Yes, I’m Angry. But I’m Choosing Love Anyway

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Courtesy of El Payo via Flickr

Let me start with this: I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. In fact, the man has the rare ability to crawl under my skin like lice and turn my blood to lava.

Despite these feelings, I have chosen to resist and fight back with the strongest action of all … love.

On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, I posted a single quote to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in response to the eruption in our country:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This is perhaps my favorite quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., and no other words more adequately described how I felt on Jan. 20, 2017. Since then, I’ve watched hate grip this nation from all ends of the political spectrum, and while I’m not going to deny my anger, I’ve grasped for these words with greater fervor now.

A close friend of mine from childhood who is Christian said she has chosen to make love her battle cry. As a Jew who is more secular than religious, I decided to join her. My friend said love is not always an easy choice, and she’s right—which is why choosing to love, rather than giving into hate, is so effective.

President Trump goes against every core value I’ve been raised to believe.

  • My father paid my way through college working as a music teacher and I grew up on the stage, yet President Trump wants to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • I have a profound respect for nature, yet President Trump wants to gut the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • I believe health care is a right, not a privilege, yet President Trump is pushing Congress to disband the Affordable Care Act.
  • I’m a former journalist—launching my career with the First Amendment in my pen—yet President Trump calls citizens like me the “enemy of the American people.”

His lack of empathy for those who are different than him, or believe differently than him, or oppose him politically, appalls me. Yet rather than label other Americans who have labeled me, I stand here on this page, and I am declaring to you, President Trump: I CHOOSE LOVE.

I will not lose friendships over this election and I will strive to speak from a place of reason, rather than anger. I will funnel my dissent into saving animals, helping my family and giving to those in my life who need it. I will stand up for minorities or refugees and call my representatives in Congress to keep you in line. I will celebrate life alongside my Muslim friends, my Christian friends, my Catholic friends, my Jewish friends, and my Atheist friends. I will aim to understand those who are different than me. I will use my writing to provide a voice for the voiceless.

I will love, President Trump, and I will look for the light inside every American, whether they voted for you or not. In the words of another MLK quote that I admire, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

#LOVEWINS

(If you agree, click one of the SHARE buttons below, and share this message with your friends.)

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An Open Letter to Mike Pence on ‘Life’ and Universal Health Care

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Photo courtesy of Sage Ross via Flickr

NOTE: After working in healthcare communications for eight years, this is a subject I felt compelled to write about publicly in light of recent political developments. I’d initially written this letter in January, but refrained from publishing it because of my career. The time has come to speak out, however, so I feel the need to publish this disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post, and on this blog as a whole, are my own and do not represent any other person, business, or entity.  

An Open Letter to Mike Pence on ‘Life’ and Universal Health Care

Dear Vice-President Mike Pence,

I read your quote from the March for Life event on Jan. 27 this year in an article from The Atlantic, “We will not rest until we restore a culture of life in America.”

I’m glad to hear you say that, because this opens the door to let Congress know we want health care for all.

Even after the Affordable Care Act was implemented, 29 million Americans went without health insurance in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015” report. This means nearly 30 million people could not access or afford treatment for conditions ranging from a sinus infection, to a heart attack.

Before the ACA, however, it was much worse. In 2008—during the days of pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps—nearly 16 percent of the U.S. population went uninsured, compared to only 9.1 percent in 2015 (source: U.S. Census Bureau).

If we’re going to talk about restoring a culture of life, let’s start with this, because many people are forced to choose between paying for their food or paying for their medicine. I’m one of them, having agonized over whether to visit the emergency room and risk bankruptcy, or stay home in a potentially life-threatening situation.

In one case, while I was studying journalism in college, my father—a music teacher—could no longer afford to keep me on his health insurance. Before I could find another plan, I became sick with mononucleosis and needed treatment. Yet, no doctor or clinic would see me because I didn’t have insurance. At the same time, insurance refused to cover me because of my pre-existing condition.

More recently, a family member—who would prefer to remain anonymous—may be forced to leave retirement simply for employer health benefits. She is a retired teacher and a type 2 diabetic who receives her health insurance through the Federal Exchange. However, with Congress’s plans to repeal the ACA, she’ll be forced to work full-time because she can’t afford the state’s $600-per-month premium and she’s too young for Medicare. Once the ACA is gone, she will have a “pre-existing condition” once again.

You see, Vice-President Pence, in my world, life matters too, which is why health care is a right and not a privilege. I hear politicians preaching their morals time and time again, but their actions do not reflect their words. I’m going to make it easy.

The time has come to get serious about a universal or single-payer system that leverages public-private partnerships. This will ensure cost control of sky-rocketing drug prices, allow practitioners to concentrate on treating and healing patients, and still offer businesses opportunities in the private sector. France demonstrates an exemplary standard of this model, so much that the World Health Organization ranked them as number one in the world for health systems.

I’ve worked in journalism, media and communications for more than 10 years, of which eight were spent in healthcare communications. I have seen this issue from all sides and am confident when I say, this proposal could be a real solution.

I am ready to help restore a culture of life in America, Vice-President Pence. The question is, are you?

How Entering the Obama Era from Israel Helps Me Come to Terms with Trump

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I wrote this narrative/op-ed on Jan. 20, 2017–the day President Donald Trump was inaugurated. I submitted it to a couple of publications, but it was never accepted fast enough to be timely. I hate to see it go to waste, and therefore decided to publish it here. I thought some of you might enjoy the read or perhaps find it insightful.

How Entering the Obama Era from Israel Helps Me Come to Terms with Trump

Written by Shari Lopatin on Jan. 20, 2017

Eight years ago today, I sat crammed into a tiny Tel Aviv hotel lobby with 30 Jews who were strangers days before, and together, we watched Barack Obama become the President of the United States of America.

When we boarded our El Al flight to Israel about a week prior for our Birthright trip, we’d left our country still swimming in the Bush era. I was the only Jew from Arizona and felt nervous at first, knowing not a name in our group. But after riding camels through the desert and sleeping in Bedouin tents scattered throughout the Negev together, we’d become like family, and I watched alongside these newfound friends 6,700 miles away as our country’s tides changed on Jan. 20, 2009.

I come from a state that leans conservative and Christian. I’d never been surrounded by others who believed as I do, or voted as I do, or survived anti-Semitism like I had. It not only felt safe to cheer as I watched Obama take his oath of office, but electric and freeing, like the adrenaline of a raging river or, as one of my travelmates said, “winning the World Series.”

For us, this was our first political victory. When I’d cast my virgin ballot at age 18, the year was 2000 and George W. Bush had won. Then, 9/11 rocked our nation and although I’d supported our involvement in Afghanistan, I’d protested Iraq from the beginning. Somewhere deep in my bones, I knew this war would change the future of the U.S. and the world.

The taste of triumph, I’ve learned, has a sweet but perilous flavor. I was young and hopeful when Barack Obama took office, and over the coming years, I flourished. The Affordable Care Act—known to many as Obamacare—granted me freedom to leave a full-time job and afford an individual health plan while I started a business. The tax credit for first-time homebuyers in 2009 allowed me the financial flexibility to buy my first house.

Under Obama, I became Middle Class America. I prospered. And I’m dang thankful for it.

But as I said, the taste of triumph has a sweet, yet perilous flavor. I grew used to winning, and in my elation, became numb to the fury developing in the underbelly of our country. Not everyone moved forward like I did, and in their anger, many turned to a man who manipulates emotion to gain power.

Today, that man stands in the spot Obama did as I watched from a boxed television set in Israel, and I find myself feeling alone again. In my despair, I close my eyes and like a wind funnel sucking me through time, I fall into that scrunched Tel Aviv hotel lobby eight years ago, surrounded by rejuvenation and faith and acceptance.

That moment, though fleeting, will survive through eternity in all of us, and I tell myself—even as we enter an era of uncertainty and darkness—Yes We Can.

Shari Lopatin is a writer, journalist and storyteller with more than 10 years in media and communication. She writes both fiction and non-fiction and prefers to concentrate on the micro and macro effects of social issues.

America, How I Weep

 

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Courtesy of “Beverly & Pack” via Flickr

 

America, How I Weep

A Poem, by Shari Lopatin

©Shari Lopatin, 2016

 

Oh America,

How I weep for thee!

My once beautiful muse,

My distant refuge.

Your maternal embrace

Protected our grace, and welcomed

My family whole.

 

But now I stand atop your dream,

In cowardice and fear I glean …

We watch with haste,

Such distaste,

And mourn the death of hope

And faith.

 

America, when will you rise?

And crush the hate which I despise?

With this prayer,

I say to thee,

Revive the truth in us … in me.

 

 

Martin Shkreli Looks Like a Sith Lord in this AP Photo

I first saw it on my Facebook feed today from a New York Times article. And I couldn’t help but notice, Martin Shkreli kinda looks like a Sith Lord in this Associated Press photo … doesn’t he?

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And considering today is the first FULL day that Star Wars is open in theaters, I call this #winning for the AP!

Enough About Donald Trump, What About Burundi?

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Rwandan refugee camp in east Zaire, 1993 (courtesy of CDC)

I get it: Donald Trump is the leading front-runner in the Republican primary who spouts off whatever comes to mind and is a former reality T.V. star.

But amidst the American media’s love affair with Trump, other important world issues are being overlooked. Lately, I’ve been seeing articles pop up about potential genocide in Burundi.

Doesn’t Burundi deserve our attention, too?

According to a Dec. 15 article in the Washington Post, the violence has forced more than 220,000 Burundians to flee their homes.

Reflections of Rwanda

Burundi’s population is split primarily between Hutu (80 percent) and Tutsi (19 percent). For anyone that knows their history, they’ll recall the infamous Rwandan genocide of 1994, where more than 800,000 people were slaughtered (thanks for the actual number, Baltimore Sun).

Remember the movie, “Hotel Rwanda?” Yeah folks, that could happen again.

Yet every time I open my Facebook news feed, all I see is “Trump this” and “Trump that.” Meanwhile, Burundians are screaming for the major world powers to pay attention to their country.

I have a friend who survived the Bosnian genocide that started in 1992 and she can tell you it took years before the world intervened. Meanwhile, she lost close family members and friends.

Time to Switch Our Focus?

Of course we need to watch what Trump says and speak out if we disagree, but should our media be giving the man so much attention, that other world events—like potential genocide—aren’t being reported with the same vigor?

I’m a former journalist and I’m asking you: what the heck happened to my beloved profession?

How Inflammatory Language Brought Us to the Age of Mass Shootings

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SWAT team members approach a building with a gunman inside. Thirteen people were killed and 30 more wounded in an attack by a lone gunman at Fort Hood Nov. 5, 2009 (courtesy Wikipedia).

First Planned Parenthood, then today: San Bernardino, Calif.

Both are medical clinics. Both are supposed to be safe places … kinda like schools (anyone remember Sandy Hook)?

According to CNN, president Barack Obama said, “We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.”

Regardless of what you think of our president politically, you have to admit: HE’S RIGHT.

How Did We Get Here?

I was in high school when Columbine happened on April 20, 1999. The massacre shocked the world because things like that just didn’t happen. Since then, mass shootings have begun increasing in frequency, until today, they’ve become commonplace.

So how did we get here?

Some say we need more gun control. Others say we need better access to mental health care. Personally, I think it’s a combination of both … but everyone seems to be leaving out one very important factor.

This is a sociological problem, not an individual one, which means a sickness has somehow pervaded our society. 

What’s the one thing that’s changed from 1999 until now? SOCIAL MEDIA.

The Age of Propaganda and Inflammatory Language

Now, I’m not blaming social media. In fact, I’ve worked in it for a living.

However, social media gives people, institutions, political parties and special interests an unfiltered platform to broadcast their thoughts and ideas.

You know those Facebook memes that people love to share that instigate endless political debates on comment threads? They’re developed by groups with certain agendas to garner engagement and prompt action by plugging into people’s emotions.

You know what that’s called? PROPAGANDA.

Hitler used it. Stalin used it. Kim Jong-un still uses it. Propaganda is powerful because it plays into people’s emotions and fears. Even the most educated can become susceptible to it.

In the age of social media and content marketing, propaganda is running rampant in our country. It’s causing the best of us to scream at each other and it’s making our society angry.

As angry individuals, we insult others behind the blanket of “freedom of speech.” We say whatever we want because “we have that right.” We develop a sense of persecution, which leads to an “us versus them” mentality. “Them” always end up less human than “Us.”

How Do We Fix It?

We need to begin using our words responsibly again. I’m a journalist; I’m all about the First Amendment. But with great freedom comes great responsibility. And words can kill.

We also need to hold media outlets, political institutions and special interest pages accountable when using inflammatory language. Don’t watch them. Don’t share their memes. Don’t comment. JUST DON’T ENGAGE.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What are your thoughts on the increasing mass shootings in the U.S.? Do you agree with my conclusion?

Why I Waste Time During Work

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We live in a world where productivity rules. If you’re not working a billable hour, you’re dirt.

This mentality becomes even more perpetual if you’re a business owner who sells services, rather than things … like me. I don’t sell shirts or dresses or books (yet). If I’m not working an hour, I’m not getting paid.

And yet, I make a conscious effort to waste time during the workday.

I pull weeds. I watch an episode of Parks and Recreation. I pet my cats, or talk to my boyfriend, or sift through the sea of endless posts on Facebook.

I. Waste. Time.

Why?

Because I’m more productive this way. Not only do I complete more work, I develop better end-products. My writing is crisper. My imagery is more vivid. My social media posts are snappier, while my media strategies are tighter.

That equals happier clients, who always come back for more. Happy clients ensure future freelance writing work, which ensures I pay my mortgage, pay my bills, and have healthcare coverage.

Studies prove my theory, too.

Take this excerpt from a 2013 New York Times article by Tony Schwartz called, “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive.”

Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

BOOM. Do I know my stuff, or do I know my stuff?

So tell me, do you waste time during your workday? Why or why not?


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


Preparing to Say Good-Bye

Saying good-bye is nature’s cruel joke, and now I’m preparing to say good-bye to my best friend and my writing companion of the past 13 years.

Chance “Mazel Tov” Lopatin, also known as Mr. Man.

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My cat, Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth

For those of you who have been following my blog for years, you may remember Chance from the viral Freshly Pressed post, “My Jewish Cat and the Art of Guilt.”

Why am I writing about Chance today? Well, it’s simple: nothing else is on my mind. I can’t write about my novel, or social media trends, or books to improve your craft, or literary agents. None of it would be possible without Chance’s love over the years.

Chance is 15 years old. He’s lived with me for 13 of those years. I met him when I was just 20, a few months after moving out of my mom’s house. He was a stray who appeared from a bush, like a mirage, as I prepared to go grocery shopping.

I never made it to the store.

Chance has been more than a pet. He’s been a soul mate.

Me with Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth
Me with Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth

From ages 20 – 27, my life was not the most stable. I moved eight times in four years. I attended three different colleges. Through it all, Chance was the one constant. He was there for college parties, roommates, college graduation, first professional job, first major break-up, finding love again, the Great Recession, buying my first house, severance and unemployment, and finally, quitting Corporate America to launch my business.

He has been my ultimate source of comfort, my weapon against anxiety disorder, and my most trusted confidant. While in college, Chance even woke me one night, warning me of two intruders who’d just broken into our apartment.

A year-and-a-half ago, Chance was hospitalized when he became diabetic. I visited him every day. When the vet tech brought him to the visitation room, Chance rose from the dead like a Phoenix, regaining his appetite and his will to “talk.” I remember the vet tech saying, “I’ve never seen a cat who loves his human so much.”

Chance has also been my writing buddy.

Chance cuddling with me while I worked from home.
Chance cuddling with me while I worked from home.

This has been especially true since I established Shari’s Ink in September last year. Chance could never cuddle with me enough. Writing with him on my lap always made the process more warm, more soulful, more joyous. Yes, it is possible.

But nothing good is meant to last. That’s the irony, and cruelty, of life.

The sophisticated duo: me and Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth
The sophisticated duo: me and Chance. Photo credit: Oscar Barrascouth

Chance is now growing very weak from end stage kidney disease. The looming eye of death is ever watchful. When the moment comes to say good-bye, you may not hear from me for a week or two. But at least you’ll know the reason why: that a mortal cat has passed on, while a legend has been born.

Chance, the legend
Chance, the legend

My name is Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.


Workspace Design Ideas to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity

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Today, I have a cool guest post from a company called Modernize. I don’t usually allow companies to guest post on Rogue Writer, but these guys pitched an idea on decorating your writing space to help inspire creativity and increase productivity!

So naturally, I just had to say yes. I found these tips helpful, and the pictures a lot of fun. I hope you do, too. 🙂

Workspace Design Ideas to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity

By Jane Blanchard

No matter if you’re an artist in a studio or a businessperson in an office, your work environment has a major impact on your productivity and efficiency. Because of your surroundings, you could be unknowingly making it harder to focus and concentrate. It’s bad enough when your work space isn’t conducive to getting tasks accomplished and making headway on important projects, but perhaps your work space is even physically and emotionally draining.

When you work from home and depend upon your own diligence to ensure that obligations are met and important duties are fulfilled, the design of your home work space is one of the most important factors in your productivity. In fact, studies have shown that the most important determinant in an your ability to focus is your physical surroundings.

With that said, here are some tips and design ideas for a workspace at home that will help make you as productive, creative, and efficient as you can be.

Ample Lighting

Though it’s often overlooked, lighting is crucial to a successful work space. Without sufficient lighting, you’ll be straining your eyes in order to see, which can cause debilitating headaches; you’ll also experience fatigue much faster than you normally would, and it’s been said that spending prolonged periods of time in dark spaces can produce depression or exacerbate depressive symptoms.

Via Modernize
Via Modernize

This home office has plenty of natural light coming from the large windows and skylights, but also has plenty of ambient lighting installed for working into the night time if need be. Additionally, experts have said positioning the desk in front of a window to give you a view of natural scenery can have a calming effect, helping to prevent you from succumbing to stress while also inspiring and promoting your creativity.

Desk and Chair

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Via Modernize

No matter what type of work you do, a good desk and a chair are incredibly important and are likely the center of your work space. Anyone who’s sat at a desk only to spend several minutes adjusting the seat and scooting the chair around to find a vantage point that lets you reach all the desk’s contents knows that, in terms of comfort and productivity, it’s incredibly important to have a desk and chair that fit your individual body. According to ergonomics, the top of your computer screen should be at or below eye level, both of your feet should reach the floor, and you should use an adjustable chair that allows you to recline occasionally to help reduce pressure on your spine and avoid back pain.

Color

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Via Houzz

You might choose your paint colors based on a whim or what strikes you as attractive on any given day, but you should be aware that colors significantly affect people on an emotional and even a physical level. According to color psychology experts, when you want to boost focus you should consider surrounding yourself with lots of greens. Teal and blue-green colors can inspire motivation, and blue has been said to inspire productivity specifically.


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?