“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.
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
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.
“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.
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.
“Love the process of becoming the person you want to be.”
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.
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.
“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.
|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.|
|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.
“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.”
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.
- 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. 🙂
“One of the things that I love most about Courtney is how powerful I feel around her”
The love that Courtney and Luis share is beyond any words. Like any love story it has a magic of it’s own. Please let them share with you their amazing story.
Where did you meet?
Luis and I met at a Lord Huron concert on Feb. 17th, 2014 – Luis came over to me and said something witty and I instantly laughed and felt comfortable around him. I was wearing cowboy boots & Luis asked if I two stepped and when I said I did, he said “where”? I said “The White Horse”. He then replied “I love the White Horse.” and we both decided why not go dance there that night. After hours of laughing and two stepping we ended the night drinking coffee at Star Seeds. Luis and I ended up reliving the exact same date the next night. Luis found us tickets to the show on Craigslist to see the show again. We’ve been inseparable ever since!
Lord Huron, She Lit a Fire or Chris Stampleton, More of You (our wedding song)
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon
The Head or The Heart?
The heart for sure.
What are your favorite things to do together?
Spend Saturday morning drinking coffee and eating Luis’s potato & egg tacos or playing our favorite songs while taking a drive.
How do you, as a couple, want to be remembered?
That we were genuine and loving.
“Feel the connection. If you share the same style, your combination of ideas will turn out incredibly amazing!”
– Cinthya Aguilar
I want to start this blog post by telling you my story with Cinthya. She is a former client of mine, and after we both moved to Austin, TX we became great friends. It is really easy to fall for her she is so charismatic and will always make you feel like you’ve known her for years. After she decided to launch Lunita Calligraphy, her business as a wedding stationary designer I couldn’t be more excited for her. She is very talented and passionate about her work and it reflects on the beautiful work she has done with now-married couples, I love that she is not only passionate about designing but she has a special love for weddings.
When choosing your wedding invitation there are infinite options, and if on top you have to decide on flowers, photographer, cake, venue, dress, it can get overwhelming. How can you choose your ideal designer, color palette, paper, and style? Cinthya from Lunita is here to answer all those questions and give you the best tips to choose the perfect designer and invitation that will give a face to your event. Please read on to this interview and fall for her and her amazing creations. Don’t miss the free customized design download from Lunita at the end of the post!
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Cinthya Aguilar, and I am the founder and creative mind behind Lunita Calligraphy. I enjoy the small things in life, I love nature, messy hair, the ocean, mermaids and I am intrigued by the weirdness in dreams. I currently have a full time job as a Marketing Coordinator, I am pursuing a Graphic Design certificate, I try to workout at least 4 days a week and I work on projects for Lunita on my spare time. My days are crazy busy and I love it!
Where did you grow up and how did you discover your love for calligraphy and design?
What is your ideology as a creative person?
Explore, try new things, pay attention to your surroundings, there is inspiration everywhere!
What is a must thing a couple should know when choosing the right wedding invitation?
It is all about their style, invitations have their own personality. Couples should think about their story, what style represents their love for each other.
What is your favorite part of the design process when working with a couple?
Meeting them. I love weddings… and getting to know the couple is definitely the best part. I get as much as excited as them about their big day! I truly understand how important it is to them to have the perfect invitation suite and I really put my heart into it, and do my best to create the perfect design for them.
How important is choosing the right color palette depending on the season?
I think this truly depends on the couple. I mean, it’s their wedding, they can choose any colors they like. Of course I always give them my best suggestions depending on the theme of their wedding and the season, but at the end of the day, it’s their decision and it really doesn’t matter if their wedding is in the middle of summer and they want to go with a winter color palette. I’d make sure the color combinations work well together and that the whole composition suites their expectations.
Top 5 tips you can give a couple who are searching for the right designer
Great question, I hope this is helpful:
- First of all, look at their previous work, if you like her style, well… hire her.
- Don’t ask them to recreate someone else’s work. Every designer is different, and we all have style of our own.
- Feel the connection. If you share the same style, your combination of ideas will turn out incredibly amazing! Think of the possibilities, two minds are better than one 😉
- A good designer will always explain in detail the reasons behind their designs, why some typefaces work better than others, what colors work better together, etc… Communication is key in the design process.
- A good designer should also be a good listener. By actually listening, a designer can learn of what really matters to others rather than assuming we know what’s best for those we are designing for.
Do you have a ritual for inspiration?
Yes and no. Sometimes inspiration comes when you least expect it, and when that happens, I just write down that idea, draw a rough sketch, take a picture or make a note on my phone for later, and while sometimes this is an easy part of the process, other times you need to work a little more into it. My ritual starts by setting up some good 5 hours at least to begin—you never want to cut off inspiration. I start with a mood board, some color palette options, magazine cuttings, background music of course, then I begin to draw rough sketches, and finally put all the pieces together. Usually I have something in mind, but after a while working on it, it turns into something different, so I just go with it. Sometimes you end up having a great piece of art by accident! There is no right or wrong when it comes to inspiration… my advice? just go w i l d.
What kind of couples should contact Lunita?
All the couples in the world! Haha… A couple who has their own unique style and wants something custom made that will suit them perfectly.
What do you love about weddings?
Everything! I’ve been married for 3 years now, I’ve had one small and one big wedding already, and I am working towards convincing my husband to get married again! that is how much I love weddings.
“My work is about one thing: making women feel powerful. Our culture is saturated with misogyny, so body positivity is an uphill battle for most women.”
When we think about image consulting we probably only think about helping people to improve their appearance. In our society women tend to feel insecure and attacked by a lot of different sources, we are scared of truly accepting who we are and scream it to the world. The main idea is to surrender to who we truly are and not to what we are told by the world we should be. Let me tell you about the time I met Raquel for coffee, I loved that when asked about the work that she does, she says she help women to feel empowered. Raquel Gordian is the creator of Greer Image Consulting, and her approach to her clients is very much based on teaching them how to embrace their perfect imperfections and use that to their advantage. There is so much power in loving yourself and your femininity, feeling beautiful is a matter of self-acceptance, and when we accept and love our flaws they stop ruling our lives. Raquel will help women transform their perceptions about clothing by creating a positive visual image, reflecting at the same time who they are inside. I’m a firm believer of change and improvement, so go ahead and take the risk, think outside the box, surround yourselves with positive creative people, and embrace your uniqueness, and if you need a little help translating that to your wardrobe call Raquel. Please read on to her interview and learn more about the amazing creative work this lovely Austinite is rocking.
Who are you and what do you do?
Raquel Greer Gordian, Founder and Image Consultant at Greer Image Consulting
I help women become more confident by teaching them how to work with what’s in their closet in more creative ways, while opening them up to new styles that highlight their natural beauty and personality.
Where did you grow up and how does that shape what you do today?
I was born and raised in Austin, so when I was figuring out where I wanted to move after leaving NYC, Austin was an easy option. It’s definitely home to me, and luckily it was also the perfect place to grow Greer Image Consulting.
Name something you love, and why?
My puginese Norma Jeane, she’s my love. I adopted her a month after I graduated from college, so we’ve been through alot together. When everything around me is chaotic, being able to snuggle up to her or hear her snore makes everything okay.
What skills or talents do you think would make you even more successful?
This is easy. Coding! I’m proud to have built my own website through a very user-friendly template :), but if I knew how to code, I’m pretty sure I’d never have another question for another human again.
How is it owning a business as a woman?
It’s simultaneously awesome and extremely difficult. The highs are really high and the lows can be really low. I’m not sure there’s any other job though that, for me, could compare to the power I feel in being my own boss. I have to push myself even when I want to walk away from a project, question myself when I’m going against my gut, and erase and start over when something doesn’t work. That can be exhausting, but when something does work, and you created it from the ground up, it’s the most amazing feeling ever.
What is your Ideology as an entrepreneur?
Work harder than you ever have. Don’t be afraid to mess up. I know it’s cliche, but messing up seriously is one of the biggest ways you learn. It’s good to get knocked off your high horse, but also painful. And you may feel like an idiot. But take it as a gift. You always get the opportunity to correct your mistakes in future situations, which means in the end, you get to make a lot of people really happy. You’ve always got more ideas, more creativity to share, more love to give to your clients. Push yourself every day and while you may have failures along the way, you’ll succeed in the end.
What was the main inspiration behind the work that you do?
My work is about one thing: making women feel powerful. Our culture is saturated with misogyny, so body positivity is an uphill battle for most women. What I aim to do with my clients is have them understand their worth by recognizing they aren’t flawed. They are perfect the way they are, because that’s how they are! End of story. Developing a wardrobe that represents them and highlights their natural beauty helps them see that and embrace that “Hey, maybe I’m not so _____ after all.” I show my clients the rules of what clothes work for their body type, style and color palette, thus giving them freedom to embrace who they are and who they want to be through style.
How do you describe your style?
Oh dear, it’s more of a mindset. Let’s say it’s bad bitch mentality. At least that’s my goal for myself and all my clients. Style is incredibly nuanced, just like women, so it changes from day-to-day. One day it could be a retro fit n’ flare dresses, the next jean shorts and thigh-high boots, the next a power blazer and flare jeans. Being in touch with your mood is really key to embracing your style, because this will dictate what clothes make you feel comfortable on any given day.
Why is it so important that a woman feels comfortable with what she wears ?
Style is a woman’s daily dose of self-expression. It’s how she’s able to say who she is in no words. When we don’t feel good in what we’re wearing, a piece of us is missing. Not feeling good in your clothing can distract you from your job, give you anxiety at a party or discourage you from speaking your mind. Style is our creative outlet, which provides support we need to get through any day feeling confident. It’s the outside expression of who we are on the inside. Style allows us to be seen and heard in every facet of our lives.
What is your dream project?
I really don’t know. A few years ago, I would’ve said running a successful image consulting business, but even when I imagined that, it wasn’t as big as it is now. So yay for dreams coming true! I guess having a tv show like What Not to Wear would be really awesome. When people ask me what I do, and I’m feeling lazy, I reference that show. It would be cool to help people on tv, because then I could reach even more women, which is always the goal — help as many women as possible.
How did you find your passion?
I’ve always loved style. At a young age, I recognized that it’s really your way to control how you’re perceived in any social situation. You can feel average or you can be a bad ass, and as I said, I always want that bad bitch mentality. My parents are also both really stylish people. My dad actually has more Pinterest followers than me and a board dedicated to things he wants my mom to wear. They both exuded a natural confidence that comes along with owning your style, and way before I understood what that was, I wanted it. That love of style collided with my desire to help women in college.That was the first time I called myself a feminist. After college, I managed boutiques in Manhattan, which eventually led me to image consulting and Greer Image Consulting!
What is a must-have piece in every woman’s wardrobe?
I’m averse to saying there are must-haves, but I will say you need a good bra. That can change the fit of an outfit from okay to on point. Every woman’s style and staples are unique. I don’t own a white t-shirt, and I don’t own black pants, because I don’t feel good in those things. Your closet should be made up of staples, but I define a staple as something you love to wear no matter how out there or impractical it is. Now you always want to be mindful of where you’re going, like don’t wear thigh-high boots to an important meeting, but I believe the shift dress that works for your unique image becomes a staple when you truly love the fit, color and style.
Does Austin weirdness influence your aesthetic?
Definitely. Even in that important meeting, you should be able to express your personality through details. This isn’t DC or Dallas, so you often have freedom to use color and accessories in more creative ways in business.
How did creativity change your life?
Creativity takes away my anxiety. When I’m creating, it removes everything else from the picture and allows me to 100% focus on the task. I’m not patient enough to meditate, but I feel like creativity is kind of a form of meditation. You are so focused in the moment, that you’re almost thinking without thinking.
What is the best piece of advice you will give to a gal that wants to improve her personal style?
Trust your gut. That’s the biggest issue a lot of my clients have is that they wear what they think they should wear rather than what they love to wear. Go with that, know the rules (which is where I come in) and you won’t be steered wrong.
What does being free means to you?
I think freedom is knowing you’re enough. You can only do so much, you are only one person, so just be okay with that. I think it’s also about knowing it’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to apologize and genuinely mean it. It’s okay to admit fault and be vulnerable to people. Without allowing myself to be vulnerable with people, I could never have accomplished what I have. I’m still working on it everyday, but I think it all boils down to loving yourself and giving people really good hugs and accepting a really good hug in return. 🙂