Ramadan 2009

»  mark    22 Aug 2009 @ 02:02    

The holy month of Ramadan is here again and I’m faced with the question that I posed after observing Ramadan last year: Would I ever do it again?

Decisions like this can’t be made overnight, of course. After considerable thought and consulting my wife, I’ve decided it would be valuable to participate, even though I won’t attempt the 30-day fast this year. In the spirit of the month, I am going to set some goals like last year and modify my daily routine in the hope of spiritual improvement. So here are my goals.

  • Change in diet
    While not the same as fasting, I think a change in personal diet will help to remind me of other commitments. So, for the next month, I’m going to limit consumption of sugar (desserts, ice cream, etc.).
  • Charitable donations
    Just like last year, I plan to donate to humanitarian causes during this time.
  • Prayer
    I will strive to pray more frequently.
  • Scripture Study
    Once again, I probably won’t read all of the Qur’an, but I’d like to focus on getting through another book of revelation, the Doctrine and Covenants. We’ve been reading segments of it throughout the year at Church, but I haven’t been very faithful at my reading assignments. So I’d like to read this work in entirety during the next month.
  • Refrain from worldly influences
    Many advocate limiting television, movies, and music to make time for more prayer and meditation. Once again, I will be trying to do without media and add to that the goal of retiring to bed each night by 12 o’clock.

This will be a big challenge for me, but I’m excited to try. Ramadan 2008 was a life-changing event for me. What more could I hope for this year? Ramadan Mubarak to all!

Changing jobs

»  mark    22 Aug 2009 @ 00:39    

Did you ever sign up for something only to find that things changed out from underneath you? Olya and I were talking about this tonight and feeling like this happened to me at my workplace.

For those who weren’t aware, I have been working as a training consultant at LDS Church Headquarters for the past 5 years with the same manager. This has set numerous records for me including:
– longest continuous employer
– longest continuous supervisor
– longest job with the same team/job title
– longest job at the same general location

I’m not complaining of course. I loved all of those things about it, which is why I’ve stayed there so long. Over the course of the last two months though, I lost my manager (promoted), my team (transferred), my job title (switched), and my work location (no longer at Church HQ).

I’m still working with learning management system and e-learning tools, but I’m now officially an Application Systems Engineer, which means I’m focused on deploying, configuring, and maintaining enterprise applications. A week from Monday, I begin working at the new Riverton Office Building, the new home of the Church IT department (ICS). My new commute is 22 miles instead of 3.1, which I’m not too thrilled about, but it still should be less than an hour, even on mass transit. And I can’t complain. I have two coworkers who are moving to ease the transition. Another just added 20+ minutes to his already one-hour commute.

Anyway, lots of change in the wind, but most of all I’m glad to still have a good job with a great employer. And as for our family’s location? For the present, still in Salt Lake. Come visit!

Zion’s Camp 2009

»  mark    18 Aug 2009 @ 00:51    

For the 5th year in a row, I had the privilege of joining the brethren of the Wilson Ward on an overnight camp last weekend. This year, Elijah and I traveled with the small group to Little Deer Creek Campground, about 40 minutes southwest of Heber. We had a great time and I desperately wish I had taken a few pictures.

It was almost not to be, though. We took a wrong turn at Cascade Springs, just 10 minutes from our final destination and went down what must have been a jeep trail, because it was rocky, uneven, and remarkably close to the edge of the flowing streams nearby. I remember our fearless leader had told us to expect a few large rocks in the road, but this was something else. Elijah, who had slept the hour before that, woke up from all the jolting, looked out the window and said simply, “This is the wong woad.”

Well, Bob Brown and I who were navigating the vehicle were beginning to come to the same conclusion. Of course, we didn’t take Elijah’s word for it. We waited until we had driven 5-10 more minutes and were about to give up on the camp. Then Bob offered a prayer, we took one more look at the map, and decided we needed to go in exactly the opposite direction.

From that point, everything fell into place and we arrived in camp shortly afterward. I was hoping to see some meteors that night as this is usually a pretty favorable time of year, but the stars mingled with clouds, and our barbecue dinner was greeted with a few sprinkles. But that didn’t damper our spirits too much. I found a piece of aluminum foil and pressed it onto Elijah’s head to make him a waterproof helmet that he quite enjoyed as he didn’t have a hood on his coat.

We got the tent up and slept very comfortably thanks to Reed Watson’s many kind gestures, including his own queen-size air mattress, which he pumped up for us to boot. I thought we slept quite well, as camping goes. So I couldn’t help smiling the next morning when I asked Elijah if he slept well and he replied with a totally straight face, “No, I slept vewy badwy.”

Unfortunately, we didn’t pack up the tent fast enough and were pounded by marble sized hail for a few minutes after breakfast. Thank goodness for the refuge of our fine car. In all, the camp was a success, Elijah was at his best, and I can’t wait to go camping again real soon to retrieve my glasses that I folded up hastily inside the tent!

Cool as a cucumber

»  mark    1 Aug 2009 @ 10:17    

Listening to my two sisters of the Northwest complain about the heat wave they’ve been having, I decided to lend some advice. You can’t use the tricks Dad perfected in Utah. Nay, those are desert-climate near-a-canyon techniques that depend on two things: it gets cooler at night, and there is some reliable air movement day or night.

Two summers in humid Korea (without A/C in any of our apartments) taught me a few different strategies for the sticky, miserable, can’t-sleep heat. The key is to forget trying to keep the apartment cool and focus on keeping yourself cool within it.

Three simple steps do the trick: First, sleep on a linoleum floor. Second, use a fan, constantly. Third, change your diet. I’ll elaborate.

Sleep on the floor
Don’t sleep on your bed! Too hot and mattresses hold in the heat. You’re going to want to sleep where it is the coolest in the flat: the floor. One of the blessings of Korean flats is linoleum; Works great for the heated floors in the winter and is cooler than carpet by far.

So take a thin sheet and throw it on the kitchen floor (most likely spot for space and linoleum in a typical American abode) so you don’t stick to it, take a soft terry cloth towel if you have to have a pillow, and sleep there. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it. After 2 years of that, I preferred the floor to my bed. I slept there the summer I got home from Korea and two of the three years I was single at college (granted that was carpeted floor, not linoleum).

Use a fan
Get a medium-size fan if you can find one and point it right at you from down by your feet or up above on a chair so it covers your whole body. This is critical. Don’t make it turn side to side to cover you because then you won’t get the even coolness that sleeping right in the wind provides. I found it best if it was aimed just at the tips of my toes (sleeping on my back) because then it would hit my face too. Leave it blowing all night. It won’t be cool, but the air movement and drone of the fan will help you sleep and it actually cools the sweat a little bit which will cool you.

Cold showers are helpful especially before bed and, if you can’t sleep, 2 AM. I didn’t like them at first, but when it gets hot and muggy, they start to become refreshing. Some sisters in the mission reported that they were more effective with your pajamas on, but I was never that miserable. A cold, drenched washcloth sometimes helps, but then you have to get up and re-drench it every hour or so.

Change your diet
Lastly, NO meat. According to Koreans, meat is harder to digest thus making your body work harder and longer and raising your body temp while it does. I’ll buy that. I notice a difference when I consume less or no meat for a time. This is somewhat difficult in the States because people like to barbecue so much in the summer. But you can get around it by eating salads, fruit, and vegetables, which are also quite prevalent at summer parties.

Stick with fresh vegetables and fruit whenever possible. Get the ones that require minimal cooking so you don’t have to heat the house. Fruits are especially good. They don’t stay in your body as long, are wonderfully healthy, help to keep you hydrated, and are so plentiful this time of year. They also work great as desserts. You can also consume more ice. Fruit juice in the ice-cube tray or watermelon cubes in the freezer are a nice cool-down treat and less calories (which means less body heat) than ice cream.

One natural outcome from eating more vegetables and fruit and sweating a lot is weight loss. Hey, it works for wrestlers!

I sympathize, I really do. Last resort, don’t sleep. Many people in Seoul camp out by the Han River when it gets so hot they can’t sleep in their apartments. Turns into a big party. Moral of the Story: If you are going to be up at night anyway, go socialize with other miserable people in the park.

Summer vacation, part 1

»  olya    20 Jul 2009 @ 17:06    

We’re back from our vacation, exhausted, but full of memories and impressions. I’m working on the photos and there’s seems to be no end to them, so I’ll stick to just posting photos and leave it up to Mark to add his commentaries and stories :)

This is from day 1,2 and 3. First 2 days we just drove all the way to Edmonds, WA, only stopping to rest and to let kids run around for a while.

From the Vault

»  mark    26 Jun 2009 @ 00:23    

Ah, the joys of moving.

All you Nelsons know what I mean, it’s in our blood. Call it what you like, nomadic, fidgeting, or even restless legs syndrome, but we don’t tend to stick in one place too long. Speaking of which, the place where I have lived for nearly 3 years now, is the longest I’ve been in one home since…1996 when we lived at 175 S Main in Providence. And I’ve had no other residence longer than 3 years in my whole life except for that one. I count this as my 29th residence in a mere 32 years of life. But I digress.

I’m not announcing that we are moving from this home, but what got me on that tangent was the move from one web hosting company to another. The joys of moving, of course, are two-fold. 1) Throwing out stuff that you don’t want to carry any longer and 2) Finding old treasures that, what the heck, you’ll carry a little longer. Take your pick which camp you think the following photo belongs in. This was taken October 10, 2003 at the Annual Providence Sauerkraut Dinner. Phil really missed out on this one.

Fortunately for him and many others, I have preserved this for posterity. Perhaps now would be a good time to really move before the lynching party arrives.

Site relocation

»  mark    25 Jun 2009 @ 23:50    

Just a quick note to inform everyone that the site is back up. Hopefully you haven’t given up on us. I have not been very diligent in writing lately, and this past few weeks we’ve decided to switch web hosts, which hasn’t helped our “uptime”.

The move to a new host has gone rather well. For those that care, we are now working with a company by the name of Arvixe. Unlimited bandwidth and storage, unlimited subdomains, and we can have as many as 6 domains on a single account. Huzzah! If anybody would like to register a domain and park some pages, I’m more than happy to help. If you find any bugs, broken links, etc. please let me know so I can fix them!

In the meantime, I hope to pick up the pace on contributing to this blog and have a few other pet projects up my sleeve — when Anya gives me time to work on them (the disclaimer of our family’s life for the past 15 months).

More on the way!
/mark

Memorial Day

»  olya    26 May 2009 @ 15:37    

Anya up close

»  mark    9 Apr 2009 @ 22:13    

Anya turned ONE this week, a milestone for reflection.

Those who have listened to our woeful tales of Anya’s sleeping habits will understand perfectly when I say this has been the longest year I can remember. But then again, I think memory is one of the casualties of sleep deprivation, so that might not be saying much.

I couldn’t help smiling when Anya slept 5 hours in a row once this week, a personal best, and the magical threshold called “sleeping through the night” by experts. As much as I’d like to think that the long nights are over, forgive my skepticism. I’ll believe it when I see it…or not see it in this case.

Still, as much physical trauma as this has inflicted on our family, Anya has the amazing ability to help you forget the sleep deprivation. She is a happy girl, with a smile that just beams. Who can stay mad at her? Although still a baby, the past couple weeks Olya and I have seen her blossom into toddlerhood. So what type of child will she be? I’m not entirely sure, but here are a few things I’ve observed so far.

Anya has a great sense of humor.
She loves to laugh and tease and will wrestle with me on the floor as much as any of the other kids. Sometimes she’ll laugh just when she sees somebody else laughing at a joke.

Anya has good people skills.
In addition to her ability to make you forget that you were mad at her, she can crawl into the bedroom with the other kids and they accept her right into their game or circle. She has all the ladies and grandparents at Church eating out of the palm of her hand. So much that our horror stories have been questioned multiple times (What? This child? This sweet angel? Why, she couldn’t be any trouble at all…). Uh, huh.

Anya is scientific.
She tests things, kind of like the T-Rex on Jurassic Park tests the electric fence periodically for weaknesses. Anya has has begun walking several months before her siblings did because she has taken small steps, tested her balance, and kept working at it until she got it down. Elijah and Maya would make little or no effort at walking until they knew they could do it, and then just started doing it.

Anya also knows how much fun it is to splash in the potty and has been steadily improving her response time when she hears the bathroom door open. She knows that Elijah is sloppy at shutting the door and will often follow him in or wait until she hears him leave, then make a break for it.

Lastly, she is by far the best eater of the bunch right now. There is almost nothing that she won’t eat or at least try.

Anya is athletic.
More than any of our kids, Anya loves to play with balls. She will chase a stuffed soccer ball all over the room, move it forward between her legs, sit on it, hug it, bite it, roll with it, almost like a kitten with a ball of yarn. She has pretty good balance for having taken her first steps just a few days ago.

Anya is sincere.
She gives big hugs and big slobbery kisses. If you make her mad, she lets you know exactly how she feels. When she feels slighted, she shrieks with injustice. But when you’ve done okay, you get one of those BIG smiles.

What a bright little energy beam she has been in our home and we love her very much.

Elijah’s birth, my take on it

»  mark    7 Apr 2009 @ 23:38    

Well, I got the jump on my post about Elijah, but I think Olya’s commentary is superior. And I remember that day very well, too. I can’t believe she left out the stop sign that I sped through on the way to the hospital. That seems to be a standard joke about that day. But it’s a good thing I did. Our little one didn’t give us more than 2 hours at the hospital before he was here. A much different experience than Maya’s birth.

I also remember the awe with which I watched, doing mostly nothing, but observing, learning. Claire was the best. I remember she asked us weeks before what we expected of her as the doula. Olya may remember other things, but two things stuck in my mind. First, I wanted her to help model the coach part of hypnobirthing, because I had never done this “solo” from beginning to finish. Second, we wanted her to run interference with the hospital staff.

As a registered nurse, she knew her way around the delivery room, she knew the procedures and paperwork as well or better than anyone there, and she also knew how to get us what we really needed, not just what was routinely prescribed. If we had another baby at the hospital, I can’t imagine doing it without a doula. It was almost like having a private nurse that knew us and knew what we wanted and was able to coordinate “the show”. Our midwife was great, too. I remember her reluctance in coming to the hospital when we called her shortly after 4 AM. She must have been thinking, “Are you really sure this is it?” But come she did, and I remember her saying that this was “one of the most amazing births I have ever attended.”

The funny thing is she had experience with hypnobirths. But I guess the miracle of it all, and the totally different atmosphere from the typical birth still inspire wonder. I had my doubts that this would be anything like the experiences we’d learned about in our class, but I was soon convinced.

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