Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 6 though 12 was National Volunteer Week. You might have missed the headlines announcing this since there were apparently no headlines announcing this. I missed it completely and, given that on any week of the year volunteers surround me in one capacity or another, I should be ashamed that I did.

According to the Points of Light website that sponsors this week of recognition, its purpose is as follows. “National Volunteer Week, April 6-12, 2014, is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals.”
Volunteers come in all stripes and sizes.  Some work within organizations to meet specific needs that encompass their particular interests. At Bird TLC we have a group of men and women who are, quite simply, bonkers over birds. It’s not something that can be taught. All my efforts to convince my sister that birds are nice have fallen on deaf ears. She might have been more amenable had those darn seagulls on the Atlantic City Boardwalk not dropped a load on her head quite so often. She is simply beyond reach now. The volunteers at Bird TLC, on the other hand, frequently are in intimate contact with bird poo and smile through the whole experience. You either have to love birds or be a bit nutty to be thrilled by eagle poop on your pants.
Other volunteers work quietly outside of organizational frameworks to simply accomplish a task that others seem to avoid. I have a friend who walks dogs and spends a large part of many days picking up dog poo on the trails she frequents. She doesn’t get any recognition for this. She does get frustrated sometimes when she’s cleaning up the same path for the 15th time that month. But she keeps on doing it because it needs to be done and it’s her community and her trail system. It’s what she can do to help.
I have friends who volunteer with ESL programs, the ACLU, the Alaska Zoo and the Loussac Library. Their interests and passions are as varied as the faces of America. But they all have one thing in common. They truly believe that for our country to work and our communities to be healthy places to live, people have to push out beyond the comfortable envelope of their everyday lives.
It’s not always easy to find the extra time to volunteer. It’s not always easy to combine work and family and volunteering into the number of hours we are allotted each week. But somehow these volunteers do. And when push comes to shove, they bring the family along so they can combine family time with volunteer time thus training the next generation of volunteers.
I periodically take online surveys that include some variation on the question of whether high schools should include a requirement for community service. I always respond with a resounding yes. There is nothing that gets you more vested in your community and its future than getting involved for the sheer sake of being involved and furthering your special passion and your community’s wellbeing.
There’s an old saying that we don’t appreciate things we get for free half as much as we appreciate those things for which we have to work. This is so very true in the world of volunteers. When you give your time, energy and money to get a project done because you passionately believe in the aim of that project, you end up with a stake in its success that cannot really be measured. That’s because no human test can gauge what your blood, sweat and tears are worth. And yes, I do mean blood, as one Bird TLC volunteer can attest who let his face get too close to an eagle’s beak. (Not to worry. We bought him a goalie mask for future encounters.)
Volunteering knows no social, religious or financial bounds. I have been privileged to meet and work with people from every political leaning, every social strata and every race, color or creed found in our great state. The volunteers I work with are some of the best and brightest and most dedicated people it has been my privilege to know. Happy Volunteer Week – albeit a bit belatedly – to all of you.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Someone has clearly just told this child that Uncle Sam is taking money from her parents today that could more appropriately be spent on making the grinning man behind her go away so she can eat in peace.
Yes, that darling face of worry and pain comes from my gene pool. She has clearly inherited the joy of Zeccardidom in its entirety. Her father’s genes never stood a chance against it.
My brother, on the other hand, clearly inherited the happy Sereni genes. They seem to dominate after the daily wine allotment has been consumed.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

If I wasn’t going to vote for Mark Begich before, I am now just to annoy whoever it is (Koch brothers) running those incessant ads that make me want to run screaming from the room. It must be nice to be so rich you can buy the majority of airtime available on any given channel to run half truths and outright lies. Yep, politics continues to be the sleaziest business in town. Sorry Whitekeys. The Fly By Night Club at its sleaziest could not hold a candle to the political sleaze already evident this campaign season.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Monday, April 14, 2014

I have a robin that sits atop my bird feeder every day sunning herself. It is the fattest robin I have ever seen. If it gets any fatter, it will have to take the bus instead of flying to its nest. This momma is fat, happy and ready for the kids to come. The problem is that her girth may make that nest crash to the ground. I will try to get a picture but she is very camera shy. The minute she sees me lurking at the window, she politely poos and then flies off. But I will continue with my efforts to document the ROBINZILLA.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:55 AM •
Sunday, April 13, 2014

When I heard that David Letterman was ending his late night show, my heart was broken. I’ve followed him forever and couldn’t even imagine watching anyone else. And then Stephen Colbert was picked for his replacement and my late nights are safe again. Welcome aboard, Stephen. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do with late night. I know it will be amazing and another reason to stay up late.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:04 AM •
Saturday, April 12, 2014

Last night on TV there were four… count them, FOUR… political ads in a row either touting Begich or burning him. Do those people who put the ads on realize just how annoying it is to have it starting so early and be so persistent. At this point, I’d vote for Begich just to annoy all those assholes.  And now it’s on my words with friends ads too. Is there no place left in the world to hide?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 04:27 AM •
Friday, April 11, 2014
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:50 AM •
Thursday, April 10, 2014

How tone deaf does a politician have to be to think he can insert controversial language into a bill providing services for abused women and children and not have it backfire in a very loud and public way? Or have our politicians reached such a state of total sleaze that they no longer care if they endanger women and children in order to get their way?

In case you missed the recent slime coming out of Juneau, let me fill you in. A bill to extend the Domestic Violence Council, which otherwise sunsets on June 30, 2014, passed the Alaska Senate 20 to 0. It seems that at last we found something Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, could agree upon – sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse are bad things that are destroying the moral fiber of this state and need to be addressed. For a brief moment, our common humanity asserted itself in government.
Then the bill reached the State House, that bastion of self-serving mediocrity.  House Speaker Mike Chenault took the opportunity to slip into this simple, clean bill an amendment that would allow the governor to appoint an outsider to a state board, a move that had proven quite unpopular when the governor tried it a few weeks ago with a different board. So the question has to be asked, how sleazy do you have to be to hijack a bill that holds the safety of women and children in this state hostage in order to get your way on a totally different issue? And where in all this is our Choose Respect governor. Given that Chenault is a member of Parnell’s party, you’d think Parnell would have picked up the phone and given Chenault his marching order to remove the amendment so that the governor’s declared priority of safeguarding women and children could continue unimpeded. But apparently the governor was willing to risk them if it got him his way on the appointment because there was no indication whatsoever that he objected.
Whether or not the governor should be able to appoint an outsider to an Alaska board is a question that should be debated on its own merit. It should stand alone so that it can be fully examined and discussed. If Parnell is so hot to trot with it, and Chenault thinks it is such a good idea, why were they afraid to simply put it out there and have the discussion? Both sides of this issue have raised credible points that deserve airing. Do we appoint the best no matter where they’re from or do we appoint the best Alaskan? And is the best Alaskan as good as the best outsider? All legitimate questions that have absolutely nothing to do with domestic violence or sexual abuse or the need to fund programs and shelters that deal with those issues.
After realizing that even most of his party would not vote for the bill with the amendment, and presumably after realizing that if he stood alone as the person who killed the Domestic Violence Council he could possibly be jeopardizing his future electability, Chenault withdrew the amendment. He is now working on a different track to achieve the same goal. But that still begs the question of how cynical, sleazy and immoral you have to be to jeopardize such a critical program with what was already known to be an unpopular and controversial issue. And it begs the question of how a governor, who made the issue of domestic violence in this state his signature social agenda issue, could not jump out in front of the first TV camera he saw to make it clear he was totally opposed to getting his way over the bodies of the women and children who would be harmed if the bill failed to pass.
Alaskans deserve better than this grossly cynical attempt to gain political advantage by endangering funding aimed at the most critical social and family problems our state faces today. Governor Parnell needs to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to his commitment to ending this epidemic. Marching is easy. Standing up and doing the right thing even when it means not getting your way is not. Too bad we don’t have more politicians willing to do take the tough road when necessary.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:33 AM •
Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Since voting has now become a somewhat useless exercise given that corporations will be able to easily buy whatever politicians they choose, instead of bothering with election day, the corporations will unveil our new leaders in spiffy Superbowl ads. That will get the word out to more Americans than any other method and they can learn something while eating nachos and watching sports. It’s a win-win for everyone. Thanks Supremes!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:16 AM •
Tuesday, April 08, 2014

It’s one thing to have left overs when you eat out from home. You can always get the remainder to go and have it for lunch the next day. But what do you do when on vacation and those big servings come at you that you can’t possibly finish? My friends and I found the answer while in Vegas. We asked for the leftovers to go and requested some plastic utensils so we could eat it in our rooms later. Then we went outside and handed the food to the first homeless person we saw. Food not wasted. Homeless person eating steak from a Ramsey restaurant… what’s not to like?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Monday, April 07, 2014
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Sunday, April 06, 2014

No need to go vote. Thanks to the Supremes, we just have to check in with our multinational corporations and they’ll tell us who will be our elected officials. Thanks guys. I needed those fifteen extra minutes freed up to beat my head against the wall to ease the pain of watching American democracy die.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Saturday, April 05, 2014

There’s been an uptick in spam mail. This seems to happen periodically. I open my e-mail thinking 21 people have contacted me only to find that 17 of them want to offer me A. money for which I only have to send them some first B. drugs cheaper than I can buy on the street C. penis pills.  Really? This is what our great civilization has come to? What a disappointment.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Friday, April 04, 2014

Boy reality sucks after the plasticity of Vegas. But… given that I don’t have enough money left to buy myself a latte, I guess I’d better get back to churning out the words on my computer. God I wish I’d been smart enough to find a really rich man to provide for all my wants and needs. Instead, I have ten animals hoping I can still buy their kibble. I did NOT intend life to turn out this way. I was going to be young and beautiful and rich and famous… all before I was 30 so I could retire and just enjoy life afterwards. Can’t figure out when I lost track of that plan…

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:43 AM •
Thursday, April 03, 2014

No column from the paper this week on the blog. I was too busy losing my shirt at the penny slots. Now heading back to Anchorage, poorer and no wiser. I’ll come back next year and do the exact same thing.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:41 AM •

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