March 18, 2017

“It’s March, and 2017 already has a body count.” 

I overheard my friend say this as I walked into the bathroom at the party last night. “Amen, sister,” I replied, and we held each other for a moment. 

Her lover’s memorial was that morning. 

He was married, and the relationship was known and approved and everyone was cool. But when we learned he had jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge, she knew his wife’s grief came first. She described how she’d been handling it, and I think she’s doing it with incredible grace and respect. I reminded her that she is allowed to grieve. I invited her to come grieve at my home anytime. It’s a good place to fall apart. It’s safe here. 

We all danced the night away. A large dance room, a chill space with a small DJ booth and dance area, and a beautiful quiet room with a waterfall altar. I found myself meditating there several times. The first time I walked in, I saw the six cushions in front of the altar and didn’t think I wanted to sit there. Then, someone got up and I found my way to his seat. In a large dark room, I had one of the six seats in front of the altar. I didn’t feel I deserved it. 

The meditation came on powerfully. The amount of pain I carry with me each day revealed itself to me. The amount of strength I use to carry on despite that pain revealed itself to me. Of course I deserve a seat at the altar. Everyone deserves a seat at the altar sometimes. I guess I forgot I’m the Hot Grieving MILF. Remember when I almost gave up the name a few months ago? That was the strength talking. You know the me that is insanely busy, traveling and working and being a good mom to teenagers, one 3,000 miles away at school, working hard at graduate school, and now landing a very promising sales job? That’s the strength. The me that notices the empty chair next to me, that wants to date everyone and no one, that wants to find an easy, process free, it-just-works partner and never wants to be in love again, that still wears his ring 24/7? That’s the pain. 

I was on a panel this past week discussing the Safer DIY Spaces coalition that I helped create. I spoke 5th out of 6. All the talks were very technical – how to pass an inspection, how to fill out a special event form, what’s happening with one architects work to change the city code. I stood up, walked to the podium and said: 

“I’d like to start by telling you why I created the Safer DIY Spaces coalition, and then I’ll tell you what we do.”

I took a deep breath. 

“They say that grief is our birthright. On July 3rd, 2016, I got the call that my partner died in a motorcycle accident. Of all the feelings I experienced, helplessness was one of them. Five months later to the day, my phone started blowing up with what we later learned was the death of 36 people in a warehouse fire at Ghostship, just two miles from my home. I wanted to take that helpless feeling and do something with it. I knew I could make a difference raising money to help those who live in unsafe diy spaces so that this doesn’t happen again.”

I got into the technical bits after that, and wrapped up by asking for fiscal sponsor referrals, donations, and to please send anyone who needs our help to the intake form on our website

My presentation was so different than the others. We had a short Q&A, and no one asked me anything. What happened after the event amazed me. I now have four fiscal sponsorship opportunities to explore. A graduate student getting her pubic policy degree wants to take me to lunch. A woman in a sister organization pulled me asideto talk about the death of her partner six years ago. Lastly, the MC emailed me to say she had been in the Ghostship fire and was grateful for my words.   

It is so easy to get distracted by the busy and by the details of life and forget the grief. Push it away, hit the ground running, and if you don’t stop, it can’t find you. 

You have to stop. You have to acknowledge the pain. It hasn’t gone anywhere. It may change and you will carry on. But the grief never leaves. It needs to be acknowledged. Last night, I said hello to my grief and let it embrace me. I let my grief and my strength meet each other. Look each other in the eye, and agree to coexist. 

I’m grateful for them both. 

March 15, 2017

This evening I was on a panel at SPUR in Oakland, presented by Intersection of the Arts, called Safe Spaces. We discussed the various efforts following the Ghostship fire. With me were members of WABA, Oakland Warehouse Coalition, ProArts, and architect Thomas Dolan, who designed and built the first live-work in the US and had just come from Sacramento proposing new code laws to the Senate. 

It was a huge honor to be on this panel, and I was nervous about being nervous. I wore Rupert’s ring and pictured him in the audience, and it calmed me right down every time. I talked about him, too. 

I talked about why I helped create the Safer DIY Spaces fund, based on my grief of Rupert and the 36 souls who died in the fire two miles from my home five months to the day later. I started with, “Grief is our birthright.” How his death made me feel, among other things, helpless. How much I wanted to help after the Ghostship fire. How I channeled my helplessness and attended a meeting a week later, where I met like minded people that wanted to help, too. 

I haven’t enjoyed public speaking this much in over three years. It really came together, and I’m so relieved. I felt in control and clear. 

I wrapped up my presentation with my ask:

Please send anyone who needs help making their space safer to our website and have them complete an intake form 

www.DIYsafetygroup.com

Please attend a fundraiser, use our Sparxo code when you have an event with tickets (we get the fees), host a fundraiser for us, or donate to tinyurl.com/DIYdonation

After, I was approached by people with offers of new fiscal sponsorship (3!), lunch by a public policy grad student, and a new foundation that wants to meet me for a possible fundraising role. 

What an amazing evening. 

January 14, 2016

Dating a man who worked in forensics gave me a new perspective. Rupert’s day job gave back so much. He worked specifically on sexual assault and battery, and he helps get criminals off the street. While my two startups bring people joy, at the end of the day, I’m just helping people drink better cocktails. 

I want to do more. 

I booked tickets to D.C. for the inauguration. I nearly made it out to Standing Rock. I gave free hugs in San Francisco at the Ferry Building the morning after the election and in Oakland during the protest later that same day. Then 36 people died in the Ghostship warehouse fire just down the street from me. 

I live 2.8 miles from Ghostship. I thankfully didn’t lose anyone in the fire, but I have a friend who was first on scene and three others who almost attended that night. I knew I’d found my pro bono work. This was local. This was important. This was where I could make a difference. 

I attended a meeting at Omni Commons a few days after the fire. We broke out into groups, and I announced to the fundraising group, “I’d like to create a non profit that raises money for DIY warehouse spaces at risk of eviction or that are simply dangerous.” I quickly saw that I was in good company. 

Four short weeks later, we’ve created a fiscally sponsored non profit and have raised over $15,000. We have an attorney, a former fire fighter, the architect that wrote the Oakland fire code, several pro bono architects, artists living in at risk warehouses, and their advocates. I’m one of three leads in the finance group, and while every other team has one lead, the three of us operate as one. We’ve only just met and we just feed off each other in the most amazing way. 

I’m home from a fundraising event with nearly $500 cash on my desk. A few friends organized an event at a small bar in Alameda, invited some bands, and contacted us. Of all the funds related to Ghostship right now, Handsome Hawk told us, this was the one that had boots on the ground and was actually working in the DIY Spaces. He gave us a moment at the mic. I started us off by thanking Alameda’s Fireside Lounge and Handsome Hawk, the evenings promoter. I then asked the crowd for a moment of silence to honor the 36 lives lost in the fire. Quieting an entire loud bar was an amazing feeling. It was moving. I was inspired by the moment of silence the DJs asked for at the Flaming Lotus Girl’s fundraiser. The benefit it provided was that we had everyone’s attention. Isaac spoke about the community’s proximity to the tragedy. Everyone in that room was no more than one degree away from at least one of the 36. Ari wrapped it up with info about the fund and asked people to approach us with questions between bands. 

And the band played on. 

We have two more events benefitting our fund this month. We have a Facebook page and a website and an Instagram account. I am being put in touch with reporters and city officials. 

Most importantly, we are making a difference in our community. Community was there for me when the man who inspired me to make a difference died at age 45 in a motorcycle accident.The guilt that I felt when I saw myself beginning to move forward with my life without him has faded, and now I am honoring him and respecting his memory by remembering how high he raised the bar and not settling for anything less, be it giving back, career, love, familial relationships, and friendships. 
Safer DIY Spaces can be found here

December 10, 2016


Just when you think it’s safe to move about the cabin…My last post is all about letting the title HotGrievingMILF go. I’ve been working so hard on my head and my heart and taking good care of myself. I’ve allowed love to flow to and from me through my community and my family. I regained my inner strength and have been thriving. 

First came the election. I countered that huge upset by getting up the morning after and heading to the Ferry Building in San Francisco with a few friends and signs that read, “Free Hugs.” Instead of sitting at home arguing on social media and yelling at my laptop, I received hugs from dozens of people, some of them crying in my arms. I made a promise to keep my tickets to the inauguration and protest with even more hugs. Make America Kind Again was our slogan. But the worst was yet to come. 

Saturday morning I woke up to a message from a friend of 20 years: “For clarity, I am safe…A fire broke out at Ghostship. Many are unaccounted for…Please only post missing/safe and next of kin contact in the thread…Be kind to each other folks. We are only temporary.”

I quickly learned of the tragic, devastating fire that took 36 lives less than three miles from my home. My daughter has a friend who lost someone. My housemate’s son lost three friends. I have friends who have lost upwards of five and six friends. It is an unimaginable tragedy. The photo above is my friend and I in the International Business News, a UK paper. A friend in Florida heard me on the morning news saying that this could have been me. This could have been anyone of us. 

The grief settled back in my heart HARD. My whole city was grieving, and the world was watching. Oakland banded together and hosted an amazing (electric, no flames please) candlelight vigil at our beautiful Lake Merritt pergola. We were back with our hugs, and received many from mourners young and old. The youngest I interacted with were two little girls, just old enough to speak in full sentences in their squeaky voices. They told me all about their mom’s friend who died. They had met him once but not the second time because now he’s dead in the fire. We hugged some more, these beautiful little creatures and I. My heart broke into even more pieces. 

 Something changed in me Wednesday night. I got out of the house and went to a meeting. It was a closed meeting with no press. It was community movers and shakers who wanted to make change, to make sure this never happens again, to make sure the survivors and all the artists living in potentially unsafe places never, ever experience anything like this. The friend I mentioned above now says, “The greatest eulogy to our friends is to ensure that a tragedy like this will not occur again.” 

I joined the fundraising team and am working hard to build structure and raise money for those living in unsafe warehouses. I want to help to make them safe. I know these warehouses. I haven’t lived in them but I’ve created art in them, hung out in them, partied in them, held meetings in them. This could have been me. This could have been you. 

What I didn’t know that night, that I know now, is that a friend lost her 13 year old daughter. She had the flu and just died suddenly. The grief and the desperation I feel for the family are indescribable. My children knew her and are scared and sad. 

I want to be strong, as strong as others say I am. Friends point this out to me, that I have an inner strength that I need to let flow so that others may tap into it as a resource. It’s there, I can feel it. I have stepped into my power finally, after many years of being told to. Of being afraid of it, of denying it, of not trusting it. Yet it feels like I’ve had to break and shatter into a million pieces in order to tap into it myself. I see it now, and I trust it now. Most importantly, I feel it. 

I’m not feeling hot and I’m not feeling like a MILF. I am feeling grief. As much as I want to move away from the grief, it is there for me and for my children and for my community. We are all grieving. This year has changed all of us profoundly. Grief is our birthright. Grief is in our hearts. It holds my hand everyday. For now, then, I remain,

The HotGrievingMILF

July 28, 2016

Helplessness

helplessnessLike most days lately, yesterday was all about self care. An acupuncturist friend made a house call, and I spent half an hour lying on my bed with needles in my wrist, ankles, and one ear.

From there, I went to therapy. This was my second session of EMDR, which I keep calling EDM. I ran a couple of errands after, and came home and passed out hard for two solid hours. I woke up groggy at 5:30pm with his tiger onesie wrapped around me and his ring on my finger.

I got busy for a while around the house, and stepped out onto my deck and suddenly remembered. I realized that the grief over the death of my beloved boyfriend, the man I told my sister in law I should have married twenty years ago, and the one I thought I’d be spending the rest of my life with, slipped my mind for about twenty minutes. I forgot.

Rupert’s death has been top of mind, bottom of mind, and everything in between. I have a pilar of grief that runs from the top of my chest into my belly. Sometimes it’s black and huge and overflowing, and sometimes it’s light and grey and tolerable, but it’s always there. Except for those twenty minutes. I was free for twenty minutes.

I’ve lost some very important people in my life. I know grief. I named my daughter, now turning eleven years old, after a very close friend who died of AIDS. A former lover became psychotic and killed himself. Another close friend suddenly — to us, I believe he’d planned it quietly for a year — took his own life with a dashed off note for his mom. One week before Rupert’s fatal accident, an old friend jumped off a bridge. They are never far from my thoughts, and I have learned to live with the grief, the loss, the pain. I’ve learned to love and laugh and carry on. The moment I realized I forgot was the moment I realized I may just survive the death of my lover. I may just learn to love and laugh and carry on with him in my heart. I’m not there yet, but it’s starting. It’s not what I want, but it’s where I’m headed. It’s my only choice.

I hadn’t realized I felt helpless until EDMR therapy yesterday. I see his accident over and over in my mind. With EDMR, I was able to go very deep, see it, smell it, feel the dust on my skin from where his body hit the ground, and his motorcycle a moment later. It, of course, led me back to the beautiful hotel room in Venice 18 hours later where I got the worst news of my life, to date. That’s when the word HELPLESSNESS revealed itself to me.

There’s nothing to do. There never was. He had been dead for hours when I was told. Almost a full day, really, as it took a while for my friends to get word from the police. I couldn’t have stopped this; it was over before I knew about it.

I’m not helpless now. I can take good care of myself. I can choose to cry, or journal, or go for a walk, or call a friend, or get busy and distract myself till the pilar of grief shrinks back to a manageable size. I can’t choose when grief hits hard, but I can choose how I manage it. Rupert’s gone, and there’s helplessness around that.

But I can choose to live.