CVS Goes Big: Receipts, Stores & Anti-Smoking

Often bigger isn’t necessarily better. Take CVS.  Even Jimmy Kimmel on his ABC late night show complained to President Barak Obama about the length of the drugstore’s receipts.

In Katonah, New York, a bedroom suburb 45 miles north of New York City, the local zoning board voted to limit the size of new retail establishments, effectively blocking CVS from building a nearly 7,000 square foot superstore in a small shopping center, replacing a smaller store already there. Residents wanted to maintain the town’s character; it banned Starbucks nearly 20 years ago.

I understand “NIMBY” – “not in my backyard.” I’ve seen one of these mega-sized CVS stores and wondered what more could they be selling. I fill prescriptions at an independent store in my town and love the personal attention and quick service. When other stores in town have closed, this pharmacy has absorbed some of their business, adding a music department and photocopying area. Yet for items like sunscreen, aspirin, hair products, and the like, I’ll stop into my local CVS. And while I’m there I might buy milk or candy too. I crumble their excessively long receipts; I’m not organized enough to keep them safe somewhere for the next visit. I agree with Kimmel, it is a waste of paper.

Yet CVS deserves commendation too. The company announced that it’s resigning from the US Chamber of Commerce because the chamber and its foreign affiliates are lobbying against anti-smoking laws. Last year, CVS stopped selling tobacco products and believe the chamber’s campaign stymies the drugstore chain’s mission to improve public health.

Bravo, CVS for having the courage to act. Perhaps we can forgive the company for having ridiculous receipts and wanting bigger stores.

Boo, Chamber of Commerce for supporting business interests at the expense of global health.






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Mushroom Mystery

Some magnificent looking mushrooms have sprung up in front of the house across the street. The size of salad plates, appearing suddenly when heavy rains followed a heat wave, they seem magical, planted by a garden troll or an alien. IMG_0913 IMG_0914

In my mind, I’m gathering and giving them a quick rinse, chopping a bit, and sautéing in butter, garlic and fresh herbs. I’d mix them with wild rice or serve on top of pasta. Or just eat straight from the pan.

I remember years ago we had a houseguest from Australia visiting. After a summer rain, she collected the mushrooms from the lawn. My mother panicked and admonished her, worried about having to tell her mother she’d been poisoned. Jane, our guest, assured us these were fine. Trusting her, we ate them and they were great.

But not knowing mushrooms—with more than 1,000 varieties worldwide and many of them poisonous- I’ll stick to buying at the grocery store and leave identifying to the botanists who study them. There’s a Czech adage that warns: “Every mushroom is edible, but some only once.”

Nevertheless, they remind me of nature’s mysteries. Beautiful. Temporary. Mystical.

Posted in environment, food, Nature, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

July 4th: Gun Control NOW

It’s a rainy 4th of July here in northeastern Pennsylvania. I’m making a pasta salad to bring to our friends later; a combination of vegetables and seasonings. I’m listening to a panoply of patriotic music  aired by the local NPR station. And as I chop and listen, I’m thinking about the day’s significance and question where we go from here.

Last week’s Supreme Court  ruling that grants gay marriage nationwide, make this year’s 4th celebrations of independence and freedom historical. Facebook encouraged users to enhance their profile photos with a rainbow hue, to acknowledge the victory with the LGBT symbol.

This followed on the heels of the horrific church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where a 21-year-old white male gunned down nine innocent African Americans during worship.

This December will mark the three- year anniversary of the Sandy Hook, CT school shooting, where a 20-year-old white male opened fire, killing 26 people, 20 children among them. Since then a group of cyclists ride to Washington, DC, wearing green jerseys, to promote stricter gun control and background checks.

Will a color be adopted to represent the Charleston massacre? How long will it take before colors are more than symbols and become law?

I doubt the Founding Fathers thought much about LGBT rights back in the 18th century. In a society created by militant uprisings and where many differences were solved by duels and other violence, they enacted the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. The amendment has been subject to debate.

They didn’t foresee how the nation would change its views of civil rights but they had hopes. If around today, I bet they’d be advocating that it’s time to amend the Second Amendment to protect innocent lives. IMG_0898

Posted in celebrations, Civil Rights History, commentary, Education, Family, Grandchildren, History, holidays, news, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Caring for our Girls: Women are the Foundation of our Society


From my friend Dr. Judy Washington.

Originally posted on A Family Doctor's Reflection:

Women are the foundation of our society.  From the moment  girls are born, the love and support from family helps them evolve into strong, confident and caring women.

Yet, fear and suffocating religious customs and cultural beliefs prevents this from happening in many parts of the world.  Across the world these precious members of our society are being raped, killed, sold into slavery, struggling on minimum wages and being victimized by their male partners. They are trapped in poverty and held captive.

Over the years, my female patients have revealed the pain of sexual assault, incest and intimate partner violence.  Women in the military who are serving our country and looking for a better life are being victimized. Even on college campuses where women are supposed to be safe, sexual assault is happening and being mishandled.

Women have worked and completed their education while raising their children alone.  Many are caring…

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Anne, Frida & Harvey: Civil Rights

I’m always game to see art, whether on stage, on film, in museums or galleries. I appreciate old masters and new talent; I love viewing the world through artists’ visions.

Yesterday I fit in two events, on the surface perhaps disparate, yet offering some similar themes.

First, we attended Andrew Lippa’s workshop performance of Anne Hutchinson/Harvey Milk. We’d seen the oratorio I am Harvey Milk  in San Francisco in 2013 and at Lincoln Center last October and are familiar with the story and music. Looking for ways to extend the work into a full theater piece, Andrew discovered Anne Hutchinson,  anne-hutchinson-1 the Puritan spiritual advisor considered among America’s first feminists. Now a 90 minute performance, the show is divided into two segments, sharing the Hutchinson story first followed by Harvey Milk.  imagesA 16 -member chorus provided the backdrop for each piece as the three singers shared the stories. Here’s hoping the show will develop and be staged for more to see.

I found myself thinking about many other civil rights activists that spanned the period of history presented. Hutchinson lived in the 17th century; Milk in the 20th. Surely there’s been progress; certainly there’s more to do.

Later in the day, we strolled through the New York Botanical Garden, a favorite seasonal outing, this time to see an exhibit that shows how artist and political activist Frida Kahlo’s  paintings celebrate the plants and culture of Mexico. Worth a visit.

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Biking & Hiking in Zion & Bryce

We spent last week in southwestern Utah, cycling and hiking in Zion and Bryce National Parks. Being our first organized trip with a group and guides, I was a bit apprehensive. Our previous excursions have been self-guided, albeit organized by various tour companies, but we were on our own. This trip, organized by REI, ensured we avoided crowds—massive tour buses, unloading foreign tourists, mostly who walk to the top of the trail and take a photo, and return to the bus—and saw parts of the parks we might have missed. All but the last day, we hiked and biked each day.  The group, only 3 others, plus the two guides, turned out to be great fun; we were together for the activities,  meals and card playing at night.DSC00204 DSC00172 DSC00168 DSC00175


Posted in bike riding, Cycling, environment, exercise, Family, Friendship, travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

New Jersey Pump Our Own Gas? Forget About It!

There are many wonderful things about living in New Jersey.

From where I live, I can get to the beach, the forests, or New York City in under an hour drive. I’m about 20 minutes to an international airport too.

The biking is among the state’s best kept secrets.

The tomatoes and corn are like none other anywhere. It’s the Garden State after all.

Ok, maybe it’s one of the most congested states in the Union, but probably one of the most diverse. Every type of ethnic food can be found, whether at a restaurant or a grocery.

It’s got its share of famous people born here like Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen. Thomas Edison lived and invented here. And so on.

And one of the best things? You don’t have to pump your own gas. In fact, it’s illegal to hop out of your car and manhandle the pump. When the temperatures sink below freezing or rise above 90, it’s quite nice to stay in the car. And I don’t miss the gasoline smell left on my hands.

Now a few state legislators want to remove the 1949 Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act, designed to protect consumers from petroleum mishaps. They claim allowing motorists to pump their own gas would enable station owners to offer lower prices and stay open 24 hours without worrying about finding employees to work overnight shifts.

Only Oregon prohibits self-serve pumping but is also considering lifting the ban.

Public opinion seems to prefer keeping the pumping to the pros.  I sure hope so!

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