reading the wrong papers but I can’t find a single damn thing they’ve actually done where they stood up to the emperor in chief and weren’t the first to blink. All of them, Democrats and Republicans alike, should just resign in disgrace and let us start all over again with no incumbents allowed to run.

Elise Patkotak • 06:55 AM •
Friday, November 09, 2007

I loved being back in Barrow for a visit. But I must admit that I miss the restaurants of Anchorage and my latte stand.  Oh dear, I’ve become citified!

Elise Patkotak • 06:54 AM •
Thursday, November 08, 2007

Before I start talking about public broadcasting in Alaska, in the interests of full disclosure I should let everyone know that not only was I once a member and co-chair of the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission, but I was also, much more notoriously, a volunteer DJ at KBRW in Barrow. My show was called Discount Radio. Its motto was, “You get what you pay for and I’m a volunteer.” I think that pretty much completely describes the program. It was two hours of whatever came into my head on a Saturday morning and I viewed it as comic relief from the professional programming heard throughout the week.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of public broadcasting but if I had to guess, I’d say it was when it first arrived in Barrow in the mid 70s as public radio station KBRW.  It didn’t take long for KBRW to go from being a novelty to being a crucial lifeline on the North Slope. There were fun programs like the Birthday Show and there were programs that dealt with critical life and safety issues as well as coverage of civic concerns. When the North Slope Borough was still a concept we were all feeling our way through, KBRW aired the monthly Assembly meetings so everyone could hear the discussions on how to spend the vast quantities of money that were suddenly falling out of the sky. At a time when loss of the Inupiat language was becoming a major concern, KBRW offered bilingual programming so that the sound of the Inupiat language was as familiar as the rhythms of English on the air.
Public broadcasting is not a luxury in Alaska. It’s a necessity. Our congressional delegation, and Senator Ted Stevens in particular, has always recognized this and been strong and effective supporters of the need to keep our statewide system intact and functioning. As funding has declined over the years, many of our small local stations are often kept on the air through nothing more than the sheer grit, determination and dedication of the staff. Yet the declining funds have in no way diminished the quality of public broadcasting’s product.  In Alaska, both public radio and television have consistently held their own against all commercials ventures, frequently bringing home first place awards against stations with triple the budget and equipment.  The Alaska Public Radio Network, APRN, produces a weekly news magazine called AK that routinely takes home first place in national competitions.
So I have to wonder why, given how critical this system is to the state and how successful it is in meeting its mandate, the Alaska legislature finds it so hard to fund public broadcasting in any meaningful manner. While the annual state budget has gone up and up and up since the early 90s, the portion of the budget allocated to public broadcasting has gone down and down and down.  There are even some legislators who would be happy to zero the whole thing out and have it go away.  Of course, those legislators usually have a specific bone to pick with public broadcasting about its insistence on remaining immune to political pressure.  Most journalists do not take well to being told what to cover and how to cover it.  Public broadcasters are no different than their compatriots in commercial ventures when it comes to insisting on their obligation to report the news as they see it and not as some politicians want it to be seen.
Public broadcasting provides a network of stations from Barrow to Ketchikan and back that covers local stories of statewide importance. It gives voice to communities that would otherwise have none. It allows even the most remote Alaskans to participate in this state’s civic life through statewide call in shows, statewide news magazine shows and statewide news broadcasts that are as apt to cover Barrow football as Juneau legislators.
It’s been a long time since state funding has in any way reflected the amazing job done by so few to benefit so many.  Maybe this year, with oil at more than $90/barrel, legislators will finally realize what an astounding organization exists in this state and fund it accordingly.  And maybe next week my financial retirement planning will finally come to fruition and I’ll win the New Jersey lottery.  One can only hope.

Elise Patkotak • 06:36 AM •
Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It was nice to be back up there seeing old friends. But I think Anchorage is finally home because it felt even better to get back here where there’s a Costco just a few blocks away.

Elise Patkotak • 06:26 AM •
Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I’m ashamed to say I fell victim to Mac’s advertising and bought the new Leopard OS.  Now I have a million new things on my desktop that I don’t know how to use to add to the thousands that I didn’t know how to use from the last time.  But it’s a Leopard. Who could resist?

Elise Patkotak • 06:22 AM •

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