Adulting #109

The NYT had an article about “how to wear rainbow hair and still look like an adult” in it this week. It was a fluffy piece of clickbait and boiled down to, “if you’re over 30, you should use pastels.” Subtext: “how dare you take up space if you are over 40.”

Folks, here’s how to wear rainbow hair and still look like an adult:

Have rainbow hair in whatever the fuck value, hue, shade or tint that you want. And be an adult.

There ya go. Aren’t you glad we had this little talk?

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A little dotty…

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Still getting dotty over here at the Little White Cottage On The Hill, but enough time has passed that I’m starting to feel comfortable about breaking out the “good” paints and the “good” canvas (read, bigger than 6×6). Things are starting to gel more and more and I’m growing into my own aesthetic. Practice is good. Putting your butt in a chair and churning out a lot of mistakes helps more than anything. And I’m still making a lot of mistakes, just having a different relationship with them than I was three weeks ago.

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Tools help too. Compasses and protractors and rulers and chalk and pencils and the right brushes and the right paint, those all help. But none of them help if your butt isn’t in the chair.

Butt in chair applies to other things too. I signed up for a 6 week doula mentoring group and it has been SO good.  In the last few weeks we’ve tackled so many things in this journey to become better doulas, to find our unique voice and style… I’ve learned so much and made some incredible connections. There’s been a lot of inner work around this group, journaling, thinking, not so much “go design a website/here’s how you business” but very much “why is this scary to you, go deep with it, what is holding you back?”  And believe me, none of that works unless your butt is in the chair.

There’s no ONE way to be a doula and no one way to run a doula business of course, though certainly there are some who would really like people to believe that. Having the freedom and the space and time to truly decide what kind of birth worker I want to be, to grow into that person, that is liberating. And a lot of work!  Sometimes really challenging work. One of the things I struggle with personally is crippling anxiety around new situations and people, so my doula mentor has had me “tracking my tigers” (which is an exercise from the most marvelous book Birthing From Within by Pam England) to see if I can’t get some traction around them.

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I mean… THAT is terrifying, right? Right there, big scary tiger. How’d you like to wake up to that face? I wouldn’t! But I carry a bunch of them around with me every day. Provider meetings, client interviews, coffee with other doulas, networking… big scary tigers with large teeth.  Digging in to those fears, facing them, asking what is so scary, what’s the worst that could happen, it’s helped me so much.  And sometimes it makes those big scary tigers not quite so scary anymore.

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I can handle that. I mean, this tiger is totally manageable, right? It is.

Birth work really brings home the necessity of doing your own inner work. Having guidance while I get out of my own way to do that work has been priceless. The Los Angeles birth community continues to amazing me with how supportive and welcoming it is, and in how the people here genuinely want to rise by lifting others.  I feel really blessed to be a part of it.

So people keep asking when I’m going to put those turquoise earrings in my shop. The truth is, I’m not sure. It will be soon. Ish. I promise! And I’ll let you know here.  I’m not pushing it. I think part of this new journey, this new Maia Rainwood journey is to Do It Wrong and have no fucks for what experts tell me I must do. I solemnly swear that I will not update regularly, not blog consistently, not stress if the muse isn’t with me for a few weeks, not worry about constantly making content for other people to consume, not worry if I miss a few sales because I didn’t update the shop every week, whatever, blah blah blah. I don’t think that’s the kind of artist I am or even want to try to be. I think I tried that already and it almost drove me crazy.

I do promise to put my butt in that chair and see what happens. I like doing it wrong a lot better. I like being relaxed and letting it flow. And it’s my party, so I will do what I like.

So yes, at some point there will be some canvases available, some original paintings and maybe even prints. More jewelry.  I have some enamel, ceramic, silk, and other mixed media pieces cooking that will blow. your. minds. I’m hitting the Pasadena Gem Show next week to see if there’s anything I just MUST have. Who knows what I’ll find?  There are other Things too. Other ideas and other rabbit holes I want to fall down, to pursue single mindedly, in this journey of making and becoming.

We will see where it all leads. In the meantime, I hope where ever you are, it’s good. I hope whatever you’re doing, that it gives you joy.

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Joy is a worthy pursuit. Thanks for hanging out with mine.

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Well this is coming along!

I got a ton of these 4×4 mini canvases to practice on. Some of them may be going up in the shop soon but, I think not this one. Lucky Cat seems to think we should keep it!

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Working on some other things on the jewelry bench this week – small shop update coming next weekend.

Tomorrow, may your neighbors be considerate and not scare your dogs and cats with M80s, may nothing that is on fire land on your roof, may no wildfires break out in the canyon behind your housing tract (we’ve already had that happen in the last week) and may your hot dogs, BBQ, potato salad and holiday pies be plentiful and delicious.

Have a good 4th!

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How’s your foundation?

So a couple of posts ago I was talking about sucking badly at doing new things. I’m happy to say that I’m not sucking quite so hard anymore. I feel like I still have a long way to go to get where I want to be with painting in general and dotillism specifically.  The technique of making dots consistently and having them do what I want is getting a lot easier. When it comes to composition, color, and understanding my medium, I feel like I’ve just barely begun the journey.

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Last night I had a bit of an epiphany that made me slam the brakes on the whole process for a minute. I was trying to figure something out about working with acrylic paint.  I went online to try to find the answer and found a trove of stuff that I’d basically just leapt past in my excitement about making pretty dot pictures.

Things like, oh I don’t know, basic color theory.  I had a total lightbulb moment last night about “blue and yellow make green.” Which is a little embarrassing at this stage in my art game, but there you are. Because it’s not just blue and yellow, it’s actually “which blue with what yellow makes the right green?”  I’ll be spending the next week and change mixing paint and filling in boxes and figuring out how to make green, orange and purple. Boring? A little. But also exciting in an exploratory way and still all about the love of creation.

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Foundational stuff.  Reining in my impulse to leap to the finish (which is my problem with pretty much everything I do in life) and starting at the beginning. Getting to know the medium. Figuring out how to work with it.

In a lot of ways, I did that earlier this year when I retrained as a birth doula. I did it with my jewelry business when I closed it and then re-opened slowly, softly, just doing one thing and taking each step with deliberation.

I thought my word for 2017 was “me” but we’re 7 months in to the year and it seems to be shaping up into something along the lines of “Slow the fuck down and pay attention.” I’m pretty okay with that.

We live in this social media driven world, especially as creative people there’s this constant need to be producing content. Beautiful, finished content. It can make us rush past the fundamentals and try to present this fully realized vision, when in reality we’re still cooking.  There’s nothing sexy or particularly marketable about still cooking, is there? How can you maintain a sexy social media presence when you’re still sweaty and in your apron with seven pots boiling at once? Talk about pressure. Y’all know how I feel about “fake it till you make it” (lies!) and I think this is the same thing. The pressure to fake it is strong. It can make us build crappy foundations with paper thin veneers laid over them.

That never holds, does it?

I guess what I’m coming to is this idea that it’s okay to put the brakes on all that and check the foundation. Is it strong? Is it solid? The realization that there’s no shame in taking 3 steps back and fixing the weak spots (or even lighting it on fire and starting over) is… overdue.

You are not the product. You are the process. So relax. Slow the fuck down. Take a deep breath.

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Why NOT be a community resource?

Love me some Kelly Diels. Her writing about FLEB (Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand) tactics and nastiness were instrumental in identifying and then breaking free of some negative things in my own life. Today’s piece for Medium definitely pinged me on both sides of the radar a little bit. Not because I disagree with it – I actually agree with some of what she is saying so strongly – but I also feel like that is such a deeply personal choice.

I”m struggling with this in particular.

If we are required to make ourselves into community resources accessible to anyone who wants or needs us, any time, then we are undermining the surge towards collective justice and personal autonomy and reinforcing the very logic of oppression.

Undermining collective justice and personal autonomy? I’m… not sure I agree.

I’m not required to make myself into a community resource. I choose to offer myself as a resource in a well-boundaried, carefully thought out fashion.

Really my response to this was, “Don’t fucking tell me I’m undermining someone’s personal autonomy by offering them pro-bono or reduced cost services via my partnership with whatever community agency is helping them. Why don’t you go have a conversation about autonomy and agency with the person who is dealing with the trauma of birthing within a system that rejects the autonomy and choices of the birthing person. Then we’ll talk.”

Birth work is a part of my activism.  I am a feminist and an activist. Women’s reproductive choice, rights and access to care matter to me. It takes a lot of forms, it takes a lot of shapes.

I’m not an activist in the birth room, no, I’d never bring an agenda – political or personal – into someone’s birth. That’s unethical. But how I choose to go about my birth work is absolutely a form of activism and it is very personal.  Educating my clients about their bodies, the birth process, their choices, and empowering them to advocate for themselves during their births is a form of activism. Helping new parents transition into parenthood in a confident, healthy, emotionally connected way is a form of activism. Making sure my business is always becoming more inclusive and culturally competent, accessible to all women who want a doula and not just those who can choose a “luxury” service, you bet that’s my activism.

Don’t want to be a community resource? Don’t be a community resource. Don’t want to give your personal time to something? Don’t give your personal time to something. But don’t tell folks who DO want to do that, that they are undermining and contributing to the problem. How about you keep solving the problem in your way, I’ll keep solving the problem in my way? Because the people who ultimately lose, when there is this kind of struggle, are the people who desperately need the support in the first place.

I don’t have time to talk about theory and systems of oppression with you today because today I am talking with a mother (who would otherwise be giving birth alone), about the gritty reality of how to navigate the local healthcare system, find a provider who takes Medi-Cal, and make empowered choices for her birth.

Priorities.

Obviously this piece pushed some big buttons for me and those buttons are rooted in having a bunch of rhetoric about the evils of free birth shoved down my throat for almost two years and the disempowerment inherent for me in just… swallowing that party line.

Bottom line is this: I’m 47 years old, my kids are grown, I have some spare time, I have some resources, and if I choose to spend some of that time and some of those resources on being a community resource then please, stop judging how I do my thing. I spent years focused on my family and myself. This is the stage in my life where I can actually focus up and outwards and on the world a little bit. I don’t feel like my labor or body are being leveraged by the patriarchy and oppressive systems. What does feel oppressive is the judgment of my fellow feminists.

Here’s a radical thought, what if we taught our children that they get a choice? If we taught people from day 1 how to boundary and balance the service they choose to provide to others?  What if we taught people that it’s okay to choose, and that they are ultimately the arbiters of their own choices, as activists, citizens, and parents.

Obviously I’m still unpacking this.

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In which I am sucking badly at doing new things.

…and that’s basically just fine. There comes a point in every artist’s life when you’ve been doing something for a while and you develop a certain mastery over your craft. It feels effortless (or at least, you don’t have to think about it quite so hard) and you can generally get the results you want 99% of the time, without too much struggle.

Wire wrapping and metal are, in many ways, in that place for me. There are areas where I am still on a steep learning curve but overall I’m very comfortable with metal arts. There’s very little swearing in the process any more. My hands know what to do with the tools.

This is typically a great time to start doing something new. Something that you’re not good at. Something you have to struggle with and get stuck in beginner’s mind around. I fell in love with the art of Elspeth McClean and Jessika Jacob (and so many other artists, it’s a popular medium) a few years ago and recently decided to hack the dot painting code and figure out how to do it. I love Elspeth’s stylized, precise style and use of vibrant colors. I love Jessika’s subtle way of blending color so delicately, and the way she goes big on her canvases.

As with anything self-taught, typically one has to steal like an artist until you figure out how to make your own way and transform a technique into something unique to you.  There are a lot of people doing dot mandalas out there. They’re super beautiful and I love them, admire the skill and artistry, and the color play that they exhibit. It’s just that I don’t want to linger in that place where you can’t immediately tell one of my rocks or canvases apart from someone else’s rock.

Well the good news is that I don’t have to worry about staying there because I’m definitely no where near there yet. My work definitely does not look like what anybody else is doing. Because right now it mostly just looks like a badly executed, hot mess.  I’m not smack talking my abilities, I’m not down on myself, I’m actually completely delighted with how shitty the work I’m turning out is right now so please don’t tell me “Oh I’m sure it’s better than you think.”   Trust me it’s not and I’m super fine and okay with that. I want to be looking at these canvases and thinking, “Oh. No. No, no, no.” I want to be figuring out how to load my brush properly, how to make the paint flow the way I want it, the best paints to use for this, the best consistency, how to make things precise, to train my eye and hands.

The way you do that is by doing a lot of it wrong and learning from the bones out how to make it right. Right now, the plan is to do that.  To find at least an hour every day, pursue different avenues of inspiration, learn, learn, learn, and paint dot art every day for the next 90 days.

Y’all, I’m about 5 or 6 days in and I’m dreaming in dots.

In 90 days this will all have gelled – hopefully – and have begun to evolve towards something that looks like actual technique and a distinctly individual, no longer quite as derivative, style of my own.

Here’s hoping I have something to show you at that point. In the meantime, go feast your eyes on the artists I linked up top, the ones who are inspiring me to try.

In the interests of “don’t quit your day job” I’ve made some fun art jewelry pieces – the torched enamel components I’m using to build these earrings are NOT my work. That’s another currently shitty learning curve I’m on, one that is slightly scarier because it involves fire.  I am slowly getting all the new jewelry pieces up in the shop. You should check them out.

If you should need a doula in the Los Angeles area, well, you can find me at Below The Line Birth Services.  I’m currently open and booking births and postpartum clients into fall. If you need a warm, creative doula who swears who is going to be supremely laid back and relaxed about supporting your learning curve into new parenthood, I’m your girl.  I support all kinds of parents and family dynamics, and I specialize in artists and entertainment folks who have non-traditional schedules.

I pinky swear promise to wash all the paint off before I handle your newborn. 😀

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What if you want to charge less? Other thoughts about pricing.

And maybe still working out some stuff around previous-doula-org, too.

“Knowledge without mileage equals bullshit.” – Henry Rollins

The other day I was talking about raising my prices as a jewelry designer and metalsmith. Today I’m going to talk about dropping my prices as a doula and why I did it.

I took a weekend workshop a couple years ago and when it was done, I called myself a professional doula because that’s what the organization that trained me said I was. They told me I could charge the same rates as doulas who had been doing this work for decades because I was “enough.” People insisted that being a doula isn’t rocket science Really? A couple years and several trainings, re-trainings, advanced skills workshops, mentorings, seminars, births and clients later, it actually does feel a lot like rocket science at times. I’m still learning how to provide the very best support and care to my clients, work with providers, build positive relationships with other birth professionals, and grow my skills.  With every birth, I learn.

When I tried to speak about this to people in my old organization, I felt shamed. Justifying my prices to people outside the organization felt horrible and I wasn’t getting hired. More shame. I cried with relief after retraining, when I gave myself permission to drop my rates.

I’m not saying that if you’re new you should charge less simply because you are new. I don’t actually care what people coming in to the doula profession charge. I care that they feel empowered to decide that for themselves without repercussions or blowback.

I care that I was gaslit and told I was devaluing myself and other women when I said that charging more felt out of integrity to me. I care that I was made to feel guilty for that.

I care that other doulas pressured me to charge more, to charge less, to work for free, to not work for free. I care that other doulas thought they had the right to say word one about my decisions. Regardless of their good intentions, it wasn’t their place or their business.

I really care that other entry level birth-workers don’t go through the same pressure and hell around this as I did.

I dropped my prices because that was the right choice for me.  I still make a living wage.  There’s an end game here, a point where I’d like to get to.  I’m not there yet.  I’ll get there. Right now I’m working towards a goal and most importantly, I feel really good about where my prices and experience meet right now. I am in harmony.

Integrity is everything. 

Since when is it not okay to be entry level, to be new at something, to be on a learning curve, to have room to grow? Training has value. You leave your workshop as a new doula, one who is educated, trained and hopefully ready to gain insight, skill and experience.You don’t actually have to be an expert to have credibility and value, to be good at what you do. You just have to have integrity and be honest about who, and where, you are. Experience and mileage also have value. It’s okay to be in the process of getting those. You don’t have to “fake it till you make it.” That’s a set-up and you’ll regret it. Don’t lie to your customers, not even by omission or implication. Let them see your value, new doula, as a new doula. Learn. Get better.

It’s okay if the number we set to put value on our services changes as our experience grows. If it moves, as we move.

I think my old org was on the right track with telling new doulas not to devalue themselves as professionals with something to offer just because they are new. At the same time, the message was one that not-so-subtly devalued the impact of time, experience and mileage. Imo, that sets new doulas up for a really ugly reality check, not empowerment.

In birth work, as with anything, you get to define where your price point, learning, and experience all meet. If that’s a moving target, and it is for many of us, that’s okay.  Your training and certification organization should not get to dictate what that looks like. Other people in our profession should not get to dictate that to you.  You should not be bullied or pressured by anyone on this point.

Don’t worry about anyone else’s opinion.

Not even mine.

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