Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, September 11, 2014

As the referendum on legalizing marijuana grows closer, there are many discussions that need to happen about the pros and cons of the issue. But the suggestion that having a discussion with your children about legalized pot is unknown territory puzzles me.  I can tell you unequivocally what my parents would have said to me because it would be the same thing they said to me about alcohol. Until I was 21, it was illegal for me to indulge. If I did, then my mother assured me she would send me to Kingdom Come. I wasn’t sure where that was but given the tone of her voice, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to go there.

Parents nowadays have more nuanced discussions about these issues with their children and that’s probably a good thing. On the other hand, I wasn’t all that sure that my drinking alcohol before I was twenty-one wouldn’t send my mother to an early grave as she continually threatened. That uncertainty went a long way towards keeping my siblings and me on the straight and narrow until we finally figured out that it was biologically impossible.
Back to the main point, though – what do you say to your children about legalized marijuana? If you’ve had the discussion with them about alcohol, I’d suggest just using the same words while substituting pot for alcohol. In fact, you can cover pot and alcohol all in one grand talk. Both are substances that can be abused. Both are substances that can harm you. Both are substances that are not legal for children to have. And both are (or might become) legal substances that your children will need to know how to handle. Their similarities outweigh their differences except for the violence associated with alcohol that is rarely associated with pot.
As we cope with the resounding failure of the war on drugs and the extensive damage it has done to our society, we need to face the fact that having a talk with your kids about the horrors of pot while holding a glass of wine makes no sense to them. They can see the hypocrisy a mile away. Our war on drugs has resulted in the United States having more of its citizens incarcerated than any other country in the world – and that includes China and Russia. Our prior war on alcohol led to a 13-year period that produced crime families on an unprecedented scale. Neither prohibition actually stopped use of the substance. At some point, common sense must prevail as we enter a fiscal future where our current expenditures on a failed program are no longer viable given the true lack of any evident success.
There are a lot of topics that need to be brought up for discussion over this issue, but how to talk to your kids about it shouldn’t be one of them. If you have the words for a discussion of alcohol, you have the words for a discussion of marijuana. The difference is that it has become considered so wrong to discuss pot in a calm and reasoned manner that a person feels uncomfortable even trying to do it.
We have demonized this drug for too long. We have allowed a bureaucracy in the war on drugs to become addicted to the funds it receives every year. We have become unable to unravel the truth about pot because of the noise of fear created by those who still believe it is somehow a gateway drug to life on the streets. We have become so inundated with half-truths, untruths and truthiness concerning pot that we no longer know what to believe. For so long as we are that confused about the topic, we will never be able to have a logical discussion with our children concerning it.
Most parents have no problem sitting their children down and discussing alcohol use and abuse and the need to wait until they are adults to try it. These same parents usually have no problem offering their grown children wine at the dinner table or a cocktail before the meal is served. Yet they can’t imagine sharing a joint with those same adult children because it just feels wrong. Given the statistics of the damage done by alcohol to society versus the damage done by pot, you’d think it should be the other way around.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:50 AM •
Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I spent part of Monday morning babysitting a five year old boy. I may recover by the weekend. Meanwhile, be assured that having children is a task best left to the young and strong. He is an amazing kid. He also has more energy in his pinky finger than this whole house, including parrots and dogs, produces in a month. And I’m pretty sure he does NOT have an x chromosome anywhere in his body.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:51 AM •
Tuesday, September 09, 2014

No secret. Look at the sad choices they have. I can understand the “why bother” attitude, even if I don’t think it’s right.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:40 AM •
Monday, September 08, 2014

Number 564 - work on your keyboard while eating a breakfast sandwich of egg and jam. Jam jams the keyboard and makes all the letters very, very sticky.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:05 AM •
Sunday, September 07, 2014
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My brother, closest to camera and thankfully healed and out of the hospital and expected to live an immensely longer time just to annoy his daughter, and my cousin Joe… also planning to live a long, long time to annoy his kids.
In heaven, all our aunts and uncles, moms and dads, look at this picture and smile because they know they must have done something right. Going on sixty some years later and still best friends.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:11 AM •
Saturday, September 06, 2014

To all those celebrities whose naked pictures were leaked on the Internet… if you don’t want naked pictures of yourself showing up everywhere, STOP FRIGGIN’ TAKING THEM!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Friday, September 05, 2014

There it was in the paper - the day after Labor Day - the first ad with the word Christmas in it. Have we really reached the point as a society where we have so little to occupy us that we need to start preparing for the holiday season three months ahead of time?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Thursday, September 04, 2014

I was thinking about Labor Day and that got me to thinking about labor which segued off to a woman in labor which brings me to my current topic – women having babies to replace the babies taken away by the state or tribe because they are not capable of providing a child with basic safety, nourishment and support.

For those of you who have never been involved in the field of child protection, the laws that govern it can be pretty weird sometimes. Replacement babies are a classic example. Here’s the way it often goes. If a state social worker deems a child’s home life to be too dangerous to leave them there, the child is removed until the parents correct the situation. If the situation is not corrected within a certain amount of time, then further steps are taken to provide the child with a safe home. This usually involves terminating parental rights and putting the child up for adoption. Or, if the child is old enough to know their parents and not want to be adopted, placing the child in foster care until he or she ages out of the system.
Here’s the kicker in all this. If a mother has a child removed and is unable or unwilling to take the steps needed to make the home safe, she often will just replace the child taken with a new baby and start the process all over again.  What I find most disturbing in these situations is that the same mother who cannot have one child because her actions endanger that child, is allowed to walk out of the hospital with a newborn. The reasoning is that the mother has not yet harmed the new child or put it in a dangerous or unsafe situation. So until such time as she does, the mother lives in a world in which she is only allowed supervised visits with one child while being allowed total access to another, often more vulnerable, child.
Does that make sense to anyone?
I know of one family where multiple children were removed and either put into long term foster care or adopted. The mother showed up for the termination trial pregnant with another child. She walked out of the hospital with that child and the child was not removed until she endangered it with the same behavior that caused the first group to be removed.
I have often argued that laws requiring social workers to attempt to heal a family work only if there was a family to begin with. Unfortunately, what you all too often have are a drunken and abusive sperm donor, an egg carrier with similar problems and nothing whatsoever that anyone in any culture in this state would recognize as a family. You can’t put something back together that never existed in the first place. So going back to my original concern, if a mother is so unable to provide for her children’s safety that the state is keeping the children from her physical custody, why in the hell would you turn around and claim you can’t deny her the right to take her newborn home because you have no proof she’s hurt the new baby. Why does the law require that the mother prove all over again that she’s not fit to raise a child while, in the process, the new baby is damaged emotionally and often physically?
And please, before the e-mails start piling up accusing me of letting the dads off the hook, I’m not. The simple reality is that if a child’s been removed from the home, it’s because neither mom nor dad – if he’s even hung around – are able to provide for the baby’s safety. If there were a strong dad around, the other kids wouldn’t be in state custody.  Biology being what it is, mom delivers the new baby and mom usually takes it from the hospital.
Believe it or not, social workers didn’t become social workers to destroy families. They would like nothing more than to think they were able to help a family heal and get their children back. But these same social workers can only shake their heads in disbelief as a mom who has proven herself incapable of providing even the minimum of safety to her children is allowed to leave the hospital with a very vulnerable newborn. It just doesn’t make sense.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Wednesday, September 03, 2014

C’mon, Begich. Surely you are better than this. Running commercials accusing Sullivan of freeing a sex pervert to rape and kill again. It was horrible when Bush Senior did it in the late eighties against Dukakis and it is beyond horrible now. It’s plain stupid. Whether anyone likes Sullivan or not, let him stand or fall on his real merits. This is beneath your campaign. And if it isn’t, then shame on your campaign.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Tuesday, September 02, 2014

How is it possible my dogs don’t hear me yelling for them to come downstairs to go out before we go to bed but can hear me four closed doors away unwrapping one of their treats? I need to get me some hearing like that.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:32 AM •
Monday, September 01, 2014
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from my family to yours. May today be as restful for you as BuddhaBubba’s are for her everyday.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Elise Sereni Patkotak • 12:29 PM •
Saturday, August 30, 2014

Is there any animal in more misery than the dog getting his head petted who keeps nodding off and falling over only to then be out of reach of the hand that was petting him. So he jerks awake each time he starts to fall over only to have his eyes go to half mast within seconds of the head petting starting again. My poor Snowy. I thought he was going to have whiplash last night trying to keep his head within reach of my hand.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Friday, August 29, 2014

Why is it whenever someone’s tv parent dies there is always some item of monumental significance that brings back memories of the loved one. Sure, I have my Aunt Ida’s soup ladle but on NCIS, Gibbs has a boat his dad made with his mom’s name and then he starts building one and then he remembers building the original with his dad while music swells into past visions in the distance. I look at my aunt’s soup ladle and think of the soup with the tiny meatballs that started every Christmas meal. I don’t remember what the people around me were talking about. She didn’t hold my hand and teach me to ladle soup from it. It’s just the ladle she used for the soup while my mom and her other sisters put out the rest of the food on the table.
I want a boat like Gibbs has.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Thursday, August 28, 2014

I was recently invited to a Pioneers in Health Care in Alaska event. I suppose it was inevitable that at some point someone would call me a pioneer. That didn’t stop me from feeling forty more gray hairs popping out of my head or my neck’s turkey waddle from shaking even harder. Then I stopped to think for a moment and the picture of the young woman who first came to Alaska and got involved in health care delivery in remote locations popped into my head. I realized she looked a whole lot younger than the person staring out at me from the mirror in the morning.

Being involved in health care in Alaska in the seventies and early eighties was absolutely heady. Alaska was starting to reap the financial benefits of the oil that was flowing down the pipeline. We had more money than we knew what to do with. Even our beloved political class couldn’t spend it fast enough. It just kept piling up. And for the first and last time ever, I saw our esteemed elected officials actually put their money where their political campaign promises were and fully fund health care programs.
We had alcohol programs in just about every hub village in the state. Ditto mental health programs. Ditto women’s shelters, youth programs and early education programs. Yep, we funded them all. There was a concerted attempt to meet just about every social health care need in the state. And that was great right up until the time the money starting flowing slower… and slower… and slower. Something had to go in order to ever pretend to a balanced budget.
You know the rest of this story already, don’t you? The alcohol and mental health programs were all but wiped out. Spending on programs in big cities, let alone smaller bush communities, dropped dramatically. Oh we all still moaned and groaned and rent our clothes in despair over the statistics of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, rape and domestic violence. And politicians continued to mouth piously about the need to do something to change those numbers. It is over forty years later and those statistics still horrify because there is no real action behind the words.
I’ll be the first to admit that we made a lot of mistakes back then. Not all the money put into those programs was used wisely. But we were just starting to learn what worked when the money got pulled. We were learning there is no one size fits all in alcohol treatment. We were learning that handling mental illness in a small community took more than a counselor and an office. We were discovering that you could make an impact on domestic violence if you had real options to offer a woman other than returning to the situation based on a six week domestic violence course the abuser took. We were learning all those things when the programs died. Now we face an epidemic we could have impacted if we’d just stayed the course. But programs not showing immediate positive results are a hard sell to politicians who see them as being too troublesome and hard to justify. There is not a lot of support for a population of alcoholics and abusers whose votes are rarely courted.
I find it rather sad to contemplate that we have just blown over $200 million on an aborted port project that we are walking away from with not much more than a shrug and little public outcry. If that money had gone into social services programs that failed so resoundingly, I wonder if the political class would let us walk away with no real consequences and the promise of more money to try again tomorrow.
I always thought being a pioneer meant looking back with some satisfaction over a lifetime of achievements. I know physical health care is much better in almost every bush region of this state thanks to dedicated workers at the Native non-profits now providing that care. I think that despite the lengths still to be covered, in the areas of medical, dental and eye care services, there is a whole population in bush Alaska with better care than a generation ago. 
I just wish that before I become a dearly departed pioneer, I could see some improvement in the social health statistics that break the hearts of all who hear them. Right now, that seems a pretty dim prospect.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:24 AM •

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