Guardia Vieja

“Almost everything is better, when you share the experience with someone else. “

                                                           -Pooja Kumar 

I’ve always been amazed by the intensity and passion tango dancers have.  The mesmerizing moves, the music, the poise, the flow. I’m a believer that art is a form of communication, it doesn’t really matter how “talented” you can be but how passionate you are. Dance is definitely a way to communicate through your body expressions, tango is one those areas where improvisation is key.  A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with the founder of Guardia Vieja, Pooja Kumar and their lead teacher Mauro Peralta, from Austin Urban Tango, who are passionate about making the tango scene in Austin, Texas relevant and memorable through a variety of art and culture events.  I love that Guardia Vieja wants to bring people together to enjoy a practice that might be considered glamorous or distant. Tango is for everybody who wants to express themselves through beautiful moves and music, for people who wants to socialize and learn the cultural aspects of this form of dance.  They are hosting a number of events things like Beginner Bootcamps, Crash Courses, and Expansion Series.  This also includes exposing more people to Argentine music, with things like their concert event with El Cachivache this September 2018. Please keep on scrolling and let them tell you their amazing work and story, and if you are interested in joining their events don’t miss out on the discount code at the end of this read! Tango on…

 

 

 

  • Who are you and what do you do?

Mauro:  My name is Mauro Peralta. I am an Argentine Tango Dancer, Performer and Instructor.  I started dancing/teaching Tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1998. Given my curiosity for other cultures, people, and food, I combined my love of tango with an eagerness to explore the world and started touring to teach in other countries in 2004.  In addition to Tango, I am certified as a Gyrotonics Level 1 instructor. I am now based in Austin, Texas and continue to teach both Tango and Gyrotonics.

Pooja:  My name is Pooja Kumar.  I have held a variety of roles during my long career in Anti Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Compliance.  However, that is only part of what I do. I am also a social Argentine Tango dancer. This past February, I took this passion and turned it into a small business by creating Guardia Vieja, which aims to continually expose more people to Argentine Tango in order to create memorable shared experiences in Austin.     

  • Where did you grow up and how does that shape what you do today?

Mauro:  I grew up in a number of cities in Argentina.  Although Berazategui was my primary city, I would visit relatives living in other cities during the summer or spring breaks.  This gave me exposure to a variety of perspectives, as I talked to and learned from my aunts, uncles, and cousins. This is something I still carry with me a curiosity to learn more and more about different people’s perspectives.  

This early exposure to traveling also sparked my curiosity for traveling to get to know other cities and places.  I knew early on that I always was planning to live in another country and so when I found Tango, it was the perfect match for me to achieve all this plans of traveling the world and meeting people.

Pooja:  I grew up in Edison, New Jersey.  It’s a town (maybe at this point even a small city) that I have really seen transform throughout my childhood and into early adulthood.  I remember Edison was once identified as the most diverse town in the United States by Rolling Stones magazine. It sits in central Jersey between New York and Philadelphia, neighboring Rutgers University.  While growing up, it was truly a melting pot. It was made up of mostly immigrants, families of commuters to New York for work, and intellectuals from all over the world going to or teaching at the university.  Despite all of our differences, we seemed to find harmony, living together in this town. We were a community that had parties every Saturday night, friendly soccer games, and cultural exchanges through food and music.   

I know the city itself is now changing and I see the world starting to grow apart, but I think my childhood experiences might have created ‘rose colored’ lenses with which I view the world. And I’m not sure I would have it any other way.  It is what drives me to consistently believe that we, as humans, are just that and can come together to have shared human experiences. I see a lot more similarities than differences and embrace all people. It’s become one of Guardia Vieja’s pillars to create a space to bring people together with shared experiences.   

  • How did you become passionate about tango?

Mauro:  I’m not sure if I really became passionate about Tango.  I am a passionate person, so I really can’t do anything halfway.  When I decided to do Tango I couldn’t do it halfway, either. Don’t get me wrong, I am very passionate about Tango, but it wasn’t really a path to becoming passionate.    

 

Pooja:  I’m not sure that it was a process.  It was sort of love at first sight. Shortly after graduating from law school, one of my best friends mentioned that he wanted to make a documentary about Tango and he thought it might be a good idea to take a class if he was going to make a movie about it.  He didn’t necessarily feel comfortable taking the class with anyone, so he asked me to take it with him. I agreed.

 

At the end of the first class, he said “I still want to make a movie about this, but I hate doing it!”  I replied, “Well I didn’t know what I was getting into and now, I love it!” He hasn’t made that documentary, but I would say that first class is where the passion began and it was instantaneous.

  • What skills or talents do you need to dance tango?

Mauro:  I don’t think there is a need for skills or talent. Everything can be learned in life. Just a matter of immersing yourself into it and eventually you will get it.

 

Pooja:  I agree with Mauro.  I don’t think there are any particular skills or talents needed.  Just a willingness and an open mind. This may get re-stated, but I would also add patience.  Our Crash Course will give you a lot in just two day, but Argentine Tango does take time. Eight years later, I am still learning a lot and it might be another ten before I start feeling like any sort of expert, but I enjoy the process and stay open to learning new things all the time.

  • How would you describe the cultural aspect of tango?

Mauro:  It’s hard for me to say.  The culture of Tango itself starts in Buenos Aires (Argentina), and then it spreads to Europe, and then eventually the United States.  The reality is the culture of tango is constantly changing, and evolving, similar to life, but the source is in Argentina. Since I have not lived in Buenos Aires for over a decade, I’m not sure that I can accurately answer what the culture of Tango is like today.  

 

Pooja:  I’m not sure I fully understand this question.  In some ways, I agree with Mauro. Argentine Tango certainly begins in Buenos Aires and slowly spreads, and maybe diffuses, as it moves out to Europe, the United States, and the rest of the world.  Having said that I don’t think that it is actually one big culture, with a single source of truth.

Many people make this analogy about Tango that it is like a language and then there are these dialects.  In some respects that might be true, as each country or region I have travelled to does have its own ‘dialect’ that is influenced by that location’s culture.  However, I think of it more like painting or drawing. There are some basic truths and principles, which is what helps us identify it as Tango, but there is a lot of space for interpretation.  Just as you might love a Van Gogh in a museum, it doesn’t prohibit you from loving your child or grandchild’s drawing from Art class. With that in mind, it’s hard to talk about the cultural aspect of Tango, without more clearly identifying the scope of what we are talking – performances, social dancing, the music – there are a lot of cultural aspects that Tango touches. 

  • What is your ideology as a creative person?

Mauro:  To stay creative, you have to remain a little irresponsible.  Maybe that’s not the right word, exactly. Being a part of the ‘real adult world’, having a job, working for someone else … these things make me feel numb.  In order to stay creative I think it is important to work for one self and not get so tied up in what others think might be the right way. Maybe not irresponsible, exactly, but to believe in my self and live in the world the ‘dreamworld’ that I see.

Pooja:  My ideology is based on five core values that create the foundation of Guardia Vieja:

 

  • Shared Experiences:  Almost everything is better, when you share the experience with someone else.  Tango is a shared experience and cannot be fully realized without embracing other people and communicating with them.  Guardia Vieja itself wouldn’t be possible without partnerships, like with Mauro or Jessica (of Ideology).
  • Old School:  Progress is not always the same as running away from the past.  There are lots of lessons to be learned from prior generations. I remember reading an article a year ago, where they had identified the majority of college kids had not experienced a house party as anything more than a reference from 90’s movies.  It makes me sad to think about how isolated people are nowadays, having moved away from things like ‘cooking together’ or ‘hosting a party’. To clarify, I am not old fashioned either – there are plenty of negative aspects about the past. However, the modern day dinner table, surrounded by friends and partners of various orientations, is still an old school concept that should not be replaced with microwaveable dinners.  I think it’s important to take the good and move forward with it. Leaving these things behind is not true progress or growth and will generally stagnate creativity. Creativity is not always about being different from what exists, but it’s about enhancing it.
  • Harmony:  My point of view is not the only one.  In fact, I might have tunnel vision, if I only ever see things from my perspective.  This doesn’t mean I have to consistently abandon my own thoughts for others, but to the extent there is a way to incorporate multiple points of view, I should stop, listen, and try my best to.    
  • Expression:  Bottled up creativity is stifling.  It is important to have a safe space for expression to work through all the ideas that we have as people.  Tango is my form of expression and by supporting others in their forms, I continue to enhance my own, but to stay at home because I will never be a professional dancer or to assume I am not truly creative enough to express myself through dance would be no way to live.   
  • Integrity:  Integrity is dichotomous for me.  The first aspect is honesty. I want to consistently get and be able to give honest feedback, which may at times be harsh, but is the only way to progress and get better.  Second, it is important to stand your ground and as a creative understand your self worth, even when others may not. I started Guardia Vieja as a small business rather than a non-profit, because I believe in the power and value of Tango.  This is not a charitable service and I expect those participating in the experience, as teachers, DJs, social dancers, photographers, etc. to be valued for the service they provide, so we can continue to operate with a high level of integrity.   
  • How do you overcome your fears?

Mauro:  By having awareness of them and then leaving them alone.  Eventually, the fear passes. It may take a longer or shorter period of time, but leaving them alone diminishes their power, as over time they disappear or you learn to live with them.  The important thing is not focusing on the fear so much that it freezes you.

 

Pooja:  I would have to agree with Mauro on this one.  As long as I’m not frozen in my tracks, I know there will come a time when I will move past them.  “Progress not perfection,” as a manager of mine used to say. It’s about taking the the time and appreciating the small victories along the way.

  • In what way have you changed by dancing tango?

Mauro:  I don’t think Tango has changed me, if that’s the question.  I am a person who believes in continually evolving. Tango has helped me evolve in one way, but I think I would be the same person, a person who believes in growth, even if I had chosen to do something else.  Tango has, however, given me a greater sense of understanding people, which might be a harder skill to learn through other disciplines that are more ‘self’ oriented.

 

Pooja:  Many ways!  Tango for me is a vehicle for growth.  It helps me examine myself and my interactions with others, creating a more meaningful understanding of both.  When I have a problem, at work, at home, or in another situation, it generally helps me find a solution that makes sense.  I’m not saying it’s a magic eight ball and gives me answers right away, but it helps me think through things and raises my awareness in all aspects of life.  

  • Who inspires you today?

Mauro:  Life inspires me, always.  In particular, the continual discoveries around how human science works with our brain and body movement capacities.

 

Pooja:  Beginners!  I love meeting people who are starting something new.  It doesn’t even have to be Tango, but there is something so vulnerable, rewarding, and exciting about watching people learn something new.  I love those light bulb moments in our classes, when people have an epiphany. It’s electrifying and re-energizes my own desire to keep learning new things.    

  • What’s your goal with Guardia Vieja?

Pooja:  My goal with Guardia Vieja is to create memorable shared experiences by invigorating the Argentine Tango scene in Austin through a variety of events.  These include things like introducing people to dancing Tango with our Beginner Bootcamps, Crash Courses, and Expansion Series.  It also includes exposing more people to the music, with things like our concert event with El Cachivache this September. We aim to host a number of Pop Up Milongas (social events) over the next couple of years to showcase Austin as a destination city for Argentine Tango in the United States.  I hope to create a space where whether you want to dance or just come and socialize, you can come share the Argentine Tango experience with us.

 

Mauro:  I am partnering with Guardia Vieja, because I want to see Argentine Tango grow in Austin and the United States.  Similar to Pooja, I would like for more people to have exposure to both the dance and the music. My goal is to ensure that Tango stays alive and continues to grow as a cultural experience and form of dance.

  • How is tango perceived in this country?

Mauro:  Hmmm… I think there are different perceptions out there, and it might really depend on the person.  The one that stands out the most to me is that many people think that Argentine Tango is actually the same as it is in ballroom.  The US has a strong culture around ballroom dancing and ballroom has their version of ‘Argentine Tango’. I once asked a ballroom instructor to show me ‘Argentine Tango’ and it is completely different to what we are doing.  Ballroom is learning a choreography and Argentine Tango is more of an improvisation. While both require you to move your body, that’s really where the similarities end.  

 

Pooja:  I think there are two major stereotypes.  In part, I agree with Mauro that shows like ‘Dancing with the Stars’ or ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ have shaped some of the perception.  These shows glamorize and put Tango on a pedestal. Argentine Tango is an accessible dance for people of all ages and backgrounds and I wish more people could see it that way.  I have danced with Parkinson’s patients and I have danced with teenagers. There is really a wide spectrum of people and capabilities. If you are open to it, anyone can learn tango, not just celebrities, dancers, and former athletes.

 

The second aspect of it is that it is commonly understood that Tango is a ‘sexy’ and ‘sultry’ dance.  It absolutely can be, but that isn’t what it always is. A lot of people talk about this mysterious ‘connection’ in Tango, but to me it’s more of a means of communication.  It is a way to express the music and yourself to another person and that person could be a friend, a relative, a stranger – it isn’t necessarily a boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, or husband.  Again, not that it can’t be, but it’s not just for couples, it’s for everyone.

  • What advice about dancing tango have you happily ignored?

Mauro:  “Quit tango; go to College; and ‘do something’ with your life.”  

 

Pooja:  I was once told by someone that if I wanted to get more dances at milongas (social events), I need to change the way I dress (They were leaning towards more provocatively.).  I am happy to report that I wear whatever I want, including jeans and a T-shirt and one time I even hosted a New Year’s Eve Milonga in Seattle, where everyone wore their PJ’s.  I prefer to not dance with people who are more interested in what I wear than how I dance or who I am.

  • What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to start dancing tango?  

Mauro:  Be patient and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

 

Pooja:  Agreed, with Mauro.  To be honest, there are no mistakes – it’s all one big improvisation.  

  • How much can you improvise when you tango?

Mauro: A lot 🙂

 

Pooja: (Laughs out loud) See the prior answer. 🙂

  • How do you implement the knowledge you’ve gained from tango into your daily life?

Mauro:  Well, I teach tango every day, so it’s hard to separate it from my daily life.  It is a part of my daily life, without trying to implement the knowledge I gain from it.   

 

Pooja:  Honestly, it shapes a lot of how I communicate and interact with people.  Given it’s improvisational nature, Tango teaches me how to be perceptive of what someone needs or wants.  It continues to teach me how to communicate back what I need and want (something I’m not always, as good at).  As a follower, I have learned to listen; however ‘listening’ doesn’t make me a passive party to the conversation.  I play a part in offering a response through my own movement and interjecting my own ideas within the direction that a leader has provided to me.  Similarly, a really good lead is one that can adjust to the information I am providing, as well, about how I might hear the music, my own physical capabilities or sensitivities.  This respectful give and take of communication has found its way into my professional career in the Financial Services and FinTech Compliance space, as well as my interactions with friends and in relationships.

 

Use TANGOLOGY to get $10 off of  Crash Course or Beginner Bootcamp 

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Austin Urban Tango

Love,

Jessica

 

 

 

June 27, 2018

Austin Rug Co.

“I think being “free”  means, being able to completely be yourself. When you surround yourself with people that genuinely care and love you for who you are, that feels free. What better feeling than others seeing you the way you view yourself.”

-Alli Pozeznik

 

Austin Rug Co. is a collection of Turkish vintage rugs curated by the company creator, Alli Pozeznik. Moving to a city like Austin inspires you to create, she was feeling the need to creatively express herself, so she decided to start her own business.  Alli set the goal of “act on inspired thoughts” and I believe this is a wonderful way to start anything in your life. Following your heart and your instincts is challenging and yet so powerful. I’ve seen Alli follow the path of creating and feeling amazingly happy with the result of her passion. Her taste and selection are impeccable, you are immediately transported to a beautiful sunset in the southwest.  The modern looks and the coziness of the rugs will truly make you feel unique, they will set the perfect mood to welcome your loved ones. I love, believe, and support her project so very much.  Dreams become reality, below is her story, and for anyone who’s ever had the need to create and to start a business of their own please take a read.

 

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  • Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Alli Pozeznik, I am a former oncology/ICU nurse and am currently working in the pharmaceutical industry in sales. More recently, and creatively, I am the owner of Austin Rug Co. I have partnered with a Turkish Rug purveyor in Izmir, Turkey and curate a collection of vintage rugs I sell here in Austin. The woman I work with has been buying and selling rugs for 20 years with her family, she mentioned with confidence the other day that, “The rug business is the best work in the world.”

  • Where did you grow up and how does that shape what you do today?

I grew up in Middlebury, a small town in Northern Indiana. I had a great childhood there. I do not think the town itself made me who I am but what I remember the most throughout my childhood and adolescence was my mother also making opportunities to express my creativity. I vividly remember a whole closet in our basement devoted to craft supplies and materials to create almost anything I wanted to, I remember my sister and I constantly dressing up from our costume closet. I remember my mom’s own creativity expressed in our “pre-Pinterest” childhood birthday parties, customized to highlight our current interests. Kitten cakes, Safari scavenger hunts, taking my friends to a bead store to make jewelry, to name a few. Those memories are the foundation where I remember feeling special for having a creative mind and knowing this was a gift that made me unique and gave me happiness.

  • Name something you love, and why?

I absolutely love brainstorming ideas. The task of finding creative answers to problems gives me so much energy. As a nurse, I had to use critical thinking when I took care of my patients. I loved it. I have found though when I can use this skill set in a creative process, I find joy when my brain comes to life with possibilities.

  • What skills or talents do you think would make you even more successful?

    To continue to act on inspired thoughts. This has been my 2018 mantra.  The notion that ideas have entered into YOUR mind for a reason is so powerful. We are all unique in so many ways, we all have different gifts and strengths we were born with. Why not trust in that? Why not let yourself feel excited about a new idea and then work towards making it a reality?

  • How did you find your passion?

I referenced this earlier, but as a young child I knew being creative made me happy. For many years, I didn’t know how exactly that would come to fruition but deep down I trusted that was who I was and someday I would be able to express it more intentionally.

  • What is your ideology as a creative person?

To be working in a career that allows me to explore my creativity full time would be my ideology. The process in which one creates a new idea or business is incredibly fulfilling.

  • How do you overcome your fears?

I don’t know if I focus on overcoming my fears, fear is one of the most powerful motivators. I think that’s what continues to push me forward. To want more, to refuse to “be enough”. The fear that motivates me the most, is the fear I won’t live out my dreams in this life. This fear pushes me to keep looking, to keep listening and to keep validating my gifts and talents.

  • In what way have you changed by following a wild passion?

    I feel that I trust myself more, that I believe that I can accomplish wild dreams. Austin is a city with such creative energy, when I moved here I knew these wild dreams were going to come to life and I would be surrounded by others that believed that to be true as well.

  • Who inspires you today?

Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris inspire me. They have literally created their own vocations. The businesses they created are so specific to what their strengths and gifts are. Isn’t that what we all are striving for? To feel that your day in and day out, really reflects who you are. At times, I am sure they felt doubt in their wild ideas or felt the fear of failure. Yet I imagine they too, had to say “yes” to those first inclinations that their idea maybe wasn’t “too wild” . That first “yes” lead them to a second “yes” and third and so on. I think when you see people fully living out their vocation it is a gift to themselves and everyone around them.

  • Professionally, what’s your goal?

Right now my goal is build the brand of Austin Rug Co. and continue to collaborate with other creatives in Austin. We will see where it takes me!

  • What is the best way to act on inspired thoughts?

For me, I try to be cognizant to the ideas that pop into my head, while that may be during conversations with my friends, jotting down dreams when I finish a long drive from work or continuing to read books that push me to trust the process and path that I am on. I am currently reading, You Are A Badass, by Jen Sincero. She describes her focus on the Law of Attraction and truly keeping your mind focused on the great things you want to happen in your life. Redirecting my thoughts to wild dreams and ideas, 1. Makes me happy and excited for the future and 2. I have seen these inspired thoughts come into reality.

  • How can women become more empowered?

I think women and men both has the capability to discover one’s unique gifts and talents. The process of finding out what you are good at can feel daunting but continuing to explore what makes you happy tends to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. I find this to be very empowering. Being comfortable in your own skin and holding tight to what you know your strengths are (despite what others may think or feel) gives you a confidence no one can take away. Surrounding yourself with other motivated and confident women has also been important for me. If you can have one or two friends that can be your supportive sounding board it can be really meaningful.

  • What is being “free” mean to you?

I think being “free” to me means, being able to completely be yourself. When you surround yourself with people that genuinely care and love you for who you are, that feels free. What better feeling than others seeing you the way you view yourself.

 

Follow Alli

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Love,

Jessica

June 6, 2018

Karacotta Ceramics

 

“I believe everyone is creative and an artist, and that your working medium can be so much broader than we typically categorize.”

-Kara Pendl

There is no secret that I’ve always admired artists and creatives, especially if they are women.  I met the creator of Karacotta Ceramics and it felt like I was talking to an old time friend who completely understood my thoughts and ideas. I was able to feel her passion and dedication to her craft.  I was very curious to know the story behind the craft maker who is doing it full time. I knew I needed to tell her story and capture that amazing smile and wild curls. I feel her beautiful pieces reflect exactly who she is; bohemian, timeless, fresh, and modern. She has a peaceful energy that surrounds you, she emanates warmth and her work is unique. I’m very proud of this collaboration, you can imagine my excitement to share her designs and words in this space. If you’re looking for some fun accents, inspiration, smudge the bad vibes away, expression, self-discovery or starting your own business, please keep on scrolling.

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  • Who are you and what do you do? Where did you grow up and how does that shape what you do today?

Hi! I’m Kara Pendl the designer and artist behind Karacotta Ceramics, based in Austin, TX. I’m a {mostly} self taught ceramicist, stemming from a lifetime of creative curiosity, and have been working with clay for over 15 years. Originally a Wisconsin native, I grew up exploring in the

woods, adventuring in nature, and creating with organic materials – these experiences heavily

influence the unique aesthetic and processes in the body of my work. In addition to creating, I teach public and private ceramic classes, that weave in conversations around life-vision and goal-setting. When I’m not blissfully covered in mud, you can find me practicing handstands, reading in the sun, drinking coffee and chatting goals & strategy with other female entrepreneurs via my podcast: Make/Do.

  • Name something you love, and why?

I love working with clay as a medium because we (everything on earth) all eventually go back to dust, and in turn become part of the earth & clay. I love working with a material that holds so much history and energy – you can truly feel it while making!

I also love french fries & champagne, and I could eat that combo for every meal – it’s perfect balance of salty & sweet!

  • What skills or talents do you think would make you even more successful?

I know you’ll appreciate this – I’m thinking about investing in a nice camera (and then learning how to use it, ekkk)! Right now, I take a lot of my social content photos with my iPhone, and I get my product professionally shot a few times a year. It would be super helpful to have a camera on hand to do it myself, and I would be able to update my linesheets, etc a lot more often. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but good photos really do make a huge difference in closing wholesale orders!

  • How did you find your passion?

It was totally by chance! I took a hand-building class in high school, and immediately fell in love. Being a full-time artist had never been modeled to me growing up, so I didn’t realize that was even an occupation choice, so I ended up going to college for business, but I continued to take classes on the side. When I moved to Austin, I found some open studio hours, and then eventually moved into my own studio, while growing my career and building my business acumen. Eventually, I was able to make the transition into ceramics full-time – it can be done!!

  • What is your ideology as a creative person?

I believe everyone is creative and an artist, and that your working medium can be so much broader than we typically categorize. I think you can have artistry in the way you parent, you can be a creative non-profit leader, you can have thoughtful, intentional design in the way you serve dinner, etc – it doesn’t need to be “I’m a painter/ceramicist/weaver” for you to be considered an artist (in my eyes).

  • How do you overcome your fears?

I think Nike was onto it when they said “just do it.” I overcome my fears by just jumping in – I stop thinking about it and just go do it – right now!

I also LOVE this quote by Ira Glass, and have it framed in my office, it reminds me that the only way to not be scared is to crank out a whole lot of work. “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

  • In what way have you changed by following your passion?

I used to be super binary, or black and white, with my decisions/emotions/life choices, and living as a full-time artist, with flexible deadlines, indeterminate pay days, etc, has forced me to live a bit more in the gray area, and I think it’s been good for my soul. I can get a little rigid in the expectations I hold for myself, and the creative process helps force me to stay malleable and playful.

  • Who inspires you today?

I am always inspired by nature!! That is where I find the best color palettes – I often take pictures of sunsets, piles of leaves, bunches of wildflowers, textures of rocks on riverbanks, etc. When you start looking around, you’ll notice palettes everywhere, and nature has the most keen eye for color combinations.

  • Professionally, what’s your goal?

So much is happening in 2018!! I am recording a podcast right now, called Make/Do, that highlights how artists/creatives make what they make, and logistically, do what they do…like, how are you really paying the mortgage? It should be released in early summer, and if you know anyone that should be featured, please reach out! Product-wise, I have some super exciting collaborations releasing this summer, and I will be launching a new line of Smudge Bowls and Bundles with a more developed decorative component. I’m also co-hosting a yoga retreat called Babe Retreat: Yoga, Art & Soul, that is taking place outside Austin on April 20-22 (details on karacotta.com) – it is going to be SO rad! And lastly, my studio is moving to the new Springdale General development in June, please come see the new (gorgeous) space – I’ll be in suite 6D.

  • How being a woman business owner changed your life?

I’m a people-pleaser, as many woman are, and owning a business has definitely brought about opportunities to work on saying No & Yes more powerfully. Saying No to the mediocre or even exciting opportunities that don’t align with my brand or soul, has been enlightening and expansive – it consistently creates more space for the Yeses to come through the door.

Also, managing and balancing all of the moving parts of the business (admin, operations, marketing, making, the list goes on and on), has taught me time-management to make sure all of the pieces of my life (work, friends, family, self-care) get their equal time in the sun!

  • What business advice have you happily ignored?

That the process has to be hard, or there must be a struggle, or you have to grind/hustle for 80+ hours a week. There is truth and weight to the slow and steady race. I believe you can approach your workday with a playful attitude, that solid, gorgeous, work can be completed in short timeframes, that staying lighthearted and easy with the process can yield better results than working through the night to prove you’re committed. Not to say that I don’t sometimes burn the midnight oil, but I think as a general concept, the whole process can also be fun vs a struggle.

  • What is the best piece of advice you will to someone who wants to be start their own business?

My advice is to keep is simple – don’t overcomplicate!! Make a (one page or less) business plan that highlights three or less items that you love making/doing and start there. Do the bare-minimum needed to get your products into the market (minimal pictures, simple website, etc) and riff from there. You can (and should) always go back to update your offerings as the ball gets rolling, but there is no better time to start than right now!!

  • How can women become more empowered?

For me, being empowered means living a life that aligns with my core values. One of my main values is freedom, which to me, means living life on my terms and being my own boss absolutely helps with that. I think you can find empowerment by defining what your core values are, and then editing your life to more closely align – it doesn’t all need to change over night, but what are some of the low hanging fruit that you can shift this afternoon or this week?

  • What is being “free” means to you?

Free to me, means being able to do life on my timeline. If I don’t want to set an alarm, I don’t have to, if I want to work through the weekend, I can, if I choose to fire a client or take on something outside my wheel-house, I don’t need anyone to sign off or approve my decisions… and I LOVE that feeling!!

Follow Kara

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Love,

Jessica

May 23, 2018

Primal Habits Eric + Francheska

“We challenge ourselves by encouraging each other to work on our weaknesses and not just our strengths.”

-Eric + Francheska

 

Every couple has different habits and has its own forms. Every day we have a new opportunity to become a better version of ourselves,  to conquer our fears, to fall in love.

I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something I’ve been doing for a few weeks. My husband and I decided to reset our habits, as individuals and as a couple.  We became more conscious about how we treat our bodies. As a couple, it is very easy to maintain unhealthy habits, and to encourage the same destructive patterns. We wanted to focus on a long term change instead of a quick fix, this time it didn’t feel like a sacrifice but more like a reward. We understood the importance of valuing and honoring ourselves; there is no path that doesn’t require courage and patience, meaning we need to trust our intentions and free ourselves from the excuses and embrace the obstacles. Exercising with your partner will always be a healthy option, there are a numerous reasons why this is a benefit for your relationship, from increased quality time to a stronger connection, better sex, and accountability.

The first time I went to Onnit Academy I took my first class with Eric Leija.  I was very impressed by the passion and excellence of his teachings. It goes far beyond getting “fit” it’s about getting to know how powerful you are by conquering your mind, your fears, and self-sabotage by listening to your body, your instincts, and exceed your own expectations. Francheska on the other hand, will take you to the most basic and primal movements with her animal flow practice. Together they are an amazing duo, they break the rules by using unconventional tools, and methods that will make you see what’s really inside of you.

Today, I want to share with you a very important interview with this amazing couple. Read on and learn how being primal in life and in your relationship will give you back your true power.

 

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Who are you and what do you do?

Eric: My name is Eric Leija, also known as the Primal Swoledier on social media. I am a personal trainer and kettlebell specialist at the Onnit Academy. I also do coaching online on my website EricLeija.com.

        Francheska:  I am Francheska Martinez, currently 24 years old, from Miami, Florida. I am a personal trainer and stretch therapist. Right now I am focusing on building my own brand online, as well as helping with Eric’s platform.

What is the ideology behind what you do?

Eric: I like to help people reach their fitness goals while staying strong and durable so that they can live long and prosper.

Francheska: I’d like to think of myself as someone who isn’t so dogmatic. I think that bodyweight movement should be only limited by what you are capable of safely doing. Meaning that as long as you’re able to move functionally in a range without injury, then it can and should be done. However, when it comes to weight lifting and bearing load through movement, then I like to adhere to certain safety guidelines to avoid and pain or injury.

As a couple, do you feel a stronger connection by exercising together?

        Eric: Yes, because we become very competitive.

        Francheska:    I think it brings us closer together and reminds us that we can overcome any challenge. It also helps us be better coaches because we are able to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses better, allowing us to create better programs, and modifications when needed.

How does having the same fitness goal improve your relationship as a couple?

        It strengthens our relationship because it holds the other accountable. If we are both able to grow together and get stronger together, then it creates an environment of growth which keeps the relationship fresh and healthy.

Is it true that couples who train together stay together?

We are still figuring that one out! But we’d like to think so! It allows us to bond and grow together in another aspect. Seeing each other’s progress is really encouraging; it

reminds us that we still have to focus on growth and development in our relationship as well.

How can you make a solid relationship with yourself first?

        Taking alone time to focus on yourself is incredibly important in a relationship. Doing something that you enjoy doing by yourself is crucial for keeping things interesting and developing your own interests and hobbies that can also be shared in your relationship as well.

How do you motivate each other?

Eric: Watching Francheska smile through all the pain encourages me to suck it up and conquer my inner doubt.

    Francheska: Eric likes to give me a big cheesy smile as I walk into the gym. He then proceeds to take his shirt off and start flexing. What more motivation does a girl need?!

How does the other person inspire you?

        Eric: Francheska’s graceful movement inspires me to be less stiff. I try to integrate more mobility work to help with this.

        Francheska: Eric inspires me with his passion and dedication. Even if Eric is tired, sore, or busy, he makes his training a priority. He never makes excuses about “not having enough time.” Nor does he allow temporary pain to take him off his track. He’s the real deal.

How do you challenge each other to stay out of your comfort zone?

        We challenge ourselves by encouraging each other to work on our weaknesses and not just our strengths.

What workouts are your favorite to practice together?

    Kettlebell and bodyweight flows are our favorite workouts to do together. We always learn things from each other since we have both move differently. We like to add mobility work into our flows to make them more well-rounded and challenging.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned from one another?

        Eric: The biggest lesson that I have learned from Francheska is to not be so dogmatic with my training.

Francheska: Eric has taught me not be such a perfectionist with my training. There is a time and place for perfection, however progress is always more important!

In what way does the other person make you stronger?

    Eric: She’s light enough to pick her up and throw her over my shoulder so I can do some walking lunges. I hate loading bars and re-racking weights.

    Francheska: Eric makes me stronger because whenever I want to give up, or skip a workout, I always envision what Eric would do. Which is persevere, NOT complain, and maintain proper form!

What steps have you taken to love yourself first, and how has that improved your relationship?

    Eric: Staying hydrated from the moment I wake up helps me have a better day, which helps me be nicer to my clients, friends, and Francheska who has to deal with me everyday.

    Francheska: Loving myself for me has always come down to self-care. If my body isn’t feeling well, it transfers over into my mood. So I try to be aware of my limitations in training, and tend to my problem areas, like my shoulders which tend to hold onto a lot of tension. A good sauna session and decompression usually does the trick for me, which helps me be less cranky.

How can you stay focused and motivated to achieve your goals?

        Eric: Proper rest and recovery can go a long way. This includes sleep, active recovery, hydration, and nutrition.

Francheska: Keeping things fun a is how I like to stay encouraged when trying to reach my goals. Practicing moderation rather than extremism usually helps me stay focused. I try to enjoy the journey rather than fixate on a specific goal.

What piece of advice can you give to couples who want to start this path together?

        To stay focused, and to remember that life isn’t a fairytale. You’re going to get annoyed with each other, but you will become stronger together! In your workout session, try to define some roles, one of you could be the “coach,” and the other the “client.” If you have two “coaches,” you may be taking a bigger bite than you can chew!

What exciting projects do you have going on?

        We are currently working on Eric’s launch of his Daily Workout Subscription on EricLeija.com. The workouts will encompass all of Eric’s weekly training including warm-ups, strength training, conditioning, active recovery, as well as cooldowns. Check out his website to train with Eric and learn more about kettlebell training specifically. We are also looking forward to leading more in-person workshops together to continue making a positive impact in the world.

Follow Eric + Francheska

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Love,

Jessica

April 25, 2018

Jennifer + Jack

Valentine’s day is always a good excuse to be extra romantic, give and receive a lot of love. I’m very fortunate to be a wedding photographer and be present in such a special event in people’s lives. There are a lot of things that make a wedding very special, but to have witnessed the love that Jennifer and Jack give to one another is beyond words. One of the most beautiful details is the wedding dress, handmade by the bride’s mom. They say an image says more than 1000 words, so here they are.

 

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February 14, 2018

Elizabeth + Rolando

“You always see the best in me”

Elizabeth and Orlando decided to elope and then travel the world. This is their wild and amazing spirit.

 

 

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November 29, 2017

Jennifer + Jack

I was very excited when Jennifer and Jack won the wedding giveaway last year. I’ve always been inspired by love stories and this one was no exception. The photos of these two together are the sweetest thing — you can tell by the way they look at each other just how in love they are. Please read on to get to know this amazing love story and don’t forget to press play to watch the slideshow.

 

 

 

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How did you meet?
We bumped into each at a bar (Yellow Jacket). We kind of knew each other from Virginia.
Do you have a fynny, romantic, or touching story about your relationship?
We’ve always been in the same place, but didn’t know each other. Our high schools were in the same district. Then I went to college in Richmond, VA, where he moved with his ex and worked in a skate shop. We had some mutual friends, but didn’t know each other well. I only have 20 photos from my only art show in VA and Jack is in one of the 20! Bumped into Jack after living in Austin, TX for a few years. Turns out we both spent the summers in Michigan on our separate family’s property. Now, when we go to Michigan, we can be with and visit both families! Very serendipitous.
 

Where and how did he propose?

His grandparents made a labyrinth on their Michigan property. Even tourists come to visit it and leave trinkets and notes. We walked the maze together and at the end of the maze in the center of it is a stone bench. Jack told me that he loves the labyrinth because of the inevitable path it takes you on. He said he’d like that take that path with me, got on both knees (ha!) and proposed! We popped a cheap bottle of champagne that was in the cabin and sat on the dock with our dog, looking out over the lake and enjoyed it for ourselves before calling our families and friends.
 

Favorite Song

The Vibrators- “Baby, Baby”
 

How do you like to break the rules?

By being salty, straight up, and not taking any shit
 

The head or the heart

Both: Emotionally pragmatic
 

What do you love most about her? How does she make you feel? What is the wildest thing she ever did?

I love her compassion, she puts everyone in front of herself. She takes great care of the people she loves.
She makes me feel safe, important, and whole.
Not safe for TV
 

What do you love most about him? How does he make you feel? What is the wildest thing he ever did?

I love his demeanor, patience, and humor. He never complains and he works hard. He is a great friend and very generous. Everyone loves him!
Jack makes me feel safe and loved. He always treats me with kindness and is very patient with me. I’m the blabbering Type A neurotic. He’s the yin to my yang. He’s so caring and funny as hell.
Wildest thing he ever did in his life or with me? Well, with me… maybe when he slammed his foot on the gas of his Volvo speeding up this tiny dirt driveway surrounded by trees up to his cabin. It scared the shit out of me. I think his dad used to do it and Jack had the driveway path memorized.
 

What are your favorite things to do together?

Cook for friends, go to Michigan, sit on the couch drinking wine or tequila with out dog and watching TV, going out to eat, bowling, motorcycle rides
 

How do you, as a couple, want to be remembered?

Generous and fun

 

 

 

Love,

Jessica

November 1, 2017

Self-Love: The Journey

Love the process of becoming the person you want to be.”

-Meredith Yarbrough

First love yourself, then others will love you. That’s easier said than done. It is very common that we criticize and even dislike ourselves. Lack of self-love and slow personal growth causes our loving relationships to fail. Often we are looking for an external attachment to feed our most inner, profound needs. This causes a lot of pain in the world. The most deeply radical love-action we can undertake is to spend time with our deep-self, learning how to cultivate love for the mind, body, and spirit we embody on this earth. To understand how love heals, we must become familiar with our dark side, learn how to meet it with love. It will be our darkness that gives us back our light. This path requires patience and courage. It means we must free ourselves from patterns and habits that keep us locked in a cycle of failed loved.  Love is an act of freedom.

Today, I will share with you a very special and important interview with Meredith Yarbrough. She is an experienced health coach who has found a way of integrating Chinese medicine and philosophy into the work she does. Meredith talks about the years she spent living as a foreigner  in China, and the common threads of humanity she discovered that allowed her to develop deep, loving friendships and relationships with the people she knew there. She throws light on finding the balance between heart and mind, learning to listen to yourself, and defining just what being “whole” means.  If you are ready to change the relationship you have with yourself so you can improve the relationships you have with others, read on.

 

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1.. Who are you and what do you do?

I am a fitness consultant, a body teacher, a health coach; I guide people through body transformations big and small. It is my passion and I started my business, Hao Human, so I could make it my life’s work. I blend Western and Eastern techniques to help you cultivate body awareness. Body awareness means that your body’s reactions to its environment are not a mystery. Understanding your body gives you a great deal of control to make changes. The next step is to bring your body into balance and keep it there. A balanced body means better sleep, better digestion, more stamina, fewer food sensitivities, fewer aches, pains and injuries, better sex, better results from exercise, healthier blood flow, clearer and more focused thoughts, and much more. As the body becomes balanced, the mind follows as the two are inextricably linked. My clients often report the disappearance of long-term afflictions after the program, like snoring or the cessation of a right shoulder pain that had persisted for years. I use the tools I have learned through a lifetime of athletics and body study in America and China: intervals, body circuits, meditation, yoga, muscle isolation, breath-training, agility development, joint strengthening, martial arts, sport-specific exercises (rowing, surfing, snowboarding, biking and many more), acupressure, food energetics and guidance on Traditional Chinese Medicine.

2.. What is your ideology as a health coach?

I believe in cultivating health wisdom. I believe that physical activity, mindful eating and healthy habits should be pleasurable and integrated into one’s life. I do not believe in the gym as the sole source of one’s fitness. The gym belies a certain mindset that exercise (and diet) should be organized around how we want our bodies to look. I am much more interested in what a body can do. I focus on helping people link exercise to activity so fitness is a pleasurable part of their lives.

3.. Please tells more about your time spent in China?

I think of my time in China as the yīn balance to my yáng American athletic education. Yīn and Yáng are opposites that together make balance. Yáng is the powerful side of the coin, the bright, intense and outward. My collegiate career as a University of Texas rower encapsulates the yáng: intensely powerful, muscle-dominated and incredibly competitive. Yīn is the meditative side of the coin: the equanimous, patient and inward. China was a time of intense yīn learning for me, and of re-evaluating my fundamental truths about health and fitness. I lived in three provinces over 7 years and studied whatever the local masters were teaching. In Húnán, it was tàijí and sǎndǎ (Chinese kickboxing). In Guǎngxī, it was meditation, qìgōng, fasting, and tea ceremony. Everywhere my experience was infused with the principals of Traditional Chinese Medicine and food energetics. I lived several years in Shanghai, a city where traditional society collides with modern culture. I worked as a dancer, choreographer and model, and learned a new way of managing my health to sustain my income that was different from managing my health to sustain my scholarship.

Throughout this time I learned to teach. I taught theater, choreography and language. It is the most humbling and valuable skill I have ever cultivated. It is how we as a species ensure our survival. I have had a lifetime of coaches and instructors and I have learned this: it does not matter how much knowledge and wisdom a person possesses, it they cannot teach, it is wasted.

The third great lesson I learned has to do with China being a collectivist society (the diametric opposite of our American individualist culture). I learned a lot about cultivating harmonious relationships, and the patience and humility one must practice in order to keep the peace in the face of heightened emotions.

4.. A lot of love comes in to your business. What is it about your process that makes your work so special?

Love does enter into my realm in many different forms. I deal with the human body and it is our primary vehicle for love expression. However, it is a sensitive instrument, and stresses can easily damage its delicate love transceivers.

Self-love is the first area that I help my clients to cultivate. Think of the body and the mind as a married couple who have not been vigilant in maintaining respectful communication with each other. The mind aggressively nags the body for being paunchy; the body passive-aggressively retaliates by paunching further. Neither is listening to the other nor providing for each other’s needs. My job is to help you repair the relationship between your body and mind. That includes retraining thought patterns away from self-criticism, understanding the language the body uses to express its needs, and clearly defining who gets what responsibility (for example, the mind is responsible for deciding if a food is delicious, but the body determines if it is nutritious).

Sex is another area I focus on a lot. If you love your body and it functions well, sex can be incredible. If you love the person with whom you are sharing your body, it becomes cosmic. Sex is a beautiful example of how inextricable the mind and body are: it is a physical activity but also a meditation shared by two people.

5.. Who is your ideal client?

My ideal client is someone who wants to reach the next level in their personal health journey. If that is you, then you are an insatiable learner. You re-evaluate and evolve constantly. This is probably not your first rodeo: you have trained before, enrolled in workout programs, created your own regimens, etc. But whether you have a fitness background or not, you are open to tinkering with your mindset, habits, preconceived notions, self-relationship, and body.

6.. What does love mean?

Love is a living thing. It must be cared for and nourished. It must be allowed to mature and change. Romantic love means there are two people responsible for its health. Healthy love is nourishing and energizing; it is life! It is food! Just as you should feel better after eating nutritious food, you should feel better for being in love. Ups and downs are unavoidable, but overall your love should produce a net gain.

7.. What does it mean to become whole?

I think the common Western answer to this question is that to be whole is to be happy as a solo, independent person. But I take a more Eastern approach: a human being cannot be happy outside of human relationships. So for me, being whole means establishing robust and respectful relationships in which you are comfortable. That means having strong boundaries: knowing where your lines are, and enforcing them out of fierce self-love. It means being unapologetic about your boundaries, and dismissing anyone who insists on violating them. It means feeling good about putting your essential needs above the needs of anyone else.

This will be hard if you were not allowed boundaries as a child or young person, i.e. you had an adult or significant other who would react negatively if you tried to assert your need for time alone or freedom from criticism or autonomy over your body. This is a hallmark of abuse; most of us some degree of it in our past. It interferes with our ability to be whole. Luckily, we are in an exciting new age of human-mind exploration; there are tons of resources to help you become whole. Patricia Evans has a flotilla of books that introduces these concepts in a really simple and straightforward style. Counseling and therapy are great. As are meditation and guided writing. This journey to become whole frequently surfaces in my client-sessions because the body and mind become a journal of boundary violations. The good news is that we have the power to edit.

8.. What are the basis of a solid relationship with yourself?

In the people I help, I often see a pattern of self-criticism that harms the self-relationship. It is a natural human response to resent the one who criticizes you, even if it is yourself. I suggest honing in on the voice you use to talk to yourself, and ask if you would use that same tone with a friend in a similar situation. Speak kindly to yourself and practice non-judgement.

Another good idea is to cultivate a capacity for reflection. Mistakes and missteps are both inevitable and necessary for growth. You should never make snap-judgments about your most recent misstep; instead, give it time to rest. This is because the slow movement of time through your life and body can only be seen when looking backward; you never know when a mistake might actually produce a gift. Keep journals and pictures to aide you in your reflection but only visit them when a significant amount of time has passed. When you do reflect, treat your past selves as you would a young niece or nephew: be compassionate for the person who knows less than you know now.

9.. Getting married is a very important step in someone’s life. How can a person prepare better for that compromise?

Communication, communication, communication. I suggest reading The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. Figure out the love languages you and your partner respectively speak, then get to work becoming fluent in each other’s language. Keep in mind that often a partner expresses love in the way they hope to be loved, not necessarily in the way you hope to be loved. So if he’s constantly telling you you’re beautiful, he loves you, etc. but it’s not making you feel more beautiful or loved, before you get frustrated, recognize he’s really asking you for verbal re-assurance about him. Tell him you love him and you like his ass in those pants, then work on understanding your own love language enough so that you can teach it to him.

I also think sex is very important in a healthy longterm relationship. It won’t solve your problems but it is your canary in the coal mine: if the canary is chirping away happily, the air in your relationship is not toxic. Treat sex like a practice. Place value and importance on it, and recognize that it is good for the body and mind. Work hard to dispel stress in your life and resentment in your relationship; these can creep in to muddy the waters of your sex-practice. Allocate time and energy to it. Sex is a communication that requires both people to be present and “talking”. All the love languages can be expressed through sex. And like any good discussion with someone you love talking to, sex evolves, meanders, goes on tangents, gets passionate, calms down, forms tenets and dispels them, and changes throughout a lifetime.

10.. Why is it that having expectations of the other “completing us” often kills our relationship?

A relationship is something new and distinct from the people who comprise it. It is a living thing that requires attention and maintenance from both its creators. It is a reservoir of love, energy and security that either can draw upon to weather tough times. But it is reliant on good sustainability practices. If you are constantly sucking energy out of your relationship to fill your void, there will be nothing there when your partner needs an emotional boost. Instead, your partner will need to put in extra energy to replace what you’ve taken: depleting and exhausting them until they must end the relationship out of self-preservation.

11.. What does it mean to be whole in a relationship?

To be whole in a relationship is a process of presenting your boundaries to your partner, and having them acknowledged and respected in a loving way. This is a slow process as you cannot overwhelm new love with too many boundaries too quickly. It’s also an exercise in keeping an open mind and communication. It’s easy for this process to feel like criticism or rejection. Be kind with your words. You must trust each other that when you establish a personal boundary, it is to fulfill a need you have, not to hurt the other person.

That being said, evaluate your boundaries and be careful of those made in a time of crisis. To use a stark example: if your boundary is that you rarely allow your current partner to touch your body because someone violated you in your past, then that boundary does not fit your new loving relationship. Make sure that your current partner understands and respects your boundary as it is now, then seek counseling and self-reflection so that you may cultivate the trust to ease that boundary.

12.. What steps can a person take to become in love with themselves?

Know thyself. The better you know and understand yourself, the more fun you will have in life. Treat yourself as a lover you desperately want to get to know. Celebrate with yourself. Have secrets. Create space to work on yourself without intrusion or audience. Love the process of becoming the person you want to be.

13.. What other projects do you have going on?

I am just mad about snowboarding these days! I have developed a Hao Human program to train for the slopes. I love helping people expand their repertoire of what they can do with their body!

I also just finished a new Female-health-specific program that helps women to balance their bodies in preparation for conception and pregnancy. There is a lot of ancient Chinese writings and wisdom pertaining to fertility, and if population numbers are any indicator, it’s effective! if you’re not looking to procreate just yet, this program can help you have pain-free menstruation and pleasureable sex.

On the artist-activist side: I’ve co-written a theater show that is being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Fest this month. I wrote it with a Shanghai collaborator of mine, Apphia Campbell, who also performs it. We called it “Woke” and it explores the American criminal justice system, specifically how ordinary citizens can be created into criminals by discriminatory practices within the police and courts. I jumped on this project because, after living so long in a communist country, I came home and expected our system to be better. Furthermore, there are over 10 million incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people in America who have the brutal memories of prison etched into their bodies and minds. That is an incredible amount of PTSD to be absorbed into our culture!

14.. What is the best advice you can give to people reading this interview?

I leave you with a quote from Mary Schmich’s “Wear Sunscreen” essay: Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it, it is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

 

 

Follow Meredith

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Love,

Jessica

October 11, 2017

Raquel + David

“A hot breakfast and a bucket of popcorn are all you need to get by in this life.”

-Raquel + David

 

The job of a wedding photographer is literally capturing love all the time. The joy I feel when I get to capture a love story (e-session) is far beyond words. First of all, I get to know the story of the couple I have in front of my camera, which is always so wondrous, and I get to make new friends.  This time I got to know the story of these two wonderful people, and I will be forever thankful for opening their heart to me. I’m in love with every single part of this story, so please scroll down and find out how they met, and how she couldn’t hide the fact that she was truly in love with this man.

 

 

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How did you meet?
Raquel was standing in the hallway of an East Village apartment building. As I walked up the steps of its stoop and saw her through the glass door, I said aloud, “Who is that?”
Do you have a fynny, romantic, or touching story about your relationship?
Raquel started breaking up with me in early August of 2013 while I was hosting a party filled with my friends in the backyard of my Brooklyn brownstone. As the party got rolling, and I greeted people with with casual side hugs, I noticed Raquel looked a bit troubled. I asked her what was wrong and she asked me to talk upstairs. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said. I was shocked and speechless. My heart sank. We had only been on a few secretive dates around Manhattan and Brooklyn since our budding romance began about a month earlier, after we kissed in the dusk of a June night, down the street from one of our favorite bars in Brooklyn. We had intentionally kept our dating under wraps. I met her through her brother, who is a close friend. Raquel and I became friends ourselves before we ever kissed. Dating a friend is a dangerous proposition, and dating the sibling of a friend is doubly so. We wanted to be cautious, and I guess this was the reason why: Despite discovering a previously unimaginable familiarity and friendship with her, it appeared that relationships just sometimes don’t work out. People get hurt. “You don’t want to date me anymore?” I asked. Now, it was Raquel that seemed shock. She quickly recognized the error. “No, I meant to say I can’t pretend we’re not dating anymore! I only want to be with you!” I wanted the same thing, I told her. And I told her I hope she can be a little clearer in the future. But that is one reason I love Raquel: She knows what she wants, even if she sometimes acts before her brain has fully caught up. For example, I’ve come to the conclusion that it was an odd kind of pure jealousy that drove Raquel to tell me she wanted to be in a relationship with me. She seemingly was viciously jealous of the side hugs I was freely handing out to my friends at the party. I had always thought of a side hug as a casual way to say “Hey buddy!” My perception changed after reflecting on the circumstances of a night in early July, a few weeks before the BBQ. Still uncertain if she liked me, I texted to ask if she was coming to a party. An eternity later, my phone vibrated: “Here!” And suddenly, Raquel was standing next to the chair I was sitting in. Before I could stand up and wrap my arms around her like I had been imagining I’d do for days—it was the first time we’d seen each other since we kissed—she stretched her right arm from my left shoulder to my right, keeping the far side of her body away from me. It was a side hug, and I was certain any chance I had with her was doomed. Or so I thought. A side hug, like a hastily spoken sentence, can have more meaning that it seems.
Where and how did he propose?
The actual proposal happened on an afternoon in June of 2017 in Sonoma Valley, CA, after a picnic on the edge of a pond. David told Raquel he had to go to Napa for a work event and invited her to join him. While the work event was indeed happening, David didn’t actually have to work—and instead surprised her with a mini vacation at a small hotel outside of Sonoma, which they stayed at once before and talked about one day returning to. Really, though, the proposal might as well have happened as early as mid-August of 2013, when David and Raquel took their first trip together, shortly after a mutual friend made a foreboding comment: “Your first trip together will define your success as a couple.” The trip was fun.
Favorite Song
We don’t really have one. David’s from Portland. I’m from Texas. If someone comes up with one that matches that, let us know.
Do you have a favorite quote?
A hot breakfast and a bucket of popcorn are all you need to get by in this life.
How do you like to break the rules?
Raquel likes to drive fast and tailgate, and David likes to tell her not to, which is completely against her rules. Also, David fell in love with his friend’s sister, and Raquel fell in love with her brother’s friend.
The head or the heart
Raquel: Love is a combination of both. David: What? That answer sounds like something from an off-brand Hallmark card. Raquel: No, it sounds like a Portland band you would love.
For Him: What do you love most about her? How does she make you feel? What is the wildest thing she ever did?
I love that Raquel cares. Whether you’re a stranger, a strange creature, or a friend she has known for years, Raquel knows how to make people feel loved. But there’s an important caveat: She’ll care about you only if you also put love back into the world. Raquel loves without hesitation—as long as you can accept and reciprocate love, too. That isn’t to say she is uncaring to those people who lack the maturity or wisdom to love and be loved; she is still kind and generous. But what I love about her is the uninhibited love she gives to the people she knows will feel, accept, and benefit from her devotion. On a selfish note, that of course includes me. But it also includes most, if not all, animals in the world—and a few other humans too. (I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard her say that animals are innocent—she may be the Christ-like redeemer for the world’s wildlife.) I worry that it sounds trite to say I love Raquel because she cares, since caring is an easy thing to do, once you’ve figured out how to do it. To me, the love that Raquel gives is like leaping into a deep mountain river on a summer day. The water, even if it is initially chilly and roars with a chaotic churn, is calming and rejuvenating—a natural protector from the arid world.What is the wildest thing Raquel has ever done? She started a business and runs it as a solo entrepreneur. That’s about as wild (read: crazy, uninhibited, bold, resolute, etc.) of a thing you can do, and anyone who has started their own business knows that. That’s another reason I love her, one that may be more prevalent: She is always seeking to improve herself. And she is able to do it, too.
For Her: What do you love most about him? How does he make you feel? What is the wildest thing he ever did?
I think the wildest thing he ever did is move to NYC without a job. One of the coolest things about David is that he never talks the talk. He just walks the walk. So like I thief in the night (or as I like to reimagine it), off he went. David’s been through so much crazy stuff in his life, so when he talks about making that move, he’s pretty nonchalant about it. But when I put myself in his shoes, I have the reaction that I’d imagine most people would…dude’s cray. As he puts it, he ate a lot of Spaghetti O’s when he first arrived and had a back up plan: If he didn’t land a job, he was going back to Oregon. But of course, he didn’t go back. He persevered past the bottom of those Spaghetti O’s cans and succeeded in the insane world of journalism.”  Instead of my current answer. Sorry for the font change. Word is doing weird things.
What are your favorite things to do together?
Our favorite things to do together are going out to happy hour on Friday nights. We talk about everything that happened over the course of the week and decompress with the Austin staples: margaritas and queso. We also love to hike in the Greenbelt, wander around Costco, catch movies at Alamo, try new restaurants, travel to new places, spend time with our friends, and have dinner out on our patio.
How do you, as a couple, want to be remembered?
As both a couple and individuals. Also, kind and welcoming.

 

 

Love,

Jessica

August 23, 2017

Mandy MIllican

“It’s a combination of things, really. Work hard, stay humble. Always find room to evolve and grow. And, most importantly, do everything with intention.”

-Mandy Millican

 

I believe yoga is a continual and constant practice of presence and compassion. I believe marriage is a continual practice of presence and compassion. One of the most productive and beneficial things we could be doing for ourselves is finding more stillness in our everyday lives. It makes our days so much smoother, our minds so much more clear and our overall perspective much happier. Imagine your wedding planner is also a yoga teacher, and the morning rush on your wedding day can start with this beautiful practice. The feeling you get when you’re done, and that glow you get can stay with you and you’re bridesmaids throughout the day. Calm and clarity are words usually not related to weddings, but yoga it’s so relaxing and helps to release all stress and tension from the long day ahead.

I met Mandy a few weeks ago, I must say I felt like I’ve known her for years. There is something so familiar about her, she’s carefree, fun, bohemian.  She is a smart woman with a wild heart full of adventure. She is the owner, planner, and designer of Modern Whimsy Events, a yoga instructor, and creator of many more exciting things.  The summer is almost over, that means wedding season is about to get swinging in Austin, so if you’re planning to get married in the near future keep scrolling down. Please read on to this this interview and let Mandy tell the story. Find out more about this beautiful woman who is challenging the wedding industry with modern, edgy, and unique ideas.

 

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  • Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Mandy- native Texan, lover of sleeping in, hammock lounging, and an organized email inbox. I own Modern Whimsy Events, am a yoga teacher, and a self-care facilitator with Mindful Moments ATX.

  • Can you tell us more about Modern Whimsy Events?

Modern Whimsy Events is a boutique wedding planning & wedding design company here in Austin, founded in 2010. I strive to create unique weddings that tell a story, both in an overall design aesthetic & the implementation of small and meaningful details. It’s such rewarding work, to meet couples and hear their stories, and then create an event that speaks to who they are as a team, a partnership. I also offer Wedding Day Yoga, as a way to center in and start the wedding day with an open heart and an attitude of gratitude (and no stress!).

  • What is your ideology as a business owner?

It’s a combination of things, really. Work hard, stay humble. Always find room to evolve and grow. And, most importantly, do everything with intention.

  • A lot of love comes in to your business. What is it about your process that makes your work so special?

I approach every aspect of the planning process with compassion. Planning a wedding can be very overwhelming, even for the most organized folks, and emotions are often high. I try to hold space for my clients, even beyond the logistical elements of planning an event, so that they feel comfortable letting me know about any familial stressors, personal issues around the wedding that they may be dealing with, and even just the “oh shit this is crazy!” moments that they often experience.

  • Who is your ideal client?

Couples who enjoy a modern aesthetic, have an intentional approach to planning, and aren’t afraid to try something unique with their event!

  • Why is it important to incorporate yoga into a wedding day?

It’s the act of intention that’s most important. Yoga is a fun and healthy vessel for that. Taking the time to slow down, remember why you’re about to make this commitment, and center into those true feelings…it really changes the tone of the rest of the day. Everyone who participates has a glow about them after the class. It’s a special experience.

  • How do you describe your style?

Modern, organic, intriguing, and personal.

  • What do you love about weddings?

I love that I get to help create and hold space for people to celebrate a milestone in their life. Bonus points if we get to make it beautiful!

  • Where do you get your inspiration from?

Lots of places…nature, pieces of art that I stumble across, the ambiance of certain spaces, and my couples’ individual stories and styles.

  • How do you break the rules doing what you do?

The exciting thing about current wedding culture is that it’s all about breaking the rules/old traditions, and we’re seeing more and more uniqueness in what couples bring to the wedding planning table. Forgoing traditional ceremony specifics, finding venues that are off the beaten path, even down to the food that they serve their guests…just a few ways to put a twist on things.

  • What other projects do you have going on?

I co-founded a self-care workshop series with my friend Maggie Gentry called Mindful Moments. We focus on ways to educate and encourage self-care in its many forms, and our 2 hour workshops often feature a guest speaker who is an expert in a certain field. It’s been so much fun creating this passion project and seeing our community grow.

  • As a creative woman. How does creativity change your everyday life?

I’ve been dedicating more time to cultivating my creative side, lately: Taking time to listen to music and write down how it makes me feel. Giving myself design challenges where I play off of a color or pattern, just for the fun of it. I’m hoping to open up more space in my life to try new art projects, as well.

  • What other talents do you incorporate to the wedding planning?

Fun fact: I used to be a sergeant in the US Army. I have some experience with, literally, rallying the troops. So I guess you can say that’s a talent that I bring to the table. 🙂

 

 

Follow Mandy

Website

Instagram Modern Whimsy Events

Instagram Yoga Day With Mandy

Love,

Jessica

August 16, 2017