So. I’m sitting here with this list.


The To-Do List.

to-doWhen faced with a bunch of things that have to be done, it can be easy to be overwhelmed. Do you have a list like that? Do you hyperventilate when you contemplate it?  Some folks get so freaked out that they pass the point where they can be effective at doing anything, including typing out a list. So it’s best to review and see what one has in front of one.

“I have to pick up the fundraising stuff today? Really? Does it have to be today?”

“Shoot! Forgot the doctor’s appointment in the morning.”

“They want how many summaries? By Monday? Seriously?”

calendar“Oh yeah..the editing project…right. Sure, I can have it done by Saturday.”

“Out of t-shirts? Of course I’ll have them and your uniforms washed.”

…and so on.

You know how it is.

I refuse to get stressed about the LIST, however.  There is no point. I never forget that I am only one woman with only one set of hands. The key is to prioritize. And when I do that, I don’t allow myself to think ahead too far on that list. Because…really…does it help?


So, when you are faced with a list, lay it all out for yourself, including the small side-jobs that get in the way.  Defrosting the chicken for dinner, picking up dry cleaning, paying the bills, cleaning the window blinds, getting that manicure. Write it all down.

Then, put things in the order of when they have to be done. Not when you want to do them or how important you feel they are. Just number them by deadline, with #1 being the thing that is due earliest. Continue down the list until you assign numeric rankings to things that do have deadlines. Some things, let’s face it, do not. Not hard ones, anyway.

When you have your list organized, just focus on the first thing without badgering yourself about the rest of that list.  Can you really go to soccer practice with your daughter while handling that conference call? No. So don’t kick yourself or make yourself feel in any way at fault because of your schedule. Just do the next thing on the list and move on.

Sometimes, you can do things concurrently.  Like laundry. One can wash the uniforms while one is on that call. Or while one is writing a column or what have you. Laundry is great that way. Multitasking made easy.

Take a breath. Cross stuff off your LIST.  Be proud of yourself.

And then, get back to work. One thing at a time.

My mother always told me that if you wanted something done, ask a busy person to do it. It’s not that they’ve got more time, but that they’ve learned to manage it better.  It’s a skill and it can be learned.

I know, because I had to learn how, too.

What a TRIAL – Lissa & Sandi back for Vikings, Epi. IV

a2alissabook2Welcome back to our little kaffe-klatsch! Lissa Bryan, author of The End of All Things, and I are once again sharing our exclamations and concerns about the terrific mini-series VIKINGS on The History Channel.

We live-tweeted during the original airing of this show from 10 – 11 Eastern on Sunday night.  It was a lot of fun, even if I was struggling to tweet from my new-ish iPhone.

Click here to go to the VIKINGS page at The History Channel. This and all other images below are the property of The History Channel and are used here solely for illustrative purposes.

Episode IV: Trial

vikings_episode4 lagerthaLissa: The good people at the History Channel must have paid attention to my complaints last week. We got to see Lagertha in battle not just once, but twice. I thought we might see it a third time when Haraldson was mocking her claim to have killed big, strong Knut (I always want to spell that “Canut” and then picture him ordering the tides to retreat.) Haraldson must not know much about shield maidens.

Sandi:  Haraldson is not a wise man at all, at all. I keep saying that, I know, but maybe he’ll hear me one of these days and retire with a pension. 😉

Lissa: Somehow, I don’t think a happy retirement with grandchildren playing at his knee is in the cards for old Jarl Haraldson.

Sandi: No, REALLY?

Lissa: As shocking a plot twist as that may seem. 😀

Sandi: Lagertha’s slaying of Knut was necessary, but I was worried about it from the moment it happened, since it had to be the one man that the earl had sent with them to play watchdog. Naturally.

Lissa: The scene struck me a little odd because… well … rape is part of the package of attacking and pillaging a village. Surely, she’s encountered this situation before. Her own brother-in-law is known to toss a girl over a table when the mood takes him. I doubt highly that Ragnar’s band has a standing no-raping-the-villagers policy to appease Lagertha’s oddly modern sensibilities.

Sandi: I concur. I am wondering if she’s been on a raid before. Because who, then, would safeguard the kids? Perhaps it was her first big raiding party?

And, Ragnar had advised her not to go off without “the others” yet she did – she went off alone, essentially. That was foolish of her. Still, she got to show her chops and she did a very final job of making sure Knut never assaulted another woman! Lagertha doesn’t shy from bloodshed.

Lissa: No, she certainly doesn’t. As soon as he called her a “bitch,” I declared, “Dead man walking!”

Sandi: Oh yeah. That was a bad, bad move. On top of everything else.

Lissa: Ragnar made me laugh out loud a couple of times. He has this delicious, wicked glee in his eyes when he’s gone a-raiding. “Don’t resist and we’ll not hurt you. God bless!” Almost like Floki with the communion wine… he likes messing with people’s heads just a wee bit.

vikings_episode4 flokiSandi: Floki…okay, he annoys me. But I feel that he’s truly not quite right and I’m wondering how “wrong” he’ll show himself to be before this is over.

Lissa: In those days, wasn’t madness seen as divinely inspired? Floki is what my grandmother would have called “tetched in the head” but he’s a brilliant shipbuilder. Not much of a warrior… He was relegated to the back ranks of the fight, like Lagertha (which only makes sense in her case because upper-body strength is necessary to make an impenetrable wall.)

vikings_episode4 shieldwallTL did raise an eyebrow at the beach battle… “They’re not protecting their flanks, and the English aren’t attacking that weak spot.”

Sandi: Yes. And I was surprised that Lagertha called for the shield wall. Her voice doesn’t have the strength in it that Ragnar’s did, and I think the wall was less formidable than it could have been. Okay, I might be projecting…

Lissa: I must note, I heard the Willhelm Scream as the Saxon soldiers retreated. It have me a giggle.

(My elder son noted that, too, when he popped in.)

Sandi: And Ragnar messed with everyone. Waiting for Sunday – he has insider info and he didn’t tell anyone. Waiting for the church bells, knowing what it meant. He had been grilling Athelstan a fair amount, it was clear. The “God bless” and the smile – yes, I laughed. Because it was an obvious show of his upper hand in the situation.

Lissa: He seems to have learned his English lessons well.

And his mischievousness seems to be a trait inherited by Bjørn  If I was Athelstan  I’d sleep with one eye open, lest the little monster make good on his declaration about sacrificing him to Thor!

Sandi: That was funny. Bjørn looked so serious, but he was just being mouthy. And I loved that he gave his sister some ale. I am thinking most kids drank ale at that time and Athelstan was being persnickety, but I could be wrong. lol

Lissa: Yes, kids drank ale. Small beer was one of the favored drinks for children and servants, but ale was an acceptable beverage. It would have been more accurate if Athelstan had said something like, “No, don’t drink the ale, it’s too expensive. Save that for your parents and drink the small beer.” It could have been a chance to show off differences in status again, that Athelstan was relegated to drinking the “children’s beer” because he’s a slave.

Sandi: Yes. This. Exactly.

Lissa: The trip to Kattegat turned out to be all right… I worried about that, that something would happen to them along the way, or they’d be put in danger once they arrived by Haraldson. Poor Athelstan  Bjørn threatening to sacrifice him and Ragertha threatening to pull out his lungs… The guy just can’t win!

Sandi: I worried, too, that something would happen – but to the farm! But no, all was well on the homestead. Just not with the people. But Athelstan chose well and kept the manling of the house happy and nothing bad happened to the kids under his watch. Whew.

Lissa: This episode had some sobering moments of grief, as well. When they buried their fallen warriors, and then, later, when Erik was slain. I’d like to see them do a funeral service for him in the next episode.

Sandi: Oh! My jaw dropped when Erik was killed. I was SO saddened. I know it’s because I fangirled over him initially, but also, he was a sturdy character considering the dearth of lines he was allotted, here. He was a catalyst and adviser. Which was why he was murdered, of course.

vikings_episode4 earlwifeLissa: I was pleased to see the failure of Haraldson’s clumsy gambit to exploit any jealous feelings Rollo might have toward his brother. A friend on Facebook mentioned Siggy’s weird behavior. Her “Sexy Lady” demeanor seems now to be her way of trying to support her husband’s regime. They trotted their daughter out and when Rollo didn’t jump at the bait, she hurried over and gave him the eyes. It has to be with Haraldson’s approval; as paranoid as he is, she wouldn’t dare look up from the floor if he wasn’t in on the plan, which makes the whole scene in the early episodes with his men more understandable. She’s using the only tool she has at her disposal to try to support him.

Sandi: Thing is – we saw what happened last time Haraldson “offered” his wife up to one of his retainers. Dead Northman, you know? So, this rather worried me regarding Rollo. And he didn’t immediately jump up and drool over the daughter, either. He’s playing his cards close to his hauberk.

vikings_episode4 earlvragnarLissa: I’m surprised you didn’t hear me scream when Ragnar arrested. Heraldson threw down all of his cards and lost, badly, in front of everyone at the Thing. And Ragnar’s twinkling eyes, “Who has the key?” surely didn’t help matters. Now, it’s open war between the two of them.

Sandi: I have to give props to Rollo, here. I was gratified and a little saddened, too, by his willingness to vouch for his brother despite the enticements suggested by the earl. He did it for Lagertha, he said, and I believe him. Which makes me think (and her, too, I’m guessing) that he cares for her more than he cares for his treasure chest. Unrequited feelings always make me a little sad. Even if he’s a guy who’ll consider betraying his brother. And he might have, too, if Lagertha hadn’t put herself in the middle that way.

Lissa: He did the right thing, even if he did it for the wrong reasons. I worried for a moment that his feelings for Lagertha would lead him to think this was a convenient way to get his brother out of the way. “Say, Jarl, thanks for offering your daughter, but I’d really rather have my brother’s widow….”

Sandi: I wonder what possessed Ragnar to try to claim Knut’s kill for himself. What was he thinking?

Lissa: Love, I think. He’d probably say it was for a practical reason, such as claiming she would be better at taking care of the children if he was convicted, but I think his motive was protecting the woman he loves, plain and simple.

Sandi: It was clearly a lie and I would imagine that most of the men with him knew it, too.

vikings_episode4 trialLissa: And yet, they let him do it… They must have felt his desire to protect his wife was honorable, honorable to make up for lying in the sight of the gods at the trial.

Sandi: One can only imagine that this was considered worthy of the gods’ notice, ja?

Lagertha was basically okay with this arrangement to begin with, as well, which also startled me. I wonder if she would have ripped Ragnar a new one in private if she had had the opportunity?

Lissa: I’m sure she would have. She likely didn’t want to call her husband a liar in front of the whole Thing, though she lost her ability to remain silent when it started looking bad for Ragnar.

The previews scared me! I found myself chanting, “They have to follow the saga … they have to follow the saga!”

Sandi: Oh, the previews worry me, too! I’ll be on edge until I see the next episode!

= = =

Thank you for reading! Hope you’re enjoying hearing our thoughts even a fraction as much as we’re enjoying watching the show! 


Spring, 2013 – A Ramble

At this time of year, when Spring has arrived officially, I tend to catch a mental presentation of the e.e. cummings poem [in Just–] – not because I wish to engage upon an analysis of its structure or meaning, but just because I tend to think of the world being “puddle-wonderful” at this time of year.

snowmondayEven when it’s cold and the forecast for tomorrow includes snow. Inches of it.

Spring is a time when I evaluate progress. I don’t know why; it’s just my thing, I guess.  Today, I am thinking about my kids.

DaveCassTrainDavid, the elder, is in his second semester of classes at the local Community College.  He has not chosen to learn to drive (putting my kid behind the wheel of a deadly machine when he doesn’t want to be there is not my idea of a necessity) but has learned to successfully navigate the public transportation system out here. It takes a while, but he gets where he needs to go.  It wasn’t something I knew how to do at his age!  He is a wonderful big brother, a help around the house, and my biggest worry about him is that he won’t find a summer job that will suit.

My younger son is finishing up fifth grade.  The previous SAD treatment I had begun earlier this year (vitamin D supplements and a sun lamp) did not succeed entirely in keeping him happier.  They were doing the job until we all got the ‘flu (not fun) but afterward, things have been harder for him, even with the vitamin supplements and lamp.  We’re looking into educational opportunities for him for middle school.  It’s not going to be easy for anyone, no matter what is decided upon on that matter.

Autism isn’t something one grows out of, you see. It’s really something one learns to work with and through and adjust for in the course of the day-to-day.  But before one can do that, one has to see the need to do so. And, for some people with autism, that need isn’t apparent.  It’s rather a challenge.  Son-the-Younger is apt (as are most children) to see things only through his perspective initially.  He lacks certain filters that most neurotypical folks acquire subconsciously as they grow up. Teaching him about these filters, about alternative perspectives, is done deliberately – but not always to good effect.

So, here in Spring, 2013, I am once again doing my best to provide balance to my home, to provide what is required to my children and most excellent spouse, and to make sure that I’m taking care of my own inner-Sandi at the same time. Because it’s true, what they say:

If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

in Just-

spring          when the world is mud-

luscious the little

lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

I sit and prepare for worship, thankful that no matter what season it is, how frustrated I may sometimes grow, that I am loved and that God himself deemed me worth saving.  Spring is a time of renewal, no matter how cold it might be, and like the folks in Jerusalem a long time ago, I can say,

Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!

– Mark 21:9

This has been rather a rambling sort of post, I know.  But as any parent knows, each day comes with its various influences and multitasking as one sifts through them is part of the job description.  I lead worship in my home, today, and pray for the educational issues of my children as well as the other concerns of our family.  Tomorrow, the LIST will touch on matters ranging from Easter Sunday to new shoelaces to prepping for dinner.

It’s Spring. The world is a busy place and I’m just another woman smiling into the sunshine in a puddle-wonderful world.

Vikings w/ the History Chicks III

a2alissapicLissa Bryan, author of The End of All Things, and I once again huddled up to discuss the latest episode of VIKINGS on The History Channel.  We’re still enamored and approving and give it two, er, golden chalices. Yes, that. 🙂

Click here to go to the VIKINGS page at The History Channel.

Episode III: Dispossessed

Lissa: I gotta yell RIP OFF! It was finally my chance to see Lagertha in battle, and what did I see? One two second shot of her stabbing someone. I was heartbroken!

Sandi: I really hope this isn’t the only time she gets to go all warrior woman in this series. But it was a small scene and she did get the opportunity to flaunt her awesome (to a small degree) earlier in the series when the lowlife’s invaded her personal house.

Lissa: Not good enough! I intend to write a strongly-worded letter if my demands are not met, possibly start a petition on the White House’s site.
I did have to grin when the Jarl’s servant came to get Bjorn as “surety” against his father’s return, but was persuaded rather quickly to change his mind by the hatchet in Lagertha’s hand.

Sandi: That was brilliant. Don’t MESS with a noted shield maiden.

vikings_lagertharagnarLissa: And might I say I gave a little sigh of nerdy bliss at the weaving in her over-tunic in that scene?

Sandi: Oh I thought of you when I saw the detail on that!

Lissa: Althelstan has to be the best-treated slave in history. Ragnar pretty much turned him loose the second he got home. Got him drunk, offered him some fun between the sheets…

Sandi: THAT flabbergasted me. I have to kind of figure that the impetus for that one came from Lagertha. She’s a sensual woman and has eyes in her head. I was kind of surprised that they let their slave refuse, to be honest.

Lissa: I think they were so amused by the idea a man would remain celibate for his god and believe sex was a sin that they just let him be.

I understood from the scene Ragnar cut the rope and said, “Run away, then,” that he knew Althestan would realize he had nowhere to go and follow Ragnar home, but still… He left the priest alone with his children, around sharp objects… When Althelstan picked up the knife, for a moment, I held my breath. Would he….? But no, he used it for shaving his head. Do you think that Ragnar had such sharp instincts he knew Althelstan was harmless? Or do you think he figured even his children were warriors enough to fight the priest if he tried to harm them? And to trust him enough to take care of the farm and the kids while Lagertha and Ragnar are gone a-raiding!

vikings_athelstankidsSandi: I really think Ragnar is using his instincts with Athelstan – and I am thinking they’re good instincts. He’s let the man run loose for a few days, as it were, with his children and has been watching closely, I’m guessing. It isn’t about his children (notice how Ragnar all but ignored his son but appeared/pretended to heed his daughter?) but about his own sense of Athelstan.

Lissa: Poor Bjorn’s was so aghast! “You cannot put a slave above me, your own natural son!” Yet another great way the producer’s showed the sharply defined lines of status in those days. An adult male slave, no matter how trusted or responsible, couldn’t outrank a freeborn child.

I think I was right about Ragnar being interested in Althelstan’s faith. He was asking tactical questions, of course, but he also seemed interested in hearing about this strange, new god.

Sandi: I concur. For whatever reason, Ragnar is a curious fellow.

Lissa: I liked Lagertha’s reference to the “Bloody Eagle.” Even if it wasn’t really a custom — scholars are still divided over that one– I can see Lagertha inventing it!

Sandi: I have to say, my own brother ragged on me about not including the Bloody Eagle in Éire’s Captive Moon. I felt it wasn’t a solid-enough custom to include and not one I wanted to foster, in any event, without plenty of precedent. But yes, I can SO see Lagertha going through on her threat if anything happened to her children under Athelstan’s watch, for all she might have found him sexually intriguing.

Vikings__Earl_Haraldson-ELissa: The scene of the Jarl having the boy killed and burying the treasure? As I understand, that wasn’t really a “thing.” Scholars aren’t convinced there was much human sacrifice among the Vikings, peat bog bodies likely being the victims of capital punishment rather than ritualized sacrificial practices, etc. It seems to have been rare and mostly practiced with the burial of people, not goods. And it’s assumed the victims were slaves, isn’t it? The boy who was killed wasn’t a slave.

Sandi: I can see a leader doing this kind of thing with a prisoner or a slave, yes, but not so much with the child of one of his own people. That’s just foolish and, as I’ve said before, Haraldson is not acting as a wise leader, even if he is a powerful one. Human sacrifices were more common during themidvinterblót, in my reading. A time that was prepared for it and where the community understood it was coming. Even so, the era of human sacrifice was over by the 8th Century.

Lissa: One thing I noted… the Jarl said his son was once strong like the boy he sacrificed. In the first episode, I had wondered if the Jarl’s dream was prophetic, but now it seems it may have been a memory. His sons were apparently slaughtered by an enemy.

Sandi: All that being said, I believe Haraldson was only using the old tradition as an excuse – he’s just out to inflict damage, forgetting that there are consequences for actions. Somewhere.

Lissa: His wife is encouraging him in that madness. To what ends?

Sandi: I am thinking she’s power-hungry, too. She seems so…I don’t know. Like I’d want to wash my hands after shaking hers, you know?

Lissa: Is the Jarl impotent? Is that why he’s so intent on proving his power in other ways? He has no son and if he is impotent, his chances of having one are nil.

Sandi: Ha! Compensating, is he?

vikings_fightbeachLissa: I liked the scene of the ‘first contact’ between the Northmen and the English. (But since when do the English speak the Northmen’s language? Althelstan’s knowledge of it was treated as a novelty, but now, suddenly, random army dudes speak it?)

Sandi: I had the sense that there were two different languages happening, since Ragnar understood (sorta) the armed guards but his men didn’t.

Lissa: It interested me, not only because I have a little nerdgasm every time I hear Old English in the show, but because it demonstrated the mistrust and missed cultural cues which may have led to unnecessary conflict when two peoples met for the first time.

Sandi: I enjoyed how the Northmen approached the coast. They were expecting (to an extent) the ease of the monastery raid, but the coast was at first bare. And then we saw the armed group that came to greet them and I was so nervous!

Lissa: I was, too, until I got a good look at the soldiers. Old, out-of-shape men with a few young boys. (Doubtless, Ragnar noticed that, too!) I wonder if this was intentional, but knowing the care of the show’s producers, I would venture to day it was. Was there a plague which carried off most of the seasoned warriors? A war between the kings of England?

Sandi: BUT! I really enjoyed how they managed the meeting, here. The tension was palpable, the wish of the Britons (?) to understand the newcomers. “Trade?” They wanted to be peaceful, but there was no trust even though there were efforts at communication. The aggression in Ragnar’s group, the “make ’em go away” from the Britons and the final effort of the Anglo leader to try to foster trust by giving his badge of office (probably)… Wow. I was breathless. Truly.

Lissa: I wonder if Ragnar’s band is going to get to see the king and what he will think when he sees that medallion around the neck of one of the invaders.

Sandi: AH! Good question! I wonder, too. Will Haraldson see it or will it get added to the plunder as a “regular” treasure?

Vikings_Gallery_Rollo_Bjorn-PLissa: I think the costuming department must have paid attention to your Tweet!  Monk shoes pass muster! I thought of you when they showed a closeup of that monk’s dangling toes.

Sandi: Ha! Yeah. You know I was keen on the feet in that scene. Still cracks me up that Clive Standen – Rollo – noticed that tweet of mine.

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Domestic Duty Dependability

I occasionally read bits and pieces online about domestic discussions or disputes about getting the domestic duties done. You know: Getting the kids to do their chores and help out around the house.

For some, this is a never-ending battle.  It isn’t for us and I thought I’d share why this might be.

My basic philosophy about “home” is that is a place of safety, of growth, and of learning.  Within the structure we provide, we can all be at rest in ourselves, seeking to love one another, but also being able to relax and know we are loved in return, without pretense, without notes being taken.

My basic philosophy about my role as “Mom” is that I am to work myself out of a job.

To get my children to the point where they will be ready, willing, and able to function entirely on their own.

When it comes to getting stuff done around the house, my kids know the above about me. They know how the daily affairs of our lives are conducted. We have timetables and schedules and standards that are met.  And when I say something needs to get done, I expect the responsible party to get to it.


I give them some control in how and when they do so, and I think this is the key.

I rarely expect my guys to jump to their feet on Saturday morning when I say, “Okay! You! Do this. You! Do that.” Instead, I discuss with them early in the morning what I expect to happen before dinner that evening and they tell me when they will get these things done. If I need something done by a particular time, I tell them so and explain why.

I’m a very reasonable person.

My sons learn to order their days so that they work and play and put forth effort to the benefit of our family.  The elder occasionally forgets (rarely) and needs to be reminded.  The younger (sometimes) gripes a little as he does what he has already agreed is a reasonable bit of housework.  But the work gets done.  I don’t raise my voice (though I do remind the younger son of the passing of time if needed), I don’t need to issue ultimatums or say harsh things.

And if, by some odd event, I have mismanaged time so badly that any chore needs to be done immediately? It gets done. Immediately and without a big trial.  My guys pitch in as needed, when needed. Because I don’t demand it of them unless it’s important.

At the end of the day, I like my home to be harmonious. Do we ever have issues? Yes, of course we do, but they are rarely about domestic duties.  They’re usually due to how things are being handled outside of the “home” bubble.  Do I shelter my sons? Well, what is a home for but to provide shelter? So, yes, I do. Do they have to deal with the outside world? You bet.

But they’re also learning, I hope, how to manage their time, be productive, and respect one another as we do these things together.  I hope these are aspects of domestic dependability that will last.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

I try.

This kind of system might not work for everyone, but it works for us.  At the end of the day, I think that’s what matters.

Vikings with History Chicks II

Thank you all for your kind reception of last week’s discussion of The History Channel’s miniseries VIKINGS.  Lissa Bryan, author of Ghostwriter and The End of All Things, and I are still enthralled with this show!FACEBOOK vikings

Image Source: The History Channel. Click on the banner to be taken directly to their VIKING website. All other images taken from THC are used solely for illustrative purposes. I make no claim of optioning them for any commercial purpose.

Episode II: Wrath of the Northmen

Lissa: Well! Lots and lots to talk about this episode!

Sandi: Wait. Before we do that, I HAVE to shake my head at the soles of Rollo’s boots in the “Secret Voyage Meeting at Eric’s House” scene. The costumers have by and large been outstanding with this show but someone in editing should have trimmed those few frames to get Rollo’s modernly shod feet out of the picture. Fairly certain patterned treads (clean, no marks!) and the slightly raised dress or work heel weren’t part of the 8th Century cobbler’s trade. Okay, I feel better, now. Let’s get to the rest of the awesome. 🙂

Lissa: Wow… Um… I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t notice that. Good catch!

I loved Ragnar washing clothes with Lagertha. She does seem the type to bash him with her shield if he tried to say that was “woman’s work.” I was disappointed he insisted she stay home, though I understood his reasoning. Leaving their farm unattended during this time would be just asking for trouble.

Their fight was interesting! Bash a man with a shield, then pause for a passionate kiss. Then bash him again, because he’s apparently not getting it through his thick skull. But what I liked was the fact you could tell they were taking care not to actually hurt each other during their scuffle. Though she’s angry, Lagertha loves Ragnar passionately. (Don’t tell him I said so, but I think she’s the tougher of the two, and I can’t WAIT to see her in battle.) And then their son telling them to settle down like two squabbling kids! But, I suppose he’s considered a man now that he has his band.

Vikings_Gallery_Lagertha_Ragnar-PSandi: I was entirely on Ragnar’s side for this fight. He was using sense in the midst of his grand adventure. I did wonder for just a fraction of a moment if Lagertha would take him up on the “You go, I’ll stay home” thing.

Lissa: Me,too! Call his bluff, Lagertha!

Sandi: Like you, Lissa, I thought the fight was great. She was venting her frustration and he let her because he loves her and respects her. If Bjørn hadn’t broken it up, I imagine he would have continued to allow her to beat up on him without repercussions until she broke his nose or something. I saw the scene as a measure of their equality, even if he does make that final decision.

We’ll get back to his decision making in a moment.

Lissa: Strange scene with the Jarl and his wife, encouraging his man to sleep with his wife & then killing him for accepting it. The Jarl is starting to seem just a wee bit unhinged.

Sandi: Jarl (Earl? In Nordweg, they are Jarls…) Haraldson has said foolish things in this episode. He insists upon the Nothing to the West stance without leaving himself an “if/then” clause just in case to save face. And the set up with his wife…? If he has to run a “Will he sleep with my wife?” trust test with all his men…? The man is lacking basic skills.

Also note that in that scene, he didn’t do the violence himself. He had his men do it for him (very messy, even if we didn’t see the gore overmuch).

Lissa: There is something rotten in the state of Denmark. I got the impression when he was talking to his wife that he doesn’t trust her, either. There was a long pause when he said his enemies were everywhere. There’s no doubt she’s entirely on “his side” but it’s hard to tell what she would do if she thought the situation called for drastic measures. Does she love him, or does she love her status?

Vikings_Gallery_Rollo_Bjorn-PMy True love commented during the ritual washing scene: “One of the grossest rituals, ever!” And I agree…. In the realm of “yuck” that one ranks up pretty high in the ratings. It was nice to see it included, though. But that brings up another point: I like the fact the producers haven’t made them look filthy the way we’re used to seeing the “barbaric” Vikings in movies. They eat and drink neatly, wash their clothes, and don’t look like they eschew bathing.

Sandi: I’m not a fan of the “sharing bodily fluids” thing, so I’m with you and your True Love on that one. I didn’t see any evidence for it for my Ostmen in Nordweg, so I never included that ritual. I write a good evisceration, but that…? I just couldn’t.

Lissa: As I understand, the documentary evidence for it is more-or-less one report from an Islamic traveler who thought the Vikings were disgusting barbarians. It could have been there was a ritual face washing and afterwards, the man puffed water away from his lips and snuffled his nose like we do when we surface from being underwater in a pool, which he might have thought was gross if they were doing it before the bowl had been moved. Who knows? It’s easy for a gesture to be misinterpreted, especially if the witness is already biased.

Sandi: Ah, Eaters of the Dead and all that, yeah? The producers are doing a great job of keeping it real, but not making it abhorrent. I saw a comment on twitter that the tweeter perceives negatively reinforced stereotypes for the vikings, but I personally don’t feel that way. I think that we’re getting strong family ties, intelligence, creativity, and a sense of the class divide in that society in a way that makes sense. These are people who live and have codes and manners and all those good things. I enjoy it.

Lissa: They’re showing it as a real culture. I’m sure there will be errors in the interpretation, but try to imagine people playing “Americans” a thousand years from now. They’ll have us eating nothing but cheeseburgers and worshiping cat pictures.

Sandi: OH MY. Yes.

Lissa: What do you think was the significance of the scene with the slave girl?

Sandi: Well, first I think it was to add to Rollo’s increasingly negative characterization. We now know he wants Lagertha (who won’t have him and who kind of unmanned him in her rejection) so he is feeling rejected and needing to prove his manhood. But since he apparently isn’t able to woo anyone to satiate his physical needs, he takes a slave, who cannot really say no. And the fact that she is still a young girl only makes this so much more wrong.

What was sad was that she didn’t protest. Like, this was something to be expected and had indeed happened before. So we also get a vivid look at the class system in this society, here. Rollo didn’t feel it necessary to hide what he had done. He didn’t spirit the girl away or anything. He just did what he wanted and left her.

Lissa: It was that utterly casual nature of it that made it so chilling. Modern audiences will despise him for it, but, as you said, he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong, and the slave girl didn’t try to scream for help from the men only a few yards away. This was tragically “normal” for her.

Sandi: It also made us pity her MORE when the scene with the blacksmith happened later. I am wondering what the consequences will be for that girl.

Lissa: I hope the Jarl kept his promise not to hurt her, but there was no indication the blacksmith had a wife, so she may be orphaned and alone. Hopefully, the blacksmith had a brother, or she has another male relative to take her into his protection.

The sea voyage was marvelous. I’ve always tried to picture these things, but never managed to make it come alive the way the show did. The reality of living in such close quarters, virtually unprotected from the elements, and the fear/exhilaration of rowing into a storm. It was juxtaposed to beautifully with Lagertha’s tale-telling with her children, their rapt faces glowing in the fire.

Sandi: I confess, the whole time I was watching it, I was thinking, “Why didn’t they show us how they provisioned themselves for this voyage?” All of a sudden, we went from the slave girl scene to getting on the longship.

Lissa: There was a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene of them provisioning the ship, loading on bundles and crates, and the cage of ravens.

Sandi: Ah, I’ll blame the flu. 🙂 [The flu was also the reason this didn’t get posted Monday!]

Now back to Ragnar’s decision making. Rollo’s made a big deal about how they’re all equal on that voyage and I believe Ragnar’s intent was that the equality extended to plunder and such, not decision-making. Someone has to be in charge. Especially on a ship in the middle of the ocean. The craft is Ragnar’s and so should these decisions be. I think he was rather…violent…with the dissenter on the voyage, but a captain had to be unquestioned.

Lissa: If that kind of panic spread, it could have been really bad for Ragnar and for the voyage itself. The men might have insisted on returning and then Ragnar would have to face the consequences, assuming they didn’t kill him & toss his carcass to the fish.

Sandi: He also did the raven test. This reminded the men that there was a rational way to check for land as well as calling upon Odin’s discernment and asking (quietly) for the god’s blessing on this trip.

Lissa: It showed how intelligent these people really were. I contrasted this with Columbus’s voyage, where the solution was to put a man high up on the mast to watch for sight of land.

buliwyfSandi: They really were amazing in how they managed to cross such large bodies of water practically blind. In an aside, did you see that Vladimir Kulich (Buliwyf fromThe 13th Warrior and a model in my head for Agnarr in my Éire’s Viking series) is Eric in this series? I was all fangirling on twitter for a minute.

Lissa: I wondered if that would set off a nerdgasm across the country!

Sandi: Well, it did here! 🙂


Lissa: The raid on the monastery was wonderful. Certainly not your stereotypical “guys in horned helmets running in screaming.” They approached like seasoned warriors would approach: with caution and smarts. Instead of bashing at the gates, they unhinged them quickly. I think they were disappointed the fight turned out to be such a fish-in-a-barrel moment.

Sandi: I got that sense, too. “Too easy” and “Where’s the good stuff?” was all over their demeanor.

vikings Lindisfarne-P

I was surprised, though, that Athelstan knew of the danger to come with the ship. The Lindisfarne invasion of 793 was the first known Viking attack in this area. Now, Athelstan has traveled and such, but the Northmen hadn’t made much of an impact at this point, yet. The Irish poems, for example, didn’t start lamenting their coming until the 9th Century. Instead of being curious or just wary (not to be wondered at with how isolated the monastery was) he immediately determined (after seeing just the one ship) that the visitors were bad guys.

ladiaLissa: I think it was their terror that the storm was a sign of the end of the world had a lot to do with it. Then, seeing the prow of that ship slide in out of the fog… it probably looked like a sea monster to him, at first, so it’s no wonder they assumed the demons of hell had arrived. The no-nonsense prior illustrated that confusion perfectly. He heard a hysterical report that something was coming and he shook his head slightly, like, “Y’all crazy,” before ordering that the gates be shut, seemingly “Just in case.”

Sandi: And he said he had learned their language. This is a puzzle to me. It takes time to learn these languages well enough to converse as well as he seemed to do. Had he then been taken captive before? That would explain his panic, but this was not something too likely at this stage in the Viking incursions.

Lissa: I wondered about that, too, if he was an escaped slave. Being a missionary doesn’t seem like a logical explanation at this point.

I wondered a bit about the scene where Athelstan explains to Ragnar why he chose to protect the Gospel of St. John instead of the gold. There was a hint of interest in Ragnar’s demeanor, maybe just curiosity, but I wonder if Athelstan’s faith will influence Ragnar as the show progresses.

Sandi: Ah, yes. Good point!  I love all the different ideas we’re getting so early on in this series. 🙂

Lissa: The scene when they were rowing away from the monastery reminded me so much of Éire’s Captive Moon. I pictured Charis sitting on that ship as her homeland faded into the distance and felt sorry for the poor monks, captured by these horrifying, demonic creatures, taken away into the unknown. It truly must have felt like the end of the world for them.

Sandi: I felt much the same. I kind of put Cowan in Athelstan’s shoes as he hunkered down and shielded his head, resigning himself to what was going to happen.

I’m very much looking forward to the next episode. I’m wondering what will happen between Athelstan and Rollo. Previews of Haraldson’s declaration made me think the man is unfit to lead his people and I wonder if that will be part of the plot as the series progresses.


Thanks for reading! Next week, Episode Three: Dispossessed

Doesn’t that sound ominous…?

VIKINGS with History Chicks

…In which two history geeks discuss The History Channel’s VIKING miniseries.

Featuring Lissa Bryan—author of Ghostwriter and The End of All Things— and, well, me

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Episode One

(Click the banner above to go directly to The History Channel’s website for this episode.)

Summary: The stage is set for the first journey west by Ragnar Lothbrok as he gathers a crew willing to risk their lives to travel into the unknown. Earl Haraldson’s paranoia reaches new heights as it becomes apparent that trust is hard to come by in this dark era.

Lissa and I sent a few emails back and forth about this, resulting in the following dialogue. You will note that I have upgraded MY version to HER version because she rocks at making things pretty. 🙂

Sandi: So my hopes were not too high when we began, not really. I kept expecting to wince a lot. And it never happened! I was so pleased.

Lissa:  I gotta admit, I’ve got some high hopes for his show, even though I’m trying to hold them back, just to protect my poor heart from being broken again. I sat there for the first fifteen minutes with a “Grumpy Cat” scowl on my face, waiting to see horned helmets and people cramming food in their mouths at the feasts, like the Geico commercial. When I learned the show was written by the same man who wrote The Tudors my expectations plummeted. I’m happy to have been wrong.

I was reading reviews of it this morning and one site mentioned the success of The Tudorsand said it was an excellent show despite its “supposed inaccuracies.” I wanted to weep.

It’s nice to see the attention to detail in this show. Some of the props I recognized as being copies of pieces found in archaeological digs.

Sandi: The date at the beginning of the first episode is AD 793, which puts it before my time of study, and it says Scandinavia, whereas my studies have centered strictly on Norway, but I felt familiar with it, even s
Lissa: I imagine there would be consistency within the culture, even as widespread as it was.

One thing that struck me was the Jarl’s refusal to believe there were lands to the west which could be reached by ship. Surely, they had heard tales of travelers, ships blown off course, etc. by this time.

Sandi: In Norway, the legal system was not structured into the Althing until around the year 900, but I appreciated how the Thing was portrayed in VIKINGS.

That’s the type of inaccuracy I’m willing to forgive, because it’s still consistent to the culture.

Sandi: The public trial and need for a unanimous vote in terms of a death penalty seemed very fitting to me, even if the Jarl (wasn’t Byrne fun?) was clearly acting out of personal motives.

Because, hey, it can happen.

Lissa: Did the law about reporting a killing in self-defense really exist? The part which gave exception if the killer thought close family lived in the next two houses he passed struck me as very interesting.

Sandi: Lagertha was wonderful. I really enjoy how sheis portrayed and how her marriage with Ragnar is portrayed, here. They’re a firm couple, well-situated in their society, with two children who have survived this far.

I loved their relationship, and brought Charis from Éire’s Captive Moon to mind when I thought of her marriage in the beginning of the book. She seemed to have that same kind of relationship of love and equal partnership with her husbands. In that respect, your Charis and Lagertha are “modern women,” strong and independent, and fortunate enough to be matched with men who respect their strength and intelligence
Sandi: Yet they both seem so young, you know? So I am thinking they must have wed early for them to have a son ready for manhood. And since many marriages weren’t necessarily love matches to begin with, it was presumed (again, in what I studied) that it was pride of place involved over affection.

I really appreciate that the marriage of Ragnar and Lagertha seems to be a love match and passionately so. I wonder if they began that way?

Lissa: I wondered about that, too. They must have married young, and perhaps the origin of their match will be revealed in future episodes.

I’ve often wondered how many arranged marriages did turn into love matches. In the modern Western world, we have an abhorrence for arranged marriage and picture that it must be miserable. But when it’s part of your culture, a couple working in sync toward common goals, raising a family together, would probably form at least some bonds of affection. And it wouldn’t be difficult to fall for Ragnar.RAWR!

Lagertha reminded me of Charis in her strength and take-no-guff demeanor. I raised a brow at the scene where the ruffians come to have their way with her, knowing the men are away. Ragnar is a high-status farmer and warrior… Wouldn’t they have feared to treat his wife with disrespect?

Sandi: The strangers, I had the impression, seemed to see her as an easy mark. Like they didn’t know her, personally, so even though she was high status, they thought they could have their way with her anyway. In my studies, it was wrong for a woman to have sex outside of her marriage, but it was something that could be glossed over with a fine paid to the offended male (yep), if there was already a male heir.

Lissa: Considering the size of the village, would it be likely these men wouldn’t know her? Or at least know of her? They indicated they’d been watching her home to know when the men were gone, and Lagertha was famous for her prowess as a shield maiden. (I loved that scene where Ragnar mentioned she was a famous warrior and Lagertha corrected him to use present tense!)

Loved the compass and the explanation for the way it worked, and the sun glass. I’d seen one of the latter, found in an archaeological dig, and actaully seeing them in action was neat.

Sandi: I loved the navigation information! The “sun board” and sunglass and how they were shown to work. Also, I appreciated that Ragnar paid for an anchor. Because if you’re gonna sleep at sea, you really need one to keep you from going off course. I also appreciated the “new” boat design. And Floki went gaga over his success. That was great.Lissa: That was the one thing that raised my True Love’s brows. When they unfurled the red sail, he said, “They’d never be able to afford that.” I replied that the red dye was pretty expensive, but he shook his head and said it was the whole ship he was referring to. The nails alone, mentioned by Floki when he was talking about the construction of it… One man chopping and planing all that wood…. They didn’t say how long Floki had been working on the ship, but it seems like it would have taken a long, long time.The only major clothing gaffe I noted was the row of cloth-covered buttons on the sleeve of the Jarl’s wife during the nightmare scene. I know the Vikings may have used simple bone or wood buttons on some clothing items (though little archaeological evidence of this remains) but these were cloth-covered domed, decorative buttons  like a row of twelve of them, on her sleeve cuff. I also sort of questioned the vestments worn by the priest in the previews, but I’m not an expert on the history of liturgical wear.

Sandi: Regarding liturgical wear, I think I’ll reserve judgment ’til I have a better sense of the place that Ragnar raids. In the Mediterranean, clothing was quite advanced compared to other cultures. I didn’t have a sense of how far they went, in the quick preview afforded last night.

Lissa: Have you ever read the novel, Pope Joan by Diana Woolfolk Cross? It’s set around this time period, and though it’s fiction and about a person most historians doubt existed, it is a richly detailed look at the early Christian church. Very entertaining read.

Sandi: What kinds of interpersonal situations did you feel were best represented, here? I am interested to see how the Jarl’s lady comes into play in the future (when she kissed the boys who just got their rings? That kind of creeped me out!).

Lissa: Ragnar’s meeting with the Jarl made me very nervous. Ragnar is taking a huge risk in defying him and secretly building his own boat. Of course, we know how it goes in the saga (part of me wants to see that dragon fight, in a dream sequence, perhaps) but I fear what it means for his family. I didn’t see his son or daughter in the previews of upcoming episodes. (And was the Jarl’s dream prophetic, perhaps a reprisal?)

The Jarl’s wife had a weird sort of lady-of-the-manor demeanor. I would expect the Jarl’s wife to be a fierce shield maiden herself. Nor did she express any opinions to him, but that could just be because of the Jarl himself.

Sandi: Also, Rollo…! Yikes! His words to Lagertha surprised me.

Lissa: I was a little troubled by this. I wanted to see solidarity between them, but now there appears to be a fissure caused by jealousy. I liked how strong Lagertha was in this scene, not intimidated or afraid to tell him “No.” It’s a refreshing change from how this sort of scene is often played in movies and television shows.


Lagertha and Ragnar before Ragnar takes their son to the Thing.

The above is from the VIKINGS website, used here only for illustrative purposes.

Questions? Comments? Input? Should we do this again after next week’s episode?

Play Nice

bcpsbullyToday, at my younger son’s school, they’re having their 1st Annual Anti-Bullying Day.  The kids will wear a certain color shirt and there is likely going to be an assembly. Maybe even other activities, depending upon the school.

Why do we have to have these days?  Well, there are a lot of reasons. One reason that I want to focus on, though, doesn’t happen at school. It happens online.

“Back in MY day…” 

Before the present age of instant, public broadcasting, people communicated privately and vented their spleen without a wide audience. Sure, emails were forwarded and swapped and so on, but the instant titillation was lessened.

And before THAT, back when people engaged in social attacks in person, things were very different.  Once upon a time, when someone went after someone else, they did it in person. To their face (or behind their backs) with the full knowledge that they had to look that other person in the eye eventually. That others who knew them and knew where they lived and/or worked.  That this was not something done privately, in truth, but publicly. It didn’t stop some bullies, of course, but social pressure is a huge factor in how folks interact.

It’s a Tool

The advent of instantaneous communication has brought all kinds of opportunities.  Like any good tool, it was developed for productive purposes. But because people are human, tools are sometimes misused to the detriment of others.

With online communication and social networking, this is also true, though the tools are largely “virtual” in nature.  People can share their thoughts without sharing their true faces.  They can communicate things they feel need saying without fear of consequences affecting their personal lives.  If someone is hurting and alone, they can find help and support in a social network that doesn’t threaten them or leave them open to further pain in real life.  Young people with mature voices can be heard without prejudice against their age.

People get to know one another on the basis of their communication, not their body type or skin color.  It can be a great equalizer, this tool.

Playing “Mean”

But sometimes, having an online identity behind which one can hide brings out the worst in people. They feel they have a freedom to act in ways they would never, ever act in person around people whose eyes meet theirs in hallways or playing fields. They unleash something that isn’t allowed to appear in their offline life.

So what is meant for good is sometimes used in a mean way.  And because we all tend to slow down as we drive and look at the scene of an accident, online instigators who “play mean” get an audience.  Some of whom are secretly of the furtive bully persuasion.

And people using a virtual social space create actual pain.  And it’s almost always done without consequences.  Because they don’t have to look their victim in the eye – they can go about their life without facing the results of their words and deeds.

Play Nice

It’s not hard to play nice.  I see this Anti-Bullying event and it makes me kinda sad. Because really? It shouldn’t be about being “anti” anything. Instead, we should remember just a few simple things when we interact with one another.

  • Never say anything online you wouldn’t say to someone’s face with a clear conscience in the presence of your children or your parents or someone whose respect you desire.
  • Remember that once spoken or written, words will cause pain long after they’re posted or sent.
  • Treat others, always, as you would wish to be treated.  Use words and attitudes you would welcome being used to you.

It’s not hard. Just play nice.