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.
(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.
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…
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.