*A SECOND YEAR, A SECOND THANKSGIVING (Part 1)

“Sonodoro’s letters had the same perfect grammar & spelling.  But, instead of being filled with kindness and blatant romantic plagiarism, they were now filled with disappointment and to-do lists…”

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Sonodoro changed. He was not the same sensitive poet he was when met. Oprah told us to write daily letters to each other because we weren’t communicating well. We took her suggestion to heart, hoping it would help.

It did not.

3-21-14 Starbucks

The Starbucks where we met and everything was wonderful.

Sonodoro’s letters still had the same perfect grammar (and spelling) they had two years ago. But, instead of being filled with kindness and blatant romantic plagiarism, they were now filled with disappointment and to-do lists.

The butterflies I once got when I saw his name on the caller ID were replaced with palpations of anxiety or feelings of crushing despondence. He was angry a lot. His grand ideas of getting published lost their magic when I slowly realized they were merely dreams.

I thought I could love him into the man he could be.

I introduced him to my church, figuring he’d love the Sunday night service as much as me. After all, the service was geared towards young professionals and it even had praise rock band. That church and  my friends there were important to me. But, I turned down joining a single women’s small group so I could spend more time with Sonodoro. Rather than accepting my faith and encouraging me to grow it, he gave me a pouch of gemstones and started carrying one of his own. Each had different healing and metaphysical property. There was malachite to protect from evil, hematite to help balance body/mind/spirit, tiger eye for good fortune, rose quartz for peace and calm, the list goes on. . .

I didn’t believe in the power of the gemstones, but I started skipping church every now and then. Eventually, the gaps in my attendance grew larger and larger until I stopped going all together. Now, instead of having time apart, we had cranky Sunday nights together.

Sonodoro slipped into an angry and depressive state, which he often pushed on me. The natural consequence of his actions made me angry, depressed and self-loathing. I wrote some, but was stifled by the toxic living environment.  If it weren’t for weekly meetings with my writing group, I probably wouldn’t have written at all (or left the apartment).

After Sonodoro lost his translating job, getting and holding work was difficult. Miraculously, he found  jobs in food service and was working semi-regularly.  I worked Monday-Saturday. If we both had Sunday off, he often wanted to spend it with best friend, Shaggy. (Perhaps the allegiance came from when Shaggy bonded him out of jail, but I think their friendship is why Shaggy found it necessary to help post bond.) Since our hours together were mainly regulated to sleeping, I wanted Sonodoro to spend Sunday with me. He could always see Shaggy while I was at one of my jobs. Sometimes he did.

Often, he did.

And, often, I’d come home to an apartment filled with smoke from cigarettes and pot. The rationale was that Shaggy’s fiancé didn’t want them smoking in their apartment. Apparently, the very same feelings I had weren’t nearly as important as her’s.

10-10-14 Shaggy w Sandwiches

Sonodoro was growing increasingly harder to love. His managers thought so too. He usually lasted just over a month in his food service jobs before they found reasons to decrease his hours and eventually fire him. The job he held down the longest was working at a pet crematorium. In twisted irony, sometimes, he would pick up jobs as a dog walker.

10-10-14 Pet Cremation

By the end our two and a half years, I was working one full time job and one part time job. He was occasionally working. When I’d come home from work and ask how his day was, he’d respond, “It’s just a day.”

I stopped asking.

Sonodro and I broke up multiple times in that last year. In one of our breakups he told me  it hurt his feelings I stopped asking how his day was. In the most measured tone I could muster, I explained, “why would I ask? All I get is, ‘it’s just a day.’ It’s like touching an electric fence.”

In spite of our difficulty to live harmoniously,  Sonodoro pushed for me to spend more time at home. I watched Super Bowl XXXIX with my writing group. He called 10 minutes after the last touchdown. He kept calling until I picked up.  We had a short conversation. I went home. When I got there, in a less measured tone, I yelled at him.

This relationship was unraveling fast.

10-10-14 Unravel

We had another breakup fight a couple weeks later during an El Nino storm. Sonodoro was going to walk and spend the night at his mother’s, which was over 10 miles away. Compassion outweighing anger, with tears in my eyes, I suggested he stay the night and wait ‘til morning (when it wasn’t raining).

Morning came and it was like the breakup didn’t happen.

Shit.

We continued in our toxic relationship. I called my now divorced sister, who reminded me, “if things are bad when you’re dating it only gets worse when you’re married.” Sonodoro and I had gone well-past the expiration date, but the idea of leaving was difficult.

He didn’t hit me or anything. . .

Is dissatisfaction a good enough reason to leave?

*EASY SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

I met Sonodoro (Dreamer) through Yahoo Personals when I was 23(ish). With my dating history, I was cautious. Sonodoro didn’t push. He sent many emails.

He was a poet… always carefully selecting the right word. Good spelling. Good grammar.

YAY!

We had more phone conversations.

He was passionate about stories and was in fact a dreamer. He dreamt of publishing a book of poetry and short stories. He dreamt of travel. He loved his mom and family. He wanted his own family. He wanted a woman with similar passions and he wanted to dote on her.

Every time his name appeared on my caller ID, my heart raced. I could not wait to meet him in person!

We arranged to meet at the Starbucks at Western and Hollywood (in Los Angeles, CA).

3-21-14 Starbucks

I walked in the front door. I took a quick survey of the place…

A group of people eating and chatting.

Some girl doing the crosswords.

A dude reading a book.

Nope not there.

I didn’t make eye contact with anyone and certainly didn’t pause long enough to actually see if Sonodoro was there. With nerves of Jell-o, I walked straight through and out the back door.

While collecting myself, my phone rang. It was Sonodoro: “Did you just walk through?”

Yes.

I took a deep breath and walked back in. He waved me over. Yup, he was the dude with the book. (A guy that reads and likes words; I was in love.) He ordered a white chocolate thing and I ordered a caramel macchiato. We split a slice of sour cream coffee cake. And, he paid. (Something, I was not accustomed to since my college boyfriend insisted on going Dutch with everything, even special occasions.)

3-21-14 SB Sourcream Coffee Cake

Sonodoro took my hand and held it as we talked. He was just as poetic and caring as he was on the phone. His ears were pierced with 8mm gauged earrings. Even going to a ridiculously liberal arts college in Boston, this was still surprising.

I noted the tattoo on his forearm: flames with Chinese characters. I confessed that I didn’t know he had tattoos or piercings. He said those facts were clear in his profile pictures and telling me would be redundant.

My computer was 5 years old and was limping through the world wide web with its sad RAM and one of those free AOL dialup discs that everyone had in the early 2000s.

3-21-14 AOL disc

Part of me didn’t believe he had pictures, but a larger part wasn’t sure if my computer had the stamina to access them, even if they were there. Nonetheless…

Sonodoro was a poet and liked words!

He was unlike anyone I dated back in New England (not that my experience was that deep). He was raised in Los Angeles and was brought up by a coyote. As I puzzled through how he was raised by a pack of coyotes (like Mowgli in the Jungle Book who was raised by wolves), he clarified: He was born in Guatemala and with his family, he was brought north by a person who specializes in smuggling new residents across the border (a coyote).

3-21-14 Mowgli

Two hours later, I realized I had to get ready for my afternoon job and he was late to do home repairs for his mother. We made plans for another date….

RECIPE
This recipe is inspired by Ina Garten.

INGREDIENTS
Coffee Cake:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Streusel:
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Set oven racks to middle racks.

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

MIXING
In a Medium bowl, cream together:
Butter, sugar and eggs.
Add sour cream and mix well.

3-21-14 Cream Ingredients

In a separate bowl sift together:
Flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Slowly add to the butter mixture. Your batter will feel a stiff and have more elasticity than traditional cake batter. When the ingredients are well blended, stop. (You don’t want to over-mix.)

3-21-14 Elastic Ingredients

THE REST
As with any recipe, it can be modified to suit your particular need. Rather than one giant coffee cake that doesn’t look nearly as beautiful after a couple slices have been taken, today, I opted to make individual coffee cakes. This way, I can give multiple little cakes away. Also, I’ll have some left over to freeze and eat throughout the week.

I used well-greased ramekins for some and broke out cupcake wrappers for others.

Streusel topping:
Put ingredients in a steep-rimmed bowl. Take two stainless-steel knives and cut the ingredients together. Eventually pea size (or smaller) bits will form.

2014-03-22 07.56.20

3-21-14 Coffee

Coffee helps get me through the tedium of cutting together the streusel topping.

Spoon dollops of batter into cupcake wrappers or ramekins. If you opt for a full cake,  put half of the batter into a well-greased pan. Spread with a knife.

Sprinkle batter with streusel. Spoon more batter on top of the streusel you just put down. The batter should be just past ¾ of the way up the wall in whatever cooking container you use.

2014-03-22 07.57.20

Sprinkle with more streusel.

Bake.
Muffins: 30 minutes
Cake: 40-50 minutes

When time is nearly up, check with a toothpick. When the toothpick comes out clean, remove cake(s) from oven and set out to cool.

3-21-14 Muffins

A Cautionary Tale:
The individual coffee cakes are slightly more labor-intensive than one may imagine. Also, as I was reminded this morning: Put ramekins on a baking sheet. This way, if streusel bubbles over it will not make a giant mess. This morning when the streusel caramelized, it dripped onto the bottom of the oven, setting off the smoke detector. The darn thing wouldn’t shut off and I had to unwire it. Then I locked the cat in a room and opened all the doors and windows to the outside. Once I realized what I did wrong, I ran to the oven and put the ramekins on a baking sheet. But, I still had a big mess to clean up.

3-21-14 Mess

For the…

EASIEST SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

Just go to Starbucks.