Elise Sereni
Monday, January 21, 2008

That’s my response to the three hour dental appointment I have today.  Really, the government simply has to legitimize some happy drugs that are given automatically if you have to spend more than 15 minutes in a dental chair in any given year.

Elise Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Sunday, January 20, 2008

Went to the zoo yesterday to watch the polar bears Louie and Ahpun celebrate their birthdays. Tagged along with a friend and her grandchildren. When you don’t have your own, borrowing other people’s grandchildren is the next best thing. I’m not sure who was more fascinated...me or them. But I guess I should apologize now to all the little kids I elbowed out of the way in order to get a better view of the bears.  Hey - if you don’t want your kids poked and pushed, don’t bring them to the bears’ birthday party.  I mean, it’s not like it’s meant for kids...oh wait, I see the flaw in my logic now. 

Elise Patkotak • 06:18 AM •
Saturday, January 19, 2008

I somehow put a file away on my computer and now I can’t remember where I put it. So I will spend the weekend searching my hard drive using every word I can think of that might have possibly been in the title of the file. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that I can’t remember what I titled the file? God, old age is so much fun.

Elise Patkotak • 06:22 AM •
Friday, January 18, 2008

I find that the people who take the time to write to me, whether they agree with my positions or not, are probably the people I would be most comfortable socializing with because they at least care enough to have an opinion and express it.  I’d be willing to guess that, for the most part, they are also the people who vote in every election.
Of course, I always think my opinions are right. But I respect the ones I receive that disagree with me if only because it gives me hope for the future of this state and country that we still have citizens engaged with the process.

Elise Patkotak • 06:30 AM •
Thursday, January 17, 2008

Here’s the thing about Alaska and the oil industry.  Without the industry, Alaska would still be trying to figure out how to pay to keep the lights on in the winter. For this we should be grateful to them. Industry investment dragged this state into the economic life of America in a way that would never have happened without it.  The size of our Permanent Fund alone makes us players with the big boys in the financial world.

But let us be very real about industry’s dedication to our state. Neither Exxon, nor ARCO, nor BP nor Conoco Phillips, nor any other oil company that has operated in Alaska, did so out of a sense of loving charity for the citizens of this state. They did it because it made sense to their bottom line. They did it because by doing so they could make their shareholders happy. Along the way, they proved to be good corporate citizens in some ways, like charitable giving, and questionable ones in other ways- think Exxon Valdez and missing pigs.
So when we talk about what industry has done for this state, I think we need to be very sure we are using the right perspective. So long as we have something they want, they’ll be here. The minute our non-renewable resources are exhausted, the only question we will have about industry is who will turn the lights off when the last employee leaves.
I have lived in this state long enough to be very aware of the benefits we have accrued due to the natural resources we possess. I am equally aware that when those resources have been used up and there are no more, we’d better have one heck of a good backup plan to keep this state alive.  If we want our children, and our children’s children to enjoy this state, then we need a Plan B. Because Plan A, the extraction of natural resources, has a very definite expiration date.
This may be why our governor continues to ride high in the approval ratings as she faces down industry, demanding what’s best for her constituents. So many oil apologists in this state act as though the only way to approach industry is on bended knee with hand outstretched in supplication for whatever crumbs they are willing to leave us.
Palin doesn’t like that approach. Good for her.  She is doing for Alaska what oil executives do for their shareholders - standing up and demanding the fairest deal possible for the people she represents.  Alaska should always face industry on an equal footing because they need us as much as we need them.  Palin gets that. And I think Alaskans appreciate the fact that she gets it. Honestly, does anyone really think that if one company pulls out another company won’t come pulling right in?
Oil and gas are on our land and they are going nowhere until such time as a deal is made that benefits the people of this state to the greatest extent possible. And if the companies currently doing business with us don’t like the terms, then some other company will step up to the plate. Those who fear that industry will go elsewhere and forget about Alaska are ignoring a couple of very important factors. One, these are non-renewable resources. There is only so much available in this world. Industry is not apt to walk away from its hold on any of it. And two, we are a stable state and country with minimal security problems and little risk of the resources suddenly being nationalized so that the company loses its entire asset.
Standing up to industry and demanding our fair share is something we should have been doing all along. Good for Sarah Palin for getting this state up off its knees in front of these huge conglomerates and letting them know there is a new sheriff in town and she’s not afraid to use her power to protect the people she swore to serve.
You want to know why Sarah Palin is still so popular? It’s because she stands tall and does not bow to outside interests.  Isn’t it interesting that just when we needed a John Wayne to make us proud again, we got Annie Oakley instead? Who’d have ever thought she’d be the one with the guts needed to deal with industry?

Elise Patkotak • 06:01 AM •
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I can honestly say that there is nothing that looks more uncomfortable and abashed than an eagle that has just been bathed.  Unless it’s an eagle sitting in a bin being blow dried.  Of course, if it had been female eagles instead of males, they might have enjoyed the bath and blow dry more. But they were too smart to begin with to dive into that truck of slime in Kodiak.  Guys! Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them. But it sure was special to be there yesterday feeding them.

Elise Patkotak • 06:19 AM •
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thirty of them. Sent up from Kodiak to Bird TLC after they dive bombed a salmon slime truck. These are the lucky ones. They survived.  Albeit a bit embarrassed by the whole experience. I’m off to feed them. Does life get much better than this>

Elise Patkotak • 06:02 AM •
Monday, January 14, 2008

Saturday morning I looked out into my front yard because Wilson, my watch bird, was screaming warnings. There were our two neighborhood moose, browsing on the three trees I keep in my front yard just for them. So that’s how I wasted an entire hour despite a rushed deadline on an enormous project that is due tomorrow. I stood there sipping coffee, watching moose, protecting my bird from their baleful stares and wondering once again why anyone would live anywhere else in the world but Alaska.

Elise Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Sunday, January 13, 2008

I may be a bit sensitive to this writers’ strike because, as a writer, I know how hard it is to get fair compensation for what I do.  And if there is any doubt in anyone’s mind about why writers are so important, tune in to the Daily Show or the Colbert Report. Still pretty good but clearly missing the snap and razor sharp wit that professional writers bring to the table. 
The good news is that during the strike, I had more time to read than I’ve had since we went beyond three channels on the dial.

Elise Patkotak • 06:17 AM •
Saturday, January 12, 2008

It’s snowing to the point of a white out, especially when another car blasts by you and spews more fluffy white snow into the air. The streets are slick because it’s that almost wet snow that makes a perfectly icy surface. And Alaskan drivers pass you in exasperation because you insist on going slightly below the speed limit in the hope of making it home alive. Not only that, but they zip by you with coffee in one hand, a cell phone in the other and the only things controlling their car being their foot on the gas pedal and their elbows on steering wheel. It’s amazing that any of us make it home alive.

Elise Patkotak • 06:13 AM •
Friday, January 11, 2008

You know how they have those packaging stores? Well, I think someone should open an unpackaging store where people can go with their new purchases and have someone else wrestle off the freakishly strong plastic wrap. It would earn a million dollars a month easily.  I’d do it but my hands are just starting to heal from the battle to get the plastic wrap off the new headset I just bought...which, after much blood loss, turns out to not have the right connection for my phone so I have to return it...along with the bloodied plastic wrap. Which I will exchange for a new headset that works with my phone...that will come in even more space age plastic, sealed against invasion from all beings, alien or otherwise. I just hope I have enough blood left to rip it open. And that my scissors have enough strength left for another battle.

Elise Patkotak • 06:17 AM •
Thursday, January 10, 2008

After spending countless years working with abusive families and damaged children, I’ve decided that one of the ways to get a grip on the problem is to redefine the terms. Anyone who’s ever been called fat or ugly knows that words are very powerful. So we need to use the right ones in defining the people involved in the court system because of domestic violence and/or neglect and abuse of children.

Right now, the system is geared towards reuniting families. This goal is predicated on the assumption that the family is the best unit society has for rearing the next generation. That assumption has led to numerous battles over the definition of family and, in some cases, caused state constitutions to be changed to protect society from defining family in any but very traditional and biblical terms. In actual fact, if you look up the word family in Webster’s online dictionary, the first definition states it is a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as a basic social unit consisting of persons united by the ties of marriage.
In America, forty years after the Free Love movement and easy access to birth control, we do not necessarily define a family through the legal requirement of marriage. On the other hand, most Americans still insist that at a minimum there needs to be a man and woman, possibly some kids, living and working together towards common goals of mutual benefit.
The “families” I work with as a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) minimally meet that definition; there is usually a man and a woman living together and there are kids in the home.  Because of that, the state is required to try and reunite the family and can only find other permanent placements for children after all avenues of reunification have been exhausted.  After decades of doing that, I’ve reached the conclusion that you can’t reunite a family that never really was one.  Nor should we try if, while trying, we create more and more problems for the children waiting on the sidelines while their parents decide whether or not they want to get sober or stop hitting each other or stop beating the children. Because for every day these children are in foster care, are not in permanent homes, have uncertain emotional attachments because they never know when they will abruptly end - for every day children are subjected to those conditions, their own ability to form healthy attachments and live healthy lives is damaged.  Often the damage becomes irreparable. When they are finally returned to a family being held together by so many bandages that you can barely find the people inside the wraps, the children are in such bad shape they don’t stand a chance of ever having a healthy adulthood.  A depressingly high number of them will end up in jail or in court with social workers taking another generation of children from the same “family”.
So I propose society redefines what these damaged people living together really are. I think we need to call them “pseudo-families”.  Then we should legislate that we don’t have to try and reunite pseudo-families. We can, instead, immediately turn our attention to placing the children in permanent situations where, with help and love, they might have a chance at a good tomorrow. 
We can easily define pseudo-families as any family where the children are the result of drunken, meaningless encounters; where physical and sexual abuse is the norm and not the exception; where the children are left to fend for themselves while mom and dad party; where food and clothing are secondary to the parental need for substances that alter their ability to even recognize their children’s needs.
The definition needs refinement but that won’t be much of a problem for anyone who has worked in the field for more than five minutes. Pseudo-families are the people for whom sobriety is only a temporary state until the children are returned. They are the ones who smile and say they now understand what violence can do to their spouse or children and will never do it again. But the minute the children are returned and the state is no longer looking over their shoulder, they do. When their children grow up, they will most likely perpetuate the cycle.
So let’s break the cycle. Let’s stop reuniting families that never were.

Elise Patkotak • 06:03 AM •
Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Because if I think about them while getting dental work, the dental work isn’t half so horrendous.

Elise Patkotak • 06:04 AM •
Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I lie in bed at night with both dogs curled up tightly at my side. I reach over Blue to scratch Blondie’s belly. My arm’s movement over Blue’s side as I scratch Blondie also stroke her. Both lie there, eyes somewhat glazed, totally at peace. The picture of utter contentment. They’d had dinner, a walk, a special treat of a pig’s ear just because they’re so cute, and now they are curled up warm and comfy getting their bellies scratched. What’s not to like? They have all they could possibly imagine in life and, best of all, are pretty sure tomorrow will be the same.  Yep. It’s a wonderful life.

Elise Patkotak • 02:00 PM •
Monday, January 07, 2008

The secret is out of the bag. Emily’s family and Greg’s family know about the pregnancy and I no longer have to avoid the phone for fear it will be Em’s mom Janis. I was sure I would accidentally spill the beans by slipping and screaming, “You’re going to be a grandmom again!  oops.”

Elise Patkotak • 06:38 AM •

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