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The 50-year-old perspective: variations on a theme

Oh, but I like a theme. Technically a theme is a topic, as in a story, but in the vernacular these days, it can apply to almost anything. Did you know you can get smartphone themes ranging from Rasta (think ‘60s with dreadlocks) to Dust Bowl (seriously, it’s a picture of dry, cracked land)?

I like the hilarity of sticking to the theme and the creativity of having to. Like a party theme. For my husband’s 39th birthday, I threw him a “Home Papa” party since he is the primary parent to our son, with a Home Depot-like apron, chocolate tools (nothing like a 3-D chocolate screwdriver) and invitations with an altered recognizable logo touting his talents as a handyman and a father. The gifts were in one of those orange 5-gallon buckets. I was all smiles over my own cleverness.

I sound like Martha Stewart here, but color palettes are great theme ideas for almost anything. I had a roommate in college who had every imaginable purple item, including a license plate that said “Perple.” Once I declared to my picky eater that we were having an "orange dinner" and between the two of us, we came up with serving tangerines, Cheetos, cheddar cheese and OJ. We almost covered the four food groups and it gave us both a reprieve from the constant nagging to eat his leafy greens. And go motif! I have a fleur de lis theme sprinkled throughout my house; you would not believe how many items bear that French iris-like symbol, the fleur-de-lys.

Themes are du rigueur for parties. Our son gets a birthday party every other year. We did this a) to keep from spoiling him, b) so we could afford real presents on the off years and c) to teach him the fine art of writing thank you notes with only the biannual anxiety attack for all of us. We’ve had baseball cupcakes, train whistles for party favors (bad idea) and everyone-bring-a-joke contests (my favorite: Why did the toilet paper roll downhill? To get to the bottom.) When Quinn turned 3, we had a golf party and my-everything-must-be-solid-and-last-forever husband made a golf ball piñata. It was built like a Humvee. After all 13 little kids had a go at that thing with a golf club, we distracted the gallery with a squirrel and my husband had to whack away viciously to loosen the plastic golf balls and candy. Oh! And the cake was actually round (I baked it in two bowls and iced it together) perched on a painted funnel. Yep, we really went all-out-theme for that one.

You cannot tell me you’ve not been stricken by the theme bug. Costume? Baby shower? Hey, even every day dressing sometimes requires a motif. Themes are the whole reason for Easter dresses and Christmas sweaters. I even got the women’s group at church to agree to a “Have a Ball” retreat where we brought in a pastor’s wife who was a hilarious comedian and had a class with those exercise balls. (My husband wasn’t too happy about having to blow up all those balls, but a theme requires a little effort, come on!) Youth group got treated to a potato bar. We made Mr. Potato Heads, played hot potato (there are even potato-themed songs) and gave potato chips for prizes. Hillsdale even got into the act recently with its “Whine about Winter” wine-tasting event. Seriously, cleverness is in and you need to get your head into it!

This reminds me of the best theme I Googled: headhunter party. Can you imagine? What you would serve? And would 50-year-olds go for the cannibal costumes?

Lori Sweeney lives in Hillsdale, where she is busily planning clues for an Amazing Race party at OHSU. To share your latest theme, email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..