Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ski for Light 2009

This week marks the 34th Ski for Light, a program whose mission is "to teach blind, visually- and mobility-impaired adults how to cross-country ski, in an atmosphere that encourages participants to realize that the only true limitations that they face because of their disability are the limitations that they place on themselves."

Each year Ski for Light, Inc. conducts a week-long event where blind and mobility-impaired adults are taught the basics of cross-country skiing. The event attracts upwards of 300 participants and guides. The location of the event changes from year to year in an effort to spread the Ski for Light philosophy and idea to as many parts of the country as possible.This year's event is being held in Soldier's Hollow in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

During the Ski for Light week each disabled skier is paired for the entire week with an experienced, sighted, cross-country skier who acts as ski instructor and guide. The disabled person skis in tracks or grooves in the snow, while the guide skis in a parallel set of tracks. The guide offers instructional tips and suggestions, support and encouragement, and describes the countryside.

Sons of Norway has been a strong supporter of this week-long event for many years and now, for the first time, we can share this wonderful program with people around the world through the Sons of Norway blog! This week we will have a number of reports from none other than Eivind Heiberg, Sons of Norway Fraternal Director and sighted ski guide. I'm looking forward to it, and hope you will enjoy it as well.

Check back on Monday for the first post.

Friday, January 30, 2009

For the Kids

One of the first things I did after my son was born was to sign him up as a Heritage Member in Sons of Norway. You're probably asking yourself why I'd do that at such a young age, right? Well, the truth is little Sig comes from quite a melange of heritage.

Not only does he have direct Norwegian, German and Australian heritage, but he's part Welsh, Swedish, French and Slav. Yes, his family tree reads like UN resolution (and just as confusing). This can prove problematic because, as a child develops, their heritage often is a central part of how they identify themselves and with such a spectrum to deal with that identity can be hard to refine. I know what it's like because I faced some of the same issues. In fact, I think a lot of kids today don't give much thought to where they came from and maybe that's what's wrong with the world today.

So, anyhow, I want my child to know where he comes from. I want it to be important to him and I want to encourage him to embrace his heritage (especially the Norwegian, German and Australian). That's why I signed him up as a Heritage Member. Also, because he's a heritage member he'll now receive the quarterly youth publication, Viking for Kids, and my wife and I can get Norwegian music and videos for children from the Sons of Norway Media Lending Library. Pretty awesome, huh? In fact, this weekend he and I are going to be hanging out a lot "uten mor" so I'm gonna grab some videos to watch. Probably some Bjørnen Yogi for Sig and Elling for me.

Good times.

If you have a child in your household who you think would benefit from a Heritage Membership, I strongly encourage you to call the Sons of Norway HQ at (800) 945-8851 and sign them up. Remember-its never too early to start helping them embrace their heritage.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Old Pictures of Norway

We came across this collection of old Photochrom pictures of Norway, Denmark and Sweden the other day. Photochrom was an early method for colorizing photographs, popular between the 1890s and 1910. Scanned and posted by the Library of Congress, the collection provides an interesting reminder of Norway’s enduring natural beauty as well as the dramatic changes the country has seen in just over 100 years.

This picture of Ålesund is interesting because it shows how the city looked before the 1904 fire that would profoundly change the city. There are also several images of Bergen. This one, a standard view of central Bergen from Fjellveien, looks remarkably similar to how it looks today with the notable exception that the bay (Vågen) is packed with what look like fishing boats. This view of Lille Lungegårdsvannet (a small lake in central Bergen) shows the canal that once connected it to Store Lungegårdsvannet that was closed in 1926. Here’s what it looks like today.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Today in History: Edvard Munch

Today is kind of a sad day for me because it marks the 65th anniversary of one of Norway's the world's most prolific artists. Born in the village of Ådalsbruk in Løten, Munch's early life was one of sadness and loss, losing both his mother and his favorite sister to tuburculosis by the time he was 14 years old. This sadness, combined with the oppressive poverty of his remaining family would eventually express itself in his art. At the age of 18 he enrolled in Royal School of Art and Design of Kristiania and proved to be an adept atudent and artist very early on.

While he experimented with Naturalism and Ipressionism in his early carreer, he became best known for his later Expressionist and Symbolist works, like The Scream, Vampire and The Dance of Life (three of my favorites). He was also well kown for his self portraits and portraits of friends that were very raw and, in many cases, unflattering to the subject. In this way he attempted to express the cold realities of life in the world around him.

He spent the last two decades of his life and carreer on his self-sustained estate in Ekely, at Skøyen, Oslo. During this time his subject matter changed significantly in that many of his late paintings celebrate farm life, rather than exploring the issues of death, fear and melancholy. The only deaprture from this was his continued painting of unspairing self portraits.

The last 3 or 4 years of his life were spent in a sort of self-impose hermitage, hiding his works of art from the Nazis (out of fear that they would be confiscated). The Nazis had already confiscated nearly 80 of his painting from other galleries in Germany, calling the works "degenerate art" and "primitive international scratching." It should be noted here that of these, all but 11 eventually made their way back to Norway, with the remainder never having been recovered.

Sadly, it was on this day in 1944 that Edvard Munch passed away having never seen the end of the Nazi occupation of his beloved country. If that's not enough to break your heart, how about this--upon his death the Nazi government (the same govenrment who had called him a degenerate) orchestrated a funeral for Munch, which left the impression with Norwegians that he was a Nazi sympathizer.

If there is a bright spot in the story of Edvard Munch, its that his true legacy is still with us. As part of his last will and testament, Munch left all of his paintings to the city of Oslo, who opened a Munch Museum in 1963. Its collection consists of works and articles willed by Munch to the municipality of Oslo, additional works donated by his sister Inger Munch. As a result, the museum now has in its permanent collection well over half of the artist's entire production of paintings and at least one copy of all his prints. This amounts to over 1,100 paintings, 15,500 prints covering 700 motives, six sculptures, as well as 500 plates, 2,240 books, and various other items.

So, even though the artist is gone, his vision of the world is still with us. This is fitting for the man who once said "From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Princess!

To complete the recent Metti Marit Trifecta, today is her daughter, Princess Ingrid Alexandra's, 5th birthday! I'm willing to bet that this future ruler of Norway is having quite a celebration, so lets all wish her a happy birthday!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sons of Norway in the News: Sons of Norway a link to Scandinavian culture

I found a great news article about Sons of Norway this morning. It originally ran in the News-Press of Ft. Meyers, Florida. I tip my cap to the Scandia Lodge 3-617 President, Donald Rush and his lodge members, because they gave great interviews and covered the exact same points I often advise other lodges of when they are being interviewed by the media.

Rush and his lodge members hit on the important topics of:
  1. Sons of Norway is open to everyone, no matter whether they are of Norwegian descent or not. All we ask is that those who wish to be members share in our passion for Norwegian heritage and culture.

  2. Sons of Norway isn't just for men. In fact, it may surprise some to know that women make up roughly 52% of our members.

  3. Sons of Norway meetings aren't only about lodge business. Successful lodges incorporate a social component to all of their meetings.

  4. There are many benefits of membership. These include language and heritage camps, language lessons, genealogy guides, etc.

  5. We are an organization that is more than a century old; one that began with 18 members and now is nearly 70,000 strong.
If you or anyone else in your lodge are being interviewed, these five points will serve you well. And don't hesitate to call call Sons of Norway for tips on working with the media.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Newest addition to the Media Lending Library

Last week we wrote about Crown Princess Mette-Marit receiving a nomination for a Norwegian Grammy for producing Sorgen og Gleden, a collection of psalms and poems chosen by the Crown Princess and performed by several different Norwegian artists. Although not widely available in North America, you can check it out from the Sons of Norway Media Lending Library.

I've had the pleasure of listening to the album a couple of times and it's really grown on me. It's a beautiful CD and I think its going to be a very popular addition to the Media Lending Library. To borrow the disc, just email with your name, address, and Sons of Norway membership number. Reservations are on a first come, first serve basis.

In addition, the library’s collection also includes two other nominees, Thom Hell’s God if I Saw Her Now and Ingrid Olava’s Juliet’s Wishes as well as hundreds of other selections. For a complete list of all CDs available from the lending library, just sign in to the “Members Login” section of

Today in History: Børge Ousland

On this day in in 1997, Norwegian polar explorer Børge Ousland completed the first unassisted Antarctic solo crossing. In 2008 he ventured to the south pole and blogged about it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Today in History: The Royal Family

Today is a day of both mourning and celebration. January 17th marks the 18th anniversary of the passing of King Olav V and his son's, Harald V, ascension to the throne of Norway. This is especially noteworthy because Harald became the first Norwegian monarch to be born in Norway since the birth of Olav IV in 1370.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today in History: Dorothe Engelbretsdotter

375 years ago, today, Norway's first recognized female author, Dorothe Engelbretsdotter, was born. Her first published efforts, Själens aandelige Sangoffer ("The Souls Spiritual Offering of Song"), appeared in Copenhagen in 1678 when Engelbretsdotter was 44. Eight years later she would publish her second collection, called Tåreoffer ("Sacrifice of Tears").

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Getting to Know…District 8 International Director Ernst Granly

Q: How did you hear about the Norwegian arm of Sons of Norway? It was still relatively new when you joined…

A: I knew Sons of Norway from my younger years because my father’s brother was a founding member of a lodge in Flint. He immigrated to the US in 1927, first living in Minnesota, and then later in Flint.

Q: Why did you join?

A: In 1984 I saw an ad in the local newspaper that Sons of Norway was going to have a meeting to see if there were enough members to start a new lodge. I joined at that meeting and became a member of what would become Eidsvold lodge 8-009, which will celebrate its 25 year anniversary this year.

Q: What leadership positions have you held within the organization?

A: I went from being a board member in Eidsvold lodge to president and stayed there for several years. Then I became District 8 President for a few years before I became an International Director.

Q: Which ones did you like the most?

A: All of the positions I have had and have now have been very interesting.

Q: How do you think the Norwegian and North American lodges differ?

A: We live in the Old Country but we’re influenced by the Norway of today as far as lodge activities are concerned. We don’t have the insurance component of Sons of Norway in this country, so culture and heritage are the most important parts of lodge work. It would be nice to see a little more interest from our Sons of Norway friends in Canada in the US in modern Norway.

Q: What do you like best about Sons of Norway?

A: Vennskap og kunnskap – friendship and knowledge.

Q: What is your favorite traditional Norwegian dish?

A: Norwegian pancakes and fried meat.

Q: What is your favorite American traditional dish?

A: Turkey dinner.

Q: What do you like to do when not working for Sons of Norway?

A: Local politics for many years, the fight against drunk driving and we run a small family business that demands more than the usual amount of work. Besides that I was a communications officer (lieutenant) in the Norwegian Home Guard for 34 years, but I’ve retired from that now. I was also chairman of the local church council here in Råholt for 12 years.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Today in History: Treaty of Kiel

Today we are going to party like its 1999 1814! I bet you are asking yourself "why?"

Simple. January 14th is 195th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Kiel. Ok, now before you start yawning at what you think is going to be a boring history lesson remember that this event played a huge roll in the independence of Norway.

Basically it goes like this:

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars the Danish King, Frederick VI found himself on the losing side of the conflict. When the time came for everyone to make nice again, Denmark was required to cede Norway to the king of Sweden. However the treaty became a moot point because Norway didn't appreciate being treated like a proverbial baseball card.

So much so, in fact, that this treaty became a huge catalyst in the founding of Norway's independence movement. Barely four months passed before Norway declared its independence and, before year's end, elected its own monarch.

Ironic, isn't it, that Napoleon's thirst for conquest resulted in the independence of one of the most modern and peace-loving countries in the world?

In other historical news, do you remember when I wrote about Queen Maud Land a couple weeks ago? Well, today is special because it is the 60th anniversary of Queen Maud Land being named a dependent territory of Norway.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Crown Princess Mette-Marit Nominated for Norwegian Grammy

Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit has been nominated for a 2008 Spellmannspris, the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammys. The Crown Princess was nominated in the open class category for her participation in the album Sorgen og Gleden (Sorrow and Joy), a collection of Mette-Marit’s favorite psalms and poems.

Released in February 2008, the CD was put together as a fundraiser for Kirkens Bymisjon, an outreach division of the Norwegian state church. Working with producer Erik Hillestad, the princess selected the various texts which were then set to music by a small ensemble, and performed by several prominent Norwegian musicians. The disc received rave reviews and quickly went gold.

The Spellmannprisen award is given every year by a jury of music industry insiders. Typically three albums are nominated in each of 17 categories. The winners will be announced later in the month.

And in case you’re interested, here are a few of the other nominees:

Female Artist
Ane Brun - Changing Of The Seasons (Det Er Mine)
Ingrid Olava - Juliet's Wishes (EMI Music Norway)
Maria Mena - Cause And Effect (Sony Music)
Marit Larsen - The Chase (EMI/Virgin)

Male Artist
Bjørn Eidsvåg - Pust (Petroleum/Sony Music)
Julian Berntzen - Rocket Ship Love (Universal Music)
Thom Hell - God If I Saw Her Now (Voices Of Wonder)
Åge Aleksandersen og Sambandet - Katalysator (EMI Music Norway/Solregn)

Folk Music
Flukt - Stille Før Stormen (Etnisk Musikklubb)
Gjermund Larsen Trio - Ankomst (Heilo)
John Ole Morken - Slåtter Fra Hessdalen, Haltdalen og Ålen (Etnisk Musikklubb)
Ragnhild Furebotten & Tore Bruvoll - Hekla Stålstrenga (Ta:Lik)

Newcomer of the Year
Erlend Bratland - True Colors (Sony Music)
Ida Maria - Fortress Round My Heart (Nightliner/Universal)
Ingrid Olava - Juliet's Wishes (EMI Music Norway)
Katzenjammer - Le Pop (Propeller Recordings)

Hit of the Year
Maria Haukaas Storeng - "Hold On Be Strong"
Espen Lind - "Scared Of Heights"
Marit Larsen - "If A Song Could Get Me You"
Erlend Bratland "Lost"
The BlackSheeps - "Oro Jaska Beana"

Norwegians: Tougher Than Most

One of my colleagues just passed a news story to me, which I think proves that Norwegians/Norwegian Americans are the toughest people on earth.

The story is about Janice Goodger, a 64-year-old Norwegian-American from Duluth, MN who recently survived an ordeal that would have left the Danes most other people as Darwin fodder. Stop now and read the story if you haven't already.

Done reading?

Ok, now I'd like to go point by point in support of my assertion that Norwegians are the toughest, most stoic people on earth.
  1. Ms. Goodger crab-walked for 50 feet through deep snow. And she has "severe rheumatoid arthritis." I don't know many people who could do that on a summer afternoon, let alone through the snow with her debilitating condition.

  2. All told, her heart had stopped for nearly 3 straight hours. Yeah, the heart? Kinda important. Most doctors would recommend against doing things that cause an interruption of cardiac function.

  3. First her core body temperature dropped into the 70's. Now a 70 degree day may feel warm to us, but you need to remember that a core body temperature below 86 causes organs to fail and clinical death to ensue.

  4. Then her core temp bottomed out at 60 degrees.

  5. She had her entire blood supply removed from her body, warmed up, then returned to her.

  6. She survived

  7. Her nonchalance about the whole ordeal is amazing. She is quoted as saying she survived because she's "a good old Norwegian." Then, when asked if she'll take any steps to avoid this in the future, she responded by saying "I'm going to glue sandpaper on the bottoms so I don't slip. It worked for me when I lived in North Dakota." Modest and practical--very Norwegian of her, don't you think?

I think Ms. Goodger's story is a fantastic one that proves Norwegian determination thrives even in the darkest of times. So, that's my case. If you disagree, please leave a comment.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Webcams of Norway

Every morning before I come into the office I have a routine of:
  1. Wake up
  2. Remind myself why I'm awake at 4:30 a.m.
  3. Stumble about silently so I don't wake the wife or baby
  4. Make coffee
  5. Walk dog
  6. Surf the web
It's a pretty basic routine by most standards. The highlight of it being the daily excursion into the wilds of "teh interwebs." I use the StumbleUpon tool in my browser (if you've never used it, I highly reccomend it) and I often find something so interesting that it grabs hold of me and I lose track of time, causing me to rush through the other morning ablutions so I can be to work on time.

The reason I had to skip shaving and drink my coffee in the car on the way in to the office was because I stumbled upon a website dedicated to live streetcams of Norway. It's really cool, because you can watch the sun rise or set in Norwegian cities that are thousands of miles and 7 time zones away.

Check it out and see which street cams you like best. Here's a list of some of my favorites:
There's also another list of street cams over at for you to take a look at. But don't let it eat up your whole day because getting out there and experiencing the world around you is just as important as observing it from afar.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today in History: Peter Christen Asbjørnsen

Today marks the 124th anniversary of the passing of one of Norway's most well known writers, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen. While he was originally schooled in the science of zoology, he is most remembered as Norway's answer to the Brothers Grimm.

In 1842 he collected and published a large collection of Norwegian folktales, called Norske Folkeeventyr, with Norwegian Bishop, Jørgen Moe. Then, in 1845 Asbjørnsen published a collection of fairy tales, called huldreeventyr og folkesagn.

His legacy is still strong more than a century later with modern movies and theme parks incorporating his stories and vision into their mythos.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday Morning Wake Up

Today is the first Monday of the new year and I'm guessing some of us are still shaking off the remnants our last week's merry-making. That being so, I'm also guessing that the usual Monday morning cup of coffee isn't going to do the trick, like normal.

In times like these we must dig deep and find the one spark, which will ignite a great flame and bring the beauty of light to bare upon the darkness. Or, to put it more forthrightly, desperate times call for extreme measures.

So, to help kick-start your day, I bring you a video of what is becoming one of Norway's most popular sports, cliff gliders in flying suits (just trust me and watch the video). It's an amazing thing to see, but if anyone gets motion sickness you can send your dry cleaning and Dramamine bills to the attention of the Sons of Norway Fraternal Director (he's the one who supplied me with this awesome video).

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Year In Review

2008 has come and gone. Another year gone by, another year ahead with endless possibilities. Typically I am one who prefers looking forward to the coming horizon, rather than looking back at the landmarks getting smaller as the distance grows. However, every year right around this time I afford myself a little time reminisce about the past year in all aspects of my life.

For the purposes of this blog, I've decided to take a little time and go through more than 100 blog posts that have made their home here and pick my favorites to revisit. 2008 was quite a year and it was hard to choose, but after some thought I've come up with the Top 5 Sons of Norway Blog moments for 2008 (in no particular order):

  1. Marcia Stein's Norwegian Experience. I chose this one because it was so much fun for everyone involved. We couldn't have hoped for a better first-ever winner of the Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest. Marcia had a great time and it showed in the interviews I had with her while she was traveling across Europe. It was a lot of fun to hear about her trip first-hand, and from the e-mails I received it sounds like a lot of people enjoyed reading about it. And remember, not too much longer and I'll be announcing the winner of the 2008 contest, so make sure to keep an eye out for that.

  2. Sons of Norway's 60th Biennial International Convention. I'm including this one for a few reasons. First of all, this was the first time that Sons of Norway members all over the world could get real-time updates from the convention floor, thanks to the blog, and be a part of the convention experience from their offices, living rooms, libraries or coffee shops. Second of all, it's one of my favorite blogging topics because there was so much to write about. From the wonderful people in District 6 who put the convention together to all the delegates who came and helped set our course for the next biennium, everyone had a story to share or an experience to relate.

  3. Members' stories about their experiences with the Norwegian Resistance Movement during WWII. I loved this series (and the accompanying Viking article) because it told the stories of our members in their own words. Brave people who fought against an unjust regime, each in their own way, in hopes of returning their beloved homeland to what it once was. A free and fiercely independent country.

  4. Announcement of the election of Sons of Norway International Officers. The International Board is made of a great group of people. I've worked with many of them for nearly a decade now and I think they're doing a great job. I'm really looking forward to their leadership in 2009. But , that's not the reason why I find this to be a memorable blog moment for 2008. You see, from the time I first joined the HQ staff back in 2000, when Penny Joseph Knudsen was president, all the way through to 2008 I had a pet peave related to the convention and election International Officers. It was this: after every convention where new international officers were elected, it would be months before we were able to make any kind of public announcement to the members. It was understandable, because the various publications we use have a lead time of 2-3 months. But for the first time this year we were able to announce the election of officers the same day as the election! Sons of Norway has always been a strong believer in keeping our members as informed as possible about news items and I think this is a huge step for us.

  5. 2008 Norsk Hostfest. Another first for us, in that we were able to bring members from all over into Hostfest and show them around a bit. I really enjoyed being there this year and I hope everyone enjoyed seeing what we're up to. It's the largest Scandinavian festival in North America so we want everyone to know about it and see what all the fun is about. Hopefully after seeing what a great time it was, we'll see some new faces at the 2009 festival. Also-if you liked the Hostfest coverage, check us out this summer because I think we'll be doing something similar at the Scandinavian Hjemkomst festival.
Now you may be asking yourself "why only 5 instead of the usual top 10?" Well, the answer is simple. The blog didn't go live until halfway through the year, so it seemed appropriate to cut the list in half. However, if you really need 5 more posts to feel complete, then check out these honorable mentions:

  1. Lutefisk: It's not so bad
  2. Norwegian Olympics Coverage
  3. Norwegian Music on Myspace
  4. Extended Interview with Ambassador Wegger
  5. Getting to Know...(series)

So, that was 2008 in a whirlwind, wrapped in a nutshell and then paraphrased. Whew!

Alright everyone, have a great weekend and we'll see you on Monday!