When Family Traditions Go Awry

“Oh and I bought canned whipped cream,” my mother-in-law said. “So if you want some on your pie it’s in the kitchen.”

Several happy chirps rang out from the inhabitants of the table. I kept my peace. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and that nasty spray can whipped cream is more sugar than dairy. It actually surprised me that it was even there. My in-laws are healthy eaters. You know the type; organic vegetables, unpasteurized milk, and cereal that tastes like cardboard. When I first came around their family, holding hands with their tall curly haired brunette boy, I was about thirty pounds heavier than I am now. I felt like Bertha Big Butt among the clan of Healthy Stick People. Thankfully they loved me anyway.

Back to present. Once I got over the initial shock of hearing this garbage food item was in the household, someone said, “Can we spray it into our mouths like we used to do at Nani’s?”

Really? I thought. No. No they won’t.

“Sure,” my father-in-law said. “We need to do the two little ones first because they never got to.”

I tugged my husband’s sleeve. “Timmy, is this usual? Like some Thanksgiving tradition that I knew nothing about?”

Tim shrugged. “We used to do it at Nani’s.” Okay love… I’d heard that part.

The can emerged from the kitchen. Apparently Dad was the one to administer, Father’s privilege I guess. I watched them squirt the squishy sugary sticky slop between the open lips of everyone around the table: the two little ones (four and eight), my sister-in-law, Jessica, my brother-in-law, Jon, and then my husband. I knew Mom wasn’t going to partake and Dad held the can so he didn’t have to worry…

“Do you want some Rachel?” Jon asked.

I considered. I knew I didn’t care for the stuff, (I’d had it before) but it’s good to push your boundaries and try things when you have the opportunity, especially when they are unlikely to cause real harm. Besides, what if I die tomorrow. I could see myself lying in my hospital bed, looking into my husband’s tear filled eyes and murmuring in a weak hushed voice, “Now I’ll never know what it is like to have whipped cream sprayed into my mouth.” The heart monitor flatlines. My husband presses his wet eyes to my hand.

“Oh why not,” I said. “You only live once.”

If you can’t understand what I’m saying with my mouth full of whipped cream, I asked, “What do I do now?”

It should have stopped there. We had all been apportioned our share of gross chemical dairy product, but my sister-in-law really wanted to administer some of the delicious whipped treat herself. My brother-in-law, Jon, volunteered. He asked the video to be taken in slow motion. What followed was completely unplanned, impromptu, and all around unscripted. Here it is below. It was well worth the cleanup. 🙂

(and if you listen very closely, you can hear Pinkie, my mother-in-law’s pet stegosaurus, humming Thanksgiving carols in the background)


“The Gift of Charms” by Julia Suzuki: A Book Review

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. I’ve been sick with an ongoing, unstoppable cold and a terrible case of writers block. (I currently have NO voice! Literally! I have to text my husband, currently sitting in bed beside me, if I want to talk to him. I can whistle too! That’s how I call him across the apartment.) I have, however, been reading a lot and I thought I would share some of that with you.

When I first started out on twitter, I was in heaven with all the free ebook copies authors were tweeting here and there. Then a published author direct messaged me and asked me if I would like a free copy of her book to read and review. SWEET! This had never happened to me before. Plus it was a fantasy book and I LOVE fantasy. I complied eagerly. Although I love reading I do not frequently post public reviews of what I read. However, the closer I get to seeking a publisher for my own novel, the more I realize how important a review can be to an author. I got her email, downloaded my copy to my iPad, and tucked in with a contented sigh and cup of tea.

Wow… I turned the pages, bit my lip, and wondered if anyone would ask me to review their book again after this.

The Gift of Charms

Plot summary: The book was called The Gift of Charms and is apparently the first of an upcoming series. It is about a young dragon, named Yoshiko, who is destined to save the land of Dragor. Dragor is the hidden land where all the dragons escaped when the human race tried to force them into slavery. In the heat (no pun intended) of their final battle with the humans, the dragons lost their magic rocks (Charms) that hung around their necks. Enter Yoshiko, generations later, who hatched from a mysterious egg, is endowed with the ability to change color, and the destiny to retrieve their missing gemstones.

Let me start with the positives. I gave the book a two star review on Goodreads and Amazon. The story appeared to be aimed at 8 to 10 year old crowd, and the plot would certainly entertain them. It was cute and original. Both stars are kudos to her for imagination. There were also positive anti bullying messages within the text which are extremely necessary in this day and age.

The execution however, leaves much to be desired.

This book reads like a first draft by someone who had a great idea, but rushed into publishing before careful review. Her writing, and sometimes grammar, are poor. Her sentence structure is inept and convoluted, occasionally leaving me to wonder which character the pronouns were referring to. She began far too many sentences with conjunctions, most frequently “but,” which made the phrasing of her prose redundant and boring. In general, her sentences either rambled or dragged. She also used far too many unnecessary paragraph breaks, creating odd disconnected thoughts when the prose and action should have flowed. I do not know where to begin with all the unnecessary words within her manuscript, I found myself mentally editing out entire sentences which were utterly superfluous.

I have read reviews that forgive her writing style as, “meant for children.” I disagree. I read almost everything, save intense horror novels and erotic romance. Included in that broad spectrum is a frequent dip into children’s literature. A good children’s book should be written just as well as a good adult book, it is only the plot that varies. C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia is loved by adults and children, not just for plot, but because it was a brilliantly executed work of literature, the same with Tolkien’s Hobbit and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. You can knock Travers’ Mary Poppins in your thirties as not being “your cup of tea,” but it is difficult to dispute that it is well written and imaginative.

The Gift of Charms had all the promise of imagination but fell far short of the well written element of literature. I am sorry to say that I cannot personally recommend it.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, and decide for yourself what you think, the link is below. Let me know your opinion if you do choose read it:

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father God who art in heav’n above,
Hallowed be Thy holy glorious name.
Thy kingdom come. On earth Thy will be done,
Both here with men as in the heav’ns the same.

Please God provide us with our daily bread.
We ask no more than this lest we grow proud.
Our trespasses we beg you to forgive,
As we in turn forgive hurts from the crowd.

O lead us not into temptation’s way,
But Lord deliver us from evil’s snare.
For thine the kingdom, power, glory, be,
Forever, both in heav’n and everywhere.


© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Anyone for Tennis?

It was a lovely day for tennis. I climbed up the three steps and shimmied my butt into the Official’s chair with the steering wheel in hand. I waited while my mother walked my Grandmother onto her side of the court and closed the door. She made her way to the other side of the net.

“So,” I said. “Where to now?”

My mother lobbed the ball into the air above her head. “Home,” she said. Her racket connected with the yellow rubber sphere with a light THOCK. It bounced neatly over into my Grandmother’s side of the court.

Granny swung her racket and returned the ball. “Well, why don’t I take yous out tah eat?” Granny replied. “We could go to Ginny’s.”

“That’s fine,” my mother said. The ball hit the court near the edge of the line. They both looked up at me.

“Wait a minute,” Granny said. “What about Rachel? Do you have time to stop with us?”

I motioned that the ball was in bounds. “I have time. So is that where I’m driving to?”

My Grandmother shrugged before serving the ball over the net. “Well, ask your mother dear.”

My mother skipped back a step and grunted as she returned. “I don’t care.”

Granny dodged to the right. Lovely backhand. “Well, I’d like to treat yous.”

Mom ran up to the net. “That’s fine.”

My Grandmother ran back to catch the ball. “Well, where do yous want to eat?”

“Just pick somewhere close. Ginny’s or Napoli’s is fine.”

I began to laugh. The ball froze midair over the net. Granny looked at me. “What are you laughing at?”

I shrugged. “Nothing. You’ll find out later.”

“Okay.” The ball fell straight to the ground and merrily bounced its way off the court. Silence came next. I drove down the street blindly for about another mile before I dared to ask again.

“So where am I going?”

Granny’s serve again apparently. “Ask your mother.”

My mother easily lobbed it back. “I don’t care.”

THOCK “Well what do yous feel like eating?”

THOCK “Whatever.”

THOCK “Because I’ll take you wherever yous want to go.”

THOCK “I don’t have a preference.”

Granny ran to the net and heaved herself up. Her racket sliced through the air with terrific force as she spiked the ball at the ground. My mother didn’t reach it in time. It rolled out of the court.

“Well, why don’t we just go to Ginny’s,” Granny said.

“Game. Set. Match.” I said aloud. My Grandmother, in the passenger seat, and my mother, in the back, both cocked their heads curiously. I put on my blinker, turned the wheel, and glided the car into the parking-lot.

Thanksgiving Carnage: A Sonnet

I see you laying there flat on your back,
Your limbs splayed out against a metal slab.
Unclothed, exposed, cold skin and muscles slack,
Hands poke and pull and nip and tuck and grab.
Your innards are removed and in their place,
Some cruel heart replaces them with fluff.
With brush in hand they paint your pallid face,
I look away and groan, “Please stop! Enough!”
My wife now rolls her eyes and shakes her head.
“This kitchen is not big enough for two!”
I’m sent away to wait alone in bed,
Then later have to watch your corpse be chewed.

poor turkey

I wish we had not raised you as a pet,
It greys this year’s Thanksgiving with regret…

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Home is…

Home is…

Home is a cup of chamomile tea
a fuzzy blanket
a classic novel
oversized sweat pants
your t-shirt

Home is fresh homemade bread
eggs, sunny side up, in bed
Champions League Football
Mythbusters reruns
Lord of the Rings Legos

Home is waking up beside you
a warm embrace
a goodnight kiss
two-day stubble on your cheek
your lips on my neck

Home is…

Home is you.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Burned, Torn, Broken

All I had to give
All that I am now

Your touch
Once the rich food of my eager heart
No longer
Now your fingers leave behind venom filled cuts
I heave
My throat burns with tears

The heart you once possessed
The me you left behind

© Rachel Svendsen 2014