Today’s note is brought to you by the letter F

Write about another ‘F’ word my friend Susan suggests to me in a recent e-mail. I’d been whining to her about how I wish we could have lunch, the little matter of 1,100 miles separating us notwithstanding.

She was referring to ‘friends.’

The first time my older son went to Germany was as a foreign exchange student his junior year of high school. Susan’s daughter is now in her last year of law school, but as a high school student she also spent a year abroad. At that time, Susan and I were both adjuncts sharing a third-floor office in the oldest building on the West Virginia University campus. The idea of a child being that far from home, was, well (pun intended) a ‘foreign’ concept to me.

Little did I know…

So the year my son was gone, Susan was my rock. The one friend who could know firsthand what I was going through. I wanted to keep the whining (notice a trend here?) to my husband to a minimum because he too was missing our eldest. So Susan ate endless spinach salads at lunchtime with me and commiserated.

Susan is an introvert, which doesn’t stop her from being a top-notch public relations professional. I am an extrovert, like her sister Mary was. Mary and I also shared that same office for a time, her clutter and my anal retentiveness not getting in the way of our friendship. Susan and Mary were not only sisters, but best friends, and I envied them that. I have a sister, whom I love and who loves me, but ours is a prickly relationship.

Mary was born on November 1, and one Halloween she threw herself a costume party to celebrate. She hadn’t been feeling well (and you know any story that starts with that is going to end sadly and badly), but that night she laughed and twirled around the dance floor with her husband as did Susan and her husband and me and mine. My husband was dressed like a zombie biker (no makeup, just the expression) and I borrowed a witch’s costume from a much younger (and thinner) mom of one of my younger son’s friends.

In April the following year Mary died, six months shy of her 50th birthday.

I loved Mary, I love Susan and all my friends who are like sisters (and brothers) to me. And as I stare down fifty, whining and complaining the whole way about each new wrinkle (real or imagined) and each pound around my middle (real) and lament I really am too old to have any more babies (real or imagined), I gotta say what we say every Sunday in church when prayers for blessings are offered:

Thank you, God.

I really have had and continue to have wonderful friends in my life.

Nordic vs Scandinavian: The Terms That Launched a Thousand Ships

Today we've got a great post from Colin, clarifying a point that has confused many folks (myself included).

A recent post on this blog generated some comments about the cultural connections between Scandinavia and Finland. The discussion brings up an interesting issue about the distinctions between Scandinavians and their eastern neighbors.

In America, the words “Nordic” and “Scandinavian” are used more or less interchangeably, but there’s a distinction between them that’s worth making. Strictly speaking, “Scandinavian” is a term referring to people who share a common Germanic linguistic and cultural ancestry, and live in or come from the countries we now know as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. The term “Nordic” is meant to encompass a larger group of people living or coming from a geographic region, roughly defined as stretching from Finland to Iceland, or even Greenland, depending on the context.

Scandinavians are the linguistic and cultural descendents of tribes of wandering Germans who ventured north as the last glaciers receded. Even today, their languages are very similar and to a great degree, mutually intelligible. Finnish, on the other hand, is completely different, and is far closer to Hungarian than any of the Scandinavian languages.

Despite the linguistic divide, there has been a long history of cultural and political connection between Finland, Scandinavia, Greenland and, for that matter, the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Over the centuries, various groups have invaded, conquered, colonized, fled, migrated to and been pushed out of each other’s countries, the borders of which have changed significantly through history. Thus, the ethnic and cultural makeup of the Nordic region is far more complex than people commonly think. There are Swedish-speaking people in Finland, Finnish-speaking people in Sweden, ethnic Danes in Greenland, the Eskimo-Aleut Greenlanders, the Kven people in Northern Norway, various groups of Roma (gypsies) throughout the region, immigrants from all over the world, and of course the Sami, who might be related to the Finns, but maybe not – no one really knows for sure. The term “Nordic” is convenient, if not tremendously specific, because it lumps all of these people more or less together.

In America, we’re fairly inconsistent about how we use these terms. Your typical “Scandinavian” gift store will also include a good number of Finnish items. At the University of Minnesota, I studied Norwegian under the aegis of the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch, although the same department also offers Finnish; this is reflected in that my major is known as “Scandinavian Languages and Cultures and Finnish” which is misleading given that, unfortunately, the closest I ever got to studying anything remotely Finnish was to read The Finn Family Moomintroll, a children’s book series written by a Swedish-speaking Finn. On the other hand, the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast event is dutifully so titled because it includes representatives from the Finnish-American community, and various incarnations of Sons of Norway’s mission statement have taken pains to make the distinction: The mission of Sons of Norway is to promote and to preserve the heritage and culture of Norway, to celebrate our relationship with other Nordic Countries, and provide quality insurance and financial products to our members.

Car Talk

On a recent Saturday, my husband and a work buddy spent seven hours (I clocked 'em) working on getting our older son's 1995 red Honda Civic with 226,000 miles on it up and running to sell.

It was the running part that took so long.

This little baby got my ‘baby’ to and from college first year, but with said son studying abroad for six months this vehicle needs to go.

I’m partial to red cars…when my over-six-foot husband was in grad school we bought a new shiny red Sprint, the size of a tomato soup can. After that, we had a darker red wagon, and my current car (which I share with my mom, who lives with us) is a red Tracker. The big guy drives a midnight blue Taurus X built on a Volvo chassis. He used to have a shiny red motorcycle, but that’s a different story.

Youngest son is angling for his grandmother and I to get a new car sooner rather than later because he is due to ‘inherit’ the SUV.

It takes a leap of faith and lots of praying when children start driving. My mom always volunteered be the designated ‘rider’ when my older son wanted to go out on the interstate. After going through four kids of her own learning to drive, she was a pro at it. One brother, a teacher, spends his summers instructing driver’s ed.

I’m a nervous passenger. It’s not that I don’t trust my son’s driving, I worry about what the other drivers are doing. Actually, my son, at almost 19, is a much better driver than I am at…well, how old I am has already been discussed!

His making the long trek to and from college his first year to our new Midwestern home in that Honda with 226,000 miles always made me jittery. Naturally, the biggest thing I had to worry about was something I hadn’t even thought of. His father had inadvertently booked him into a hotel in an Illinois city in an unsafe area of town. Really unsafe. When this wandering child expresses doubt about something it must really be scary.

Life is scary. Letting our children get behind the wheel of a car or get on an airplane to fly many miles away from us or go away to college in another town tests our mettle as parents. Sometimes bad things happen when and where we least expect them too.

This is the part where I wrap things up on a positive note, but not today. A high school girl who used to come into the elementary school library where I volunteered died this week. Every parent’ s worst fear.

So hug ‘em and kiss ‘em and hope that you have a mom like mine who will go out on the interstate to drive with them when they need the practice.

50 is not the new 30, part 1

 In two months, I turn 25x2. 

 No matter how you do the math, it's still the big FIVE-ZERO. 

 When I turned 40, my older son hand-lettered a card for me that proclaimed "Forty is a BIG number!"

 Yeah, well, fifty is an even bigger number.

 Lotta talk that fifty is the new thirty. When I was 30, I was pregnant with Mr. Card Giving Son. Fifty is definitely not the new thirty.

 Uh uh.

 Whining about the topic makes me feel petty and shallow.  Over the years, good friends have died way too young, leaving behind children. Another birthday should be celebrated, not reviled.

 I am the mother of two children whom I fiercely love and adore. I even like them too.

 Once I joked that if I turned up pregnant with number three, the doctor would have a lot of explaining to do. My mother sagely pointed out that  it would be me who would have a lot of explaining to do.  My husband’s mother had a ‘surprise’ baby at forty, which I think ‘scarred’ my poor husband for life!

 I’m not a baby person. Ask anyone who knows me. I hold them out, stiff-legged as tho I’ve never seen, or mothered one, before. I prefer ‘em walking, talking and most definitely toilet-trained.

 ‘Grandmother fever’ has certainly not infected me yet, either. My husband and I waited nearly nine years, on purpose, before we had kids. Ours are still in their teens.

 And yet…

 Turning fifty seems to slam the door shut on that part of a woman’s life: the feedingdiaperstoilettrainingpreschoolhomeroommompto-ness of it all.

 When I was in 5th grade I set my goals: I wanted to have ten children, live in Connecticut and be a writer. I’m too chubby to be a reality show star, I’ve never been to Connecticut and I’m finally at the point in my life I’ve always wanted to be at with writing.

 Embracing my gray hair has been easy, now I need to make peace with the number that goes with it.

Mother's Intuition

So this week, Erik (our son spending a semester at University of Rostock, in Germany) has been sick. Could be the European version of the crud here but sounds like a sinus infection, to which he is prone. When I wrote this originally, it had been a few days since we’d ‘skyped’ but his girlfriend, a funny, smart, adorable girl attending a small eastern college, is my Facebook friend and she keeps me posted.

Now I have a ‘partner’ in worry, and it’s comforting. Sure, I have my husband, and he worries too. But in a quiet, sensible, non-gnashing-of-the-teeth sort of way.

Totally at odds, thank goodness, with my penchant for overreacting.

When Erik was seven weeks old, he refused to nurse on one side…howling and drowning out Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 2 a.m. feeding program of choice. (My over-the-top crush on Jean Luc Picard, as well as the time Mr. Rogers started to look real good to me, is the topic for another post. Or not at all.) With a screaming baby propped up in one arm, and “What to Expect the First Year” (the great follow-up to “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”) in the other, I read up on possible reasons.

Ear infection caught my bleary eye.

Off I trudged the next day with infant in tow to the pediatrician’s. The doctor was not an unkind man, having ‘signed off’ on the two of us staying an extra day in the hospital when the pipes froze in our apt. in Flagstaff, Arizona…coldest winter in recent years there. Later we’d tell Erik the story that there was ‘even snow on the cactuses’ that December.

The doc told me point blank that babies that young do not get ear infections but he’d humor me and look in the kid’s ear.

Much to the doctor’s surprise…a bright red ear infection met his eye.

We changed pediatrician’s.

The familiar tale follows of more ear infections, tubes, later allergy shots. Erik’s a fairly healthy kid, except for the recurring sinus and a rather stoic one…like his father.

Nevertheless, I worry. This son is an ocean away, battling a bug, taking classes in a language he’s fairly fluent in…but still.

But still I feel vaguely sick…homesick for having him home, knowing all the time, as I did the first time he went away for a protracted amount of time, that it’s just the harbinger of things to come…the natural order of things.

If we do our job right as parents, if we follow our intuition and care for our children, it’s their job to leave us.


Faith is next, you know... says my husband the other day.

 Uh uh I say, absentmindedly.

 We are sitting in our home office, backs to each other...he working on lofty projects...the third edition of his mass media textbook, a very readable tome that utilizes a wonderful narrative style.

 He is the smart one. I am the cute one...well I used to be 30 years ago....

 But I digress. Which is what this post is all about.

 Digressing. And focusing. And, eventually, faith.

 DH (dear husband, a phrase coined by somebody somewhere I really like...along with losing one's girlish looks, one also loses brain cells) continues, pointing out I've touched on the topics of family and fat (my two favorite subjects). It's time to tackle FAITH.

 When I decided to blog, I wanted to be focused. I'm all about focus. For the ten years I taught beat reporting at a large mid-Atlantic university, 'lecture' number two was all about 'finding the focus.' What was the story about? What's the tag/gist/hook? Lingo like that.

 During that time, I also had a little slip of paper pinned to a cluttered bulletin board in that home office (there my husband and I sat parallel...still exchanged lots of 'uh uh's') with the word FOCUS printed on it. 

As I said, I'm all about focus. 

 Together with my mom/writing partner, I currently write faith-based women's fiction.  Overall, we've had 27 novels published, with two more upcoming. 

 Over the years, I've taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, served on committees galore, and one very fractious church vestry. Currently, I'm the 'assistant' to  a wonderful man who leads a sixth grade 'faith formation' Wednesday night class. And I just accepted a call to serve on a committee at this new church in a new denomination (for us) in a new (year and half) town in a familiar part of the country once more.

 What does all this have to do with faith? Not a thing. No focus at all. But lots of digression.

 I can't write about my personal faith. I can lay bare my soul re weight loss and gain and the bittersweetness of watching children grow up. But I can't find the words, despite being a 'professional' writer, to express how I feel about my faith. 

 This much I can say: I have faith the sun will rise in the morning and set at night. I also have faith in something I can't see but can feel: God’s presence in my life.

 That’s where my focus is.

It's Never Too Early for Norwegian Language Lessons

Good morning world! It's still dark outside on this cool October Tuesday, so the creative/mental juices are still moving a little slowly. On days like this I look for inspiration in an number of locations. First I go to the blog stats and see what folks are interested in reading about (language and food) then I go out into the wilds of the web, looking for content that I think you'll enjoy.

Today's wonderstuff comes from the awesome folks over at My Little Norway, another blog about Norway. I love it because it's written from the perspective of a foreigner living in Norway, so there's lots of interesting topics, which I always find entertaining and worth the read.

Seeing as how many of this blogs readers really enjoy reading about Norwegian language, I thought many readers might be interested in some posts by L-Jay about how the Norwegian Language has affected English. Enjoy and check back late for some original content.

Hiawatha "Ladies" Luncheon 19 Oct 2009

Reaveley, Don & Jean
Blackburn, Merlin & Geri
Larsen, David & Laretta
Mecham, Paul & Norma
Baldwin, Wally & Donnie
Blake, Jennifer
Barnett, John & Jerri
Neilson, Tom & Clone
Wallace, Don & Myrna
Jensen, Virginia
Jones, Elaine
Guymon, Burt & Karen
Wilde, Bob Renee & dau Debbie
Allred, Ken & Carma
Bingham, Gordon

The Weighting Game

When my husband was diagnosed with diabetes in May 2001, he embarked on a diet to lose the excess pounds that no doubt contributed to the disease. He succeeded. With diabetes prevalent on both sides of my family, I also took this as a wake-up call to drop weight. Also, I didn’t' want to be the short, fat wife of the tall, skinny man.

 I promptly gained nine pounds that year.

 Eventually I  lost a significant amount of weight, too.

 Which I promptly gained half of back when my then 16-year-old took off of for a year as a foreign exchange student in Germany.

 If you 'Google'  Yo Yo Dieter, I"m sure there's a picture of me right next to poor Oprah.

 I can rattle off what I weighed most years of my life the way avid baseball fans can deliver rapid-fire batting averages:

 Third Grade: 89 pounds (on the scale at school...I'll take a public flogging over a public weigh-in any day of the week)

 Fourth Grade: 120 the height I am now (stretching toward five foot three inches)

 End of Eighth Grade: 175 the height I am now. Throw in a unibrow...the middle school years were not what I'd call the ' Wonder Years'....

 Mid-Summer 1974-155...I'd discovered there were cute older boys in high school...for gosh sakes! And my maternal grandmother had been diagnosed with diabetes so I followed her exchange diet with her that summer.

 High School (The Wonder Years) 130 pounds

 College (Ditto The Wonder Years) Between 130-140 pounds

 August 14, 1982-My wedding Day....163 pounds (love was and is fattening!)

 April 1990-First Pregnancy weigh-in: 163 pounds on my scale at home; 165 on doctor' layman's terms I was a chubby first-time mom according to doctor's notes, which I somehow saw at some point...

 August 1995-Giving birth to second son...number worthy of George Foreman!

 And so on and so forth.....

 Right now I'm smack dab in the middle of high vs. adult low. Until this weekend of overindulgence, I would have said losing 12 more pounds and maintaining it would be just fine with me. Now of course...that number has 'inched' up somewhat.

 In a little over two months, I enter a new decade. Am bound and determined to hit a 'happy weight' and stay there. 

 What's your happy weight?




Shared Nordic Heritage = Fryktinngytende!

I don't know about you, but I LOVE any news story that starts out "In a scene reminiscent of the Viking age, two bearded men in fur robes and leather armor instructed children in swordplay."

Let's take a minute and break it down. Not one, but two full grown men dressed in leather armor are teaching kids to play with swords. What's the Norwegian word for "awesome"? about...fryktinngytende! Yeah...I think that's right...yeah.

Anyhow, that's not the point. The point is that the link goes to a nice story about a Nordic festival that happened down in Kansas and involved folks from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark. I always like to hear about these kinds of festivals because they show how all the Nordic countries can come together in celebration of a shared heritage and common vision of the future.

There are lots of these kinds of Nordic events happening around the country. If you know of one, share it with us in the comments section below!

Must love books.

Gordon, Neil and I went to the library yesterday, as is our Thursday tradition. I do love the IFPL-- I have such fond memories of spending time there "researching" in junior high and high school, and now love going there each week for pre-school story time. If you live in Idaho Falls, have a child between 3-5, no other plans on Thursday mornings, and are NOT taking advantage of this fabulous half hour, well, you must come. This week's topic was Autumn and we read books, sang songs, did finger plays, and, of course, made a fun leafy craft.

While at the library, I was reminded that I've been wanting to recommend a couple of good reads to you. I wish I had a book club here-- I may just start one. Both of these books were great in that I wanted so badly to discuss them with someone right away.

The Year of Living Bibically by A.J. Jacobs, was actually given to Chris by a former co-worker at the HJ in Logan, but I'm the one who read it. The book is about what it sounds like: A.J. Jacobs commits to living the laws of the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He is a self-proclaimed agnostic at the beginning of the book, and reading his memoir is both hilarious and touching. I adore his writing style and found myself both laughing out loud and thinking those deep, self-introspective thoughts long after I was finished reading.

I was absolutely impressed with Mr. Jacobs' dedication to research-- the man read several different translations of the Bible, spoke to leaders of different sects, even participated in some eyebrow-raising rituals in his efforts to understand the literal meaning of Biblical law. (Sidenote: this sounds like my Father-in-Law, Gary, who could rival A.J. Jacobs in his own Bible studies!) My one criticism is that he never fully engrossed himself in the New Testament side of things, but I thought that was understandable given that his background is Jewish. I felt very satisfied with his conclusions, particularly his respect and humility for his own forefathers and their faith.

I had to wonder: do we, as religious people, give as much time and true dedication to living our own religions as this man did to his year? Sure, he did have a book deadline and most certainly a hefty advance riding on his account, but don't we have something even more important... I don't know, say eternal salvation? Anyway, if you were sitting here with me, we could discuss.

P.S. A.J. Jacobs mentions, in his section on vanity, his propensity to Google himself, so if he happens upon this post in one of his ego-building sessions and wants to leave a shout-out to a Mormon chick in Idaho, that would be sweet!

My second book, Shakespeare's Kitchen, by Lore Segal, was one I picked up randomly on one of our recent library trips (okay, so I was drawn by the "Pulitzer Nominated" sticker on the front cover) and another I definitely recommend.

This book is actually a collection of 13 short stories, all related to each other. It reminds me a little bit of Interpreter of Maladies in the short story aspect, and in the way that it was moving in a very subtle way.

Here is something I loved about this book: there are no "good" or "bad" characters, or even events. I would even go so far as to say that there is no real protagonist or antagonist either, just a mix of characters who are very real in their actions and motivations. I know this sounds so vague... what I really want is for you to read this book, then call me up so we can talk about morality and justification and loss and friendship.

I did get another book yesterday, but so far, I'm not enjoying it. I was looking for a lighter read, but I think I may have gone too far and gotten something just plain dumb. I know, I'm a snob. I can't help it! But hey, at least I'm not posting the title and a snotty review! I'll keep my eye out for some other good reads and let you know when I find them.

In the mean time, anyone want to start a book club?

Deep in the heart of ... east Germany

Yes, I know it's all one Germany now. But all summer I teased our older son about going to college 'behind the iron curtain.' My mother, who lives with us, had an uncle (her father's brother) who made videos about the Rock nee Rach family history. She warns me that the Rocks were prone to exaggeration, a trait no doubt useful since she and I write fiction together.

Around the turn of the last century, her grandfather lived in a German village in the Ukraine. He, according to family lore, and fifty other men fled the village and hid in a swamp. They wanted to escape impressment in the Bolshevik's army.

Also, my mother pointed out, the town was a dive. 

As 'legend' goes, a horse's hoof narrowly missed her grandfather's face.

This Rock escape to America, became an indentured servant almost...married my mother's grandmother, Alvina, a cranky woman who kept birds and helped other German refugees come to this country.

Oddly, enough my sister is a social worker who keeps birds...and who is on occasion, cranky.

I wanted to write about a conversation I had today with a woman I know about the flip side of holding on and letting go, of being protective of your children, of a decision she made about her child where I would have made the opposite. But I can see into her heart and her side because she knows bad things happen, like being widowed at a young age with a houseful of children.

So I think of chatting with my son today. It's cold over the old east Germany, the wind off the Baltic and all.....

Since We're on a Historical Kick Lately...

One of my favorite stories, Norwegian or otherwise, is that of the Birkebeiners. It's a story I'm sure most everyone reading this is familiar with, but if not you definitely need to check out the Lise Lunge Larson book about their flight and rescue of a future king.

Basically it goes like this, in Norway during the 1200's there were two groups claiming monarchy over Norway. On one side was the ruling family of King Sverre and on the other side were the Baglers. Battles were fought between them over land, ideals and succession, but in the end the fate of Norway fell to a newborn named Håkon Haakonsson.

Håkon was born in territory which was controlled by the Bagler faction, and his mother's claim that he was a birkebeiner royal son placed them both in a very dangerous position. When in 1206 the Bagler tried to take advantage of the situation and started hunting Håkon, a group of Birkebeiner warriors fled with the child, heading for King Inge II of Norway, the birkebeiner king in Nidaros (now Trondheim). On their way they came into a blizzard, and only the two mightiest warriors, Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka, continued on skis, carrying the child in their arms. They managed to bring the heir to safety.

This event still is commemorated in one of Norway's most important annual skiing event, the Birkebeiner ski race.

Maybe its the father in me, or maybe its the romantic, but there's just something about this story that always stirs up strong emotion. Think about it: two men/warriors facing overwhelming odds are entrusted with a helpless infant who, in their minds, represents hope for the future. Its really an amazing story.

That's why I was stoked to read that the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation is searching for two tough cross country skiers to dress as Birkebeiner warriors and ski the 54 kilometer journey from Cable to Hayward, Wis., as part of this year's American Birkebeiner.

If you are interested in learning more, you can contact the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation by clicking here.

Peter Pan

I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up
Not me!
Not I,
Not me!
Not me!
I won't grow up...

We sat in the pediatrician's office, waiting for a routine 'well baby' check up...maybe our baby was three months old?  The woman across from us cradled a much larger child, silky black hair spilling down his shoulders, a tiny spittle of drool at the corner of his mouth. He wore blue. His actual age was four. His mental age was six months. And would be forever. He had been thrown from the back of a pick-up truck along a stretch of Arizona highway when he was just a baby. The woman was his caseworker waiting with him for a check-up.

Now our baby is a world away on his second sojourn, navigating university classes in a foreign language. When Erik first  approached us about going to Germany, he was barely in his teens.  At sixteen off he went, as a foreign exchange student. So many people asked us how could we let him go? 

How could we not?

It's October 11th...

I suppose I should blog. I love October-- it's such a great month. College football is in full swing, the air is nice and crisp (if a bit freezing cold here in Idaho... sheesh, who knew that a couple hours North would make such a big difference?!), James Taylor's October Road is playing in the background, and I'm wearing sweaters. The kids are all set for Halloween and we're eating yummy warm comfort foods like chili and shepherd's pie. Life is good.

Last week, our neighbor invited the boys over to pick from her plethora of pumpkins (I know, so fun to write and say!) as they're the only young children in the neighborhood. They were thrilled, of course, and quickly found two very worthy gourds for our front porch. We're waiting to carve them a few more days so they'll last until Halloween.

Brotherly love looks a bit exaggerated in this picture, don't you think? It's almost as if someone said, "Pretend that you like each other so I can take a picture!"

October is a birthday month for us, too. Chris celebrated his 33rd with a big waffle breakfast followed by a big chicken dinner and a better-than-Caitlan (my sister) cake. Hee. Yum, yum! No pictures, though.

Neilly celebrated his very first birthday just like his brothers with his very own chocolate cake. He spent the first fifteen minutes or so just trying to pick off all of the sprinkles, then just dug in enough to squish the cake between his fingers and throw it to the dog. Little stink bug!

I can't believe he's a year old, both because the time has flown by so quickly, and because he still seems so little to me. I keep saying that I'm going to ween him and stop coddling him, but I don't really want to. He's my baby-baby, and I want to keep him little for just a while longer. I've spoiled him rotten, but I kind of don't care. :)

Tonight we went to Pocatello for our good friends' annual Halloween party. The boys tested their costumes (Luigi, an awesome dinosaur, and Tigger), and Chris and I relaxed and laughed with our friends. It was a great night.

Getting Started

Inspired by my older son, I'm giving this a whirl.

Happy Leif Eriksson Day!

In honor of today being Leif Eriksson...uh...Leif Erick...uh...the True Day North America Was Discovered (TM), we have a great post from Cultural Advisor, Colin. Take it away, Colin!

Today is Leif Eriksson Day, and in honor of the occasion, I thought I’d post some answers to some frequently asked questions I get a lot around this time of year.

How should we spell his name? Leif Erikson, Leif Eriksson, Leif Ericsson, or what?

In Old Norse, Leif’s own language, his name would have been rendered Leifr Eiríksson. Given the differences between Old Norse (the ancestor language of modern Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic and Faroese) and modern English, it makes sense to tweak the spelling a little to make it intelligible, so really any version of “Erikson” could be said to be correct. Personally I advocate for the spelling “Eriksson” with a “k” and double “s” because it’s the closest to Old Norse. I really see no reason for “Ericson” or “Ericsson” other than the predominance of the spelling “Eric” over “Erik” as a personal name in contemporary America.

Oh, and as for pronunciation, strictly speaking “Leif” should rhyme with “safe” not “leaf.”

Who was he and what did he do?

Pretty much everything we know about Leif comes from two Icelandic sagas, the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red, often referred to collectively as the Vinland Sagas. The basic gist of the story is that Leif’s father Erik the Red got himself banished from Iceland for murdering some of his neighbors, and so the family picked up and moved to Greenland. Erik built up a farm there and became quite wealthy. As a young man Leif took to the sea to make a name for himself. In Norway he won the favor of King Olaf Tryggvason, became a Christian, and was charged with the task of bringing the new faith to Greenland. Having accomplished that, he later struck out from Greenland to search for a new land ever farther to the west.

Here the sagas differ somewhat. In the Saga of Erik the Red, Leif discovers the new country on accident, when he gets blown off course en route to Greenland. In the Saga of the Greenlanders, more or less the same thing happens to a completely different person, Bjarni Herjólfsson who sights land but chooses not to go ashore. Years later, the saga tells us, Leif Eriksson buys Bjarni’s ship and goes looking for the land Bjarni sighted. Over the course of a summer he finds a place he calls Markland (“forest land” probably the Labrador coast), another spot he dubs Helluland (“flat stone land” probably Baffin Island) and finally Vinland (“wine-land” now generally accepted to be Newfoundland). At the end of the season, he returns to Greenland. Other expeditions follow, notably those of his brothers Thorvald and Thorstein, as well as that of Thorfinn Karlsefni who intended to establish a more permanent settlement there. However, conflicts with the local “skraelings (First Nations peoples) and infighting amongst the Norse themselves put an end to the Vinland adventure.

Why do we celebrate Leif Eriksson Day?

In the 1800s Norway was swept by a great tide of national romanticism. The new, nearly-independent nation had emerged from a 400 year-long “union” with Denmark and was striving to define itself on its own terms. As Norwegians began pushing more and more for complete political independence, they also agitated for cultural independence in language, literature, music and many other areas. A side effect of this was renewed popular interest in Old Norse sagas, which connected the Norwegian people to a proud history.

As thousands of Norwegians left Norway for America, they brought their love for the sagas with them. The story of Leif Eriksson, a brave, pioneering (grand)son of Norway who had set foot in North America five hundred years before Columbus, became especially popular. Like many immigrant groups, the Norwegians faced some hostility from native-born Americans; the notion that a Norseman had gotten there first imparted on the Norwegians the “right” to be here. Leif Eriksson became a folk hero, not only to Norwegians but to all Scandinavians in the New World.

This did not sit well with a number of other ethnic groups, particularly Italian-Americans, who had similarly venerated Christopher Columbus. Groups representing each side, including Sons of Norway, competed for years for official recognition of their hero as the original “discoverer” of America. Books and magazines of the time were filled with debate and conjecture about the accuracy of the Vinland Sagas, the location of Vinland, and of course the legitimacy of the Kensington Runestone. As evidence of this, take a walk around the Minnesota state capitol building in St. Paul. About a block away in one direction, there’s a huge statue of Leif Eriksson, with the inscription, “DISCOVERER OF AMERICA.” A block in the other direction, there’s a statue of Columbus, also bearing the inscription, “DISCOVERER OF AMERICA.”

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the first Leif Eriksson Day. By this time, the history of Norse activity in North America had been established as an archeological fact. Interestingly, the day selected, October 9th, had no connection whatsoever to Leif Eriksson, Vinland or the Vikings. Instead, October 9th had been picked because on that date in 1825, the first immigrant ship from Norway, the Restauration, arrived in New York. I can’t help but feel that it also had something to do with pre-empting Columbus Day, which falls on October 12th.

Did he really exist? Are the sagas accurate?

People have argued for hundreds of years about the historical value of the Norse sagas, which were passed down orally, in some cases for generations, before being written down hundreds of years later. But conclusive proof of Norse settlement in North America came in 1960, when Dr. Helge Ingstad, a Norwegian archeologist, discovered a Norse encampment at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. Ingstad and his wife Anne Stine Ingstad performed excavations at the site throughout the 60s, finding many obviously Norse artifacts, carbon dated to the year 1000, the same time frame presented in the Vinland Sagas. According to Parks Canada’s excellent website on L’Anse Aux Meadows, the site was occupied by people who must have traveled a good deal in the area, perhaps as far as New Brunswick and the St. Lawrence River. Regardless of to whatever degree the sagas are historically accurate, they attest to a short period of exploration and colonization by Norse people in the New World, all of which is very well supported by the archeological evidence.

What happened to the Vinland colony? Why didn’t the Norse come back?

Vinland was a vast, unknown country on the very furthest extremity of the known European world. It was explored by people living in Greenland, itself a small, remote outpost accessible only by a perilous sea journey. In time, the Greenland colony would fade away and die.

The mystery of Vinland has inspired a lot of interesting theories over the years, both before and after the excavation of L’Anse Aux Meadows. Besides the Kensington Runestone, the less famous runestones in Oklahoma, not to mention the Newport Tower, the Beardmore Relics, the Westford Knight and the Maine Penny have all been advanced as further evidence of Norse presence in America and all of which - excepting the last named - have been rejected by mainstream scientists. There’s also a whole family of theories based on the idea that the Norse stayed in North America and blended in with Native American tribes. A classic of this line of thought is the 1940 book, in 4 volumes, entitled The Viking and the Red Man, which postulates that the Algonquin Native American languages are descended from Old Norse. Most recently, Myron Paine, Phd, has advanced a theory that the Greenland Norse walked across sea ice from Greenland to America.

Ted Thomas obit

ORANGEVILLE/ELMO- Theodore (Ted) Thomas Jr. age 84, passed away Oct 5, 2009 at the Beehive Home in Elmo. He was born Nov. 21, 1924 in Hiawatha.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 at 11 a.m. at the Orangeville Second Ward Chapel (100 South Main).
A viewing will be held on Oct. 9, 2009 between the hours of 6 to 8 p.m. at Fausett Mortuary (720 North Center Street, Castle, Dale) and from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. prior the services at the church.
Interment will be in the Orangeville city cemetery.Services are in the care of Fausett Mortuary.

Self-Loathing part 2

Previously I talked about "Self Loathers" (, individuals who are sex offenders who bash other offenders in a twisted form of penance or to project their self hatred onto others, but I refrained from mentioning T-Sand for the longest time because I wanted to give him a chance. Many people told me, "Don't trust T-Sand, he'll only turn on you." His recent posts at his deceptively named "ROAR For Truth" blog have merely proven the naysayers right. So T-Sand's feud started over being slighted by a certain couple of people at another public RSO forum, so he started a feud with the RSO activists. Seeing as how the Julia Tuttle Causeway situation has been a major focus of SOSEN's activity, T-Sand started attacking the issue with his opinion on the issue. Nevermind the fact that the JTC residents chose SOSEN as their representatives, and it has been thoroughly documented Ron and Lauren Book have proven themselves to be a major source of the problem with the JTC colony, T-Sand has proven he only cares about destroying his enemies no matter what the cost. Even if it means sucking up the cult of Absolute Zero United/ Perverted Justice, the same people who made this page on him:


It is very reminiscent of Static, who has chosen to join AZU simply because he hates Sosen for whatever reason, who I must remind STILL have him listed as a Sosen member:


Jeremy Jason Bolick - aka static - staff Member of SOSEN, convicted of 3 Counts of Possession Of Child Pornography, and 2 Counts of Indecent Exposure, in two different places, at two different times.

It is sad when you have to try to sabotage a movement simply because certain members of a group are assholes. I don't ike certain people in the movement either, but there are many good people, both reformed registrants, along with loved ones of these reformed individuals, in these groups, simply seeking help and support to deal with revenge-motivated laws. Funny, all it takes is doing a little Sosen-bashing to get in AZU's good graces, eh, Clay? I remember not too long ago when StitchCunt was livid over you using Jessica Lunsford's pic as an avatar, now she's singing your praises.

BREAKING NEWS: New Sons of Norway CEO Announced

I just got off the phone with International President Dan Rude and now have some exciting news! Dan was pleased to announce that Sons of Norway has a new CEO!

At 11 a.m. today Eivind Heiberg was offered and accepted the position of CEO. Eivind, a native of Halden Norway, has been with Sons of Norway since late 2002, when he stepped in as a fresh-faced Fraternal Director. Since then, he has been instrumental in the growth of the Fraternal Department as well as the programs and benefits offered to members.

Earlier this summer he assumed the position of Interim CEO when the former Sons of Norway CEO, John Lund, retired after a decade in the position and nearly 30 years of total service to Sons of Norway. Eivind will now assume the role full-time as the chief of our 114 year old organization.

On a personal note, I'm very excited about this announcement. I've had the pleasure of working with Eivind since he first joined the headquarters staff, and he's always been a reliable, innovative and balanced decision-maker. It's going to be strange not having him back in the Fraternal Department anymore, but the upside is that I think Sons of Norway has a bright future ahead of itself with Eivind at the helm.

If you'd like to leave a congratulatory note for Eivind, please do so in the comments section below.