A Quick Catch-up and the Coming Revamp

I know I’ve been absentee around here. It’s been super hard to get back into the flow of things while balancing life as a mother.

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She is 13 months old now, walking, and beyond precious. She loves books, and we spend a lot of our day together reading. She also loves to eat, play in the rain, and collect sticks while she’s running barefoot outside.

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I love her tremendously, and though I usually end my days physically and emotionally exhausted, I am so thankful to be watching her grow and learn and smile.

I’ve had little time to devote to writing, hence my lack of posts, but I’ve had plenty of time to keep up with my reading. I’m hoping to sit down in the coming weeks and whip out a bunch of book reviews.

Another thing I’ve been spending time on is planning a total revamp of my blog here. I’m looking for ways to make things more organized and professional.

I want to post more book reviews and possibly find some authors who are willing to let me interview them about their stories and the writing process. I think it would be so much fun to have more connections with other writers, especially since I’ve left school and feel cut off from the writing community. I have some people already in mind, and am really excited for anyone who is willing to join me in this.

So, hopefully, in January I will have everything around here all neat and tidy with a bunch of fun, new content to post.

Learning to balance my free time has been a challenge. I don’t want to miss out on her. My own childhood was so incredibly lonely, and I would hate to give her a similar experience. I do miss writing and blogging, but I know it will come back, it’s her childhood that I can’t put on hold. I won’t believe it was wrong to give her my full attention this past year. I want so badly to be the kind of Mother she needs. ❤

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Facebook Memories

Facebook memories are one of many garbage notifications I get on my phone. Why do I need to remember that article I posted a link to back in 2010, or one of three hundred book memes that I liked, shared and posted.

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Over a week ago, a photo from 2015 popped up in the feed. It was my feet and the screen of my laptop in front of a window that looked down onto a snow covered lawn. The caption read, “Writing at the library.”

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Nostalgia choked me, not for this moment specifically, but for the time in my life it represented.

Our life on Young’s Drive is enshrined in my memory as ideal. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t compare my now life with life then and feel deprived of something beautiful. The apartment, the town, the pace of life. Those Friday nights, just Tim and I, curled up on the floor with paper plates covered in take out, a board game spread out between us. Evening walks, and hours spent reading and writing and sitting in my favorite library.

Every walk we take is not like the ones down Corcoran street. Every library I visit is not organized properly. Every meal we cook, every game we play, every day I live is not as lovely as…

I lowered my phone, letting the sunlight framed memories slide away and looked over at my sleeping daughter. Downstairs, I could hear my in-laws voices, indistinct but comforting, like the warm smell of a fireplace floating in the winter air. My husband was asleep next to me. The house began to settle and still around me until all I could hear was the sounds of my two love’s breathing and my fingers clicking softly as I typed.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been sick for so long, all these days I’ve spent depressed and disheartened, I’ve been reaching for what seemed a perfect time to erase all the pain and exhaustion of my current life, falling to a point so low that I actually look forward to seeing my daily Facebook Memories notification.

But Young’s Drive wasn’t perfect. I was locked in a codependent relationship that sapped my marriage. I felt like an outcast in my church, and went to sleep every night feeling like something was missing from my life, something more than just the empty bedroom that was supposed to hold in it the baby we lost.

Now is different with blessings and pain all it’s own, but what I would miss out on most if I were to trade then for now is the wealth of personal and spiritual growth I’ve gone through to reach this place. And though this time of pain and sickness is not yet over, God never promised us comfort in this world.

But…

…I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. …For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23 ESV)

Yesterday may be worth remembering, but it’s not worth sacrificing today’s blessings and even sufferings for it’s sake. I’m going to count my now blessings, and put aside then as well as my fears for tomorrow. For my hope is beyond all this and today is enough.

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with 10,000 beside.
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

~ Thomas Chisholm

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Breakthrough

Since starting school, I’ve had little time to work on my personal writing (or breathe either, when it comes down to it), but my characters and novels are never far from my thoughts. I miss them. I’ve spent the last three years pouring my life into them and it feels like someone viciously stripped me of half myself.

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So it was no surprise when, on the way home from school the other day, I began to talk to my husband about a problem I’ve had with “Through This Darkness” for over a year.

I know the first chapter sucks. I’ve KNOWN the first chapter sucks. I was just hoping that someone would tell me how or give me some suggestions on it.

I’ve given a lot of people opportunity. I’ve handed out over 10 copies of my manuscript to friends and family. All the people who read it had something insightful to say, but most of them have said nothing. I waited for a while, but at this point some of them have had their copy for over a year. Now I just assume they hate it so much they’re afraid telling me will permanently damage our relationship.

This assumption has led me to pick, prod, cut, and cull my manuscript in a desperate search for flaws. Good news is I’ve found many. Good news is I’ve solved many. (Bad news is there is all these crappy copies of my manuscript floating around out there. I lose sleep over that…if you read this and you have one, please, just burn it.) The most glaring problem in my mind was still the first chapter, the hook, the thing that will make or break potential agents, publishers, and readers. With nothing else to go on, I figure the majority of the people I’ve given it too can’t even get past the crappiness of those first five pages to finish my story.

I’ve been whining and groaning about it to my husband for a while, just wishing someone who knew would help me see what I can’t. Last Monday, my husband turned to me during one of my rants.

Him: “What would happen if you just deleted the first chapter and started at chapter two.”

The space after he said these words was not as long as it felt. It felt like I had time to watch my entire universe explode and realign in perfect order. I said, very softly, “…sh*t…”

As the conversation developed, my husband and I came to the conclusion that this might be one of my hiccups as a writer, and why I struggle so much writing short stories; I just take too much time to set up a scene, instead of getting right into the action.

I’ve begun to comb through the chapter, searching for anything important I might need to squeak in later on. The rest of it *snaps fingers carelessly* gone! I’ve had to kill several chapters worth of darlings in this novel, but this? Nope, nuh-uh, sorry punk, ain’t gonna miss ya.

I’m hoping this change will not only be a huge leap forward for my novel, but my writing in general. And it’s all thanks to my brilliant, wise, patient, dearly beloved husband. I love you Buppy! ❤

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Tigger and Eeyore

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There we are! Aren’t we cute. I’m the grey one by the way. The one looking morbidly at the dirt I’m sitting in. The bright orange fellow mid bounce would be my husband.

0077_COBURNWe have a perfect marriage. We’re alike in all the things and dissimilar in everything else. It’s a crazy balancing act that must have originated in heaven, because it’s effortless. We almost never argue, often laugh, and always adore each other. It’s been that way for as long as we’ve known one another, so don’t rain on my parade with all that “honeymoon stage” bologna. It’s been eight years. I think it’s safe to say “for keeps” at this juncture.

But still, sometimes how crazily different we are makes me snort derisively.

I’m a determined pessimist. My husband is a dedicated optimist. I think my way is tumblr_njw973Yan11tx9vazo1_400better. I tried to explain it to him. I said, “Look, if I always expect the worst, I’m more likely to be pleasantly surprised.” He doesn’t seem to see my logic so instead he bounces around me, laughing while he showers me with rose petals and glitter.

tumblr_m92wg1btYg1rc1js9o1_500Sometimes he annoys me when he pounces me from behind with all his talk of sunshine and butterflies. I worry that he’s not being realistic, because there COULD be an earthquake, and thusly a little preparation is in order. But really, life would get pretty gloomy without his constant rays of sunshine. He brings laughter to my gloomy spot, and encourages me when I feel like there’s no point in moving forward.

My life would suck without him. ❤

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Text © Rachel Svendsen 2016

“The Essence of Romance…”

The Essence of romance is Uncertainty.” ~ Oscar Wilde

IMG_4877We were driving on the highway to Ikea. It snowed during the night, just enough to dust the brown landscape of winter with a layer of pure white. Timothy and I oooed and ahhed over it all the way to the store. While we shopped, I kept gazing out the windows to the trees below and moaning with delight.

“I wish it didn’t cost so much to park in the city,” I said. “Because I bet Central Park is beautiful.”

Tim nodded. “Yeah, it’s a shame.”

Before we checked out, we grabbed lunch at the Ikea cafeteria. I was nibbling at my chicken fingers (No, I didn’t get the meatballs. Yes, I know that’s sacrilege.) when I noticed my husband was playing on his phone. It irks me when we’re out together and he piddles our alone time on twitter. I cleared my throat. “Buppy?” He looked up. “Whacha doin’?”

He smiled. “I found us parking in the city for only $9.”

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Thus with a narrowly avoided scolding, my husband bequeathed me a $9 date which is now climbing the hit chart of Svendsen date history. IMG_4996We left Ikea and parked in the city a little after noon. The morning was overcast with thick clouds, but the sun chased behind us. We stepped into Central Park just in time for the snow to still be sleeping lazily on the branches. As we walked, clods of ice plopped from the branches and beaned us on the head. We laughed at each other as the water dripped down our faces into our eyes. We held hands, took pictures, and loved on New York City.

 

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He’s adorable, my husband, but not very spontaneous. Neither of us are really, but every now and again he’ll turn flip the switch and do something I absolutely don’t expect. It was a perfect date. The high point of which was when we reached a pond, where I grabbed onto the railing to look out over the sunlight reflecting in the water and the buildings beyond it reaching into the blue sky. I felt him behind me, slowly shuffling round to the front. When I turned and saw him taking pictures of me I made a face at him.

“What?” he said. “You see beautiful things and you take pictures. I see beautiful things and I take pictures.”

Why is he so perfect? ❤

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© Rachel Svendsen 2016

In the Early Morning

Most artists have a preferred way to practice their craft. Some people crank up the music. Some people head out to a favorite coffee shop, wrap their fingers around a warm cup ‘o joe and their feet around the metal legs of the chair. I recently read an article about a woman who decided that she should dress up like she was heading to work at an office, because sitting around in her sweats made her feel less motivated. Personally, I could work half naked as long as it’s quiet.

I’m a shut the door and don’t talk to me kinda girl. If you do attempt to talk to me, you’ll more than likely be half ignored or receive a sort of disheartened sigh before I respond with a half repressed this-had-better-be-important expression in my eyes. I need silence. I need to be uninterrupted. I let myself fall backwards into the embrace of the world and characters and I’ve created and despise that whiplash-like feeling of someone popping around to tell me it’s time for lunch (I’ll eat when I’m ready goshfriggindanggit!)

Since moving and all the chaos that goes with that, I’ve had trouble getting back into my daily writing routine. My body likes to set its alarm clock a half hour prior to whenever the alarm clock is set. My husband used to get up at 5, so that meant I was irrevocably awake by 4:30. At which point I would grab my cell to check twitter and CNN. Once Tim was up and about (which was usually after a half hour plus of snooze buttoning), I would flick on the kettle and boot up my laptop. I’d write until about lunchtime (whenever that happened to be) then curl up with a book and read until he came home. I loved this schedule. I accomplished a lot and it suited my low energy introvert lifestyle.

My change of location screwed my habbits. I began to wake up at 8 or 9. I’m not a night person. My brain shuts off around 5pm, so sleeping in screws everything up. I missed my morning pot of tea. I missed my quiet little room on my quiet little street. It’s all still an adjustment.

A few weeks ago, I randomly woke up at 3am, feeling more awake than I did during any of my waking hours that week. I picked up my kindle and read a little bit of “War and Peace,” all the while thinking, I am not going back to sleep anytime soon. My desire to read wained, so I shut off my kindle and laid back down. Everything was quiet. It was utterly heavenly peaceful, that same kind of blissful quiet that I had all day when I was home alone in my little apartment.

It took me longer to figure out how to properly use that time then it probably did for anyone who reads this. Around 3:30 I rolled out of bed, sat down on the floor and started working. I wrote until 6:30, then crawled back into bed and fell asleep from 7 to 9. I used the afternoon for editing and reading, and by the time I went to bed that night, I had that delicious glowing feeling you get when you know you’ve actually accomplished something with your day.11889972_10153131436677963_7610756653671727759_o

I’m super thankful for the ability to make my own schedule and it’s looking more and more like my working day can start as early as 3am. Since the construction workers start working on the addition at 7 and the dog invariably throws a fit around 5, it’s probably better this way. 😉

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

A Love Letter to “Beloved”

I recently read Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” for the first time. I expected to be made uncomfortable, because facing the real life horrors of American slavery should make everyone uncomfortable. What I didn’t expect was a tangible reminder of why I love reading and writing as an art form.

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I had previously read about the horrific treatment of black slaves and been sickened by it. I had read before about the desperation of runaways on the underground railroad. I have read about segregation, seen its modern day equivalents, and lamented how long it is taking us to truly love and treat one another as equals. But as far as the past goes, I always kept those things separate. There was slavery in the South and freedom in the North. “Beloved” opened my eyes.

The quote below comes directly from Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece. The character speaking is Baby Suggs, a freed slave living among other free blacks in the free state of Ohio. In the face of all that “freedom”, she still says this:

“Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in the grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ‘cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream out of it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver — love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”

I read this passage twice before I had to take a break and absorb the meaning of what I had just read. Most of the book took place in Ohio, and still the blacks were only given low level jobs, denied education, made to wait outside the store until the white customers left and forced to walk on the opposite side of the street when white pedestrians passed. This was their reality. They escaped slavery but the self-righteous-anti-slavery northerners still treated them like lesser beings. Essentially, they left worse for bad. I closed this book with my eyes and heart opened a little wider.

This is why I love to read. This is why I love to write. This art form, like many others, is not just about entertainment, it’s about pulling back the curtain to show truth, making people stop to consider their beliefs or actions, leaving behind people with eyes, minds, and hearts opened a little wider.

Thank you Toni Morrison, and not just for prose that smelled like poetry, but for writing something that made me uncomfortable, that made me think, and, ultimately, changed me forever.

Quote from Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” published by Alfred Knopf Publishing in 1987

© Rachel Svendsen 2015