Vote! It’s Easier than Eating an Artichoke


No one really likes artichokes even though we think we should. To be specific, I’m talking about the cut from the stalk version and not the cleaned up marinated-in-a-glass-jar kind.

Every spring I announce to my family that I’m going to serve fresh artichokes. I tend to skew towards all in so I present the proclamation as if dinner may change their lives.

I buy the odd vegetables with great anticipation. When I get home I reacquaint myself with their thorns and creepy prehistoric hairy centers.  An artichoke is the stegosaurus of the vegetable world and when bolted has an unexpected Dr. Seussian magenta bloom.

It looks like something you shouldn’t eat.

I trim the thorns and steam the orbs for what seems like forever. Then there are the individual sides of melted butter, lemon and hollandaise sauce to prepare.

We all gather at the table and I give the primer, again, on how to eat an artichoke. Everyone complies and drags their teeth along the often tough, fleshy leaves.

My family tries to meet me at my enthusiasm but truth be told the strange vegetable doesn’t usually live up to the hype. We each think to ourselves that we could easily live without another artichoke.

I know it’s not an obvious comparison but it seems to me that many Americans treat their one precious vote like an artichoke and have come to the conclusion that voting isn’t worth the trouble or disappointment.

There’s a lot of red, white and blue lip service given to democracy and our duty to participate. Of course we all know that the reality is much messier than the story we tell. Like the artichoke, there are many thorns in the process and all our country’s isms are under the leaves in the hairy prehistoric center.

But what if someone told you that eating an artichoke might prevent one senseless shooting death. Most likely you would eat the artichoke, right?

VOTE.  It’s easier than eating an artichoke.


End note: Need more information? Ballotpedia is a nonpartisan online political encyclopedia. Founded in 2007, it covers American federal, state, and local politics, elections, and public policy.  Ballotpedia’s stated goal is “to inform people about politics by providing accurate and objective information about politics at all levels of government.”

Ashes, Hearts and Birthday Cake


This year Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, and my fifty-fourth birthday are stacked on top of each other. It’s the first time since 1945 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day share the same date.

I take this as an auspicious sign.

Since I was a teen, I rebelled against my Valentine’s birthday and the sentimental, craft-store imagery of hearts, candy and flowers. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone tilts their head and through a breathy smile says, “Oh, you’re a Valentine’s baby, that’s so sweet.”

From the beginning of my romantic history, the specter of my Valentine’s birthday loomed large like sick-green tornadic clouds in the rearview mirror. Even my earnestly supportive husband of twenty-six years is often rendered celebratorily paralyzed during the month of February.

In response, I have shooed away my birthday and Valentine’s Day like unwanted flies. Having the two combined sounds like it should be more special than each stand-alone event but the mashup has never equaled my imagined script.

With the addition of Ash Wednesday to the mix, I must admit that I harbor a quiet yearning for something extraordinary to flare.

More accurately, I need a plan.

It’s been a stale start to 2018. I’ve been trying to reboot but the absence of concrete goals past my birthday’s horizon makes me anxious. There are no sparkly adventures or deadlines, no moves or significant transitions. I’m not comfortable with what seems to me like standing still.

We, humans, are meaning-making machines and from that charge, I desperately want to assign significance to my birthday falling on Ash Wednesday. I want this rare occurrence to usher in a dramatic shift.

I grew up wedding-and-funeral Episcopalian in a predominately Catholic small town in the Northeast. More than anything I wanted to go to catechism with my friends and get in on the mysterious spiritual goodies that I imagined being doled out every Wednesday after school. I wanted the rituals, the Friday night fish dinners, and the white confirmation dress.

As an adult, I’m not a practicing anything, but I still love the Lenten season. I’m drawn to the story of Jesus having to wrestle his demons, literally and figuratively, alone in the desert for forty days to find the clarity and strength to go forward.

There’s a nurturing austerity to the traditional pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting, and service – that disrupts habitual thinking.  Ash Wednesday requires change and begins a season to look within, try something different, and think about purpose and mortality.

The message of Lent is a fitting theme to my fifty-fifth year ahead. It honors my discomfort, even my jaded achy birthday neediness.

My husband and I do not usually give each other birthday gifts. So I was surprised last night to find the box that he left on my side of the bed. It was a necklace of tiny blue stones that catch the light just enough to draw awareness.

It’s perfect.

This morning I awoke to the kind of quiet that only happens after it rains. The wet streets muffled the traffic and the sunlight was muted and made tangible by the fog. It was the first time in a while that stillness made me feel sturdy and protected.

I take this as an auspicious sign.


Note: I took the photo in Grenoble, France.