Minor Miracle – Marilyn Nelson

Marilyn Nelson (1946-) 

The Fields of Praise

Minor Miracle

 

Which reminds me of another knock-on-wood

memory. I was cycling with a male friend,

through a small midwestern town. We came to a 4-way

stop and stopped, chatting. As we started again,

a rusty old pick-up truck, ignoring the stop sign,

hurricaned past scant inches from our front wheels.

My partner called, “Hey, that was a 4-way stop!”

The truck driver, stringy blond hair a long fringe

under his brand-name beer cap, looked back and yelled,

“You fucking niggers!”

And sped off.

My friend and I looked at each other and shook our heads.

We remounted our bikes and headed out of town.

We were pedaling through a clear blue afternoon

between two fields of almost-ripened wheat

bordered by cornflowers and Queen Anne’s lace

when we heard an unmuffled motor, a honk-honking.

We stopped, closed ranks, made fists.

It was the same truck. It pulled over.

A tall, very much in shape young white guy slid out:

greasy jeans, homemade finger tattoos, probably

a Marine Corps boot-camp footlockerful

of martial arts techniques.

 

“What did you say back there!” he shouted.

My friend said, “I said it was a 4-way stop.

You went through it.”

“And what did I say?” the white guy asked.

“You said: ‘You fucking niggers.'”

The afternoon froze.

 

“Well,” said the white guy,

shoving his hands into his pockets

and pushing dirt around with the pointed toe of his boot,

“I just want to say I’m sorry.”

He climbed back into his truck

and drove away.

 


From The Fields of Praise, published by Louisiana State University Press. Copyright © 1997 by Marilyn Nelson. All rights reserved.

SAAD’15: Engaging Bystanders

All Good Millennials want to help those in need, including those affected by rape and sexual assault.

But, you might be saying, “I’m no Olivia Benson. What can I do to help?”

You can help by being an engaged bystander, a non-victim who helps prevent sexual violence. On average, 293,066 people are sexually assaulted each year. That number has continued to drop dramatically over the past 20 years with the help of active and engaged citizens like you.

So here’s what you can do! The information below was gathered from RAINN: Rape, Assault, & Incest National Network. They have great tips, stats, and ways for you to get involved.

If you see someone in danger of being assaulted:

  • Step in and offer assistance. Ask if the person needs help. NOTE: Before stepping in, make sure to evaluate the risk. If it means putting yourself in danger, call 911 instead.
  • Don’t leave. If you remain at the scene and are a witness, the perpetrator is less likely to do anything.
  • If you know the perpetrator, tell the person you do not approve of their actions. Ask the person to leave the potential victim alone.

Be an ally:

  • When you go to a party, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with each other frequently and leave together.
  • Have a buddy system. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if you are worried about her/his safety.
  • If you see someone who is intoxicated, offer to call a cab.
  • Speak up and speak out – if you know your school, business, or other organization is not doing enough to prevent or handle sexual assault, do something about it.

You can also take the action pledge from the It’s On Us campaign. It’s On Us challenges all of us — victims and supporters — to take on the issue of sexual assault. Here is their pledge:

IT’S ON US…

  • To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
  • To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur.
  • To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.
  • To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

When we choose to make ending rape a priority, we are choosing to make our world safer and better for all. Act now!

Want to start a campus or community campaign? Check back later in the month for more posts!

GYT – Get Yourself Tested

Mackie
04/16/2015

As if April could have MORE month-long observances, April is also STD Awareness Month.

I know… STDs. Everyone’s favorite topic.

But here’s the deal, our 9th grade health teachers were right:

Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are real and they can affect anyone who is “sexually active” — even if you’re in a committed relationship or even if you’ve haven’t gone all the way. Doctors recommend getting tested once a year, and testing is EASY. We have all seen the heinous pictures brought to us by student slideshows, but many infections don’t show symptoms. All STDs, even HIV, are treatable and most are curable, but you have to get tested to start the process.

Getting tested for STDs can be scary, but it isn’t shameful or something to be embarrassed about. Getting tested means you’re being responsible and taking care of yourself and the people you love. Just like getting a yearly check-up, getting a yearly STD test is important — and it’s usually covered by insurance. It can also be confidential, and it could even be something you and your partner do together.

Just like fear of unintended pregnancy, the unknown of STDs puts a lot of stress on you and your relationships. Getting tested and knowing the facts makes life easier,  and it makes life safer for everyone involved.

Protect yourself and the people around you and get tested! Click here for a list of testing centers in your area, or visit your nearest Planned Parenthood.

10 Ways You Can Help Prevent Sexual Assault

Every 107 seconds, a person in America is sexually assaulted. Despite that staggering statistic, only 68% of attacks are reported, and 98% of rapists will never go to prison for their crimes.

This has got to change. And that change is on us.

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Good Millennial will be focusing on various topics our readers can implement into their daily lives to help end sexual assault. So here are 10 ways you can take an active role in ending sexual assault today.

1. Know the facts – There a lot of myths out there about rape, assault, and sexual violence. Knowing the truth will not only help you see situations more clearly, but it will also stop the spread of lies and keep people safe. For instance, did you know 2/3 of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim? It’s not always a random street assailant like on SVU. For more reliable and honest facts on sexual assault, visit RAINN or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

2. Buck stereotypes – Homophobia, sexism, and other beliefs on rigid sexual stereotypes have a direct correlation with sexual violence. Boys can wear pink, women can bring home the bacon – encourage these thoughts in yourself, others, and children. By letting go of these tired and dangerous trends, we not only create a freer world, but a safer one as well.

3. Take care of yourself – You can never completely protect yourself from anything life may throw at you, but making good choices and removing yourself from dangerous situations is an easy way to avoid a bad encounter. Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. When going out, go with a group, avoid isolating areas, and always have your cell phone charged and money for a safe way home. Keep your privacy online, as well, and be careful of posting personal information (where you live, history, family info, photos). And don’t forget to protect yourself emotionally and mentally, as well. Strive for self confidence, body peace, and remember how much you are valued. Be strong enough to say no — protecting yourself is always your first responsibility.

4. Take care of each other – As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers, so stick together and protect your friends and others, too. If you’re going out, keep track of each other and make sure you know where your friends are. Get them safe rides home and don’t ignore danger signs. If you see someone potentially at risk, ask if they need help and act — or, if the situation seems dangerous, call 911 or enlist help. Protecting our friends and strangers is integral to preventing attacks.

5. Respect. Period. – Abuse and attacks occur when people don’t fundamentally respect each other, so actively choose respect at all times. It doesn’t matter who a person sleeps with, how a person dresses, how much money they make, who they voted for, or how they behave — all people deserve respect and basic rights to safety, free choice, and happiness. When you choose respect, you are helping stop the cycle of prejudice and abuse.

6. Promote healthy sexuality – When someone feels good in their own skin and with their own body, they can make good, honest, and healthy choices. Healthy sexuality also lets people engage in consensual, safe, and pleasurable relationships or experience sexual feelings without guilt, regret, or exploitation. Discussing sexuality reduces its “taboo” nature and supports victims who may feel ashamed or stifled. Healthy sexuality supports prevention because it reinforces safe and positive behaviors, rather than unhealthy expressions of sexuality like sexual assault.

7. Make jokes about something else – There are so many hilarious things in the world. Dogs on skateboards, Louis C.K., did we mention dogs on skateboards? Rape isn’t funny. And making jokes that degrade or hurt other people or experiences is not only dangerous, but it’s also cheap and lame. Don’t do it, and don’t let other people do it, either. It’s hurtful, dangerous, and straight up stupid.

8. Remember sexual assault doesn’t only happen at college – Campus assault is a serious problem, one that shouldn’t be forgotten or taken lightly. But avoiding frat parties isn’t a guaranteed pass from sexual violence. The average age of perpetrators is 31, and 22% of convicted rapists are married.  Always be aware of your surroundings and protect yourself, no matter your age.

9. Trust survivors – Survivors need our support. If someone you know has been assaulted, it may be difficult to know how to deal with it. The bottom line is: leave the why and how questions to doctors or the police — your job is to believe in and love this person. For a great, detailed how-to list, click here.

10. Speak out – The stigma around sexual violence is full of shame, controversy, and outright lies. Choose to take an active role in combatting sexual assault by keeping the topic honest and alive. Talk to friends, talk to classmates, talk to family members. And then talk to local politicians, school boards, and college administrators. Don’t be afraid of taking a stand. The more discussions we have, the more action we’ll see. For more ways to to do this, click here.

 

What have you done to help stop sexual violence? Do you have more resources to share? Comment below or share with us on the socials.

Afternoon on a Hill – Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) 

Afternoon on a Hill – 1917

 

I will be the gladdest thing

Under the sun!

I will touch a hundred flowers

And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds

With quiet eyes,

Watch the wind bow down the grass,

And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show

Up from the town,

I will mark which must be mine,

And then start down!


For more on Millay, click here.

Birthday Wishes

Mackie
04/10/2015

This weekend I’ll be blowing out my candles and making a wish to celebrate my 23rd birthday. There are so many things to wish for this year. I have so much ahead of me and so much behind me, and I’m really thinking I could use a little birthday luck. But I also feel like the world could use some wishes, too. A lot of wishes, if you ask me. I’m not sure exactly what my wish will be (I like the “in the moment” style of wish-making), but I think these words from the incomparable Maya Angelou do the trick:

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”

I’m off for a little birthday fun. Keep wishing! xo

 

 

Purvi Patel: Prisoner of War

Mackie
04/09/2015

Last Monday, a woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison for having a miscarriage.

Her name is Purvi Patel and she is 33-years-old.

In July 2013, she went to an Indiana hospital, telling doctors she had a miscarriage. She was bleeding and needed help. When doctors asked her about the remains, Patel said she tried to revive it but she didn’t know what to do, and allegedly not wanting to upset her parents who she lives with, she disposed of the stillborn fetus in a dumpster. Police recovered the body, which was reported as being anywhere from 23-30 weeks gestation. (This was debated between the pathologists for the defense and the prosecution.) Police also recovered a text message from Patel’s phone discussing ordering abortion-inducing pills online and one reading, “Just lost the baby.” However, prosecutors never proved she actually took these drugs nor that they were used in the termination of the pregnancy.

According to the New York Times, Patel was charged with felony child neglect and feticide. While these charges seem contradictory (how can you neglect something that was aborted?), it was reported that citizens in Indiana can be charged with feticide for attempted harm to a fetus, even if the fetus survives. So, as the Times puts it, she was charged for “letting her baby die after the self-abortion failed.” That is, of course, if she really did try to self-abort.

There have been many cases of mothers, intentionally or accidentally, killing their children. “If this case were only about a woman who clearly gave birth to a live baby and then killed her child, it would be clear cut,” writes NYT reporter Emily Bazelon. After a child is born, the state has a right to protect its life. But whether this fetus was alive at birth is widely contested, and pathologists for the defense and prosecution differ on their interpretations of the facts. Was the fetus at 23-24 weeks, meaning its lungs had not fully developed and wouldn’t have been functioning? Or was it at upwards of 30 weeks, which would make it fully developed and “past the point of viability”, making it born alive?

To answer this question, the prosecution turned to a centuries old “lung-float test” which was discredited over 100 years ago. But many found the prosecution’s medical evidence inconclusive. Gregory J. Davis—assistant state medical examiner for Kentucky and a professor of pathology and lab medicine at the Universiy of Kentucky– called it “nonspecific” and “dead wrong” in an interview with Bazelon:

“Or even if we agree hypothetically that the baby took a breath, that doesn’t mean Ms. Patel did anything wrong. What if she was scared and bleeding herself, and she didn’t clamp the cord in time, because she didn’t know how, and the baby died?”

This is when, as Bazelon points out, we move from a trial about giving birth to a fight about reproduction and pregnancy itself.

Would the sentence in Indiana been as harsh if Patel had simply miscarried and disposed of the fetus, with no question of self-abortion? Would it have been as harsh if she hadn’t disposed of the fetus the way she did? It’s hard to tell, considering Indiana’s recent track record, but we do know this is the first time any woman in the United States has been charged and convicted using a state feticide law.

If Patel’s story hasn’t moved you already, this is when you should start caring.

According to the New York Times, around 38 states have feticide laws in place. This means we could start seeing more cases and convictions like Patel’s across the country. And that is scary.

Feticide laws were initially enacted to (allegedly) protect women from abusive third parties. But other women have been arrested as well for numerous reasons ranging from failed suicide attempts to refusing recommended C-sections to drug-related problems, more abortion pills ordered online, and even for falling down the stairs—an action reported as intentional to induce an abortion by the hospital when the woman went to seek care. However, these charges were dropped, lessened, or settled.

None of these women have received the 20-year sentence that now faces Purvi Patel, and while her personal story is extremely troubling, more frightening still is the precedent set by this conviction.

Lynn M. Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, wrote, “What the Patel case demonstrates is that both women who have abortions and those who experience pregnancy loss may now be subject to investigation, arrest, public trial and incarceration.”

While men play a vital role in causing pregnancy, women alone must carry the fetus. Women alone must go through the process of giving birth. And it seems that women alone must time and time again be punished for their natural, God-given ability to do so. Women are stripped of their healthcare and benefits because of their potential for pregnancy. Then, women are made to fight for those things– for birth control, for family planning, for child care, for the right to be a mother and be an employee simultaneously. Women are made to fight to breast-feed where they need to. Women are made to fight for protection in their own homes, on their college campuses, on their streets and now in their court of law.

And now it is also women, like Purvi Patel, who are sentenced to 20 years in prison because of something they cannot control, something their bodies are made to do whether they like it or not, and something she probably didn’t do in the first place.

Yes, Patel’s story is disturbing. The image of the bleeding woman in the hospital, the fetus in the dumpster. The way she has been portrayed certainly makes her look the villain. But the evidence presented does not tell me without a doubt this woman was neglectful and deserves to be imprisoned. It mostly just brings up a lot of questions:

If Patel was beginning to miscarry, did she, as Davis asked, simply make a mistake? If she only knew she was pregnant for three weeks before she miscarried, any number of things could have been going wrong and she wouldn’t have known because she didn’t visit a doctor. Was she scared? Did she know what was happening?

If Patel was purposefully trying to end her pregnancy, despite no actual evidence of abortion drug use, did she have another option? Perhaps she did not want the child in the first place. Perhaps she wanted a legal abortion, but her partner or family or cultural or religious beliefs forbade her. It has been reported that Patel lived with her parents and bedridden grandparents, possibly even helping as their caretaker. Maybe she felt ashamed or afraid her family would find out. Maybe she was feeling threatened or abandoned or pressured by the married coworker who allegedly helped create the fetus in the first place. Or maybe she was alone.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that 61% of women in Indiana do not have access to abortion services and 93% of counties don’t offer abortion services. According to Planned Parenthood’s medical services search, the nearest clinic that provided abortion services was 44 miles away from her home in Granger, IN.

Maybe, if Patel actually did use self-abortion measures, she did so because she ran out of time or a clinic couldn’t fit her in. Maybe she couldn’t make the two trips to see her doctor, since Indiana requires counseling services 18 hours before the procedure. Maybe it’s because public funding and certain Indiana exchanges under the Affordable Care Act only cover abortion in cases when the woman’s life is endangered, her health is severely compromised or in the case of rape or incest, so she couldn’t afford it. Or maybe she didn’t want it going on her insurance record or bank statement because someone would see it. Or maybe if she could make it to the doctor, she was scared or confused after seeing the picture from the ultrasound the state requires women to undergo before the procedure.

Maybe she felt isolated by her state, isolated by her family, and isolated by her own body – and felt she had no choice. Or maybe she miscarried and didn’t know what to do.

That is an awful lot of maybes.

Too many, it seems to me, to prove someone is truly neglectful, truly at fault.

But why did this even have to happen in the first place? Is it, as the prosecution claim, that Purvi Patel deliberately chose not to go to a doctor, and deliberately wanted to neglect the fetus and cause its “death”? Patel has no criminal history, no other reported evidence of abuse. There is also no evidence Patel actually bought or used the abortion drugs, only the text message discussing them.

Many women, especially women of color, who seek out abortions after becoming pregnant, are often criticized for how “dumb or poor or slutty” they are for getting pregnant in the first place. Anti-abortion activists claim the ultrasounds and the waiting periods often required by law are for a woman’s own good, since women are too “dumb or poor or slutty” to realize what they are doing when they seek an abortion.

And yet, in Patel’s case, it seems she is too smart and too wealthy, to be seen as innocent.

“You, Miss Patel, are an educated woman of considerable means. If you wished to terminate your pregnancy safely and legally, you could have done so,” said St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley during her sentencing. So does that mean if she were stupid and poor she would have been forgiven? Does this mean rich, smart people don’t have feelings or fears?

This contradiction is a micro example of our country’s war on abortion, which is really, when it comes down to it, a war on women. A woman goes through the physical and emotional challenges of getting pregnant and then miscarrying, and then we put her in prison? Even if Patel was truly neglectful and did intentionally cause harm to her potential child, it makes me wonder, what drove her to that choice? After all, she did have the choice get a legal abortion. Didn’t she?

The war on women has created numerous dangerous and outrageous laws, supported by politicians, ministers, and lobbyists who are obsessed with limiting a woman’s right to choose. These “warriors for life” reduce women down to their very basic parts, their very basic capability of housing and growing a potential life, as if women are no more than incubators or Easy Bake Ovens.

But, even more horrifyingly, this war on women has also created situations like that of Purvi Patel. The reason this 33-year-old woman is in jail is not because she is guilty of child neglect or feticide. She is in jail because Indiana and many other states just like it have created a system that leaves women with no choice. And now that system is taking a law intended to protect women and using it against women.

The stigma against abortion (created by anti-abortion supporters) is so great, many women who are capable of procuring an abortion feel too threatened or ashamed to get the procedures they need. Abortion remains a legal choice, but it is so restricted that for many, abortion is not a real choice. Politicians have created a world in which safe, legal abortion can’t be the answer for many, many women, and they are doing it on purpose.

That is the real crime here, not Purvi Patel’s miscarriage.

So the questions we ask should not be about if she took abortion pills or if she killed her child or if the fetus’ lungs had breathed one breath of life. We should be asking, why are women driven to such extremes in a country that not only has safe and legal abortion services, but also safe and legal birth control options that would make abortion obsolete? And we should be asking why a woman who arrived at the hospital bleeding heavily with a protruding umbilical cord and asking for help after miscarrying is now serving 20 years in prison?

We should also be asking why anti-abortion activists make more noise than the nearly 1 million women who receive safe and legal abortions every year in the United States? Why does it seem like everyone in America hates abortion when many people support safe and legal options for abortion, and many people don’t even choose a side in the pro-life/pro-choice debate? Why do we let the fears of a few affect the lives of many? Why would we rather believe lies than seek the truth?

The pro-life movement has thrived because pro-choicers have not done enough to keep the truth alive. So what can we do? We can protect the rights of women by speaking out and speaking up. We can help by talking to our representatives, talking to our relatives and religious leaders, and talking to each other. We can help by calling out lies and spreading the truth: Safe and accessible legal abortion, birth control, and prenatal care are good for women, good for families, and good America.

Purvi Patel is the first prisoner in the war on women. If we do not act, she will not be the last.

 


If you would like to add your name to a message of solidarity for Patel, click here.
Other sources, besides those linked above can be found here and here.

23 Goals for 23 Years

Mackie
04/09/2015

Every year on my birthday, I like to reflect on all the things I accomplished the year before. In school, in life, in love — anything and everything is fair game for the “I Did It!” list. But I also like to think about all that I have left to do, all that’s still ahead. So I’ve made a list of 23 goals, 23 things I’d like to attempt in the next year (or two, or ten) to make life a little bit better. Maybe you’ll feel a little inspired, too!

23 Goals for 23 Years

 

1. Make active choices to further my career

2. Feel ownership over my choices and ideas

 

3. Continue exploring passions

4. Expand the blog

5. Learn how to exercise and take care of my body

6. Accept the messiness

7. Volunteer with causes that matter

 

8. Take more chances

9. Read, read, read, read

10. Find new music that inspires me

11. Live simply and with less waste

12. Spend more time with family

13. Feel exhausted at the end of the day

14. Take up meditation and/or yoga

 

15. Find a therapist

16. Make a money plan and begin saving

17. Learn more about taxes and other adult business things 

18. Become an expert in something

19. Travel and see things big and small

20. Care more about gardening and fine wines

 

21. Live gracefully and with great thanks

22. Practice forgiveness

23. Choose happiness

 

 

“It’s all messy: The hair. The bed. The words. The heart. Life…”

 

 

Do you have any little birthday goals or traditions? Mantras for the new year?

Best No-Gift Birthday Ideas!

Mackie
04/08/2015

Birthdays only come once a year, but what if you could make an impact that could last all year long? No one needs more stuff, but coming up with ideas for a fun bday experience can be tough. Good Millennial has some great ideas to turn the day all about one into a day that could help millions. Check it out!

For the Gift Giver

1. Donate to a cause! – Does the birthday girl love animals? Is she passionate about the environment? Does she dig listening to NPR? There’s basically a charity for anything these days, and any donation can make a difference. Especially consider local organizations who could be directly connected to the birthday girl. Use the Charity Navigator to compare options or use JustGive.org to find a local charity or give a charity gift card — you pick the amount, they pick the charity!

Festival fun and no random junk! Win/win!

2. Plan a group outing! – Why buy another thing we don’t need when you can make a memory everyone will love! Get a group of friends to road trip or go camping. Chip in on festival passes. Make a giant, city-wide scavenger hunt! An evening, afternoon, or weekend of fun beats bath salts every time.

3. Commit to volunteer time together! – This is a really cool idea because you and your friends get to have a good time while helping those in need. Build a habitat for humanity, sort items or cans at a shelter or food pantry, or spend some time outdoors and clean up parks. Consider your local charities or organizations that might need help and reach out them — you never know what could happen!

4. Just the two of us! – If you want a birthday (or anniversary) experience for two, here’s some ideas. Hot air balloon rides and private wine tastings are nice, or for the adventurous types, what about sky-diving?

5. Throw a big bash! – When all else fails, THROW A PARTY! Pool your money and throw a bangin’ party that everyone will remember. Watch out for tomorrow’s blog post on parties on a budget.

 

For the Host

1. Encourage guests to donate! – Grown ups don’t need gobs of gifts, so if family or friends wanna give you something nice, suggest they donate what they would have spent on your gift to their favorite cause!

2. Volunteer party! – Instead of spending $100 on shots, spend an afternoon volunteering together. You save money, you help other people, and you can still go out for post-volunteer beers afterward.

“In the aaaarms of the aaaangels”

3. Dedicate your party to a cause! – Use an organization like Charity Birthday to organize your guests for a cause. Other charities also have ways to donate your birthday, like Heifer International or Charity Water.

4. Bring a can! – Ask your guests to bring items to donate to various local organizations. They can bring canned goods for food shelters, or you can choose to sponsor a family and have guests bring items they need. You could even make it into a competition — see which guests can bring the most recyclables and offer a prize to the winner!

5. Make it an event! – If you have a big group ready to party, make your party count! Host a “telethon” or a “celebrity” poker night, where all the proceeds go to your favorite charities. Have your gathering at a local restaurant or bar, and see if you can get part of the proceeds from the evening to be donated. There are lots of ways to make giving the main event and still have time for cake and ice cream.

Make your birthday count and give to those in need. Keep celebrating BIRTHDAY WEEK with us! Do you have a favorite organization or charity in need? Share below or on FB or Twitter!

How to Throw the Perfect Birthday Party Without Breaking the Bank

Mackie
04/07/2015

Wanna throw yourself (or a loved one) a bangin’ party without spending the big bucks? You’re in luck! Good Millennial has some fool-proof ways to make your birthday bash AMAZING and keep your wallet happy.

1. Decide what’s most important to you

Lists on lists on lists

Time with friends? Good food? Glitz and glamour? This is your celebration, so make it one you’ll love — but don’t forget to show your guests a good time, too. Make a list of all the things you want to include. This can be as vague as “lots of fun” or as specific as “green balloons” — just get it all down! Once you see it all on paper, it’ll be easier to assess. Think about how many people will be there (if you’re throwing the party for someone else, don’t forget about their relatives or long lost pals), what sort of venue you want (maybe you just want everyone to meet up for drinks at your favorite local hang out!). After you have your list, you’ll be able to choose what to splurge on and how you can save. Here’s some ideas to get you started.

2. Everyone loves a theme party – but don’t get crazy

Birthday parties are easy because – duh- they already have a theme. But as the years go by, birthday parties can get a little predictable. So spice yours up with a fun, new theme! You could go with Birthdays Through the Ages, where guests come dressed as different versions of the birthday girl or boy (college, elementary school, prom). Throwback to your sleepover days, and ask guests to dress in PJs, make blanket forts, and play Truth or Dare. You could pick a favorite sports team, tv show, or event, and make that the theme. BUT don’t make it too obscure (“dress like that one episode of the Twilight Zone that only I know about!!”) or too expensive (“It’s an Everyone Wear Diamonds and Buy Me Presents Party!”) — remember, the best themes are the ones everyone can connect to and make their own. For more ideas, here’s a HUGE list.

From BeauxandBelles.net

3. DIY is your BFF

Do It Yourself is definitely in right now, which is great when you’re planning a party on a (tight) budget. Why spend a bunch of money on hokey, premade decorations and invites when you can make them yourself for way less cash and way more fun. Make yourself a budget and STICK TO IT! Coordinate your theme with your invites (are you mailing them/handing them out/using social media, or simply texting everyone), and make your way over to Pinterest to help you with everything from streamers to tablecloths and more. Then REUSE and RECYCLE! Get your extra tables and chairs from friends or neighbors, hit up secondhand stores for anything you can repurpose into something fancy and fresh, and don’t forget — less is more. The most important part is that people have fun! For more DIY inspiration, click here.

4. Your BFFs are also your BFFs

Why spend money on hired help when your friends are the most talented people you know? Do they bake or bartend? Are they super trendy or super crafty? If your theme happens to be retro and you know your friend’s parent’s basement is straight out of That 70s Show, hit them up! Most people are willing to lend a hand to celebrate their BFF. Plus, they know you’ll return the favor when it’s their turn to celebrate. Don’t forget to thank them profusely and maybe give them a lil’ something to show your appreciation.

FANCY

5. Let me entertain you!

You know what they say… Talk is cheap. So get the party going with some good old fashioned conversation. Encourage people to put the phones away by leaving cheap disposable cameras around to nab pics and start convos. Games like Cards Against Humanity or some low-stakes poker are always crowd pleasers, but what about Mafia or Flashlight Tag? We always love to a have a “Pin The…” game that coordinates with the theme — young or old, party games are always a good bet! You can also spring for some karaoke or dancing, or for your musically-inclined friends, you can all try to come up with the best jam! Break your pals into groups and assign them each a genre of music (metal, electronica, 50s doowop) and give them all an instrument (or they can bring their own!). Give everyone a time limit and see what they come up with — you could even provide a costume box for each group to really get into the groove. Make your bday memorable and a whole lotta fun with some original entertainment!

6. Practical Stuff

The fun stuff is all well and good but don’t forget about the necessities: Who, What, Where, When, and How. Decide on the size of the gathering and stick to it. Make your guest list and invite who you want to, as well as who you need to. Get your invites out early and make sure you designate when the party starts and when it ends, even if that’s when the bars close. Make sure you pick a venue that suits your needs — a party room, your place, a bar. If you’re hosting a giant rave, be cool and warn the neighbors first — or invite them! Make sure you know about sound ordinances or quiet hours, or consider pooling some funds to rent a room at a restaurant or bar. Decide on food and drink, including alcohol and bday cake, as well as utensils. Also, make sure people know they don’t need to bring you presents. You’re an adult, for God’s sake.

It’ll be gorgeous no matter what!

7. Relax and have fun!

The best parties are the ones where people can have fun and be themselves — including the host. Maybe ask a friend or two to help you with your hosting duties so you can celebrate yourself. If you’ve done all your prep work, the party will be a breeze. Plus, the best part of any gathering is the people around you. So blow out those candles and celebrate YOU — you’re worth it!

 

Happy Birthday to YOU!