Start to Stop Smoking Cessation at CVS

My dad would have been 49 this month. When his birthday rolled around, I thought about how there are days when I really wish he were here to see the kids, to be a familiar presence. To call me “kiddo” one more time.

He died of a massive heart attack in August 2013. We’ve been without him for almost a year and a half now, and while it gets easier, when I think about the circumstances surrounding his death, I can’t help but get a little angry and a lot sad.

His heart attack was caused by a perfect storm of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight. But my dad was aso a smoker. A heavy smoker. A cigarette every 12 minutes smoker.

We nagged and pleaded and nagged some more for him to stop. We coughed incessantly and obnoxiously whenever he lit up. We complained about the smell. But he was addicted. He would never have admitted that, but he was.

He tried to stop at least a handful of times, cold turkey, with medication, just cutting back on how many. He started smoking outside and we thought maybe the freezing cold January air would make him quit. It didn’t. Nothing did.

When he had his heart attack, one of the possible scenarios was for him to be placed on the transplant list where he would await a donor heart. While that would not have worked because his heart was too damaged by the heart attack, he wouldn’t have been allowed on the list anyway, and the number one reason why was because he was a lifelong smoker.

Because of his smoking addiction, he wouldn’t have been eligible for placement on the transplant list had he been strong enough to make it that far. He would have had to live with a portable bypass machine and be smoke free for an entire calendar year before being placed on the list, and then he would have had to wait for a heart. Chances are good he wouldn’t have made it that long, but that wait wouldn’t have been so daunting if he hadn’t been a smoker.

There aren’t a lot of health care related companies who are in the business of helping people stop smoking, but CVS is one of those companies. In 2014, CVS stopped selling tobacco and all tobacco-related products in ALL of its stores. Then it launched Minute Clinic smoking cessation programs in each of its stores.

(Did you know that CVS has vowed to have a Minute Clinic within 10 miles of every residence? That’s pretty fantastic, right?)

The Start to Stop smoking cessation program includes individualized counseling, ongoing coaching to help quitters quit,  and nicotine-replacement when applicable. (There’s also a weight loss counseling program, which sounds pretty great, too.)

Per the Centers for Disease Control, smokers who seek help in trying to quit are two to three times more likely to succeed than those who go it alone, as my dad always did. In just 24 hours after quitting, a person’s risk of heart attack starts to diminish, and in 1 year the risk of heart disease becomes half that of a smoker.

I wish my dad had made different choices while he were living, but since he didn’t, all I can do now is spread the story of his life and how we would probably have him here today if he had taken his health more seriously. Companies like CVS are helping to do that.

They’re helping people make changes for life.

This post was written as part of a CVS campaign to promote their Start to Stop smoking cessaion program and #HealthYourself initiatives. My story is my own and if sharing it helps one person quit smoking for good, I’m more than willing to tell it.

Spinach Pesto (Healthy! Delicious! Easy!)

Guys, I haven’t had my own kitchen in 3 months, and while not cooking every night seems like a dream, I really, really miss it. Right now, I’m busy planning our next kitchen, so while I’m doing that, I’m also planning recipes I’ll be making in said new kitchen. (I’ve somehow gained 13 pounds with all the not cooking I’ve been doing…)

Monday night, I whipped up some (healthy! delicious! easy!) spinach pesto and ate so much I probably gained another 2 pounds. (But then I got my hair cut and lost 5, so….win?)

Spinach Pesto

Doesn’t that look so pretty and green and amazing? It was seriously one of the brightest and most lovely dishes I’ve ever made, and it was so easy! It was also FAST! Dinner was ready in under 30 minutes, which makes this a great meal for families who are crunched for time in the evenings.

I’m estimating amounts for all of these ingredients except the spinach. I used 3 pounds and it made a LOT of pesto (and I poured it ALL on the pasta instead of putting some in a jar and sticking it in the fridge for future use). Use the following list as a guideline, but adjust how much of each you add based on your own preferences. But don’t skimp on the garlic. Or the cheese.

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 pounds baby spinach
  • 1/4 chopped fresh basil
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (and then some) shaved parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 5-6 T olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • Pasta of your choice

Soften your garlic in 2 T of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then throw in the basil. Enjoy the aroma! Add in the spinach, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, and drizzle it with another 2 T olive oil. Gently toss it a bit to mix the spinach, salt/pepper, and oil. Cover it and let it wilt, stirring once or twice.

Once it’s wilted, add cheese, milk or cream (use 1% or 2% for lighter pesto, heavy cream for richer pesto), and spinach to a blender or food processor. Blend. I added another 2 T of olive oil while blending and then used reserved pasta water, just a ladel-full, to thin the pesto just a bit, not so that it pours like water, but so it would actually pour. I’m not even sure if that makes sense but I hope it does.

Drain your pasta and pour the spinach pesto over it, tossing the pasta to coat/mix with the sauce. Top with more shaved parmesan cheese.

I used capellini because that’s what we had in the pantry, but Dan said he would’ve preferred a penne or other heartier pasta. Fetuccine would be an excellent option. I also sauteed some chicken to go with the pasta, but if you want a meatless meal, this can do the trick. This would be great served with a big, leafy salad. (Spring mix, blue cheese crumbles, Craisins, candied walnuts, champagne vinaigrette. You’re welcome.)

This is not a meal I could make weekly since I’m the pasta fan in the family, but I could definitely throw it into the monthly rotation and play around with the add-ins for variety. Chicken, shrimp, zucchini chunks, maybe sundried tomatoes, all would work nicely.

Voila! Dinner is served!

Why I’m Talking About Racism

I’ve never been one to go on a mass unfriending spree on Facebook, clearing out my timeline of the thoughts and opinions of those with whom I disagree and sanitizing the place so that it looks just like me. That’s not how the world works and I prefer Facebook to look more like the world and less like what one might imagine a communal society would be. Different people sharing different ideas is one way we all grow.

But last week, for the first time ever, I wanted to. I really, really wanted to.

As the Internet erupted in the wake of the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Mike Brown in August, I watched as everyone divided into groups and prepared for battle, myself included, and I wondered why we couldn’t all understand that the world would be a much better place if we could find some place to meet in the middle and move forward, together. But I just don’t think that can happen. The separation between groups is too great.

There are those who say racism exists and those who say it’s a thing of the past, and I’m not talking about institutional racism which is another beast entirely. There is delusion and division and derision, insult hurling, and statements that start with “I’m not a racist, but….”

(Hey, so, chances are if you say “I’m not a racist, but…” the next thing that comes out of your mouth is probably going to be racist.)

Those who want to fight against racism have to get in the trenches and dig in for the fight, which is where I find myself as 2014 draws to a close. It’s not a place I imagined finding myself because growing up I was taught that racism was a thing overcome in the 60s. We were all taught that.

Right now we’re finding out that was pretty much a big lie and it’s hard to admit that what we thought was true is actually quite false.

We thought racism ended when “separate but equal” was shot down by Brown v BOE. That the Civil Rights leaders marched racism right out of our country, arm in arm, singing “We Shall Overcome” like 20th century Pied Pipers. We’ve watched Dr. King “I Have a Dream” speech, read it, studied it. I taught it (and his Letter From Birmingham Jail, which is definitely recommended reading). In school we zeroed in on the peaceful protests and sit-ins and rarely were the stories of the more violent protestors being written about in anything other than derogatory and frightening lights.

As the riots raged in Ferguson and protests popped up across the country, I wondered what the world had been like during the Civil Rights Movement. Mama remembered Rosa Parks respectfully making her point. By the time she started studying history in school, protests and riots had been written out in favor of the examples of passive resistance, but there were riots. There was violence. There was anger so bottled up it had nowhere to go but out. And as history shows, a great deal of that violence was perpetrated by white people stoning black children who dared try to go to school or have lunch at the counter instead of the back of the store.

History books are written by white men. Anyone who’s paying attention can see revisionist history hard at work with just a quick glance around social media these days as anyone who brings up the real, actual racism alive and well in our country is accused of “playing the race card.”

Here’s a thought: When thousands of people stand up and say “Racism is alive and well and it’s killing our people” they’re probably not lying. That many people uniting their voices under a shared and terrifying experience aren’t wrong. The one or two people you know who say “nah, that’s not true” probably aren’t correct. How is that so hard to see and understand?

I can only think that people who can’t understand it are incapable or, worse, unwilling, and I can’t understand that.

Understanding racism as a white person, challenging it, means challenging pretty much our entire existence. It means confronting the way we were raised and the tiny prejudices which were slipped into our consciousness without our knowledge. It means asking what someone means when they quote that scripture about being “unequally yoked” or pointing out the fact that it’s unnecessary to qualify a person’s identity with his or her race.

“So and so at the corner store…he’s Black…was telling me…”

Little things like this, non-violent but pervasive beliefs some of us don’t even realize are part of the reason why racism persists. So long as we don’t challenge ourselves to do better–to BE better–it will continue to infect the future, and I’m not okay with that. I care about racism because I care about our collective futures.

I want to believe in the possibility of a world where my fellow mothers and I share the same worries when our kids leave the house and not one wherein my black friends have to worry about whether or not they’ve done enough to teach their sons The Code. I believe in that world where people are judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Right now, this world isn’t that world. But it can be.

No one can take the high road in the fight against racism, not really, and that’s because there is no higher road to be taken. Taking the high road is akin to turning the other cheek which is ignoring the issue, and this is an issue which demands to be confronted head on and not buried like some skeleton in our nation’s closet.

Besides, that closet’s getting kind of crowded, don’t you think?

Pear Tree Greetings Holiday Card Sale!

Happy Black Friday! Now that the turkeys have been stuffed, carved, devoured, and thoroughly respected, the holiday season is OFFICIALLY upon us.

It’s time to talk holiday cards, like my favorites from Pear Tree Greetings.

Pear Tree Greetings Black Friday Sale
This will mark my fourth year in a row sending seasonal cheer with one of Pear Tree Greetings’ original designs, marked throughout the site with a tiny golden pear. (I’ve been using/sending their cards since before I became a Pearista.) Their mix of modern and classic designs can’t be found anywhere else, and their quality is top notch. Standard shipping is 7 days. (Economy is 8!)

Which means that if you haven’t ordered your Christmas cards yet, you still have plenty of time. Buying this weekend means having them by the end of next week which means making yourself a hot chocolate, addressing some envelopes (and using pre-printed return address labels to match your cards) and having them in the mail by a week from Monday.

(Or you can wait and send New Years’ cards. Pear Tree has you covered for that, too.)

I haven’t made my final decision about cards this year. It always takes me several days of mocking up cards, asking Dan to approve (which results in much rolling of the eyes and “yep, that looks good…”), before almost always going back to the first card I chose. Or choosing two, one that’s sort of funny for family and friends and one a little more traditional for business contacts.

Pear Tree Greetings has a design for everything, and when they’re on sale, why not, right?

Until SUNDAY, the entire Pear Tree Greetings store is 30% off with code BFRIDAY14. So go ahead and pick a holiday photo card and showcase those family pictures you’re loving right now. (Didn’t have family pics made this year? Import your Instagram feed and choose a photo from every month for the calendar card!)

What Pear Tree designs are you loving right now? My current favorites are this one, that one, and this one, too. I see more than one card in our immediate future.

I may be a Pearista, but all opinions are my own.

What I’m Thankful For – Heart of Haiti

Thanksgiving is upon us once again. Soon we’ll be rocking our stretch pants and lounging in food comas while we digest copious amounts of turkey and pie, the drone of parades and football games (or really, really bad movies) in the background.  We’ll be crazy thankful for leggings and comfy sweaters and naps.

Some of us, maybe even most of us, will be thankful for the family and friends surrounding us on Thursday.

The past year has been one of upheaval for us, of making choices which we believe are for the good of our family, this little unit of four. We’ve weathered my anxiety. We’ve sold a house and moved. We’re working to build a new, forever home. The fact that we’re together through it all, that all of us are sacrificing, makes this easier than it would be if this choice hadn’t been one we were free to make.

That’s why programs like Macy’s Heart of Haiti are so dear to my heart.

When the 2010 earthquake shattered Haiti, entire communities were left with even less than they had before, which wasn’t much. The decision to start over wasn’t one Haitians chose to make, but that’s where they found themselves once the aftershocks stopped and they began to clear the rubble.

From that rubble, they began creating works of art and things of beauty, like these sustainable tobacco leaf trays made with papier mache techniques.

Tobacco Leaf Tray - Heart of Haiti

Through creations like this, usable yet decorative pieces, Haitian artisans have been able to support themselves and their families. Slowly, they’ve been rebuilding an entire country through the artistry native to their villages and heritage, and Macy’s has helped sell those creations on a global scale, raising awareness of issues in Haiti beyond the devastation left by the earthquakes and sending money back into the places where it is needed most.

Through relying on one another, their friends, family, and fellow Haitian artisans, these men and women are making a difference in their communities. They are able to provide food, shelter, education, and healthcare to their children, all of which are taken for granted daily here.

Heart of Haiti is changing lives, and you can be a part of that.

When you’re shopping for those on your list this year, that family member who has it all, consider giving the unique, handmade items from Macy’s Heart of Haiti collection. Your gift recipients will receive one-of-a-kind pieces of art and you’ll be giving back to the artists who created them in the process. Each piece is created using raw materials found in and around their communities through sustainable techniques handed down from generation to generation.

We spend a lot of time thinking about the tangible stuff we have, and what we don’t. We’re constantly seeking more, more, more to fill our lives and we make flippant purchases without thinking about where that stuff comes from, who made it, or how. Now we can change that, and that’s something to be thankful for.

I am a  member of the Everywhere Society and they provided me with this product for review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Tobacco Leaf Tray Heart of Haiti

Where I live. What I live for.