Dude, My Pillsbury Biscuits Taste like Raspberry Air Freshener

Pillsbury biscuitsDid you know that Pillsbury reduced fat biscuits will absorb the taste AND aroma of Bath and Body Works raspberry oil air freshener?

Well, now you do. Because I accidentally proved this thesis. And ruined my lunch.

(Take that, Einstein!)

This is one of those things where all the stars and planets and supernovas in the universe aligned just right … for me. Or rather, against me. But possibly for humanity, so no one will ever have to suffer through this excruciating ordeal again.

It kinda happened something like this:

Friday: I want tuna fish. Unplug electronic Bath and Body Works Wallflower oil dispenser to plug-in electronic can opener. Place oil dispenser on kitchen counter. Make tuna sandwich, revel in delight, continue with life.

Weekend: Boyfriend time (smile and blush)Wallflower oil plug

Wednesday: Cleaning lady comes over to help neaten house while I work from home. Saves me from myself, does amazing job. I pay her. She leaves.

Thursday: Come home from work, elated by pleasant house smells. “Mmmmm, raspberry.” Advance further into kitchen. Overwhelmed by house smells. “Ehhh, raspberry.” Approach counter. Discover purple puddle of oil. Then notice upside down oil dispenser (courtesy of cleaning lady) … never plugged back in. Holding nose, reluctantly clean and scrub. Aroma lingers.

Weekend: Boyfriend time (smile and blush)

Monday: Craving Pillsbury biscuits with dinner. Pop can, shove into oven, wait 13 minutes. Mouth waters. Eyes cry. Soul bleeds. Finally, oven beeps. Remove Pillsbury biscuits. Eat one, shutter from pleasure. Shove rest into bag, place on counter, go to sleep.

Tuesday: Grab bagged Pillsbury biscuit for lunch. Fight morning traffic, scream obscenities. Race through deadlines. Sit down for lunch—finally a moment’s peace—bite into biscuit. “What’s that TASTE?” Stare at biscuit, mind jarred. Events converge in brain.

CRY.

Crazy Sh*t that YouTube Brought Us

Could you imagine the look on your face 20 years ago, if someone said, “Facebook me and leave your email on my timeline.”

It’d probably look something like this:

confused baby

Social media has seriously changed our world, right? Well, after chatting with my boyfriend during my stimulating morning commute to work the other day, we both had an epiphany:

YouTube has brought us some seriously crazy sh*t.

I mean, stuff that would  never have existed 20 years ago. I can’t help but think: has any sociologist considered studying YouTube? Maybe writing a dissertation on it? Because YouTube is the EPITOME of what happens when humans have the ability to broadcast themselves.

Just look at this: 

1. Bickering cats playing Patty Cake

2. A white kid rapping so fast about random crap, my brain’s about to burst out my ears

3. Dance walking

4. A step-by-step on how girls pack a suitcase

5. A goat … yelling like a man

My life has finally reached enlightenment.

I may now die in peace. Thank you, YouTube!

QUESTION: What’s the craziest, weirdest, most outrageous YouTube video you’ve ever seen?

A Special Thank-You to my Teachers

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I want to take a serious moment and publicly recognize some important people in my life:

My teachers.

I can’t bear to talk about the sweet innocent lives lost—the babies, and their protectors who died trying to save them.

TeacherSo I want to focus on something positive. As the daughter of two teachers, and future daughter-in-law of another teacher, I’ve always had the greatest respect and admiration for our nation’s educators.

And over the past week, I’ve watched public opinion of teachers change drastically, to finally match mine. Throughout my life, four of my teachers really stood out, and I want the world to know who they are:

1) Mr. Ely

4th Grade, Desert Springs Elementary School, Phoenix, Ariz.

I still remember Mr. Ely’s yearly Thanksgiving Feast, where our class made everything from scratch—even the butter. I remember being fascinated by our lessons on the Emperor Penguins, as well as the cow’s eye I couldn’t wait to dissect, before I got sick. With Mr. Ely, going to school wasn’t boring; it was recess! Every day was a new adventure, and that’s something, coming from an ADHD child.

2) Mrs. Kroeppler (now Mrs. Prince)

High School English, Horizon High School, Phoenix, Ariz.

I had Mrs. Prince for three years: as a sophomore, junior and senior. I had some wonderful writing and journalism professors during college, but none matched Mrs. Prince. She taught me about poetry, inspired my writing and creativity beyond what I believed I could do. I became a professional writer partly due to Mrs. Prince’s influence. Above all, I’ll never forget her words to me, senior year of high school: “You’re a leader. You just don’t know it yet.”

3) Mr. Leonard

High School Social Studies/History, Horizon High School, Phoenix, Ariz.

My world opened when I first took Mr. Leonard’s World History class as a high school sophomore. The Middle Ages suddenly weren’t about dates and names, but about stories and lost love. The Black Plague. Marie Antoinette. The French Revolution. Mr. Leonard not only sparked my first curiosity in traveling to Europe, but he TOOK me there as part of a three-week school trip after I graduated! That was my first experience leaving the country.

4) Brian Friedman

Dance, The Dance Studio, Scottsdale, Ariz.

I started dancing at age 3, so this list would never be complete without a dance teacher. I didn’t enter Brian’s world until I turned 16, but in the few years I trained under him, I became a force to reckon with. Brian pushed harder than any other dance teacher, but he also cared about me—as a teenager—more than the others, too. I’ll never forget performing my first solo in the high school talent show, and Brian showing up to watch and support me. Today, Brian is a dance hot-shot, choreographing for Britney Spears and producing X-Factor shows. Go Brian!

WHICH TEACHERS AFFECTED YOUR LIFE? Give them the shout-out they deserve right here. Let’s recognize and honor our nation’s incredible teachers!

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RIP dear, sweet Sandy Hook babies and teachers …

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My First Rock Concert … At 30!

I know what you’re thinking: “Shari, c’mon, I’m sure you’ve been to SOME concert by now.”

Well, yes. I saw Simon and Garfunkel’s reunion tour with my mom and sister. And a few years ago, I sat in the nosebleed section and watched Elton John make love to the piano.

But I’ve never experienced a serious ROCK CONCERT, where you’re banging your head and dancing in the aisles, and where the music pries open your chest cavity and literally grabs your heart until the lyrics become your oxygen — until last night.

When I saw THE BLACK KEYS live in Phoenix!

That’s mostly because, while I had my brush with the party stage, I grew up under the iron fist of a Jewish mother. And really, the concert just never happened for me. Even though my father is a professional musician, and music has always been in my soul.

But last night …

A new world opened to me. And I suddenly understand why concerts—true rock concerts by true musicians—can be so addicting. And GOD, I just had to share this experience with you:

Shari and her sister
Me and my younger sister, Becca, at our seats before the concert started.
On the concert floor
The guards let us onto the floor before the concert started to grab some photos
The Black Keys!
The Black Keys!!
The Black Keys
Freakin’ most awesome band … ever!

Anyone else here a fan of The Black Keys?

My younger sister introduced me to their music a year ago and I liked them. In fact, I attended with my younger sister, as part of her 25th birthday gift. But after watching these two guys perform, I’ve become one of their most loyal fans.

The Black Keys were electric. They fed off each other’s energy until the volcano erupted; I felt like I was listening to Jimi Hendrix on the guitar.

Do you remember your first rock concert? Please do share!

High School Poetry … and Stuff

After three years of living in my house, I’m finally clearing out the stacks of boxes in my extra bedroom.

I know … tell me about it.

Shari's High School PoetryBut whilst rummaging through old envelopes filled with random cards, scribbles and photos, I found some old high school poetry. And it really made me kinda sad. Because I realized just how creative my writing was, back then. And how much more I need to work at it now.

My boyfriend says “don’t be sad.” Because back then, my mind had the luxury of letting itself run wild. Nonetheless, blogs and social media didn’t exist when I was in high school. So I decided to give High School Shari a special treat, and publish some of her poetry, here. Please be aware that I cannot edit my blog’s theme to correctly portray stanzas, but you’ll get the gist:

The Other Side

Dwelling in the psyche of my mind,

Swimming in the heart of my soul,

Confusion overtakes to make me blind.

I cannot find

The cure to my soul,

Never so bold,

To find its way to the other side.

Drowning in the depth of despair,

Choking from the grip of fate,

My being, overtaken by its fear,

It would not hear

My cry of hate;

For Heaven’s sake!

Dear God, where is the other side?

Lost in a maze of pure anxiety,

Falling through the hole of naked deceit,

I desperately search for true prosperity;

Instead find impurity.

And so I flee,

For I cannot see

The Truth in myself,

Leading toward the other side.

A Random Paragraph, Untitled

You can’t say you understand. How could you possibly know … know what it’s like, to stand up on that stage, you … alone—and pour your heart out to an auditorium of people that you’ve transformed, all with motion and music and passion. It’s like, it’s like my heart is part of the beat of the music, and it’s not inside me, but outside me, encompassing me, pulling me with it. And when you’re done, and the lights fade, the audience cheers. No, they don’t cheer; they stand, and scream, and clap, and whistle … all for you, only you, no one else BUT you. It’s your time, your true time. How could you possibly understand that, unless you’ve lived it, lived with it for thirteen-and-a-half years, then not had it anymore?

Sometimes, we don’t realize how much we love something, until we no longer have it. Sometimes, we don’t know how much passion we felt for something, ’till it’s gone. So how—how can you understand it, unless you’ve had it?

Deliverance

Black and blue,

He sits upon

Steps anew,

Shattered dreams,

Hopes withheld,

His time is due.

Lost black eyes,

Dead stars within,

Watch the sky,

Search for worth,

Pray to find

The loveless lie.

Tender hands,

Their touch is numb,

Forever damned

By such hate,

Slaps and kicks,

For help he ran.

But now he sits,

His soul deprived,

He knows of hits,

That loveless lie.

“Come forward son,”

A voice consoles.

“Your father’s gone,

Come meet Don,

And he will take you home.”

(© All works copyrighted by Shari Lopatin. All rights reserved.)

5 Years Ago Today …

I know I’m on a blog hiatus, but today is very special for me, and I COULDN’T pass this up.

Today is my 5-year anniversary with my life’s love, Oscar. And I couldn’t resist sharing our story with you.

First off, no … we’re not married yet. But we live life committed like we’re married, because in our hearts, that’s the truth. So, if you have five minutes, here’s our story. Because as writers, life’s all about stories. 🙂

MySpace and Some Guy Named ‘Bhatti’

My story with Oscar starts before we actually met, when my friends talked me into joining MySpace (yes, you heard me correctly).

At the time, I was living in a small town away from friends and family, working as a reporter on a small newspaper, struggling with a horrible, unexpected break-up. MySpace, they said, would help me stay connected and vent my frustrations (thus my first introduction to the almighty BLOG).

“I don’t want to connect with anyone I don’t know,” I protested.

To which, they said, “Keep your profile private.”

So I did. And no one bothered me, until a few months later. One day, I logged into my account to find a random message from someone named “Bhatti.”

Hi Shari,

I see on your profile you only want to connect with friends you know, so I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. My name is Mike, and several months ago, you wrote an article for 944 Magazine on my best friend, Brad. Your writing is absolutely amazing and I’d been trying to find you ever since reading that article. My older sister is a writer, so I know good writing when I see it.

–Mike

Curious, I wrote back and quickly discovered Mike attended the same church as several friends, and we knew many of the same people from high school (despite attending different schools). I even befriended Mike’s sister (you may recall her from an older guest post, writing professor Renee Ronika Klug).

Running Shoes and Stuffed Animals

Mike and I had fun hanging out sporadically the next few months. And one day, I received an email from him:

Mike was travelling to a Mexican orphanage with his church, and needed toys or clothes for the children.

Right away, I ran to my closet and gathered every stuffed animal from my old boyfriend, who was now engaged to another girl. I stuffed three garbage bags full of toys, and called Mike. Ridding my home of those stuffed animals felt freeing, and I couldn’t help but smile.

When I followed up with Mike three weeks later about the trip, “You won’t believe this,” he told me. “I sent that email to 300 people, and only two donated. You, and another guy. He gave me his old running shoes.”

Then Mike paused. “Come to think of it … you’re both Jewish, too.”

“Really?” I thought the coincidence was funny.

“Yes, his name is Oscar.”

‘I don’t want to meet any guys.’

I wasted no time telling Mike I had “absolutely no interest” in meeting any guys. I didn’t trust them, and wanted nothing to do with them.

“Not like that,” he said. “You guys are a lot alike and I think you’d make great friends. He went through a break-up only six months ago, too. Trust me, he feels the same way about girls.”

Reluctantly, I told Mike he could give my number to Oscar, but he should wait a few weeks. I was about to leave on vacation for Portland to visit my best friend.

Apparently, Mike listened, because a week after the trip, my phone rang while at work. Rushing to meet a deadline, I sent the call to voice mail, checking it later that evening. And behold, a deep male voice spoke to me from an automated system.

Five Hours on the Phone

I didn’t call Oscar until the next day. And I never expected what happened next. We talked on the phone for five hours!

We had the same sense of humor, liked the same foods, loved the same movies, grew up in the same city. He lived through a similar break-up, around the same time, and even read one of my articles that Mike sent to him.

“You’re such a great writer,” he’d said.

(An interesting note: How ironic that MY WRITING brought us together, first alluring Mike, who connected me to Oscar.)

Oscar and I met in person a week later, when he travelled north to Prescott, Ariz., training for a half marathon. But we didn’t like each other more than friends initially.

Seriously.

It took another six months of friendship before the sparks flew. And it all boiled down to a dinner at Native New Yorker.

That was the first night my core dropped as I watched him walk through that door.

Our simultaneous crushes grew—as did our bond—and on Feb. 24, 2007, we officially started dating. Less than a month later, we took our first trip together, to Guatemala. The rest, as they say, is history …

Happy 5-Year Anniversary Oscar! I Love You!

I’m so glad I was able to shout it from the virtual mountaintop. 🙂

TO MY READERS: Thank you for taking a few minutes to share in this special story and moment with me. I wish I’d had more time this week to develop a truly narrative story, but maybe next time–in a literary magazine!

* I’m still on my blog hiatus, so I’ll see you all again in another few weeks!

Blog Hiatus and Schedule Change

I have an announcement to make. Rogue Writer is going on hold—but just temporarily! I’m thinking about a month.

And when I return, I may push back to posting twice a month, versus every week.

I know many of you have come to enjoy the weekly posts, so I’m asking you to please stick with me. The focus and writing of this blog will remain the same, and I actually have some GREAT surprise guest-posters coming up!

But right now, too much has piled on my plate, and I need to cut back SOMEWHERE. Therefore, that somewhere is my blog. To give you an idea:

  • I work a full-time job as a writer and media strategist (40+ hours)
  • I have a few freelance clients that have hired my consulting and writing help recently
  • I’m working to lose weight, so exercise and diet CANNOT go away
  • I still need to work on my creative pieces, as I’m submitting a few stories to several publications right now

Thank you for your patience and understanding. I’ve really come to appreciate and love the community that’s developed from this blog.

And remember, I’m not going away forever. Just a month, and then a little less frequent posts. As time opens up again, I’ll probably return to publishing every Thursday.

You’ll also still find me somewhat active on Facebook and Twitter (though not as often as now). SO, if you haven’t connected there yet, now’s a great time. 🙂

All the best,

Shari

Weight Watchers for Your Writing? Oh Yes …

For the first time in my life, I’m struggling with a weight problem. Not a bad one, but it’s enough.

I don’t mean to get all mushy on you; trust me, there’s a writing lesson here.

First of all, I’m sorry I missed a blog post last week. I suffered an Internet outage, and then life got crazy. Which leads me back to this whole weight thing. I was prepping for the big day this past Tuesday:

My first Weight Watchers meeting.

A Different Perspective

I’m going to take a risk and open up–just a little. I can trust you, right? Here’s the thing about me: I was always “that skinny girl.” I grew up dancing 15 hours a week: ballet, jazz, lyrical, tap, modern. I taught dance through college and ate whatever I wanted. And I never wore jeans larger than a size 4.

(Sigh)

That lasted until about age 25. I then found myself wearing a size 6. And last year a size 8. I’m not one of those tall, model-like girls either. I’m 5’3.

My point is, I always saw the world one way. I had a six-pack at age 5 (I kid you not. I have photos for proof), and ever since, I could wear cute clothes. I could model bikinis. And if I wanted, I could have picked on the girls struggling with their weight. I didn’t, I’m not like that. 

But I also never considered their world. Until now.

Are You Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone?

I attended a Weight Watchers meeting on Tuesday, excited to change my life. With about five women and one man. All were supportive, all wanted to lose weight.

And all were empathetic to my plight.

Although I never judged women for struggling with weight before, I never considered how walking in their shoes affected so much. Your self-esteem. Your clothing selection. Your energy. Your avoidance of little things like photos or reunions. But also the magic that happens when other women, friends and family rally around you.

And as a writer, how could I EVER have written a story about a girl struggling with weight?

Because I never pushed myself to see things from another perspective, I limited my creativity as a writer. I never avoided seeing things through these other eyes on purpose. Rather, it just never occurred to me.

I Challenge You …

Stop and think for a moment. I mean, really think.

What perspective have you either refused to consider, or accidentally overlooked? What pair of shoes have you never walked in? And how can you force yourself to understand that outlook?

Here are some aspects to consider:

  • A recovering drug addict
  • A woman in an abusive marriage (who refuses to leave)
  • An undocumented immigrant
  • A blind man or woman
  • A corporate lawyer
  • A trust fund baby
  • A high school or college dropout

Should you interview those living that life? Should you spend a week with them? How can you push yourself past your comfort zone?

Maybe it’s time to try Weight Watchers for your writing. And set yourself free.

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Inspire Yourself with these 6 Themes

I’ve been on a creative binge lately. And for the New Year, I want to help inspire you, too!

I’ve been reading books and writing stories about some of the deepest, most profound themes I know.

You know, those deep, dark ideas that give a story its umph. That inspire us to reconsider our own lives. I’m not an English scholar, I’m just a journalist who also writes creatively … and who lives for stories.

To read them. To write them. To share them.

Huntington Beach, Copyright 2011 Shari LopatinSo I can’t tell you exactly why these themes resonate better than others. And of course, I can only speak for myself. However, I’ve noticed, some themes inspire us more than others.

And these are them:

1. Family

As a human race, perhaps one of our strongest Hierarchy of Needs, is the need to belong. The need for family. Think Fiddler on the Roof, or Sound of Music. Family doesn’t have to encompass a Brady Bunch story. The complicated love between rival brothers can tear at your heart more than a summer romance. Or, think of an orphan who’s sought a sense of family throughout her life, only to find rejection time and time again.

2. War

If you haven’t already, go see War Horse. War is such a great setting and theme for any story, because it offers the opportunity for many smaller, underlying themes. A husband and wife can reunite after years apart, thinking the other was dead. A sworn enemy can suddenly become a best friend. What does war make us realize about ourselves, as a society, and as individuals?

3. Guilt, and Redemption

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, tells us that in every story, something or someone must die, or be saved. The theme of guilt and redemption can take us, literally, to that place. What deed in someone’s past could drive that person into utter self-destruction … and what power or action could literally free them, from their own cage? If you’ve ever read The Kite Runner, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

4. Wanting What You Can’t Have

A blind man who longs to see. A woman in love with a married man. A father who would give his life to hold his son, one final time. When we hear stories of others longing for what can never be theirs, we empathize. Our hearts literally ache for this character, as if we’d experienced his or her pain ourselves (and often times, we have).

5. A Forced Life Change

I saw the previews to a movie called The Vow, based on true events. A married couple of five years are in a car accident and both fall into a coma. The wife awakens with no memory. Her husband is a stranger. However, his love for her drives him to try and recreate their relationship, with the hopes his wife will fall in love with him again. Imagine if tomorrow, something dramatic happened to you, or someone you love. Suddenly, you lose your legs, or your child goes blind. How would you, and your loved ones, cope?

6. Identity and Heritage

I once heard a true story about a Mexican-American woman who grew up poor and ashamed of her heritage. When invited to speak at a prestigious event, her mother sewed a traditional Mexican dress for her daughter. The young woman refused it, and instead bought her own. She later married, and refused to teach her children Spanish. Years later, after her mother died, she found the old dress in her mother’s attic, boxed away. This time, she broke down crying. Denial—or even hatred—of one’s self-identity can drive destruction of epic proportions.

Me, in college

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What themes do you find inspiring, lasting? What can you never read enough of, or write too much of?

Miracle off 28th Ave. on Tuesday Afternoon

Happy New Year! And I’m taking a break … LOL!

Instead, please enjoy this short blog post I wrote a year ago. About a beautiful experience I had, and I’d like to share with you. Let the music begin …

A Miracle off 28th Ave. on Tuesday Afternoon

Posted on December 28, 2010, by Shari Lopatin

It started with a simple routine walk during my lunch break.

Through the same neighborhood and past the same ordinary houses occupied by the same aging couples. Wearing the same workout clothes, and pounding the pavement with the same 2-year-old tennis shoes.

I continued walking down my routine path this Tuesday afternoon, feeling the steady pace of my feet below, when I heard it. Like an angel singing to me from another dimension, it sliced through the deafening silence of the neighborhood.

Music. Pure, dramatic piano notes dancing in the gentle breeze. Climbing up my spine and into my ears, filling me with an electric energy I hadn’t felt in years.

I stopped in my tracks–searching to my left, to my right. From where did this heavenly melody arise? I knew this tune, one of the first I’d learned as a little girl: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music.

I suddenly realized this was no recording. It was live, and the individual playing was no amateur. Here I was, my work’s I.D. hanging from my neck, toes peeking through tips of old sneakers wearing away, standing in the middle of a retired neighborhood, and enjoying a live piano concert with the sun beating on my face.

My senses led me to the cozy, one-story house across the street from where I stood. With their windows open, oblivious to my undivided admiration, a shadowed face played for me.

Man or woman, boy or girl, I did not know. But their passion sang to my passion, their beauty filled my soul, and I drifted away as their music mounted higher into the crisp autumn air. I used to fall asleep this way, drifting to the sounds of hypnotic notes as my father played into the night.

That’s when I realized a miracle took place off 28th Ave. this Tuesday afternoon. I’d broken free. Away from Corporate America. Away from the cubicles, the computer screens and the repetition.

And I flew.