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Wanna Give Parkinson’s the Middle Finger? Celebrate Your Life NOW with a “Selfabration!” (Part 3)

This story is the last installment of a member-submitted 3-part series. Part 1 of Jackie's story can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.


The person or subcommittee that you choose for this job should be very organized and detail-oriented! They will be in charge of making the Selfabration run as smoothly as possible.

If you have family, friends or co-workers who are unable to travel, or if Covid, influenza or some other contagious illness is keeping folks at home, having a way for those individuals to access your Selfabration can be very rewarding for everyone. Use of Google Meet or Facebook Room is free for the first hour. Online services such as Skype or Zoom charge a fee. Any of them can give you a virtual “room” where anyone who has called in to a private number or clicked on a unique link can talk to a webcam in a tablet/laptop at the Selfabration site. I highly recommend having the folks who are online speak first! We did not do this at my Selfabration, and so a former best friend who had waited online for nearly an hour had to leave for an appointment. I never got to hear her sentiments. That made me very sad!

Unless your Selfabration is five people or fewer, you will want a microphone, even if you are the only one who uses it. Your logistics person can contact your place of worship, to see if there is any audiovisual equipment available to use or rent. You can also contact businesses that rent equipment for weddings and graduations. That type of store will typically have everything you’ll need (unless it’s already rented, which is always a possibility, so tackle this first. You can always add other items later).

For larger gatherings, you will probably want:

- 1-2 speakers, depending on the number of people and the amount of ambient noise at the location, plus wiring and mixing board
- Projector and screen for slideshow. (Check with family and friends, place of worship or local schools first. More and more people are buying them these days)
- Extra microphones (2-3 -- one for emcee, one or two for people who want to speak)
- Stage
- Dance floor
- Power strip
- Laptop or tablet computer to manage slide show and Zoom speakers

* Identify someone to greet guests as they arrive, put their names on the sign-up sheet if they plan to speak.

* Choose an emcee to kick off the Selfabration. Keep it moving tactfully and gently manage long-winded speakers, manage Zoom speakers, pass the microphone to you, and lastly, wrap up the party!

Qualities to look for in an emcee:

- Someone who knows you well and will be able to tell if your energy is flagging or if you need a break
- A strong and pleasant voice. Ideally, someone who has skills for getting a crowd to quiet down and pay attention, such as a teacher, coach or member of the clergy
- Good at banter/killing time while the next speaker is getting lined up, for example
- Can manage time well
* Consider using a “dynamic duo” to manage the emcee duties, if you are expecting a large crowd. One person could be introducing the first person who wants to sing your praises, while the other identifies who will speak next.
* If you would like photos from this very special day, have your logistics team identify 2-3 people to take candid (not posed) shots of guests throughout the day as well as more formal shots of you with each speaker. They can use their cellphones and then email the photos to you after the party.
* If you have grandchildren or friends who like to make videos, ask them to document the festivities as well.

That’s it for my tips. You may be wondering how my Selfabration went. Well, I sent out invitations through Eventbrite to about 150 family members and friends. Many of the other invitees, including my younger son, Bennett, had Covid, and others weren’t comfortable being in large groups yet. Around 50 people actually made it to the Fish Lake Pavilion on May 21, 2022, and enjoyed assorted “cake shooters” or mixed-berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream, read about my 40 years of activism and advocacy, saw some of my paintings, and told me why they love me.

The iPad device with the text-to-speech software had arrived only four days before the Selfabration, so I wasn’t used to it yet, and I was so overwhelmed that I kept crying with joy. However, I did manage to thank my husband and my sons for all that they have done for me. The three most important women in my life -- my mother, my aunt and godmother Louise, and my aunt Margaret -- spoke, and I felt so blessed to have the opportunity to tell them how much I love and appreciate them. I got to thank Norm Oppegaard, who took a chance and hired me at Greenpeace Minneapolis in 1986. Three former coworkers from the Institute For Agriculture and Trade Policy performed “The Ballad of Jackie C,” which was sung to the tune of the theme song from “The Beverly Hillbillies”. It was a magical day.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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