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