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

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?

3 Lessons from My Year Without Blogging


I’ve been back to blogging for a few months now, but before that, I stepped away from the blogging world for a year to finish my novel.

When I re-launched Rogue Writer, one of my longtime blogging buddies, Nina Badzin, commented, “I would love to see a post on how it felt to step away and how it feels to be back. Did you stay off social media a lot more, too?”

Nina girl, I can always count on you for writing prompts! Thanks to Nina’s question, I’m now writing this post. So here are the top three lessons I took away from my year off blogging:

1) If you’re working on a larger creative project, DON’T BLOG. It will get in the way of your goal.

I make my living off freelance writing, social media strategy, and content marketing. So trust me when I say this confession was hard for me to publish!

When I stopped blogging, I was working a full-time job as social media manager for a large health insurance company. I worked 50-hour weeks. During that time, I was also chipping away at the novel which I’m now pitching to literary agents.

I had only a few hours of writing time each week. If I’d continued blogging, none of that creative energy would have gone toward my novel, and today, I’d be blogging about how I want to finish my book.

Blogging is fun, but it can sap energy and time which you may need to reach a larger goal. There will always be room later to pick up where you left off on your blog.

2) Taking a blogging break allows you to just enjoy life. Seriously.

When you’re blogging every week (sometimes more), you get caught in the constant need for fresh content. You’ve developed an expectation among your followers that you’ll publish new stuff. After awhile, that pressure can add stress to your life, rather than release it.

When I stepped away from blogging, I felt a sense of relief. My mind wasn’t constantly “on,” and I was able to immerse myself into the world I created for my book. THIS was relaxing. I also enjoyed life a bit more, not having to turn every experience into a piece of online entertainment.

3) You step back and use social media for its original purpose: to be social.

While I was blogging, I tended to use social media for promotional purposes. Build my presence. Increase engagement. Yada yada yada.

But when I stopped blogging, I also stopped posting to my public profiles. I occasionally posted, but it was never on a schedule. Instead, I stuck to using my personal Facebook profile, where I connect with “real” friends and family. I commented on pictures of my friends’ kids, posted photos of my cat, and shared my progress toward finishing my book.

This type of interaction proved to be much more gratifying, and sometimes even fed my creativity!

Have YOU ever taken a blogging break? I’m curious, what did you learn from it?

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?

Death to the Spoon Gnomes!

Is it just me, or do microscopic gnomes sneak into your kitchen at night … and steal all your spoons?

Because each time I clean my dishes, or open my kitchen drawer, I find less and less of this very necessary utensil. Not only does this happen to me, but my boyfriend suffers as well. He quietly revealed to me last week that all his spoons have been disappearing, mysteriously.

I feel like whipping out my old, investigative reporter hat, and following the clues. Because this question is driving me berserk:

What happened to all the spoons?


After nights of lost sleep and cortisol-filled panic attacks, I’ve come to one, discernible answer.

It was the gnomes. 

The evil spoon gnomes. And they all must DIE.

How dare they sneak into my house, without my permission, and take my hard-earned silverware while I’m asleep! They fool the cats, they trick the dog.

But worst of all, when the spoon gnomes strike, you can’t sip soup. Or eat cereal.

Or consume ice-cream.


So, my friends, I implore you. Spoon-lovers of the world unite! And death to the spoon gnomes!

If only life were this easy …

Chester on couchI know, right?

I guess this is what I get for spoiling my cats. By the way, meet my gray tabby, Chester.

Maybe I’m finally understanding what my parents felt like during the weekends, working their asses off while I laid in their bed, watching Dirty Dancing every freakin’ day.

But seriously, don’t you wish your life were THIS EASY?

Yea, I thought so.


The Secret to Getting Treated Like Royalty … FOR ONCE

If you’re freakin’ tired of being pushed around by your boss, or spouse, or just life in general, then you could use a little royal treatment. Right?!

So … if you wanna get treated like royalty for once, become a juror.

Oh, you think I’m kidding?

I just had my FIRST jury duty experience this week. Ever.

I was prepared to be spat upon, emotionally molested, and convicted of indecent exposure by nothing more than a raised eyebrow.

Then, of course, I reminded myself that I wasn’t on trial. This tends to happen with neurotic, overactive imaginations like mine. You get a tummy ache, and it’s automatically cancer, accompanied by imminent death.

But back to this whole jury thing …


I finally read the back of my summons the night before my scheduled doom. And, to my pleasant surprise, I learned that jurors are the judicial equivalent to the Queen of England.

Seriously. First off, the courts opened 15 minutes early, JUST for the jurors. The security guards literally unlocked the doors, scanned the numerous desperate faces begging for relief from the bitter cold, then announced a special entry for “Jurors Only!”

All other infidels would need to remain locked outside, on the unforgiving concrete, until 8:00 a.m.

Upon entry into the palace, I learned that jurors are allowed:

  • Validation for free parking
  • Complimentary coffee
  • A breakroom and fridge JUST FOR THEM
  • Breaks any time they want
  • To bring their own food

That last item, that’s the killer part. Because no one else is allowed to bring their own food. Not police, not witnesses, not even lawyers. Only the jurors.

Should you happen to enter with a lunch box in your hand, the security guards will part ways and announce,

“Here comes the juror! Let him pass!”


They even gave us a movie theatre.

And they didn’t play those crappy airplane movies, either. They showed Oscar-nominated films, people! From directors like Cameron Crowe and John Madden.

Oh yea, and did I mention how we got a personalized welcome from a JUDGE?

I think the next time I’m suffering from lack of self-esteem, I’m gonna show up at court and beg to be a juror. Because sometimes, we all just need a vacation.

Is Your Blog the Equivalent to Long Division?

OK, writers … this one’s for you. Sometimes, you just can’t write about “passive versus active voice” anymore.

And—let’s be real here—there are only so many ways to reveal “the secret to getting more comments on your blog.”


My blog stats proved it. They were pathetic. They were navel lint. Which is why, one day, I finally broke:

“F- it!” I screamed. “I’m doing a blog makeover! And I’m scratching all that professional crap. I’m going rogue.”

Today, I’m over at Lynette Benton’s blog, Polish and Publish | Tools and Tactics for Creative Writers. And I’m writing about the transformation of MY blog: “Why a Blog Makeover Might be Just the Thing You Need.”

So if you are anything like me three months ago—ridiculous blog stats and an online platform equivalent to long division—you just might want to head on over and read this.

I Freakin’ HATE Waiting–Don’t You?

I may be the only writer who thanks her lucky stars she doesn’t live in New York.

Well … OK, I lied. I actually do fantasize weekly about accidentally bumping shoulders with someone like Anna Wintour (editor-in-chief at Vogue) while whimsically frolicking through the streets of Manhattan.

But what I’m talking about are the LINES. The waiting. Because I’m an incessantly impatient person who loathes nothing more than anticipating the end.

Maybe this is a bad thing.


To be honest, I started writing this post a month ago, and can’t really remember why. So to complete it—because I owe you guys a blog rant—here are the top six things I LOATHE waiting for:

  1. Random crap at Wal-Mart. You can never just waltz into that place and buy your usual nail clippers, fish food, or hunting rifle. Because the checkout lines will hold you hostage for an HOUR. Yes, Wal-Mart will turn you into a desperate, neurotic Rapunzel.
  2. Oatmeal at Starbucks. I’m not sure if this only happens to me, but I always end up behind the slow-talker who doesn’t know the difference between a grande and a latte. C’mon dude! All I want is a quick, mini oatmeal to nourish my cells while driving to work.
  3. Rush hour traffic. It may not be creative, but don’t pretend you didn’t know this would make it onto “the list.”
  4. The cable guy. Because he can only make it at some indiscriminate time, like either between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., or 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. … on the Saturday when your niece is getting Bat Mitzvah’d. I suppose this is why Seinfeld dedicated an entire episode to said scenario.
  5. My cat to pee. I’m dead serious. My beloved gray tabby, Chester, will NOT do the deed unless I’m standing over him, purring soft encouragements that “you can do it, go to the bathroom!” while he stares at the untouched, fresh litter as I’m running 15 minutes late for work.
  6. The outcomes of presidential elections. Because the very fate of my LIFE depends on who wins! And we all know if the other guy gets the vote, our lives will dissipate into a mess of foreclosures, rotting hair and the Black Plague.

What do you hate waiting for? I know there’s something just nagging at your brain.

So Kim Kardashian’s Baby Bump is Showing; WHO CARES?!

As I logged into my Yahoo! account yesterday to check my very important and serious email … there were the words … bitch-slapping me across my tender cheeks:

Kim Kardashian’s Baby Bump is Showing!

[Pause … for effect.]

When my eyes finally adjusted to the message, you know what words fluttered through my delicate brain?


‘Who the f– cares!’

I mean, really. I’m not trying to be a celeb grinch or anything, but how many women become pregnant each year? I’ll tell you (yes, I actually looked this up):

In the U.S. alone, nearly 4 MILLION births take place each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that’s births. Can you imagine how many women actually become pregnant?

So Kim Kardashian’s baby bump is showing.

(Note: NOT “Kim Kardashian’s Baby is BORN,” or “Kim Kardashian in Custody Battle”)

Hmmm. To complement this fascinating, breaking, Pulitzer-worthy story, here are some other items that made headlines on Thursday, Jan. 24:



Quick, grab the camera! Light a fire! No, sound the tornado sirens! Hell, make it a nuke warning! Close the movies, call the President … hurry, someone get me a pedicure! STAT!

Meanwhile, I demand a headline of my own: “Shari Lopatin Drives Car.”


Pull My Finger: My Uncivilized Life with Boys

OK, so you HAVE to admit … wit on a woman is sexy. I mean, freakin’ hot.

Which is why I’ve embarked on my latest mission to find some hilarious chicas (and chicos, coming soon) on the blogosphere.

The first one is guest-posting for me today! And you know she’s funny, because Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. “The Bloggess”) reads her stuff. Heck, Jenny PROMOTES this animated momma on her blogroll … which is how I found her.

So meet Irene Barnett, who blogs over at Left of Plumb! When you’re done here, go check out her blog; you won’t be sorry.

Pull My Finger: My Uncivilized Life with Boys


Farting sign

I am not a girly girl.

I am the one my girlfriends come to when they want a male perspective on something.

My favorite roommates have always been men.

Males don’t have hidden agendas and neither do I.

They are simple, single-cell sort of organisms and I like that.

Anyway, just want to set the scene.

It was with a mix of ambivalence and horror that I approached the idea of having children. But, when I found out that my twins were going to be boys, I felt this made some sort of cosmic sense.

However, being outnumbered so drastically has taken its toll on me (even our pets – a dog, two African water frogs and one husband – are boys).

I firmly believe that my lowered estrogen level is actually not menopause, but some sort of environmental hormonal pollution that is sucking it right out of my ovaries like some bad sci-fi movie.

Here are just a few of the behaviors that I now realize I have low tolerance for:

  • Burping and farting are high art forms and if my children are the Rembrandts of both, then I am the Edvard Munch.

painting[For the love of God, light a freakin’ match!!]

  • The bathroom smells like a subway urinal … after a hobo convention … where they served asparagus and brussel sprouts.
  • They think their junk is fascinating and don’t understand why the rest of us don’t agree and want to view it every chance we can.
  • They can only do one thing at a time, and even that confuses them.
  • They are hygienically challenged. I’m not sure what half of the odors are that I smell or what part of the body they originate from, but I will probably go blind from it.
  • They are incapable of closing a kitchen cabinet door. If they could, the kitchen would just be shelves, hooks and an intricate pully system like something out of Wallace and Gromit.

Wallace and Gromit[OK, I take this one back as an annoyance. That would be SO cool!!]

The sole reason I don’t end up selling them on the black market is simply this: they are the only humans who understand that I am the absolute pinnacle of awesomeness. Somehow, despite their rather base behavior everywhere else, they are advanced enough to recognize this one truth.

And I’m not willing to give that up, no matter how bad that fart smells.


Irene BarnettIrene Barnett is a working co-parent of twin boys and a rescue dog. She currently makes the rent by assuming the identity of a high-powered executive for a software consulting firm that is based out of Seattle, while she actually tries to live the life of a writer in Santa Barbara, Calif. ( Irene loves paddleboarding, movies, sitting and staring, and shiny things. She hates chickens but has a soft spot for hobos.

Photo credits:

  1. ms_saggitarius89,
  2. rustybrick,
  3. patersor,

Writers are Easy — NOT!

Not to be confused with “Earth Girls Are Easy,” a cheesy 80s flick starring Jeff Goldblum that I was THRILLED to find on Netflix … apparently writers are now easy, too.

Or at least, they’re trying to make us easy.

Who are “they,” you’re wondering? They are the companies that want to pay writers a few bucks for thousands of words per day.

Like this job shared by a pissed writer on LinkedIn:

“We are a Web Development/SEO company that hosts thousands of blogs and websites with a wide variety of different niches. Currently we are seeking a writer or two that is interested in writing articles from home and publishing them on the web.

We ask:

  • Be professional
  • Be Creative
  • Have a good work ethic
  • Be able to write 10-25 unique 500 word articles PER DAY

Articles are paid @ $2.50 – $3.00 per article.

We are located in North Phoenix, so you must be able to come into our office 1-2 times per week for a couple hours per visit.

Please send any written work you may have in your portfolio such as blogs you have written for, essays, and short stories.

We look forward to hearing from you.”

Pissed-offYea, F-YOU web development/SEO company!

Yes, I know that wasn’t very PC of me … but admit it. I screamed exactly what you were thinking, just now.

Because, for those who are horrible at math (like me), the above rates equal approximately $37.50 per DAY, for 7,500 words.

I know this current age of technology and web development has made writers like me more in demand … but c’mon guys. We’re humans, too! And hell, we’re far from easy.

FOR THE WRITERS: Have you noticed this type of trend developing?