Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I should have done my homework first (knowing is half the battle)

This past Saturday I wrote a very short post wishing a happy birthday to the King of Norway. However, I should have done my homework first because it was kindly brought to my attention that addressing him as "Your Highness" was not the proper way to address the king. So, in case you ever have cause to contact the palace, it's good to know the appropriate rules for addressing the royal family.

In this case, my mistake did me some good because it lead to my learning more on the subject. And if we learned nothing else from G.I Joe cartoons of the 1980's, it was that "Knowing is half the battle."

So, anyhow, the ever-awesome Colin Thomsen put together some quick rules for us, so we may show the proper etiquette in the future. Here we go:

The official titles for royal persons fall into two categories. First, those for the King and Queen are His Majesty King Harald and Her Majesty Queen Sonja, or HM King Harald and HM Queen Sonja. His Majesty the King, HM the King, Her Majesty the Queen and HM the Queen are also acceptable.

Next, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus and Crown Princess Mette-Marit can be referred to as such, or His Royal Highness The Crown Prince Haakon and Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess Mette-Marit. Both their titles can be abbreviated "HRH," and the shortened forms "HRH Crown Prince Haakon" and "HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit" are in common usage.

So I would have been more correct in my original post had I written it in the 1980's when HM King Harald was still still HRH Crown Prince Harald. But I digress. A lot. You ever notice that about me? Yeah, me too. It's a personality quirk, but what can I do? Wait...did it again. Back to the stuff about the royals.

It should be noted that there is currently an exception to the above rules regarding princesses. HM King Harald decided, upon her marriage to Ari Behn, that his daughter's title would be changed to Princess Martha-Louise. That is to say, she should not be referred to as HRH Märtha-Louise or Her Royal Highness. In this case, "Dear Princess Märtha-Louise" would be perfectly appropriate.

When addressing a member of the royal family directly, the official Norwegian terms would be the equivalent of "Your Majesty" for the King and Queen, and "Your Highness" for the Crown Prince and Crown Princess. However we haven't determined if these apply to Princess Märtha-Louise (although Colin thinks not) and moreover, if there's a specific policy for use of these terms in English. We hav have not found it on the royal family webpage or any of the Norwegian embassy pages here or abroad. If you are in a situation where you need absolute certainty, we suggest contacting the embassy in D.C. or the Norwegian Language Council.

This is great information that can come in very handy, so big thanks to Colin for putting it together. Also, does anyone else find it the least bit cool that I was able to combine G.I. Joe cartoons and Norwegian Royalty together in the same post? I love my job.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Norn: The History of a Language

Today we have a great post from Colin, which explains a little about the language of Norn, which ties in to last week's post about the Shetland and Orkney Islands. Enjoy!

As mentioned in a post last week, Friday marked the 537th anniversary of Shetland and Orkney coming under the Scottish crown, so it seems a good time to talk about Norn, the Scandinavian language once spoken there.

During the Viking Age, the Scandinavians who colonized Shetland and Orkney spoke a common language, which we now call Old Norse. Languages change a lot over time, and as the centuries rolled on, Old Norse evolved into the modern Scandinavian languages – Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic and Faroese.

Until the 18th or 19th centuries, another, now-extinct Scandinavian language was also spoken in Shetland, Orkney and parts of mainland Scotland, called Norn. Very little is known about Norn, and only a handful of texts written in the language were ever preserved. According to legend, the last Norn speaker died in 1850, but it’s more likely that the language was extinct long before then. Still, many words from Norn are still used by the inhabitants of Shetland. You can find a Shetland dictionary here. Here’s a comparison of the Lord’s Prayer in Shetland Norn, Old Norse, and modern Norwegian:

Shetland Norn
Fy vor or er i Chimeri. / Halaght vara nam dit.
La Konungdum din cumma. / La vill din vera guerde
i vrildin sindaeri chimeri. / Gav vus dagh u dagloght brau.
Forgive sindorwara / sin vi forgiva gem ao sinda gainst wus.
Lia wus ikè o vera tempa, / but delivra wus fro adlu idlu.
For do i ir Kongungdum, u puri, u glori, Amen

Old Norse
Faþer vár es ert í himenríki, verði nafn þitt hæilagt
Til kome ríke þitt, værði vili þin
sva a iarðu sem í himnum.
Gef oss í dag brauð vort dagligt
Ok fyr gefþu oss synþer órar,
sem vér fyr gefom þeim er viþ oss hafa misgert
Leiðd oss eigi í freistni, heldr leys þv oss frá ollu illu.

Modern Norwegian (Bokmål)
Vår Far i himmelen!
La navnet ditt helliges.
La riket ditt komme.
La viljen din skje på jorden
slik som i himmelen.
Gi oss i dag vårt daglige brød,
og tilgi oss vår skyld,
slik også vi tilgir våre skyldnere.
Og la oss ikke komme i fristelse,
men frels oss fra det onde.
For riket er ditt,
og makten og æren i evighet.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gratulerer med dagen, King Harald!

On behalf of all 70,000 Sons of Norway members, I would like to wish King Harald the happiest of Birthdays! Gratulerer med dagen Your Highness!

UPDATE: I was alerted to the fact that the king is not referred to as "Your Highness." The message should say Gratulerer med dagen Your Majesty. Many apologies. Now, moving on, this little blooper has turned into an interesting blog post of its own. Check it out here.

Sons of Norway Videos on Youtube

I've just uploaded some new videos to the Sons of Norway Youtube channel. They were taken by Fraternal Director, Eivind Heiberg while he was at the Ski for Light event in Utah. Enjoy!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Today in History: Orkney and Shetland are left by Norway to Scotland, due to a dowry payment

Ok, I don't know about you but I never knew that the Orkney and Shetland Islands were ever the property of Norway. As it turns out, these islands saw an influx of Norwegians due to overpopulation (in comparison to arable land) in Norway during the first half of the 9th century. However, many of the Norwegians that came were Vikings. They decided to make the islands their buccaneering headquarters, killed off every male member of the the native Pictish population and set to the business of raiding and being Vikings.

By 875 the Norwegians had annexed both islands in the name of Harald Hårfagre the king of Norway. Over the next 5 or 6 centuries Orkney and Shetland would be christianized by Olav Tryggvasson and St. Magnus Cathedral was established. Essentially, things calmed down a bit.

In 1468, Orkney and Shetland were pledged by Christian I, in his capacity as king of Norway, as security against the payment of the dowry of his daughter Margaret, betrothed to James III of Scotland. The original deal also included that Christian I would receive 50k Rhenish guilders for Orkney and another 8k for Shetland. From that point on the islands have been under Scottish rule.

An interesting prologue--according to the original terms of the agreement, Norway had the right to redeem the islands for a fixed sum of 210 kg of gold or 2,310 kg of silver. Since the 18th century Norway has attempted to exercise that right several times but never with any success. In modern terms, the cost of redeeming the islands would be about USD $6.7 million in gold or a little over $1 million in silver. Either way, that's a heck of a deal for two islands. Maybe something for King Harald, or future King Haakon, to consider?

Norwegian Experience 2008: Big Announcement Coming

Early next week I'll be announcing the winner of the 2008 Sons of Norway Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest! I'll hopefully have an interview with the winner by Tuesday and I'll post all the results and the exciting plans for their trip of a lifetime! Be sure to check back next week!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Today in History: Knut Hamsun

Today marks the 57th anniversary of the death of Knud Pedersen. Don't recognize the name? That's because after his first published work in 1877, Knud changed his name to the better known Knut Hamsun.

Born into a poor family in Gubrandsdal, Norway, Knut struck outo n his own as a teen, first to become a rope-maker's apprentice and then an author. My, what a strange path life can take us on, huh? He would first gain acclaim from his novel, Hunger, which some believe was semi-autobiographical for Hamsun. With each successive novel, Hamsun gained more noteriety, until he eventually won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Unfortunately Hamsun's popularity would get sidetracked in his later years. You see, Hamsun apparently had an affinity for Germany and German culture. Nothing wrong with that...except it was the 1940's. So, yeah...maybe not the best time to be rooting for beer and kaser am schnitzel. After the war Hamsun was tried for treason, but the case eventually was dropped.

The truth of Hamsun's involvement with the Nazi party is the subject of hot debate amongst historians. Personally, I think Hamsun may have gotten a bad rap and was caught up in the post-war fervor of Norway's attempts to bring Quislingites to justice. Otherwise, why would Norway make 2009 "Hamsun Year" or make a commemorative Hamsun coin?

Please feel free to debate.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Today in History: Alexander Lange Kielland

Today is the 160th anniversary of the birth of Alexander Lange Kielland, one of Norway's most famous 19th century authors. Even though he was born into a family of means, Kielland spent his adult life as a voice for the weak and a critic of society. These roles would find their way into many of his works, including Poison, which attacked the education system in Norway.

Because of his work's profound impact on Norway and Norwegian society, he was considered one of the "De Fire Store" (The Four Greats), along with Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Henrik Ibsen and Jonas Lie.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

...And the Survey Says: Hansen!

That's right, dear readers--Hansen is the most common last name in Norway, shared by 56,228 people. From the looks of the poll 54% got the right answer. Congratulations!

In case you were curious, here's the rest of the top five most common last names:
  1. Johansen 52,461
  2. Olsen 52,184
  3. Larsen 39425
  4. Andersen 38,433
The other names listed in the quiz were further down the list with Pedersen taking the #6 slot with 36,362, Bakken came at #37 with 8,022 people claiming the name and waaaaaaay down at #55 was Christiansen.

If you want to learn more about Norwegian names, make sure to visit the English section of Statistics Norway.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Even more on names

Ok, there's still one day left to vote! As you may remember we ran a short series of blog posts on Norwegian names last week. We've also got a survey going to see if folks can pick which last name is the most common in Norway. There's still a day left to vote, so don't miss out. I'll post the results as well as the correct answer tomorrow morning.


Sunday, February 15, 2009


I'm all about feedback. No, really. I am. I cry love when the readers criticize give me feedback.

Actually, no, that hasn't happened. All the feedback I've gotten has been very positive and helpful. However, one comment I received in person has gotten me thinking. You see, I was in a meeting a while back when someone mentioned that they read this blog quite often, but wished I would attach "more personality" to it, so they could better relate to the blogger behind the blog.

I've been mulling it over and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I don't want to turn this into the "me" show, because that's not what this is. However, as a person who reads a lot of blogs, I know that I definitely prefer the kinds of blogs where I get to know the writer through their posts. A conundrum to be sure. Possibly even a quagmire. Quagmire? No, not a quagmire. A quandary, maybe? Well, whether its a quandary, conundrum, botheration or even a bugaboo (heh, I worked bugaboo properly into a sentence!) I need to figure out the best approach.

So for now, I'll put it to you, the kind reader. Do you want to know more about the people behind this blog? Do you even care? Are you shouting "Shut up already and tell me more about Norway!" at your computer monitor? You tell me.

In the meantime I'll leave you with this video provided by Norway, about Norway. Enjoy!


I found a very cool video on Youtube this morning.

As you probably know, there are a lot of folks in Norway who use bicycles as their primary form of transportation. To further encourage this, the city of Trondheim installed a "sykkelheis" to help riders up a very steep hill.

The closest thing I've ever seen to the sykkelheis is the cart-vator at the Target store in downtown Minneapolis. Care to venture any theories on what that says about American culture? Or my laziness?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

...And another thing about names

Since we are on a name kick, I've put up a poll, just to the right of where your eyes are looking right now. Yeah...just look to the right a little and you'll see it. A little more...there ya go!

Anyhow, I'm taking a poll to see who knows which last name is the most common in Norway. Give it a try and then check back on Monday when I post the correct answer.

More on Norwegian Names in the March Viking

If you dug yesterday's post from Colin about Norwegian name statistics, then you are gonna LOVE the March Viking! I just got a sneak preview of an article coming out next month with even more info about boys and girls name trends in Norway and it's super interesting. It's written by none other than Louis Janus, coordinator of the LCTL program at the University of Minnesota.

It's going to be pretty cool, showing popular names from the late 19th and early 20th century. I'm not going to give away anything, but I will comment on one thing I found to be very interesting. In looking at the lists of popular boys and girls names from the aforementioned time periods, I know at least one person with each of the names from the late 19th century list. However I'm hard pressed to think of anyone I know with any of the names from the list for the early 20th century list.

Kinda makes you wonder if there's a calculable cycle to children's names, doesn't it? Either way, make sure to check out the March issue of Viking for this great story!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Norwegian Name Statistics

Every year Statistics Norway releases a report on the most popular boys’ and girls’ names chosen by Norwegian parents in the previous year. Below is the summary of the report in English, but you can find the original (with graphs) here. You can also search to see how many people in Norway today have a given first or last name by searching here. Enjoy!

Linnea and Lucas/Lukas were the new leading first names in 2008. The trend with biblical boys’ names and girls’ names ending in “a” continues. In Oslo, the decidedly most popular boys’ name is Mohammad.

The most popular girls' name in Norway in 2008 was Linnea, which was in 12th place in 2007. The name Linnea originates from Sweden and refers to the "linnaea" flower, which is named after the Swedish botanist Carl von Linné. Linnea has been extremely popular in Sweden for a while, peaking in 5th place in 2002.

Otherwise, the list of most popular girls’ names has not changed very much. Emma is in 2n d place and the most popular name in 2007, Sara, is number three. Leah has jumped five places and is now in 9t h place.

The most popular boys’ name in 2008 was Lukas/Lucas. There are almost as many boys called Lukas as Lucas: 244 and 293 respectively. The name is taken from Lucanos, which is Latin and means “Light” or “Man from Lucania”. The origin is the author of the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Lucas was the most popular boys’ name in Sweden in both 2006 and 2008. Otherwise, the previous most popular name, Mathias, is in 2n d place and Markus remains at number three. Emil has grown in popularity and is now in 4t h place.

Kristian/Christian, which is now in 5t h place, has been in the top ten since 1974. Oliver has jumped 10 places to number 8, just before Tobias.

See the table for the whole country, the counties and selected municipalities.
Trends go in waves

The popularity of a name goes in waves. Many of the currently popular names were also popular more than 100 years ago and have returned after a long absence. This applies to many of the biblical names, amongst others. Whether religion actually played a part in the popularity of these names in the 1800s is not known. In any case, they disappeared during the 1900s, but have now made a strong comeback. Name trends are fairly international, and the biblical boys' names are also popular outside Norway.

In contrast to the recent leading names, Linnea and Lucas/Lukas are “new”, and prior to 1990 were hardly ever used. Noah, which is now in 14th place, is also totally new to Norway.

The majority of our most popular names are already established in Sweden. The name list in Sweden is the best indicator of what is happening in Norway. The trend with many girls’ names that end in “a” or “ah” probably stems from our neighbours to the east. Over half (51.5 per cent) of the girls that were born in 2008 were given a name ending in “a” or “ah”. Immediately after the war, the corresponding figure was 13 per cent by comparison, with Eva as the greatest contributor.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Today in History: Spitsbergen Treaty

Today marks the 89th anniversary of the signing of the Spitsbergen Treaty. This event effectively recognized the full and absolute sovereignty of Norway over the arctic archipelago of what is known today as Svalbard. Also, the treaty demilitarized the area and helped decrease tensions between Norway and Russia.

For a time, anyhow.

Since 1977 there have been some disputes between Russia and Norway regarding fair and equal economic use of the waters surrounding the area. Lately it's been quiet, though. Let's hope it stays that way, right?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ski for Light: A Conversation with John Lund

This evening I had a chance to catch up with none other than Sons of Norway CEO, John Lund, who is in Provo this week for the Ski for Light. He's been in Utah since Thursday has been having a great time. When we spoke he was just coming back from the big 10k race and it sounds like everyone had an amazing time. John was telling me that its quite an emotional thing, to see all the skiers and guides lined up at the start of the race because that race is more than a race. The race is the culmination of a week devoted to training, communication and building trust between skiers and guides. The week that leads up to the race is what its really about.

For that reason, among others, John felt that even being there as a spectator was very exhilarating. Also, many of the folks who first started the event, people like Bjarne Eikevik and others, were good friends of John's over the years, so being there for this year's event had some personal meaning as well.

John went on to say some great things about the SFl leadership as well. The whole time he's been at the event the folks in charge have been nothing but welcoming, gracious and, above all, enthused about Ski for Light. In fact he told me that he's been so impressed by the growth of the event that he's invited SFL President Marion Elmquist to the 1455 offices to discuss possible ways of furthering our collaboration and ways Sons of Norway might increase its support of the event. This could be a very exciting opportunity for everyone, I think!

As if that wasn't enough, John also went on to congratulate the Sons of Norway members who have volunteered at this year's Ski for Light. He told me that it's great to see so many members getting involved in an event like SFL and they should all be proud of their contributions.

From what John told me, there has also been a lot of fun diversions that didn't require skis. First, there was Norway Night, where everyone in attendance took part in a HUGE conga line. But wait--there's more! It was a conga line that danced to...Bob. Denver. Don't believe me? I have video proof!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand--there's a shiny, new Sons of Norway 2008 International Convention collector's coin for the first person that can pick out our beloved CEO in the dance line! E-mail me at if you think you found him and that precious coin is all yours!

On a more emotional note, I was informed that longtime SFL family member and Sons of Norway Fraternal MVP, Rob Rasmussen married the love of his life, Sherry at an outdoor ceremony in front of most of the SFL participants. I have video of that too! Congrats Rob and Sherry! May your lives be filled with love and joy forever!

This next one is for the newlywed! C'mon everyone this is a celebration--you know the words!

Ski for Light: Meeting Suzanne Brown & Isley

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity of speaking with Ski for Light skier and Chair of the Endowment, Suzanne Brown and her guide dog Isley (this video was taken while I was doing the phone interview).

Suzanne has been a member of the SFL family for 22 years now, since she first read about it in one of the event newsletters. At that point she was still down hill skiing, but because she was slowly losing her sight that became harder and harder to do. She finally gave up down hill skiing entirely about 15 years ago, devoting her time solely to cross-country skiing, which she has since decided she likes better anyhow.

After a little background we chatted for a good while about the Ski for Light Endowment. It was started 10 years ago with the goal of growing the endowment enough that the event would no longer have to rely as much on various other fund raising efforts and the board could focus more on leadership. So far it sounds like the endowment's efforts have been successful--the endowment began with $25k in seed money and it has since grown to nearly $400k!

I asked Suzanne more about her involvement with the endowment and she told me that she first got involved because of past president Larry Showalter. In 2002 he had approached Suzanne about heading up the endowment, which she initially balked at, thinking she didn;t have enough experience or interest. But, Larry persisted and, in the end, framed the offer in a different way, talking about how it would be an opportunity for Suzanne to branch out and grow. With that, Suzanne took on the challenge and hasn't looked back.

Under her leadership the endowment has had a number of fundraisers, like the one last night which raised more then $4,500! Also, the endowment has seen a higher visibility with more advertising and an increased role within the SFL family and an increase in fundraising from Life Memberships. When I asked how SFl planned to use the endowment in the future, Suzanne told me that she hoped it could be a new source of scholarships and stipends for the guides as well as helping subsidize SFL if it is held at higher priced venues, like Sun Valley.

It was a lot of fun talking to Suzanne and, once again, I learned something new. Did you know that it's not proper to refer to a guide dog as a seeing eye dog unless that dog actually was trained at the Seeing Eye school? It's a term that we sighted folks have come to use as a generic term for all helper dogs, much the same way we use the term Kleenex for any facial tissue. I never knew that before. Did you?

I also learned that Ski for Light has a number of ways to support the endowment, including Life Memberships. So, if you're interested in supporting a worthy cause, make sure you check it out.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ski for Light: Meeting Marion Elmquist

Ok, I've gotten some coffee in me and I'm feeling much better about the world in general. So, on to the real business: Ski for Light.

Last night I had a great conversation with Marion Elmquist who is the President of Ski for Light. We talked about all manner of things from her first time as a SFL guide in 1992 to her impressions on this year's program.

First, a little background. Marion Elmquist first got involved with SFL more than 15 years ago when she signed on as a guide for the 1992 Ski for Light, which was held in Granby, Colorado. It was such an incredible experience that three years later she branched out and began guiding skiers at the Ridderrennet. Since then she has only missed one year at either event, and she told me that she's already getting ready to head over to Norway for this year's event.

It was easy to tell from her voice that she is passionate about cross country skiing and, even moreso, what the Ridderrennet and Ski for Light stand for. I asked her if she would share with me her most memorable moment from the past, but there were too many for her to choose from, so she talked about the thing that keeps her coming back every year: friendship. Marion told me that through Ski for Light she's "made a number of lifelong friends and the event is like a gift that keeps giving from one year to the next."

This led to my next question about the event. You see, in speaking with everyone else over the week, there was one common theme that kept coming up--the idea of Ski for Light being a family. I asked Marion if she agreed with that sentiment and if so, was it an organic thing or was SFL feel like family by design? In her opinion, Ski for Light and all its participants, leaders and volunteers became a family in a very organic way. Marion thought a lot of it was due, in part, to the fact that skiers and guides spend a full week skiing together and a relationship naturally develops over that time.

Next we talked about this year's event and I was told that the SFL was initially concerned about attendance but, even with the current economy in the tank, there are 250-260 skiers and guides at this year's event, which is pretty average for SFL even in better times. To me, this really illustrates how important SFL is to the skiers and guides. Even in a bad economy these folks are coming out on their own dime and participating.

From there we moved on to talking about the future. Next year is the 35th anniversary (aka jade anniversary) of the SFL and Marion will soon be choosing an event chair and start the planning in the weeks to come. Also, I found out that on Saturday there should be a public announcement about where that event will be taking place.

Wow--35 years. That's an impressive history by today's standards. I mentioned that to Marion and her response was that SFL's success over the years was due to early leadership, a good planning manual, strong volunteers and the wonderful support it gets from Sons of Norway. Marion feels that thanks to all these elements SFL runs smoother than many professionally planned events. After talking with a number of participants I'd have to agree that the event is run very, very smoothly.

Also for the future, Marion shared with me, are a couple of goals that are important to SFL. The first is to update the SFL website. Right now is designed to be accessible to people that are visually impaired and must use "screen readers." However its not as visually appealing as the SFL would like. The goal is to make the website moreso, while keeping its high level of readability for the visually impaired.

The second goal Marion told me about is actually a continuation of their current goals. In the future she wants SFL to maintain its vibrance while staying healthy and financially sound. Related to that, she believes SFL needs to attract younger skiers and guides so the organization can continue to regenerate and carry on long into the future. Personally, I think those are great goals to have and I think they'll find ways to meet them.

Overall this was a great conversation and I'm kinda sad to see the week coming to a close. However, there's always next year. That's all for now, but check back over the weekend for more and maybe even a recap of the week.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Friday Morning

It's Friday.

I'm going over my notes from last night's interview with Ski for Light President Marion Elmquist.

I'm listening to a remix of Filo & Peri's song Anthem.

I need more coffee.

Much more coffee.

More to come later this morning with a recap of the conversation mentioned above.

I think winter is finally starting to wear me down. Here in Minnesota the winters are long, dark and cold. By January/February everyone is looking for something (anything. really) to shore up our hope of an early spring. So, if you're feeling like I am this morning, please enjoy these videos/slideshows of Norway :

Walking along Naeroyfjord

Beautiful Norway

Best of Norway

If so, check out these videos of Norway. Maybe they will help distract you until April gets here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ski for Light: Meeting John Olnes

After speaking with Sigurd Dalen, I also had the chance to speak with John Olnes, a Sons of Norway member from Alaska who has been part of the Ski for Light family since 1999.

John first got involved in Ski for Light 10 years ago when it was held in Anchorage. At the time he knew a visually impaired skier who was planning on taking part in the week-long event, but needed a guide. John, an avid cross-country skier, decided he was just the guy for the job and the rest is history. These days he's no longer guiding skiers, but has taken on the role of Trail Coordinator. It's now his job to set up the trails, place markers and help ensure that SFL is a top-notch event all week long.

When I asked him what his attraction to SFL is, John responded that "Being a Ski for Light guide is such a rewarding experience, and SFL is like a yearly family reunion. Every year we get together with old friends and make new ones, too. I'm going to do it for as long as I can!"

Because he's so passionate about the event, I next asked John about some of his most memorable moments from past years. The first thing that came to mind goes all the way back to the beginning--Anchorage in 1999. At that event, in addition to guiding his friend mentioned above, John also worked with another visually impaired person and taught her to ski. John told me about the first time he took her down a steep hill and how overjoyed she was when they reached the bottom. John was thanked with a bear hug and a memory he'll always take with him.

If you were to ask all SFL participants, past and present, I bet you'd hear thousands upon thousands of these same kinds of experiences and memories. This is why I'm so proud of Sons of Norway's long-time involvement in Ski for Light. When I mentioned that sentiment, John agreed and responded that Sons of Norway has always been a big help with volunteers and donations. In fact his lodge, Bernt Balchen 2-046, has a yearly wooden ski fundraiser where part of the proceeds are donated to Ski for Light.

If I remember right, something like 125 different lodges have made donations to Ski for Light this year. That's nearly a third of all Sons of Norway lodges; a great number to be sure. But right here, right now I challenge all the other lodges to consider what they might be able to do to help support such a worthwhile program next year.

Also, if your lodge is already a supporter I'd love it if you'd share your lodges program or fundraiser with everyone else. Please feel free to leave it in a comment here on the blog, or go to the Sons of Norway message boards and post it there. Share your success with others!

Ahh another successful, and fun-filled day has come to an end. Check back tomorrow for more updates!

Ski for Light: Meeting Sigurd Dalen

I really think that to truly get a sense of the scope of Ski for Light, and how it impacts hundreds of people every year, you need to see it from all it's angles. To that end I've been interviewing different people who are part of this year's SFL family. For those who have been following along this week, you've so far heard about the program from the viewpoints of our Fratrnal Director, Eivind Heiberg and from Maureen Hogg, a blind and deaf skier.

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the guides at this year's Ski for Light, named Sigurd Dalen! Not only is Sigurd a guide, but he is also a member of the Norwegian Delegation that attends SFL every year and one of the organizer's of Norway's Ridderrennet. Sigurd has been participating in the Ridderrennet for 35 years now, ever since he was a young man attending NIH-Norges idrettshøgskole (Norwegian School of Sport Sciences) in Oslo. Now a faculty member at NIH, Sigurd has also spent the last 16 years as a valued member of the Ski for Light family.

And that's exactly how Sigurd described the SFL when we spoke. "The Ski for Light is like a big family! People come together year after year--it's great!" He also told me that Ski for Light has become an international ski week. This year there are seven different nations represented, inculding: Canada, Japan, Denmark, Norway, France, Great Britain and, of course, the U.S. Sigurd says that this is the largest group of nations the SFL has ever had and that it's important and helps keep strong relationships.

Speaking of relationships, I asked Sigurd about his experiences in being a guide for so many years, since its obviously important to develop a relationship with the person you are skiing with. Sigurd explained that he believes the job of a good guide is "to get the most out of your skier." He also said that, "being a guide is more than seeing and explaining the terrain. A guide needs to communicate with his skiing partner and, just as important, it to be understanding; to be a human being above all.

The comment about "getting the most out of your skier" was an interesting point, to me. Until now, I had though of the guides only in the sense of instructor, or one who provides assistant. I hadn't considered the coach or cheerleader role that guides obviously have to play. We talked further on this point and Sigurd relayed a story to me about a time he worked with a sit-skier who he had guided years ago. Sigurd pushed him and encouraged him asa much as possible, in order to get as much out of the skier as posible, which had an amazing ripple affect. You see, the result of Sigurds pushing was that the sit-skier did much better than anticipated, which led the sit-skier to train even harder for the next year's event. This training, in turn, helped improve the quality of life for the sit-skier. Sigurd said he was very proud to have played a role in that skiers life.

I was glad to have had the chance to meet and speak with Sigurd because in talking to him I learned that a simple act of kindness, like participating in the SFL, can have positive affects far beyond the scope of what you might expect.

Think about that as you go through your day today. I know I will.

Check back later today to read about Sons of Norway member, and SFL Trail Coordinator John Olnes.

Ski for Light: Even More Photos

Hey everyone! This morning I had a bunch of really cool photos from Ski for Light waiting for me in my inbox. Not being the selfish type, I wanted to share them with you all. These photos come to you courtesy of Leslie Maclin, a guide at this year's event. The first couple of pictures are of Leslie and her charge, Nino.

Next we have one of Leslie with Sigurd Dalen, who you'll read more about later today.

And finally, here are some great photos of other participants. It looks like they are having a great time!

Today in History: Ole Bull

(It was pointed out to me that I had a typo in this post originally--thanks Mr. Anonymous!) Today is the 199th anniversary of the birth of Ole Bull, a Norwegian violinist and arguable Norway's first international star.

The violin virtuoso was born in Bergen and showed musical prowess from a very early age. It's said that at the age of 4 or 5 years old he was able to play all the songs his mother would sing on his violin.

As he grew, so did his talent; eventually playing concerts around the world and playing an important role in the musical development of one Edvard Grieg (their families were close and it was Bull, himself, who convinced Grieg's parents to send Grieg to the Leipzig Conservatory for musical training).

In the midst of all this, Bull even had an impact on the U.S., founding a colony of 4 towns in Pennsylvania that still thrive today. In fact, there is even a statue of the maestro here in Minneapolis in Loring Park.

Happy Birthday, Ole!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ski for Light: Amazing and Inspiring

I've been posting a lot about Ski for Light this week because its a great event that is important to Sons of Norway. So far there have been photos, some comments from SofN people on the ground at the event, etc. However there's one facet ofthe event that's been missing, so far: meeting some the participants. I think it's the most important part of the Ski for Light story because when you learn about the skiers and guides, you really get to the heart of the event.

If you read the blog earlier today, you read the following:

"I interviewed someone who has to be the most amazing and inspiring person I've ever had the pleasure of making the acquaintance. I swear my mouth was agape throughout the entire interview (thankfully it was done over the phone, so the only person who saw me looking like a slack-jawed yokel was my wife)."

That someone was was avid skier, rock climber and runner, Maureen Hogg. What makes Maureen such an amazing person in my book is that while she is blind, like many of the SFL skiers, she is also deaf.

It's ok--go ahead and take a minute to let that sink in. I did. Don't worry, I'll wait.

Ok, ready? Good.

When I first learned of the opportunity to talk with Maureen I was very excited, but at the same time I wasn't sure how we would communicate. After all, I was in Minneapolis and she in Utah and for someone who is deaf, a cell phone isn't much good.

Enter Maureen's personal assistant, Audrey Girard. Audrey was on the phone with me, relaying my questions to Maureen by writing the words I spoke in her hands. I would come to learn that it was quite like texting, in a way. Only much smoother and much more articulate.

Here's what I learned about Maureen:

She's a winter sports enthusiast. For starters, she's a member of the 14er club, which, if you are uniformed like I was, means that she has summited a mountain with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. That's right, Maureen has climbed and summited Mt Sherman. In addition, if you hadn't figured it out already, she is also an avid cross-country skier.

Maureen first learned to ski from Jan Henrickson, a former Sons of Norway International Director from District 3. When she was first taking up the sport, she said to Jan "I guess I'm really learning the hard way." Jan responded to this comment with the very simple and profound reply of, "As long as you learn, it doesn't matter how you do it." Personally I think this quote is echoed by the work of all the great people in the SFL family today.

Next, Maureen told me that Jean Eymere, the founder of BOLD, invited her to her first Ski for Light event held in Deadwood SD in 1978. She's always loved cross country because it gets her out into the back country and, though she hasn't tried it yet, believes she'd like it more than downhill skiing because cross-country is more of a workout.

Which brings me to the next thing I learned about Maureen's SFL experience. You see, one of the biggest questions on my mind was more logistical than anything, and you may be wondering the same thing right now--how does she navigate when she goes cross-country skiing? I was totally stumped, until Maureen and Audrey explained it to me.

For most SFL skiers, the guides help navigate by calling out directions and instructions to the skier. However, in Maureen's case, this isn't an option due to her deafness. So, for Maureen, skiing is more tactile experience than it would be for others. While out on the trails, Maureen's guide is always right next to her, and when a direction must be given the guide places their hand on her back and moves their hand in the direction Maureen needs to go. For example, if there is a turn to the right coming up, the guide places their hand in the middle of her back and moves their hand to the right. Or, if the trail heads up hill and to the left, the guide starts with their hand on Maureen's lower back and moves in an upwards arc to the left. Now that its explained, doesn't it seem like such a simple solution?

After that Maureen, Audrey and I talked about this year's Ski for light event. Maureen told me that this year's event has been excellent and that she's had a great time so far. She also said that Soldier Hollow has lived up to its name and expectations. Then, when I asked if she'd reccomend Ski for Light to others who might be considering it for next year Maureen's response was an immediate "yes." She talked about how great the event is and how dedicated the volunteers are. But above all, Maureen was impressed with how well managed the program was.

When I pressed her for an example she and Audrey both told me that, "all the little details a sighted person might not think of are taken care of." A great example of this is how the SFL folks handled the credit card style room keys. Think about it, for a minute--if you can't see which end of which side is supposed to go into the slot, how do you get into your room without trying your key as many as four times? The folks at SFL thought about it and came up with a simple solution of placing a slightly raised sticker on the end of the card opposite that which goes into the door. A simple solution, to be sure, but most sighted people wouldn't have even considered that there might be a problem in the first place.

Audrey commented that it was quite a humbling experience for her and that she thought it was very cool to learn that the Ski for Light is jointly planned by sighted and non-sighted board members. it certainly explains how they can avoid potential oversights (no pun intended).

All in all, this was probably the most interesting conversation I've had in a loooooooooong time. It was also inspirational to see someone like Maureen overcome the loss of two senses that I often take for granted. Knowing that there are people like Maureen, and the hundreds of others skiing today, makes me realize that the only limits to what I/we can accomplish are the limits we place on ourselves. I hope that after you read this, you've got the same great feeling that I have after writing it.

I'll hopefully have another profile later this week. Next time I'm hoping for a guide's perspective, or that of one of the SFL board members. Keep checking back to learn more about Ski for Light, ok? Have a great afternoon!

Ski for Light: More Photos

Here's another great photo from a past Ski for Light. What I like about this one is that it shows the ease and comfort that visually impaired skiers develop over the course of the SFL week. So much so, that I'd challenge anyone to pick out which skier was sighted and which was visually impaired.

Ski for Light: Soldier Hollow Photos

The 2009 Ski for Light is taking place at Soldier Hollow, the location of the 2002 Winter Olympics cross-country ski venue. It's a gorgeous location and I wanted to share a little of that with you, so here are some images provided by Howard Peterson at Soldier Hollow.

Pony Express Trail

Going by the Pioneer Cabin

Skier staying cool

Skiers kicking and gliding

Ski for Light: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I truly believe the old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words. Because this week is all about Ski for Light and what a wonderful program it is, I'll be going out on the web and finding images that I think tell the Ski for Light story very well. For starters, here we have a photo of a skier and guide finishing a 10k trek.

Carole Soule and Yolanda Mathews

The smiles on these skiers' faces, as they complete the 10k trek captures a side of the Ski for Light story that I would have great trouble conveying to you with nothing but text. To me, the raised arm seen here is the most fitting pose because it really helps us understand that this is an event about overcoming adversity; a time of triumph triumph, if you will. To me, this photo embodies the SFL motto of "If I can do this, I can do anything!"

Keep checking back for more photos later.

Ski for Light Update

Last night at 8:52 p.m. I interviewed someone who has to be the most amazing and inspiring person I've ever had the pleasure of making the acquaintance. I swear my mouth was agape throughout the entire interview (thankfully it was done over the phone, so the only person who saw me looking like a slack-jawed yokel was my wife). Anyhow, I'm off to get this all down into a coherent blog post. In the meantime, keep checking back throughout the day as I post some photos from Soldier Hollow, the location of this year's Ski for Light!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ski For Light: Beautiful Scenery and the Winded Fraternal Director

It looks like the Ski for Light participants are going to have great weather this week. I just checked the forecast and the highs are going to be in the high 30's all week (even though the current temp is only 1 F). Perfect conditions for skiing, don't you think?

Last night I heard from Fraternal Director and assistant guide, Eivind Heiberg, about his first day on the ground and on the trails. He told me that the location of this year's SFL is absolutely gorgeous. The hotel where everyone is staying has a great view of the mountains and the ski trails, about a half hour away, were the location of the 2002 Winter Olympics. All in all this has made a great impression on everyone involved.

Eivind's first day on the trails were, shall we say, enlightening? Educational? Hmmmm, maybe illuminating is the right word I'm looking for? Yes-I think illuminating will do.

Eivind's first day on the trails was "illuminating" as it offered a rare look into the pride of a Norwegian where skiing is involved. You see, even though he hasn't been skiing more than a few times in the past 10 (or 18) years he chose to assist a guide and skier on the 10k course! The first kilometer being an up hill climb! He was winded, to say the least, but said "when I reached the top of the hill and looked out at the gorgeous scenery I forgot I was even skiing. That made the trek well worth it." Sounds like quite a view to me.

All kidding aside, though, just before I got off the phone with Eivind, I asked him if he had any final thoughts on his first day in Provo? He responded by saying "It's been fantastic! I'm sure this rusty old body is going to feel rough in the morning, but its been a great time. The scenery is stunning, the SFL folks are great and its wonderful to see so many Sons of Norway members involved in the event. I've really gotten a new sense of what this event means to them and how important it is."

Very well said, I think. I'm hoping that as we go through the week we will have more reports from Eivind and other participants, so please keep checking back for more info. Also, if you are interested in learning more about how you can help support SFL, there is a section of their website about volunteering and donations.

Ski for Light: The Sons of Norway Connection

They say you learn something new everyday. Whoever "they" may be, they're right.

I'll sheepishly admit that, until today, I never knew or understood the full extent of Sons of Norway's relationship with Ski for Light**. This morning I got schooled by our Foundation Director, Cindy Olson.

It turns out that SFL's modest beginning dates back to the decade pop culture will never forget: The 1970's! Back then, Sons of Norway's International President Bjarne Eikevik had learned about a sports-for-health program in Norway for visually impaired skiers, called Ridderrennet, from the man who would become one of the founder's of SFL, Olav Pederson. The Norwegian program paired a guide with visually impaired, or otherwise disabled skiers giving them the opportunity to take part in an active, yet safe pursuit. Eikevik thought this was a very good, very noble and very Norwegian idea that should be introduced to the United States. The Ski for Light was born...sort of.

In the beginning it was a very localized event in Minneapolis, MN, heavily supported by Sons of Norway volunteers. At first the event consisted of a delegation of Norwegian skiers coming to Minneapolis and homestaying with Sons of Norway members. While here, they would participate in the Winter Carnival events and help with a series of fund-raising ski-a-thons where Norwegian and American skiers would get pledges from friends and family.

Two of our then-board members, Roy Eide and Glen Ruona were instrumental in helping this fledgling event grow. Cindy Olson told me a story about the time Ruona and others brought in truckloads of snow to Nicollet Mall and demonstrated cross-country skiing to an audience that was, up to that point, very unfamiliar with the sport. From the sounds of it, you'd have thought Martians had landed from the looks on folks' faces!

From there the event spread to other regions in the late 70's, with events being held in Wisconsin, Michigan, New England and the Black Hills of South Dakota. From there it was a quick step into its current status as an umbrella event/organization with a number of complimentary regional events. To hear it told, the growth and expansion of the SFL is a very exciting story--from a local event held at golf courses in the winter to a national event that draws hundreds of participants.

However, throughout all these changes and growth, there has been one constant: Sons of Norway's continued commitment to the event. Since the beginning, Sons of Norway has helped support the event through volunteerism and philanthropic opportunities. Today, approximately 125 lodges have provided financial support to SFL and the Sons of Norway Foundation currently offers the Bjarne Eikevik Scholarship, a $1,000 award given to first-time participants to help support SFL and its mission (promoting the physical fitness of visually and mobility impaired adults through a week-long cross-country skiing event).

Later today there will be another SFL post, with some thoughts from our Fraternal Director, Eivind Heiberg, who is in Provo participating in the week-long event.

**If I have any of the facts wrong, please leave a comment and let me know what should be corrected.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Scandinavian Film Festivals

For those of you who are into Scandinavian films, there's a cool little website that just launched. It lists, and links to, all the big Scandinavian film festivals across the country. A couple great examples are the Los Angeles Scandinavian Film Festival and the Twin Cities Nordic Lights Film Festival. Check them all out here.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Today in History: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Today, February 1st, is a date of note in Norwegian related history.

First, on this day in 1942 Vidkun Quisling was appointed Minister President of Norway by the country's Nazi occupiers. These were obviously dark times for Norway and its citizens. During the occupation and under Quisling's puppet government, Norwegian's were forced to either flee their beloved homeland or stay behind and face years of hardship. But the story has a happy ending because in October of 1945 Quisling was executed by firing squad at Askershus Fortress.

Next, on this date in 1946 Trygve Halvdan Lie, a Norwegian politician who was the Foreign Minister of Norway's exiled government during WWII, was appointed as the first Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Finally, on this day in 1977 I was born. I bet you are asking what that has to do with Norway, right? Not much, really, except that I am the great-grandson of two Norwegian immigrants who moved from central Norway to northern Minnesota.

Havea great weekend everyone!