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.

A Few Things I Learned About Women’s Conferences at the VA Women’s Business Conference

VA WOmens Business Conference 2018

I was recently asked to photograph at the Virginia Women’s Business Conference at the Sheraton Tyson’s Corner Hotel. I’ve photographed many events before and have been to countless conferences in my past life…but I was not prepared for a WOMEN’S Conference! It was tenth year of this conference and organized by the exceptional Tina Johnson of JP Events and it was DONE RIGHT! There were even awards for “Stellar Woman of the Year” and Young Stellar Entrepreneurs, high school students who were mentored and highlighted at the lunch presentation.

From the many inspiring keynote speakers, Michelle Poler of Hello Fears, author, Fawn Germer, and entrepreneur Cindy Munroe of 31Gifts,  to the choice of nine different tracks (from Business 101, Power, Personal Development and Wellness) with back-to-back presentations in all of them from successful and inspiring businesswomen.

There were details that I noticed that made me aware that this was distinctly a women’s conference, for women, and planned by women. First of all, one track that solely focused on WELLNESS included topics such as self care, managing menopause, and reversing diabetes naturally; personal development presentations that emphasized ideas such as empowerment and building a positive attitude and planning for abundance. This is NOT a conference that I was used to attending back when I was in the corporate world.

Other little details, such as bottomless coffee and tea, fruit, nuts and healthy munchies throughout the day; a breastfeeding station right front and center among the conference rooms (no more being sent down the long corridor to the small, dark office); chocolate breaks at just the right time in the late afternoon, plus exhibitors that offered an opportunity to get a little shopping done (multi-tasking of a woman).  All were distinctly female touches.

And the EMPOWERMENT speeches on the main stage, inspiring entrepreneurs and corporate woman speaking about their weaknesses and how they strive to overcome them, a level of vulnerability that was allowed because – hey – we’re all women and we get it! Things aren’t always easy.

Oh, and did I mention the dancing? Main stage speaker of Hello Fears that spoke about overcoming her fear of dancing in public, and got the whole audience up and dancing with her.? And at the closing session, instead of a coffee break to wake everyone up – it was a dancing break, to Justin Timberlake (and it worked!).

Only at a Women’s Conference.