Elise Patkotak

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 were 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...Elise Patkotak
There are some who will claim this weekend’s earthquake was the result of natural phenomena concerning plate tectonics or some such thing. There are others who will claim it is nature’s reaction to Donald Trump and Sarah 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...Elise Patkotak
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...Elise Patkotak
Maybe I've missed this, but in the weeping and gnashing of teeth that is the Republican response to anything Obama does, where and when did they reveal their plan for health care in America? They keep attempting to repeal Obamacare, but I missed the announcement of their plan to replace it. Or do they just expect people with pre-existing conditions to go back to no coverage? That’s one way to sock it to that kid born with diabetes. Shouldn't people who want to repeal Obamacare have to have an alternative? Perhaps most important, knowing they have no chance of overriding the inevitable presidential veto, why are they wasting their time and our money when there might just be other issues that need attention? Given two of the bills pre-filed by our Republican legislative leaders focus on...Elise Patkotak
From the Dec. 31, 2015 print edition of Alaska Dispatch News , here’s part of what state Rep. Mike Hawker said about his own retirement: “I’m 60 years old. I am beating terminal cancer. And I am fully vested in my retirement health benefits.” Wow. That came out of the mouth of a Republican. At the top of his list of reasons that he can now retire despite health problems is that he is fully vested in his retirement health benefits. I guess health care coverage is important when you’re sick and fighting for your life. If only there were some way to ensure that all people had that cushion in their lives. The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, is certainly not a perfect solution to anyone’s problem with getting, keeping and being able to afford health care coverage. The rising rates in Alaska...Elise Patkotak
As I get older, I find the changing of the year less and less exciting because I become increasingly aware that I have fewer and fewer new years in my future. On the other hand, anyone who can look back on 2015 and not express some sense of relief that it’s over has clearly not been tuned in this year. Let me catch you up. Donald Trump, a man on his third wife who refers to African-Americans as “the blacks,” is actually a viable candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. And he recently tied with Pope Francis as the second most admired man in America in a Gallup poll. Need I say more? One of the better things about reaching a ripe old age is that you’ve seen things that horrified you, but experience has shown that this too shall pass. Remember, there was a time when Sarah Palin...Elise Patkotak
Christmas is just two days away, so it’s time to write a fun and uplifting column about how wonderful the season is and how grateful we all are. I really, really wanted to actually write that column. But then I saw two headlines last week that made me wonder if any of us can have a happy holiday knowing that not far from any of us is a child living with domestic violence and abuse. The first headline detailed the horrors of child abuse in our state and how often a child has to be damaged before he or she is removed from the abusive situation for good. The second was how our esteemed legislators announced the plan to make even more cuts in education and health . So I thought in the spirit of a holiday based on a baby’s birth, I’d make some suggestions that would cost little money and...Elise Patkotak
Sometimes it’s simply not fun to be the only adult in the room. While everyone else it having fun being silly and stupid, you are required to maintain some semblance of dignity and intelligence. Watching our local politicians at work I have to say that I am becoming more and more convinced that Gov. Bill Walker may be the only adult in any room full of Alaska politicians. Remember when you were a kid and it seemed as though it was always your parents raining on your parade? You know, they’d say things like, “No, you can’t stick that dime into the light socket” or, “Take the dog out of the toilet this minute. That is not for baths.” Or my all-time favorite, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should , so get that record out of the toaster right now.” (A record -- for those of you who...Elise Patkotak
It’s been a hard few weeks here in America. Mass murders seem to happen almost daily. Against all common sense, some people still think Donald Trump is not only a viable presidential candidate but also an actual compassionate human being. The whole world truly seems to be spinning out of control. Given the rapid approach of the holiday season, I thought it would be best to look for something positive to write about that promotes the message that good, kind and compassionate people still exist. I found it at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center. Hiland Mountain is the proud home of the only women’s prison orchestra in the country, an orchestra that is built on volunteerism, donations, love and dedication to the idea that music has power to soothe our souls no matter how dark our world seems...Elise Patkotak
Here is an excerpt from President Barack Obama’s reaction to the shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last week. "This is not normal. We can't let it become normal. If we truly care about this ... then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough." Poor guy. He’s actually delusional enough to think that this shooting will make any more or less of a difference than the many shootings before it. The man arrested after that shooting, Robert Lewis Dear Jr., was described by those who knew him as a malcontent and drifter who had numerous run-ins with the law. Yet he was somehow able to gain access to the kind of lethal weapons that are only ever necessary on...Elise Patkotak