Sunday, March 03, 2013

Letter to our Family Feb 2013

This is Degan.  Over the weekend I thought it would be nice to have each person in the family write a letter to the grandparents in the family.  Here is the result:

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

This is Degan, I hope you are doing well.  I had this idea today that we would write up a letter as a family and send it out to some family members as a way to keep in touch and be able to say more than we might be able to over the phone.  I’ve been teaching classes for a couple weeks and the semester is going well.  My students range from young adults to adults starting second careers, and all of them are respectful and nice to work for.  The month of January has been filled with me being fairly sick with a flu.  Normally I try to run about 25 miles a week, but I haven’t been able to do any exercise in several weeks.  I have been so tired that I even fell asleep at the movies last weekend while on a date with Danielle.  At this point all the symptoms have subsided other than being extremely tired most days.  I've wondered if that is what was getting older is like, if so I don’t think I want any part of that.

The weather here in Oklahoma ranges from freezing to mid-60s on any given day during the winter.  All of the grass is brown and the trees don’t have their leaves, so except for some very beautiful sunsets the scenery isn't nearly as beautiful as it was in the Summer and in the Fall.  I’m sure the Spring will be gorgeous, but we haven’t seen one yet.

I was doing a service activity for church this week and tried to get home by taking some back roads in the dark.  Unfortunately I went the wrong way and it took me about 50 miles to get home and my car is covered in mud from driving on some dirt roads (it had rained earlier).

A few weeks ago we had a sewer pipe get backed up.  That caused some minor flooding in the house and it smelled bad in the room while the carpet dried up.  Apparently some tree roots have grown into the main sewer pipe right by the exterior of our house.  The plumber told me the part of the pipe that needs to be replaced and so I might try and dig it up and fix it myself one day.

I’m driving a gold 1997 Nissan Maxima and have done so for the last 6 years or so.  The acrylic coating is starting to chip off and there is a big dent in it where a neighbor without coverage backed into it a couple years ago.  Danielle has noted that most students at school drive a newer vehicle in nicer condition than I do.   I wouldn't be self-conscious about it Danielle hadn't brought it to my attention.  Well, at least it is paid for and the engine is still in great condition.  Since I just live a few miles down the road from the University I don’t have any need to get a new car.  Also, it isn't like I’m single and need to attract a lady or anything so I’m good with what I have.  I’d rather save up my money for investments at this point.  Danielle drives a gold 2000 Honda Odyssey van.  We sold our 2005 van while in school because we couldn't afford it and bought a lesser model.  It isn’t anything special to look at but it has been very reliable like all Honda vehicles are.

Danielle: (secret)

Gabi (12):

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,
Hi, it’s me, Gabi! I hope you’re all doing alright. As for us, it’s kind of been a routine of McKay getting into trouble and craziness happening over here in Oklahoma.
I’m now 12 years old, and in 7th grade. Katie just turned 11 in January, and McKay is six, turning seven in April. His birthday is approaching fast! It’s kind of scary, actually, mostly because he seems to get more and more crazy and reckless as time goes on.    
For example, just this morning, McKay was climbing on the shelves in his closet, for heaven-knows-why. He ended up falling off and hitting the back of his head and getting some weird-looking scrapes and rug-burns under his hair. And since Mom was in the shower and Dad was outside doing something (probably working on the yard or something), I ended up taking care of him for a little while. Then he ran off to play with his Legos (he bought a whole ton of them after Christmas).
   Katie’s been becoming more and more fascinated with stuff that’s “in” and all the new trends, even though I was never interested in that kind of stuff in her grade. Such as, a few months ago, she was begging Mom to let us go to a girl’s clothing store called Justice. Once there, she was fawning over every little thing, like some pairs of mustache mood-changing earrings. Katie was picking out everything that was “in” from “out of style” and ended up having the majority of her Christmas presents come from Justice. To be honest, I am a little jealous that she’s so good at that kind of thing.
As for me, middle school has been driving me insane. I can’t even attempt to think about being “in-style” with all the homework and social drama in my now-everyday life. And there’s all the popular kids who seem to have made it their mission to either embarrass me, confuse me, or use me. Since I’m constantly focused on not failing my classes (thus ignoring everything else), whenever we’re doing group assignments, all the popular girls choose me to be in their groups, then force all the work on me as they talk amongst themselves. Then there’s the fact that Oklahoma is a part of Tornado Alley. One time, I was waiting at the bus stop when I saw a tornado, right there in the 7 AM morning sky. It didn’t touch down, but it made the sky really, really dark and scared the heck out of me, because I’ve never seen a tornado in person before. Then the populars teased me because I was freaking out during classes later. 
And as if that weren’t enough, I’m constantly worried about food fights in the school cafeteria. Yes, I said FOOD FIGHTS. You’d think that in junior high, people would be mature enough to handle themselves, but noooo. A bunch of the guys (and a few girls, but not as many as guys) will suddenly start chucking food across the cafeteria. I’ve been hit in the face with soggy carrots and unidentifiable liquids way too many times. Ugh.
But I guess it’s not all bad. For example, the cafeteria has an epic snack bar. Unlike my last middle school, where the greatest thing that could be considered a “treat” is a 4-dollar slightly-bitter blue slushie smaller than my palm that melted in minutes, this school has Gatorade, chips, cookies, all sorts of snacks, and at LEAST twenty different selections of 75-cent ice cream-related frozen treats. Every week or so, I’ll brave the mile-long lines and snag an Orange Popsicle or a sherbet or two with my leftover lunch money.
Although I still miss my friends back in Arizona and try to keep in touch with them, I’ve made several close friends here, too. We’ll all geek out over our various hobbies and joke about all sorts of things.
All in all, I think that so far, our exploits in Oklahoma have been alright. There have been our ups and downs, but I’ve had a good time.
    Finally, I hope you’re doing well! Bye!
Gabriella Christine Kettles

Katie (11):

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

I am now in fifth grade and I go to Washington Irving elementary in Edmond, Oklahoma. In fifth grade we’ve just finished the fractions unit, and are now starting a new unit. In science we recently used a battery, a couple of wires, and a tiny light bulb to create a circuit. It was hard to get the light bulb on at first because the wire had to touch the side of the light bulb. In reading we just finished a chapter book called The Riddle of Pencroft Farm. It was a very interesting book. It had a lot of riddles in the book that was solved at the end of the book. I think it is a historical fiction and a mystery. Also during the summer my parents painted my room bright purple and got a bunch of other things for my room. Also for Christmas “Santa” got me a mini locker that matches perfectly with my room. On my birthday my mom and dad got me a pink fluffy chair for my room. I got my ears pierced a couple months before my birthday, so I can now wear earrings. I also had a birthday party with my friends and we had a good time. I also got on a swim team because I’ve always liked swimming. There is much more I could tell you, but I have to go now.

Katie Kettles

McKay (6):
Dear Grandpa and Grandma,

I got the Lego Batcave.  And I had my friend Brooks over today. And Brooks introduced me to a new show.  It is Power Rangers Jungle Fury.  I got my own trash can in my room.  I'm in gymnastics. I'm learning new skills I think.  I lost two teeth.  (One is his top front tooth).  Something that I don't like about the house, I had to take out the trash once.  My favorite thing at school is rainy day games.  

I was trying to get my water shoes and I got them down but then I fell down in my closet.  I slipped because I put my hand on the shirt and then my hand started sliding down and then I hit the back of my head and arm and foot.  At school they set up a swing set for the special needs kids. (But he can't play on it because it is for special needs).  If I could go anywhere in the world I would go to the Lego discovery center (in Dallas Texas).

From McKay Kettles.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Christmas Letter 2012

Kettles Family 2012

The last 5 years our family has been very quiet in terms of interacting with friends and family.  Emotionally, financially, spiritually, physically we have sort of been in a black hole while I’ve been in school getting a PhD.  We’ve been able to receive outside interaction but we really weren’t in a position to reach back out effectively because of the nature of the situation.

Fortunately we seem to have survived and this Fall I accepted a position at the University of Central Oklahoma. How we ended up here is a long story that I won’t go into but so far I am absolutely thrilled to be here.  I currently teach a required course for all business students that covers how technology is used in business.

Danielle took a position at a local elementary school where she assists in the special needs classes. It is a rewarding job but requires a lot of physical exertion.

Gabriella is 12 and goes to middle school.  She plays the piano and the violin and has participated in several concerts this year.  She is a pretty girl but is really only into video games. 

Katie is almost 11 and is completing her last year of elementary school.  It has been a quiet semester for her.  She is well-liked at school by teachers and students but is very quiet and never gets into any trouble.

McKay (6) is doing fairly well in school.  He loves being around other kids and playing.  He loves being the center of attention, such as when he told the whole class recently that he forgot to wear underwear to school.  Sadly he hasn’t had any kids come over to play since we have moved here and he desperately wants to find some friends to play with outside of school hours.

We hope that this next year brings lots of blessings to each of you and we want you to know that you are in our hearts and prayers.


The Kettles

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Helping People Move

Some things about being Mormon are fundamental, like apple pie is to America. They are closely associated with who you are and what you do, but you would hardly think of them. There are obvious things that we do that everyone sees, like wearing white shirts and knocking on doors for two years, but there are less obvious things that define what we do on a regular basis during the rest of our lives, the other 93 years or so. I think that across all time and societies people do simple things that are forgotten in future
generations, even though they spend a lot of time doing them. Recently I went to a pioneer site in Nauvoo and discovered that people used to spend all day digging in rock quarries, cutting trees, making bricks, baking, or making barrels. Would you believe that it took six years as an apprentice barrel maker before you could make those wooden pieces
called staves to fit together well enough that it would hold liquid? Nevertheless, the history books will likely only remember that someone was a mayor or held some leadership position for a couple years whilst forgetting the rest of their lives.

Well, one unknown thing that defines a middle-aged man’s life as a Mormon is helping people move. It starts like this: at church, over the phone, or through email we get notice that someone is moving in or out in the neighborhood, and it would be good to have some people there to help. When the date and time arrives, there are usually a half dozen men that show up, and we help for one to three hours on average. Based on the fact that the average person moves every 5 years, and that an average neighborhood has a couple hundred Mormon families in it, you can do the math for how often a person gets asked to help.

The event is like a modern day barn raising. People need help, and we show up to help. Usually the recipients of the help are members of the church, but sometimes they are not, and we are just as happy to help in either case as we view ourselves each as friends, neighbors, and fellow children of God.

The fact that we men show up and do this thing doesn’t automatically make us homogeneous in opinion, enthusiasm, or disposition to help. For my part, I know my feelings have changed over the years. When I was younger, I used to look at it as an opportunity to have a free work out. I always came home happier than when I left, and the experience of working with others helped me to get to know them better and feel more integrated into my neighborhood. I also used to wonder at what point people became tired and injured and could no longer help in such moves, because I didn’t think that day would ever come. Well, like I said, that was when I was younger.

Another thing that it would be a mistake to believe is that all moves are the same. That would be like saying all weather is the same. There are moves that are terrific but mostly forgettable, and there are moves haunt me over a decade later. Because they are each unique, I thought I’d start to chronicle them, starting with yesterday’s. These experiences and feelings do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone other than myself.

Yesterday was July 31st, and I’ve been living in Phoenix for three years. For those familiar with the area, you know that average temperatures range between 100 and 115 this time of the year. And it is for various reasons including school schedules, that most people in this country move during the summer months. I was out of town earlier in the week when I got the email saying that there would be a move on Saturday. I felt immediately called to duty at the thought of someone in need, even though I had never heard the name before. At the same time, I hoped that something, anything, might come up that would give me an excuse to not be able to help out [My wife is horrified that I just said that].

As it was, I flew back into town on Friday night after an exhausting vacation with the family. The move hung in my mind Friday night and Saturday morning. I usually like to exercise on Saturday mornings and get a long run in. My plan for the most recent Saturday was to get in 10 miles. And it had to be early, like 5 am, or I would likely be unable to run at all. In a place like this, it is possible for the nightime low to be around 95 and if I wait until 8 am when the sun has been up for a couple of hours, the temperature can already be well into the 100s. So my first concern with a move is if it happens early in the morning, because if it happens too early in the morning, then my jog will be ruined and I’ll be bitter about missing it all day, but I’ll feel worse if I skip out on someone needing help and so I’ll opt for helping over running when push comes to shove. The trade off is that if the move doesn’t happen early enough, then it is over 100 degrees, possibly 110. Knowing that a move will be later in the day is like knowing that you’re going to the dentist or speaking in public, the loathing of the upcoming event can surpass the severity of the event itself. It is sort of like looking forward to going to Disneyland and the excitement builds all week, except with bad feelings building rather than good ones [More disapproval from my wife fo
r saying that].

This week, the move time was for 3 p.m. I tried not to think about it too much, knowing what that could mean. I also had a dilemma to face. If I ran 10 miles in the morning, I probably would want to sit on the couch the rest of the day as if I were a piece of cheese melted onto the top of a hamburger patty. Decisions, decisions. Oh well, I went jogging. Fortunately, it was a humid day. Toward the end of the summer in Phoenix we call it monsoon season. That makes it sound like we live on a tropical island rather than in the middle of the desert surrounded by cacti. But somehow each year about the same time we get some crazy storms that deliver so much water so suddenly that you can’t even see when driving in a car. Usually at least one storm each year will be a “wrath of God” type of storm in which over 100 lightning bolts per second are exchanged between the clouds with some hitting the ground. Such storms are deafening and truly a spectacle—but it is safest to watch from under cover.

Fortunately, this Saturday was just a regular rainy day, so the temperature was down about 10 degrees or so from the typical highs. My jog went well and I came home, showered, and spent the rest of the day thinking “I better not do anything big because I need to be here at 3 to help somebody move.” In essence I had mental paralysis all day because I felt like I had an appointment hanging over my head and I had a hard time thinking of what I should have been doing with my time. So basically, it blew my whole day. Later in the day I checked the name of the person moving in the email and confirmed that I had no idea who it was that was moving. About 30 mintues before heading over I used Google maps to figure out how to get over there because the track houses in this part of Phoenix are often hard to navigate and are more like spider webs than neat grids.

I made sure to show up about 5 minutes late. Usually, nobody shows up right on time and if I show up on time I get overwhelmed because I spend about 10 minutes believing that nobody else is going to show up and I’ll be expected to move an entire house alone with some stranger. That happens a lot, I show up at a house that is a complete disaster, unpacked, smelly, weird residents, a whole house to move, and I go through something like an anxiety attack but I try not to let the residents know that I’m about to freak out and run screaming through the streets. I feel bad when I have my serious face on, because I’m normally a pretty jovial guy, but in situations like that what I’m thinking for 10 m
inutes is “why God, why me, why is this happening to me? Why didn’t I just hide out at my house and go to the movies with my family and then I could say I forgot about it and then hear about what a horrible experience it was the next day from the poor sucker who showed up late and had the 8 hour moving experience from Hell?”

On this particular day I showed up 10 minutes late and the only person there was the owner. I didn’t recognize him so I had to make small talk with a stranger. And he had ear rings, so I was pretty sure he was a member of the church who never goes to church. Uggh. That makes me wonder how it happens that people’s only involvement with their church is accepting help from it from time to time, but never showing up or helping anyone else. This happens a lot. I think the idea on our end is that we should help other people no matter what they do or don’t do and regardless of what church they do or don’t belong to. Most people that show up to help moving seem to emanate a sort of Christ-like love and would give the shirt off their backs to those in need. But I’m getting older and more bitter and I’d rather be doing something else with my Saturday. Plus I’ve been living on student loans for 3 years while going to school and raising a family and I’m just not in the best state of mind. I think those feelings will change when I’m living normally again.

A minute after I showed up, another person from church showed up. Whew, that brings it up to three people to move a whole house. Lucky us. The house was only partially packed, and the resident seemed way too relaxed. He wasn’t really expressing a plan, which meant we'd have to ask him every 3 minutes what he would like in the truck and in what order. I think he mentioned something about buying pizza and drinks right then, even before starting the move. I was thinking “Hey, I’m not here for a party, I want to get home and eat with my own family. Let’s just get stuff in the truck and get out of here.” Within a few minutes about three other guys showed up to help move, and at least one of them was somebody I greatly enjoyed hanging out with, so things were looking up.

The truck was the smallest Uhaul truck you can get. People usually are trying to save a buck by getting the smallest truck, even if it requires multiple trips. The house was about 1600 square feet, so an average 3 bedroom house for Phoenix. The stuff was not going to fit in one trip, that much was clear.

From the standpoint of filling up a truck, that is pretty much the same every time and this was no different. Men put in the big furniture first and fill in the cracks with boxes. We flow like ants into and out of a anthill, avoiding each others bodies as we go about the task of filling a truck.

As far as unique things about this move, this guy was running a business out of his home that involved books. There were enough bookshelves and books to start a used book store. Technically, he was a book store, a virtual one on the Internet. The other unique thing about the move is usually we just do one side of the move, such as loading or unloading, but not both. And it usually just takes an hour. In this case he was moving within the neighborhood and we had to do the load and the unload, twice. By then 3 hours had gone by and everyone’s wives were calling them—after all it was 6 pm and families were expecting to eat dinner together. Even though we hadn’t moved everything, we had moved all of the big furniture that would require multiple people. The rest could be packed into little boxes and moved by the owners as their time permitted.

As we left, the resident offered us some free product from his business. Even though he had been a stranger, hew was a good guy that I'm sure all of us could get along with. I think we all felt fairly good about having helped someone else. We’ve all been the recipient of similar help from time to time, so it’s nice to at the very least do the same for others. It’s always nice to get back home to the family, knowing that a good deed has been done.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I'm going Dave Barry

Degan here. I was thinking recently that I have no unique talents or interests. The only thing truly unique about me is that I see funny stuff every day.

Observations of a mad man about his world:

My 3-year old loves to pee, whether it be in public places like trees, rocks, etc., or a
public restroom--and he refuses help even when he needs it.
Like all men, I think he finds a tremendous amount of empowerment in having control out of any little portion of the universe.

I saw a guy with a peace sign on his car flip off a guy on the way to work the other day. Classic.

I'm a person that doesn't believe in gun control. I'm also planning on teaching students
at a University some day. A student asked me if I was in favor of gun control on campuses.
I stopped and thought about the fact that our current state allows people to carry guns and
it hasn't hurt us so far. But on the other hand, a gun on campus just doesn't seem very
necessary. Then the student mentioned to me that 1 in 5 people are considered crazy, and many
of them are on college campuses. Considering the incredible stress I am under at times, and the
fact that a student killed his professor last month, I think I'll side with not needing guns
on campuses. On the other hand, it would be pretty cool if professors carried them. Colt 45 baby. Nobody will accuse this Colenel Sanders about having a problem with his medula oblomgota.

Embarrassment seems like a pretty common way for people to try and change the behavior of others. Cool kids make fun of the poor ones, hoping the poor ones will act cooler. Non-smokers make fun of smokers, thinking that will shame them into changing. Skinny people ridicule fat people thinking it will do the same. Same thing happens in politics. After the lastest family holiday when I was the brunt of mockery, I did some introspection and realized that making fun of people really doesn't ever help. It breeds hurt and resentment.

I took my daughters 7 and 9 to a Greek and Roman art exhibit hoping to bring them some culture. They were disgusted by the naked men statues and demanded to know why mom and dad could like such a thing.

My daughter things I make stinky farts. She now calls me Fartchito (Fart-cheetoh).

Black Friday is a yearly event that takes everything men hate about shopping and amplifies it. In a case of reality being stranger than fiction, I agreed to go with my family to the mall, in Los Angeles, on Black Friday, without having fed my 3 children lunch. And then proceeded to try and shop. It took me 30 minutes just to get up the parking ramp to find parking. The day didn't get any better. What were we thinking?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Recent Activities in Phoenix

This last weekend we went on a camping trick with our church. I was REALLY excited about goign all week, because Danielle has pretty much shut me out of camping for the last 11 years. So this was a chance to show her how awesome it could be. Like many things involving the family, it was about as awesome and awful as it could be. The awful part was thinking it was a 2 hour drive and having it be nearly 4 hours, showing up in the dark, not being able to get the tent up by myself, missing all the campfire skits and singing, and being doggedly sick. The awesome part was the scenery, the great company, the traditional campfire food, the kids playing all over the place with so many other kids. Poor Danielle couldn't sleep because it was a new place.

This truck cracked me up. Who is this world puts a wrap on their vehicle to say "I am the best auctioneer in the world, I won!" We ran out of battery on the camera, otherwise we could have grabbed some other interesting pictures in Tucson, like "The cool church"

This place is called Pichaco peak or something like tht. From a distance both directions it looks like a volcano, but not up close.

Last weekend after spending time at the Tempe Play day or whatever it was called, I sat at a Barro's pizza under a mister so I could watch a football game--since our tv doesn't have cable. Poverty is lame.

Lately Danielle has been wanting another minivan. She saw this one at the side of the road and jumped out and took pictures.

Diamondbacks game.

Two weeks ago we went to a Diamondbacks game. The girls got tickets for reading through the local library, our tickets were real cheap. Unfortunately, that was a nightmare day. Stefanie had been nice enough to take us to breakfast at Cracker Barrel in the morning, and McKay was just pure evil. Okay, maybe only 50% evil, but he was in a rotten mood. By the time we went to an evening ball game, he was just awful. I had to chase him all around the top of the stadium. Meanwhile, Gabi talked the ear off of a boy who didn't want to talk to her. We lost the game 9-1. None of the players I remembered being on the team last year were still on the team. Danielle wanted to know if we should eat out afterward...oh man, that would have been like pouring lemon juice in an open wound...we went home, mercifully.

In this last pic, you can see Sebastian from our last neighborhood, who came with his dad.