a raw conversation…
Posted in motherhood, personal April 30th, 2014 by pia

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A few weeks ago, just before I finished writing my last blog post – ‘being enough’ – I serendipitously received an email from RAW beauty talks asking if I’d participate in a challenge today (Wednesday April 30, 2014) to post a photo of myself on my blog without any make-up, photo editing or filters – completely raw.

As those of you who have followed me from the early days of my blog will know, I rarely post an image of myself. And I’d love to tell you it’s because I’m really shy, modest and/or want to keep some anonymity. But truthfully, it’s because of a much simpler reason: I believe I’m ugly.

I’ve always been interested in learning more about my inner workings, connecting with my inner world, but it wasn’t until I became sick last year after my last book feat that I changed the balance of things in my life and started to focus less on work and more on my well being. These past few months in particular I’ve been working on letting go of old self-beliefs, letting go of old perceptions and welcoming new ways of seeing my world.

When I agreed to take the challenge, all those thoughts about how I look came up louder than ever before as I wondered how I was going to be able to do this. Although I rarely wear makeup, the biggest challenge for me comes simply from posting an image of myself where I am not turned away from camera, and I haven’t cropped it, photoshopped it, or added a filter. I’m a photographer after all, purposely behind the camera, seeking to enhance the everyday, being asked to let go of all that to create dialogue between you and I about the pressures we face in how we look, and the socially constructed notion of ‘beauty.’ Big challenge. Big ask. Here goes nothing…

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Today, while looking at these photos I see my ugliness, I see all my faults, and I hear the unpleasant words used to describe my face and body over and over again as a young girl and young woman, but now each time I think those things, I’m releasing them instead of holding on to them. And as I release those thoughts there is then space, and in that space I have made the choice to only allow a new, positive perspective on myself to fill it.

These photos were taken by Romain on Monday, while the three of us were on a mini break in Byron Bay. It was a cloudy afternoon after a stormy morning, and the 3 of us spent a few hours playing at Watego’s Beach. With nothing but white sand, rocks, and ocean to entertain us, we had a blast. I felt good. I felt free and happy, and it felt like a good time to ask Romain to take some photos of me by the water’s edge. At that moment I thought, no matter what these photos turn out like, or how I feel about myself when I see them up on the screen, I will post them.

I’d love to invite you guys to join me in this challenge by posting your own raw photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, just add in my name @piajanebijkerk as well as #rawbeautytalks and/or #rawbeautychallenge so I can see your beautiful face and join in the conversation.

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I do this for myself, and as much for my little girl. I want her to feel confident and I want her to love herself exactly as she is, everyday. I don’t want her to ever question her beauty. And I know that the only way to achieve this is to do all I can to lead by example.

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With love,

Pia x

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Posted in motherhood, personal April 17th, 2014 by pia

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Yesterday at noon after I put Laly to bed for her midday nap, I flopped onto my bed exhausted, wanting to sleep for hours, days, however long it would take for the exhaustion to go away. This is how I feel at some point in the day, every day  – feeling the sting of it without exception when I put Laly to bed at night.  This is a feeling I know well as I’ve learned to live with it for many years, but it’s all the more apparent now that I have a little being in my life to nurture and nourish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I know now how important it is that I stop pushing the feeling away and listen to it.

So yesterday at noon, while lying in bed desperately wanting to fall asleep… why am I this tired? What have I done this morning that has made me so tired? I thought about all the things I’d done for that six hours: making Laly’s breakfast, tending to the chickens, laundry, cleaning the kitchen, helping Laly use the potty, gardening, preparing morning tea, and all the while attending to Laly’s various other needs. These are simple, everyday tasks that I know other people do without feeling exhausted, so why does it affect me so much?

I then thought about what else was happening while I was doing these things – how was I feeling while I put the clothes in the washing machine, what was I thinking about? And that’s when an inner light shone on an habitual pattern that I hadn’t noticed up until that point.

It occurred to me that while I go about all these daily activities, I am thinking one or all of the following: “I’m probably not doing this right”, “This isn’t good enough”, “Am I doing enough?”, “I should be doing more”,  “This is not enough”, “I’m not enough”. I question and doubt the way I go about every single activity in my life. It’s exhausting.

As an example, while I was sorting dirty clothes and putting them in the machine with the natural detergent I use, I was thinking about how so many of Laly’s clothes now have paint or food stains that won’t come out in the wash, or the whites have turned grey. I started to compare my washed clothes to those I see on other people or in advertisements. That’s when I started to spiral down in my thoughts and think, “I’m probably not washing our clothes properly. I’m not doing a good enough job at washing our clothes” which then, over a matter of seconds as I start to think about other parts of my life where I feel inadequate, it leads to “I’m not good enough”.

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Another example is that for the first time yesterday Laly sat on the tree trunk stools I created for her in an unkempt part of our backyard near the hen house. Without any prompting from me she sat on one of the logs, looked around, and decided to bring her favourite teddy to sit with her on a log and offer him a tiny cup of tea. I couldn’t have wanted for anything more after my grand search of finding the right tree logs. This was exactly what I had hoped she would do and at that moment I wanted to breathe it in, feel nourished by the scene before me. But instead, I thought: “Is she safe?  The stools aren’t very clean, I should stop what I’m doing and wipe them down. I should put insect repellant on her in case there are mosquitoes… am I doing the right thing by leaving her alone there? Am I doing enough?” With all the self-(re)searching I’ve been doing these past 2 years, I was able at that point to observe these thoughts  instead of immediately act on them, and so I took a breath, knowing that I wasn’t able to allow myself to be nourished by what I saw because of my thoughts but also acknowledging that yes she was safe, I was safe, and to let her enjoy her time without me hovering around her.  I’m becoming more and more aware that it is this thinking pattern that is exhausting me, this constant conflict within, this constant doubt. It runs through my mind like a speed train on a loop track, taking me away from the present moment and into unsafe territory. Yet because it’s become an habitual pattern, I’ve been under the illusion that it makes me safe to think these things because I’ve been with it for so long – I know it so well.

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At the end of everyday, I plonk my exhausted self on the couch. For all the time that I’ve felt this tiredness  – reaching as far back as my mid teens, I thought that it was life in general that was tiring me. All this time I’ve been thinking that I’m too weak, that I can’t handle simple every day tasks, that I’m simply not able. But I’m now seeing this is not the case at all. I can do all the simple every day tasks, and I can do really great tasks too like write a book. What has been tiring me all these years is the constant self-criticism and self-judgement that runs through my mind with everything I do. I plant seeds – have I done enough to help them grow? I let Laly sit without socks on, will she get sick, have I done enough to keep her warm? I put her to bed at night – what if I haven’t done enough for her today? This self-criticism affects every part of my life – I have always had the feeling that I’m not enough – I am not enough of a friend, a daughter, a partner, I’m not enough as an author, a writer, a photographer, a blogger, an entrepreneur.  I know that this self-criticism has been learned by example, along with being criticized from those I’ve adored over my youthful years. All of which helped to make my inner critical voice louder.

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But as I discover these aspects of my mind, I’m opening up who I truly am, and what I need. And that it’s okay to need while I myself am being needed. And by keeping myself surrounded by people who connect with my core, who understand and support me, I am getting stronger, and wiser.

There will be judgement for this post, this I know. But I know that judgement will be coming from those who have their own loud inner critic just like me, the voice of judgement. It’s an aspect of ourselves we can be aware of, and accept, but not indulge. I heard a wonderful life coach say in an interview the other day, “If this inner critic was a real person, always hovering over you, criticizing everything you do, would you invite them to tea?” The answer for me was immediately no, and I laughed at the absurdity of allowing such a voice to dominate my life.

Have a beautiful weekend mes amis. Thank you for being in my life.

With love,

Pia x

PS these are our backyard hens, Plume (the isa brown), Alouette (the white leghorn) and Esther (Rhode Island red). I’ve written more about them on instagram (my username is piajanebijkerk)if you’d like to follow my everyday adventures in chook rearing, mothering, gardening and more.

 

 

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Spirit & Flight…
Posted in music, pia's music, soundscapes March 21st, 2014 by pia

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My second piano composition for the year, titled Spirit & Flight is now ready for you to download. Thank you for the incredible response to my first piece, Of Time & Light. It’s been such a wonderful process, each piece a reflection of a state of now for me, a deep dwelling. And there is something about publishing the work – as I’ve found in the past with sharing my creations in their raw state here on my blog – that not only helps me to grow but is so very nurturing as well.

Thank you for listening, I hope you’ll enjoy this composition.

With Love,

Pia

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Posted in little treasures: made by hand March 20th, 2014 by pia

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I little something rather wonderful… a limited number of copies of Little Treasures: Made by Hand are now available to PURCHASE AND POST within the USA! I’m thrilled to finally be able to offer you guys the book without the hefty shipping from Australia. So that means you can buy yourself a copy for the normal shipping price of $5 (making the book cost total of $29.95), and to Canada it’s just $11.50 per book ($36.45 in total).

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Also if you have a boutique in the USA or Canada and would like to purchase wholesale copies that is also possible, just email us to let us know where you are and how many copies you’d like, and we can email you a quote with the shipping cost from within the US.

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To refresh your memory on this very special book, click here to view past posts about it, along with page spread samples. And here to visit my online book shop, with updated shipping costs for USA and Canada sales of Little Treasures.

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I would absolutely love to have Little Treasures: Made by Hand distributed in France since it’s written in French as well, so if anyone knows someone in this area and can help make this happen, please let me know.

Thanks guys. As I mentioned, there are only a limited number of copies available so if you have been wanting a copy but haven’t wanted to pay the shipping from Australia, don’t hesitate to grab a copy now. Merci beaucoup!

xx

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Posted in child's play, DIY, handmade, nature February 27th, 2014 by pia

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The humid air and persistent drizzle last Saturday (actually the Saturday before last… it’s taken me quite some time to compose this post) did not deter us from having an intimate garden party to celebrate Laly’s second birthday. I have not hosted a party since we lived on the houseboat in Amsterdam, so I was feeling a bit daunted about the idea and wondered if I could do it without getting completely overwhelmed and stressed (the main reason why I don’t host parties – dinner ones or otherwise). I worked hard for the two weeks leading up to the event to be really present with my time and to let things go if they weren’t working out the way I intended, or if things happened that stopped me from being able to create exactly what I had envisioned. My intention was to try my best to have fun with each part of the process – painting the bunting, gathering the flora, cooking, setting up… I still got stressed, and we still had a family meltdown the day of the party. BUT. I do feel like I was more present, more aware than I have been in similar situations in the past. And I have to say, I absolutely enjoyed the making and doing, and I really enjoyed the party, which was my true goal. I was so rapt to see everyone enjoying themselves, there was such a great vibe, everyone got on and Laly and her friends were fantastic, not a tantrum in sight. Before the party I was saying to Romain with complete conviction, “We are never doing this again”and 3 hours later after the party, with as much conviction I declared, “I can’t wait to do this again!”.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re much more interested to know about the decorations, food and finery, non? I adorned our small back garden with jasmine vines, frangipanis and fern fronds, handmade watercolour bunting and fabric garlands. My aim, as always, was to set the scene without buying anything new,  using objects found around my home and neighborhood, along with making decorations by hand with materials on hand.

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On the invitation I asked our guests to enter the garden via the side path which I decorated with rope, vines, paper bunting, and pretty painted cardboard arrows showing the way. I wanted to make it feel a bit like entering a secret garden. On the morning of the party I found two large branches I’d discarded in a back corner (I have piles of branches, rope, and twigs dotted around my garden in case inspiration strikes to make something). These particular branches curved at one end which, when attached to either side of the gate, formed a beautiful arch. Through the arch, our little guests were greeted with fresh drinking coconuts (made festive with party umbrellas and straws) while grown up guests were offered a glass of bubbles. I filled glass jugs for water with orange slices, strawberries, grapes and mint picked from the garden, and there was watermelon, rockmelon and strawberries on a long small table for the kids.

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I created a few play areas around the garden for Laly’s friends to explore, hoping to ignite their imaginations. There was a flower crown making area under a tree where I had various sized crown bases I made by simply twisting vines into a circle shape, with frangipanis and other gathered flowers at the ready to add to the vine base for the children (and grown ups) to create their own special headpiece…

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Olive (above right photo) who is my friend and fellow author Kelly Doust’s gorgeous daughter showed my little Laly how to make a crown. Isn’t Olive’s crown beautiful?

Another play area was a sandpit which I had made a couple of weeks earlier using only found and free material – I’m really thrilled with it and will post about it next.

The other play area outside was “Laly’s Flower Market” – a little stall I set up with cut flowers and foliage, paper bags and string for the kids to make their own bouquets to take home. The weather was a little too wet for this but it looked lovely and set the scene, and everyone could take flowers home at the end of the party. Although I had planned to bring Laly’s wooden kitchen outside, and set up a dolls picnic on the lawn, I left these things inside and let the kids roam freely in and out of the rain.

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Do you remember my great aunty Joyce who we explored Paris with a few years ago? Here she is, 93 years old and ready to greet the guests. Laly adores her great great aunty Joyce, they laugh so much together, it’s really wonderful to see.

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My beautiful friend Kaspia and her boy Romeo, enjoying fresh coconut.

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Adorable Freya holding a balloon, and Laly’s best friend Alexander with his incredibly sweet and cheeky smile.

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Beautiful friends and family.

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A few quirky decorations including a flower and feather mask I was inspired to make the night before, and a very old umbrella handed down in my family, hanging upside down.

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From top left, clockwise: watercoloured paper bunting; Laly with a pink frangipani; the end of the day flower crown area; Laly’s beautiful friend Daisy.

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I fashioned a few giant paper flowers made from old tissue paper I had lying around and some dried up moss, using this tutorial.

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The chickens were a hit with the little ones! Here is Romeo itching to get into the hen run (which he did many times, and right into the nesting box of the coop). Right: even the coop got dressed up with vines and frangipanis thanks to my friend Jen, co-parent to our chooks.

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I had dreamt up the idea of having a simple but elegant cake sprinkled with garden flowers, and my aunty Kathy made it – I could not have wanted for anything more beautiful. She made a double layered carrot cake, smothered in butter icing which we topped with pretty blossoms picked straight from her own garden. She also made the cutest little banana muffins. There were no lollies (candy) or chocolate in sight… I can’t quite believe I hosted a party without chocolate – my every day weakness. But I did, and it was not lacking (unless it was and our friends didn’t want to say so).

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Stunner.

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Laly and her papa.

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Clockwise from top left: Laly playing with her hat made by Kaspia; Paloma sampling a banana cupcake; Romeo getting into the fruit; Tilda in her red boots playing in Laly’s kitchen.

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My dear friend Sasha and her daughter Tilda.

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Beautiful Edith sitting down to her own little tea party at the end of the party.

My fab cousin Louis came up from Canberra, took hold of my camera and snapped most of the photos you see here as you know I’m hopeless at taking photos of my work or events. Isn’t he talented? I’m glad I’ve finally learnt to ask others to take photos for me to share with you. So what you see in this post is a combination of Louis’ photos, a few of my quick phone snaps before and after, and loads of lovely shots by my sweet friend Kaspia.

Some other aspects of the party you might like…

The invitation:

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At the bottom of the invitation I wrote: please do not feel obliged to bring gifts for Laly, your company alone will be very special. However if you’d like to bring something, pre-loved would be wonderful thank you.

I was delighted that guests did just that, it felt less wasteful and fulfilled my desire to consume less. And I love that the gifts have stories attached to them.

I made party bags by painting brown paper lunch bags with dots and stripes, and only filled them with things I already had in my craft drawers – paper umbrellas, colourful feathers, a little book I made from left over packing paper and ribbon, and some popcorn.

I’m so grateful to everyone who joined us to celebrate with Laly. I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe find some inspiration in here for your next gathering.

Here’s to our little valentine turning two, our beautiful girl who teaches me so much about life and love every single day…

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KASPIA_laly2ndbirthday_IMG_2526 photo by Kaspia

xx

PS the aftermath…

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