Friday, July 23, 2010

P is for Pilgrimage

Saturday morning I depart for Part I of my three part journey to The Holy Lands.

Yes, I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Israel/Palestine with a group of young pilgrims of The Episcopal Church for two weeks. There will be a total of 45 of traveling in the footsteps of Jesus, mostly by bus. . . .

But it's hot and we only have two weeks, so I am thankful for the bus and airplanes that Jesus didn't have at his disposal. Anyway, Part I is a morning flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I will be collected by my good friend and colleague, Abi. We'll have lunch with our pal Mary Cat and then head to Kanuga Camp and Conference Center, trip organizer and sponsor. There we will meet all kinds of friends and colleagues to engage our final trip preparation and orientation. We will worship together and begin Part II of the journey as we go back to Charlotte and fly to Philadelphia. Part III is a long over-night flight from Philly to Tel-Aviv. We land in Israel Monday morning - there is an eight hour time difference from my home zone of CDT.


As with all long trips and tours we have a plan that is subject to change. Our hopeful plan of pilgrimage includes the following locations, not necessarily in the order listed:
  • Jerusalem - staying at St. George's College Guest House - tour Damascus Gate
  • Mt. Scopus, Mount of Olives, City of David, King Hezekiah's Tunnel, Pool of Siloam
  • Old City - Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls), Rampart
  • Bethlehem - Church of the Nativity (Oldest Church of Christendom), Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Peace Center to meet with Palestinian Youth
  • Western Wall, Pools of Bethesda and St. Anne's Church
  • Ramallah - St. Andrew's Guest House
  • Village of Ein Arik - Palestinian Cultural Learning, Orthodox Church (Icons) Ancient Cisterns
  • Judean Desert - Old Roman Road, Monastery of the Temptation
  • Jordan Valley - Jericho, Nazareth, Mary's Well, Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation and Latin Church of the Annunciation (traditional sites of Angel Gabriel visiting Mary)
  • Shefa Amr - Sepphoris/Zippori
  • Jordan River - Gamla, Golan Heights
  • Sea of Galilee - Church of the Multiplication (Feeding of the Five Thousand), Capernum (Synagogue), Mt. Beatitutde and Mt. Eremos, Kibbutz Ginnossar
  • Masada (Herod's Palace)
  • Qumran (where Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered), Dead Sea
  • Bethany - church overlooking Lazarus, Martha and Mary's house
  • Palm Sunday Road to Garden of Gethsemane
  • Stations of the Cross from Emmaus - Via Dolorosa
  • Home
I encourage those of you interested to Google the terms and location names above to learn more about where we get to go. I didn't create links for you because my dial-up connection would be overwhelmed trying to upload so many links when I publish this post.

I expect to be completely off the grid for these next two weeks. I will attempt to post a picture and reflection for the day if I have easy access to the Internet. I will be keeping my own journal that I may attempt to share upon my return - we'll see. One of my fellow pilgrims plans to blog the trip. She is a young adult on the staff at Kanuga. I haven't met Jessica Bodford yet, but her pre-pilgrimage posts on Into The Holy Land have been entertaining and helpful. She sounds as chatty as me, so make sure you have the time when you click over to her blog :)

Many of my readers are Christian believers, but several are not. Part of my thrill in making this pilgrimage is that we will be learning about all three Abrahamic faiths and visiting Holy sites that represent several faiths and their commonalities. There is hopefulness for peace in the Middle East if more people can find ways to respectfully acknowledge cultural and religious differences. So many horrible things have happened over the course of human history in the name of various religions. I'm thankful to have this opportunity to be on a Peaceful Pilgrimage rather than a Christian Crusade.

For my non-religious readers, both family and friends, I invite you to embrace the amazing and ancient aspects of the region in terms of cultural anthropology and human history. For my Christian companions, in addition to the aforementioned, imagine the mystery. I know that all of you will send prayers and wishes for safe travel as I will hold all of you in my prayers.

I pledge to carry each of you with me on my journey; in my heart and with my prayers.

Prayers before setting out on a pilgrimage
(I Googled and pulled this from another Episcopal Pilgrim's Blog :)

God of the guiding star, the bush that blazes
Show us your way
God of the stormy seas, the bread that nourishes
Teach us your truth
God of the still, small voice, the wind that blows where it chooses
Fill us with life
God of the elements, of our inward and outward journeys
Set our feet on your road today.
May God bless us with a safe journey
May the angels and saints travel with us
May we live this day with justice and joy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

D is for Dimethylpolysiloxane

I was having a perfectly lovely evening enjoying my gardens . . . . a little random weeding amongst the petunias and oregano here, some watering of the pinks and mums there . . . .

I harvested some delicious Kentucky Blue Pole Beans, a zucchini, three Cayenne peppers, yellow and red carrots, and one ripe tomato from the vegetable garden. I peeked at an ear of sweet corn and am hopeful that I can enjoy one meal of homegrown sweet corn before I leave for the Holy Lands for two weeks.

The sunset was gorgeous, and at this time of year peaks through the western woods on our property, right past the old goat shed and just behind the beans and sunflowers. Mosquitoes weren't too bad . . .

So I came inside, pleased and proud of my modestly green thumb, plotting for tomorrow night in the hopes that I can convene a family dinner. I started digging around in the freezer to see what might complement the fresh veggies I anticipate preparing tomorrow night when I tripped across the whole chicken in a bag (Gold'n Plump, Bake It Easy, Seasoned Whole Chicken). I was compelled to read the ingredients list. Last time we ate one of these I didn't feel so well after the fact, and I attributed my digestive distress to the likelihood that the processed chicken probably contained MSG (Monosodiumglutamate).

Background information (TMI WARNING - skip this paragraph if you'd rather not hear about it): I am not allergic to MSG, but my central nervous system rejects MSG and Aspartame. I have a pretty immediate puke or diarrhea response to high levels of either of these common ingredients in processed foods. Thus my preference for non-diet soft drinks. Unfortunately, I also have the same response to raw raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, blueberries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, and acai berries. There is a spectrum of response; suffice it to say that I have come to an understanding that when any of these ingredients are present, especially in volume, they may cause my central nervous system to go on full TOXIN ALERT and purge the contents as efficiently as possible.

SO, as I read the ingredient list, which seemed ridiculously complex for a whole chicken, I tripped across a new word; Dimethylpolysiloxane.

"What the hell is that?" I wondered aloud. My husband had never heard of it. You know what I did.

Google, help! As I read the WikiEntry (linked here) I learned that I've been in contact with this substance annually for years when Santa delivered Silly Putty to my stocking each Christmas. And it makes sense that it helps my friend with a Boob job, I guess. This may also explain why I've never been a fan of Chicken McNuggets. I don't know if this is the culprit, because MSG is not on the list, but I am certainly suspicious!

Does my chicken with breasts really need silicone implanted before I bake it and eat it?!?!

Good grief!

(I would have said "YUCK!" but my grandmother taught me that "a polite no thank you will do.")

I think I'll thaw a venison loin and eat something less infused with crap when I enjoy all the fresh vegetables, grown organically in my little vegetable garden.

BTW - I did squish all the cabbage worms I was able to locate on the broccoli and cabbage. But that's a story for another day!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A is for Adventure

The Skov Family Vacation was truly an adventure. The Tuesday following the previous post was Packing Day and ended up being Departure Day as well. The boys were eager to hit the road once the truck was packed for our Montana Family Rendezvous in my sister's hometown, Choteau(Wiki-link), approximately 1200 miles from our home. We did what we've been doing since Joren was an infant; drove straight through the night to our destination. It's much easier now that there are four drivers, although I seem to sleep less comfortably at this age when it's not my turn to drive.

We had a fantastic time visiting my sister and her family: Wendy, her husband Mike, and their son Calvin. We were joined by my mother's little brother, Eric, and his wife, Deb, and their adult children Rachel and Adam, plus Adam's fiance, Jen. My dad made an appearance, too, which was totally cool.

We spent the weekend of the Fourth of July in Choteau(community blog link) for a variety of events. My personal highlights included the Keg Hockey Tournament (Adam, Arthur and Joren, dubbed "The Foreigners," won one round in five at the fire hose and managed to drench me in the process), the parade (in which a cow boy was literally riding a HUGE steer saddled up like a horse), the Wild Cow Milking Contest at the Rodeo, and amazing fireworks displays (private and public).

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I must admit that the Backyard highlight of the trip was the morning the hail storm that passed through as I was walking the dog. These pictures show the four inches of hail that accumulated between our tent and the sandbox, and the defoliating effect on Wendy's garden. It was spectacular and caused Nessie and me to take cover against a garage in an alley for almost five minutes!

We made our way from Choteau to Glacier National Park on Monday to celebrate Mike's birthday and stayed at East Glacier Lodge the first night with Gramps before we made camp at Fish Creek Campground on the west side of the park. On Monday we had a private Red Bus Tour in the cold, misty, rain. My dad, the semi-professional photographer took this shot at Logan Pass after riding up Going-to-the-Sun Road only 10 days after the pass was plowed clear for traffic.

After an amazing time with family in Montana we headed home (yes, driving straight through) and arrived back in our own backyard on Friday around noon. Marisol (Arthur's delightful girlfriend) and her sister Xillian created a wonderfully colorful and creative chalk mural on our driveway to welcome us home. Marisol kept all the gardens watered and animals healthy while we were gone. She has raised the bar for the Skovmen when I am away from home for work!

We reconnected with most of our friends upon our return over the weekend.  These remaining backyard shots portray Mike's latest project in creating a new yard game in preparation for Barb's family reunion. He and Dale put the finishing touches on the Ladder Golf Game.

Please note two items of personal interest:
  1. some golf balls (two orange ones) have an interior that makes drilling and threading particularly difficult and
  2. I scored the first Trifecta Toss in the Flinn's Backyard.
Thanks be to God for safe travel, family, and friends!

P.S. Latest news from Captain-Lumberjack-Steve and Princess Kathy: "Old Boat Syndrome strikes again" stated Steve's text message this morning. I understand they broke down near Trempeleau on the Mississippi. Stay tuned! More soon . . . . .