Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, October 23, 2014

They sat across from me at dinner. It was my treat to celebrate their wedding. Their smiling picture, in which they held out their hands with the wedding bands showing, had appeared on the front page of the ADN the day after the ban on gay marriage was overturned in Alaska. They hadn’t planned on becoming the face of gay marriage here but the quirks of fate had made it so. They were the first to apply for a license in Barrow and, when the three-day wait period was waived, the first to marry.

Whether or not their marriage will be successful is still as much of guess as it is for any couple that weds. Statistics show that living together before marriage, as they did, doesn’t necessarily improve the odds on the marriage working. I think statistics will eventually show that marriage is hard whether it is straight or gay and that both marriages are equally subject to the vicissitudes of daily life.
But all that is in the future. For this one night, I was sitting across from two young ladies who were grinning from ear to ear in total joy at the fact that society had finally given them the right to express themselves as other couples have done through the ages. They’d made the public commitment to each other that had for so long been denied them. There were no cloying signs of affection, no “look at me” PDA moments. There was just two happy people talking about the future they planned together, discussing whether and when they might bring children into their lives, debating the finer points of a variety of locations for building their life together.
The next day I checked in with some of my heterosexual friends to see if their marriages had survived the legalization of gay marriage. They all proclaimed that not much had changed and they were still on course with their various spouses. Apparently, despite the fear mongering that seems to somehow surround this topic, gay marriage does not destroy straight marriages. Actually, I was never sure of how that would really work.
Then I read our governor had decided to appeal the lower court decision and asked for a stay on these marriages. The stay lasted mercifully few days, but as we went through them, I thought of that smiling couple sitting across from me, celebrating their love and devotion to each other. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how anyone could deny them the right to love and marry the partner of their choice, so long as both were consenting adults. I could less understand why the state had any right to be in their bedroom determining whom they could or couldn’t love.
Given the amount of hate in today’s world, can we really afford to turn our backs on any love shared by two people? Given the amount of children in state custody needing a forever home, can we really afford to deny any loving and committed couple the chance to share that love and commitment with a child in need?
If your religion tells you this is wrong, so be it. You should not now, nor ever, be required to marry such couples in your church, mosque, synagogue or temple. But our state is not based on a particular religion. Our state is, and must remain, secular. It must remain an entity of law, not religion. And as such, it has no basis to deny the right to marry to consenting adult couples, no matter who it is they love.
I’ve known one of those young ladies sitting across from me since she was a child. Her mother was a dear friend until leukemia took her from us much too soon. Her mother was also gay. It was only thanks to the state government’s recognition of same sex couples’ benefit rights that her mother’s partner was able to take the two years needed to nurse her from the beginning to the end of that disease. Her mother was never able to marry her partner but her partner stood by her side night and day with as much devotion as any spouse would ever show.
No one should ever be denied the right to marry the person they love or to care for them in sickness and in health. Why doesn’t our governor get that?

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

Too bad there isn’t a central number I can call into to notify everyone that I already voted early and they could stop calling me, ringing my door bell, stuffing my mailbox and ruining my tv watching with ads for candidates and ballot measures. It’s been going on for a year or better now. If I didn’t know the issues and candidates at this point, I should probably not have been voting.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You know it’s a badly derivative show when you can call out the lines before the actors say them and know just what shot and look the camera will capture minutes before it happens. So old and tired for a brand new show. Deleted all the episodes I’d DVR’d in the hope that it would be a good show.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:09 AM •
Monday, October 20, 2014

No real explanation needed here. We’ve all had those days.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:08 AM •
Sunday, October 19, 2014

Do not put your phone down the garbage disposal. Do not put it on your driveway and run over it. Just keep repeating… only two more weeks, only two more weeks. Then you can safely pick up your ringing phone and hear nothing more annoying than a charity trying to hit you up at the holidays for a donation. And at this point, that sounds like sweet relief from the taped messages from politicians and their cohorts telling me not only why they are so wonderful and why their opponent eats little children alive and should not be in elected office.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:51 AM •
Saturday, October 18, 2014

Clinic and Office Volunteers Wanted:

Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC) is looking for clinic and office volunteers! Clinic volunteers provide rehabilitation and care for sick and injured birds, from chickadees to bald eagles. Office volunteers will be involved in a variety of activities, including helping with intake procedures, answering phones, preparing mailings, word processing, database entry, etc.  If you’re interested, please email or call us at 907-562-4852. We look forward to working with you – Thanks!

Board Members Wanted:

Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC) is seeking interested, dynamic volunteers to join our Board of Directors! Our mission: to present living science education that instills understanding and appreciation for wild birds and their habitats, and to provide primary medical treatment, rehabilitative care, and potential release for sick and injured wild birds. Each year more than 500 wild birds from all over Alaska are treated at the Bird TLC clinic in Anchorage. Our educational presenters provide 250+ programs every year, reaching communities and creating awareness for wild birds and their habitats. For more information, email , call us at 907-562-4852, or visit us at http://www.birdtlc.net

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:32 AM •
Friday, October 17, 2014

I’ll be heading east this November for my 50th high school reunion… don’t know how that happened, I’m not nearly old enough, certainly not as old as those old people claiming to be my classmates.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:02 AM •
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Last week, a young man named Peter John Henry was charged as an adult with the murder of his foster father Marvell Johnson. Henry is 16 years old. Marvell was 64. Two lives ended prematurely, one in death and the other in what almost surely will be a very long prison sentence if convicted. What makes this sad situation even more tragic is that Henry was a foster child. Johnson was one of those silent heroes in our community, a foster parent trying to give children with less than a good start in life a chance to heal and achieve some measure of peace for him or herself.

Being a foster parent is one of those callings that’s hard to fathom. You open your home and heart to kids with multiple problems ranging from birth-acquired issues such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder to life-acquired issues due to parental neglect and abuse or their own substance abuse. Despite a few exceptions, foster kids are a challenge, especially the foster children Marvell Johnson and his wife Sherry took in. They opened their homes to youth from the juvenile justice system.
For kids in state custody, foster parents are the boots on the ground in the fight to give them a second chance at a decent life. The judges see the children only during hearings and read about their progress through reports made by a variety of therapists and social service workers. Those workers and therapists, in turn, deal with these children through visits and phone calls. But full time, 24 hours a day, there are the foster parents. These are the people who take on the sometimes very difficult task of creating a home for children who have often already been scarred by life in ways most of us can’t imagine. They get to try to find reasonable ways to deal with children who are sometimes not only damaged by life but also have no idea what a real home is like. Foster parents take on the challenge because they believe that every child has the right to know what a home is really like, every child has the right to sleep at night without fear of who will come in their door, every child has the right to some happy childhood memories. Most realize that at best they are offering these children a safe place to be until they become adults because healing all the harm already done to them is nearly impossible. But they keep trying.
Marvel Johnson and his wife raised their own family first and then tried to help other children not lucky enough to be born into the kind of family his was. His 35 years as a volunteer DJ at local public radio station KSKA is a testament to his clear belief that if you are a member of a community, you participate in community life and try to give back to the community that supports you.
The young man who so callously took Johnson’s life will probably never be able to understand the impulse that leads someone to give themselves to others in order to make life a little better all around. That young man probably never had much of a chance himself. Now, angry with his foster father for taking away some privileges and high on Spice, he has ended his future before it began – a future that Marvell and Sherry tried so hard to give him.
At some point in his life, Peter John Henry learned that life is cheap and taking it is no big deal. I can’t imagine what he experienced that led him to believe that killing was a perfectly acceptable response to being grounded. Not that it really matters anymore, because he is no longer a kid in the juvenile justice system receiving treatment and help for his issues. He’s an adult facing possible life in prison where there are no social workers or juvenile probation officers or foster parents looking to help him.
Henry took a good life away from this community and, in doing so, took his own life away from himself.  It is a double loss and a double tragedy. We’ll never know what further good Marvell Johnson would have done for kids in this state. And Henry will never know what potential there might have been for his future because he ended that future with one Spiced fueled night of violence.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:37 AM •
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

All the annoying, loud, insulting half truths passed off as political ads by groups that have no obligation to even reveal who funds them. And let’s not even talk about the crap put out by candidates actually willing to put their names on the ads. Will this noise never stop?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:44 AM •
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bird TLC today. Missed being there while I was out. Being up close with eagles and hawks and falcons, to say nothing of Kodi my crow, is addictive. I need my fix.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:43 AM •
Monday, October 13, 2014

Officially back and at my desk striving once again to write like my heroes wrote. Or at least to make some money at it. Meanwhile, I forgot to note that Oct. 1 marked the 42nd anniversary of the day I arrived in Alaska and Oct. 3 marked the 42nd anniversary of the day I arrived in Barrow. Best decision of my life. Gave me adventures, friends and memories beyond my wildest imagination. And taught me that without a doubt, the arctic is the climate, land and sea that most soothes my soul.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:40 AM •
Monday, October 06, 2014

I am rereading the entire Harry Potter series while traveling in Europe and flying to and from the U.S. What a wonderful world to fall into while elbows jab you and seats hurt your butt and your legs feel like size ten feet trying to fit into size two shoes. Your mind flies away from it all and you are safely back at Hogwarts battling the Dark Lord, which quite frankly seems easier than flying nowadays. Oh Harry, where’s my flying broomstick when I need it?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 11:34 AM •
Wednesday, October 01, 2014

I sit on my balcony listening to the Mediterranean Sea crashing on the beach in front of the hotel and its soothing roar is broken by the sounds of wild parrots squawking and calling to each other. Our guide says they are not indigenous but escapees from an outdoor market that have successfully established themselves in their new environment. He adds that they are being aggressive towards local birds and something will have to be done about them.
We humans forcibly bring new life to a foreign land and then punish that life for adapting and thriving.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 05:32 AM •
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Have had free wifi In all the hotels we’ve visited in both Portugal and Spain. That’s the good news. Bad news is that I’ve become spoiled by fast connect times. Here, where the living is not as rushed as in America, you get a lot of time to contemplate life while waiting for your e-mail to load, assuming it actually loads and doesn’t just drop your halfway through the process. But that’s okay too because then you have the perfect excuse to just go back to your main goal of rereading all of the Harry Potter books before the vacation ends.
Speaking of which, the Quidditch World Cup is about to begin…

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:49 AM •
Friday, September 26, 2014

The view outside my hotel window in Lisbon is a medieval castle high on a hill.  If only I were a princess… and I wouldn’t need a prince, just my puppies and birds.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:21 AM •

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