Elise Sereni
Saturday, February 06, 2016

Joe came over to bring me flowers for my birthday with his mom. I finally remembered to return a little car that he’d left at my house a few years ago and I had carefully saved for him. He and his mom visited for about 30 minutes during which time we were only in my living room and office. And yet, when he was leaving, he couldn’t find the car. Neither could we. How do little boys do that? I swear it just de-materialized in his hand. And I also know that I will not find it again until I accidentally step on it in the dark some night. And then it gets thrown out. Because saving a little metal toy car for over three years for a boy who is no longer interested in those cars borders on insanity. And I’m already close enough.

Elise Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Friday, February 05, 2016

SARAHPAC, our very own half governor’s fund to keep her “relevant “, paid out $66,000 last year for speech writers. I have only two things to say about that. One, Sarah has speech writers? And two, I want some of whatever those speech writers are using when they crafts her speeches. That must be some very special stuff.

Elise Patkotak • 03:42 AM •
Thursday, February 04, 2016

My maternal grandparents were married on the same date that would, years later, become my birthday. Given that I am the grandchild of immigrants with no connection to the families left behind in Italy, any little piece of information like this is another thread tying me to people I never really knew.

My grandparents emigrated a little over 100 years ago. They came to America with no money, no English and limited skills. The only things they had was their traditions and the hope that this new life would be better for their children than what they’d left behind. Three generations later their grandchildren include doctors, bankers, lawyers, engineers, teachers, West Point graduates and one philosopher who still has his father confused. Their dream came true.
Like so many immigrants before and since, they faced prejudice, hate, threats of violence and claims that they would change the character of American life. They were “other”.  My mother told me the reason Italians in her small neighborhood built their own church was because the existing church was populated with Irish who made it clear Italians weren’t welcomed. This was but a generation or two away from when the Irish would have faced the same issues with the Germans who first populated that area of Philadelphia.
My grandparents lived in a small, all Italian enclave where they could feel safe, surrounded as they were by friends and neighbors who spoke the same language, had the same customs and cooked the same food. It was being cradled in that security that allowed them to fulfill their ambitions for their family. When everything around you is strange, you need something familiar to cling to in order to anchor the chaos of your world.
Immigrants continue to flock to America to make a better life for their families. The vast majority of them, whether they are documented or undocumented, are hardworking, law-abiding people. Their children, given a chance, will be great assets to our country. I know as the grandchild of immigrants that I grew up hearing what an amazing country America was and how I was never to forget how lucky I was to be born and raised here. While the Mafia might leave a bad feeling in some people about Italians, the truth is that the Mafia got a lot of press but represented a very small percentage of Italian immigrants – you know, like terrorists and Muslims.
Today we face people immigrating to America who wear unfamiliar clothes and pray to an unfamiliar god. Although the majority are good citizens, because they are so different we are afraid, so afraid that some condemn them all for the sins of a few. If that had been the case when my grandparents moved to America, we’d all have been thrown out when Al Capone became the face of Public Enemy Number One.
I was educated in Catholic schools. The women who taught me wore long black gowns with stiff white cardboard like things around their necks and faces. Short of actually throwing a bag over their head, they were as covered up as any conservative Muslim woman wearing a hijab, and only slightly less covered up than someone wearing a burka. There was a time when these nuns were the “others” to be feared. They came from the old world and brought old, conservative ideas with them. For our Italian community, they were perfect. Outside of our little world, they drew looks.
Nuns are no longer considered so “other”. This may be caused by their more modern dress or just because years of proximity have removed their unknown factor. If we’re lucky, someday women in burkas or hijabs will get no more than a passing glance because they too will have become just another piece of the fabric of America.
My father’s little Italian grocery store had provolone cheese hanging from a bar over the counter. At the time, we all wanted nothing more than to assimilate and become mainstream – we wanted the provolone gone. Now a store like my dad’s is considered a specialty store and Italian food, culture and dress has become Italian-American and part of the mainstream.
We should not fear immigrants and the changes they bring. It’s what keeps us a young, vigorous country. Seriously, would you really want to live in an America without Olive Garden?

Elise Patkotak • 03:17 AM •
Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Yesterday was my birthday. I am now officially at a point where I can sincerely regret not taking better care of myself. I never really thought I’d ever get this old. I was never going to trust anyone over 30. And I was certainly never going to be over 40. Damn!

Elise Patkotak • 03:49 AM •
Tuesday, February 02, 2016

I know they love me and want to be close to me. They are wonderful dogs. But I am having serious claustrophobia issues in bed at night. They get so close on either side that I risk crushing them if I turn over. Getting up to pee in the middle of the night means waking completely up so I can carefully extricate myself and not accidentally toss one of them to the floor trying to get out of bed. I bought a queen size bed thinking it would solve the problem but all it’s done is given me acres of space to view from my the tight space I’m allowed to occupy.
Thank god they are so damn cute!

Elise Patkotak • 03:45 AM •
Monday, February 01, 2016

Reality TV with people who should not be on public view ever
Presidential candidates who embody the worse of the lowest form of Americans
Snow in New York City but not Anchorage
The price of oil below $30 a barrel
What the hell is happening to us?

Elise Patkotak • 03:13 PM •
Thursday, January 28, 2016

There are some who will claim that this weekend’s earthquake was the result of some natural phenomena concerning plate tectonics or some such thing. There are others who will claim it is nature’s reaction to Trump and Palin being in the same space at the same time – some sort of cosmic overload. I think it was God’s way of telling us we were becoming much too complacent. Just because She’s been sending most of her disasters south recently, we shouldn’t assume She doesn’t have a few left for us.

I reacted as I usually do in an emergency. First I deny it. Then I panic. This is probably why I never did make a very good nurse. When a patient is turning blue, it is apparently considered bad form for a nurse to run around screaming, “He’s gonna die! He’s gonna die!” But that was my go-to move. And it apparently still is my go-to move. Ask my dogs. They looked to me to be strong and calm and show them how we would all survive the quake ok because I knew exactly what to do. They were sorely disappointed. I catch them looking at me now with a distinct sense that they realize I am not the person who will be the calm at the eye of the storm.
I imagine Anchorites and their surrounding neighbors will be talking about this quake for quite a while to come. It certainly re-enforces the message that all those earthquake precautions emergency responders are constantly reminding us about have validity. They aren’t just trying to scare the hoo-ha out of us. The ’64 earthquake may have happened in a different century but its lessons are still relevant. Being prepared is still the best reaction to this kind of emergency.
We can get so caught up in the insanity of the current election cycle, the hysteria over our financial future and the reality that New York City has more snow than we do, that we forget how precious it is to just wake up in the morning to a house that is solidly planted on the ground with our families safely around us. A shake this bad tends to pull us back to the reality of what really matters in life.
This is not to say that whoever is elected president doesn’t really matter or the resolution of our fiscal fiasco isn’t important. But above all else, natural disasters remind us that our families, our neighbors, our routine of life are also important. When it gets shook up, we get shook up. We were lucky that most of us escaped this quake with little to show for it aside from some fallen pictures and broken glasses. Waking up the morning after the earthquake to an intact home, to uninjured animals, to a house that still had running water and heat – that’s about all that really matters in the end. Without those in place, how would I ever have time to worry about whether Sarah Palin is actually capable of forming a coherent sentence or not.
Maybe, in the end, this earthquake will turn out to have been a good thing for many of us because it dragged us back from the precipice and put us solidly in the middle of all that’s most important to most of us. All the extraneous noise goes away as we rediscover the sublime joy that comes from knowing all is still safe in our world, which may have been shaken but has not been broken.
Here’s the bottom line about earthquakes and other natural tragedies. When they happen in Alaska, you know that help is always just a house away because we take care of each other. When one of my dogs got her head caught in my fence, I did not hesitate to run to my neighbor for help. And Clint never hesitated a moment in providing the help, getting my dog’s head out of the fence and never once questioning the viability of a dog with that level of brain power.
My heart and thoughts go out to those who suffered losses with this earthquake. But it takes more than the earth shaking under our feet to make Alaskans panic. You want to see real panic? Take away our PFD check.  Short of that, Alaskans will be just fine.

Elise Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I feel we should start a book called Where’s Jeb? Like Where’s Waldo except all the other figures in the picture would be other Republicans running for president.
Hey, someone needs to find Jeb. He’s been missing in action for quite awhile now and I’m worried that Cruz has put him into a cellar somewhere and is planning to make a coat from his skin.

Elise Patkotak • 03:25 AM •
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A message to the other 49 states… Sarah is all yours. Thanks for taking her off our hands.

Elise Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Sunday, January 24, 2016

I was in bed when last night’s earthquake hit. Being a true Alaskan, I spent the first part of it lying in bed and expecting it to be over quickly. Then the house started to roll and I thought, hmmm.... maybe this isn’t just a regular little quake. Then Carm woke up and that meant it had to be bad. He’s getting older and it takes a lot to wake him up at night - or in the morning for that matter.
So I jumped out of bed and put clothes on because, due to my Catholic upbringing, I know it’s worse to be outside with just panties on than it is to die in an earthquake. Now the dogs were sitting up on the bed looking at me to make their world stop shaking. That’s about when the pictures and knick knacks started falling. And all I could think was to get under a doorway. The birds had their cages to protect them. I had to get the dogs under the doorway with me. And that went over about as well as you would expect with one crazed lady and two shaking dogs. It was like trying to herd cats. By the time I had managed to grab them both without dropping either one, the quake was over.
I thought about checking for damage and decided to just go back to bed. Since I didn’t smell a gas leak or hear sirens outside, I figured it could wait until morning. The fallen plants were unamused by this decision.

Elise Patkotak • 12:06 PM •
Saturday, January 23, 2016


Elise Patkotak • 03:57 AM •
Friday, January 22, 2016

Anyone who has lived in Bush Alaska knows that life there can be harsh. Everything from advanced health care to Costco is a plane ride away. Under these circumstances, it’s hard enough for people to care for themselves; caring for their pets becomes even more problematic.

We’ve heard the horror stories from Bush villages of dogs chained up for life with no chance to be free or ever know a kind word or touch. But what we don’t often hear about are the people in the Bush who love their pets. They provide affection, care and shelter to these animals in the same way you or your neighbor does. But pet owners in the Bush have one extra worry. If their pet gets sick, there is no vet close by.
The other side of this equation is the loose dog problem that’s still found in our smaller, more remote villages. These dogs are usually remnants of the dog teams that were the skidoos of the past. Once motorized vehicles took over, these dogs lost what had been their main purpose. People didn’t quite know what to do with them. No spay or neuter clinics meant they were able to breed indiscriminately and create the dog packs that can terrorize remote villages.
There is also the ongoing problem of disease transmission. In my twenty-seven years in Barrow, I don’t think I remember a time when the village wasn’t under a rabies quarantine. Rabies is endemic to the fox population of the North Slope. Loose dogs come in contact with these foxes and bring rabies into a village. So caring for the dogs in a village is both a humane gesture to those animals and a wise move to protect human health.
I was lucky I lived in Barrow when I came home one day and found my dog scooting along on her butt with her left hind leg held straight out. Even for my Lovey this was not normal. I was lucky because the North Slope Borough had a Public Health Division led by a vet. He was able to diagnose the broken leg, cast it and show me how to nonchalantly stand in 20 below weather with a towel wrapped around Lovey’s waist to hold her up while she took care of business. Unfortunately, the North Slope only covers part of the Alaskan Bush. The majority of villages still do not have access to this care for their pets.
So how do you handle a problem so remote and, in some ways, so hidden from those of us on the road system? Given that most of these villages could not support a full time vet practice, even if people had the money to pay a vet, what other solution would work? Well, according to the Alaska Rural Veterinary Outreach program (ARVO), one way to address the problem is to have vets visit these villages offering immunizations, spayings, neuterings and general health check ups at little to no cost. This effort, in turn, relies on veterinarians willing to offer their time and services free of charge for the welfare of these animals and villages willing to make space and other amenities available to the vets.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows vets that the majority of them tend to be pretty nice people. They have supported this effort almost since its inception. And I honestly would have expected no less from the many vets who have cared for my animals over the years.
With the help of volunteers from all areas of veterinary care, and the support of the Alaska State Veterinary Medical Association, ARVO is making a difference in the quality of life for animals in remote Alaskan villages as well as protecting people from health problems that result from un-spayed, un-neutered, unvaccinated animals. This Saturday, ARVO will hold its first ever fundraiser at the Crowne Plaza from 5PM to 9PM with a silent auction, food and speakers. So plan to head over on Saturday, hear some great speakers, bid on some fun auction items, and help make life better for those animals and their people who have no other place to turn. If you want a glimpse at what your support provides, just go to akrvo.org and check out the pictures. Pet owners whose pets are cared for are, apparently, very happy people.

Elise Patkotak • 03:02 AM •
Thursday, January 21, 2016

Had to do my annual clothes shopping today. Every year, this is the worse 45 minutes of my life.

Elise Patkotak • 09:00 PM •
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

There is a major snow storm threatening the East Coast while I anxiously scan the forecast looking for any hint of snow in our future. And I live in Anchorage, Alaska.
What is wrong with this picture?

Elise Patkotak • 03:11 AM •
Monday, January 18, 2016

The dogs race into the office for the first treat of the day. It’s how we start each day at the computer. Snowy grabs the chicken jerky and runs with it. Carm looks at it as if he can’t believe I’m giving him something that unappetizing and walks away from it. I toss it onto his doggie bed in the office. Snowy come back for more and sees the unattended chicken jerky. He slowly and surreptitiously circles the uneaten chicken jerky on Carm’s bed. Carm, using some sense that dogs have when another dog is sniffing around what’s theirs, comes racing down from upstairs where he went in disgust at the sad treat I was offering. He finds Snowy standing quietly over the jerky, staring at it with total focus to make sure it doesn’t accidentally disappear if he takes his eyes off of it for a minute. Carm quietly sneaks his head under Snowy’s and grabs the now most desirable chicken jerky and goes back to his dog bed with it where he chews on it with the least amount of enthusiasm ever seen in a dog supposedly enjoying a treat. Snowy stares in dismay. I give them both a different treat just to get them to move on in life. Carm likes the second one better. Snowy grabs the partially chewed jerky after almost swallowing the second treat whole and runs with it. Carm is now standing next to my chair looking quite dismayed. I give him another treat. I would have made a lousy mother.

Elise Patkotak • 11:56 AM •

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