Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

As the new legislature convenes in Juneau, at least some members are determined to make health benefits for same sex partners an issue whether the public wants it to be or not.  According to an article in the Anchorage Daily News recently, Representative Mike Kelly of Fairbanks is quoted as saying, “The people of Alaska are sound asleep on this and they better wake up.” Adding to the general fun being had up there where the cold seems to be freezing brains at an astonishing rate even for legislative gray matter, House Majority Leader John Coghill of North Pole added that he would introduce legislation to strip benefits from everyone, stating, “That’s the only solution we’ve got.”

Well, no, it’s not, The other solution would be to provide these benefits and get on with some of the real problems facing this state instead of creating ones that don’t exist.
I think the best moment was when John Coghill added that he wished the governor had defied the law and gone to jail to defend whatever it is he thinks he’s defending here, despite the fact that such an action could have led to a constitutional crisis.
So let’s go back and see what all this fuss is about.  The people of Alaska amended their constitution to say that marriage can only be defined as the uniting of people of the opposite sex.  Fine.  What in the world does that have to do with benefits?  No one is trying an end run around the constitution and saying that this makes people married.  It just extends to same sex couples benefits they can never receive any other way because they are banned from marrying.
Some people ask why these benefits wouldn’t apply to opposite sex partners living together without the benefit of marriage. Simple. They can marry.  No constitutional amendment has taken that right from them. They have a way to access state benefits for their partner that is clearly denied to same sex couples. It’s the same as singling out a group of our citizens and denying them the right to learn to read and then saying you have to read to vote.  It’s called discrimination.
But let’s set aside the legal issue for a moment and look at the human issue.  Health care costs are exorbitant.  Caring for an ill person in this great country of ours is almost impossible without insurance.  Many people in the lower middle class fall into that great hole in our safety net where the don’t qualify for government programs because they make too much money but they aren’t working for an employer who can afford to offer them coverage.
Wanting to take care of your life partner is a human impulse we can all relate to.  Why would this make anyone so angry that they would jeopardize the health care of others to prove some point?
Well, I hate to bring this up but it seems that Christianity is once again being designated the fall guy for why we cannot allow same sex couples to receive state benefits.
I’m certainly not qualified to get into a theological discussion with people on this, nor do I want to get into a discussion of separation of church and state or the fact that, once again, this is not about same sex marriage. I simply want to pose one question to the Christians whose panties are in a knot over this.  And that question is simply, “What would Jesus do?”
The God of the Old Testament was a vengeful god.  I always thought that the big change that Jesus brought to us was the love and compassion he showed to everyone. The only time he got angry was at the moneychangers in the temple. And that should certainly give some televangelists cause for concern.
The poor, the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, all were welcome to come to Jesus.  So I’m betting that if Jesus were alive today, he would respond to the request for health care benefits for same sex couples with kindness and love. I’m even willing to wager that he would stand outside our legislative halls in Juneau with same sex couples holding up a sign demanding they be treated in a truly Christian manner.
I am honestly unaware of the passages in the New Testament where Jesus adds any caveats to his love for all of us, sinners and saints alike. His message, I believe, goes something like this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Why do some people find that so hard to accept?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:48 AM •
Tuesday, January 09, 2007

If you eat a whole bag of sugar free red licorice sticks before you go to sleep, you will not feel all that good when you wake up in the morning.  Trust me on this.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:57 AM •
Monday, January 08, 2007

OK, I get it. I live in Alaska and it snows a lot here. Now could we please have a little break so I can restock my emergency grocery supplies?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:22 AM •
Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pat Robertson has announced that god has told him there will be a terrorist attack in America this year.  If there really is a god, that attack will happen in Robertson’s pants and we will be rid of him and his gospel full of hate forever.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:32 AM •
Saturday, January 06, 2007

For those of you idiots out there who think Bush is escalating our troop levels in an attempt to do god know’s what in Iraq, please be assured this is not an escalation. It’s a surge.  LIke those power surges that destroy your hard drive.  Or those tide surges that destroy shorelines during storms. This surge will, in all likelihood, destroy whatever shred of credibility we have left in the world.  You’ve got to love the surge.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Friday, January 05, 2007

I have two dogs. They poop a lot. My yard is full of their poop. But the snow that keeps falling hides it faster than I can get out to scoop it.  OK, I don’t exactly rush out to scoop it up but still.  The only down side to this is that while I am enjoying no poop scooping in the winter, my yard this spring after everything melts should resemble Calcutta in July.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:53 AM •
Thursday, January 04, 2007

I walked the dogs the whole three miles yesterday despite the forty foot of snow that had fallen since morning and despite the fact that I was often wading in snow above my knees. I came home pumped up on adrenaline and caffeine. Then the high wore off. It was, ultimately, a painful victory.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 05:26 AM •
Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Well, this year made it a clean sweep. Every year since I’ve moved to Anchorage, I’ve spent Christmas Day with a kid on my GAL caseload either at McLaughlin Youth Facility or API.  And let me assure you that if you want to be depressed for the holiday, there is no better way to be sad than to spend your day with kids in places like that.

So I spent part of Christmas Day sitting in a bare room on molded plastic furniture staring across at a 14-year-old boy who, under the best of circumstances, would have had trouble making conversation with me.  Under these circumstances, it was downright painful.
We reached the nadir of the visit when he told me he got an IPod for Christmas as his gift from API. I brightened up at the thought that this would give us something to discuss. So I asked him what kind of music he liked because I’d be more than happy to go find him a CD to play on it.
Yes, you can stop laughing now. I have since been informed that IPods don’t take CDs.  You have to have access to a computer to download music on to it. And, of course, this boy had no access to a computer. The one gift he got, aside from the North Slope magazines I brought him, he couldn’t use.
And so another Christmas passes in his youth and another unhappy memory is created.  Why couldn’t this child be placed elsewhere so he didn’t have to spend his Christmas in API? The answer is simple. His problems are such that there are few if any programs in Alaska that can or will take him.  This means that ultimately he faces deportation to the lower 48 where there are facilities that try to make children like him better.
Alaska made a promise a few years ago to keep these children home if at all possible. Alaska promised it would build a locked facility that was a treatment center so that we could keep them right here in their home state.  What a wonderful concept. 
But the promise remains unfulfilled and this child faces the increasing likelihood that his next Christmas will be spent in an even more foreign environment than this one.
Selling the public on a facility that will lock kids up is not easy. It wouldn’t be a jail or a psychiatric facility, concepts the public can easily grasp. Because the kids that need the physical restraints of a locked facility are sometimes neither criminals nor psychotic, they don’t belong in those facilities. What these kids are, are children who have been so badly damaged for whatever reason that they need to be in a secure facility where they can’t hurt themselves or put themselves in harm’s way. And this means being able to lock doors so they can’t run when the pain of treatment gets too much for them.
Placement in an outside facility only happens after many, many attempts at keeping the child in state in a group or foster home.  But when those placements fail for the umpteenth time, when the child runs and endangers himself, when the child starts inflicting self-harm, when the child starts to threaten harm to others as a way to make their own pain go away, then that child can no longer be safely placed in an unlocked facility.  That’s when we give the kid a ticket to the lower 48.
There is much made about the distance causing problems for families who want to work with the program to re-integrate the child back into their home life. The reality is that with many children, there is no family who wants to or can do that. The distance will make not one whit of difference to them
But oh what a difference it makes to the child. Imagine being so far away from everything familiar and comforting. Imagine spending your days surrounded by strangers who want to get into the most intimate details of your life without ever seeing a face that looks like yours or a friend who understands the life you left behind. For a village kid, these placements can be so initially devastating that it can take four to six months of adjustment before we even reach the beginning of treatment.
I think it’s time we fulfill our promise to these kids and get this facility built. Every year I hear promises about bringing our kids home.  I hope this will finally be the year we actually follow through on that promise and make it more than just words said to shut people like me up.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 01:36 PM •
Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Blue slept at my side through all the noise of firecrackers and other assorted bangs that started at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Blondie didn’t do so well. She actually made Mr. T’s gyrations look almost calm.  Maybe because she weighs about four times what he weighed so when she jumps up on the bed to try to bury herself inside my skin, it’s a little more forceful. She tried to dig a hole in a plastic bag in my clothes closet to hide in. She tried to get under the couch and pushed it halfway across the room before I could stop her.  So I guess Blondie doesn’t like loud bangs and noises.  Yep, I think she’s made that perfectly clear.  And I’m sure those nail marks on my neck from her frantic digging motion will go away in just a few days. The lesson I learned? When a dog is trying to get so close to you as to become your second skin, and that dog is freaked by ongoing loud bangs, don’t hold her too close when a bang occurs. Dogs apparently can’t control that frantic motion of their paws as they try to dig deeper into whatever is at hand...even if that’s your neck.
I do know how to have fun on New Year’s, don’t I?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:45 AM •
Monday, January 01, 2007

One of our more intelligent Alaskan politicians...and believe me, in this state to be called more intelligent than most politicians is to be damned with faint praise...has announced that rather than give same sex couples state health benefits, he would strip those benefits from everyone, including people who in his mind are legitimately married.  How much hate does that take?  Since this is based on his Christian belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman (forget that this is not about marriage - that is a concept way beyond his level of hate), I have to ask what would Jesus do. And you know, somehow in my reading of the Bible, Jesus has never come across as mean and vindictive.  In fact, I think he would probably want to see everyone get care when sick and get all the help they need to get that care. But then, maybe I’m missing some chapters in the Bible that say that Jesus would rather you die in pain and poverty than give you the right to have state health insurance if you are a gay employee’s partner. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:03 AM •
Sunday, December 31, 2006

When I was young, I spent an inordinate amount of time begging my parents to let me stay up till midnight. Eventually they did. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it didn’t happen. Midnight came and went, indistinguishable from 11:59 PM or 12:01 AM except for the fact that my parents woke up long enough to say Happy New Year and go to bed.  So my New Year’s Eve expectations are limited.  When I hosted the KBRW Barrow radio show on New Year’s Eve, I actually stayed up till midnight because I had to. Then Mr. T exhibited hysteria when the fireworks went off and that kept me up even later. Then, as he aged, Mr. T went deaf and the loud bangs no longer bothered him. So I no longer stayed up till midnight.  Now, I have two new dogs and tonight will get to see their reaction to loud bangs and booms.  Will they panic like Mr. T did and keep me up half the night holding them and telling them everything will be ok? Or will they, and I, sleep through the whole thing? Stay tuned. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:36 AM •
Saturday, December 30, 2006

In my one bit of holiday entertaining, I had some old friends over for dinner a couple of night ago. I was thinking about it today and realized that it was one of the most pleasant evenings I’ve spent in a long time.  Old friends are really one of the great hidden positives of growing old.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:38 AM •
Friday, December 29, 2006

Apparently some of my readers object to the fact that no Republicans made it into the Hall of Infamy this year.  I guess they are so used to Republicans getting everything that they feel they should also get this honor.  But these readers clearly do not understand the criteria for admission. Just being an asshole isn’t enough. Just being a warmongering, incompetent neocon isn’t enough.  Just being president against all odds, common sense and wisdom is not enough.  The thing about the Hall of Infamy is that the people and things admitted have to be more subtle.  There is nothing subtle about the buffoons currently running this country. There is nothing but sadness that they will spend two more years making us the most hated nation on earth.  Like with Mr. and Mrs Spears, they have no standards of decency and so do not deserve to breathe the same air as Donald Trump’s hair.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:49 AM •
Thursday, December 28, 2006

When my parents got older and used blood pressure medication and bent down, they were often dizzy when they straightened back up. I now take blood pressure medication but when I bend over and then straighten up, I get a head rush.  It’s two totally different things and it’s why I will NEVER become my parents.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:37 AM •
Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We now come to that time of year when, for want of something better to do for amusement, I decide who merits entry into my Hall of Infamy 2006. The criteria are fairly lax.  Nominees mostly have to have annoyed the heck out of me or in some other way caused me to want to chase them off this planet during the past twelve months.

Just so we’re clear at the outset, Tom Cruise has achieved permanent residence in the Hall of Infamy.  So have Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and any variation of their names that combines them into something that makes me want to toss my cookies. And finally, Donald Trump’s hair has its own wing in the Hall, and since he and that hair seem to be inseparable, he’s not eligible on his own for entry.
Having dispensed with the preliminaries, let’s take a look at who has received nods for the honor this year. Brittany Spears, of course, has received numerous nominations as has her about to be ex.  But even a Hall of Infamy needs some standards and since neither of them apparently has any, I’m afraid they don’t make it in.  However, if the media persists in calling Mr. Spears “Fedex” throughout the coming year, he may get the nod in 2007.
Condoleeza Rice received quite a few votes as the year progressed.  I thought she would make it in till I realized that, despite being Secretary of State and traveling about 90% of the year, she still has a more active social life than I do.  I think that should be reward enough for her this past year.  She’ll just have to wait her turn - or wait till I have at least as many dates as she does - which means she may be waiting a very long time for the honor.
Of course, there were those mean people out there who nominated the Spears, Cruise, Madonna, Pitt/Jolie children. But I don’t feel you should be able to ride your parents’ coattails into this Hall. And while I am the first to admit that the Cruise child in particular could almost cause me to disregard the above restriction, I then find myself confronted with the antics of Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie and realize that I shouldn’t sell Suri short. Given time, she’ll probably be able to enter the Hall all on her own.
So who or what actually will get inducted this year?  Well, two who and one what have made the cut.  In order of their ranking I give you:
Number 3, Hillary Clinton.  The presidential campaign hasn’t even begun and I’m already sick of hearing about her, whether she’s had plastic surgery, whether she should have left Bill, whether she can beat Obama, whether her election would signal the end of life as we know it. Enough already.
Number 2, Barak Obamba.  This man has done virtually nothing yet to prove himself, but has already been crowned a demi god.  No offense to Mr. Obamba, who I am sure might someday become a credible politician, but if he weren’t of mixed heritage would anyone be this excited?  Wasn’t Martin Luther King’s dream about a world in which we were not judged by our color?
And finally, drum roll please, the number one entry into the 2006 Hall of Infamy is people on cell phones, whether driving their cars or walking through airports seemingly talking to themselves.  May your cell phones all blow up in your hands simultaneously thereby cleansing the world of many potential future inductees at once. 
I am sick and tired of sitting at a stop sign watching the person in the car in front of me in animated conversation on a cell phone thereby making them functionally unable to pull out into traffic in either a safe or timely fashion. And I am tired of sitting or standing next to someone in public and listening to their latest life crises, job crises, child crises or what an SOB the guy in the next cubicle is. I don’t care.
I know the world will not soon give up cell phones. I know I will probably be the last living person on earth without one.  But as God is my witness, it will take some effort for anyone or anything to annoy me more than they do. 
My fear, of course, is that in the next year someone will take up that challenge and win.  Happy 2007. Let the new nominations begin.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:00 AM •

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