Kristina (AKA Spabettie) has been one of my internet BFF's since I discovered her awesomeness about two years ago. I was then lucky enough to meet her at Vida Vegan Con about a year ago. She's truly one of the loveliest people I know, and we connect on so many levels - from over-the-top vegan food, to a passion for better elderly care, to running fun love-based businesses. So, it's really no surprise that this amazing woman also has an amazing fella! I so enjoyed getting to know Jason better via this interview, and I hope you'll love them just as much as I do!
Tess: How and when did you two meet?
Kristina: Winter of 2004, I rented him an apartment in the building I managed. An appointment that was generally 20-30 minutes tops took us four hours - just talking. We saw each other two days later at an event we both had plans to attend; a couple weeks later he moved into the building community and we soon started dating. Also, the door buzzer was not working that first day - so the meeting almost did not happen!
Jason: I'd picked the best place! This was it - close to town, seedy rock clubs, action central! I had my dossier at the ready, complete with references and pay-stubs. I would smote -- without mercy -- all challengers to my new 450 sq ft studio. Ready to meet the manager of the building, I pressed the buzzer and admired the fresh shine on my shoes. No answer... I was ten minutes early of course, so I gave it some time. Buzz... wait... buzz... wait... Hmm... I protested this grievous infraction to the building owner and headed home. While scheduling meetups for the evening, I get the call that maybe the buzzer was on tilt and I should come by. Yeah... Maybe that’s it... I had to suspend disbelief when the evening went swimmingly. We talked from around 3pm to 7ish before she said we ought to talk about the apartment. I still remember how her yoga pants contrasted with her fully-stocked tool belt. I’ve always been a fan of contrast...
Tess: When did you know it was true love?
Kristina: A few months after we met, around Valentine's Day. Those first few months, we spent many nights just sitting up all night, talking. Literally watching the sun come up, and then having to go to work. For Valentine's, Jason planned a fun trip up to Seattle for a Chocolate Party, and I met some of his friends. We had the best time, talking and laughing, as always. He traveled a decent amount at the time, and had a trip soon afterwards. We spent the majority of the first evening on the phone, and almost booked a flight for me to come see him.
Jason: On our very first date, Kristina told me about some rather awkward run-ins between the local media, the Federal B.I. and an ex-member of her extended in-law family. This reminded me of plenty of times I over-shared on casual dates because I liked someone, couldn't keep my cool and chased them off. So maybe she liked me! It was clear... a second-date was in order... and then a third... And some late night sessions getting to know each other... What brought it all into focus for me was getting to know her family. It became clear to me these were my people, smart and fun, loud music, and capable of a proper head-out on Sunday afternoons! It may have crossed my mind that if she aged anything like her mom, maybe this could be a long-term thing, but I don’t remember...
Tess: Who proposed and how did that take place? We want to hear all the gushy, romantic details!
Kristina: Ha! we were quick to get married - ten years later! We were in Vegas with friends for my birthday - he surprised me by proposing after the Motley Crüe concert. It was a complete surprise, we had a small secret wedding the following Valentine's Day, followed by a great big party that fall, which was an excuse to get most of our favorite people in the same room at once.
Jason: There’s something about Motley Crüe in Vegas that makes you want to settle down, right? I remember thinking a Tiffany diamond ring is too dense to pass through security, so I asked my personal shopper, Eric at Tiffany’s Portland, how to get through airport security without having to open that little blue box in front of my future wife. Eeeeasy! Make an excuse to go through a different line. Brilliant! Tiffany’s probably has guidance on this in their employee manual. We all got together for champagne and joked about it later, where I learned that many guys don’t ask permission from the parents anymore. I still remember Kristina telling me on the flight to Vegas that her mom seemed out of sorts when we met with them the day before we left and might not be feeling well. After proposing, I told Kristina she needed to call her mom because she may not have exhaled in the last week.
Tess: Do you have pet names for each other? Care to share?
Kristina: (dead silence)
Jason: Yes. No. *wink* PS: I love that Kristina didn’t answer this one, because... LOL.
Tess: What are your challenges as a couple? How do you work through them?
Kristina: We've experienced many challenges over the years - losing both of our dear fathers within a year was a tough year for us. We lost our sweet dachshund Basil the year after that. When one of us is going through a tough time, the other “picks up” and provides ... a cushion? I think we are both pretty good at the support thing. And when I am upset or mad at something REALLY dumb, Jason will always take the opportunity to make me laugh... :)
Jason: I read Kristina’s answer to this one before writing, and yes, I agree. We lost our fathers in proximity. It was important to both of us that we celebrated them in our wedding vows just a couple of years later as they were such important figures in forming who we are. If you’re asking on a day to day basis, the secret is to have different areas of ownership just like a business. Ours aligns on simple things like “outside is for boys and inside is for girls”. OMG that sounds dumb reading it back but it seems to work for us. We also have separate checking accounts because I spend too much on shoes. You think I’m kidding.
Tess: What do you love most about your spouse?
Kristina: His smile - it's contagious! His sense of humor. His intelligence and dedication to continued learning. Jason always has a project or a class, something totally unrelated to work - I admire that a lot. His roots. Jason comes from an amazing family that exemplifies service to others - he is genuine salt of the earth.
Jason: I call her Julie - as in Julie McCoy. Kristina is always thinking of new things for us to do and cuisine to enjoy. She helps me air out now and again rather than learning about the world through books and classes. We're always joking around and narrating the lives of people around us through lines from irreverent films. Waiting in line at the grocery around angry people, all it takes is Kristina turning to me with a brooding Judge Smails "Don't you people have HOOOMES?" to break the tension.
Tess: How do you keep your relationship fun and fresh? Do you have date nights or other fun things you do to stay connected?
Kristina: We love date nights! We have our favorite places we frequent, and like to try new places. Jason is my favorite travel companion, and we almost always have that next trip planned. Thoughtful gifts for no reason at all - from something I come across that I know he’d love, to something as simple as a card or his favorite candy. Just celebrating life together and showing appreciation.
Jason: Date nights and scheduled activities (literally, with a Google calendar) are definitely a part of it. It helps that we're mindful of each other when we're apart and don't resent our time together. It seems that a good couple is a pair of people that bring their best selves and take the time to keep themselves a relevant person. We seem to have some good balance between us and ourselves - and when we're together, we appreciate who the other person has been while we're apart.
Tess: What do you think the three most important things are in maintaining a loving relationship?
Kristina: Being friends! Simply being NICE to each other, and understanding their wants and needs (I think I am referring to “love language” here - knowing what your partner wants in a response - action, commiseration, support, or a combination). Keeping laughter and fun alive, and touching a lot - I cannot seem to walk by Jason without stopping for a hug.
Jason: You improve with what you practice. We seem to actively practice being good members of the relationship and put in some vigilance and dedication. If one of us has a bad day at work and miss a day of practice, we trust they'll get back to it. Second, we have found some gratitude and appreciation for what we have and what brought us into the relationship. Third, we have hobbies and identities outside of the relationship.
Tess: OK, how about food, Kristina? You once told me that you make it work, even though Jason's not a strict vegan, like you.
Kristina: I'm lucky that Jason has never really been that "meat and potatoes" type - which I think helped him be comfortable in a vegan kitchen. When we were first dating, a favorite date night dinner would be stopping by our favorite market for a bottle of wine, a baguette, hummus and veggies. We still do that sometimes.
The first time I attended a Forks Over Knives retreat, I came home talking. non. stop. I was so excited to have met Rip and Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. McDougall, and so many others. I returned home with all of their books, which Jason read with interest. I started eating greens with breakfast, just like Essy. Yeah, that got the side eye. The next year, Jason attended a FOK retreat with me, and learned even more. The cafe where he works has many plant-based options, which he sought out and became more interested in - I often receive photo texts of his lunches!
I've always been subtle in my veganism - letting my food make the impression (my Stealth Activism). At our wedding events, we had plenty of vegan options - our wedding cake was vegan, and the groom's cake was vegan and gluten-free (several guests were gluten-intolerant/celiac). I was happily surprised at the number of wedding guests who chose the vegan dinner option - while there were many vegans in attendance, so many that chose the vegan entree were not. That food was so good, too - I want to have that party again.
But back to the subtlety - that is just my style. It is what made our differences easy to navigate - I always respect where others are, and never judge their choices. I will give you all the guidance you want, and answer any questions, when you ask. I will also keep you full of vibrant and flavorful food. I create plant-based versions of nearly any food you crave, so nobody is missing anything. If you visit Portland, I will eagerly supply you with a list of many great restaurants and carts to visit - and I'll meet you for a visit, too. Food is the great equalizer - and I love sharing it!
Tess: Thank you for being a vegan rockstar, Spabettie girl! What are you currently working on? Where can we find out more about what you do?
Kristina: Thank YOU for being a rockstar, Tess! I can be found in a few places around the web, follow along on our travels, dachshunds, and vibrant vegan foods! Spabettie is on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.