Catching up

by Ellen in , ,

Yikes! There are a lot of pictures I've taken in the past month that I am nowhere even close to posting. Sorry. BUT we'll start with this wonderful concert I went to on December 9th in San Francisco. It already feels like a lifetime ago.

Needtobreathe is this really awesome band from South Carolina--they sing about life and God and are these mountain men who look like they don't bathe very often. But who really cares; they make music that speaks pretty loudly. I'm a HUGE fan of these guys and can't wait to see them again!

I didn't take Fitty with me, as you can tell. But not having as much control over your camera is sometimes fun and I love playing with my little camera. It's my favorite concert companion and has served me very well over the past (almost) 5 years.

I left my harp...

by Ellen in , , , Sam Frank's disco. You have to say it out loud in order to hear what it sounds like. This comes from a joke that Elise's dad told me when I told him I was moving to San Francisco. Of course, it was a long, drawn-out joke (we now know where Elise gets her 'Tis Bottle tendencies), and a hilarious pun=the best kind of joke.

Anyway, I'm writing this 12 days before I jump on a plane to come back to Memphis, but I'm scheduling it to publish while I'm in the air. I'm big on time management these days, and I have to do some things ahead of time because I have a lot to do. Also, I didn't really want to write this so close to my time of departure from this beautiful city. Because I am not coming back here. Well, maybe for vacation sometime in the future, but not to live anymore. If you have ever read this blog, you know how much I love San Francisco and all of the things I've seen and done and learned and gained. I love the views, the people, my school, the hills, the food, the smells, the public transportation, the weather. I don't want to leave...believe me. If I'm being honest, I'm just not sure the whole experience of living here is worth being in debt up to my eyeballs. I love my school so much; I wish I could put it my pocket and take it with me everywhere. And I knew it would be expensive, but I don't want to get to the point where I have to fight to live. I'm willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to pay the bills, but it sucks the life out of you, and I just don't want to get there. Because it would be easy to do here...the standard of living is so high and I don't make nearly enough at my part time job to stay in school full time AND actually sustain myself.

Although my quality of life is different here, and better in some ways, I really miss being able to do the things that really make life wonderful for me because I can't afford it. For example: Spin classes, playing volleyball, having a dog, going on road trips, seeing Ben, sleeping in my bed. I've gotten in some really great runs, but that's about all the exercise I've really had, and my body misses being used to its full potential like rolling on the floor and hitting something really hard. I guess I could do those things in other ways, but I might get arrested.

I haven't felt nearly as homesick as I thought I would, but I totally hate that I've only seen Ben 3 times in the 5 months he's been alive. Seriously? I'm his mother's only sister. And I burst into tears every time Claire sends me a video of him getting bigger and cuter and giggling and splashing in the bathtub. I hate missing so many of the firsts for him, because really, they're firsts for all of us. I don't want to be separated from it anymore. I love that because of him, my whole family sits down to eat dinner together; and by whole family, I mean Dad, Reg, Mom, Claire, Craig, and Ben. I can't remember any times in my life (besides important life events and birthday parties) where my mom and dad and sister and I were all together in the same room and excited about the same thing. Because of this baby, that happens now, and I can't stand being so far away from it. I can't wait to sit down to dinner with my ENTIRE family on Saturday night and play pass/kiss the baby. I can't imagine anything better.

So what am I going to do now? I don't know, I might put down the camera for awhile and enjoy life and just let things happen without feeling obligated to put it on a memory card. Plus, Fitty gets heavy. Don't worry, in reality, this probably won't last very long. I love taking pictures very much; but I'm really going to work on making the kind that I want to make without time constraints or worrying about perfection in editing (I don't have access to Photoshop anymore anyway; it's sort of freeing--like when your cell phone dies while you're on vacation). I want to take great care with every image while I'm there making it with my camera. I want to make a lot of pictures, but take my time doing it, and no one to tell me to hurry it up.

As for work, I'm going to transfer to a LOFT in Memphis and work part time (or full-time if they'll let me), and maybe get a part-time job somewhere else (Kat? Wanna hire me to make cupcakes?) And go visit Claire, Craig, and Ben whenever I'm not working.

And I'll be making up for lost time with my friends. I want to take a trip to New Haven, church hop, dance at Raiford's, run where hills are optional. Staying busy but keeping it simple--I wouldn't want to miss California too much.

I'll be back--I have some great friends to stay with when I visit. Which, lucky for me=free places to stay in the best city in the United States.

Weird, nice people and public transportation--I'll miss you. Thank you for reinforcing my opinion that humans, by nature, are good and for helping me build immunities to all the germs in the world so I'll never get sick again.

And thank you, San Francisco, for helping me live so much life--there are so many experiences I've had that I never would have had if I were anywhere else. I'll probably walk with a limp for awhile after all that wrestling.

And don't worry heart, I know right where I left you and will be back soon to retrieve you.

So Many Beautiful Places...

by Ellen in , , ,

I love to explore. There's a reason that so many people live in this area of the United States, and I think it's because when it was "discovered", the discoverers were just so in awe of its natural beauty that they decided to build a city (oh, and the gold). I'm sure a lot of that loveliness died, but what's left of it is still incredible. I've tried to have as many outside adventures as my feet and my bank account will let me have here, and I think I've done pretty well. I've been a lot of places, seen a lot of beautiful sunsets, and I am constantly overwhelmed by all the things to look at around these parts. And I've never even been out of the Bay Area. I can't imagine what else is out there to still be discovered. Well, I'm running out of time, so I'll leave it up to other people who like to explore or Fievel when he goes West.

I see pictures all the time from Lands End. No, not the clothing catalogue, the actual place. It is right my backyard and includes the Barbary Coast Trail, The Cliff House, and Sutro Baths, among other nature-y marvels.

OK, so the Sutro Baths were built by Adolph Sutro in 1896 and was this giant glass and wood building that served as the largest public swimming facility in the world. There were 7 pools, one freshwater and six salt water pools, all temperature controlled. Musee Mechanique and all the stuff that's at Ripley's Believe It or Not were there, too. According to Jack, it was very exciting...but it burned down in 1966. Jack is also sure that it was arson. Anyway, the "ruins" are pretty cool. Modern ruins. What an interesting notion.

I had a good time. The whole place is gorgeous.

Also, I wish the pictures on this blog looked better. The way the blog makes them look is so not ideal. They look a lot better on my computer. Oh well, you get the idea.

An Evening with Marc and Nate (and Robin)

by Ellen in , , , ,

So I'm entirely sure why it took me so long to go through all of these photos from this lovely night when Nate came to town to play with Marc Broussard. I mean, it's been 2 weeks. Oh right, I hardly have any time to go through my fun photos because I'm busy with school and work--ironic, no? How I'm a photographer who doesn't have time to go through her photos and make them look pretty? However, I do love being busy, so sometimes things get pushed to the wayside if others must take precedence.

I did love getting to hug Nate's neck and see him play for 2 AND A HALF HOURS. It was magical. And Robin and I had a great time. OH, and Robin is my new friend who went to Georgetown with Elise and is a nurse like Jackie. She is awesome and I love her. We had a lot of fun.

PS the last time I saw Marc Broussard play was August 14th, 2006. In Memphis. At Newby's. With as many people as that tiny place will hold. I have a vague memory of Marc wearing a "Let's Hug it Out" shirt and me hiking up my skirt to get better ventilation. I think that was the hottest I've ever been in my life. I also remember that Nate had a spot by the fan and I'm pretty sure I elbowed some girl out of the way so I could share it with him. This experience was much more enjoyable.

So, when the light is low, but the lights on your subject is crazy and makes it look blown out in every photo you take, you have to get a little creative. The colors were really pretty, so that was fun.

Can you tell I love moving my camera around? I hope it doesn't make you nauseated.

Me and Robin, yay!

And I never never never do this, but I just had to commemorate. I felt/look like such a groupie, ugh.

We had a lovely time and I was so glad to see my old friend and make a new one!


by Ellen in , ,

Here are some things about San Francisco to which I am in the process of adjusting:

1. Walking by European men on the street. They wear SO much cologne that you can't inhale when you pass them. Kind of like when you're eating beignets and you don't want to choke on the powdered sugar.

2. Everyone here says "hella" and calls their friends "homies." Example: "All my homies are hella awesome!" I really thought I had made it out of the '90s unscathed.

3. This one is not so funny: the ridiculous marijuana problem. Seriously, you think it's not addictive? If you feel the need to get high before school, in between classes, and after classes are over, you might want to rethink your theory. Also, the only people who want to legalize marijuana are the people who smoke it, not the ones who want to take the good stuff out of it and use it for medical purposes.

4. Not having a car, and using my legs as my main mode of transportation. No matter your vehicle of choice, you always run into traffic. However, when you're walking down the street, you can't have road rage if someone stops abruptly in front of you or is walking as slow as Christmas. If you honk, give them the finger, or speed up and cut them off, it becomes a whole different kind of personal.

5. Most people talk really fast and really quietly. Or maybe I'm going deaf. Maybe it's both. But I am constantly saying, "What did you say?" It's very frustrating. Just speak up, San Franciscans!

6. If someone is walking their dog(s), they are always glad to let you pet said doggie and will tell you its name. I love that people are willing to share their pets with those less fortunate.

This is seriously the biggest doggie I've ever seen! She is beautiful.

7. I think I may have mentioned the magnanimous amount of good bottoms. (And yes, I feel like the word magnanimous perfectly describes the situation.)

8. Hipsters unite! (PS I hear Urban Outfitters is coming to Memphis. YAY! Now everyone ages 16-28 will look exactly the same.)

That's all for now, I think.

Fleet week and other things

by Ellen in , ,


So, there's this episode of Sex and the City about Fleet Week. Guess what? IT'S REAL.

Oh. my. goodness. I ran the Embarcadero today, and it was jam-packed with sailors. Young and old (mostly young). In their uniforms. With their little hats. HOLY COW. They are precious. And there are HUNDREDS of them. They're everywhere.

Fleet Week=a parade of US and Canadian navy ships and the Blue Angels do air shows. A lot.

What that really means: HUNDREDS of cute boys walking around and it's always really loud outside. For an environmentally conscious city, this is NOT a very environmentally friendly tradition. The planes leave these really weird trails of greenish-brown smoke everywhere they go. Yikes. But it sure is fun to see them do all the loop-de-loos.

I think I'm going to venture back down there tomorrow when I'm not sweaty and gross and get a tour of a ship. Maybe I'll meet a nice, handsome sailor in line.

OK, I have hard time admitting to myself that I'm a little boy crazy. I went to an all girls' school for 14 years, what do you expect? There are so many things I can play the St. Mary's card for. Anyway, I just like to look at all of them. I'm mostly scared of boys, so I don't really talk to I figure I can look as much as I want. And they are all sooooo cute. And smiley. And they have good posture. I wonder if they stay on the ship the whole time they're here, or if they have hotel rooms. I don't know. I'll ask when I go on my ship tour tomorrow. It's free!

More fun stuff:

So, since I moved here, I've been really excited because I have been anticipating getting to witness the musical stylings of my friends Drew and Ellie Holcomb in SF. Their whole band is called Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, which Nathan is a part of, so I have really liked getting to know them over the past couple of years. It was super fun seeing them here and even MORE fun how much SF loved them. This place gets better and better everyday...mostly because I find out things I love about the people. Most people in this city are in good moods--it must be all the great things to see/do combined with the wonderful weather we've been having. In general, they are fun to be around.

This is Matt Hires, who Drew and Ellie are on tour with. He's really good!

Thanks, Drew and Ellie! You brought a little piece of home with you, and I am so thankful I got to see you.

Biking is for winners!

by Ellen in ,

Just want to say that spinning really does prepare you for biking in the real world!

I had the BEST DAY YET in California. I took a half-day trip to Tiburon on a bike. It was a glorious day-- lots of sun, about 70 degrees, and perfect. I rode over the Golden Gate Bridge, into Sausalito, and up to Tiburon. It's about 20 miles (a lot of it is uphill) one way, and it took me about 4 and half hours. But it was beautiful. I took about 700 photos, but I'll just put a few on here because 700 is too many. Watch out, because you're about to get REAL sick of looking at the Golden Gate Bridge. So, here we go...

The beginning, just past the wharf:
Doggies on the beach...
Getting a little closer...
Not too much farther...
These waves were fun
Little splash for the bridge.
And then I rode up a big hill
Still climbing...
Approaching quickly...
Almost there.
And now we're on the bridge, looking at the crazy surfer guys below. Those rocks are sharp, dude.
This is what supports lots of tons of motorized vehicles.
Beautiful. Who even lives here? Oh, that's right. It's me!

Walking some more
Look out down below
I rode my bike for a few more miles and ended up in Sausalito. It's very touristy.
And THEN I left Sausalito and rode my bike on the interstate and saw things like this
And signs of real life!
AND FALL EXISTS!! (The Ginkgoes are for Kitty)
And geese! And people who live in real houses! With driveways and front yards!
And then I rode up this big giant hill and I was almost in the famed Blackie's Pasture.
Shells and leaves.
In Blackie's Pasture, there are lovely little children named Will and Maggie. Their mom had brought them out to take some photos, but there was a broken camera and tired kids, so she asked me to take some photos. They are sweet kiddos.
And there are people in California who have real lives and have soccer practice. Who knew?
There's Tiburon over yonder
See? I really did pedal my little heart out. Ellliiiootttttt
And this is the first sign I saw when I entered civilization.
St. Steve's. It was closed.
Hello, Fall!
SF is wayyyy over there
On the ferry home.
I'm not sure I'd feel safe living there. But it sure is lovely.
We meet again.
The ferry ride only takes 20 minutes. The 4 hour bike ride was worth it.

Ferry Building

I love SF very much, but it was really great just to get out for a day and see some other life forms other than tall buildings and adults with tiny dogs. It's about to start raining all the time again, and I wanted to do this before all that started. I may do it again soon and go up to Mill Valley and see some tall trees and do some other stuff. I don't know. But I could hardly believe what I was seeing was in America and I was constantly overwhelmed with excitement for getting to live here and be a part of it.

I found out that I really really really really really want to get a bike.

AND that as much as spinning has helped prepare my legs, it did not prepare the bones in my bottom. I thought for sure after a year of spinning those bones would be conditioned to a bike seat, but apparently that doesn't happen because now I need a do-nut seat in order to sit comfortably.

But it felt really good to get some for real exercise. Next up: running. I can't believe I haven't run in almost 2 months. Yikes! Better get on it. Tomorrow. I have to do something, because I need to look super fly in Melissy's bridesmaid's dress in less than 3 weeks!

My favorite day at church

by Ellen in , ,

OK, so I just now figured out a way to upload my photos to my blog. Before, it would take FOREVER because the files are so big, but I have found a way around it, and from now on, I will be blogging like a crazyperson.

Anyway, today was my second favorite Sunday on our calendar (second only to Palm Sunday, which is my first favorite): The Feast of St. Francis. I mean, if you've ever read this blog, you know why it's my favorite. I LOVE ST. FRANCIS.

AND it means all the doggies get to come to church to be blessed!

Which means I thought about and prayed for this sweet angel ALL DAY(which makes it no different from any other day, really):
Please excuse the our rush to document how Luna likes to use humans as an arm rest, it came out a little shaky. But I love it nonetheless.

I know Elise was out of town this weekend, and I kept forgetting to remind her Auntie Grace to take her to be blessed since she didn't get blessed last year because Elise and I were both out of town. She needs to be's a very special day in an Episcopal doggie's life. Like Confirmation, but slobbery-er.

I miss my girl!

I NEVER bring my camera to church unless asked by someone at the church to take a few photos, but Fitty couldn't bear to miss out on seeing so many kids and doggies all in the same place, and hopped into my bag.

Sitting pretty.
Little girl, you better gimme that...
Woof, biotch.
Kiddies and kitties!
Does this face look like someone else we know?
Manning the table.
I LOVED this doggie's face. He is beautiful.
Bahahahaha. Cats are mean.
Except when they're kittens. I don't care who you are, this is the cutest thing ever.
I loved this girl.
Old doggie who would roll her eyes when all the other doggies were barking when the choir sang.
I just thought this was funny.

I loved St. Francis Day in San Francisco!

Next adventure: Tomorrow, I'm biking across the Golden Gate and up to Tiburon. I haven't actually ridden a bike in the real world in about 2 years. Spinning classes count as riding a bike, right? Well, pray I don't fall into the bay or off the side of a cliff. Hundreds of people do this everyday, certainly I can, too. Don't worry, I'll show you the pictures.

Also, I have a ridiculous project due on Tuesday. I'll post here when I'm done with it.

Down the rabbit hole, for sure.

by Ellen in , ,

Today, I had an experience that was so surreal, I couldn't tell if I was on drugs, or if the other people were. Then I realized that I don't do drugs, so it must have been them. However, I'm also pretty sure these people didn't drugs either, which led me to this conclusion: they are brainwashed. There is really no other explanation for their behavior. After talking with them, I wanted to BEG them to PLEASE drink the Kool-aid.

I know I sound hateful, judgmental, and rude, and if I'm being honest(what are blogs for?), I feel hateful, judgmental, rude, and a whole other slew of rage-induced emotions.

Why? Oh, because I talked with the very people that make everyone else hate Christians.

And what did I do? First, I took their picture. Then, I went up and talked to them. Well, let's back up.

There is this very nice man who is ALWAYS standing at the Market/Powell cable car turnaround (aka the busiest corner in San Francisco), and he is always politely holding a sign that says, "Jesus Christ loves you." The only time I've seen him anywhere else is at the Folsom Street Fair. He is quiet, looks approachable, and doesn't speak unless spoken to. He just holds his sign, smiles at people, and walks in circles. That guy, I can deal with.

Then there are these people I saw today who I CAN'T deal with. Not because they were proselytizing, not because they were holding signs, but mainly because they were shouting, and most of their sentences began with, "Jesus hates."

What I personally believe does not enter into this at all, when discussing this with other people. It wouldn't matter what I said to them, it wouldn't get through. They were only talking, not listening. Children were frightened by them, people were cowering away from them, and most chose to walk on the other side of the street.

I have always resented the Bullhorn Guy, but y'all, this is something you won't even see or hear in the Bible Belt.

Now, don't ask what got into me, but I think something about this city makes me brave. I've only lived here a short time, and I feel really protective of it, and I don't like when someone is messing it up, or scaring its people.

So, after I stood there in disbelief, I gathered myself and quietly approached one of the less intimidating- looking guys, which, as it turns out, was a bad choice. He didn't even have kindness in his eyes when I walked up to him with a curious look in my eyes, and my nicest, "Excuse me, can I ask you a question?"

And NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have I compared anyone to this type of person, because I think it's the worst thing you can ever call someone, even in joking. It's just that I'm really sensitive to the word. And NEVER have I felt this way about someone before, and I hope don't in the future. But approaching this man was the closest I have ever been to looking into the eyes of a Nazi. Everything about this man said he had no mercy, that he found pleasure in making others feel worthless, and that he was superior by all means. The Nazis wore these belts that said in German, "God with us." Maybe God was, because God is with everyone, but they were not with God. This guy was the embodiment of that. It sounds dramatic, but as soon as I looked into his eyes, my knees started shaking, my hands started sweating, and I was dizzy with fear. Because that's what the back of hunter's orange sweatshirt said: "Fear God."

And God, was I afraid. But I pressed through it; after all, I really wanted to know where these people came from.

He told me: "We're Christians. What are you? Do you know Jesus? Do you read the Bible?"
I said, "I try to follow Jesus, yes."
He said, "TRY? Why are you only trying? What don't you follow Jesus?"
I said, "Because I'm not perfect. But I have a question."
"Why would I want to trust someone who hates other people?"
He scoffed. "God only hates those who hate Him."
"You're telling me God hates people?"
"Yes, it's in the Bible."
"I haven't read that part. Where does it say that?"
He spat, "I don't know which Bible you read, but it's the wrong one."
"What? I didn't even say anything about that. I thought there was only one Bible."
He rolled his eyes, "There is, so you're obviously not reading the right one."
Wide eyed, I asked, "How do you sleep at night, thinking that God hates people?"
He got in my face. "I sleep just fine, because I know I'm going to Heaven, and people like you are going straight to Hell."
I must have wavered, because from the look in his eyes, he thought he had me. "What?" I said.
Patronizingly, he reached out to put a hand on my shoulder, I backed away. "I know, it's a lot to take in. Most people have this reaction when they realize they need to repent or they'll go to Hell."
I shook my head in disbelief. "You're totally missing the point. I'm upset for you, not for me. I'll be just fine. I'm just really worried that God might be mad at you for telling people He hates most of them."
He laughed. "You can keep thinking that. But you see this sign? 'Go and sin no more?' Haven't you read that?"
"Yes, but-"
"Then why are you still sinning?"
"Because I'm a human. Are you telling me you're perfect?"
He puffed himself up, "I have repented."
"But you're just as sinful as everyone else, even me, because we screw up all the time."
He started to turn away from me. "I can't even look at you anymore."
I started to ask, "How many people have you helped today? How many have had a good reaction to this?"
But he literally boxed me out. I'm not even kidding. I looked like a fool, chasing him around the tiny little pole of his sign, and he was boxing me out, covering his ears, acting like a 5 year old.
There was a woman in his group standing next to him, and he said to her, "Talk to her (me), I can't even look at her."
So then the woman started in on me, "Obviously, you need to go home and read your Bible."
"What? Who are you?"
"I'm a Christian."
"Why do you think I don't read the Bible?"
"Well, you obviously don't."
"But how do you know?"
"It's obvious."
"But how is it obvious?"
"It just is."
"What? Why are you doing this? You people are the reason that everyone hates Christians!" My voice struggled over the bullhorn, and the Nazi more aggressively boxed me out, protecting his friend from me, the Wicked.

I picked up what was left of my poor, unfortunate soul off the ground, held it at arm's length, and tried to re-inflate it after being trodden upon and crushed. It drooped for awhile, until it somewhat recovered enough to let my mind process what had happened.

And then my head had told me it was done for the day, the stress of earlier events had depleted its resources, and gave me a hideous migraine.

But not before I had made it to Alamo Square to finally visit the Tanners. What ever happened to predictability, the milkman, the paperboy, evening TV?

Anyway, there were many other topics that I covered with the Nazi: using the Bible as a weapon, what Hell looks like, who the devil is (that would be me, apparently), and why, if he was so confident that he was the only one getting into Heaven, was he so defensive and unhappy-looking?

I WAS rude, and judgmental, and hateful. I have been asking myself why God would someone in my path to call themselves a Christian and provoke such horrible feelings, that even my spirit was left out to dry?

Well, that is completely the wrong question. The question should probably never be, "Why, God?" but maybe, "How, God?" How can I seek and serve Christ in this person and respect the dignity of his human being? How can I do that and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't make me pray for them!

It would be easy for me to think, "I've got it right, they're the ones that are really screwed up." But that would make me intolerant of the intolerant. I completely despise that they are being loud with their untruths and "loving" people on the street by saying they're all going to Hell in an ice boat. It is so completely whack, that I can't wrap my brain around the questions they'll answer when they meet their Creator face to face. I also don't even want to think about how they treat their wives and kids.

Point is, we're all screwed up, in one way or another, but it's all about being honest with ourselves, and constantly putting ourselves in the way of grace. Because it's there for all of us, even those of us who want to keep it all to ourselves.

But I'm still going to blame them for giving me a migraine.