This is Carolyn

Regretfully, I have not been keeping up with writing my blogposts about women I photograph who inspire me. This was a commitment I made back in 2018, when I took a deep breath and wrote a very personal blog, This is Me.  In this post, I described how I felt turning 50, pursuing my passion in portrait photography, my commitment to my health, and my desire to meet and profile people around me who inspire. Back then I stated that I have the opportunity in my career to meet many women who have courageously embarked upon a new career later in life, have found their life’s purpose in helping others, and in general whose spirit and spark drive me to be a  better person. However, as much as I try to keep to a schedule, life gets in the way – and although I met (and photographed) an abundance of inspiring women, I have sadly allowed other tasks get in the way of writing these posts.

If one person could bring me back to documenting and sharing her profile, Carolyn is the one. I have known Carolyn as a friend for over 10 years, as a mother in the community, a parent of children my own kids’ ages, a kind and gentle soul who taught preschool had a massive group of little children in  town who worshipped her.  We used to run together in the mornings, and I loved to hear little stories about the children, and could tell that she cared about the welfare and felt responsibility for every little soul that came into her classroom.

One day, Carolyn announced that she was going to start training in yoga therapy. I had heard other moms talk about that before. We dabbled in this or that, yoga was a little trendy and fun activity. But as I learned about Carolyn, she doesn’t go partway on anything. She strategically planned out the next 5+ years of her life, incorporating her 1,000-hour yoga therapy certification while continuing to teach preschool.  Once she completed her training, she was ready to embark upon her new passion and business of Heart Tree Yoga.

I had a Personal Branding Session with Carolyn earlier this year and I got to see first hand, her studio, how she works with clients, and her extreme dedication to helping people find greater ease of movement, balance, stability and strength through personalized  yoga therapy. I also experienced her desire to be authentic as she commented on the fact that she was growing out her grey and was fine showing that to the world.

It fills me with joy to see these images on Carolyn’s website because I felt that I really was able to capture her gentle soul, her intense desire to help others, and her general joy and appreciation of life and nature.

But what got me to sit down, write this post and share it with the world, was a facebook post I saw that Carolyn had just written about her “Hello Station.”

While it doesn’t surprise me that she wrote it and will be doing what she said she would, I know that it is a stretch for her – emotionally and physically (9am-8pm!), so with her permission, I am going to copy the post in her own words – because, it is emblematic of the type of person she is, and why she was my next logical inspirational portrait session:

My Hello Station

Heads up: This is going to be a fairly long post. I really hope you will read it anyways.

Six years ago when I turned 45-years-old I did something that for me felt a little far-fetched and out of my comfort zone. I invited anyone who might like to come to a free yoga class at the community center to raise money for Crisis Link. I was a new yoga teacher at the time.

This Wednesday I turn 51. (Last year I was in Canada when I turned 50- so this sort of nutty thing wasn’t possible.)

Recently, I’ve been thinking about human connection. As background, this sort of thing happens with me fairly frequently: I’ll be out somewhere and I will see a stranger and the thought will pass through my mind – “I wish I could have a conversation with that person.” It will just be that there is something in them that draws me to them. For example, this past week as I drove along I saw a woman walking with her family, crossing the street and the thought came – “wow, that woman has so much vibrancy in her.” A little later I was walking out of a coffee shop and I saw her again, sitting outside. I started to head to my car – but then I stopped, turned, walked up to her and said, “I don’t know if you have strange people coming up and saying strange things to you very often, but earlier I saw you walking along with your family as I was driving past and this thought passed through my mind – ‘Wow, that woman has so much vibrancy in her.’” When I shared the story, the woman smiled and thanked me. It was a lovely moment – connecting to another human being and speaking truth.

So, I was sitting in meditation yesterday and this thought crossed my mind – “you should set up a Hello Station.” Huh?

And there it was. My out-of-the-ordinary, totally random, far-fetched and out-of-my-comfort zone idea for being 51. So here I go.

This Wednesday, I’m going to set up a small table along the bike trail, near Church Street and the red caboose. It will simply have a sign that says The Hello Station. I’m going to sit there and if you are around, please stop by for a hello, handshake, hug, or even a holler. I think of it as a social experiment. I’m hoping that strangers and friends alike will wander by and stop- that I’ll get to meet new people and catch up with folks I know. What I think will be interesting is noticing how it feels to be there – doing something totally random and vulnerable. (And for those wondering, I have cleared this with my boys. They already accept their mom, strange as she is. God love them.)

Why am I doing this? In some ways, I have no earthly idea. LOL. People who may have always thought I was a bit random will completely think that even more than before. Yet, the thing is, I want to continue to be random as I get older. I want to open myself up to human connection and off-the-wall ideas when they come from my heart. And connection—human connection—is really why I think we are here.

If you are around, please come by for a Hello on Wednesday. I’ll be there 9am-8pm. Whew. That is a long time. This is going to be a challenge, but a good one.


Thanks Carolyn, for reminding us of the human connection and why we are here on earth.

This is Friderike…

When you first meet Friderike, what strikes you is her poise, height, her bright blond hair and big smile. She seems to be one of those rare people who radiate both professionalism and personal warmth at the same time. I met Friderike at a Vienna Business Association breakfast and was a little in awe of the way she commanded the room when it was her turn to introduce herself. She was so good at presenting herself and her business that it became my goal to be able to finesse my “elevator pitch” just as well.

As I got to know Friderike, I learned that she is just as tuned into others’ businesses as she is her own. In fact, that is her passion and her business. Butler Communication partners with business owners, executives, emerging leaders in transitions and professionals who want to activate their full potential in their businesses.  Leadership development and executive coaching is a field I didn’t know much about but when I started my series on women business owners and entrepreneurs who are changing their lives as they help change others’ lives, I knew I wanted her to be one of my first subjects. Luckily, she needed headshots as well.

We began our headshot session in a corporate setting since the majority of her business is in this atmosphere. But I knew I also wanted to take some images of this entrepreneur in her home office setting, where she and I had a very comfortable consultation when I went to her to discuss the goals of my own business – and where a golden retriever or two may or may not come in and lay down at our feet during a session (her dog Eduardo, thinks he’s a therapy dog and plays that self-assigned role well) and where Friderike leads our Small Business Mastermind group on a monthly basis.

Since my interactions and observations of Friderike have always been focused on helping others, I decided to learn more about her with some interview questions. Wow, I learned a lot! I never knew she had a prior career in the cruise industry and that she would describe herself as an introvert!

Here we go:

M: I know you haven’t always been a business coach, but like many of us women, have had one (or more) “previous lives.” What is yours and what guided you to this business?

F: I arrived in the U.S. in 1991 with two very large suitcases in my hands and a million grand ideas in my head. A German-US  exchange program for young professionals sponsored my work papers and everything else was up to me to organize. I lived in a group house in Washington DC and worked as the operations manager for a cruise ship charter company for a year earning $1000 per month.  After the first truly successful and grueling year, my boss offered to sponsor my green card and soon after I met my husband Scott on a blind date set up by one of my roommates.

After three years of cruises from Alexandria, I landed my dream job working for a German luxury river cruise line. I had the honor of opening their first U.S. sales office and enjoyed building a fabulous team. I got to talk about beautiful places in Europe, we designed fantastic trips and gave thousands of American travelers wonderful vacation memories. As much as I loved the work, I did not want to spend 60+ hours away from home when my husband Scott and I were ready to add kids to our lives. I left that job in 1999 a month before our first son Lukas was born.

After our second son Max was born, Scott and I worked together to turn his one-person consulting company into a software development firm that had 20 employees and contractors at its peak. When the global recession hit in 2008, we lost our biggest client, and I experienced first-hand what it feels like to get caught in a downward spiral and to spin into a frightening, reactive survival mode driven by fear and perceived scarcity.

Scott and I had a very different outlook on the situation and different decision making approaches and after many discussions and heartache, I decided to step out of the business. Instead, I built a translation business from the ground up. It took a couple of years until I assembled a trusted group of translators and together we were able to tackle large projects in technology, manufacturing documentation and real estate portfolio translations. As long as the boys were young, it was the perfect job since I was able to work from home and set my own hours and was available for them when they came home from school. I was able to shuttle them between their various activities and to be actively involved in their lives. However, my work life was lonely at times and was rather uninspiring to transform somebody else’s ideas from one language to another without much creative input. I started to get restless and was looking for an outlet for my creativity and business drive.

In 2013, I completed my degree work for Cross-cultural Management and Communication studies at George Mason University. My personal leadership development focus and feedback from colleagues and clients led me to enroll in the highly-acclaimed Leadership Coaching certificate program at Georgetown University’s School of Transformational Leadership in 2015. What I learned and experienced in this program was life-changing.

M:  You seem to have an innate sense of understanding people’s fears and trepidations in career moves – so there’s a level of psychology involved. Were you always the person that offered advice?

F:  I have reinvented myself professionally multiple times and have been an active entrepreneur in new territories for most of my professional life – doing things for the first time is fun and scary, exhilarating and exhausting, risky and rewarding, soul-crushing and uplifting. I have experienced how depressing and heavy it feels to be unfulfilled at work and I also know what it is like to operate in my sweet spot when work feels like play and I truly enjoy what I do and who I work with. I have seen operations fail and others become successful beyond my wildest imagination.

Over time and through training, I have learned to spot unrealized potential in others and I know how to encourage people to be themselves and be brave in creating a professional life for themselves that they enjoy. I wish for everyone to be able to realize their dreams and to find the courage to step out and create businesses or places of work that inspire them and others.

M:  How did you establish and build your business? I know you through the VBA (Vienna Business Association) and that seems to have been an important connection for you.

F:  I am an introvert, who enjoys to think and work one-on-one or in small group settings. Building my executive and business coaching business meant stepping out of my comfort zone in a major way. I had to learn how to expand my network, meet new people, and go to events where I did not know anyone. The VBA has been a safe place for me to practice my message, to give presentations in front of people I have known for a long time, and I was able to practice and improve my networking skills. From there I ventured out to other chambers and was recently invited to serve on the board of HR Alliance DC, which brings me very close to my target audience, HR directors and decision makers.

I volunteer as the Chairperson on the Town/Business Liaison Committee for the Town of Vienna, as a volunteer coach with Leadership Fairfax and a student mentor for Jobs for Life at the Lamb Center in Fairfax. Giving back to the community is important to me and it keeps me grounded.

Vienna Small Business Mastermind Group
The Small Business Mastermind Group that Friderike hosts. We meet on a monthly basis to share business tips, successes and input.

M:  How has this last career change been most rewarding to you?  

F:  I feel I have found my calling in helping others finding their innate strengths and talents and putting those to good use. Whether I work with brilliant scientists at NASA, innovative program managers at the FDA or courageous small business owners, ultimately they are all human beings with unique life experiences, who are trying to make sense of the world around them. I walk with them through tough transitions and help them to connect with what they value and what they do best. When they start to make brave moves and turn their professional lives into something they enjoy and that gives them pride, it is just the best feeling in the world for me.

Essentially building 5 businesses from the ground up has taught me many valuable lessons that I love to pass on to others. I think my most valuable lesson has been that you cannot take anything for granted. Life is precious and deserves to be enjoyed in the moment as much as you can. Once I figured that out, I started to enjoy the journey rather than constantly pushing towards a particular destination.

Entrepreneurs often have a hard time to separate business matters from personal time. I am not sure if working from home is different in that respect from working outside of the home, perhaps the lines can be even more blurry. However, I enjoy the flexibility of having a home-based business. My office setup allows me to work with clients at my home office and I also visit clients at their places of work. I enjoy both. Having a home-based business definitely cuts down on overhead and I like that I can be there most of the time when Max comes home from school.

M:  What is your vision for your future? Where do you hope Butler Communication will take you?

I have this crazy vision of flying business class coming home from an assignment at an exotic destination, a glass of champagne in my hand to celebrate success and looking out the window onto a sunset over the clouds. Until that happens, I continue to focus on coaching and teaching communication skills, team building, time management and helping other entrepreneurs turn their aspirations into reality.

It’s thanks to women like Friderike that I have been inspired and have persevered in running my own business at this stage of my life. And I think there are many other women out there that can relate. If you are interested in visually branding your business, contact me and we can have a conversation!

These Women are 2Unstoppable!

This is Michelle and Ilana. I recently photographed them in preparation for the launching of their online matching service. But…this is not just any matching service.

Ilana and Michelle had been friends for many years, but the bond between them grew with their shared experience of having breast cancer. Although their personal cancer stories were different, they both realized that staying active during treatment and long after treatment ends was more important than ever — and helped more than just the body. 

As Ilana said, “It gave me the strength and energy that worry and treatment took from me.” Michelle and Ilana know firsthand how difficult it is to summon the energy to be active during this time, and their friends were instrumental in keeping them moving.  “Everyone can benefit from a partner to inspire and motivate us to move, and that’s whay we founded 2Unstoppable!” Michelle told me.

2Unstoppable is a non-profit organization that these enterprising and caring women  created to help women with a cancer diagnosis find the right exercise partner. Using a free online matching program, women are paired based on needs, interests, abilities, and other criteria. The goal of the program is to help forge powerful, motivating and supportive partnerships to encourage physical activity during treatment and long after treatment ends.

Studies have shown that: Physical activity plays a critical role in improving breast cancer outcomes, enhancing the recovery process, and facilitating secondary prevention.


I was so pleased to help out Michele and Ilana with some professional headshots for their website. We met for coffee a few weeks before the session, and as I listened to them talk about their personal stories, I was reminded of my mother – who for the 5 years she dealt with ovarian cancer, walked on the beach almost every day, even when it was the most difficult. I also think of my own running crews  and the Moms Run this Town organization that I have been a part of for a few years – that gets me up and on the trail every morning, despite extremes of cold and heat – it’s more than running, it’s running therapy!

I can’t wait for the matching to begin and to watch these women who have gone through something that could have been such a negative actually turn it into making a positive impact both for themselves and for others.  Please pass on this information to anyone in the DC area (and beyond) to let them know about 2Unstoppable and the free fitness buddy matching service! You can learn more and stay in touch with 2Unstoppable by subscribing to their newsletter at their website and follow them on Facebook.