Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from Sons of Norway CEO Eivind Heiberg

With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, I find myself reflecting on the many things in my life for which I am thankful. In addition to the blessings of family, friends and good health, I am thankful for all the Sons of Norway members throughout North America and Norway.

Specifically I am thankful for their dedication to their lodges and communities as well as their passion for preserving Norwegian heritage and culture. Every day I hear about a lodge or group of members who are living the fraternal spirit by giving back to their community through events and volunteerism. It gives me a great sense of pride every time I hear one of these stories.

So, this Thanksgiving, I want you to know that I am thankful for all you and your fellow members are doing throughout the organization. I hope tomorrow is a day of peace, joy, appreciation and thankfulness. Also, if you find yourself in a moment of reflection on the things you are thankful for this year I hope you’ll share them with me by contacting me at


Eivind Heiberg
Sons of Norway

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast: An Interview With Dr. Anderson

Today is the last day to purchase your tickets for the 2013 Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast and to mark the occasion we bring you an interview with St Olaf President, Dr. David Anderson. Not only is Dr. Anderson speaking at the event on the subject of Family & Friends, he's bringing the entire St Olaf Choir with him to perform for attendees. Keep reading to get a sneak preview of his presentation for next week!

SofN: Please tell us about your connection to the Nordic American community.

DA: On both my mother's and my father's side, my family emigrated from Norway in the 19th century, settling on both sides of Wisconsin, one in Westby, WI and the other near Columbus, WI.  I grew up eating lutefisk and lefse!  I belong to Torske Klubben, the Norwegian American dining society.  And I have the honor of serving as President of St. Olaf College.

SofN: Can you give us a sneak peek into what the audience can expect from your presentation?

DA: A short story about an adventure the mother's family had on their voyage to America from Norway followed by some thoughts on what light that experience might shed on our world today.

SofN: A person in your position is sure to have a very busy schedule. Can you tell us a little about what convinced you to speak at this year’s event?

DA: At St. Olaf we treasure our Norwegian-American heritage.  It is an honor to represent the College at this important event for Norwegian-Americans in the Twin Cities.

SofN: You’re this year’s speaker on the topic of Family & Friendship. Why is this an important topic to you?

DA: Family and friendship sustained the Norwegians who emigrated to America, many of them arriving with little more than hopes of a better life for their family.  Family and friendship continue to sustain the Norwegian-American community today.

SofN: This year the world renowned St. Olaf Choir will be performing at the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast. Can you tell us about the choir and their upcoming performance? 

DA: The St. Olaf choir is one of the country's pre-eminent a cappella choirs. Last June the choir toured Norway, marking the 100th anniversary of its first tour to Norway.  The tour concluded with a magnificent concert in Trondheim Cathedral.  "A Christmas in Norway," a program recorded at the cathedral during that tour, will be broadcast on public television stations across the country this Christmas.  When not making beautiful music, the students in the choir are studying everything from music to chemistry, from physics to French.

Award-Winning Actress

Photo by Robyn Skjoldborg

In the November issue of Viking, we caught up with award-winning actress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal. She has appeared in Norwegian television shows and films, including “Hellfjord” and “Cold Prey”—which earned Berdal an Amanda Award for Best Actress. Now, she’s transitioning to the American market. Perhaps you’ve seen her in “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.” Look for her in next summer’s film, “Hercules: The Thracian Wars.” Here’s more of our interview.

Viking: You attended the Oslo National Academy of Dramatic Arts and started working in The Norwegian Theatre. Did that give you a good foundation for your career?

Ingrid Bolsø Berdal: Yes, of course. The education I got from the drama school was very thorough. It was three hard and intense years, and I learned a lot not only about acting, but also about myself. I'm so grateful I got to spend four years at The Norwegian Theatre, too. It gave me great experience and a good base for the work to come. I learned so much from watching and working with my colleagues.

V: You’ve played roles on stage, on television and in films. Do you have a favorite type of role?
IBB: I can't say that I have. We tell stories about people, and people are so different. I thrive the most when I'm surrounded by a creative team that I communicate well with. I love when everyone works toward the same goal and collaborates. The story should be interesting, that's the most important thing to me.

V: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
IBB: I'm really happy about a physical monologue I did a couple of years back. It was such a tough process. Preparing alone and being alone on stage was hard on many levels. But it went really well, and I'm actually astonished that I managed to pull through.

V: What are your future goals?
IBB: I wish to continue to do both theatre and film. I learn so much every time I do theatre. I get better as an actor. I love the rehearsal period, but unfortunately I tend to start getting bored playing the shows after a while, and that's a bit silly when the shows are what the audience pay money for and want to see! Luckily you can continue working on the scenes on stage if you have fun people that you're acting with. Film is faster, but then again we do the scenes once and then it is there on film forever. There’s no chance to develop more. I'd love to get to the place where I can chose what I want to do on a longer scale.

V: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
IBB: I play the bass in a hobby band. It's four guys and me—they are the best guys in the world! When I'm outside of Norway working I miss them so much. It's more like a club than a band.  And I really enjoy hanging out with my girlfriends. They are shining lights in my life.

V: Who are some actors you admire?
IBB: I was gobsmacked by Ian McShane's work in "Deadwood."

Anya Britzius is associate managing editor of Viking. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and enjoys baking, reading and keeping up on modern Norwegian trends.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast: An Interview with Brad Hewitt

Next Wednesday is the deadline to get your tickets for the 2014 Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast! If you haven't decided whether or not you want to be a part of this exciting event yet, then maybe this post will help. Today we have an interview with Thrivent CEO, Brad Hewitt who will be speaking to the audience on the topic of freedom.

SofN: Please tell us about your connection to the Nordic American Community?

Hewitt: None specifically other than living in the Twin Cities most of my life and being Lutheran, it is hard not be affected by the Nordic culture.
SofN: Have you ever attended the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast before?

Hewitt: No, but I'm looking forward to it.

SofN: Can you give us a sneak peek into what the audience can expect from your presentation?

Hewitt: I'm going to give a little family history about fighting for freedom - struggles and successes:  my grandfather's generational – Scarcity, my father's generational - Security, and what I think our current freedom fight that we are engaged in - Surplus.

SofN: A person in your position is sure to have a very busy schedule. Can you tell us a little about what convinced you to speak at this year’s event?

Hewitt: Sons of Norway is a fellow fraternal benefit society, and I am honored to be asked to help in an important community event that they sponsor.

SofN: You’re this year’s speaker on the topic of Freedom. Why is this an important topic to you? 

Hewitt: Frankly I would have loved to talk about any of the three.  I like this one because I normally get asked to speak about the other two.  In America we value freedom – I value freedom, but I’m not sure I think about the implications and cost of it deeply enough.  When you are asked to speak about something it makes you think about it more deeply than normal.

SofN: Do you have a favorite quote or passage about freedom?

Hewitt: Yes, partly because I was just in South Africa -  Nelson Mandela – “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
SofN: As the CEO of a Fraternal Life Insurance Company, can you share with our readers the importance of supporting community events like the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast?

Hewitt: Our mission is to guide people on the journey to be wise with money and generous.  We believe if you want to have a healthy relationship with money generosity is the best diagnostic tool and the best prescription.  Community events are a wonderful way to give back and encourage one another.

SofN: Can you share with our readers the role that fraternal organizations, like Thrivent and Sons of Norway, play in supporting local charities?

Hewitt: As a member owned organizations all we have is theirs.  For Thrivent part of our  goal is to inspire our members to be more generous, so  local churches and charities are the most common beneficiaries.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hello from Viking’s new editor Ann Pedersen

As you probably read last week, Sons of Norway's Viking magazine has had a change in editors. In a post last Wednesday, long-time editor Amy Boxrud bid a fond farewell as she began an exciting new chapter in her life. And, as Amy mentioned in her last post, Viking has a new editor, Ann Pedersen, and we at Sons of Norway are very excited to welcome her to the magazine. We also would like to  introduce her to you, our dedicated readers. What follows is a post written by Ann about her background and connection to Norwegian heritage and culture.

Viking magazine: there were probably copies lying around on side tables at my grandparents’ farmhouse in western Minnesota when I was a kid. I confess I don’t remember. But the story of how they met at a Sons of Norway lodge meeting in 1937—and then eloped—is front and center in our family lore. They remained Sons of Norway members for their whole lives, and their pride in their Norwegian heritage was as much a part of them as the wheat they planted in the fields. Little could any of us have known that years later I would be writing—and now editor—for Viking.

My entre to Viking began when my good friend and Viking editor Amy Boxrud approached me to write a feature about progressive prisons in Norway (May 2011). Knowing nothing about prisons or the justice system in Norway, I accepted and dug into the research. It was the beginning of a wonderful writing adventure and collaboration with the magazine; the 1612 Battle of Kringen feature followed (August 2012), then the stave church feature “Cathedrals of Wood” (April 2013). The story of the Sloopers of 1825 and their ship The Restauration just came out in the October 2013 issue.

My familiarity with the magazine gets down to the nitty-gritty as well: I have been a freelance proofreader for Viking since 2011, assuring that all the glorious details of punctuation, grammar, usage and style are accurate. It’s an assignment I have always looked forward to, and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every issue and feature, and I always learn something new.

My discovery of my own Nordic heritage began when I was six years old: when my parents packed up their two kids in the early 1970s and took us on a trip to Scandinavia. It was unforgettable, even for a six-year-old, and not your typical family vacation at the time. I find it interesting to reflect on now in light of Viking’s feature on traveling with children in the upcoming January 2014 issue. 

Back at home in St. Paul, Mn., Nordic traditions were part and parcel of growing up:  knitting and baking, hiking and biking. My parents both spoke a little Norwegian (and Danish) and pursued their family histories and genealogy with passion. Herring, lefse, fruit soup, and rice pudding were among the Nordic regulars on our holiday tables--always with a frozen bottle of akvavit at the center and a steady stream of stories.

I graduated from St. Olaf College with a double major in English and Norwegian, then earned a master’s degree in English and Creative Writing at Hollins College in Roanoke, Va. After working as a production editor at a Minneapolis publishing company, I worked as freelance editor from home while raising my three daughters. I have had the good fortune to travel to Norway with my daughters both in 2008 and in 2011. I still love to knit and bake, hike and bike, and I’ve added Nordic folk music to the family traditions, occasionally playing with the local Nordic Roots session and attending the annual Nisswa-stammen in Nisswa, Mn. My husband, also a descendant of Norwegian immigrants, serves up a mean genealogy and when he’s not researching family and local history, he’s in the woods with hand tools, currently building an authentic Norwegian timber-framed sauna.

Amy Boxrud leaves me with a beautifully crafted magazine and big editorial shoes to fill! Together with the team at Sons of Norway, she and art director Jill Adler and associate editor Anya Britzius have passionately pursued content, art and photos that both celebrate Nordic history and heritage and explore the exciting culture of modern Norway.

I raise my virtual glass of akvavit to Amy on her wonderful legacy at Viking. Skål Amy! I’m honored to take the helm and I look forward to working with the Viking editorial team and everyone at Sons of Norway to bring you more fresh, interesting and beautiful content about this wonderful Norwegian culture and heritage we all share.

Ann Pedersen is a freelance writer and editor of Viking magazine. She lives in St. Paul, Mn., with her husband and three daughters.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast: An Interview with Rev. Svennungsen

With the ticket deadline of November 20th fast approaching Sons of Norway hopes you'll be in attendance at the 2014 Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast! To give you a little taste of what you can expect at this premier event, we hope you will enjoy the second in a series of interviews with this year's NATB speakers. This time we interviewed Rev. Ann Svennungsen, who will be speaking to the audience on the topic of faith.

SofN: Please tell us about your connection to the Nordic American community. 

Svennungsen: My paternal grandparents were 100% Norwegian. In 1994, my father and I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to visit the sites where our ancestors lived. In addition to the Svennungsens, our ancestors were Groethes, Monsons, and Frichs. The Frich family was well known in Bergen, where a museum still stands in their name. Norman Borlaug and Leland Sateren are also descendants of the Svennungsen immigrants (though spellings vary). I attended Concordia College in Moorhead, and served as pastor at St. Olaf and President of Texas Lutheran – all of which have significant Norwegian (and Swedish) ties.

SofN: Have you ever attended the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast before? 

Svennungsen: No. But I’m delighted to attend this year! 

SofN: Can you give us a sneak peek into what the audience can expect from your presentation?   

Svennungsen: I am eager to speak about what I sense as a deep yearning for faith and about how the church is meeting - or struggling to meet - that yearning. I also love to tell stories – so there will be a few of those!

SofN: A person in your position is sure to have a very busy schedule. Can you tell us a little about what convinced you to speak at this year’s event? 

Svennungsen: I have high regard for Rick Torgerson and knew he’d spoken at last year’s event; so I sensed it was well worth my time. Also, I’m pretty proud of my Norwegian heritage (in a good sort of way, I hope!).

SofN: As this year’s speaker on the topic of faith, can you share with our readers what you believe is most important element of faith? 

Svennungsen: The good news of God’s unconditional love – revealed in the death and resurrection of Christ.

SofN: Do you have a favorite quote or passage about faith? 

Svennungsen: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

SofN: As a person with a long history in the church, what is the most important lesson our readers should know about faith? 

Svennungsen: If we are justified by faith in Christ as a gift from God, then our whole theology grows out from that central promise: We celebrate the priesthood of all believers and the vocation of all the baptized to love the neighbor; we rejoice in the gift of community and the promise that God meets us in finite, sacramental ways; we rest in the “theology of cross,” a theology that welcomes questions, appreciates struggle, and calls us see God most clearly in the cross; and we live out the radical welcome we ourselves have received from God. 

SofN: Can you share with our readers why you think it’s important to support local charities?  

Svennungsen: As one theologian put it, “when some have too much to eat and others have none, we ain’t got the Kingdom of God.” We give generously because it’s a powerful way to live out our call to love the neighbor as oneself, and especially the neighbor in need. When charities promote the fullness of life for all people – as well as the common good – we are called to share in cheerfulness and gratitude.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast: An Interview with Don Shelby

At the end of this month Sons of Norway is hosting the 29th annual Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast! It’s an exciting event and this year our slate of speakers is top-notch with the likes of broadcast journalist and event MC Don Shelby, Thrivent CEO Brad Hewitt, Dr. St Olaf President David Anderson and Bishop Ann Svennungsen.

In the run-up to this year’s big event, Sons of Norway has interviewed each of the speakers and over the next couple of weeks we’ll be sharing what they had to say. To kick things off, this week we bring you an interview with Peabody and Emmy award winning journalist, Don Shelby. Mr. Shelby who is well known in Minnesota and throughout the United States for his investigative journalism, community work and his popularization of the Pratt knot, will be leading the event as this year’s NATB Master of Ceremonies.

SofN: Please tell us about your connection to the Nordic American community.
Don Shelby: One cannot live in these communities for 35 years and fail to be swept up in the Nordic tradition.  And, before I became a nephew of Norway, my heroes were Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen.  I am a member of the scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars known as the Norwegian Explorers.  And, as they say, 'some of my best friends are Norwegian.'  I am of Welsh descent,  but after 885 AD, I expect that I have a good share of Nordic blood in my veins.

SofN: Have you ever attended the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast before?
Don Shelby: I have attended the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast and have been a featured speaker.  I have attended past events with my late great friend General Doyle Larson. 

SofN: We are very excited to have you as this year’s MC can you give us a sneak peek into what the audience can expect from this year’s event? 

Don Shelby: At this year's Thanksgiving breakfast you can expect a long list of dignitaries, consuls, and diplomats, plus the cream of the Norwegian crop in the Twin Cities.  And, as always, we will be surrounded by friends who simply wish they were Norwegian, and will behave as though they are Norwegian  for this day of Thanksgiving.  We will be entertained by the finest college choir in America from St. Olaf, as well as the M-Saxteens from the 34th Infantry Division of the Minnesota National Guard.  We will have speakers on the topics of Friends, Family, Faith and Freedom.  As a part of every Thanksgiving breakfast, we will raise money this year for the Second Harvest Heartland foodshelves and the Minnesota Military Family Foundation.

SofN: You probably receive a lot of requests to speak at events throughout the year, so can you tell us a little about what convinced you to participate in this year’s event?
Don Shelby: I am often asked to participate in events like the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast, and I cannot say yes to each one of them.  I have developed a method of winnowing the requests down to a manageable number.  I accept those requests made by Gary Gandrud, Major General Richard Nash and any request made by anyone whose name ends in "sen" or "son."  Therefore, I am busy in Minnesota every day of the week.

SofN: Over the years you’ve spent a lot of time focusing on local issues. Can you share your thoughts on the importance of supporting local charities, like Second Harvest and the Minnesota Military Family Foundation?

Don Shelby: I have had a long association with both Second Harvest and with the Minnesota Military Family Foundation.  I'm currently the capital campaign chair for the Washburn Center for Children's new 25-million dollar building in Minnesota to serve the needs of children with mental health issues.  As host and master of ceremonies, I've been a part of the generous giving nature of the Twin Cities and in my career at WCCO and after, have helped raise more than 200 million dollars for causes ranging from the Ronald McDonald House to Cystic Fibrosis and Cancer Research, to town libraries and sports fields for children.  It sounds like a large undertaking, but in a community like ours, it is fairly easy to do.  This community loves to give.  All you need is a good story, a wonderful cause and the people will give. 

SofN: Can you share your thoughts on the role that local events, like the NATB play in making Minnesota a vibrant place to live?
Don Shelby: The Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast has set a standard for how to make everyone feel like Minnesota is their home.  The emphasis on heritage old and new is essential in communities like ours.  We are reminded, by events like the Breakfast, that we all came from some place else, and, in order to stay vibrant, we must always hold out the hand of welcome to those who still come to find a home.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Thanks

Four years ago, when I became editor of Viking, my first task was to check final proofs for the December 2009 issue. Now, almost exactly four years later, I'm wrapping up my editorial duties as the December issue heads to the printer. It seems fitting that my tenure at Viking has been four years—the length of time it takes to earn a college degree—because the whole experience has been a real education for me.

I learned something new—often many things—with every issue of Viking that we put out. Some of my favorite topics ended up being those that I started out knowing the least about, such as Norway's progressive penal system (May 2011), the country's oil fund debate (August 2011), and its changing role in the Arctic (March 2012). Our story on Norwegian eco-fashion forever changed my shopping habits (March 2012). And it probably comes as no surprise that the most difficult story was our coverage of Norway's July 22 terror attacks (December 2011). I loved collaborating with Viking Art Director Jill Adler on our design features: Scandinavian modern design (May 2012) and my interview with design guru Genevieve Gorder (August 2011). And my favorite themed issues were without question the January travel issues!

This year's November issue included an article highlighting Sons of Norway's fraternal operations. In it, we looked back at Viking through the years. It reminded me of how many people have contributed to the magazine (and its predecessor publications) since its beginnings in 1904, and what an honor it has been to be a part of it.

Viking made its foray into the digital world a few years ago with our online edition and our contributions to this blog. I look forward to seeing where the magazine will go in the future. I know that its new editor, Ann Pedersen, along with Associate Editor Anya Britzius (whose work you've already been enjoying in the magazine) will chart a great course. I wish them all the best, and I'll be watching and reading along with all of you!

Amy Boxrud is a writer and the former editor of Viking magazine. She lives in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo: Nancy Bundt