Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, December 31, 2015

As I get older, I find the changing of the year less and less exciting because I become increasingly aware that I have fewer and fewer new years in my future. On the other hand, anyone who can look back on 2015 and not express some sense of relief that it’s over has clearly not been tuned in this year. Let me catch you up. Donald Trump, a man on his third wife who refers to African-Americans as “the blacks”, is actually a viable candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. And he recently tied with Pope Francis as the second most admired man in America in a Gallup poll. Need I say more?

One of the better things about reaching a ripe old age is that you’ve seen things that horrified you, but experience has shown that this too shall pass. Remember, there was a time when Sarah Palin was actually considered a viable candidate to be second in line for the presidency. Wow, just writing that down still kind of makes me a little nervous. But I know Donald Trump will pass, as did Sarah Palin, as nothing more than an aberration of our normally fairly respectable political campaigns. OK, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration. Respectability has never been part of our political process.
If we look for the good in the year that’s about to end, we need to look elsewhere than in the political realm where all sense and sensibility has been eliminated and replaced by something that only makes me very sad. So while Americans debated the merits of a brain surgeon who is convinced that the pyramids were built by Joseph to store grain, and a national buffoon whose lies are accepted as SOP by his admirers, let’s see what was happening elsewhere.
There was Pope Francis’ visit to America which seemed to prove that no matter how many Kardashian shows we watch, we are inherently a religious country looking for uplift and spiritual renewal from someone who actually seems to understand Christ’s message. That was pretty awesome.  Then there was that video of Michelle Obama rapping to get kids moving. Finally, something the medical community has been saying for years about how Americans have to change their lifestyle if they want to be healthy has clearly stuck. For the first time in more than a decade, the rate of American obesity and diabetes has leveled out.
Our esteemed legislature, or some committee thereof, actually voted to move out of the Taj Mahawker into a space a little less spectacular and a little more in line with Alaska’s current fiscal situation. How those legislators will be able to throw trash away without trashcans that sense their need and open automatically is a big question. I wish I could say I have faith that they are all bright enough to figure it out. But I don’t.
Of course, we have to include the presidential visit into any round up of good news in Alaska. Whether or not you like Obama, he’s the first sitting president to ever come to the State of Alaska, thus solidifying our position as an actual state. Now if we could convince 48 other states that we are part of the continental US, we wouldn’t all be forced to buy at Amazon Prime for the free shipping. The other states would understand that when they said free shipping in the continental US that includes Alaska. Unless, of course, they can name the continent they think we’re on.
Here’s something else for which we can all be grateful. Americans continue to be some of the most generous and giving people on earth. And it’s not just in the field of military armaments and equipment that we give so abundantly. Most Americans seem to understand that no matter our political differences, we are all in the same boat and we all need to help each other. Not all Americans are as generous as others, but there are enough to give us continued hope for the future.
May 2016 bring you joy and peace, contentment and fulfillment. If you need help finding those things, they’re not far away, at soup kitchens, shelters, safe houses and any number of other charities that could use your help in their mission. You’ll be the better for the giving.

Elise Patkotak • 03:48 AM •
Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I realize that yesterday’s post was rather much of a downer. Wish I could find something to lift us up. But I can’t get that poll out of my mind or stop wondering about when America lost its collective mind.

Elise Patkotak • 03:51 AM •
Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In a recent Gallup poll, Donald Trump tied with Pope Francis as the second most admired person by Americans. We cannot possibly hang our heads low enough in shame at this.

Elise Patkotak • 03:49 AM •
Sunday, December 27, 2015

I spent part of Christmas Eve watching one of my parrots try to mate with my hand.
Note to self for 2016: Get out more.

Elise Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bird TLC education bald eagle “Leuco” has been transferred to the Alaska Zoo!

After 12 years of service as an education bird, Leuco the bald eagle has been transferred from the Bird Treatment and Learning Center to the Alaska Zoo! Among other health issues, Leuco had developed cataracts which made it difficult for him to travel to presentations. We’re happy to report that ophthalmologist Dr. Alan Brightman donated his time to perform surgery on both of Leuco’s eyes, and the cataracts were successfully removed!

About Leuco: In 2003 a fishermen in Valdez noticed a young bald eagle on the ground that appeared to be injured. After much coaxing with fish, the kind fisherman was eventually able to capture the bird and send him to Bird TLC. No significant injuries were found, but it was assumed that the young eagle had suffered a head or neck injury, possibly from falling or being kicked out of the nest before he was able to fly. He was determined to be non-releasable, so the eagle was added to Bird TLC’s education program and was named Leuco (short for the latin name for the bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Lovingly cared for over the past 12 years by Bird TLC volunteer Gloria Beckman, Leuco has served his community well, acting as an excellent Bird TLC ambassador eagle and helping to teach thousands of children as well as adults about bald eagles and the habitat in which they live. Needless to say, we’re overjoyed with the wonderful home and quality care that the Alaska Zoo is able to provide for Leuco. Stop by the zoo and tell him hello when you get a chance!

About Dr. Brightman: Dr. Alan Brightman has been a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists for more than 28 years. He served as full professor of ophthalmology at Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine and specializes in the entire spectrum of medical and surgical ophthalmology of all animal species. He is the author of more than 90 publications, has 28 years of clinical experience, and has pioneered a number of surgical procedures. Bird TLC will be forever grateful to Dr. Brightman for restoring Leuco’s eyesight, thank you Doctor!

Elise Patkotak • 03:25 AM •
Friday, December 25, 2015
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In my house, this is as Christmasy as we get. And yes, those are my hands with a death grip on the dogs. They clearly were totally unamused by their human’s attempt to photograph them in holiday garb. Looking at the pictures now, I can hardly blame them.
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Elise Patkotak • 03:43 AM •
Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas is just two days away so it’s time to write a fun and uplifting column about how wonderful the season is and how grateful we all are. I really, really wanted to actually write that column. But then I saw two headlines last week that made me wonder if any of us can have a happy holiday knowing that not far from any of us is a child living with domestic violence and abuse.

The first headline detailed the horrors of child abuse in our state and how often a child has to be damaged before he or she is removed from the abusive situation for good. The second was how our esteemed legislators announced the plan to make even more cuts in education and health.
So I thought in the spirit of a holiday based on a baby’s birth, I’d make some suggestions that would cost little money and actually save some in the long run. The suggestion involves some tweaking of laws that govern child welfare cases in order to bring them in step with reality.
Here’s the reality. The fact that two adults can reproduce and bring that offspring home does not make them a family, not does it automatically make them parents. All that reproducing does is prove that they can, in fact, no matter how drunk or drugged they might be, still figure out how to have unprotected sex with unintended consequences. So our laws, which currently are heavily weighted in favor of preserving the nuclear family, need to be rewritten to differentiate between an actual family and the horror that is two people raising a third in chaos and violence.
The 12/16/2015 ADN article on child abuse in Alaska states that, “42 percent of the roughly 2,500 children with substantiated maltreatment between 2005 and 2013 were under 1 year old.” Here’s another fun statistic to absorb with your eggnog. “Out of about 36,000 investigations into maltreatment involving more than 19.300 children in that 8 year period (2005 – 2013), 68 percent were multiple investigations of the same children.” And finally, in another area where Alaska has sadly always exceeded the national average, there is this statement of fact, “4 of 10 children born in or after 2005 and investigated as potential victims of maltreatment in Alaska were repeatedly maltreated in the period between 2005 and 2013… As of 2013 nearly 13 percent of children investigated by OCS were reported as suffering repeat abuse or neglect… The national rate was less than 5.5 percent”.
So when I hear our legislators say they are going to Juneau to look for further cuts in health and education, I have to wonder how they can sleep well at night. Because you know who isn’t sleeping well? It’s the child who is afraid to fall asleep because of the violent home they inhabit and the very real possibility that they won’t be awakened by the gentle touch of their mother’s hand on their shoulder but by the forceful fist of their parent in their face; or even worse, awakened by a drunk climbing into their bed for sex knowing their parents won’t protect them.
Here’s my suggestion for tweaking laws governing children in abusive homes. The child is removed the first time any substantiated incident happens. Mom and dad have six months to make substantial improvements in their lives. At the end of those six months, if the parents haven’t done what they need to do, then the kid is automatically available for adoption. If they have complied and the child is returned and then has to be removed again, there is no six-month period. The child is immediately put up for adoption. No muss, no fuss, no outlandishly long court battles. We may not be able to change the behavior of the adults, but we can sure as hell get the kid out from the middle of the violence before he or she is so damaged that they grow up to repeat the cycle.
So my Christmas wish this year is that our legislators pass a sensible child protection act that actually protects the child from growing up thinking violence, chaos and pain is what constitutes a family. It will cost nothing and may actually end up saving us money since it gives kids a fighting chance at becoming productive adults.

Elise Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Only three more days of wanting to rip my ears out if I hear another version of ANY Christmas carol, whether sung or played or barked or meowed. It actually makes the noise surrounding the Star Wars release bearable because at least they didn’t play Christmas carols over the credits.

Elise Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Going to Costco is not something people like me should do during the holiday shopping season. So I don’t. I tried to go yesterday but the line of cars waiting to turn into the totally filled parking lot was a city block long in each direction. Have none of these people heard that Amazon Prime doesn’t charge for shipping to Alaska?

Elise Patkotak • 03:37 AM •
Monday, December 21, 2015

All presidential candidates announce that their campaigns will go dark from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1. No insane and mean statements about refusing people safety. No debates about arming nurses in NICUs in case the baby comes out with a gun. No statements hating our neighbors because they are “other”. I’d almost be willing to vote for someone who would do that… almost.

Elise Patkotak • 11:56 AM •
Saturday, December 19, 2015

The headlines said that science had confirmed something that had long been a rumor about Hitler. I clicked the link thinking I would be reading about some fascinating evaluation of his mental health or childhood trauma or belief in evil spirits. Instead, I got treated to a headline that announced Hitler had only one testicle. Am I the only person on earth who could have gone to my grave without this knowledge and still died happy? And now I think I’ll just go throw up a bit.

Elise Patkotak • 03:33 PM •
Friday, December 18, 2015

I was scrolling through news pieces yesterday when I saw a headline announcing that some Kardashian was making news because she put her butt on Instagram. First of all, that is not news. That is not gossip. That is not anything anyone should have to see or read about when searching for news. Secondly… sorry, I just threw up in my mouth at the thought of seeing that picture. I need to go rinse my mouth out and take some deep cleansing breaths while trying to convince myself that humanity is not completely doomed to inanity.

Elise Patkotak • 03:25 AM •
Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sometimes it’s simply not fun to be the only adult in the room. While everyone else it having fun being silly and stupid, you are required to maintain some semblance of dignity and intelligence. Watching our local politicians at work I have to say that I am becoming more and more convinced that Governor Walker may be the only adult in any room full of Alaskan politicians.

Remember when you were a kid and it seemed as though it was always your parents raining on your parade? You know, they’d say things like, “No you can’t stick that dime into the light socket” or “Take the dog out of the toilet this minute. That is not for baths.” Or my all time favorite, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should, so get that record out of the toaster right now.” (A record, for those of you who have never heard of such outside of a sports statistic, is a black, round, vinyl object that emits music when a needle is smoothly run around its grooves).
Well, it unfortunately seems to be falling to Gov. Walker to inject some adult truth into the conversation in Juneau about the state’s finances and our foreseeable future fiscal reality. You don’t have to agree completely with his budget proposal but it’s hard not to see it as the first real moment in our debate over how long we can hold our breath and hope that oil prices will go back up.
I’ll be the first to admit that he is proposing cuts to programs I find near and dear. I’m guessing there are few Alaskans who won’t find one of their favorites going under the knife in this budget. And, of course, even whispering the words “state income tax” is enough to make some swoon in despair. Add to that the idea of somehow limiting our birthright of a big PFD check each year and you can see why this proposal is causing heartburn from the tip of the Arctic to the bottom of the Panhandle.
In the hope of helping foster an actual mature conversation about our current financial woes, let me remind Alaskans that we once understood that we had to pay for the services we received. When I first moved to Alaska in 1972, long before oil started gushing from Prudhoe Bay, I paid a state income tax. And, quite honestly, I did it without much angst because I had been raised to believe that you have to pay for what you get. Government services cost money and the people who are the recipients of those services have some responsibility to pay for them.
Was it wonderful when the state income tax was eliminated because we were rolling in petro dollars? Sure. Who wouldn’t like to take a few more bucks home every week while still getting (now free) services? But the unfortunate result of that gift is a segment of Alaska’s citizenry who feel entitled to everything while paying nothing. Cutting the budget, as every actual economist who has looked at our fiscal situation has made clear, is simply not enough. We will never balance the budget without finding new revenue streams. So as painful as it may be for both Alaska’s citizens and its legislators, we have to start contributing to the state budget to keep the lights on in Alaska. As adults, at least those of us who qualify as such, we should understand that. 
My biggest concern about our upcoming legislative session is that it will once again devolve into a battle between Republicans and Gov. Walker based on the fact that they have still not forgiven him for actually winning the election. But he did win. And that means that the majority of Alaskans heard what he had to say and liked it more than they liked what other candidates were saying.  So those Republicans who are still sitting in dark corners licking their wounds and plotting revenge should get over it, come into the light and work with the governor to create a financially sustainable model for Alaska’s future.
If that future includes an income tax, so be it. If that future includes cuts to programs many of us consider near and dear, so be it. Adults face reality and deal with it. It would be nice if our legislators would do that too.

Elise Patkotak • 03:21 AM •
Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Donald Trump or the people who support him?

Elise Patkotak • 11:16 AM •
Monday, December 14, 2015

If all the Republican presidential candidates were put on a boat and sent out to sea would anyone actually search for them? And what are the chances that anyone who wanted to search for them could also be put on a boat and sent out to sea?

Elise Patkotak • 11:19 AM •

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