A ballot party is a fun, easy way to spend time with friends and become a more informed voter.
The concept is really simple. All you have to do to host your own is print out sample ballots and invite your friends over for dinner. As you eat, everyone researches a different line on the ballot on their phone or computer (good sources of information include the local news, voter guides from trusted organizations, and candidate questionnaires like those from the League of Women Voters). Then, you talk about what you learned and everyone fills in their sample ballots. Everyone takes home their own ballot––and no one has to share their choices––but we all get help learning about the issues and our voting options. It’s especially great for becoming informed about all the down-ballot races and referenda without feeling overwhelmed, and it gets us to vote where our votes count most (did you know that, at the local level, races can be decided by just a few votes? Or even a coin toss in the event of a tie?)
Devin and I have been hosting ballot parties before every election for the past couple of years, and honestly, I look forward to them the way I look forward to a holiday. This year we’re planning on making a soup and a big salad, but if you are less inclined to cook, I think it would also be fun to get together with friends and order pizza. The best part is that a few days after the party, I head to the polls with my little sample ballot in hand, confident that I know what I’m voting on and what choices I want to make.
What do you think? Is this totally nerdy? Would you ever host your own ballot party? I’m happy to help you plan one if you’re interested!
Did you know that in Mexico (and throughout Latin America) Valentine’s Day is known as the Day of Love and Friendship? (Colombia also celebrates el Día del Amor y la Amistad, but it’s in September, for some reason? Colombianos, explain yourselves. ; )
It’s always been one of my favorite holidays, for obvious reasons: I love pink. I love hearts. And I love friendship. I actually always forget that it’s known as a super romantic ~couple’s holiday~ and I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated in a couple-y way. I also always forget that the color red is associated with Valentine’s Day, so clearly I live in my own valentine bubble!
I do like to celebrate by throwing a big party with my friends and making my home as pink as possible. This year Devin and I made it a dance party, featuring some of our friends’ favorite songs (we asked everyone to include their favorite dance song when they RSVP-ed). It ended up being really fun, so I decided it would be fun to share the playlist plus a few photos of our Valentine’s Day treats!
When I introduce Devin, I like to tell people that he’s from a hippie community. “No, like a real hippie community,” I clarify. I explain that his parents grow most of their own food, that people have names like Tree, Chamomile, and Forest––and oh yeah, Devin and his three best friends were all born at home and delivered by the same midwife.*
This year, the spouses of those four born-at-home hippies decided to surprise them with a birthday party. The midwife came. It was in the house where one of them was born. And––at the height of the party––the mothers did dramatic readings of their birth stories that bordered on performance art. (OK, the last one is a lie, but I wish I’d thought to suggest it.)
At first, the surprise party seemed easy enough to orchestrate. All we had to do was get the guys to go home on the same weekend, have them show up at the same place at the same time, and keep it a secret until then. In the end, it was less “piece of cake” and more “learning experience.” I took some notes in case you’d like to learn from my mistakes!
1) Coordinating party plans from three different states can be really confusing. You’ll probably send a lot of text messages. If you don’t want your surprise target to get suspicious about said texting, change the names of your co-conspirators in your contact list. Otherwise, your partner may see your phone light up with a text from his best friend’s partner and say, “Hey! Look who sent you a text message!” thinking you’re going to tell him that they’re coming to visit or something, and instead you’ll get cagey and mumble that he shouldn’t look at your phone.
2) Related: figure out a plan so that your partner doesn’t talk to any of his best friends in the weeks leading up to their joint surprise party (and then report back because I still don’t know how to do this).
3) How do you explain coming home with 45 pounds of cheese? You can’t. Don’t do the party prep at your place––or figure out a workaround for party prep altogether. I recommend throwing your surprise party with people who don’t mind doing a potluck. Luckily, hippies are so down for potlucks (though really, “potluck” is an understatement. We had so many cakes that we hardly made a dent in the official birthday cake! It was like a cartoon banquet come to life.)
4) This might seem like backward advice, but trust me: you don’t want to be too good at hiding the surprise party. I was so focused on keeping the secret that Devin thought I wasn’t going to celebrate his birthday at all. And he planned his own party. Oops. Miraculously, he decided he wanted it to be a brunch at his parents’ house on the same day as the surprise party, which was a dinner, so we were able to do both (back-to-back!), but it was nerve-wracking for me and confusing for Devin. So confusing in fact that when everyone yelled, “Surprise!” Devin turned to me in a panic and said, “Do my parents know about this?” because he was worried they hadn’t been invited. (They had to wait until we left their house to drive to the party.)
5) The saying “two can keep a secret if one of them is dead” definitely applies in this situation. Surprising four people is impossible! By the end of our party-planning sojourn, half of the birthday guys knew about the party, and you know what? They didn’t enjoy it any less than the dudes who didn’t know.
I’m honestly not sure if the moral of this story is that a party doesn’t have to be a surprise to be fun OR that now I know how to do better next time. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
*I told Tree, the midwife, that this is my favorite fun fact about Devin, and she asked me to note that she does not deliver babies. The way she sees it, the person giving birth does all the work. She’s just there to assist.
The first order of Valentine’s Day business is a realization: I’ve had some really unexpected Valentine’s Days. There was the one that started with a photo shoot for a whiskey ad and ended at a Harlem Globetrotters game, with a bizarre pseudo-romantic (not at all romantic) run-in in between. There was the one that started with hundreds of dogs and ended with free ice cream, with a cinematic random act of kindness in between. There was the one that started with surprising Devin with a bottle of milk and ended with him surprising me with a carton of soymilk. (I didn’t blog about that one because it’s as straightforward as it sounds. Technically, it happened simultaneously, but you know, poetic license…) This year I spent Valentine’s Day with my niece Leila on her first birthday, and it was wonderful.
I love visiting my cousin Vanessa (a.k.a. Leila’s mom) because we have similar tastes and interests, but she’s one million times cooler and more collected than I am. Visiting her is like glimpsing an alternate reality where I spend less time asking “What if?” and more time asking “Who cares?” That sounds funny to say because Vanessa’s very responsible, but she’s super carefree about it (and she literally smiles and says “Who cares?” in response to all my worries, which is exactly what I need to hear). Josh, my cousin-in-law, is a master of deadpan pranks, so their house is always full of laughter, albeit at my expense!
This weekend I got to assist them in throwing a party featuring pink and hearts and the most ridiculous piñata I’ve ever seen.
The party was on Saturday (the 13th), and Leila partied so hard that she slept in on her birthday the next day. Vanessa asked me to watch her while she took a shower because Leila was sleeping in her parents’ bed. I was only with her for a few minutes before she woke up. She looked scared, but somehow I calmed her down before she cried. We looked at each other for a little bit, and then she reached out to hold my index finger and smiled and laughed and talked to me in baby babble. When I got to Vanessa’s house on Thursday, the first thing I noticed was a print of three sisters hanging in Leila’s room. I knew immediately that she’d bought it to symbolize my mom and her two sisters (sometimes we call our aunts the tías-mamás because we are so close to all of them). I love knowing that Vanessa loves my aunts and mom like I love them. I love thinking about Leila growing up with so many abuelitas, but thinking about this, and remembering that I live far away from all my sobrin@s, hurts.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to live close to Leila. I don’t know if she’ll ever rely on me the way I do on my aunts. I don’t know if I’ll ever earn a place on her wall. But I think I was the first person she saw on her first birthday. And she smiled and held my hand.
Yesterday afternoon I joined fifty to sixty thousand people in New York City to affirm that Black lives matter at the Millions March NYC. Later I joined fifty-leven girls to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Beyoncé by Beyoncé, the visual album (okay, so it was more like a dozen friends, not fifty-leven girls).
The march was incredibly important, but I don’t think I can do it justice here, except to say that I am inspired by the wimyn of color who are leading the peaceful protests and creative acts of civil disobedience. At the marches I vacillate between grieving for all the lost lives (here and in Mexico, my other home, which still lives under the reign of La Inseguridad) and being hopeful for the systemic change necessary to end structural racism and oppression. It is exhausting, and I know I am only able to hope because I’m not alone, and because the many people leading this movement are motivated by love.
It felt strange to protest and party on the same day, but I guess it’s like Emma Goldman said, “A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having.” Especially if you’re dancing to the first pop song to sample a speech on feminism as its second verse. That’s revolutionary in its own right, don’t you think? I think Emma G. would be down. Luckily my friends agreed and came over for a little party. Some of us dressed up like different characters from the videos, and we projected the whole visual album on a wall. We also ate snacks featured in the album (including the platinum edition songs): sliders, kale, watermelon, Skittles, Blow Pops, cake by the pound… That part kind of felt like Día de Muertos. The whole night reminded me (for like the millionth time) how lucky I am to have friends who go along with my ridiculous ideas and don’t seem to mind that my guiding philosophy seems to be “A party without a theme is a party not worth planning.” (Sorry, Emma.) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If you think this sounds way fun (and it was), you should totally throw your own Beyoncé party and show me the pictures, please and thank you. I hope Beyoncé by Beyoncé can be our generation’s Dark Side of the Moon or whatever.