The World Ends With A Bang

The phones lit up.

“National Alert: This is an emergency notification. A missile attack has launched. Take shelter immediately.”

I felt deaf to the noise and shouts around me. Robotically, I turned off my laptop, unplugged my phone, and packed my purse as though it were 6 p.m., not just after noon on a Tuesday. Briskly, I walked out the back door and through the parking lot. A stream of office workers, cooks, servers, baristas, students, and people of all kinds were winding their way to cars and trucks in the flat dull light.

“What’s happening?” A woman I saw almost every day asked me. She was wrapped in layers of sweaters and flannel standing next to a shopping cart filled with suitcases.

“Missiles are coming,” I said. “We’re supposed to…” my voice drifted away. I shook my head, waved at her, and continued walking.

I unlocked my car and slid into the driver’s seat. I tried to call–nothing connected. Cars, vans, and trucks crowded onto the streets and drove across the sidewalks and medians in a rush to get home.

Haze filled my vision. Tears tracked down my cheeks. The run-down homes and businesses I passed looked the same as they had the day before. A car slammed to a stop in front of me. I swerved, but it wasn’t enough. The headlight smashed, and glass blew out onto the street.

A man jumped out. Our eyes locked as I stood up.

“I…I don’t care.” The words left him like a question. I shook my head.

“I know,” I whispered. “Can you still drive home?”

He nodded.

“Me too.”

I smiled.

“Let’s get out of here.”

We moved our cars apart and continued. The engine clunked, but it wasn’t far.

Finally, in a moment that felt like a minute and an eternity, I stood in the doorway of my home. The house we had bought 10 years ago and spent three years remodeling. A rage I’d forgotten I had filled me. We worked so hard to make this work, to live a life here, and now it was ending, without our input, without our meaning, without us. I flipped the lights on out of habit from years of walking home in the dark.

“Hello?” I called.

“Babe! Is that you?” A voice drifted up the stairs sounding just as strained. I ran to the basement. A gasp of a sigh escaped me. I couldn’t stop staring at him. The crinkled brown eyes, the upturned nose, the small mouth I loved so well.

“You’re beautiful,” I breathed in as he crushed me to his chest. We collapsed on the bed in the guest room by unspoken agreement. The corner basement room had just one window. It looked out into the backyard and revealed yellow brown grass, hard packed dirt, and a sky filled with dust.

We lay there holding each other, softly touching arms and hair, looking for our final moments of comfort.

“I love you, I love you, I love you,” we chanted the words as if in prayer.

The room grew darker, and then there was light.

If you like what you read, buy me a Ko-fi to help me continue turning coffee into copy. 

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A happy home

“We’ll take it,” I said to the realtor. We had only cleared the entry into the lobby of the building.

“Are you sure?” He paused. “I mean not that I’m not happy you want it. It’s just…usually people want to see it….” The end of the sentence stuttered off into silence.

“Yes, I’m sure. I know it’s fast, but well..we need a place now.”

The rain slashed against the windows while the TV blared a sitcom across the living room. The bare windows revealed the run down apartment in the lower left corner of the building as a home to an old brown couch that sagged in the middle at odds with the width and resolution of the TV screen.

I smiled as the realtor unlocked the door.

Time for a rebrand?

8378The idea of change is not appealing to me now that I’m a bit more settled. I’ve grown into my ways or my ways have grown into me. I drink black coffee; I walk the dog; I do not watch horror movies.

I know who I am. I’m pretty solid in that knowledge. In fact, I feel so comfortable with myself I feel compelled to add this: I will always change. No matter who I think I am. That is my one constant.

However, sometimes change is unexpected. And one of those changes, I never really thought I would encounter in my own life, was marriage.

That may seem odd. How does a Mormon-raised, Utah girl grow to adulthood thinking she will never be married? Simple. I was never quite right as a Mormon girl. I never fit in. I could get close to choosing the “right” thing, saying the “right” thing, or wearing the right thing. But I could never maintain that “rightness” well. And I was very often on the fringes of traditional femininity throughout my childhood and early adulthood.

Marriage, I decided early on, was not for me.

Until it was. The time (apparently six years, a house, a dog, and two cars later) marriage was the right thing for me and Zak. Being married is. . . nice, actually it’s awesome. It’s a little weird how much I freaking love being married. I am appallingly disgustingly happy. (Younger me is flummoxed, current me is overjoyed.)

Only a side-effect of all this wedded bliss, is that it’s possibly also time for another change–a new name. I’ve been on the internet using my real name publicly for over 10 years, which is something like a millennia in online time. For six weeks, I’ve thought about how to handle this name change and my (admittedly teeny) place in the world. (Trust me when I say I never though I would get married. My jaw dropped when Zak asked if I was changing my name because it literally hadn’t occurred to me that I might.)

I’m not really sure what I’ll do. Like getting married, it seems like the time to make a change. And why not be dramatic about that change? I mean it’s not like this little blog of mine is going to explode.

Maybe.

The new legal name is good. It really, really is. I kind of want to shout the change from the rooftops, even if it is a bit scary. But the idea of using a different name that isn’t so easily connect to the real me is appealing.

So I guess for now I’ll still be Krista Mae Smith. And hey, feel free to share your name change experience. I’d love to hear from you!

A little love in life

February is my favorite excuse to celebrate Zak.

In the time we’ve been together, my plans to celebrate his birthday have become increasingly elaborate. This year, I really wanted to give Zak his perfect day. So I planned a day of movies, food, beer, shopping, boxing, and massages. And somehow, he still found time to work on updating our patio.

Because he’s amazing.

There are moments like this all the time with him. He surprises me almost every day. It can be a small thing, like laughing joke so hard his eyes start to tear, or a big thing, like showing up late from work one night with a new car.

Any time I start to think I have him figured out, he throws something new out there, and I realize that this fascinating, funny, forgetful dork I met years ago is going to still be surprising me years from now.

The sense of wonder that leaves me with is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. When I try to express this, he just gives me this small, secret smile that’s only for me. It’s in those quiet moments when I feel the most at peace, the calm of him rests my racing mind. The anxiety is on pause because Zak is right there. I can see him, I can talk to him, I can touch him; his presence reassures me that despite everything we will be okay.

He doesn’t really understand it.

He doesn’t have a heart that sometimes threatens to pound of his chest when the world shrinks. He doesn’t have to count his breathing to stave off panic attacks when something unexpected happens. He doesn’t have calming mantras and green tea and meditation apps to try and stop the panic before it starts.

But it doesn’t matter.

He can see the panic coming now, he can feel my breath catching, sometimes he knows what’s happening before I do. And now he stops, he asks what I need, and if I can’t tell him he keeps trying until something gets through. On the really bad days, when I just can’t stop it, he’s still there. It’s never too much. It’s never too hard. It’s just the thing that goes with me.

He doesn’t understand it, but he doesn’t need to. What matters is that he’s there and he’s got a joke ready to goIMG_3482.

 

A deconstructed kitchen

 

“Let’s buy a house,” Zak said. We were eating at a homemade table in the dining nook of a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment and were debating re-signing the lease. The apartment wasn’t exactly spacious or new. The apartment manager had described it has “cozy and well cared for” when we had first visit the complex.

“Why?”

“A house is a good investment. We’ll pay the same thing we’re paying for rent, but we’ll own it. We’ll have assets. If you don’t want to buy a house, I can buy one.” He paused for a second smiling to himself. “You could still live there.”

I gasped and laughed.

“I don’t know a house doesn’t seem like a smart investment to me,” I said. “They’re so expensive and prices just keep going up. Plus, like, they need work. If something breaks here, we just call Shae and she sends someone to fix it in like a day. That’s nice. If a thing breaks at a house we own, we have to have the money to pay someone to fix it.”

We went back and forth like this for months. I fail to see the long-term value in home-buying; Zak is insistent that renting is for idiots. Meanwhile, the real estate market just keeps climbing up and up and the availability of housing keeps shrinking.

I kept looking at houses around us that were for sale. We went back and forth on the kind of house we wanted. I wanted something small, near my work, that didn’t need much work. Zak wanted a project house, some place with a yard for the dog, and room to grow, close to his work and family.

We couldn’t agree on a damn thing.

We looked at what felt like hundreds of houses. We scoured the internet looking for the latest listings and met our realtor there as fast as we could. Often, the houses were sold while we were looking at them or the day after. Within minutes of seeing a house we could both agree on, we made an offer.

The house had been listed less than a day. The owner countered. We couldn’t see paying that much for a house so close to the freeway. We countered anyway. The owners accepted a different offer.

We kept looking. Apparently there was a house on every block in this valley we needed to see. We started taking lunches to look at houses, we raced to look at houses before work and after work. House hunting was like a terrible sport where no one won.

We saw houses that were unlivable. We saw houses that needed work. We saw houses that had been remodeled into mazes. We saw houses that had been updated. We saw houses that had been flipped. We saw houses that were practically mansions. We saw so many houses I couldn’t walk into a building without noticing the finishes right away.

Finally, we saw a house that seemed okay. The asking price was within our budget (thank god for pre-approvals) it had plenty of room for us and then some more. But the house needed a lot of work. It was easy to see the house had been well-cared for, but it hadn’t been updated since 1992. There was wall-to-wall carpet upstairs and downstairs. The walls had once been spray painted white, but it had since yellowed to a dingy gray due to age and smoke. There were distinct scrabbling noises coming from the chimney, which kept me on edge the entire time we walked through the darkened house. The kitchen had large, square pink tiles setting it off from the sunken living room. We sent in an offer within 12 hours of the listing going up. The sellers accepted right away.

We were shocked. I didn’t think we would get the house. I now had to face the reality of giving in on every single thing when it came to the house hunting process. Zak and I went back to the house with our pup in the morning.

The sky was bright blue, it was unusually warm, we opened the back gate and walked through the small yard. In the light of day, the house wasn’t as intimidating. It was kind of cute even. Since we couldn’t go inside, I forgot about the raccoons in the chimney, the yellowed paint, the filthy carpet, and the pink tile. We let Archer run around and annoy the hell out of the neighbor dogs. We talked about where we could put a garden and patio.

I started dreaming about everything the house could be.

I asked Zak if he would build me my dream kitchen. He said he would.

After that agreeing to everything house-related was easy.  We moved into the place 45 days later with the help of our families and friends. It was terrifying.

We lived in the basement so we could remodel the upstairs. The sewer line almost immediately backed up forcing us to flee the basement and move upstairs when everything flooded.

The electricity kept going on and off. The dryer couldn’t be on at the same time as the lights in the kitchen. Sometimes the lights in the basement would just go out.

We called five different plumbers, we called an electrician. They got things working again and we were out of money before we had even started the remodel.

We waited a little longer. Then we decided we had enough to get started.

Zak filled in the sunken living room. He ripped out all the carpet and the garish tile. He tore out a closet to make bedroom into the den it really wanted to be. I painted ceilings, walls, and closets. We laid down new flooring throughout the upstairs, we put up trim boards. We spent so many weekends at Home Depot, I have a favorite cashier and paint guy.

We’re still working on the house.

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Currently, the kitchen has less than five feet of counter. A quarter of the cabinets have been trashed. The remaining cabinets are in disarray. The microwave is in the basement along with the roasting pans, the blender, and the bar set. The coffee maker is slammed next to the knife block. The dishwasher makes it impossible to open a drawer. The fridge has been moved to the living room and back to the kitchen. It acts as both counter top and fridge in the current set up.

We live with a deconstructed kitchen.

Now, the new cabinets and sink are sitting in the garage. The counter top is en route from California. We’ll buy a hood soon. Then we’ll start building shelving and an island. We replace the plumbing, the cabinetry, the counter top, and add some more. We’re building a kitchen we want to cook in.

It’s not exactly my dream kitchen, but it is a home where everything from the paintings on the walls to the salad on the plates was crafted with love.

For ongoing updates of our house remodel follow me on Instagram! @kristamaesmith

 

I square up for a photo

Hands up!

Nearly two years ago, Zak woke up on a Saturday morning and told me he wanted to get back into boxing.

“You want to ‘go back’ to boxing?” I asked.

“Yeah, I did it a long time ago; it’s really fun. You should try it. You need more muscles.”

So we went to our neighborhood gym, which just so happen to teach MMA and asked about Muay Thai, boxing, and ju jitsu. They gave us some pamphlets, and we promised to return for a class the following weekend. Zak did most of the talking, and I did most of the smiling and nodding politely while feeling completely out of my element inside a gym with WEIGHTS! AND A BOXING RING! AND SHIRTLESS MEN! AND WOMEN IN SPORTS BRAS!

The gym meant serious business.

I did not.

Zak apparently meant semi-serious business.

We returned the next day. Zak in clothes taken out of an overstuffed bottom dresser drawer meant exclusively for gym time. Since I have never in my life owned clothes meant exclusively for working out, I was in a shiny new outfit that supposedly are “breathable” and “performance enhancing.”  Sure.

One of the coaches took pity on my lost soul as I tried to shrink into one of the walls before class. She gently wrapped my hands in bandages (creatively these bandages are actually called “wraps”) then strapped me into a pair of loaner gloves before proceeding to shout instruction, encouragement, and threats to myself and 12 or so other people for the next hour.

Our Coach proceeded to help us kill ourselves through a series of exercises that my fuzzy memory seems to recall mostly involved running. Like, a lot of running. More running than I had done in nearly 10 years. Enough running that knees, hips, and ankles were hurt in ways I didn’t know they could hurt.

I hated it. Everything hurt. I thought I might pass out, then I thought I might throw up, then I just couldn’t move anymore. And then…my brain lit up! And I was suddenly really, really pleased with the world.

I am never pleased.

It was a startling revelation in my previously never fit life. So now every Sunday, I show up to the gym with my glorified pajamas, my wraps I can wrap myself, and shiny gloves to try and follow through on increasingly terrifying demands from coaches who seem superhuman.

I still hate the running. A lot of the time, I do not feel like going. But once I get there, and my heart starts pounding in my ears, my body calms down and my brain lights up. And for about 15 minutes, I feel like I can live in this world another day.

It’s hard and it’s hard work. But it makes me feel strong, calm, and confident.

Umm…hello

Hi there,

I know it’s been awhile…a long while. But I’m excited to be back. Mostly. To be honest, I probably won’t ever blog like I did in 2014. Because well…other social sites have gotten a lot better at sharing stories quickly than this baby.

But it is my baby. And it’s in need of some cleaning and some upkeep. I’m not sure exactly yet what that will look like. Definitely a re-design is in order. (Maybe I’ll get to show off some HTML/CSS and JavaScript skills I’ve picked up in the intervening years.) And hopefully some semi-regular blog posts to keep my writing in practice. And of course, more photos and video to better show, not tell, stories.

Mostly though, I just want to say thank you. What a pleasant surprise to find I still have followers! You may have forgotten about me, but I’m still here.

I can’t wait to write for you!

-Krista

P.S. Here are some recent outtakes to catch you up.