When The Mom’s Away

Lots of people have asked how Ray is doing with four kids by himself. I have to tell you…he’s offended. I thinks he’s approached it much like a full scale tactical operation and he’s performing beautifully in spite of the many challenges.

For instance this morning lunches were lined, kids were bathed, everyone was ready. Like any exercise, a kink was thrown in just to see if he could handle one more thing…like his son accidentally sitting down on a fresh pile of puppy poop exactly 7 minutes before he prepared to execute operation car line from hell. By the way, he’s learning there is nothing quite like an aloha time car line. I also believe there was a relatively new rug left on my curb this morning and Jack might have one less pair of shorts but it’s all good. If Eddie happens to drive by in an RV he’s welcome to the very stinky rug. Of course he’ll have to beat the pickup that circles like a vulture on bulk trash day.

Ray got to handle our schedule on a week that everything shifted on a dime as all the middle school extracurriculars were added to the line up. I did cancel piano for him saving him approximately an hour and a half in traffic and two hours stuck on a couch listening to Miss Momoko tell our kids they are wasting our money by not practicing enough. I try to throw him a bone like that every now and then.

I’ve heard that Daddy is better at bath time, homework and also dinner among many other things. Of course he cheated and walked over to the Forty-Niner for banana mac nut pancakes.


Ray is the best Dad ever! It is such a relief to know that I can be here and things literally a world away are running smoothly. Truth be told, it’s probably much smoother with Ray at the helm. Thanks Ray for always being there for me! I love you!

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Hawaii In Kentucky

When we moved to Hawaii a little over two years ago I fell hard for my little island. Well, the first month living in the Navy Lodge without a car wasn’t easy but a hot second after I unpacked my house I was smitten. The salt water, the blue skies and rainbows, the surf and especially the people. Right after unpacking Ray surprised me with a snuba excursion for my birthday. (I didn’t misspell scuba. It’s fun and you should come visit and try it.) On our ride back into shore we were talking about why I loved it so much and seemed to have no problem with the locals that we had heard so many rumors about. We came to one conclusion. Hawaii is just a more tropical version of my little piece of Western Kentucky.

If you get away from Waikiki, you’ll find people who love their family. Family is first, always. The are suspicious of outsiders but once you’re welcomed, you are family. They like big trucks or in my case, big Jeeps. Kailua pork and mac salad is really not that far off what is served at every family gathering here. Hunting and fishing are a way of life. You would be surprised at how much people in Western Kentucky have in common with people in Hawaii.

It all came full circle for me yesterday. If you’ve seen the movie, 50 First Dates, you know that it about a girl in Hawaii who suffers from short term memory loss after a car accident because a cow is in the road. Love that movie! In fact a good friend just sent me a copy for my birthday. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Plus, it’s my little island and Sea Life Park. Anyway… yesterday a storm blew over. I jumped in Mom’s truck and headed into town to meet up with some friends. I came around the corner and had to stop.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a cow in the road, but it certainly made me laugh. Thankfully, there was no accident. Unfortunately, there was also no fresh pineapple.


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Kitty Kitty Part Deux (The Repost)

The funeral is over. I’m trying to help mom settle back into a new routine and order as best I can. So many thoughts to pass on, but first I have to finish the story of Kitty Kitty from yesterday’s repost. If you have stories about Ned, I would love for you to share them here.


As usual, when you start talking to family there is almost always more to the story. In the spirit of Paul Harvey, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you the rest of the story about Kitty Kitty. The first update should include the fact that Ray and Ned have convinced me that Kitty Kitty couldn’t make it through the agricultural screening at the airport. Hawaii has some pretty strict standards all things considered.  She’ll have to remain a Kentucky resident for now. I guess most wildcats belong here after all. I should also mention that Ned is taking contributions to have Kitty Kitty repaired by the local taxidermist so that she can have a new home in the pond house. I suggested a boat and a Gilligan hat but Mom is most certainly having none of it.

Now on to the story. Angie had the whole family over for dinner. I know it’s shocking but not every one of my stepbrothers reads this blog. It’s scandalous really. So the Kitty Kitty story was being retold. You’re familiar… Gabe destroys cat. Tye shuffles mangled cat from one house to another for the better part of ten years… Cat is found in less than stellar condition. Mom confesses. Ned’s heart is happy. Now that we’re all caught up, more ugly the truth comes out.

Someone starts to ask how old Kitty Kitty is. Chase remembered her from childhood. So did Angie. Ned guesstimated her age at “Oh around 15 years.” Hold up. Tye carted that thing for 10. No, it was decided that she was older. That’s when Chase said, “It was just roadkill.”

I thought Grandma was going to come out of her skin. Mom and Tye held on to a secret for 10 years. It was all dark shadows and frankly nefarious. She was living a lie that she couldn’t stand. Wait for it… for a piece of road kill. Ned hit the darn thing with his truck. At the time hunting bobcats would have probably been illegal. He got out and wrapped up the lifeless body and took it to a taxidermist. Did I mention Kitty Kitty is road kill? I’m thinking I understand a little more why her paw was twisted in an unnatural position and why Mom kept insisting Gabe only pulled off her little tail.

All I have to say is I hope Ned finds the same taxidermist to fix Kitty Kitty that created the mysterious hinged joint for the unseen and can’t be named creature that allegedly haunts some home in Golo. A pouncing Kitty Kitty sure would be a site.

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The Bobcat Repost

The visitation is over. I’m officially exhausted. Because I think right now is one of those times that we should celebrate life, I am going to repost one of my favorite stories about Ned. Good news. The second post, “Kitty Kitty Part Deux” will be reposted tomorrow. Now, I fully expect a good haunting, or a least a toothpick because Ned hated for me to write anything about him…EVER. This is just one of those stories worth telling and retelling. I give you…The BOBCAT…

20130213-232904.jpgRay and Ned helped me clean out the rest of Tye’s apartment today. I should say, I stood there in shock and shuffled from one room to the car most of the day while Ray and Ned packed things up. We managed to find humor in what we were doing. I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned Tye’s stash of…well, never mind.

On the top shelf of Tye’s garage sat a stuffed bobcat. I recognized it as Ned’s and always wondered where kitty kitty had disappeared too when Mom and Ned moved out of the blue house. I’ve seen the occasional stuffed squirrel and deer head but the bobcat has been noticeably missing. There she sat. Ray grabbed and it and passed it down to Ned. I ran to take pictures… I mean, we are from Kentucky.

Ned was mentioning that maybe mom would now let him display the kitty with the fox. I thought she might. He said that the mice might have done a number on their nemesis. That’s when we noticed. One paw was dangling in a precarious position. His tail was no longer attached. Oh. My. Good. Gravy. Kitty Kitty had seen better days.

When I got home I heard the whole story. Tye moved into the blue house with Gabe after Grandma and Ned moved into the big house. One dark night, the bobcat caught Gabe’s attention in the dark. Tye was fast but Gabe was faster. Kitty Kitty lost her tail and almost a paw. Tye called his compatriot in all things sinister…his mama. Mom said, “Ned is going to kill you and feed you to Gabe then kill him too! Hide it!” Tye tucked the bobcat in his closet. Eventually Tye built and moved into the white house. The bobcat moved with him. Tye married Julie and moved to Benton. The bobcat found a new home in the attic. With each move Mom said, “Ned is going to kill you! Hide it!” With each move, Tye carefully moved kitty kitty.

About six months ago Tye sold everything and moved to a small apartment on the campus where he worked. Mom was helping him pack and move when she happened upon kitty kitty. “Tye Wheeler Jackson, Ned will kill you. Get rid of it. You have to get rid of it. It’s been 10 years!” she said yelled. Tye dutifully carried kitty kitty and placed him on the shelf in his garage…until today when I handed him to Ned.

Kitty Kitty may find a new home in the aloha state. Think he’ll fit in a suitcase? Wonder what Tucker would do.

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The Penny And The Toothpick

You know people deal with death and grief differently. Some look for signs or messages. Others shut down. Some people pull up there bootstraps to push through as fast as they can. I’m a firm believer of well, all of it.

I have tried to help today clear things out so that Mom can focus on remembering a happier time before cancer. I talk a lot about doing the hard work now while you’re hurting so you don’t have open old wounds later. I try to stay busy so I don’t have to think. As a side note, busy looks a little different when you suffer from jet lag. I also look for signs without even realizing it.

When Dad died, it was a whirlwind. Tye just announced a divorce and that he was coming back home. I had less than a week off from my job without pay because I had just started working as a copywriter. Ray was supposed to start his first deployment and Mom was about to become an HSE. It was a crazy time in our lives and in the blink of an eye Dad wasn’t going to be there to walk with us through it. Oh it hurt. Right now, this reminds me of that time. I guess I might be anxious to shake the hurt off.

Anyway, the day of the funeral we got home and there was a shiny new penny propped on the door just like someone had placed it there. Dad always liked to tell us that we needed to pick up stray pennies because it would remind us who to trust. Get it yet? “In God we trust…” We all talked about how weird it was. As the year after his death went on we found pennies just when we needed to. It was always when you needed to see it and placed at a precarious position to make you wonder how it got there. It still happens. On the way to get Jack from China we were walking down that long tunnel to board the plane. Right there in front of my foot was a shiny new penny. I still have it. It was like he needed to go along with us and I definitely needed to remember who to trust!

So, cut to my second flight of three to try to get home. I sat down on the plane and watched as everyone else boarded. I’m a bit of a people watcher. You know the guy I mentioned yesterday, the sick one. I was watching him try to shove a too giant suitcase in the carryon bin. A toothpick fell. I thought someone would pick it up. It was just lying there on the blue carpet. I stared at that thing through the entire flight. I kept thinking its trash maybe I should pick it up. I certainly didn’t want whatever Mr. Sweaty Sick had. I still had another layover, flight and drive from Nashville. That toothpick seriously tortured me through that flight. I wanted to pick it up the whole time and couldn’t understand why it was there.

So I finally make it to Golo. I was greeted by a big old loving group. Naturally stories are coming out at a time like this. I was chatting with someone. People were asking me how my trip was and someone was talking about finding toothpicks. Then I heard Mom say, “Well yes, we’re going to put a toothpick behind his ear.”

I swear to you it was like a train hit me. The toothpick!!! It was Ned’s thing. He always had one or 100. There was always one tucked behind his ear for later. I was exhausted from the flight and wanted to wait to tell Mom. That’s happened so now I’m sharing it with you…whoever cares to listen to me blabber.

I have one last thing to say. Ned, I am so happy to know you are looking out for me. I’m happy to have you go anywhere I go. There is something I need to tell you. I will pick up my Daddy’s pennies. I will not be picking up your durn used toothpicks but I love you for dropping them!

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Long Way Home

I just finished the journey home. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve come alone in my adult life. It’s weird. At one point today my children were on an island in the Pacific, I was in Seattle and Ray was in Atlanta. It’s just not right. Not now, when we should all be together for this. I’m grateful for the time I get to spend with Mom though.

I need to take a second and say thank you. Thank you to our church family and thank you to our navy family. They stepped up BIG. I never leave my kids. On one occasion I left Arleigh and Hanan over night with someone other than my mom. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was to leave my house last night, kissing those little faces. Thank you Kristina and Landry for being there. Thank you Guy, Karrie and Lorraine for standing in the gap as my taxi service. It was a huge relief! Thank you Ray for pulling double duty so that I can be here with Mom. I love you!

So I’ve made the long trip. At one point Ray told me today that I will have a lot to blog about. I’ve been quiet for far too long. He may have been referencing the near panic attack I had when I had to ride on a plane with a row full of adults rather than children. It’s much easier to stretch out with Bria and Jack laying across me in a row than sitting with two other adults. He could have been mentioning the fact that I spent nearly 13 hours in various airplanes with no headphones and I had my own screen. The horror! There was the bigger horror of the man sitting across from me who went to the bathroom like 10 times in two hours. When he started to break out in a cold sweat I started wondering if it would be appropriate to spray down the entire airplane with Lysol. Is that legal? Lots of things to blog about is right. The first leg of the journey was worth three posts. Too bad I lost everything I wrote while I was still on the plane. (Insert curse word here.)

The real thing to blog about, the thing that has consumed me the last few days is that heaven gained a good man. No, heaven gained a great man. Ned passed away on Thursday. I had to write the day because they are all running together. I’m home to wish him Fair Winds and Following Seas and to be with Mom. I love that navy sentiment but at this moment I think Aloha is more fitting… hello, goodbye, love and until we meet again.

My heart is broken for Mom, Angie, Bryan, Chase and Kyle. It is truly hurting for all those precious little hearts of his 13 grandchildren who loved him so dearly. When I learned about Ned’s diagnosis my heart ached for him. I knew either Ned would find his way to getting better or find his way to heaven. Either way his battle would be awful. He can rest. Now I’m hurting for the hearts left behind to grieve for him until they meet him again.

I remember like yesterday the first time I met Ned. I had a diaper bag slung over one shoulder, a backpack on the other, a baby on my hip and a rather large car seat in my hand. Did I mention I was pregnant and traveling by myself with a baby from Iceland? Yeah. Good times. It was the Christmas after 9-11 and there would be no one meeting me at the gate. Of course we were at the last one and there was no cart. I finally came out of the glass doors looking for Mom and some relief. This man walks up and says, “are you Brandi?” I told him I was. He said, “Hi, I’m Ned.” He proceeded to tell me that my mother was at a counter throwing a hissy fit because she thought we missed our flight, got lost in the hallway or just generally disappeared. He asked if he could help. I said “yes, please take something.” He grabbed Arleigh out of my arms and I dropped everything else. Arleigh gave him one of her perfected death stares and then broke into a grin. I immediately loved Ned. Mom showed up a bit later after she had screamed and cried at every available agent. We then proceeded to go on the LONGEST RIDE HOME EVER! Ned never believed in driving over 35. He was never in a hurry to do anything unless it was getting out of a car that I was driving. He could do that pretty darn quickly. I have no idea what that was about.

Ned was a good guy. I’ll miss seeing his fist and hearing his growl when he was pretending to be mad. I’ll miss hearing him tell me to bite his butt. I’ll miss having him take fish off hooks for my kids and showing them how to make bamboo fishing poles. I’ll miss his smile. Ned was a kind man. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that Ned taught them to do something, drive a nail, cast a line or in Tye’s case just about everything that required any kind of mechanics. His patience knew no limits. The thing that impressed me the most was Ned’s willingness to forgive. Nothing riled him ever. He just quietly moved on. It’s something I should learn.

I’m back home now sleeping in the house he built with Mom and it’s far too quiet. (Maybe it’s my missing kids.) Ned was loved my his family and his community. He’ll be missed. The only thing that makes me happy right now is knowing he can cast that fishing line without any pain.

Right after Tye died Ned told me he had a dream. He was at a beautiful fishing hole. Tye walked up rubbing his hands laughing. Tye said, “I want you meet my buddy Noah. He’s got a joke to tell you.”

I hope you’re laughing and fishing with Tye and Noah. We love you Ned Bone. Aloha!

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