Viking Tid Bits 3

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When Vikings wrote, they used what we call runes. The word above is actually my name, Robynn. Not much is known about Vikings and they didn’t leave much behind in writing. Some have theorized they were not educated and so not many knew how to write. Some think that because they used less permanent writing materials, not much was left behind. Either way, we do know they did use runes and what is left behind can be found in carvings or stone.

They were a superstitious people. Words to them were magic and held great power. Maybe to write it down was to allow it to have a life of its own. But despite what we know or don’t know of them, we can fill in the holes with educated guessing. The study of anthropology shows us that there is a common thread among all of us. Ancient or current.

And one thing that has not changed, words do indeed, hold great power. They can build up. They can tear down. They can cast spells of unconfidence, low self-worth, and depression. Or they can build up, create joy and give us wings to fly.

The Vikings were not wrong about the power of words. We can be great magicians and take these words to create spellbinding stories of entertainment. Or we can take words and use them in great battles. Words can create laws and rules that curtail bad behavior before it starts, or use them to start a war that will cost human life.

Even with so much power, words still aren’t the best or only way to communicate. Here is an odd fact. In talking with another human face to face, we only hear about 35% of the words they say. The rest of the communication is taken in through instinctual feelings of how those words are said, eye contact and physical posturing.  We all seem to know when something is said sincerely by how the other person looks at us, or the tone of their voice. So again, words only have the life we imbue them with.

Of course, the words you are now reading are inducing different feelings in you. For instance, your eyes are seeing and the brain is receiving and a whole lot of activity is going on as the brain sorts and make sense of everything.  Depending on whether you are happy or sad at this moment, it will color these words with your opinion of what I, the writer, am trying to say. Get five people in a room and have them explain this very same paragraph and every one of them will understand it differently.

With all these filters going on, emotions, spiritual, understanding, deciphering, and opinions, it is amazing we can even communicate! Let alone get an idea across to another person

But words are a mighty power.  Never forget that. Words carry a heavy responsibility. Every time you go to communicate either by the written word or the spoken word, you are carrying a huge power to do good or evil. To build up or tear down.

As I said before, Vikings treated their words with great care. The simple word “mare”, if used against another man, gave the one insulted the right to kill, on the spot, the one who had given insult. They went to great lengths to keep words from doing damage because it could be life or death for them. They understood the power of good and evil of words.

From the time I could talk I was also taught the responsibility my words carried. I find in the digital world ocean, words ebb and flow, or can crash with a tsunami’s devasting destruction. We need to heed our ancestors and recognize the power our words can wield in blogs and books. I can’t help but wonder if we used our words for the power of good all the time if this world wouldn’t be a much nicer place to live in, and the spell of peace could prevail.

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Viking Tid Bits 2

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My mother used to say, “Birds of a feather flock together.” As a child, it didn’t make much sense, but now, in this upheaval of political values, it is understandable.  And you may wonder how this might then lead into thoughts about Vikings.

Well, they may have had the right answer to how to handle different political views and where my mother got that little idiotism of wisdom. They had no formal king in the beginning. In fact, when a king was finally instituted, a few of them, not wanting to give up their independence, moved to Iceland. Even to this day, the closest you will ever get to the Old Norse way of government is in Iceland where they may still have the best way of doing things.

When a few hardy souls decided to live in the fjords and treacherous mountains of Norway and Sweden, they formed independent little villages or homesteads. Often a family would just farm a little plot of land and if the children made it to adulthood, they would branch off and farm a little more of any available land next to the old homestead. As you can see this would present some problems when they ran out of land.

As little villages were loosely created, they were hemmed in by the lack of growth. The fjords are steep, the weather harsh and there was not much farmland. Their only form of easy transportation was boats so you can see where they might become expert seafarers. Then, most of their goods had to be traded for.

They lived off the sea as well as farmed. They were quite resourceful, they had to be. This, of course, fosters independence. They became traders long before a few wild individuals took to plundering. During those long dark nights of winter, they became quite the craftsmen.

So as their population grew, and it wasn’t quick with the high mortality rate they faced, eventually little towns sprung up throughout Scandinavia.  Of course, they didn’t have much communication with other little hamlets, so each village became its own unit. The strongest male there would usually hold a position of being the final say.

So let’s say one family had a grievance with another over property lines. In the fall, usually during the final harvest, the nearby villages would get together to celebrate. There were many names for this gathering, like Althing, or the Thing. Remember each village developed its own beliefs and customs, but this was a pretty common event. Several heads of families would get together and hear out individual complaints. It was a court of sorts. So the two families feuding over property would bring this before the judges and they would hear the case, then the gathered crowd would vote on whatever decision the judges came up with.

Some historians will claim this was where democracy was born. Others say it’s the purest form of democracy and still exists in Iceland today. Due to the little villages being so isolated from one another, each one developed into its own little government. Beliefs varied from village to village as well as customs. But once a year they could come together and work out their differences.

Actually, this is the way of the human race. Even now we see in each country factions of belief and values breaking off, forming groups. The Vikings were a little smarter about it though. If they really couldn’t agree on something, even with their peaceful harvest get-togethers every year, they finally resorted to the sword as the final say.  They truly were Darwin’s first real test of his theory of survival of the fittest.

Interestingly though, the Vikings also valued life above all else, especially since so few of them ever made it past 40. Children were considered precious. So again, it behooved them to settle a matter before it came to the fight.

I find the Vikings fascinating in many ways.  They were truly a unique group. But when it came to government, we could learn a few things from them. Unfortunately, it also shows that no matter the system chosen, humans will always be contentious and want it their way. History truly is the best teacher.

Viking’s and Romance

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If a Viking man spouted poetry to a love interest, he could lose his life. Why? As with everything about the Vikings, there is only tantalizing little clues. Through the Poetic Edda, an oral history that wasn’t written down until the 13th century, we see glimpses of everyday life. It has been speculated this rule was to keep men from falsely leading a maiden on. Or possibly it wasn’t considered manly for a Viking warrior to spout soft words of love.

Most Viking marriages were arranged much like a modern company merger. There were strict rules about property and how the bride’s dowry would be dispersed. Viking women had more rights and freedoms than any of their counterparts at that time in history. This would have been due to their traveling husbands. Viking men were traders, leaving in the spring and wandering all summer long while the world was ice free. The return rates weren’t all that great back then. Between the dangers of ship travel, diseases in foreign lands, and raiding, a Viking man might never return.

So the Viking woman ran things at home. She had to oversee the livestock, production of crops and profit. While she was at it, she also prepared meals and made things for around the house. There was no local Wal-Mart to help out. It was a tough life. For this reason, all land inheritance was usually passed down through the woman.

With various gods, traditions, and superstitions, a marriage ceremony usually lasted on average, nine days. The Vikings had a thing about the number nine. There was drinking and feasting of course, along with rituals to entice the gods to give fertility, wealth and health. Quite often family swords were exchanged, and proof given that the marriage was consummated.

Another interesting concept − Viking woman could divorce easily. All she had to do was stand next to the bed shared with her husband and in front of three witnesses, simply say out loud three times, “I divorce thee.” Yup, it was that easy. Maybe that is why the men treated their women so well.

While monogamy was practiced, it wasn’t set in stone. If the man was lusty and wealthy enough, and his wife agreed to it, he could take a second wife. It was nothing to own several slaves as well. In fact, he was encouraged by his loving wife, to have a slave for copulation during her later months of pregnancy.

What of possible bastard offspring? Those long summer days did get a little lonely while Olaf was gone. Unfortunately, if a woman conceived while her husband was away, he had the right to deny feeding or clothing any offspring. When a baby was born, if the head of the household did not claim it on the ninth day, the baby was ‘exposed,’ meaning it was left to die in the forest.

The Vikings liked to keep things simple.

(For More Information on the Viking Culture and Customs please check out  http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/)

To Leave or Not to Leave Facebook

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Should you leave Facebook? I would say no. The milk has already been spilled. And if you think that your personal information hasn’t gotten out before this, if not on Facebook, it has somewhere else. Especially if you have kids, you know firsthand you have no privacy!

With all the social media, apps, email, and internet churning out there, unbeknown to you and me, more information than we ever thought was possible has been gleaned from thousands of clicks and site visits.

In this wild west of exploding technology, where your smartphone is outdated the minute you buy it, how can anyone still believe in the illusion of privacy? When the first computer was created the cat was out of the box.

Think about it. We have mountains of literature and forward-thinking people who have warned us that once a system was created to accumulate data we no longer had a private identity.

We have lost individuality and have been reduced to a number. Starting at the moment of birth we are tagged with a Social Security number. Even the Greeks coined a common saying that covers this. We have opened Pandora’s Box.

No, leaving Facebook is more like closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out. You must use all social media with a bit of common sense. Take precautions in what you are saying. Facebook is a good tool. But like everything else it has its good and its bad. I got started on Facebook all because they had a free game. Who can forget the addiction to Farmville? I have collected pictures, connected with old friends and made new friends. Reconnected with long lost family and also found out things I never wanted to know about people in general. Yeah, I watched all the political muck that abounds with each election. I’m amazed at the lack of self-control many exhibits publically. But I learned a long time ago not to share or discuss religion, politics and especially not to share family issues.

But this electronic meeting place is no different than what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. It’s what we used to do in small towns off of front porches or at the corner drug store. Now it’s just on a universally grander scale. Gossip, share and talk. We get to see the worst and best of humanity in electronic gluttony.

Like any superpower, you can use Facebook for the power of evil or good. I personally like the ease of being able to stay in contact with people and learn new things. And a wise man said, believe nothing of what you read and only half of what you hear.

The silly thing is, we have never had privacy. We just hid things better before Facebook came along. The only way you are going to be able to protect your privacy is to go off the grid and live like a hermit.

Good Morning!

It has been over a year since I have posted a blog. You might be wondering what happened? How or why does one disappear?

I could wax poetic and say I have emerged from the long, dark night that grieving can bring about. Or, I could point out that it has been a crazy three years. But if I was pressured to come up with a simple reason or bring it down to a single word, I would have to simply say, OVERWHELMED.

After my husband passed, I spent a year lost. Then a year re-engaging in life. Then there was the year of getting married again, cleaning out the house, putting it up for sale and rearranging my entire life schedule.

Now things seem to have settled a little, I have found the characters from the last book I wrote demanding to be released into the world by publishing their story. Being so rusty and out of touch with all that it takes to do that, I hired a Life Coach to get me back into shape. So I’m working into the area of marketing, production, social media and just plain organizing.

Interestingly enough, the desire to write has come back as well. I feel like a hermit coming back out into the light of day! Gosh, it’s bright out here!

I hope you will join me as I continue to journey again in the world of the written word.

A Widow’s Conundrum

A month had passed since the funeral.  I had stayed strong on the outside for all to see and succeeded in getting through it. Now, each morning when I arose, the reality seeped in a little more each day and the shock receded, leaving me raw and vulnerable.

I went from wanting someone to mention him or console me, to wanting to hurt in silence and avoid everyone. In this stormy sea, the squalls frequently came with drenching tears or became the doldrums of not feeling anything.

There was no direction. No goals. No plans for the future. I was adrift with no forward movement.  The only constant was the ache and the knowledge it would never be the same. I was bitter that life marched on, dragging me with it.

This stage, or whatever you want to call it, differs for everyone. I know this after spending hours talking with others who, like me, have gone through it. I wanted to hurry up this stage, get it over quickly, thinking the sooner I did; I could capture some normalcy again.  Now all I can do is record my journey and know that no two are alike.

Before Darrell passed, I had ample warning he would go before I would.  We talked.  I thought we covered it all. Finances, kids, what I would do after he passed. But no amount of planning or talking helps you prepare for the actual journey and the tidal wave of confusing emotions.

I thought it would go this way. I would grieve, hurt and then rebound.  I would become a missionary in Africa or serve the homeless at a local soup kitchen.  I would devote my life to my Lord. I would be a pillar of strength and guidance to my family.  I would go on living because I thought I could handle being alone. I would be a good widow in everyone’s eyes, holding my love for him like a beacon. I would be the example of true love that never dies.

Then one night in the ER when I was deathly ill, it all came crashing down around me. I finally admitted to myself there is a difference between alone and being lonely.

I was depressed. I had isolated myself in our winter home in Yuma.  I had lost weight due to not eating and sleeping. I couldn’t see a way forward because I was so wrapped up in my grief. Ending up in the same emergency room Darrell had on the same day a year later was a wake-up call.  A stern ER doctor lectured me on what I needed to do to get myself healthy.  I listened.

I reconnected with friends. Joined chat sites. Came home to the kids and started working on the house. I picked up writing again. Went out into the community and found volunteer work at the local cancer clinic. And ran into someone I wasn’t looking for.

At first, we just chatted. Then I tried to pushing him away in a panic because I didn’t want anything more than a friend. He firmly explained it was just an offer of friendship. Since he was four years out from his loss, I wanted to know about his journey in hopes I could glean from it some kernel of wisdom, a vision of hope.

So began a wonderful friendship and the year passed. On the anniversary of my husband’s death, family and friends helped light Chinese lanterns to remember the man who loved us all. The one I released hovered over the house as if he was saying he missed me.  I was gaining more peace every day, moving forward sluggishly, but still not wanting to release the life I had shared with him entirely.

His clothes still hung in the closet. I felt I lost more of him with each change, with each item of his that slipped away. But I also knew it was healthy and to heal I needed to move on with life.

My husband and I had blended a family. Three of his kids and two of mine from previous marriages had bonded well. In fact, the kids had done far better than I had. Still, I worried about them going forward. So I tried to be a good example.

Except then, my new friend proposed. We had slowly begun to date, even though we didn’t think of it that way. We met for coffee, had lunch, even a few dinners. All the while talking about our former spouses and growing closer.

What should I do? Darrell and I had never talked about having someone else in our lives if one of us passed on. I loved him so much I never entertained the idea there would be anyone else.  What would happen now? How could I replace the love I felt for one man with another? Where was my narrative of carrying my love for my husband until the day I died?  What would the kids think? What would my friends think?  What did I think?

It seemed a widow’s conundrum. It is not that I will ever love Darrell less, nor can I. And I could never, ever replace him. In fact, I struggled with the idea I could even love another man. But I had this same panic before my second child was born.  I remember watching my daughter sleep one night while her sister stirred in my belly.  I was worried.  How could I ever love another baby as much as I had loved my first? Yet, when the second daughter was born, I fell in love immediately. Not with the same love, but a love that was hers and hers alone.

I had forgotten the heart is inflatable. It can stretch to love many. The thing is – each love is different – because each person is different.

How could I explain to those who were still grieving the loss of their father or friend, that I could still love Darrell? That the love I felt for him was there and it would never go away. It left a permanent scar that would ache every time there was a family gathering, and he wasn’t there. Or I visited a place that we had shared, and I remembered our past life together. Every holiday, every memory that crossed my mind would have a bittersweet twinge of melancholy.

Yet, I needed to move on. Continue to experience life. New loves would come in. Not to replace, but to reside alongside all the other loves that were already there.

It is lonely to live without your soul mate, the love of your life. But there are still people I love left in my life. The love that grew and was shared by two souls, who became one, now overflows, fills and touches all who are still in it. I realize I can choose to honor that love until we meet again, by living alone and always in its shadow. Or I can go out and experience continued growth to my heart and spread the love I have received.

I decided to honor my love for my husband by giving more love to another lonely heart. There are those who may think less of me or feel I didn’t love my husband enough to stay a grieving widow.  I can say I totally understand.

I understand because I once thought that way. I have learned that until you travel the road, you don’t know how the trip is going play out. I remember what I thought it would be like to go to Africa and when I did, it was nothing like the journey itself.

So it is with grief. It is the most singularly, loneliest path we will travel in life.  No one can walk it with us, and you never know where the path might lead, or what emotions you will experience.

Love those in your life who are grieving. Understand their choices may not always make sense to you. And remember one day you too will experience this path. There is no way to prepare for it except watching how others travel it.

Know that love continues to expand. It grows and flourishes when it is fed and understood. It is not meant to be locked away to die, never to be gifted again.