A Letter From Nanna

My dad’s mother — my grandmother and namesake — was the youngest girl of 11 children, six boys and five girls altogether. The oldest was Clara, whom we heard from in a prior post

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In the course of packing for our move to Minnesota, my progress is being continuously sidetracked by finding old photos, notes of family history, even a few letters.

Case in point: I found a little letter written by my grandmother when she was 12 years old, addressed to her sister Clara.

And when I say it was a little letter, I mean little:

Nanna's letter
The pen should give you an idea of the letter’s size

I was in college when my dad received the letter from a cousin. I remember him showing it to me and how delighted we were by the size of it. The envelope is 3” by 4” and the letter itself is folded like a little book.

What I didn’t remember was that my parents made a replica of it for me, going so far as to create a makeshift envelope so I had the complete package.

I must be the luckiest blogger in the world.

Before I reprint the letter here, I should explain something. As has been stated before, my dad’s family was not one for nicknames but they made an exception in my grandmother’s case. Since her name was so long — Christianna — as a young child she had a hard time saying it. The best she could manage was “Nanna.”

The name stuck. Even as a young girl, she was called Nanna.

Clara and Grandmother
Clara & Nanna

Personally I’ve always been charmed by the fact that my grandmother’s name was literally Nanna. 

Postmarked: Nordness Iowa, May 4, 1897

Miss Clara Jacobson
Hills, Rock Co. Minnesota

Dear sister:

I will ans. your very welcome letter, received it yesterday eve when I had gone to bed. Momma has a cold, the others all well. Ragnvald is over to Bakken to help Signe Abraham and she has not done her house cleaning yet.

How do you like to teach school when it is so many, 34 in all wasn’t it?

It is getting very nice down here now. We have Pentecost lilies that bloom and bleeding hearts will soon be out & pansies out and many buds on the peonies. Momma said I should thank you ever so much for those nasturtium seeds. I’ve been going to school today. Helga is playing now.

The church was just full at Mary’s funeral. The boys came up. Christian, Isaac and David, they came up on bicycles Saturday. Isaac and David stayed till Sunday but Chr. went down again.

We laid 5 hens on the hen house, one was dead on her nest and the others ate up their eggs.

How do you like to stay with Mrs. Sarah Jacobson? I suppose she has it nice.

Martha Brown fell out of the buggy Sunday when they came home from church and the wheel went over her. Nettie Hovey said she did not get killed but I have not heard any since that.

I must close now. Please ans. soon.

Your sister,
Nanna

Excuse scribbling and bad spelling, writing and everything. I hope you can make it out. – Nanna

Just a couple thoughts:

  1. How hard it is to write out ‘answer’? That’s twice she abbreviated it to ‘ans.’ (No offense Nanna, but really. It’s just three stinkin’ letters)
  2. Is it just me, or do you get a sense Nanna was disappointed Martha Brown survived? I mean, outside of the peonies the letter was a bit dark, don’t you think?
  3. Did you notice where the letter was sent? Clara was living in Minnesota! Where I’ll be living in just one month’s time!

I looked it up. Hills, Minnesota is in the southwestern-most corner of the State, very close to both South Dakota and Iowa borders.  According to Google maps, it’s just a little over four hours from where I’ll be.

Hills to Randall

I was aware that our move would put me closer to family in South Dakota and Wisconsin. I hadn’t considered how much closer it would put me to my past.

Of these 11 offspring of Jacob Abrahamson (Nanna and her siblings), eight of them wound up in Minnesota. I know this because my family kept ridiculously good records.

When my move is complete and the dust has settled, when I find my “new normal,” I plan on sharing a few thoughts regarding the bios I have on these 11 offspring. They are interesting not only for what they say, but for what they omit. Particularly with regards to Nanna.

In the meantime, hang loose my friends. Only don’t fall out of the buggy.

When You Know it’s Time to Move

It’s one thing to move when you’re unhappy, it’s quite another to move when everything is going positively swell.

We’ve got ourselves a swell life here in Phoenix. Our kids are here, family and friends abound, we have jobs we like.

Heck, I even like my coworkers. How amazing is that?

We live in a decent neighborhood, in a decent house, with decent neighbors who watch out for each other.

But yeah. We’re moving. To Minnesota.

When people ask us why, it’s not always easy to explain.

“You know it’s cold there, right?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

Snowing in April
The view from our hotel the first time we visited. It was mid-April.

We could say there’s a danger in getting too comfortable. You start to feel like you’re coasting along. No longer striving, no longer trying. Just settling in and waiting for the inevitable.

Sometimes what you need is a change of scenery.

“You know what the state bird of Minnesota is? The Mosquito!”
“Haha.”

Bench by the river
The Mississippi as it flows through Little Falls, a ten-minute drive from Randall, MN

Do you ever get an antsy feeling that something is not quite right? You feel a bit unsettled. Despite your life being perfectly fine, you have this voice inside saying, “You need a change… It’s time… Do something!”

And as Husband is a Presbyterian minister, we tend to put stock in that sort of thing.

We’ve been in the same house in Phoenix, at the same church, for 17 years.

Seventeen years. That’s half a century in Pastor-years.

He wanted to try something different. Still ministry, of course, but somewhere different.

Sometime after Thanksgiving, he “activated” his information. In essence, it alerts churches looking for a new pastor that he’s available. As per usual, he didn’t narrow the parameters as to where he was willing to go.

We’ve always been foolhardy in that regard.

“Hey, maybe we’ll wind up in Hawaii!”
“Yeah… or maybe Detroit.”
“Um…”

trees, Minnesota, small town
The sleepy little town of Randall, Minnesota

Fortunately for us, Presbyterians allow pastors to have a say in the matter. We’re not moved willy-nilly. We can scope a place out, take our time, interview the people there as much as they interview us. Do everything we can to make sure it’s the right move.

We were in no hurry, and with Husband having recently turned 60, we figured it’d be a slow process. We expected a year, maybe two, before we found the right place.

So imagine our surprise when he started getting emails from Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma…

“Oklahoma?”
“Um… no.”

river, small town, Minnesota, Little Falls
Look at all these homes blessed with riverfront views. Do you think they know how lucky they are?

Another thing we weren’t prepared for was how much politics would enter into it.

With each interview, Husband had a clear impression they were fishing for his political views, especially with regards to gay marriage. They weren’t asking overtly of course, but the meaning was there. And almost without fail, the churches contacting him were very conservative.

We began to wonder, was there some sort of code language we missed? Was there a phrase he used in his information form that inadvertently labeled him Alt-right?

He began researching locations as soon as a church contacted him, mostly to see how their area voted in the last election. What we hoped for was an area with some political diversity, neither all red nor all blue.

We look great in purple.

Most of the areas were heavily one sided. Such as South Carolina.

“I saw that 86% of your county voted for Trump.”
“Well, we ARE the Bible Belt, you know.” (Said in the most charming accent ever)

quilt shop, coffee shop, creamery building, randall minnesota
Randall’s quilt and coffee shop, housed in the old Creamery building. Soon to be my favorite hangout.

Then sometime in February he was contacted by a church in Randall, Minnesota. A Google image search showed us… well, honestly they need to hire a new photographer for that town. Most of the images are less than stellar.

But our emails with the church were lovely, as was a phone call. So a Skype interview was scheduled.

That then had to be rescheduled.

“So let me get this straight: no one from your committee can get to the church right now, on account of snow?”
“We really didn’t want to tell you that.”

snowy path, trees, minnesota
Are we nuts? Yeah, probably.

The eventual Skype interview was one of the most pleasant interviews he had, lasting for over an hour. It led to a second Skype interview, followed by a third… then a fourth… then a fifth…

The conversations were open, honest, forthcoming. They classified themselves liberal. They’re also pro-military.

They’re an interesting bunch.

They flew us up there. We hugged. (Heck, after five Skype interviews you’re practically family.) They put us in a nice hotel, drove us around town. Showed us the best roads for scenic motorcycle rides. (Husband took notes.)

They took us to a restaurant by a lake (of course), where Husband watched two snowmobiles make their way across the ice.

“That looks fun.”
“Um… yeah, actually. It does.”

snowmobiles, minnesota, family in the snow
Sure it’s cold, but dang it’s fun!

It’s an odd thing, but sometimes it takes a move across the country to find your kind of people.

So Husband wanted something different.

I think we found it.

church in randall minnesota

A Good Long Walk, Pioneer Style. Plus, an Announcement

Picking up where we left off last week, our caravan of Norwegians traveling from Decorah, Iowa, into the Dakota territories in 1861, had little in the way of drama on their trip. Nothing worthy of a movie. No Donner party mishap to report.

Shame, that.

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And yet this next part of the tale is without a doubt my favorite, for it gives us the picture of old Great-Grandpa ambling ahead of the ox-pulled wagon, reading a book under the shade of an umbrella.

I can’t remember how old I was when my dad told me about it, but I remember the warm feeling it gave me. It gave me an awareness – an explanation for who I was. These are your people, the story said. This man who walks in solitude and brings a book to bide his time? Yes. It explains everything.

Along with this we hear of more practical matters, such as how they parked their wagons for the night, and later crossed the Sioux River on a ferry. You read this tale long enough, and you’ll have all the instructions you need to make the trip yourself.

Here it is in his own words (as published in 1907):

The course to the west which we were now to cover consisted of long stretches of naked prairie, with great distances between places where water and fuel could be found. We had to carry these supplies with us in our wagons so that at night we would be sure to have these necessities. Every evening the wagons were placed in a square, the oxen were turned loose to graze, and a fireplace, with a wall encircling it, was spaded out. Here we made our fire.

Before we went to rest the oxen were tied to the wagons, and at the earliest break of day they were again let loose so that they might both feed and slake their thirst in the dew-laden grass. In rainy weather we found it advisable to remain in camp; otherwise the chafing of the yokes on the necks of the animals caused sores to develop.

As a protection against wind and rain, I had provided a small tent under which we could cook and braise to our heart’s content. The varieties of food might not have been many, but oh, how delicious they were to our keen appetites!

The day’s journey was short, averaging perhaps fifteen miles. With an umbrella in hand and a book in my pocket, I would go ahead of the caravan as a advance guard, and when I was a mile or so in front of it, I would sit down in the shade of my umbrella to read until it (the caravan) caught up with me again. The long evenings of early fall were utilized for reading within the wagon by light of a stearin candle.

At last we reached Sioux City, near the point of influx of the Big Sioux River into the Missouri. The Big Sioux forms the boundary line between Iowa and Dakota. Across it we were transported by means of a ferry, and although the boat was a primitive one, the passage was very ingeniously accomplished.

First a cable was stretched across the river. The flat-bottomed ferry had a wide keel and at each end of the ferry this was made fast to the cable with a hawser. When the crossing was being made, the hawser at the front was shortened, placing the ferry aslant with the stream, so that the force of the current against the keel moved the craft across. For the return trip it was necessary only to reverse the arrangement of the hawsers. The adjustment of the lengths of the hawsers was all that was needed in the operation, the rest being accomplished by the stream itself.

After a three weeks’ journey we arrived at Vermillion, which, by the route we traveled, was approximately three hundred miles from Decorah. I had walked, not ridden, every inch of the way.

I hope you’ve been enjoying these last few weeks of my Great-Grandpa’s tale. I may from time to time present a few more interesting nuggets, as the mood strikes me or the need arises.

For now though, I have an announcement to make: We’re moving. As in, Husband and I are packing our belongings, selling the homestead, trekking across country to a new locale. (Though unlike Great-Grandpa, we’ll be driving.)

This is why I’ve been so busy lately, and why I’ve been so dreadfully behind in responding to comments on this blog or keeping up with my fellow bloggers.

Again, terribly sorry.

It seems packing up 17 years of living and laughing and loving doesn’t happen overnight. We had to tell family and friends, break it to the kiddos (they’re staying in Phoenix), get the house ready to sell, and sort through our own complicated emotions. Emotions containing fear, sadness, excitement, longing… everything all at once.

Yet whatever fear or sadness we felt were never outmatched by the overwhelming sense that this move is right. However nuts it may sound to anyone else, we believe we’re on the right path.

Where are we moving, you ask? Believe it or not, Minnesota!

From extreme heat to extreme cold. No half measures for us.

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I’ll let you in on more details in the weeks to come, as we still have to sort out moving details, as well as a place to rent until we (hopefully) find a home of our own.

In the meantime, through all of this, I’ll think of a man walking in solitude, biding his time by reading a book. Did he experience fear or sadness on his trip? Possibly. Mostly, I think he felt his path was right.

Visitors to the Parsonage: Goatmen, Drunkards, and Convicts

In our last episode of Feeding of Folly, the blogger hinted she was “busy,” and therefore would have difficulty posting on a regular basis.

“Busy with what?” readers demanded.

She didn’t say. The only morsel she offered was that for the next few weeks, she would be supplementing her blog posts with found writings from her Great-Aunt and Great-Grandfather. (Leaving readers with the profound hope that not only will Great-Aunt Clara be a good storyteller, she’ll also know the proper use of a semicolon.)

First, by way of introduction, here is the short bio for Clara that appears in Pioneer Memoirs:

Clara Jacobson (1863-1949), eldest child of Abraham and Nicoline Jacobson, studied at Monona Academy, Decorah Institute, and Valder College. She taught both public and parochial school for many years in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. She wrote a great many accounts of the pioneer days and her work appeared in Norwegian-American journals and newspapers.

The passage below is an excerpt from “Minder fra Perry Prestegard” — Memories from Perry Parsonage. It first appeared in print in 1911 in the Norwegian-American journal Symra. Clara’s father, Abraham, served a congregation in Dane County, Wisconsin from 1868-1878.

Here, Clara describes a few of the guests her family entertained at the parsonage. (I have to say, I rather like these people. Their guests, too.)

In those days the parsonage was a stopping place for itinerant people of various kinds. Father and Mother never asked any pay for keeping them, and it was in exceptional cases that anything was offered for their trouble.

Many queer personages visited the minister. Among others may be named Gjeitemand (the goat man). He had gotten this name because he had brought goats with him from Norway. These he sold to Americans, but after a while they returned to their former owner, who sold them again. He loved to tell local stories, but when they did not receive the desired appreciation his visits ceased.

Jonsebergen was also a well-known figure. He was very fond of strong liquor, but as he lived far from town he could not get it easily when the longing came over him.

Mr. Dahle, who kept the store, always had spirits on hand, together with various patent medicines, but he only sold them for medicinal purposes. Once when Jonsebergen was somewhat drunk, he went to the store to get liquor, but Dahle would not sell him any.

What did he do then? Yes, he actually came to the minister and asked him to write a testimony saying, Let Jonsebergen get a pint of whiskey. “The pastor in Valdres wrote this for me,” he added.

“No,” Father said. “If I were to write, I would have to say, ‘Do not let Jonesbergen get any whiskey.’”

Jonsebergen left, stumbling along. Later he said to his friends, “What in the world was the matter with me that I should think of going to the minister when I was drunk?”

Haavelsongutten, who was well known among people from Valdres, Norway, also visited the parsonage. He had a bad record, for he had served a prison sentence at Christiania (Oslo) for his misdeeds. When he was released he left for America.

He had acquired a citified speech and did not use his native dialect when he visited the minister. He spoke of the “institution,” and Father understood that by this he meant the prison. Once he told Father that his daughter was married to a cavalry officer in Christiania. When Father could not conceal his surprise, he said in his stiffest book language, “Do you not know, pastor, that a black sow can have white pigs?”

Here is a picture of the whole Jacobson clan: Mom, Dad, and all 11 (eleven!) children:

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Great-Aunt Clara is the woman seated on the far right. The young child leaning into her is my Grandmother.

Tune in next week when Great-Aunt Clara tells of more visitors, including a schoolteacher of whom a farmer says, “We might just as well have a cow to teach school as this Berentsen.”

My Infamous Relative Revealed! Plus, Some Thoughts on Family Pride

This is it, folks, it’s time for our Big Reveal! The moment we throw open our family closet and shine a light on that bullet-ridden skeleton we’ve got hiding in there.

Just who is this infamous relative we referred to and oh-so-cleverly illustrated in last week’s post? I’ll tell you!

Only first, let’s give a shout-out to the fine folk who responded so readily with the right answer:

Andrew from Andrew’s View of the Week
Delphini from My Window
Husband of Anne from Jupp Kappius, and,
My sister-in-law, Laurie

There are a few things I’d like to point out:

  • First, the instructions said to put the initial of the last name in the comments, and that’s exactly what sis-in-law Laurie did. Just the letter. Exactly what was required; no more, no less. That, my friends, is the mark of a solid ‘B’ student. (Love ya Laurie!)
  • Next, it was only after the first few comments rolled in that I realized how incredibly lame my instructions were. All I said was to put his initial in the comments to prove you know the answer. Meaning all anyone had to do was read the first response (that would be Andrew’s), add the letter to their own comment and claim they knew all along.
  • Lastly, no one did that! Making the Feeding on Folly community a collection of the most honest, trustworthy souls I know!

Truly. You guys are the best.

Either you admitted you researched it, as Diane from LadiesWhoLunchReviews,etc did, or that you had no clue until you saw the letter, as Matilda from matildanovak.com did. Others said that even with the letter, they still had no idea (Oh Roo, silly Roo). I mean, they could have said “Oh, that must be Q,” and never let on they didn’t know!

Wow, people. Just… wow.

It just goes to show, you are everything my notorious relative was not. And may I say, I’m honored to share this little corner of the internet with you.

*sniffle*

Okay, now on with the Big Reveal: My infamous relative is none other than…

Vidkun Quisling!

I think my illustration is pretty spot-on, don’t you?

I won’t tell his whole story here (you can read his Wikipedia page for that), suffice it to say he sold out his country to the Nazis. But it’s not merely that he was a traitor, for even traitors can have their good points.

What made Quisling a… well, a quisling, is that he acted in his own self-interest. He wasn’t a Nazi; he didn’t buy into their ideology or hold to their plans. He merely went with the team that promised him the highest rank.

The jerk.

Now I’d like to point out — not that it matters, but I’ll point it out just the same — that I’m not an actual descendant of his. Despite having two wives, he didn’t have any children. So there’s that.

My dad was 17 years old when Norway was invaded by the Germans. I’m not sure how quickly the details of the invasion spread or how early Vidkun’s involvement was known, but my dad remembered the effect it had on his family.

In particular his Aunt Clara, for Aunt Clara was proud of her family and their relations. Just to be distant cousins to the Quislings was an honor, as they were a prominent family and several were in service to the King.

It’s interesting, is it not, how quickly our pride can turn to shame? How the actions of one individual can spread over the ocean, all the way to a small town in Iowa, into the heart of a white-haired spinster whose only crime was in boasting of her family’s royal connections?

But that’s the danger in boasting. It can so quickly turn against you.

Roo asked me in her comment last week how I felt about being related to this jerk Quisling.

I admit a part of me gets a kick out of telling people, partly for the shock value, but mainly because it’s a great story. And given the number of years that have passed, there’s no cause for shame. As Claudette pointed out in her comment, he’s not me. His actions do not reflect on me in any way.

And this is where I find Quisling’s role in my family tree an important one, for he forces me to stay humble.

Look at it this way: if I say the bad branches in my tree do not reflect on me, then I must say the good branches don’t either. Any successes my ancestors achieved, any noble or generous acts they may have accomplished, have no bearing on me. I can be judged by my actions alone, no one else’s.

This book I found in a forgotten cabinet, Pioneer Memoirs, has been an entertaining read for me. As it happens, Aunt Clara wrote periodically for her local newspaper, and her father, my great-Grandfather, had some of his experiences published as well. A few of their pieces are included in the book, and I plan on sharing some snippets with you in the weeks to come.

My reason for doing so is twofold:

  1. They’re great stories, and I’m all in favor of Story.
  2. The next two months or so are going to be crazy busy for me with many changes afoot, and this blog may very well suffer for it. Either I let it drift to the wayside, repost old articles, or let Aunt Clara and Great-Grandad tell their tales.

My pledge to you is that I’ll do my very best to avoid any family boasting. My request of you is that if I should slip up, you call me out on it.

All you need do is leave one comment: Remember Q.

Guess My (In)Famous Relative!

Several years ago my older sister was complaining about how we weren’t related to anyone famous.

“There’s no one we can brag about,” she said. “We’re just a bunch of farmers and teachers.”

“Au contraire,” I said in my worst French accent. “We are indeed related to someone famous.” (Or rather, infamous.)

I gave her the name, she looked him up in the encyclopedia (this being pre-Google days) and read his entry. Then she closed the book solemnly, looked at me and said, “Maybe you’re related to him, but I’m not!”

Sadly, I find I can’t continue sharing my family history on this blog without mentioning this relative of mine (the one I’m related to but apparently not my blood sister). As I comb through all the papers listing my family from both sides, the name is there. Like, heavily there. From way back. And as it would be folly to ignore it, ignore it we shan’t.

But I’m not going to just tell you his name either, cause that would be boring. Instead, I’ve devised a little game for you. Below are six clues, with illustrations!, to help you figure out his name.

To begin with, you need to remember that half my family is Norwegian and the other half is German.

Got that? Okay, let’s play!

  1. He was born in 1887 to a prominent, wealthy family

Quisling's parents

2. He may have been a bigamist; he was definitely a fascistQuisling married
3. At the end of WWII he was tried for war crimes, found guilty, and was executed by firing squad

Quisling firing squad


4. Afterward, nearly all his relations changed their nameQuisling family
5.  His surname is now a wordQuiisling devil
And now for the last clue…
6. He was not GermanMe teaching

If you know your WWII history, this should be a snap. Just write his name… no wait, don’t do that. We want the non-history buffs to have a sporting chance.

How ’bout this: Put the first letter of his last name in your comment, that way I’ll know that you know, and our non-historians will get an extra clue. I’ll give the answer on next Wednesday’s post, and give a shout out to all the people who guessed correctly (with links to their sites if they have one).

PS: My apologies to Older Sister. You can run from the truth, but you can’t hide. Not when your little sister has a blog.

More on My Family History: The Cheaters, Lovers, and Jerks

If you remember, a few weeks back I told you about a book I found called “Pioneer Memoirs” — a home-published item made by some of my relatives on my dad’s side. I’ve been having fun looking through it and I’ll probably be sharing a few things with you as the mood strikes me. (Consider yourself warned.)

Pioneer Memories

In the back of the book is a “pedigree chart” that ends with the birth of my grandmother, whom I was named after. So that’s cool.  (I’m feeling a little like a show dog at the moment, what with my pedigree and all.)

Included with the “pedigree” are some short bios for the earliest ancestors, at least the ones they could find something about. The farthest back they were able to trace the family is listed as Generation I. It’s a guy known only by the name Anders, as his son was named Jakob Andersen (Andersen: son of Anders) and since the son lived during the early 1500s, they’re guessing Anders lived in the late 1400s.

Personally I think this is cheating a bit, genealogy-wise, but whatever.

Okay, so in Generation II, that’s where we meet Jakob Andersen. Old Jake was the minister of the Fyrisdal parish in Telemark County in southern Norway in the years 1532 to 1557. Interesting detail: in 1532 he was a Catholic priest. According to the records of the Fyrisdal church, Jake was “the last Catholic priest and the first Lutheran minister in Fyrisdal.”

He switched over to Lutheranism in 1537, got married, had a baby, and yada-yada-yada, here I am. Lovely how that turns out, don’t you think?

Anyway, this family history doesn’t really get smoking until Generation III. That’s where we meet Jakob Hansen Morland, born in 1619. According to the bio, he served as a parish pastor from 1653 to 1672, then as a parish pastor and dean from 1683 to 1697.

Notice the break from 1672 to 1683? The break in his ministry, we are told, was due to his “suspension from clerical duties because of a violation of church regulations, involving marital irregularities.”

Now what do you suppose is meant by “marital irregularities”?

According to the bio, he was married twice. His first wife died, they think in 1670, but no date is given for his second marriage. Was remarriage considered an “irregularity” in the late 1600s, or was something else afoot?

Interesting. Highly interesting.

Reading on, we learn the names of Jakob Morland’s children: Sivert, Hans, Susanne, Barbara, and Alhed. We get an extra tidbit on Alhed. It tells us, “she married out of her class, her husband, Jon Norby, being a peasant in Nissedal.”

You know what this means, don’t you? Alhed married for love!

I can see it now: Alhed, youngest daughter of the wealthy parish minister, is walking to the village of Nissedal. She crosses the lane and there by the mill is the young peasant boy with piercing blue eyes, Jon Norby.  💕

We learn nothing more about Alhed, though I want to believe they were a happy couple. Do you suppose her father approved? Somehow I have my doubts.

The bio continues:

“After having lived in retirement at Utabjaa in the Børte district, Morland became pastor of the Vinje parish in 1676 by royal appointment, but his peasant parishioners refused to accept him and locked the church door.”

Whoa!

Picture this: the proud minister arrives in town on a snowy Sunday morn, wearing his splendid robe. His wife by his side, they walk through the quiet village and approach the church. He has no suspicion anything is amiss. He takes hold of the large church door and pulls. It won’t budge — it’s bolted from inside! Are those voices he hears? He pounds on the door… What’s that they’re chanting?

Morland no more, Morland no more!
(in Norwegian)

Oh, the impertinence!

What do you think their main gripe was? Did they get wind of his “marital irregularities? Did they hear how angry he got over his daughter’s marriage to their good man, Jon Norby?

Or maybe it was the fact they had no choice in who their pastor was, and these peasants were tired of being pushed around!

Power to the peasants!

Sadly, this mini-peasant revolt was short-lived:

“However, after the authorities had imposed fines on them for their temerity, Morland was installed in his pastorate, and in 1683 he was promoted to the office of dean.”

Well, dang! First the peasants aren’t allowed to choose their own pastor, then they get fined for trying to take a stand.

“Of Morland it is said that he was thrifty, aggressive and strong-minded, so that at his death left several farms in both Upper and Lower Telemark.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally siding with the peasants on this one. My great-great-great-etc.-grandfather sounds like a real jerk.

But that Jon Norby sounds like a hunk. 😍

Bet My Kitchen Floor is Cleaner Than Your Kitchen Floor

Mine’s so clean you can eat off it!
But please, don’t eat off it, okay? I just mopped. (Use a table why don’t you?)

The other day a coworker and I were discussing kitchen floors, as you do, and I told her something I’ve never told anyone before. That being, my method for cleaning said kitchen floor:

  • As I move out chairs and sweep the floor in preparation for mopping, water is boiled. Actually boiled (five minutes in microwave)
  • Big heavy duty gloves are donned (as though I’m refinishing furniture)
  • I grab my special microfiber cloth (Professional quality for everyday cleaning!)
  • I take in hand a spray bottle of cleaning solution (scented with lemongrass and ginger)
  • Hands and knees, people, hands and knees! (Better to get all the corners)
  • Finally, although my kitchen is small, I change the water midway through (Because who cleans their floor with dirty water? Not this gal!)

The entire operation takes slightly more than 10 minutes. I know this because of my five minute boiling sessions, you see?

The reason I’ve kept my method quiet for so long is that I knew it was a bit neurotic. Bordering on nutzo. But here’s the thing: this coworker of mine, this coworker whom I love, she looked at me with admiration. I believe she took notes.

She even agreed with me when I told her my theory. That being, if my husband were to mop the floor and see the dirty water that resulteth, he would think to himself, “Huh. Guess the floor was dirty. Good thing I cleaned it.”

While as I look at the dirty water and think, “Oh gawwwd! How did I let the floor get so dirty?! I’m a terrible housekeeper! *sob*

I’ve given some thought as to what causes this difference between the sexes and I think I know the answer: I blame the commercials.

There are certain ads from my childhood I can visualize perfectly. There’s the mom standing in her kitchen. A young boy races in, the family dog bounds in behind him, the muddy prints on the floor.

Mom shakes her head with a slight scowl on her face. In a flash the mop is out — because what else would she be doing with her life? — and in one swoosh the floor sparkles. Literally.

The mom smiles, joy fills her heart.

Or how about that Pinesol commercial where the young mom is worried what the neighbors will think if her house isn’t clean enough?

The message being: Your neighbors and friends will judge you. The women you have lunch with, the mothers of your children’s playmates, they see your filth and they judge.

I saw commercials like this over and over again.

Speaking of Pinesol, does anyone else remember the commercial where the Pinesol lady (or was it Lysol?) enters a home saying, “This house looks clean, but it doesn’t smell clean!”

What kind of woman goes into another woman’s house and says that? Why was she not stabbed in the first commercial? Her bloodied corpse carefully bagged and disposed of in the woods… the floor cleaned until it sparkled… the woman of the house smiling.

*sigh*

That was the highlight of every cleaning commercial — the payoff. It came at the end when the woman stood in her now glimmering  kitchen or bath, her hand stroking the shiny surface, the look on her face — ah yes, the look. No orgasm can produce that look, my friends. This was all joy and peace and everlasting fulfillment. “My floor is clean,” the look said. “My life is complete.”

This is what was being sold to us and we bought it. Well, most of us bought it. Some missed the memo.

My daughter, for instance. Daughter missed the memo.

It’s probably my fault; I believe I misplaced her memo. Probably when I limited her daytime television viewing to one half-hour noncommercial show.

In spite of this, somehow, life goes on. Her place is a mess, but somehow life goes on.

But for those of you who share my cleaning neuroses, I want to leave you with three thoughts:

One: While a clean home is nice, it is not a measure of who you are. You are more than your kitchen floor. Remember that.

Two: When you meet a woman with a messy house or apartment, don’t judge. You don’t know her story, you don’t know her abilities, you don’t know her priorities. Contrary to what you may have heard, cleanliness is NOT next to godliness. Especially if it makes you smug.

Three: There are downsides to neurotic cleaning. For one, it limits your time for more creative pursuits. For another… well, I’ll let Carol Burnett explain:

A Letter Home to Norway, circa 1848

I was sorting through a cabinet I don’t normally sort (or look at for that matter), when I came across something I didn’t know I had. It’s a copy of the book, “Pioneer Memoirs and Stories of the Jacobson Immigration and Pioneer Life.”

You say you never heard of it? Well, that’s probably because it was something my family in South Dakota put together and published themselves. Using a copier, I think.

I leafed through the book and I must say, after the Norwegians totally crushed it at the Winter Olympics, leaving everyone wondering, “but whyyyy?!” and most people crediting their wealth, healthy lungs, and the fact their babies are born wearing skis, I found this publication interesting. It’s the story of my dad’s side of the family, how his great-grandparents left Norway to make a better life for themselves in “Amerika.” It even includes a picture of their place in Norway (please pardon the poor quality):

Norway homeSafe to say my family was not a wealthy one, but who knows? Had they stuck it out in Norway, maybe our lot would have improved and years later I would storm the winter Olympics and cross-countried my way to a gold medal or two.

I mean, that mountain right behind the shack? Looks like mighty fine training ground, don’t you think?

In any case, included in this “Pioneer Memoirs” is a letter my great-great-grandfather wrote to his family back home. A footnote says the original was typed out by someone in Norway, who sent it back to family in America and in 1974, my dad’s aunt Charlotte (aunt Lottie) translated it to English.

There are several items to make note of: 1) his listing of prices and wages show a clear head for business, 2) the gender wage gap; ah yes, we’ve come so far, but we’ve still a ways to go, 3) the formal way he addresses his family (no nicknames for this bunch) and, 4) as much as he praises “Amerika” he clearly misses his family very much.

Muskego in Wisconsin
the 27th August 1848

Dear father,

The 29th of May we left Norway; five weeks and three days over the ocean to New York and from there to Milwaukee two weeks. I went to Hans Thorgrimson Thveden who is doing well and is in good health. We were all well and healthy during the entire trip, both on the ocean and on the inland sea (Great Lakes).

I am sure I will never regret having made the trip here as we have not talked to anyone who has such regrets. We are all happy that we came. Here there is no lack of provisions for living, and there are good wages for both men and women. A man can earn one or two dollars a day, a girl five to six dollars a month. Pay for a man is from 17 to 25 dollars a month. A blacksmith like Niels Jermunsen Egerude could earn 30 or 40 dollars a month.

Living is cheaper than in Norway. A bushel of wheat costs 2 to 2½ dollars, rye 1 dollar a bushel, a pound of butter 1 dollar, and a pound of pork ½ dollar. A cow costs 14 or 15 dollars and usually a calf comes with it. I believe that if my brother Halvor Abrahamsen Krokanne could come over you could live better than you do in Norway.

My wife Gro Jermunsdatter is well, and we are happy that we have come over here. If my brothers could come they would live better than in Norway. Jakob Thorgrimson Biorktuft and your brother Niels would I think live much better here than they do in Norway and their brother Ole Thorgrimson also. There are good wages for tailors. A suit costs 3 dollars and so on for all tailoring.

I see that I have praised Amerika too much. I suppose things are about as usual in Norway. To Jermun Torjusen Stens… try to come to Amerika rather than to stay in Norway. Here there are good wages and living is cheaper. I ask that you will be so kind as to greet my brother Thomas Abrahamsen. Tell him that I am well, and happy that I came to Amerika. I wouldn’t wish myself back in Norway even if I could get the Norder Hadeland gaard (farm). I am sure I will live better in Amerika without a farm than I would in Norway with one of the largest farms. The 6 dollars I lent Mattis Helleksen Krokan at Milan I have been repaid by Kittil Thorsen.

I close my letter this time with warm greetings to you my old father and mother, to brothers, friends, relatives and all acquaintances. Also from my wife Gro warm greetings to everyone.

Jakob Abrahamsen Stenbøle

Jakob was 37 years old when he came to Amerika, his wife Gro (Lord, how I love that name) was 46, his oldest son, Abraham (Dad’s grandfather), was 12. After a short stint in Wisconsin, they settled on a farm near Decorah, Iowa. A good sized farm, larger than he could have gotten in Norway according to “Pioneer Memoirs.”

Decorah farm
I don’t know who took the photo, but I’m awfully glad they included the horses.

So although my Olympic chances were shot all to hell when they got on the boat, it looks like my family did okay coming to Amerika.

And let’s see, it’s now 3:00 pm on this 28th day of February and my outside temperature is… 65°F.

Current temperature in Oslo: 9°.

Great-Great-Grandpa: you win this round. No regrets.