Monday, 29 November 2010

Bittersweet review and win a free copy!

I discovered Shauna Niequist last spring while we were living in NZ. The bright orange cover of her first book, Cold Tangerines, was hard to miss on the Auckland library shelves so I picked it up and gave it a whirl. What can I say, it was a good grab; I appreciated what she had to say and it was all so timely.

Shauna's second book, Bittersweet, came out this year and I was fortunate to receive a copy for review. I've spent the last few evenings curled up on the futon devouring it and taking furious notes (I can't help myself!).

Like any reader, I assume, I always read memoir mentally drawing out similarities between my life and the author's. I guess that's what reading about other people's lives is about -- finding connections and shared experiences and revelations with people we've never met.

With Shauna Niequist, the list looks like this:
  • We both went to colleges in Southern California, lived away from home for many years and have recently moved back to our home towns. Shauna's love for Chicago rivals my own for Seattle.
  • We're both non-athletes who've run marathons (or in my case, a half-marathon. Whatever.)
  • We feel the same way about cats. Sorry. 
  • We're both writers married to musical husbands, proving two creatives living under one roof can remain solvent and happy. 
  • We're both blonde.
  • We've both been through seasons that were stretching for whatever reasons, and use writing to make sense and find purpose. The big difference here being that she's already written and published this writing in the form of Bittersweet.
In Bittersweet, Shauna writes about a season marked by difficulty. Things like job loss, a miscarriage, friends leaving and a steady stream of upheaval kept her and her husband in a hard season for longer than they'd choose. Bittersweet is a reflection about the bitter and the sweet of life, how both are important, but it's the bitter seasons that can make us who we are and ground us in strength.

I love this paragraph and the idea of composting for the soul:

"I don't believe that God's up in heaven making things go terribly wrong in our lives so that we learn better manners and better coping skills. But I do believe in something like composting for the soul: that if you can find life out of death, if you can use the smashed up garbage to bring about something new and good, however tiny, that's one of the most beautiful things there is."

So many times while reading the book I felt that she put into words the thoughts/ feelings/ lessons I'd learned during my own bittersweet season of life in England. If her Chicago is my Seattle, her Grand Rapids is my UK.

"I fought against that house for almost six years. It was too big, too unfamiliar. I wanted desperately to move, particularly back to Chicago, but out of that house, in any case. But staying put in that house all those years taught me something incredibly valuable: when you stay with something instead of walking away it builds something new inside of you, something solid and weighty, something durable. But you do have to wait for it. You have to earn it the hard way...There is, in grown-up life, very little black and white. I tried to cast that house and Grand Rapids as a whole as villains in our fairy tale, but they weren't. That house both drove me crazy and grew me up...Grand Rapids never did really feel like home, but it taught me some things I want to take with me wherever home is the rest of my life."

I hear you Shauna.

She also addresses a fear I've known all too well, fear that difficult is the "new normal", that things will always be like this. Neither seasons of sweetness or sadness last forever, and we have to remember that.

One thing I got out of Bittersweet as well as Cold Tangerines was encouragement to keep writing, that my story, everybody's story, is worth telling. It can seem selfish and indulgent to write about yourself (indeed, sometimes it is), but also life-giving, because our stories are not really about us. When we tell our stories we're telling the story of who God is, and that story is one that can be told a million times over with an infinite number of settings and characters and story arcs and desire lines and obstacles.

Nobody has a perfect life all the time, no matter how it appears on blogs and facebook. Life is bitter and sweet, and I love how Shauna embraces and dives into that reality.

Shauna has graciously agreed to do a book giveaway to one lucky reader. Just post a comment below (and facebook/ tweet about the giveaway for more chances to win). I'll draw the winner next Monday (December 5), and you'll have until December 9 to claim your prize. 

Check out more of Shauna's at her blog,

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

NYC update and a happy Thanksgiving!

Seattleite Imagery has had a nice little rest for the last two weeks. Straight after a jam-packed trip to NYC (!) I went right into a project that's taken all of my attention. But I'm still here...

I wish I could have captured how beautiful yesterday was in a photo. Snowed-in with blue skies and cinnamon rolls and french press coffee --  hard to beat. The snow is supposed to continue here for the next few days. I hope it finds the perfect balance of tranquil winter wonderland atmosphere sans havoc on the roads.

I'll have a proper post about my trip to Ellis Island in a few weeks. It was quite an emotional morning after visiting. I started walking up Manhattan toward the West Village and realized I was close to the World Trade Center site. So I asked a man on the street where it was -- it turns out I was looking at it. Well, looking at one of the cranes. He told me the best way to get to a viewing area and said something about how it's important to go see it, and that September 11 took his brother-in-law. I started crying when we parted ways, naturally.

I love New York and New Yorkers and their resiliency. After I left that man I carried on toward the site, past a bustling basketball court of young guys and a community garden with old ladies, all side-by-side a six lane highway in the heart of the financial district.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'm so thankful to be living in America this year, celebrating the holiday for the first time since 2004. I'm thankful for all the ways life has fallen into place since we left the UK last December. I'm thankful for being warm in the winter and good central heating and well-insulated walls. I'm thankful to have work and good friends and family -- you know, the basics.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and I'll be back next week.

What are you thankful for right now?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

10 on 10:: November - Gettin' Leafy

This autumn in Seattle has been out-of-control beautiful. The trees are in their prime and some sweet orange and red colors abound. I hope you enjoy the foliage and I'll be back with an update from NYC next week!

Browse other 10 on 10 entries here.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Buoyant Wednesday + Update

Another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, how do you do what you do to me?!  Blue skies, Herkimer coffee, golden foilage -- you're so good.

I feel like it's high time for an update. Today marks 5 months since Dan and I left New Zealand for an American homecoming. In that time we've industriously found gainful employment and a charming and affordable dwelling, connected with old friends and new and generally settled in incredibly well to this Emerald city. After a decade of cold-moving every two years or so, I'm grateful for this relatively easy transition.

I've also been given the gift of time to simultaneously develop some fun projects.

The book is plodding along. Two weeks ago I was overjoyed to turn out a narrative arc! If you've never heard of a narrative arc, consider yourself lucky. Such a labor of love but incredibly gratifying to fit four years of life in England onto four sheets of paper and try and make sense of the story I'm attempting to write.

The blog...Well, supposedly I was planning on going back to two posts a week come October, and now it's November. Yikes. To be honest, I know it's better to post more often, but for me right now, once a week is the perfect pace. It allows me to write the kind of posts I want to write and keeps the blog a joy rather than an obligation. So, until further notice, once a week it will continue to be.

One thing I have really enjoyed with this blog recently is having a central theme of Life to the Full. I have so many great ideas for developing this further, including columns and features, but for now, again, my slow and steady approach supersedes my enthusiasm -- there's just so much to do and I refuse to be "busy" when I could be savoring this great season of life.

Another exciting thing on my horizon is that I'm going to NYC next week for my work! I've been to New York twice and loved it and can't wait to raid it again. Does anyone have any must-see places/ restaurants/ cafes for me?

I'll leave you with some blogs and assorted beauty I've been loving lately to keep you buoyant on this hump day:

What's inspiring you today? NYC tips pretty please?

union jack by Kris Atomic via 1010 Project
forest by Pia Jane Bijkerk via 1010 Project
new york illustration by fritz buzze via missmoss
new york by Kate Miss via 1010 Project}
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