Posted in Family, Recovery

A Bug in His Ear

My hubby’s got a bug in his ear this week, and I’m excited to see him excited.  I think the bug itself hopped onboard last Friday or so, when his boss asked him the loaded question: “What are your goals working here, Keoni?”  Given that the boss had just (earlier that afternoon) fired the kitchen manager, and given that Keoni s the go-to guy as dinner chef, we have a pretty good idea of where this question might be leading.

What interested both of us, however, as we mulled it over later that evening, was Keoni’s lack of an answer to that question.  Although he generally flourishes in the kitchen, he doesn’t have the creative leeway working in somebody else’s kitchen that he had when we owned our own restaurant (which topic is another whole post, no doubt!).  The West Side Drive-In where he works as dinner chef is an Institution in Boise, even hosting Guy Fieri for an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” a couple years back–but it’s not his kitchen.

West Side Drive-In Guy Fieri
Keoni da Kook with daughter Anela & her wife Sarah in front of Boise’s West Side Drive-In

(A fun side-note, though: When daughter Anela and her wife Sarah flew in to visit from California last month, one of their first questions was whether Boise had a “Guy Fieri spot”–and I had the fun not only of answering in the affirmative, but of telling them it was our first stop after the airport, because Daddy was in its kitchen!)

In the months between our restaurant and the West Side job, Keoni volunteered almost full time at the Boise Rescue Mission’s kitchen, where his creativity was given FULL scope. They never know, from one day to the next, what ingredients they’ll have on hand to feed two hundred people, since the food supply is based entirely on donation.  Keoni absolutely thrived there (and the gents living at the mission were always happy to see me in the serving line, since they knew it meant Keoni was in the kitchen!) but the lack of paycheck, of course, meant he couldn’t stay there indefinitely.  At the West Side he has the paycheck–but not the passion.

So, lobbed the question about goals last week, his frank answer was, “I honestly don’t know, Chef.”  And by the next morning, he was absorbed in the application process to see about restarting his career in Corrections. He and I jointly share the title of “King of Procrastination”–so to see him jump so directly from the thought to the action, I know he’s serious.

Oregon Department of Corrections
Keoni in uniform–more than a decade ago, and a couple hundred pounds ago…

It’s a career in which he thrived, up until the point when he and I (separately but simultaneously) crash-landed our lives with alcoholism and ended up in Rehab at Christmas time, where we met each other. (Don’t ever try to tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.)  One of his favorite jokes now is to tell people he spent fifteen years in prison–and they’ll look at his piercings and tattoos and take the statement at face value…  Till he follows up a moment later with the kicker that he got to go home every night.

He was the Assistant Administrator for training for the state of Oregon’s prison system, and he’s now answering application questions with all the language which he WROTE for the state’s staff-training materials.  He resurrected a box of files from his office, which hasn’t been opened for a number of years–so I delightedly got to paw through his thick stack of certifications, as well as uncovering a photo of him in uniform.  It’s more than a decade ago (and a couple hundred pounds ago–I tease him that he’s “half the man he used to be”–which is yet another post for another time), but a fun glimpse nonetheless of another aspect of his life which I know about, but wasn’t yet party to…

Hawaiian BBQ
A line-up of bikes which arrived under Keoni’s former colleagues from the prison–grand opening of Kana Girl’s Hawai’ian BBQ, 2009

He is still well-loved at his former work-place, and in fact we used to have whole “gangs” of correctional officers drive the hour to Boise to eat at our restaurant and hug him and make sure he was still doing well.  When he called the prison’s main switchboard this week to chat with a few folks about references, the Sergeant who answered the phone asked right off when he was coming back, because everyone loves and misses him. “Funny you should ask, Sister,” he laughed; “I’m calling about references.”  She assured him that a thick stack of references would be his for the asking.

Of course we don’t know how this venture will turn out. His job ended due directly to his alcoholism (which translates as “conduct unbecoming an officer”) but not because of misdeeds in the workplace.  (In fact, the most trouble at work was caused by his obsessively jealous and abusive wife showing up at his workplace and throwing scenes that required security intervention–but she’s no longer in the picture. I teased him that he should work that fact into his application…)  So we’ll see.

As always, we put our lives in God’s hands every morning with the alcoholic’s Third Step Prayer–we’ve put a bug in His ear, and we’ll see what Bruddah Upstairs has planned for us.


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

14 thoughts on “A Bug in His Ear

  1. Well done for taking the prompt from the universe and good luck. This talk –
    is interesting in parts (well probably more interesting to people who like the products than it is to me!) – however she asks some interesting questions that are based on the scientific method but are applicable to everyone and everything. For me the best question is – “What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail.”
    Once again – best of luck!


  2. I am always so pleased to hear these messages about how your lives continue to develop and how open you both are to change. Very healthy. I also want to tell you that I once had a literal bug in my ear, and it happened during an interview I was taping with a source as we were walking through her garden. So I have a recording of the whole thing. I thought a blood vessel in my brain was going to explode from the stress. I am glad Keoni is having this kind of bug instead. Good luck!


  3. “I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow.”
    – Julia Cameron

    I am excited for you both. Fasten your seat belts! The world is your oyster. ((hugs))


  4. Wow, I didn’t know your husband was a chef. I can only imagine the creative challenge of cooking at a homeless shelter. No wonder he loved it. Good luck to him now! Actually, I should say, blessings to you both!


  5. I am so sorry about the abrupt end of Keoni’s time as chef at that famous drive-in in Boise. However, I can see where he might have been very happy to have a reason to leave, anyway. Best wishes for his application with the state corrections system in Idaho! Wonderful post giving us all sorts of insights in the life you guys lead there. God is with you and is listening and knows exactly what you need. Prayers and hugs from this ol’ lady.


    1. Well, not too abrupt–we’ll see first how the application goes for Corrections. These days we’re fortunate enough to be able to hang onto employment–but I’d love to see him be able to move to a place where he WOULD have goals and feel like he’s making a difference… :)


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