Special Sauce

Let’s talk about food!

Remember, back in the day, when this was a blog about pie? Simpler times, those. As much as our lives have changed since back in 2011, some things have remained more or less constant. In particular, we are still deadly serious about food.

Upon arrival at our transitional home in Columbus, Carlos discovered that we lived practically across the street from Penzey’s. The only other time I’ve been in a Penzey’s store is the one right outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, so I was surprised and delighted to find one in our somewhat unremarkable neighborhood. And even better? THEY HAVE BERI BERI!

In our Seattle neighborhood, we were surrounded by Ethiopian restaurants, so much so that the smell of onions and turmeric would perfume the whole world some mornings. Even as recently as April, despite having been gone from Seattle for more than two years, the proprietor of our favorite (Assimba, if you’re curious) greeted us with the most joyful “salaam” I have ever received. Needless to say, we accepted the loss of abundant, inexpensive Ethiopian food as part of the price we had to pay in pursuit of larger goals.

Despite the fact that it is fundamentally just delicious stew, we never quite got up the gumption to try making our favorite dishes at home. Never, that is, until we discovered that my favorite purveyor of fresh and delicious spices stocks the bright, pungent powder that makes the magic happen. And you guys? Nothing will ever be the same again.

So, yes, obviously we have made a TON of key wat, doro wat, doro wat with turkey thighs, key wat pie. And it has all been pretty fantastic, honestly. But recently, something even better has come out of our beri beri obsession. Something so simple and powerful that I still wonder why I didn’t think of it myself, except that I know. It’s just not my style, but it is, to our great surprise and delight, Carlos’s: home-made barbecue sauce.

Homemade, wat-inspired, spicy, tangy, sweet, eat it with a spoon until your throat burns PERFECT SAUCE. How perfect is this sauce? Look:


This sauce is so good that I’ll show you the only in-progress picture, which also happens to hint at how long it has been since I cleaned my stovetop.

I would share the recipe with you, but… It’s not mine, and it doesn’t live in my brain. I will say, though, that it has convinced me that it’s totally worthwhile to go a little deeper into culinary adventures. Even though there are plenty of great sauces out there, the effort that went into this is absolutely worth it for how far above and beyond even the best pre-made sauces this is.

The only thing about this wonderful development that still baffles us is this: what has happened that has turned Carlos into the kind of man who makes his own BBQ sauce? There is no event in our history that we can point to and say, “this is the moment that changed things.” Whatever it was, I am a fan!

Where did we go?

you-right-thereOh, hi there!

Uh, long time no see?

Yeah, we have been quiet for quite a while, but I promise you, we are not gone, and we have not forgotten you.

Where did we go? Columbus, Ohio! That’s where we decided to settle. We have this cute kid, and these two (2!) dogs, and some seriously awesome people here. And we still have all the things we had before – the magical lying friend that is depression, that project, and some lingering, shall we say, familial complications.

So, we’ve been quiet. But not for long! Now is the era of “just do it now,” and “get that shit done.” So, watch this space!


Are We Adults Yet?

After a recent post, when I shared that things felt like they were going smoothly and like we are finding a home, Joan commented that she is happy to see me blogging about food, because to her mind, it looks like I am feeling like myself. I appreciated that, because it feels true – I’m feeling more like myself, and finding joy in the things that have historically been rich for me. It’s a good feeling.

It got me thinking about the things that act as milestones of “adultness” and markers of being “oneself.” One of my friends told me, “I got a Costco card! I’m an adult now!” and Carlos said something similar when we bought a Shop-Vac.

A friend of mine described herself as becoming an adult when she started making decisions that her parents disliked. Most days, I still don’t feel much like an adult, in spite of the kid and debt and husband and responsibility that make up my life. Today, though, something has happened that changed that, in a surprising way. I didn’t even realize it, and I am unabashedly stealing this from Carlos:

Today, nothing that I own is being stored by anyone else. All of my earthly possessions (ok, except a couple things that are on vacation in Eugene) are right here in the same building with me. No storage unit, no shelf in my parents’ garage. I still don’t have a properly equipped kitchen, because of reasons (see: things on vacation), and we’re pretty short on furniture.

But, dudes. I am reunited with my sweaters, and down comforter, and vacuum. The brewing supplies! OUR ART!!!

Part of me doubts that I will ever really feel like an adult, but I’m definitely doing a triumphant adult dance today.



I am procrastinating.

I have many things to do (don’t we all?), and I am doing some of them, but I don’t feel like writing. As you may have heard, we’re in Columbus, OH, and every day it’s just kind of the best. I found my Shambhala community here, and forces aligned to let me spend this past weekend sitting in intense meditation with many of them. It was profoundly good, and I am still feeling inwardly focused, and not so much like I have a lot to say.

There are plenty of things happening, though! Rock has learned how to put on his own shoes. Carlos and I are making friends, together and separately. Winter is coming. I’m starting a job next week (for which I am STOKED). Soon, we will be reunited with the things we left behind in Portland. I mostly finished my marriage sweater (two years later!), and it’s not good, so I’m going to re-do it.

Oh! And I made Ethiopian food at home, and we’re going to make beer soon. And so many things! But for now, I need to go work on some quiet things. You’ll hear more from me soon!

Survey Responses: The Best Things About Your Relationship

How about a little unadulterated positivity for your Monday? One of the questions we asked on our dating survey is “What’s the best thing about your current relationship status?” I’m sure you won’t be surprised to discover that there are lots of things making people happy.

“After almost 20 years we make each other better people, and we make each other laugh.”


“security and acceptance of who I am”


“Having a partner in life makes facing challenges less frightening. I love having someone to make plans and work towards goals with. At the end of the day, and at the beginning and all the way through, knowing that we have each other and our love.”


“That it’s not unrequited. That we tell each other everything, and we remind each other that we’re awesome even when we’re not feeling awesome.”


“Openness with each my husband about ways we can each have our needs met while taking care of our relationship.”


“I can enjoy different aspects of people I care deeply about. I can have my needs met, without sacrificing areas that are important to me.”


“We met after both having children and broken relationships. In a way it made us more aware of what we really wanted in a relationship , versus being in love with the fantasy of one. Theres excitement but also this calm . We met in our 30s and just in that makes it so much better.”


“I describe myself as a “solo polyamorist” because I live independently and have three partners. I love living on my own – I need a lot of alone time and to be in charge of my own space. But I get to spend plenty of time with my lovers. I am able to get exactly the balance of alone time and company that works for me.”


“The connection and laughter I share with my partners”


“Watching my (non-live-in) boyfriend care for my (live-in) boyfriend and his wife’s daughter with love and compassion.”


“Dependability, with freedom. No need for secrets.”


“I am able to be with my wonderful loving husband and still be able to fulfill my needs for additional partners. We are love each other very much but understand that we cannot be everything to each other. That we want/desire other people and that we love and trust each other enough to recognize that it doesn’t diminish our relationship in the least.”

It has been a rough summer over here in delRioLand, and this autumn is not taking it easy on anyone either. You know that I can lose perspective, and I know that others can as well. I feel like many things in our life are not going exactly the way I’d like them to, which is frustrating. All these responses about the best things in people’s relationships feel like a shot in the arm, like an antidote to some of the bumps in our road.

Happy Day

We are in a place that we want to stay in. It’s different than anywhere I’ve lived before, and I am very happy about it. This past weekend was the autumnal equinox, and this place does not waste any time making the switch to fall. The leaves are turning, and it is positively crisp outside, even though it’s also supposed to be in the 70s today. I love it.

It has been cold at night, and in the morning when I’m walking the dog. It’s time for me to be knitting again, post-haste. Last night I pulled out the hat I started for Carlos, and Rockford gave me a solid demonstration of the level of challenge I’ll be facing. It turns out that my toddler is way more efficient at project destruction than my cat ever was. I spent half an hour untangling the mess he made of my yarn, only to do it again this morning.

Also last night, I dreamt of an epic Thanksgiving dinner, with so many pies and gravy and potatoes and single-serving injera and duck confit. As I’m writing it out, this sounds a little more like a glutton’s paradise than even I want Thanksgiving to be. But it did remind me that I need to restock my spice cabinet and buy some butter. And now I’m thinking that a turkey doro wot might be in my future. I’m about to write the most epic grocery list of my life (ok, maybe just this year).

I feel really happy today. My amazing kid is super cute, even when he’s on a monstrous tear. It’s clearly autumn, and while there has been rain, it’s the exception rather than the rule. I’m feeling like it’s time to buy some furniture and give the cat a name, so to speak. I think it’s only fair to warn you that this blog may date a dramatic turn back to cooking-related, at least briefly, as I celebrate/inaugurate my kitchen by cooking ALL THE THINGS. I cannot wait.

Checking In

Today is a “daytime pajamas” day in del Rio Land.

We’ve done a lot of running around this week, and it has severely disrupted the kiddo’s nap schedule. It also means that the house is a mess, there’s a giant pile of laundry, and I am giving myself way too much slack about my procrastination. Daytime pajamas are half because I need us to stick close to home, and half because I have run out of clean outside clothes. Whoops.

In general, I think we’re doing better about getting back into functional routines, with the last couple days excepted. Coffee, breakfast, toddler dance party, writing, lunch, running around outside, nap time, housekeeping, dinner, snuggles, bath time, bedtime. We’re doing OK on this agenda most of the time. I am starting to feel like we’re functional people again. Like I am a functional person again.

Having told the story about my mom, I think I’m at the point now where I am not carrying any heavy secrets any more. It’s a very strange feeling. It has me feeling philosophical, and a little disoriented, and physically lighter. For years, I have had pain that I can never quite shake. My neck always hurts, my hips always hurt. This week, the stress-pain in my neck and shoulder has shifted. For the first time in literally years, I can feel myself shifting back into alignment. The issues that she and I had were not the only, or even the first, thing that had been weighing me down. Even so, telling you about it, and addressing the other things in their own ways, has had a tangible physical effect in a way that I could not have anticipated.

Way back in the day, when Carlos and I first reconnected, I felt like I had gone home. Then I got caught up in some nonsense inside my head, and I made that home uncomfortable for myself and everyone else in it. Days like today, when I know I’m slacking and should be doing better, feel really hard, but not like they used to. I am part of a team, and every moment is a chance to pull my weight. Even though I should be publishing a better post than this, and I should have done laundry three days ago, I’m not getting bogged down in a cycle of grump about those things.

Today and every day, “do better” is at the top of my list. Thank you for sticking with me while I figure out how to do that.


Breaking Up

Parenting is, without a doubt, one of the most important ways that we conceptualize being a lover. Carlos has shared a lot with the blog about what being a father means to him. I haven’t been sharing my thoughts on motherhood with you, because something that happened earlier this summer has put them all in disarray.

My mother broke up with me.

This is a long story, and one that is not going to be told smoothly.

In part, I can’t tell it smoothly because its wounds are still fresh, and the events and their meaning have not had time to uncurl and make sense of themselves. In part, I don’t really want to tell this story, because I cannot believe that it’s true, because the things that have happened bring vividly back all the desire to shut down and hide that I work so hard to get past. I don’t want to tell it, but holy shit, you guys. We have to talk about this.

My mom broke up with me. Both my parents did, I guess, but my mom is the one who sent me an email telling me that she can “no longer support [me], as long as I am married to Carlos.” My dad packed all of the things that we left at their house, and my mom stood in the garage doorway and watched us load it into a truck.

I have gone around and around with myself about how to talk about, how much to tell. Like I said, I don’t want to tell any of it, because I want to believe that I can keep it from being real. But the truth is this: my mom decided that she didn’t like my marriage, and gave me an ultimatum. She told me that I had to choose between her and Carlos, and she stuck to her guns when I made my choice.

So, how did we get here?

My mom has always described herself as having a very long fuse, leading to drastic consequences once she hits her limit. She is also extremely conflict-averse. So her long fuse has been burning, with anger at Carlos and at me, and she only ever hinted about her unhappiness. She has just been burning, for months, maybe years, while she has been angry at me, angry at Carlos, and not talking to us about it.

You Don’t Know About Any Relationship You’re Not In
Wedding 10
On this blog and in person, Carlos and I talk a lot about the principles that guide our decisions as parents. “Love your kid and treat them with respect.” “Make their life better than ours.” “Do better.” “Take care of your family, you’re stuck with them.” For the most part, these are lessons that my mom shared with me explicitly, in discussions about how and why they raised us kids in the way that they did. It was not an accident that Carlos and I talked about having kids so early in our dating; having children, raising them to be good people who do good for the world is important to me. I knew I wanted to find a partner who saw the world the same way that I do, whose purpose and practice in parenting would be in line with my own. On our first date, in 1999, I hadn’t worked this out, but by the time we went out again in 2009, I knew what I wanted in a coparent, and I saw it in Carlos.

I saw other things in Carlos, too. I saw a man who knew me when I was a child, who remembered me fondly despite the years I had spent running away from him. I saw someone who had purpose and direction, setting the terms by which he lived his life. And I saw a place for me in that life. I saw a person who knew me in some of my absolute shittiest times, who had always intimidated and intrigued me, and who thought I was really something, even after all that. He was, and is, a smart, strong, challenging, supportive person who understands where I am coming from and wants to go great places together. In him, and our relationship, I saw a future I wanted to live.

The time that Carlos and I have been married has not always been easy. I came to this marriage with A LOT of issues. I am afraid of many things, including my feelings, and confrontation, and other people’s feelings, and vacations, and the ocean, and doing things wrong. At times, these fears can be paralyzing for me. I chose Carlos as my partner for life because our life together is better than my life with fear. I struggle with my fears every day, and I don’t always come out triumphant. There have been times when the struggles of our life together have been miserable, but even so, my life is better with Carlos.

Take Care Of Your Family, They’re All You’ve Got
This is why we can't have nice things
When it came time for us to embark on this grand adventure, I saw an opportunity to do something to nourish myself as both a child and a parent, and to support the relationships between my parents and their only grandchild. I knew that there was tension between Carlos and my folks, and I hoped that spending some time together would alleviate that. In my youth, and during my pregnancy, my mom was always by my side, sympathetic to the challenges I was facing, ready with hugs and wisdom and patience. I loved that about her, and I wanted to share that patience and experience with the family I am building. I wanted to practice parenting with the people who had raised me, to be in a place where their guidance and experience could help me and Carlos give Rockford the same kind of loving, respectful care that they had given me.

Instead of that, they placed the blame for my exhaustion on Carlos, met him with hostility, and refused to engage with either of us as adults. I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault that they treated us like children, for coming to them in a time of turmoil and changes. Why wouldn’t they assume that I (and by extension, Carlos) would just do as they told us, without arguments or questions? I needed so much help. When we were there, it became clear that my parents dislike my choice of partner, don’t respect the commitment I’ve made to my husband, and had no intention of helping us keep our marriage strong.

All this was pretty hard, but the worst of it came when we finally did launch onto the road. Getting our van ready took a long time, and while we were working, Carlos’s grandmother died. There was no question for us of whether we would attend her memorial, and it became the hard line for getting us out of my parents’ house. My dad described this as me “doing things on [my] husband’s time line, not mine,” as if there was some timeline on which he would have been comfortable with any of this happening. During our travels to Las Vegas and Portland, lots of moms took care of us, and I tweeted about how important that felt to me. This was the last straw for him, I guess, because it was the point where he started calling me an ungrateful child on twitter, and refusing to speak to me on the phone, instead carrying on an extended argument via text message. It was during this barrage that some important details emerged, explaining in part why my mom was mad, and why she hadn’t (and still hasn’t) spoken to me. That story isn’t mine to tell.

You Don’t Get To Choose Your Family
Here’s the story that is mine, though: finding ourselves in a hard situation, my parents pressed me to make a choice between them and my husband. I guess their expectation was that I would fall into line with their demands. They didn’t like the choices I was making, and tried to call me back to the fold. But the lessons that they instilled in me as a child have stuck. “You don’t know any relationship you’re not in.” “You don’t get to choose your family, and you have to look out for one another.” “The things most worth doing are often the hardest.”

did get to choose my husband. I chose the family that I wanted to build, and there wasn’t a question for me about whether I was going to defend that family. I didn’t get to choose my parents, as awesome as they have been for me, but I did choose to stand in front of all my friends and family and make a commitment to Carlos. I renewed that commitment when I chose to have a child with him. The hard times that we have together are part of a bigger story. We have hard times on the road to great times. My life is richer, stranger, and more interesting because of my marriage to Carlos. I have lived bigger, better, more challenging experiences because of my commitment to him, and his commitment to me.

Carlos never asked me to ditch my parents. He never told me that I was being unreasonable by being hurt by their actions. He comforted me in my pain, and tried to calm my rage. He felt rage for me, and looked out for the best interests of our family. When the moment came, and my mom told me “you’re not welcome as long as Carlos is in your life,” I didn’t feel any ambiguity. I felt anger, and hurt, and disgust. And I curled up next to my husband and cried.

She sent me her email in the middle of July. Some days I miss her so hard it hurts. Some days all I see is the myriad ways that her story makes up my story, and all the ways that I am her. She thinks that I hate her, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I reach for the phone to tell her about something funny I’ve seen, and the hurt catches my breath in my chest. I hurt, but she raised me to be an adult. So here I am. I am nursing my broken heart and taking care of the relationships that nourish me.


Doing It Wrong

I spend a lot of time here thinking and talking about how to do better in relationships, but the truth is that I am having a hard time living my words. I have a lot of fear, and a great deal of internal inertia. I have old shit that I am still carrying around that gets in the way of my ability to do the best for my family. Ultimately, the problems that I have are just part of me, and despite having all the access in the world, I don’t know how to overcome them.

I don’t like the way that my life is. I love my husband and my child, I love the opportunities and experiences that our life together. I don’t like that I am ashamed to tell Carlos about my failings, even though he knows about all the worst things I have done. I don’t like that I still hide from him, and that the things I hide are stupider and more petty every day. I don’t like that I feel stuck and keep falling into old, bad habit.

I have things that I need to take care of, and I just keep not doing them. I need to write an editorial calendar, like, six months ago. I have so many interviews to write up, and a whole book to outline, and laundry and thank you notes, and they all just sit on me and make me overwhelmed. I see other people sharing their struggles with their partners, taking care of their own motivation issues, and I know that I should be able to do it, and I just don’t understand why I don’t.

I realize that this sounds a little like self-pity, or fishing for reassurance, but it’s not that. I just need to be honest about the fact that I don’t have it all figured out, and there are things that I do really, really wrong.

I have some practices that i know make me more likely to stay on track, but they can be hard to maintain with the way our life is lately. I need routine, especially since reality means that I need to be creating structure for our household. I need external stimulus, and exercise, and accountability. But I hate leaving the house (I’m starting to think that there is a specific issue there), and I don’t feel like I want to interact with other people, and I don’t do a good job of holding myself accountable.

I have had a couple of really hard things on my plate recently, and I have reached a point of exhaustion that I can’t really describe. We have really good, exciting stuff going on, but I don’t feel like I am happy enough about it, or sufficiently engaged. I want to feel better than I do, to be doing better than I am, and it’s deeply frustrating. It’s frustrating to me, and hurtful and damaging to the people around me.

I am sorry to vent all this here. Like all of life’s journeys, this one has some ups and downs. The downs matter as much as the ups do.

It’s A Dog’s Life

Our beloved, silly dog is having a hard time.

She is happiest when there are multiple people who love her, and when she has a somewhat predictable lifestyle. She’s a creature of habit, with high social needs. Even on her best behavior, she’s still kind of a hyperactive weirdo. Her needs are pretty straightforward – food, water, exercise, companionship.

More than any of us, she dislikes the “van on the road” lifestyle. When riding in vehicles, she prefers to have a seat where she can watch the road through the windshield. She wants more stops, and to be able to go with us everywhere we go. She seems to like it when we have the kind of sleep schedule that lets her to go bed early with me and stay in bed later with Carlos, which isn’t really how things work out in the van.

As a consequence of our life lately, her behavior has slipped somewhat. I catch her nibbling on Rock’s snacks when he’s not looking. Her levels of excitement at new people are through the roof, which means lots of headbutting people in the crotch and jumping on them. At least it’s not biting, right?

This morning my best lady friend sent me a video of her tiny dog wresting with another dog, in complete silence. I had forgotten that dogs could play without barking their heads off! I knew that Dita Lily has been needing some more focused care than she’s been getting, but until I watched Anchovy flipping around, I hadn’t realized quite how much. We exchanged 45 text messages about the best, dog-trainer approved ways to address her barking, and oh, my. So much work to be done.

When we launched in the van, I knew that there were going to be things that would be rough, and that there would be areas that we would have to work on. I feel bad for Dita, and her limited ability to communicate with us about her struggles. Perhaps more than any of us, she’s going to be happy when our chaos settles into a more permanent location.