My New Boyfriend

by Ellen in , ,

Did it get your attention? Great. Sorry for lying, I just wanted people to read this. I don't have a new boyfriend, nor any that seem to be looming in my future. But here is what is happening (sorry for zero pictures. There will be pleeennntttyyy to come when I get the Internet at my house.)


2. BY THIS TIME NEXT WEEK, I'LL HAVE TWO NEPHEWS. That's right, TWO. Sam is coming next week!! I'm soooooo excited!!!!!

That's really all. Next time I'll have pictures of the Duggers, Shelby & Brian, Gwinn, the Sappingtons, and probably Ben and Sam, too. Oh, and the snow from today. I don't get it either.

by Ellen in , , ,

So this is the fun thing I did a week a half ago: my Aunt Lu arranged for our WHOLE FAMILY to come and surprise Nana and Grandaddy in Florida in celebration of their 90th birthdays this year. They had never met Ben, so it was a GREAT BIG happy surprise. I took a bazillion pictures, but they will have to wait until I finish Brie and Justine's pictures/have a break from work for a hot minute. Here are a few that we took, though:

All the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids without spouses:

The whole bunch:
Nana and Gdaddy with their kids:

All the grandkids and great-grandkids with spouses:

It was such a fun trip and I can't wait to go through all of the photos and show you the best ones!!

Kountdown to Kanuga

by Ellen in , ,

6 days. Timeout for an emo moment (sorrrry). Feeling a little bit nostalgic. I'm not much of a crier, but the dumbest things are making me think of this or that, or man I'ma miss this person that this cup of FroYo reminds me of. Also, I'm a tad more sensitive than I tell people. Tad= a lot, in real life.

If you're reading this, I'll miss you this summer. I have started this new life thing of saying what I mean, so I'm sorry if it makes me sound like a crazyperson. I wasn't this nervous about moving to California--and that wasn't even in driving distance. I've been thrilled and excited about this job, but now that it's getting closer, I can't help thinking about how Ben will be walking the next time I see him, and I'll have missed it. My sweetest friends will have babies growing in their bellies and I will miss seeing them get bigger. I'm thinking of all the pictures I'll be taking, but I'm also thinking of all the ones I COULD be taking of all the people who are most important. I realize they'll be here when I get back, but I don't want to miss these milestones.

Don't get me wrong, I feel so blessed to have this job and I'm so certain that I'm 100% answering God's call for me, which gives me great peace. I'll be in a beautiful place, with great humans, having lots of adventures=so much excitement. There are just a couple of people that I would not like to have to leave behind.

BUT it's only 3 months and I can't wait to see what God will do in that time.

And ohhhh babyyyyy pleeeaaase just stay the way you are so I don't miss anyyyythiiiingggg. Ooooo I love you more than anybody in the whole world.

Got any gwapes?

by Ellen in ,

Mmmmm gwapes.

A duck walks into a bar. He says to the bartender, "Got any gwapes?"
The bartender says, "NO"
The duck leaves. He waddles back in the next day and asks the bartender, "Got any gwapes?" And the bartender says, "NOOO"
The duck waddles out. The next day, he comes back, sits on a stool, and asks the bartender, "Hey, got any gwapes?"
The bartender says, "NO. And you ask me AGAIN, I'm going to nail your BILL to this BAR."
The duck leaves, comes back the next day and asks, "Got any nails?" The bartender says, "No."
Duck: "Got any gwapes?"

That has NOTHING to do with ANYTHING, I just like jokes.

Well, depending on who you are, I have good and/or bad news. The juicing is off for me. I said that my biggest fear with this was a migraine, and you guessed it: I got one on Monday. I took it as a message from my body that it is not right for me. I'm not going to hurt myself just to see what it's like to fast.

Looks like I'll be running a lot harder and working out without joining a gym. Oh, and eating all my gwapes. I got a lot of them. If you see any ducks, send them my way, I'll be glad to share.

NB: These are not grapes. They are also not real. I got fruit on the brain, though.

Mmmm Juice

by Ellen in , ,

This is the last solid food I will eat until 10 days from now...

Cookies n' Cream ice cream courtesy of the Jerkins' freezer (thanks, Leslie).

'Tis true--I'm doing the juice fast. Thanks to Chan for inspiring this; she and Hayley and I are doing it together. NB: this is not a diet. I don't diet. If my main goal is to lose weight, I'll exercise like a crazyperson. The goal of this is to fast and cleanse. I have 25 years of CRAP in my body, and I think this is a good way to get rid of that.

Also, I've been thinking a lot about the idea of the fast. Especially during Lent. Jews do it, Muslims do it--it makes me wonder if there's something to it. I've always said NO WAY to the fast. My friend John did it about 4 years ago, and I thought he was nuts. Especially when he would make me juice for dinner. No, thank you, juice is a beverage, not a meal.

Then I thought--it's ONLY food. It won't kill me for 10 days out of my whole life to abandon what I normally eat. My body will still be getting what it needs, just in a different way.

And in a way, I totally abuse food. I LOVE food. I measure my life in meals. When it's breakfast, I look forward to lunch. When it's lunch, I look forward to dinner. And all the time in between, I'm probably enjoying a nice cup of FroYo. I fill empty spaces with food. I run almost everyday, so I can feel better about all the FroYo, but it doesn't really do a lot of good, except for my heart rate.

So maybe those spaces can be filled with something other than food. When I'm hungry, I'll probably pray. It might be interesting to really stick to resisting temptation in a very tangible way.

At the end of this, I hope that I'll feel better, that I'll sleep better, and that my habits will improve. It's kindof like I'm starting from scratch with my body. I'll have to ease back into eating real food, and it will make me more cognizant of what is really going in my body. I also hope that running will be better for me. I have no doubt that I'll be a little bit lighter, so I can practice getting quicker, rather than just working on my endurance. I'm sort of looking forward to that. I mean, it might not hurt for my bod to look better than it currently does. I bet this one mega hottie won't complain if I'm a little hotter. I might even be able to keep up with him running. Watch out. Heh.

But really, I have NO idea what's going to happen. If for some reason this causes a migraine or something, the whole thing is off. I'm not going to forfeit my overall health for this experiment.

I know all of you are always dying to spend time with me and take me to eat delicious meals, but can you not beat down my door for the next 10 days? No solid food=hungry=grumpy gills=me.

Don't worry, I'll be blogging about my failures and triumphs.

Please pray for me (and Chan and Hayley).

You Can Dance. For Inspiration.

by Ellen in , ,

Wise words from Madonna.

Speaking of inspiration, there is a lot to be had. My friend Sue invited me to her Artists' Link meeting on Monday, and it was so much fun. I was the youngest in the room by 35 years, but that didn't bother me a bit. These people have been making/teaching/loving art for their whole lives, and they are all so so so so so talented. It was incredible. What a gem to find in Memphis. If there's anything I LOVE talking about constantly, it's art. Next to talking about God (and now Ben), it's my favorite subject. This week's program featured a show and tell by the members who chose to participate, and seeing what these artists work on was fascinating. To the outside world, they probably appear to be weird old people, but when they stand behind their work, they are young, vibrant, creative, interesting artists who are always learning. It made me feel prreeetttyyy lame to complain about finding creative inspiration to continue making art when these people have been making new art for 50 years. They are constantly open to what can be their next fun project and most of them just work, letting it flow freely from them until they come up with something that they can call "finished." Some have very methodical ways of working. Some are constantly working and they can't describe what they do. Some just attack a subject and do it in an hour.

The artistic process has always been such a mystery to me. It's something that I now know is a unnamed force--whether it be natural or divine or both--it just...happens. It can't be forced, it just has to be called forth by something and then there's no turning back. You have to acknowledge it in order to be fulfilled. Sooooo weird.

I have never thought of myself as an artist. Well, I've never really put myself into any sort of category, really. I've kindof always been this floater person--I play well with others. Athletes, preppy kids, art kids, nerd kids, pretty kids--I am able to relate to them all. Obviously it's something I take a little bit of pride in, but I really shouldn't because I think it just means that I've never claimed anything for myself. The Existentialist in me HATES labels of any kind, and through relating to so many different types of people, I find my meaning. However, that's sort of a cover-up, an excuse for never finding a niche.

The older I get, the more and less I know about myself. For example: Three years ago, I knew what my life would look like--a husband, an animal, a house, a job, in-laws. Now, I have no idea. Therefore, I know less. On the other hand, I know more than I did three years ago about how to listen to God and how to name and use the gifts I have been given. I think some people call this concept wisdom.

I am finding what defines me. I can do many other things, have many other job titles, be an assortment of names to my friends and neighbors. No matter what, my name is always going to be Ellen and I will always be a creative human. For a long time I denied myself that creative portion of my brain and my heart--most likely because I feared what it might turn into and it would make me do things that were scary. Well, since I've let it take over my entire self, I now know I had reasons to be afraid because it has changed me and led me to some fearful (but wonderful) precipices. Now that creative junt has infiltrated every part of how I live. It forces me to be honest, less guarded, and very present to life. While I'm more open, I'm less sensitive to little things--it has made me gain an awareness of who God has made me to be, and little things just don't matter. And the big things matter even more than they used to. I no longer feel trapped--I am getting to know myself, and I think I would be friends with me if I were not me.

And everything is spiritual.

I keep forgetting to put these snowy pictures up. I haven't even edited them. Straight out the camera. If I ever say there is nothing in this city to make art out of, you should tell me that I'm an idiot. It is everywhere.

Rubber Ducky...

by Ellen in , ,

I know I've said it a hundred times, but this baby is the light of our lives. Ben is most definitely the best kid on the planet. And I still will never get over being an aunt. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I know I'm THE Superlative Girl, but what's wrong with saying that something is the BEST or the MOST so and so? I just really like life, and when there are good things, they are GREAT and when there are bad things, there is nowhere to go but up and then everything is the BEST. Right?

Anyway, this kid is THE BEST. He is smart with his big fat brain and snuggly with his big fat cheeks, and he makes the funniest faces. He laughs and smiles and wobbles around and it's all miraculous.

He loves bathtime and it's the funniest time. And how can anyone resist those big blue eyes that just get bluer and bluer? Ooooo baby I can't wait till the next time I get to sniff you!

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.

Thanks, Gracias, Grazie, Arigato, Danke Shoen

by Ellen in

Those are the ways I know how to say "Thanks!" in other languages. It's something that I make a point to say all the time, to everyone. Even if it's my mom or dad and it's the 492754982nd time they've bought me a meal, I don't want to be the one to forget to thank them. I think gratitude is the best abstract noun EVER. Even more than happiness or kindness. Thankfulness takes the cake. I think it's of the utmost importance to really be able to say in words how you feel after being the target of someone else's grace...big or small. I think it can never be said enough, just as one tiny act of giving should never EVER go unnoticed without a word of thanks.

And that's why Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. It celebrates something that we actually all practice in our lives. Because let's face it--if you can't think of ANYTHING to be thankful for, then you should probably just quit life and start over. Maybe I'm optimistic, but I don't think there is one human that can't find something for which to be thankful. And by something, I mean someone.

That's what I find myself saying thank you for 9 times out of 10. The humans I know that make life possible. Scratch that--not just possible, but they make life everything from merely bearable to superb (depending on the day). I think we can even say thanks for the humans that are grouchy and rude and mean to us, because without them, we would not be able to recognize what makes the good ones so great.

I never do this on Thanksgiving because I do it everyday. However, it's a nice reminder. Acknowledging and naming what we're thankful for.

(In no particular order)
1. Being able to live this long in such a beautiful part of the world, where I'm surrounded by inspiring physical space
2. Ben
3. My dear, sweet friends. Oh, how I miss them.
4. Doggies
5. Big strong legs that help me get up and down these hills
6. Glasses
7. Photos and taking them.
8. Pier 24 (come visit me and I will take you to what my version of Heaven looks like)
9. Food
10. Family. For as crazy as we all are, we do alright.
11. Church family from coast to coast.
12. Grandparents
13. Grace
14. Jackets
15. I can't help it--I thank Apple everyday for inventing the iPhone.
16. Videochat
17. The smell of photo chemicals (these will most likely cause my death in later years)
18. Jack Fulton
19. Teachers in general
20. Learning, too
21. Gray areas
22. Outside
23. Snail mail
24. Weather

That's how old I am, so I'll stop. I am grateful every day that I can get up in the morning. I'm getting a little rusty on my Jewish things, but there is this prayer that Hasidic Jews pray as soon as they open their eyes in the morning: Thank You, God, for having the confidence in me to do Your work for another day. (Something like that.) I can't remember what it's called, but I think it's the most beautiful way to thank God for giving us life and it reminds me why I'm alive in the first place. My life is not my own, and I'm more thankful for that than anything else.

What's coming next:

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!