Holding on and having trouble letting go…

For three plus months I’ve been rising at 5:10 a.m. to head to the YMCA for either Zumba (MW), Fit and Tone or Cardio/Tone (TTh) or step (Friday). This is in addition to walking on our home treadmill and, now that’s it’s nicer, outside.

The scale goes up and down more than an elevator in a high-rise building in Manhattan, but my t-shirts fit looser and this morning a svelte ectomorph seven years my senior asked me how much weight I’d lost and told me I looked good. (Bless you, Connie!) I also had a conversation with an absolutely stunning breast-cancer survivor ten years my senior who has spiky blond hair not-to-die-for and radiant skin. She voiced something I woke up thinking about: Was it our lot in life to be sore forever in exchange for slightly less flabby abdominal muscles?

Later today I was cataloging all the reasons I’m being so zealous about this fitness regimen, and one that came up was so I can be around to play with future grandchildren.

I’m an ‘old’ mother, having given birth to Erik just days shy of my 31st birthday. Andrew was born four months before I was 36. The docs categorized me as an 'above-average-age' mother so it stands to reason I’ll be an above-average-age grandmother. That’s my goal anyway!

But, you know, the minute I thought about that as a reason to get in shape, I actually thought ‘pooey.’

Not only am I not ready to be a grandmother, it’s finally hitting me hard that my children are growing up. Me, who blithely sent aforementioned Erik off to church camp for a week when he was just nine. Okay his grandmother and I did kind of freak at the primitive conditions, but since both of us think ‘roughing it’ is staying at a Holiday Inn, he was just fine.

I’m also the mother who, along with his father, dropped him off at a swanky Washington D.C. hotel three years ago this summer for his year-long scholarship trip to Germany as a high school exchange student. He was only sixteen.

He’s driven cross-country in his little red Honda Civic, which we’ve since sold. And he comes by this wanderlust honestly…perhaps I’ve mentioned his father once took a motorcycle trip to Ohio from West Virginia…via Buffalo, New York?

Younger brother Andrew is finishing up his freshman year in high school. Was it really that long ago that my friend Laure and I were waiting for bus driver Crazy Louie (I loved Louie…he had my phone number scratched on the interior next to his seat and would call me if he couldn’t get up our hill on snowy days so I could shepherd the kids down to the end of the street) to pick up Andrew and her youngest (her 4th) on the first day of kindergarten. Laure cheered, and I was pretty happy too. We’d exhausted the pre-school route, and it was time for all-day kindergarten.

In three years Andrew will head off to college. Three years. Thank heaven for my mother, who lives with us. No empty nest for us!

Am I a hypocrite because I have spent every waking moment of motherhood knowing it’s my job to help them leave the nest, and now that the time is fast approaching, I want to cling like every hover mother I’ve ever known?

No, I just think I’m a regular old mom, who’s rising with the roosters so she can someday keep up with her grandchildren.

And that’s okay by me.

Scottish Vikings?

Over the weekend I took my three sons to see How to Train Your Dragon, the new animated film from Dreamworks. Aside from scary scenes that made my three- and five-year-old sons cover their eyes a few times, we all thought the movie was terrific—fantastic animation, interesting characters, and the requisite moral lessons that make for good conversation during the car ride home.

My only quibble? The main character, Hiccup, lives in a village inhabited completely by Vikings—but these “Vikings” all speak with extremely thick Scottish brogues. While history tells us that the Vikings attacked and settled in Scotland, I’ve never read an account of Vikings actually being Celtic. I know, I know...it’s only a movie, and Hollywood isn’t known for letting accuracy trump dramatic appeal. Still, I feel sorry that audiences will come away thinking that the Vikings hailed from Scotland and not from Scandinavia. I guess I feel a little protective of our Scandinavian tradition—whether it’s the food, the music, or some of the most well-known warriors in history.

P.S. If horned Viking helmets are a pet peeve of yours, prepare to be irritated throughout How to Train Your Dragon.

Study shows social isolation breeds bullies. Sound familiar?



  • Up to one in five people with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) exhibits aggressive behaviors.
  • Though they're more outgoing, the people in this SAD subset have a lower quality of life.
  • Bullies -- both online and off -- may actually be coping with SAD.

This article reminds me a lot of Absolute Zero members. They are rather isolated, after all, spending all their days waiting for the latest post, project, or article so they can attack en masse.

Since I'm here, I thought I'd take a moment to address a few recent comments from the AZU terrorists. One of the latest articles is a lame attempt to justify their activities.

Considering some of the comments Violent Leaves has left at AZU over the years, it doesn't look like therapy has helped her any. Thankfully not everyone feels the same way she does. In addition to doubting Violent Leaves' background (personally I think it is nothing but a front to justify their cyber-bullying), I question her sanity.

Here comes the justification part. Stitches 77 boldly exclaims repeatedly that we accuse them of "stalking and harassment" for "merely expressing their opinions." I've covered in detail already what they mean by merely expressing an opinion here:


Below are some more of their mere opinions, as they call it.

They will never get it. It is more than "merely expressing their opinions." It is their unhealthy obsession with their online game of cyberbullying, causing harm and creating victims of their cyber-bullying. Then they try to justify it by claiming to be "victims of sexual abuse." As for you, Violent Leaves, I have a nice JPG just for you. See below:

Coffee Klatsch

On Friday mornings around 8ish, my friend Ahna and I get together for coffee and conver- sation. Decaf or herb tea for her, seriously black coffee for me, and topics ranging from Lego to life as a freelancer.

This morning she arrived with her two small notebooks, her pack of sumptuous fine-point pens, and a copy of a now-defunct magazine. I came in with my current read and two children’s books to return to her. We both have the same definition of ‘8ish’ so we come comfortably prepared to wait for each other as though we’ve been ‘klatsching’ for a long time.

Ahna, a South Dakota girl several years my junior, came to the prairie via Los Angeles where she worked as a television and movie set designer. Her husband works at the university here, and she teaches parttime as an adjunct at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, two hours away.

In the same breath as “Hello,” she said , “Blog about this. Does it mean I don’t exist if I don’t blog? And if I don’t want to blog, does it mean I don’t want to exist?”

I can quote her verbatim because I jotted her words down on a napkin after borrowing one of her cool pens. Why former reporter/ novelist me travels without pen and paper and always relies on napkins and the kindness of others, I’ll never know.

(Aside to all my former journalism students, I had to ask her to repeat what she said.)

It’s been decades since high school and a sweet deal of an independent study on Camus since I’ve given much thought to existentialism.

My response was to tell her she doesn’t have to blog if she doesn’t want to, and I only started to try out a brand new (for me) form of writing. To be brutally frank, I think being obsessed with writing about oneself is well, obsessive. On the other hand, many bloggers write about numerous topics of interest to others. That sense of shared community is uplifting and enriching.

That’s as far as we got. The line at the counter dwindled, she went to get her drink, and we moved on to other topics.

Now, however, I’m curious about what precipitated her comments. Ahna, a voracious reader like me, is an incredible visual artist. I love when we talk about the creative process and what it entails for each our crafts. She’s got me thinking visually.

But I failed reporting 101 today by not asking her any follow-up questions.

Next week…. Maybe I’ll even dig up a pen of my own.

"Uff da!" Defined

My maternal grandparents, both second-generation Norwegian Americans, sprinkled their conversations with “uff da” and “nei da” as liberally as they used sugar cubes in their coffee. So it was fun when, skimming Sunday’s Star Tribune newspaper, I came across Karen Youso’s column: “Uff da! What it means, when to use it.”

She defines “uff da” as a “Scandinavian expression used to express compassion, empathy or annoyance.” Youso says “nei da” is “used to show surprise or shock in a negative way or when something unbelievable happens.” She also gives a definition for “fy da,” saying it expresses disgust, revulsion and horror. She even gives examples of when each saying is appropriate: “You use ‘nei da’ if your property taxes go up 100 percent.”

I clearly remember Grandma comingling the sayings to become “nei fy da” and “uff da nei.” In fact, my brothers and I still use her hybrid sayings in mock horror or frustration when, for example, we’re playing cards with each other and our partner makes a lousy play.

I’d love to hear if these Scandinavian expressions—or variations of them—are alive and well in your family’s lexicon. Email us at vikingeditor@mspcustomcontent.com.

Sven or Lena?

Our fourth child is due in two weeks. We don’t know if we’re having a little Sven or a little Lena, but given that we already have three boys, odds are good that our sons will get their wish with the arrival of a new brother. Either way, I’d love to order a few Norwegian clothing items once the little bundle is here. Last night I entered “Norwegian Baby Clothing” into a search engine. One of the results was the wonderful site mylittlenorway.com, and it gave me a great glimpse into dressing—and caring for—an infant in Norway (think layers and wool!). Even if you’re not in nesting mode like I am, I think you’ll enjoy the tips, insights, and adorable photos posted by L-Jay, the site’s author.

Same Number, New Phone, Same Husband…

“It’s a lifestyle change, not a husband change,” mine said to me in the pasta sauce aisle in Walmart a few months ago.

That statement leaped to mind this morning when I tried to figure out what was ringing (my new phone) and how to check the message (I don’t know how yet).

Now to be fair, my husband hasn’t set up voicemail on his new Blackberry yet, either. But at least he knows how. My technologically advanced friends (and they are legion) would argue I could figure it out, but in the marital ‘division of labor’ category, setting up new electronics falls under dh’s purview.

In the bigger scheme of things, we approach tasks very differently. He employs the ‘triage’ method while I'm a ‘big picture worrywart multitasker.’ Somehow we complement each other, cancel each other out or get cantankerous with one another. Or all three.

In the end, things work out. It’s the getting there that can be… challenging.

I don’t remember what precipitated the Walmart argument, but I’m trying to remember to take my husband’s words to heart.

When we made the decision to relocate to a much smaller university closer to family and my husband’s beloved wide open spaces, we dubbed the decision the now much overused phrase ‘It’s a lifestyle change.’

The statute of limitations on using that term is up, but it still gets dusted off and hauled out (usually by me).

But until my husband reminded me he wasn’t going to change his overall personality, I’d kind of expected a marriage miracle when it came to minute things like sorting through mail, etc. And to be fair, many of his irksome habits have improved, whereas I’m sure mine have only gotten worse (whining about the incessant prairie winds!).

In the end, though the process may differ, we get the desired results.


You can’t ask for anything more.

St Patrick's Day: A Norwegian Holiday?

Driving in to work today there certainly was a lot of green to be seen (and I don’t mean grass or blooming plants). It's St Patrick’s Day again and there are A LOT of folks “getting their Irish on” today. Be they Irish diaspora or fans of good old fashioned revelry, there’s never a shortage of people who like to make a big celebration of St Patrick’s Day and Irish heritage & culture around these parts.

That being the case, I thought it only fair to blog about Norway’s impact on Irish heritage and culture. For example, can you tell me what Dublin, Cork, Wexford, Limerick, Howth and Fingall all have in common? I’ll give you this one—at one point each of these well-known Irish cities were Norwegian/Viking settlements.

That’s right, in fact the Viking/Irish interaction was so well known it was not only documented in Viking saga’s, it was also detailed in the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters the Annals of Clonmacnoise and The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill. Further accounts can be found in the arabic writings of the accounts of Ibn Ghazal.

You see in the 700s, pressure on land in Scandanavia had forced many nobles and warriors to seek land elsewhere. Some of these were younger sons, who stood to inherit nothing of their father's estate. Noblemen with little to lose began to gather together groups of warriors and go down the coast pillaging settlements. With the invention of Viking long boats, the raiders eventually began reaching further across the cold waters of the North Sea. By the late 700’s the Vikings were finding themselves on the shores of modern day England and Ireland.

At first the Vikings came for riches and slaves, finding both in large supply within Ireland’s abundant Christian monasteries. Often, the slaves were sold to Vikings traveling back to Norway, but many were kept in Ireland working in a Viking-held town (I’ve heard that this was such a prevalent practice that even today there are remnants of Irish tartans found in Norwegian bunad materials).

However, this raiding period would not last long, and by 950 the Vikings had stopped raiding in Ireland altogether and developed instead as traders and settled in the lands around their towns. It was during this time that Norwegian culture really affected Ireland by providing place names, like Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, Strangford, Leixlip, Carlingford, Youghal, Howth, Dalkey and Fingall [an area of modern-day Dublin]. Also a few of their words were also adopted into the Irish language.

So, today, when you celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a green beer and an old folk song, be sure to offer at least one toast to Norway.

If you want to read more about Norway’s interaction with Ireland, I suggest:

The Viking Answer Lady
Wesley Johnston's pre-Norman history

Reminiscing About Music of the Past's Future

My great uncle Ivan was an accordion player, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the instrument—not to mention admiration for the people who can play it. So it was fun to stumble upon Norwegian jazz accordion artist Frode Haltli. A reviewer for The Wire wrote of Haltli that he “revisits the past without sentimentality and makes it current in music that is both beautiful and exciting.” I have to agree. For me, listening to Haltli’s music conjures up memories of Uncle Ivan playing Norwegian folk music for family and neighbors in the backyard of the south Minneapolis home that he shared with his wife, Inga.

I just purchased Haltli’s Passing Images album on iTunes. I can already tell it’s going to be one of my favorites.

The Eggs Have Arrived! Can Easter Be Far Behind?

I'm no farm girl. While I was born and raised in a small, rural community, the closest thing to livestock in my childhood was a couple of cats. So when my family adopted seven chickens last summer, I really had no idea what to expect. I learned that chickens lay an egg about once every 26 hours during the summer, but their production drops off dramatically during the winter. This was true of our little flock. We went from collecting our usual six eggs a day to one or two eggs a day this winter. Some days, we found nothing in the nesting boxes.

In the upcoming April issue of Viking, Lene Johansen writes about celebrating Easter in her native Norway. Easter is generally the time when the hens really being laying again. That's why karamell pudding, Norway's answer to crème caramel, is a dessert eaten traditionally at Easter time, and Johansen shares her recipe with readers.

Well, I just happen to love karamell pudding. And Johansen was right: as if someone flipped the "egg switch" back on, our hens started laying in earnest again this week. While there's still plenty of snow in my yard, spring--and Easter--aren't far away. With the sudden abundance of fresh eggs around my house, you can bet I'll be trying the karamell pudding recipe. Look for it in the April issue of Viking, and try it yourself!

Pardon my dust!

I'm making some fun changes to my blog-- including a new address www.elisespieces.com and a pretty new look! So, please don't mind the mess while I'm rearranging!
Dear Wallace:Thanks for all the Hiawatha information. You are special! Irene, Mike & I attended the viewing for Carma last night. There were lots of people there, & it was good to see ones we hadn't seen for many years! Irene & Carma were special friends most of their lives. Thanks for saying that I am your favorite 92 yr. old! I do feel fortunate to do as well as I do. I still drive, legally & take care of my side of the duplex that Gene (son) owns. He & Julie take care of me!LoveZoy

Keeping the Faith…

Do you ever lose faith in yourself, in your abilities, in the very things you know you do best?

Do doubts plague you, keeping you awake at night and fueling crazy dreams?

If not, quit reading right now because you’re a stronger person than I am.

A couple factors, including a serious lack of sleep (I hate going to bed, and for more than two months I’ve been getting up at five a.m. to go to the local Y to exercise) made me a doubting Thomas the last week or so. My faith in God wasn’t wavering, but my faith in myself seemed pretty shaky.

With the help of some writer friends who answered a multitude of questions for me this week on a project and my mother’s unwavering confidence in me, the tide seems to have turned.

The incomparable Joyce Maynard had a book of columns called Domestic Affairs published years ago. I devoured it time and time again when I was pregnant with Erik. She wrote about life with her three children and then-husband, about making pies and raising babies. She’s a superlative writer, and one of my favorite columns related a bad spell in her household compounded by a stopped-up kitchen drain. That clogged sink became a metaphor for everything rotten going on. She wrote that it seemed like one day the drain problem was solved, and life righted itself. That particular piece resonates with me still.

To stay with the water clichés, there’s an ebb and flow to life. Lately I’ve felt like a beached whale (despite all the zumba, toning classes, and tread milling), unable to do what I do: produce decent words, plot out stories, write a coherent e-mail.

But this week the dam broke, and I feel like myself again. Today my mom reminded me about the old pump in her grandparents’ backyard in Saginaw, Michigan. It had to be primed to produce, she told me.

Thanks Mom for the reminder, thanks Char and Anne Marie for the answers and thanks to my husband and children, who think having a crazy writer in the house is a perfectly normal thing.

Name Days: New Old Traditions

By now I'm sure everyone has had a chance to devour the March issue of Viking magazine, right? Personally I think this issue is a real champ, with its features on Norwegian businesses making their own mark in America and the great article about Nynorsk by Colin Thomsen. Two very different topics, to be sure, but that's always been part of the allure of Viking magazine--the variety of subject matter it offers readers every month. At least that's my take on it.

Anyhow, my favorite part of this month's issue was the cover story on Name Days (and not just because I was lucky enough to try the cupcakes and cookies featured on the cover). Up until the story idea was first mentioned by our editor, I'd never heard of "name days" or the idea behind them. Now I think it's an awesome idea and possibly a new tradition around the Evans household. You see my son's birthday is very close to Christmas and I worry that as he gets older his birthday may get lost in the chaos of the season. But, by making his name day a tradition, we can celebrate in May.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who celebrates name days within their family. If you do, leave a comment!

Carma Rae (Simmons) Allred obit

Choking to death on a cheese sandwich

Stitches keeps bringing this up in attacks on eAdvocate’s blog, which repeats stuff that was in the news, so I thought it was time I’d address this idiotic comment on AZU’s blog.

As usual, AZU doesn’t tell the whole story. Below is the article in question.

AP, “DELAWARE: Ailing sex offender chokes to death at clinic.” Delmarva Now! The Daily Times; Feb. 25, 2008.


DELAWARE: Ailing sex offender chokes to death at clinic

Associated Press

DOVER — A 22-year-old Huntington's disease victim who was denied a bed in a state health care facility because he was a registered sex offender choked to death Monday at a Dover mental health clinic. Family members said they were told that Joseph Heverin, 22, whose muscle control had deteriorated to the point where he often fell and had to be put in a wheelchair, choked to death on a sandwich at Dover Behavioral Health Systems. "He was dead when he got to the hospital," said Heverin's brother, Paul Vrem.

Vrem said he learned of his brother's death after driving to Dover Behavioral to pick him up for a dental appointment. "They told me that he had choked on a grilled cheese sandwich and that they were administering CPR," Vrem said. DBHS chief operating officer William Weaver and other clinic officials did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

Colin Faulkner, director of public safety for Kent County, said paramedics were dispatched to Dover Behavioral Health shortly before 12:30 p.m. in response to a report of a person choking. "It would appear that he went into cardiac arrest, full arrest, as the result of an unresolved choking incident," Faulkner said. Jay Lynch, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Social Services, confirmed Heverin's death.

Heverin's mother, Dianne Vrem, said Dover Behavioral officials kept family members in a waiting room until Heverin had been taken away by ambulance, and that Kent General officials also refused her request to be with her son. "I just wanted to hold him and let him know that his mom was there," she said.

A spokeswoman for Kent General did not immediately return a telephone message Monday afternoon. Last week, Heverin was the subject of an Associated Press article describing the bureaucratic limbo in which his criminal past and his disease — an incurable, degenerative neurological disorder that also killed his father and other family members — had left him.

Officials at Dover Behavioral, a short-stay psychiatric facility where Heverin had been admitted last summer for treatment of depression, had sought and received court permission to discharge him, arguing that he is not mentally ill. He remained at the facility as his guardianship case worked its way through the court system.

Even though a court declared Heverin "a disabled person" who was "unable to act in his own best interest," health and social service officials refused to place him in state-run long-term care facility. They argued that he was neither developmentally disabled nor mentally ill. The primary reason for their opposition, however, was that Heverin was a registered sex offender. He had twice been convicted of unlawful sexual contact, incidents that his supporters believe stemmed from the effects of Huntington's disease, a hereditary disorder that has been linked with inappropriate sexual behavior.

Dover Behavioral officials said they had tried repeatedly for more than a year to find placement options for Heverin, but no facility was willing to take him. Kristopher Starr, an attorney appointed as a fact-finder in Heverin's guardianship case, submitted a report earlier this month excoriating state officials for refusing to place Heverin in a skilled nursing facility, at least not until he is "bedridden." "They finally got what they wanted; they won't have to deal with the problem anymore," Paul Vrem said Monday.


It was more than an act of a “sex offender choking on a grilled cheese sandwich.” The reality is far more sinister. I guess we can count out knowledge of basic body functions as a requirement of AZU membership. The fact is the man had a degenerative condition that made him struggle to maintain control of his body, in particular, muscle functions. By the way, when we eat, we use our muscles to swallow and pull it through the esophagus and into the stomach. It wasn’t your average case, it was a case of gross negligence on the part of the system left to care for a terminally ill man, a man denied services simply because of his status as a registrant, a man who was having trouble with muscular functions, which obviously includes eating; a grilled cheese sandwich would not be an appropriate meal in this case. American jurisprudence considers negligent death murder, and if the victim was not a sex offender, the family would have won a wrongful death lawsuit easily.


This comment from an anonymous poster helps the reader unerstand the "grilled cheese choking death" story posted at eAdvocate's blog, written into one long sentence, which will no doubt further confuse and aggravate the intellectually challenged AZU troll:

If certain people would learn to read (i.e., the tags at the end of a case) then they would know how a case is broken down; As to the cheese sandwich case, he was forced into a facility which could not handle his medical conditions because the proper facilities would not accept him due to his SO status; That case is flagged: "Substantially caused by a SO Law, not by vigilantes;" Her construction is actually a misconstruction due to her failure to read what is posted.

Blog Interrupted

What a difference a day (or three) makes.

I wrote the following last Thursday morning but never posted, which is just as well (see previous blog post on lame posts!).

Now after a long weekend with my youngest brother, sister-in-law, four-year-old niece, Kasey, and new niece, Reese, I have plenty of new material, poignant and hilarious (Okay, maybe only in my eyes… my sister-in-law and I had a grand time making up new lyrics for “Pants on the Ground,”…but she’s an exhausted mom. What’s my excuse?).

My mom and I also have been offered a second contract in the new Guideposts series so we’re thrilled about that. I’m excited to have Erik’s girlfriend, Morgan, come for spring break the following week (tho not as excited as he is, I’m sure!) Plus my mom has a birthday, my husband will finally be as old as me come St. Patrick’s Day, and my in-laws will be here on their way back to Iowa from vacationing in Texas.

Spring may not have sprung yet, but I can feel the early vibrations.

Blog Interrupted

We interrupt today’s regularly scheduled blog due to the following reasons:

1. Writer of said blog (me) had less than five hours of sleep the previous night.

2. Aunt (again me) of Kasey, 4, and Reese, 1 month, needs to childproof/clean the house for their arrival late this afternoon, along with their mommy and daddy.

3. Writer (blah blah) of said blog doesn’t have a clue what to write about.

That’s all she wrote.

Anthony George (Tony) Petrulakis obit

Does Conan O'Brien Have a Dobbeltgjenger?

Doppelgänger: a German word that in English vernacular refers to any double or look-alike of a person. In Norwegian the word is "dobbeltgjenger". The reason I mention this at all is because of something I came across the other day while surfing the blogosphere.

Apparently Statoil has a new head of media relations, named Jannik Lindbæk, who i think looks uncannily similar to Conan O'Brien. Could he be Conan's dobbeltgjenger? OR could "Mr. Lindbæk" and Conan be the same person?

Think about it--Conan is recently unemployed, in need of new challenges AND according to his Twitter account, he's getting desperate. Taken with the fact that you NEVER see "Mr. Lindbæk" and Conan together at parties, I have to wonder if Mr. O'Brien has pulled a Charlie Chaplain and forsaken America?

Look at the photographic evidence and you be the judge.

Norway: #1 in our hearts and on skis

One of the first Norwegian phrases I learned as a kid was nordmenn er fodt med ski på beina: “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet.” It’s no wonder this old saying has became a truism, since Norway won a whopping 23 medals in this year’s Winter Olympic Games. While the U.S. had a great showing, winning 37 medals, Norway still holds first place in the overall medal count, with 303 hard-earned medals from 1924 to today. The U.S. is currently in second place overall with 254. Heia Norge!

While I don’t normally watch televised sports, I’ll admit that I watched as much of the Winter Olympics as I could make time for. My kids were interested, so viewing became great family time. The competitions sparked conversations about the many sports, languages and cultures represented at the Games. Of course the kids followed Team USA closely, but they were also interested in the Norwegians, particularly those profiled in the February issue of Viking magazine. On the final night of the games, during the Men’s Cross Country medal ceremony, it was fun—and a bit surprising—to hear my kids singing along to the Norwegian national anthem, thanks to their time spent raising the flag at Norwegian language camp!

Hiawatha Labor Day Float 1948

The Legacy of Family Recipes

My grandmother was an incredible cook. She would get up at five o’clock every morning to make fresh bread, always had homemade sugar cookies or caramel rolls ready for guests, brought her coveted lefse to church gatherings and picnics, and made the best barbecued ribs I’ve ever had. Ever. But one of the dishes my three brothers and I enjoyed most was Grandma’s fish balls. She would take a can of King Oscar’s fish balls, make an incredibly delicious creamy gravy, boil some red potatoes, and serve it all piping hot. Yes, it was a stereotypical Scandinavian plate of food—three shades of white—but it was so simple and satisfying. Most importantly, it was cooked with love by Grandma.

Grandma passed away nearly 15 years ago, but her food legacy lives on. We try to recreate some of her specialties (they’re never as good as hers), we marvel at how she was able to cook so well for so many people in such a tiny farmhouse kitchen, and we reflect on how special she made us all feel through the food she so lovingly cooked and served.

This is a busier-than-normal time for my family, and as I toss frozen pizzas in the oven and run into the sandwich shop to pick up dinner on the go, my appreciation for Grandma—and the time she invested in making delicious food for her family—continues to grow. I think we have a few hours free this Sunday. Maybe I’ll dig out Grandma’s fish ball recipe and do some cooking with my boys.

Holding on and fretting so…

In early January when my oldest son and his girlfriend trudged through Storm Daisy in Denmark to take refuge in a hotel when their ferry back to Germany was ‘grounded,’ I took a nosedive into a bag of leftover holiday M&Ms.

And that was a mere snowstorm.

The earthquake that rocked Chile this week sent reverberations through the household of one of Erik’s best friends, Benny, from West Virginia. Our hearts and those of so many people we know went out to Benny’s dad, Paul. Benny is doing a ‘gap year’ in a town in Chile right in the epicenter of the quake. His mom was visiting him, and fortunately they were traveling nearly 500 miles south of the quake.

Until there was news, I can only imagine what Benny’s dad was going through waiting for communication from his wife and son. Facebook newsfeed notices constantly came up with Benny’s friends wanting to hear word if he was okay.

When we dropped then 16-year-old Erik off at a swanky hotel in Washington D.C. the summer of 2007 to head off for his year as a foreign exchange student in Germany, I sobbed uncontrollably once we got in the car.

One minute they’re infants bundled up in fleecy sacks and the next they’re taking off for parts known and unknown, whether kindergarten, college or a foreign country that quakes.

And yet, as I’ve maintained since I started this blog, if we do our job well as parents our whole goal is for them to be independent and have their own wonderful lives.

Still, I’m awfully glad Erik is home right now. And at this moment I really wish I could have Erik, Benny, Alex, Max and Cody in my old house on Cottonwood St. eating pizza, chocolate chip bars, and even playing kitchen cricket….

Article on Eldon Miller from Sun Advocate 2 Feb 2010

Bill Ricketts and his fishing buddy? early 1930's

1 March 2010
We had a pretty good group at the Hiawatha Ladies Luncheon today. There were not as many as usual but those that were there seemed to enjoy it. If you were not there you probably got "talked about" Ha Ha. (Just kidding)
Wally & Donnie Baldwin
Jenn Blake
Jim & Beth Garber
Don & Jean Reaveley
Darrell Bearnson (and his bus?)
John J. Barnett
Clone & Tom Neilson
Paul & Norma Mecham
Tucker & Grace Lowe
Jone Orphanakis
Virginia Jensen
Elaine Jones
Myrna & Don Wallace
Burt & Karen Guymon
Glenn Davis