Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Anchorage is having the kind of winter that gives winter a bad name. Our choices for weather seem to be below freezing weather followed by rain followed by more below freezing weather so that all the rain is now sheer ice, making every attempt to walk outside an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen. Today is freezing. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get freezing rain. I may just go to sleep until spring. Then I can wake up and see how many of my perennials died because there was no snow cover to protect the roots from the freezing ice.
Living in Alaska sometimes takes more energy than I have to give.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Center yourself. Breathe deeply. Accept what is coming. There is nothing you can do about it. The US Congress is back in session. Let the horror begin.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:20 AM •
Monday, January 05, 2015

The unwanted red headed step child of colors.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 10:17 AM •
Sunday, January 04, 2015

Snowy barked until 2 AM on New Year’s Eve, protecting me from every bang outside by racing frantically around the house barking at every door and window he could find. In between the barking, he’d jump on the bed and sit with his back towards me in a very protective stance. He would not lay down. Just sat there guarding me. BuddhaBubba, on the other hand, snored through everything. I don’t think she hears very well anymore. And Carm just lifted his head every once in a while and barked half-heartedly when he heard Snowy barking but mostly wanted to scrunch down as tight as he could on me in the hope that it would make the scary sounds go away. My birds didn’t even stir!
Yep, I know how to have fun on New Year’s Eve.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:20 AM •
Saturday, January 03, 2015

As I sat in my bed reading the other night, the wind started howling and the temps moved steadily up the gauge. I thought at that time that I should have been more specific when I complained to god about the boring winter she’d sent us here in Anchorage. I wanted a good blizzard, snow swirling, cars sliding, heads bent low trying to walk to the car through deep drifts. I did NOT mean a rain storm. For goodness sake, it’s friggin’ January in Anchorage!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:38 AM •
Friday, January 02, 2015
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If you are very, very lucky in life, you end up fifty years later still spending Christmas with your best friend since kindergarten. You find yourself the godmother of her daughter. You find yourself with a friend you can share anything with because you’ve been through everything together. We should all be so blessed. Judy and Paula are.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:51 AM •
Thursday, January 01, 2015

Normally I use this last column of the year to recount those people, places and things that will live forever in my own personal Hall of Infamy. Talk about an embarrassment of riches, this year politicians alone would fill that hall. So I thought I’d hand out kudos instead, the biggest and only one of which goes to Governor Bill Walker.

I’m probably not the only person who was skeptical about how long he’d keep his independent status when elected to office.  I figured by now he’d have returned to the Republican Party and been received, if not with wide-eyed enthusiasm, at least with relief that he wasn’t going to play the independent game any longer than necessary. But Walker actually seems to be walking the independent line and for that we should all be grateful. He may actually be more interested in the welfare of the people of this state than in advancing his political career and financial future. What a concept!
Walker’s appointments to various government posts have, for the most part, annoyed everyone with a political affiliation. My personal philosophy has always been that if you are annoying both the right and the left, then you are probably doing fine. Many of his appointees would be hard to categorize as political given that they have never been active politically. So hats off to Bill Walker who seems to be actually intent on carrying through on his promise to Alaska that his will be an independent administration and not one beholden to any given party.
The governor comes in for even more kudos for moving the lite gov’s offices near his. Maybe this is just a showy display to placate Dems who have had their noses out of joint ever since they realized they had no candidate in the gubernatorial race. Moving Mallott this close to the seat of power makes it seem as though Walker truly does intend to reshape and redefine the role a lit gov can play in an administration. Given Mallott’s bone fides, that’s probably wise. With the state budget tanking and finances looking grim, Mallott’s financial background could be a critical asset in the coming months. So it would seem that despite the general low regard in which politicians are held nationally – a low regard, I should hasten to add, they worked very hard to earn – here in Alaska we seem to have found a new way to proceed.
The coming year is going to be a difficult one for Alaskans. That rainy day has arrived and our financial future is bleak. After years of being warned that total dependence on oil was not a good idea, the house of cards seems to be collapsing. The truth of those warnings is coming at us every day in the headlines about state budget deficits. As that old saying goes, this is where the rubber meets the road. I can’t imagine any corner of state government not up for scrutiny and review as every penny possible is cut to meet declining revenues. I can picture the rush of people to Juneau during budget hearings, all clinging to the frantic hope that their program won’t be axed.
I imagine that Walker will have as many people unhappy with him over the budget as he does over his appointments. I imagine I will be one of them since it’s almost a guarantee that social service programs will, as always, suffer greatly. We blather and bleat a lot about taking care of the most vulnerable in our society but the truth is that homeless people and alcoholics don’t vote in great numbers. Politicians looking for places to cut that won’t create future election problems don’t have to look much further than the programs geared towards those populations. If I’m going to be even slightly accepting of the inevitable cuts coming to programs I feel are critical, it’s only because I think if anyone will attempt to do a fair job of cutting, it’s the administration that Walker is assembling.
Maybe that’s a false hope. Maybe it’s the holiday eggnog talking. I just don’t want to be writing about this as 2016 approaches and apologizing for thinking Walker would stay the independent course. As we wave goodbye to a year that saw oil prices plunge and our financial future sag like an old swaybacked nag, any hope is worth clinging to.
Happy 2015.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:42 AM •
Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The problem arises on that one morning a week when we are up early so I can make it to Bird TLC. No one wants to get up at that hour except for Snowy. He’s still young enough to bounce out of bed and leap into the day while the rest of the household tries to find its slippers.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:46 AM •
Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I now officially live in a household in which no one… not the birds, the dogs or the human… want to get up before 10 AM. Of course, once the light returns, the birds will quickly revert to their early morning calls. But until then, I will enjoy just wallowing in bed for an ungodly amount of time!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:44 AM •
Sunday, December 28, 2014
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How do you relax in mom’s arms for a well deserved scritch when you know you’ve left your orange dinosaur on the floor and that other dog is sneaking quietly towards it? Answer… you can’t. So much for a quiet mom/dog moment.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:47 AM •
Saturday, December 27, 2014

The sky is grey. It feels like it’s been grey since early this autumn. It makes my spirit grey.
There is hardly any snow on the ground. It’s warming up and then it will freeze overnight and everything will be sheer ice. Welcome to one of those weeks when I wonder why I live in Alaska. Would one good snow storm this winter be asking too much?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:15 AM •
Friday, December 26, 2014

Time for everyone to forget their annual Christmas charity and cheer and go back to life as usual. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Thursday, December 25, 2014

It’s Christmas so it’s only appropriate to write something uplifting and joyful in keeping with the spirit of the season. But instead of doing that, I’m going to tell you about the strangest Christmas present ever given in my family, and I’m betting yours too.

Many years ago, my mother was desperately casting about for appropriate gifts to give to her three children. At the time, we were all either single or between marriages. Being Italian, she was sure this meant we would die alone and be buried in a pauper’s grave.  This may seem to be an overreaction for those of you who do not understand a certain type of Italian psyche. But in my mother’s world, if the phone rang between 10 PM and 8 AM, you immediately pulled out the box with the black crepe and started hanging it around the doorways because it was bound to be bad news. And if your kids weren’t married, they surely faced a life of loneliness and despair.
On this particular Christmas morning, as we sat in our homes opening the envelope that had come from our mother, my siblings and I had limited expectations about what they could possibly contain.  Mom sometimes hit the nail on the head. But sometimes she could be way far off, like when she sent me a blouse two sizes smaller than I’d asked for and included a note that said it looked so big she knew it would fit me. It didn’t.
This particular year she surpassed even herself. Upon opening the envelopes, we found that we were now the proud possessors of burial plots at Holy Cross Cemetery in Glenside, Pennsylvania. Yep, mom had given us each a gravesite for Christmas. Ho. Ho. Ho. And happy holidays to you too!
Her family had a plot in this cemetery and each aunt or uncle that died was placed there, eventually with their mate. The family name, Zeccardi, was writ large on each tombstone and the married names added in much smaller letters. Mom had apparently found out that the grave sites around the family plot were going like hot cakes and this worried her. Clearly if my sister, brother and I persisted in our unmarried state, we would need someone to take us in when we died. So in her own fairly bizarre way, she was looking out for us in death as she did in life. At least, that’s what we told ourselves in between the hysterical laughter on the phone as my siblings and I discussed the gifts.
After mom died, we all agreed we didn’t want to be buried in these plots since we planned on cremation. The decision was made that I should go back to the cemetery office and return the grave plots. I don’t know how I got voted into that job. I think my siblings felt I’d lived in Alaska long enough that nothing would faze me, not even a cemetery’s return policy.
So I dutifully went to the cemetery and told the nice lady behind the counter that I needed to return three unused plots. She went and found a gentleman who explained to me in a very kind but very firm way that they did not allow speculating in grave sites. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. He then explained that I would only get back as much money as my mother had paid for the plots and not what they might be worth at that moment in time. I found myself staring at him in awed disbelief that there could possibly be people in this world who bought graves on speculation in the hope that the price would rise and they could make a killing selling them. (Pun a happy coincidence.)
Mom is long gone now but while she was alive, none of us were gutsy enough to challenge her choice of Christmas presents. I find it interesting that the two presents I remember the most from her are the gravesite and the extremely ill fitting blouse. A therapist would have a great time with that.
May your memories of gifts and giving come with the same laughter and joy my family shares when discussing the Christmas of the grave plots. Happy holidays… and I say that with all sincerity, not just to annoy the viewers of Fox News.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:42 AM •
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Just knowing how many Fox viewers that are annoyed whenever I say Happy Holidays makes my holiday merry.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:30 AM •
Tuesday, December 23, 2014

As you are wrapping the last of the presents and spending the last of your money, please don’t forget Bird TLC. Go to birdtlc.net and make a donation to the birds. Remember, we’re the organization that puts the non in non-profit. We can use all the help we can get!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 12:27 AM •

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