Elise Sereni
Thursday, February 28, 2013

My grandparents sent their children to public school because they couldn’t afford anything else. As Italian immigrants who were mostly illiterate, they were thrilled that their children were receiving an education. They figured they could handle the religious stuff at home.

When I was growing up, my parents made a different choice. They sent my brother, my sister and me to exclusively Catholic schools. They didn’t have a lot of spare cash, and sometimes the parish kicked in that year’s tuition if they were short. But one way or another, all three of us were in Catholic school from pre-kindergarten through college.
It seems to me that one of the bedrocks of this country is not only the separation of church and state, but also the guarantee that all children have the right to an education. It’s really what creates equality. Doesn’t matter how poor you or your parents are. If you can get an education, you can get ahead. You can move from the lowest rung to the highest rung of society. Minimally, you can inch your way into what’s left of America’s middle class. In my youth, that was called “The Immigrant’s Dream”.
The bill now in the Legislature that would allow vouchers for parents to use state money to pay for private education for their children has the potential to destroy what many of us consider one of the most critical components of our society. It may not be a component that always works as well as we would like, but given the challenges we present to our schools to educate every child that walks through their doors, be that child special needs, language challenged or genius level intelligent, it works pretty darn well most of the time.
Since the current Legislature has to deal with looming budget shortfalls as oil revenue slides inexorably downhill, to say nothing of keeping people warm as fuel supplies dwindle and costs rise, I wonder how they plan to pay for this voucher program. If they take the money from the already underfunded and painfully stretched current school budgets, how will the children left in public schools ever have a chance to be competitive? And what about the bureaucracy that would need to develop to assure that all children, no matter where their parents choose for them to be schooled, were receiving an education based on facts and proven science and not religious beliefs? Oh yeah, and when the first parent applies for a voucher so their child can attend a madrassa, I have to wonder how our legislators will react.
I find it very interesting that some of the very same people who squeal like stuck pigs if someone makes the slightest suggestion that even the most minimal steps be taken to curb the use of deadly weapons, because it would infringe on their interpretation of the Second Amendment, have no problem trampling all over the Constitutional mandate for the separation of church and state. I’m not surprised that this is the same group that screams government interference if someone points out that most people don’t hunt with semi-automatic rifles. They view that as a violent, overreaching effort of government to get into their private business. Asking my tax dollars to pay for your child’s religious education strikes me as an equally violent and overreaching effort of government.
People who pick and chose which parts of the Constitution to support should frighten us all. They want to achieve an objective that runs roughshod over our current protections. In this case, we have documents from the convention that created the Alaska Constitution that make it glaringly obvious that the Founding Fathers of not just this country, but also this state, wanted to keep a solid wall between government and religion. It was their way of giving everyone a fair chance without being judged on whether a spirit in the sky, a flaming bush or a jolly fat man, represented your god.
Religious freedom throughout the world is a bitter and divisive issue. In some countries, believing the wrong way will get you killed. The men who founded this country came from just such societies and did everything they could to prevent that from happening here. So did the founders of this state. Our current legislators apparently think they know better. Trust me, they don’t.

Elise Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I am no longer responsible for my questionable fashion choices. I went to get my eyes refracted to find out that I’ve lost not only my night vision but a lot of depth perception and color vision. So despite the fact that my sister insists on pointing out that my fashion sense preceded my eye issues, that’s where I’m placing the blame. You can’t expect me to put things together tastefully if I can neither see them in their true colors, their true depths or at night.
And now it’s time for Fashion Police.

Elise Patkotak • 03:35 AM •
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I was putting my bird back in his cage. The door he uses is at the top of the cage and folds out. He got in and before I could secure it, had a spat with his cage mate causing him to fall backwards into the unsecured door which flew open and nailed me right on the bridge of my nose.
May I just say two things here. One… OUCH@!  And two… damn noses bleed a lot.

Elise Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Monday, February 25, 2013

So I’m watching the Oscars and the first few notes of Memories play, the curtain rises, Barbra Streisand comes out and by the time she’s finished singing the second note, I am sobbing like a baby who’s had the teat ripped from my mouth and I’m still hungry. Cried through the whole song. What the hell?

Elise Patkotak • 03:49 AM •
Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quite honestly, the best part about the Oscars is looking at the outfits and wondering what Joan Rivers will say about them on Fashion Police. The amazing part is that someone with my vision problems can look at those outfits and understand completely why Joan trashes them. Once again, as my mother used to say, don’t you have a mirror in your house to look in before you go out?

Elise Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Saturday, February 23, 2013

Are you ready? For the Oscars, of course. I’m shinning up my tiara and washing my bathrobe so we are all ready for the festivities. Let the boobs pop where the may. I’m ready.
Oh yeah - best drinking game ever.... take a gulp every time a winner thanks their god (as opposed to your god) for making them beautiful and talented. It’s what god lives for.

Elise Patkotak • 03:32 AM •
Friday, February 22, 2013

You know you’re tuning in to too much ID channel programming when you’re watching a seemingly very nice male contestant on Wheel of Fortune and you find yourself wondering if he’s a secret pervert or killer.

Elise Patkotak • 03:36 AM •
Thursday, February 21, 2013

Since my late teens, the Democratic Party has been the party of disarray and confusion. It was the party that self-immolated at every turn. It gave new meaning to the phrase, “Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”. So you can imagine how upside down my world seems right now given that the Republican Party has decided to emulate the Democrats and, at the rate they’re going, planning to be the all time champs in the dysfunctional political party world of America.

Think about it. How dysfunctional do you have to be to give more money to the man who lost the last three or four hundred million you gave him for which he assured you he could buy total victory?  That victory not only did not occur, but the money would have given them more bang for the buck if they’d invested in pajama jeans instead of politicians. Yet these same people are opening their pocketbooks again and offering Karl Rove untold millions, not for the purpose of defeating Democrats, but for the singular purpose of defeating the wrong kind of Republicans.
Yep, Republicans, welcome to the world that was once solely occupied by Democrats determined to never win a national election again. It’s a heady and elite atmosphere to be in but your brains will eventually get use to the lack of oxygen and then all will seem right again. And defeating fellow Republicans will become the norm.
My first introduction to politics was during the sixties when a group of anti-war hippies absconded with the Democratic Party and refused to return it for the longest time. In the same way that the Tea Party represents the far right of conservative thought, anti-war activists represented the far left of liberal thought. Being part of the revolution was great. I felt like I was helping to change the world. In fact, I was pretty much ensuring that liberals would be eclipsed by Richard Nixon’s Silent Majority.
The Tea Party is definitely taking up where the hippies of the sixties left off in turning a very electable party into an internecine battleground, littered with the blood of those who dare to suggest that most Americans do not live on either extreme but tend to occupy the middle. 
Like the activists of the sixties, the Tea Partyers seem more intent on being pure and right than on winning elections. You can imagine how painful this must be for people like Randy Ruedrich. The former head of the GOP here in Alaska, he spent years building a party that won consistently in just about every highly populated area of this state. The only converts he never seemed to be able to make were those stubborn Democrats in the Bush. Given the demographics of this state, that was no hindrance to his steady march for total dominance of one party in Alaska.
Then those pesky Ron Paul people showed up at his convention last year. Between them and the Tea Partyers, he never stood a chance. Party regulars were unprepared for the fight. They were, in fact, stunned by what was happening. I’d seen that look before. It was on Hubert Humphreys’ face every time he looked out the window in Chicago during the convention and wondered what the heck was going on. He never stood a chance once those images hit TV news.
I rather like the idea that the Alaska Republican Party chose to fire their new leader before he was even in office. Democrats would never do something like that. They’d be too fearful of offending someone. They’d sit down and have a talking circle and try to work things out peacefully.
So I think I’ll just sit back and enjoy the battle that’s been joined for the heart and soul of the Republican Party here in this state. And I’ll hope and pray that the Democratic Party can figure out a way to take advantage of the confusion to maybe pick up a few more seats. In my heart of hearts I know that probably won’t happen because the Democrats will never forget the first rule of their party.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is a time-honored tradition that you will only ever be able to take from their cold, dead hands.

Elise Patkotak • 03:44 AM •
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Without a doubt, The Price is Right. When they call a contestant and the audience starts to scream, Abdul, my African Grey, goes nuts. He screams and laughs and screams some more. Which gets Captain (Amazon parrot) screaming too. At this point, CB (Bare-eyed Cockatoo) climbs into her sleep box and pretends she doesn’t know them. She has such class for a bird willing to copulate in public every morning.

Elise Patkotak • 03:44 AM •
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

If someone gave me millions of dollars and I blew it with no discernible results, I highly doubt if a few months later they’d turn around and give me more. The fact that the money men are giving Rove more cash for his new PAC is proof that the Republican Party has reached that stage of crazed where they keep doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. Someone get them golf pants and Metamucil and send them to Florida.

Elise Patkotak • 03:41 AM •
Monday, February 18, 2013

Having rediscovered it in the cabinet above the stove, I am attempting to work my way through the recipes, some vaguely familiar, some leaving me to wonder if I’d ever actually tasted it before. I just wish the recipes did not contain the phrases, “Put enough in to taste right. You’ll know.”, or “Add as much as needed”, or “Use you’re head! You’ll know when it’s enough”. Yep, you’ve got to love family recipes based on measurements that include, “a small hand full”, “a large hand full”, and “about the size of your fingernail”. What could possibly go wrong.

Elise Patkotak • 03:51 AM •
Sunday, February 17, 2013

If I could see what they see, then I wouldn’t worry so much about my dogs barking at a blank wall in the living room. I’m sure in their eyes, something is visible. At least, that’s what I have to believe.

Elise Patkotak • 03:50 AM •
Saturday, February 16, 2013

The MIss America Pageant is returning to the Boardwalk Convention Hall in Atlantic City this year after its multi year exile in Vegas. I grew up down the block from Convention Hall. I remember watching the Miss America Pageant and feeling so inadequate I wanted to die. I just knew I’d never be pretty enough or thin enough or talented enough. I mean, once you’ve had a one armed baton twirler, there is no up to go.
So I’m glad Miss America is returning to Atlantic City so that other girls growing up there have a chance to have an inferiority complex as enormous as mine from watching it every year. It’s nice to see tradition continue.

Elise Patkotak • 03:46 AM •
Friday, February 15, 2013

I got this yesterday and can only hope I’ll stop crying by next week.

I Defied Her Rules

Some 28 years ago I went to visit a friend at her office.  She was Barrow’s only social worker back then. 
I got a chuckle when I noticed a yellow lined legal paper taped to the entrance of her office.
It was a hand written columnar sign-up sheet for interested persons who would like to become foster parents and adoptive parents. 
I was amused because the sign-up sheet was mostly bare.
To boot, it was scratch paper.
I took a pen and decided at that moment that I would fill in my name to every column she had prepared.
I recall the columns were:
Foster parents – boy or girl.
Foster parents, ages – infants to toddlers to teenagers.
Adoptive parents, ages – infants to toddlers to teenagers
Both categories also included options for multiple siblings to foster or to adopt.
I asked her, “Is this for real?”
I may have said, “Your solicitation efforts are futile.”

She warned me that it was an “official” State of Alaska solicitation.
I still laughed and defied her rule and I went on to placing my name in every column.
I left her office to return to mine.
Months went by until one day she called me crying.
A baby had been born.
Relinquished to the State of Alaska – Children & Youth Services.
She was stressed.
I remember her call was on a Friday near our closing hour.
She began to tell me that the mother did not want her.
The family had declined.
The father was not interested.
And now the doctors and nurses wanted her out of the hospital.
The Social Worker couldn’t take her home.
But the Social Worker had a list of people she could count on.
I don’t know how many she may have called. 
I know there were others on the list.
But she had called me.
She reminded me that I had written my name on that official paper.
We spoke that I could take care of her through the weekend.
But her words had touched me.
In fact, the then single girl had to call her boyfriend.
He freaked. He left for Anchorage.
By then, I had figured that I had been called to be this child’s parent.
I had no desire to be a foster parent.
But I also wanted to make a decision immediately that I would be the parent.
I did not want to first visit the child, look at her, and make a decision.
In my thinking, when this child was born, that child, no matter what the child looked like, or in what health condition she had, that child was going to be mine.
The Social Worker gave me a day to make a decision.
By night, my boyfriend was beyond reach.
By morning, I went to the hospital to pick-up my new baby.
The next day I flew to Anchorage with baby tucked in front of me.
I got in a cab, gave him the address and thanked God my boyfriend answered the door.
He said to me, “Are we getting married?”
I said yes!
Then the adoption process really began.
Within three months we were married.
Then it seemed as though the State of Alaska could proceed with the adoption.
But the Indian Child Welfare Act had to be followed.
The mother had 8 months from the birth of the child to change her mind.
Months went by until that 8th month passed.
My friend the Social Worker had another surprise.
Often times, the Courts address the not so pleasing cases.
But this one was scheduled on Valentine’s Day.
February 14, 1986,
Baby Girl Taalak became
Greta Kathrine Suvluuraq Stuermer.

Thank you my dear friend Elise Patkotak the Social Worker and Conrad Bagne, my pro-bono attorney, I’m still ever so grateful that you two made it possible!
Lots of Love, Sandra Stuermer

Elise Patkotak • 03:04 AM •
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I am still not sure how a saint who was killed by arrows while tied to a tree became a symbol of love. Maybe the ex-pope can work something up on that while he’s in retirement.
BTW… best pope joke yet - and I can’t remember if I heard it on Letterman or the Daily show - “The pope is retiring for health reasons. He sprained his neck from spending so much time looking the other way.”

Elise Patkotak • 03:34 AM •

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