Thursday, February 25, 2010

Take a Two-Minute Vacation

My last post was about embracing winter. I was inspired by writer Stephen Regenold’s article, “Valhalla on Skis,” featured in the February issue of Viking. However, I realize this suggestion might be too much for battle-weary readers in northern climes, who have shoveled far too much snow and driven on way too much ice this season. This week I’m offering an easier alternative: check out this gorgeous two-minute video of sunrise in Sunnmøre, Norway. No mittens or boots needed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Norwegian Curling Team: A Story with Legs

Last week I wrote about the hubbub surrounding the Norwegian Olympic curling team's "flashy" trousers. Since then, Norway's athletes have had a great showing at the games. (As I'm writing this, a quick check of my “NBC Vancouver 2010” smart phone app tells me that they have six gold, three silver, and five bronze medals.) But as far as I can tell, nothing about Norway's participation in the 2010 games seems to be garnering as much attention—or global media buzz—as those pants. A Google search for "Norway curling team pants" yields 137,000 results. On Facebook? You can join the nearly 370,000 fans of “The Norwegian Olympic Curling Team’s Pants.” And it's not at all surprising that Norway's King Harald V has weighed in, describing the the harlequin-pattern slacks as "the coolest pants I've ever seen," according to a BBC report issued today.

One can only imagine what's next. A bidding frenzy for a pair of the jester pants on eBay? A team appearance on "The Tonight Show"? Endorsement deals? I sincerely hope for all of the above.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Winter: You can’t beat it. Enjoy it!

As a Minnesotan, I see only two viable options for getting through the long winter each year: Escape it or embrace it. For practical reasons, I’ve always taken the latter approach. I remind myself that winter provides different—but equally gorgeous—scenery, and that February’s lengthening days mean the snow and ice will eventually be giving way to green grass. In the mean time, I count my winter blessings: cozy evenings at home, a break from yard work and plenty of snow for cross-country skiing.

Someone who seems to have perfected the notion of embracing winter is writer Stephen Regenold. Instead of escaping to a warm, exotic destination, he and his friends traveled to Molde, to explore Norway’s Romsdal Alps. Stephen shares his adventures in “Valhalla, on Skis,” in the February issue of Viking. Check it out! I bet it will inspire you to get out there and enjoy the season—no matter where you live.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another Gold for Norway!

I know, I know, Norway is down 2-0 in the first period, but hey they can make a comeback! In the meantime, here's an Olympic update from Nichole!

Today, Tora Berger won Norway another gold medal (her first!) in the individual biathlon, missing just one shot and completing the course in 40 minutes, 52.8 seconds. In doing so, Berger's win added the 100th medal to Norway's winter Olympics coffer.

Congrats to Berger -- it was a very exciting match to watch. Her concentration during the shooting was such a thing to watch. Can you imagine skiing that hard for 40 minutes and making so few mistakes while being that exhausted? Amazing!

Blades of Steel: The Showdown

In a few hours one of the most anticipated Olympic match-ups is going to bring together two hockey powerhouses who have thus far under-performed in the tournament. But, then again, today is only the second game.

In any case, don't be surprised if you call the HQ this afternoon and hear cheering in the background because at 2 PM the U.S. Hockey Team is facing off against Team Norway. What will set this game apart from any other played by either team is that we'll probably be cheering no matter who has the puck. It's hard to split loyalty, but we find a way to do so equitably every time something like this comes around.

I'm really looking forward to the game because I don't think that the U.S. is going to dominate the way everyone else is expecting. In their first game of the tourney they only beat the luke warm Swiss team 3-1 (and remember, the Swiss version of "miracle on ice" was beating the Canadian team in a non-medal match-up during the 2006 Olympics).

Though Norway did get shellacked by the Canadian team the other day, I think that was a learning experience for our boys in Red. I think I speak for everyone here at HQ when I say we are looking forward to one of those epic games that Olympic hockey is known for.

Norway is Looking Golden...Finally!

In a moment that many around here thought they'd never see in 2010, Norway has finally brought home its first gold medal of the 2010 Olympics! In a stunning victory over a field of amazing skiers, Marit Bjoergen has brought Olympic gold to Norway by winning the Ladies' Individual Sprint Classic yesterday.

Big congrats to Marit Bjoergen who added a gold medal to her collection, which already included a bronze medal in the 10 km free cross country race.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Norwegian Films at the Berlinale!

Our very own Nichole is currently spending some time overseas, but that's not stopping her from working/blogging! Here's a great post on some wonderful Norwegian movies!

Greetings from Berlin, where the Berlinale (the Berlin film festival) is celebrating is 60th birthday! Taking some time to take in the sights, I was quite pleased to see a decent representation of Norwegian films in the program. No word yet on how they fared in competition, but a maybe you can hedge your bets with these synopses:

En ganske snill mann (A Somewhat Gentle Man)
Dir. Hans Petter Moland
Ulrik has spent twelve years behind bars for murder. After his release he rents a small basement room. Ulrik doesn’t say much, but everyone he knows thinks he deserves a second chance. His gangster friend welcomes him with a pot plant. They talk about the good old times and about some unfinished business that Ulrik has with Kenny, who was to blame for Ulrik’s spell in prison. Kenny will pay for this with his life. As soon as Ulrik’s mate finds out where Kenny works, Ulrik borrows a car and begins to spy on Kenny. He follows him home. Kenny no longer lives alone. He has a wife. From the backyard Ulrik observes a happy couple. The sight really pulls at Ulrik’s heart strings. He calls up his ex-wife to find out how their son is getting on. His ex is not exactly overjoyed to see Ulrik and insists that he leave their son well alone. Ulrik’s been away for most of the boy’s childhood. The boy is now an adult and is doing just fine. Ulrik promises not to call him but then breaks his promise, visits his son and discovers that he’s about to become a grandfather. Ulrik is a changed man. He has an apartment, a pot plant, a son, and will soon have a grandchild; he also has a woman who likes him. But then he learns that he’s not allowed to see his grandchild because he’s a murderer, his girlfriend suddenly won’t have anything to do with him, and his gangster friend urges him to take his revenge on Kenny. Ulrik discovers that Kenny had nothing to do with his arrest. So why on earth should he kill Kenny? Wouldn’t the world be a better place without his gangster friend?

Bestevenner (Rafiki)
Dir. Christian Lo
Julie, Mette and Naisha are best friends and classmates. They live in a small village in a valley in Norway. At school they are rehearsing for the Christmas play, and Naisha is elected to play Santa Lucia. Julie’s biggest fear is to perform in front of the class. In order to overcome this fear, this year, she has been asked to introduce the Christmas play.

One day Naisha suddenly disappears and nobody knows where she and her mother are. It turns out they have run away from the local home for asylum-seekers and are hiding somewhere in Oslo. Their refugee application has been rejected, and they will be sent back home if the police find them.

Julie and Mette decide they need to find Naisha and her mother and help them. The trouble is that Julie’s dad is a policeman, Julie and Mette are only nine years old, Oslo is a long way from home, and Christmas is approaching.

With a secret address written in invisible ink as their only clue, Julie and Mette sneak off on the night train to the city. This marks the beginning of an unforgettable adventure in an exciting film about friendship and courage.

Knerten (Twigson)
Dir. Aasleik Engmark
Strong? Yes.
Brave? Yes.
A twig? Yes.
Ordinary? No! Because twigs like Twigson don’t grow on trees.
Twigs like Twigson exists in fantasies and play with you in the woods when you find it hard to be with everyone else. Twigs like Twigson don’t like to be left in an anthill, but will join you in the search of golden princesses. Twigs like Twigson don’t mind the fact that father sells underwear and stockings, or that big brother cuts his hair to fit in. Twigs like Twigson aren’t worried about having to fit in. It’s a real shame that there aren’t more Twigsons around.

Twigson is funny. He is animated. And Twigson is Junior’s faithful companion on all his adventures.

Mother and father are worried about how they are going to pay the bills; the roof is collapsing, and Junior even falls through it. It’s not always easy. Luckily, Junior and Twigson are able find solutions for almost everything. To earn some extra cash you can for example bring back the same bottles twice and claim the deposit for them a second time.

Sometimes even a little twig can make all the difference, as this story about an unusual friendship portrays.

Sinna mann (Angry Man)
Dir. Anita Killi
"One day I hope to be like Daddy, my big, kind Daddy! I’ll be good, and quiet, and hope the day will turn out fine,” thinks Boj. But then the Angry Man turns up after all …

SINNA MANN chronicles the heartbreaking story of childhood abuse at the hands of a violent father, and one boy’s brave attempt to seek help from Norway’s King.

I had hoped to take in En ganske snill mann, but it was totally ausverkauft (sold out) long before I arrived. Anyone seen it? Feedback? I'm sad to miss Stellan Skarsgaard's performance, whose work I've enjoyed in everything from National Treasure to Breaking the Waves. Hopefully, you, dear readers, won't think less of me for thinking so fondly of a Swede...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 Olympics: Wherein Norway Shakes Up the International Curling Establishment . With Their Pants!

Winter Olympics fever is running high in my house. We watched the opening ceremonies and my three sons got almost as excited when the Norwegian delegation walked into the stadium as when Team USA did! If you have a smart phone, I highly recommend NBC’s “Vancouver 2010” app.

My family’s favorite feature is “Medal Count,” which updates and ranks each nation’s gold, silver, and bronze medals throughout every day of the games. There’s also video updates, schedules, and Twitter feeds from the likes of Apollo Anton Ohno, and you can set up “Favorites” so that you’re always getting updates on your favorite countries. How else would I know that “Norway’s curlers hope two-time Major golf winner John Daly’s passion for garish, brightly patterned trousers can inspire them to Olympic gold”? Apparently the team trained in blue, grey, white, and red diamond-patterned golf pants from the same company that supplies Daly and is considering shaking up the conservative curling establishment by wearing them for competition.

Sure, it’s trivial—but my boys will be so impressed when I share that inside scoop with them at the dinner table tonight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sons of Norway's Olympic Connection

So, who caught the women's moguls-freestyle competition last night? I did, and the most memorable part of it was the medal presentation. For those who saw it, the U.S. National Anthem was playing, U.S. skier Hannah Kearney was on the top podium and it was a beautiful moment. But that wasn't the memorable part for me, instead it was what was going on behind Ms. Kearney on the Bronze podium, where a young lady with pink hair, broke into tears as the anthem was played and she sang along with all her heart. That was the memorable part to me.


Because that patriotic, emotional bronze medalist was none other than Sons of Norway member Shannon Bahrke. For those of you who keep past issues of Viking magazine, check out your February 2006 issue for a profile of this amazing woman. Check out some photos from Shannon's huge day here!

In other news, Norway's Olympic team is on the medal board with 3 so far. Congratulations to cross country skier Marit Bjoergen for her Bronze medal, Emil Hegle Svendsen for his silver medal in the 10K sprint biathlon and to Aksel Svindal for silver medal in the Men's Downhill Alpine Skiing event.

What does Sons of Norway membership mean to you? Viking magazine wants to know!

Here’s what my membership means to me: As parents of two grade-schoolers, my husband and I feel that sharing our Norwegian heritage with our children is important. Being members of Sons of Norway helps us tap into a wealth of cultural experiences and resources. Our lodge sponsors Syttende Mai festivities, a community midsummer celebration and a festive Nordic Breakfast in December, all of which my kids look forward to each year.

Last year they received Sons of Norway scholarships to attend Norwegian language camp. My kids are growing up as part of a larger Norwegian-American community, with an appreciation for their heritage, which, I believe, makes them more apt to appreciate other cultures as well.

What does your Sons of Norway membership mean to you? Share your thoughts by emailing us at: Selected responses may be featured in an upcoming issue of Viking!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Nordic Siblings: Rivalry and Respect

In this month’s issue of Viking, I’m especially fond of our “Nordic Sibling Rivalry” feature. Writer Sarah Asp Olson did a great job researching the similarities and differences between the Nordic countries, as well as highlighting a few of the countries’ idiosyncrasies.

Asp’s article also details how the “siblings” work together in the Nordic Council, promoting cooperation and goodwill among the Nordic nations. I saw a wonderful example of this same spirit of cooperation last weekend, when I attended the annual Twin Cities Nordic Ball. The area’s Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Finnish folk dance groups take turns hosting this gala event of music, dance, food and Nordic finery. I know that the Twin Cities Nordic community isn’t unique in this way. One glance at the Viking “Up and Coming” event calendar reminds me these concerts, workshops and festivals, celebrating our shared Nordic heritage, are held routinely throughout the U.S., Canada and the Nordic countries.

It’s gratifying to see people of Nordic heritage working together, following the example set by the nations themselves. As Sarah Asp Olson so aptly reminds us: Ultimately there’s more that unites than divides.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ski for Light: Photo Recap

Thanks to some dedicated participants I've got some great photos for you from this year's Ski for Light. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ski for Light: Larry Showlater

Today's coverage of the 2010 Ski for Light comes to you courtesy of Larry Showalter, the event's immediate past president. I had the pleasure of catching up with Larry in between events on Friday and spoke with him about all manner of Ski for Light topics. We discussed everything from this year's location (a rare repeat from the previous year) to the importance of good communication between guides and visually impaired skiers.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, this year's event is being held in Soldier Hollow for the second year in a row. I didn't think this was a common occurance, so I was glad to get some info from somebody like Larry, who has participated in Ski for Light for 18+ years. According to Larry, its not as rare as it used to be, but it's still not a common practice either. He said it's happened a couple of times in the past 10 years, and before that it was almost unheard of. He told me one the the main factors in returning to Soldier Hollow was that it was very well received by the skiers. “The fact that they get to ski in a venue that was created for the Olympics played a big part in that. It's not usual for an Olympic cross-country venue to be maintained after the international event wraps up.” Also, according to Larry, the weather plays into the decision-making as well, and it looks like they got exactly what they were looking for. Larry told me that they “could not have had five days of better skiing weather. No extreme temps to melt or freeze the tracks makes for great conditions.”

Next I moved the conversation to Larry's experience this year so far. As a veteran Ski for Light skier, I was interested in hearing his thoughts on working with a sighted guide. This year proved to be especially interesting, I think, because Larry was paired with a first-time guide. Apparently, the good folks who plan the event like to cycle guides and skiers in a manner that one year you will be paired with someone with more experience, so the week can be a learning experience for you, then another year it's reversed and you are the more experienced person doing the teaching.

Larry told me that this year he was working a lot on the communication that's needed for a skier and guide to be safe and successful. Larry also explained to me that what you say is only half the equation. How you say it is just as important. Because the skier and guide are constantly in motion, the guide can not waste time or words on “filler,” like uh's and um's. It's important to be very efficient with your use of words. The only thing more imperative to a good experience is to not let the visually impaired skier get surprised or tentative. According to Larry, this can happen easily if the guide isn't communicating well or often. When that happens, the skier gets nervous and doesn't enjoy the experience of being out on the course. Word to the wise, right?

At this point we had to wrap things up, but before we did I asked Larry to share some thoughts on the importance of participating in a worthwhile event like this. He told me “it's a great way to celebrate Norwegian heritage and culture. Participating is a great way to do something fun and spread the word about cross country skiing and Norway.”

Well said, Larry! Ok, check back soon, I should have some photos from this year's event coming shortly!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fall Blitz Winners

UPDATE: Nichole has a post announcing the winner of the 2009 Fall Recruitment Blitz contest! Take it away, Nichole!

It is absolutely amazing what our lodges can do when they put their mind to it. Why, just this past fall, from September 15th – December 15th, our lodges recruited 1,010 members. What a fantastic growth period – and welcome to all new members that joined during this time.

Both of our winning lodges are from District 3 – Dovre 3-232 (Providence, RI) winning the small lodge category with an impressive 33.33% growth and Gateway to Florida 3-541 (Jacksonville, FL) winning the large lodge category with a fantastic 23.39% growth. They have some great insights to share and you’ll get to benefit from their recruitment and retention know-how when they share their success stories with the Member Matters section in Viking magazine!

For their efforts, both lodges will also receive $500 to spend on their lodge. Next time, this could be your lodge! To get to this point, though, let’s examine what your lodge needs to consider:
  • Recruitment strategies (think FBC sponsored membership dinners, events, asking friends and neighbors)

  • Retention strategies (what do you provide your members? Don’t forget surveys and member satisfaction, combined with great and engaging programs)

  • Resources (what do you need to make this happen)

This is a great time to have these conversations, as lodges welcome new leaders and begin planning for the next year! Take inspiration from Dovre and Gateway to Florida, as well as lodges in your district. Seek out ideas at the upcoming district conventions and adapt them to your lodge.

Congrats again to Dovre and Gateway to Florida, and a job well done to all recruiters during the Fall Blitz!

Ski for Light: The Eikevik Connection

As I mentioned yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview Leif Eikevik, grandson of former Supreme President and Ski for Light Founder Bjarne Eikevik.

Even though the Ski for Light has been a major part of his family, and vice versa, this year was Leif’s first time as attending and being a guide for a visually impaired skier. When we spoke, we discussed a number of different topics, from his family connection to his experience as a guide.

Leif told me that he had heard about Ski for Light for years from his grandparents when he’d stay overnight at their house. His father, who guided skiers until the mid-80’s, also was a huge proponent of the race. He would tell Leif about the ski event and its importance because it helps others gain some amazing experiences.

I asked Leif if this familial connection played a part in his participating this year. His response was overwhelmingly affirmative, in that he wanted to carry on the Eikevik legacy and the long-standing family tradition. In addition, Leif told me that he wanted to participate as a Ski for Light guide this year because he felt it would help him understand his father and grandfather better. Even though they are gone, Leif believed that having a shared or common experience with them was a rare opportunity that many people don’t get.

As for the guiding experience itself, Leif indicated that he had learned a lot, and admitted he had even more to learn, from long-time guides and skiers. His experience so far has included “lots of communication with my skiing partner, learning to say enough without saying too much and working in constant tandem.” Above all, he’s having a great time in Utah with the other participants.

Big thanks to Leif for taking time to chat with me.

Now, tomorrow or Saturday there will be more posts from the 2010 Ski for Light, maybe some photos and video, too, so keep checking back for more!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ski for Light 2010

It crept up on me this year and surprised me with a phone call from our traveling CEO who is currently 20 miles outside Provo, Utah at a place called Soldier Hollow. Yep, it’s time, once again, for the annual Ski for Light! This year we’ll have a couple interviews with skiers, guides, board members and more!

To kick things off, I had the opportunity to speak with International President, Dan Rude today. Dan had only arrived in Utah on Wednesday afternoon, so he hadn’t had a chance to ski yet, but he did have the opportunity to meet with a number of participants of this year’s event. In his own words “I’m so impressed with everything they are doing. There are members here from all over the country—from as far away as Washington State, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. These are the friendliest people in the world!”

He told me that the plan for today was to spend some more time with members who are taking part in the 2010 Ski for Light. Then, later tonight, Dan and Sons of Norway CEO Eivind Heiberg are planning to head into Salt Lake City to visit with some members from Leif Erikson lodge 6-083. After spending all day outside with little more than “Hot Chocolate” to keep them warm, it’s probably a good idea for them to head inside and warm up a little.

And speaking of Leifs, after Dan and I got off the phone I had the opportunity to interview a young man named Leif Eikevik. Does the last name sound familiar? For some Sons of Norway members it should—you see Leif is the grandson of Ski for Light founder and former Supreme President Bjarne Eikevik. Check back tomorrow for that interview!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Family Who Barneløpets Together Sticks Together

This July, my three brothers and their families, my mother, and my husband and I and our kids will gather at a northern Minnesota resort for a three-day family reunion. If this reunion is anything like the last one, the highlight of our time together will be “Norwegian Heritage Night.” Each family will be charged with preparing a lesson or activity on some aspect of Norwegian history or culture. When we did this three years ago, Heritage Night included making woven paper hearts and watching a hilarious video on Norwegian geography that was produced by my brother, starred his two pre-teen kids, and used Norwegian rap (who knew?) for the background soundtrack.

This July, inspired by International President Dan Rude’s “Velkommen” letter in the February issue of Viking, we’re going to make a barneløpet (children’s race) a part of our Heritage Night festivities. My oldest brother Mike, a Colorado resident and avid triathlete with several Hawaiian Ironman races under his belt, happily volunteered to organize it—especially once I told him he’d be off the hook for preparing a history lesson. The plan is to have all 10 grandchildren participate in some kind of relay race, details TBD.

For both my personal planning reasons and for possible use in upcoming issues of Viking magazine, I’d love to hear how you’ve celebrated your Norwegian heritage at family get-togethers. Please email