The ones you've all been waiting for...

by Ellen in ,


HAYLEY & WILL!

It doesn't get more beautiful than these two.

Will and Hayley have such a good story about love. Will knew the moment he met Hayley that he loved her. Well, really everyone but Hayley knew. But we didn't talk about it because we had a sense that it would work out in its own time. They became best friends, which is really how their love sprouted. They have always treated each other (and everyone they know) with love and respect, taking care of each other and loving with a deep and special kind of love. It has been my joy to be a witness to their journey, and it would be impossible to happier for them as they start their new life together. They are precious, precious humans and friends, not only to me, but to so many. Hayley and Will, thank you for living your lives as examples of constant and unconditional love. There are no other people like the two of you.


















So Mod, Y'all

by Ellen in , ,


I was lucky enough to have my friends Bill and Jessie ask me if I would do some 10th anniversary photos of them. They fell into some love at Earnestine & Hazel's and got engaged at the top of the Peabody, but never did any engagement photos. Bill is one of my favorite priest friends and he and Jessie have the two cutest boys, Mose & Abe. They are funny, kind, wonderful humans, and I so enjoy getting to spend time with friends while documenting what makes their world go 'round: love. They dressed up and I got to do something a little different with them. Usually, I photograph brand new love, whether it's engagements, weddings, or new humans, and I was thrilled to be a part of something so comfortable, sweet, and still refreshing. Not to mention beautiful. Thank you, Bill and Jessie, for asking me to do something different for a change--y'all are something special. God grant you many more years!










Neely&Kellen

by Ellen in ,


Check out these two little sweet peas: Neely and Kellen. I met Neely and her parents, Brad and Mary Henry, when I spent the summer working with them at Kanuga. All of us moved back to Memphis on the same day about a year and half ago when Brad was called to be the new director of St. Columba, our Episcopal conference center in West Tennessee. I am SO glad to have Kanuga friends here in Memphis, and they sure are some special humans. They just had baby Kellen and asked me to come over and make some pictures of him and Neely, the sweetest big sister there ever was. Here they are! 











Nathan & Elise

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I love photographing my friends. A couple months ago I got to do some photos for 2 of my dearest friends, Elise and Nate, who you have seen before in other photos on this little blog. You've seen Elise with Luna, and Nate usually playing music: here, here, here, here, here, and here. You know their story, but in case you missed it, here's the short of the long of it: they are two of the kindest, funniest, most generous, welcoming, and brightest humans that I have the benefit of spending precious time with and they have decided to commit their lives to each other FOR.EV. ER. They love each other very much, and spread their love around so everyone else can feel love, too. And then there's Loonie, the dog-child, who is the luckiest of all. She gets to add more humans to her family whose world will revolve around her. You can tell she's excited. It is a gross understatement to try and express how wonderful it is that these two are joining their lives and families and friends together. To say the love (and hilarity) is abundant doesn't even scratch the surface.Thank you, Elise and Nate, for picking each other and for sharing yourselves with all of us (especially me). And for being beautiful.












Loye & Brian

by Ellen in , , ,


So I have these friends. Brian & Loye. It's hard to know where to begin with these two, because we go way back. I first met Brian 11 and half years ago when I tried to walk through this doorway at this church and I couldn't because he was hanging from said doorway. We were not immediately friends, which was very unusual. There were lots of different things that were ALL Brian's fault (of course) like the one time when he made me cry in the 10th grade, pushed me into the mud at musicfest, dated my friends, wouldn't get into a vehicle if I was also in it, etc. Thank GOD we made it past the 11th grade and he became much wiser and decided it was to his advantage to be my BFF, and in combination with my gracious forgiveness, he has been one of my dearest and closest friends for the past 11 years (we just don't count the time when he hated me for no reason). This guy is charming, deep, kind, silly, and just all around one of the good ones. You can tell by the way Loye looks at him that she thinks so, too. I feel like Loye and I have been friends for much longer than we've known each other (which is almost 4 years now), and I think she and Brian are perfect for each other. They are weird and hilarious together, but would do anything for each other and for anyone else. I am so thrilled that two of my friends are starting a life together, and I'm even more thrilled that they asked me to document a little of their BIG love. And their incredible blue eyes.


 














 WOOHOO! SO EXCITED FOR YOU TWO!





Kaitlin&Ben

by Ellen in , ,


Here's another St. Mary's friend that I've known my whole life! Kaitlin and I have known each other since we were 4. She's another one of those girls (like Shelby, Martha, and Elise) who I will always know because we've always known each other. While we may go months or even years without talking because we live completely different lives or live far away from each other, I will always consider the girls I went to St. Mary's with my friends. How could I not when we share all the same memories from our most important years? All 61 (plus or minus, depending on how many girls we gained or lost over the years) of these women are unique and wonderful. Whether they're setting the world on fire with brains and gumption or starting their lives with their significant others and brand new babies or whether they just like making photographs, our teachers at St. Mary's were right: we are ALL gifted to change the world in some way. Now as an adult, I believe that. Mainly because I see it. I am a lucky girl to be able to say I have friends who are amongst the most brilliant writers, beloved teachers, INCREDIBLE actresses, selfless doctors, gifted artists, sharp lawyers, astounding musicians, beautiful mothers, fierce social workers, astute theologians, and the list goes on and on and on. We all have our "thing" we do. And each of us is different than the next, but I guarantee one of the best at what we do. I love St. Mary's, mainly because of the community and relationships that exist there. To use a very St. Mary's analogy, it's a petri dish where encouragement, tough love, and deep friendships grow exponentially over time. It's hard to explain, but we have shaped each other inside the dish and outside the dish.

As I am watching some of the girls I work with in the Episcopal youth community wrap up their last few days at St. Mary's, I'm reminded of so many good things, but I am excited for what they will discover about each other and themselves over the next years of their lives. Even these last two weeks are essential to know just how important all those late nights of studying, crying over a B+, and playing on the same team really are. Because at the end of all those small moments, you have those friends who are like sisters. Who let you spend the night at their house for 3 days because you don't want to sleep alone in your own bed because The Ring was "the scariest movie you ever saw." Who give you an unspoken invitation to all their family functions because you're an unspoken member of their family. Who rearrange their busy lives to celebrate your accomplishments, big or small. I am blessed beyond imagination to have friends like this. They have taught me about serving others and being served. I cannot fathom what my life would look like without them, and I don't think I even want to try.

Anyway, after my long SMS spiel, here are Kaitlin and Ben! A fun factoid about them: they have known each other since middle school, were not each other's biggest fans in high school, but became friends and fell in love. Also: Ben's older sister Allyn grew up with my sister Claire at St. Mary's, so I have known both of these families for a VERY long time. Small small small and surprising world. Also, Kaitlin is about to be a doctor. And Ben is an awesome Army man. They are so fun and easy going together, it is very sweet.
















I Won't Give Up

by Ellen in , , , , , , ,





So last week I went to visit Elise and Loonie and Grace at Yale! New Haven is beautiful, and so is the blue house. We had a lot of fun. OK OK OK OK OK I went because I won this THING and the biggest perk EVER was getting to stay with my BFF and my sweet first girl doggie.

Here is what happened:

I entered this contest that Jason Mraz was sponsoring and I ended up being 1 of 25 grand prize winners! Grand prize=a 20x20 CanvasPop canvas, a gallery event at the AFA Gallery in NYC, and meeting Jason. Now, all of that sounded pretty good to begin with to me, but it far exceeded my dreams and expectations. As an artist, you really are just lucky to have any exposure (no pun intended, I swear) at all, but this is HUGE. The gallery was beautiful, there were tons of nice and interesting people there, and boy oh boy, did I feel exposed. Might have had a small attack of nerves before we went in.

Elise and I took the train from New Haven to the city and got in around 4pm. We headed straight to the MoMA to see our dear friend Claire (through whom I live vicariously) because she works there and left us some tickets at the info desk. We went immediately to the 3rd floor to see all the photos, then to see all my other friends like Picasso and Van Gogh and Monet and Rousseau, and then swung by to see Diego, and then scooted out the door with Claire and we all got on the subway to have a quick drink before the event.

We are walking, there are tons of humans out because it's 65 degrees in March in NYC and it could not have been a better day. We all decide that we just love each other too much and don't want to have to part ways. I was told I could only bring one friend, and I have more than one friend, so I say that they will not be able to refuse all 3 of us at the door (they didn't). We are approaching the gallery, and we see alllll these people in a line outside of a building and then realize that they are waiting to get into the gallery. There are way more people there than I had expected in my head and I don't think I really want to go in there. Elise tells me to pull my shit together and I sort of do, and she has already told Patrick at the front door that we are here and may we please get in. Then we go in and there is my photo hanging right next to all this work by Dr. Seuss, which was really fun and cool. We mingle, Elise and Claire snack on the delicious food:

I cannot eat because I'm REAL nervous and then I start chatting with this lovely girl, when a cameraman appears behind her and she whips out a microphone that says NY1 on it and they ask if they can interview me. I go over and stand next to my photograph and I even have to spell my last name for posterity and everything and she interviews me. I hope I sounded smart, because after I'm done with that, Claire tells me that NY1 is like the Action News 5 of NYC. Awesome. We're mingling, I finally get brave enough to bring out Fitty, and am taking some pictures, when ALL OF A SUDDEN Jason is here and everyone is smiling.

We all kindof squish to the front and he is standing so close to me that I do that thing to him where I pretend to squeeze someone's bottom (friends, you know what I mean). It's funny because everyone but him can see me do it, but I'd really just like to squeeze for real. I didn't, don't worry. So this one guy says thanks for coming and yada yada yada and then Jason says a few words of thanks and stuff and then tells everyone he's going to talk to all the winners and then he's just standing there awkwardly by himself while everyone is just looking at him. So I say loud and proud, "I'LLGOFIRST. I mean, no one else is going..." and I hand Fitty off to Elise and elbow my way through to Jason, this lovely man who I've been waiting to meet for 11 years.



After the Best Hug Ever, he asks my name, and I tell him and then introduces himself as Jason to which I reply, "Really?" and we laugh like we've been friends forever. I think he is glad to have someone to talk to, and he wants to know about my photo, so I tell him about Shelby and Brian and how special they are and this wonderful interfaith marriage that they're having. He thinks all of that is neat. He wants to know what I do and where I'm from and stuff like that. He has turned his back on the crowd, so I do too, and we talk quietly together (he's one of those people that is a close talker AND a low talker, but also helps other people do that, too. Not such a bad thing for me to talk quietly every now and then, I suppose). When I am talking, he is looking at me and nowhere else, and he has this really great calming energy about him that I've really only ever experienced with priests and other pastoral characters.

I thank him for helping me not to feel nervous, and he smiles and inclines his head towards me (I really wanted to fold my hands together and say "Mariska Hargitay"). He also has been lugging around this weird bottle of purple juice and I ask him, "hey, so whatcha got there, big guy?" and he does the hottie half-smile at me and takes a BIG swig and says, "pool water", and I say, "Right. Is it so delicious?" and he says, "You bet." But not in a Tool Academy sort of way. He says things in a playful and silly way, like we already have a joke. I feel like he does these things with everyone, which is why he plays so well with others. I tell him, "don't worry, I'm not going to ask for any. I wouldn't want you to worry about germs...."??? Who am I?

Anyway, it feels normal enough for me to ask him to sign Katherine's birthday card, so he opens it before reading it, and I take it out of his hands and say, "WAIT. You have to read it first, silly. It's HILARIOUS." He says whoops and reads the card, and agrees it is hilarious and then writes Katherine a sweet little note. Then it seems the time has come for him to sign my photo, so we survey the situation together. We wonder if we should take it off the wall, and then he pulls out like 7 paint pens and sharpies out of his pocket and holds them out and says, "the people gave these to me, but I don't think any of them work." They don't. We figure out a solution to the problem and find a sharpie that kindof works, and he take my canvas down and looks at it a little closer and tells me how much he likes this one. I am stressed out that he will want to sign on the front, and so I voice my concern, and he looks at me and says, "Don't worry, I don't want to sign the front of this. It's your work, not mine." And so I say thanks and he turns it over and I ask him to write a note to Shelby and Brian because it seems only natural since the photo is of them.

While he's writing, he says, "Oh shiiiiitttt. Sorry my handwriting looks like a 1st grader's." I tell him not to worry and that I think he has lovely penmanship and he laughs at me again because I'm totally lying. He is done and puts my canvas back on the wall (Matthew noted from my pictures that he hung it back up crooked). At some point he touched me on the arm and kind of nudged me with his elbow, but I'm not really sure why or when because I was only thinking about the fact that he is the cutest and nicest boy who has ever touched my arm and was not listening to his words. While we were saying our "nice to meet yous" and stuff, I thanked him profusely for this and that I was overwhelmed with gratitude. He smiled again like we knew each other and thanked me for my work and we had a lingering handshake and then I took off.

Oh, I can't forget to mention that all the while, Elise is somehow EVERYWHERE being the paparazzi. I use it as plural because she might as well have had 800 arms and eyeballs. She's the best.

Also, I told him my name once and he continued to address me by it for the entirety of our conversation. There are people I see everyday who don't even know my last name. I like this about him so much because I'm a name rememberer, too.

Then I was done and ate tiny hamburgers, made friends, one of which came up to me and said, "You're the girl from Tennessee who writes about God!" I was SHOCKED and thrilled, but mostly taken aback. My new friend Carrie is 9 months preggo with a sweet baby girl. She was also a winner, with a photo she took of her really small boy and really tall husband at the beach. It's lovely. She let me rub her belly, her husband told us she was on Martha Stewart's Apprentice, and we just all had a great time chatting. Reallllyyyy neat human who lives just around the corner from Jason Mraz in San Diego, but flew all the way to NYC to meet him.

I got interviewed by a few more people, took my photo down, and got to meet up with my longtime SMS pal Lucy! It was very fun, and we got back on the train and spent the rest of the time playing with Loonie and Elise and taking walks and eating delicious food. It was the greatest 4 days ever, and that's mainly because of the humans involved. Thank you, my dear friends, for helping make all my dreams come true. The grace is so abundant that I'm overwhelmed with being thankful.

Loonie wanted to eat those swans.

Fasting vs. Feasting

by Ellen in , , , , ,



OK. So, if you have ever read anything I've written, you'll have an inkling that this is my favorite time of year. Lent is here again, and if you are not familiar with the word, it's the season before Easter that represents Jesus' 40 days in the desert. Lent ends with Holy Week, and then Easter. I have an entire link to it on the right to show all the posts I've ever written about Lent.

I heard something great on Thursday. My friend Father John Pitzer was the first preacher for our Lenten Preaching Series, and he started it off with a bang. This is what he talked about:

Most people give stuff up for Lent. Chocolate, fried food, beer...you know, stuff that we all really enjoy, but are not so good for our health. Lent sometimes used to kickstart a diet. And that's great and all, we should really make it a point to be healthier, but what does it do for our spiritual lives? Lent is a season of repentance, of returning to the Lord. On Ash Wednesday, we hear the words "Remember you are God's, and to God you shall return" while we get ashes smudged onto our foreheads. Lent is a time of reflection, and making more room for God in our lives, whether it's being outside more or calling your deaf grandmother every day. The act of "giving up" seems to create a void for me; it feels empty. It's more of a discipline to take something on, which undoubtedly pushes something bad for me out of the way so I can spend more time with God.

But if you are fasting from something, what are you feasting on?

Father John talked about a lot of different examples of what this could look like. If you fast from being critical of others, feast on encouraging words. If you fast from gossip, feast on holding your tongue. If you fast from violence, feast on peace.

This is where he hit a home run with me: If you fast from fear, feast on hope.

I constantly live in fear. Fear that I'm terrible at what I do. Fear that people don't actually like me and are only nice to my face. Fear that there is no one on this planet who will willingly choose to spend their life with me. Fear that because of that, I'll never get to have kids. Fear that I'm doing EVERYTHING wrong. Fear that I won't get to do what I love forever because of money.

I realize all of this is completely irrational. Sort of. All of that is very real for me, though. While I know how much God loves me and that my worth is not found in being good at anything or being married to someone, I WANT those things. And most of the time, I have ZERO hope in them. Please keep in mind that I'm not an aggressive husband hunter, nor do I think success is measured by money or power. I love my simple little life. But I have found lately that I live looking through a lens of fear much more often than a lens of hope.

Just recently I sort of made the decision to put the photo thing on hold. I need health insurance, I need a full time job, I need a steadier income. I'm obviously not good enough to make being a photographer my full-time job, so I think it's probably better to look for a real job and make photos for people every once in awhile for close friends. I have no desire to promote myself and my "work," and I feel a little like a sell-out as an artist. I feel like an IDIOT for quitting my life almost 2 years ago to try and pursue whatever it was that I thought I was being called to, and I hate that I did it. I'm now in debt up to my eyeballs, live paycheck to paycheck, work like a dog to make ends meet, I don't sleep, and I have no time to run. Or talk on the phone with my grandmother. Or travel to see my nephews. Or spend real time with friends. This is not real life. I treasure the relationships that I have, and I want to keep them alive. So I've been secretly looking for jobs that even though I know I'll hate them, I'll be able to leave work at work and be able to run with Lily. I live in fear, under a guise of living in hope.

THEN.

I received an actual call that changed everything I was thinking and feeling. A call that recognized me as an artist by another artist. A call that I never thought I would EVER get from anyone, and a call where God said to me, "girlfriend, you--We--did it!" This phone call does NOT validate my life, but it has made a difference in it. I am not going to be the same after this, although it does seem a little too good to be true. I keep waiting for a flat tire on my way to work or accidentally hitting a pedestrian (it's like one of my biggest fears) just to even out the awesomeness of this event.

I'm going to fast from my fear and feast on this nugget of hope-- this chance that I've been given to let the world know that EVERYTHING comes from God. We are small and God is big and shouting our names from the rooftops.

I entered into this contest fully knowing I had no chance of winning or even being seen. I entered it because Jason Mraz is the end-all be-all for me in terms of artistry, good humanity, openness, and creativity and cleverness. I am so thankful that my heart and head together can't even hold it all. I hope I get to tell him.

This Lent, I'm going to try to let go of this great fear, and feast on this abundant hope. It's there, I just haven't been grabbing it. And not just for Lent, but for life. I LOVE life, and it's the only one I've got. Lent is just a good time to reflect on how I can live into God's purpose for my life. I just have to remember that it's not my purpose, it's God's, and I'm just a part of it. HOPE HOPE HOPE. That word means so much it's not even funny.

So thank you God, Shelby and Brian, Jason Mraz, and Mike at Atlantic Records. Besides Ben and Sam, this is the biggest thing that's ever happened. And in case you haven't seen this image enough in the past two days, here it is:
I knew it was a little bit special the moment Fitty made the fake shutter sound and I almost fell off the chair I was standing on to get it.

Also, I'm doing one good image a day for Lent like I did last year. I won't be blogging every day, but the photos will correspond to the days I take them. I love a good challenge.

And if you need to reach me, I'll be over the moon STILL FREAKING OUT about this.


Jaspers!

by Ellen in , ,


So for Christmas, Jake and Kitty got Jake's parents a family photoshoot with yours truly. We had SO much fun...I love this family. I've known them for a VERY long time, and it was so great to get to be with them and capture how hilarious, fun, and loving they are. Also, they are all REALLY pretty, which always helps.

It was a pretty gray day, so we started out at Earnestine & Hazel's, my go-to for potentially rainy days. It's one of the only places in Memphis where they literally do NOT care how someone uses their space. I mean, the place used to be a brothel, so what happens upstairs stays upstairs. Unless you're photographing someone, then it ends up on your blog.




Dudes!


My BFFs Kitty and Jake. I love these two verrrrry much.


So sweet. One of my favorite pictures. Ever.






Beautiful family! I am really pleased with these, so I hope this was a good Christmas present!

Shelby & Brian

by Ellen in , ,


This is Shelby and Brian! Shelby and I went to St. Mary's together, which tells you a lot of things but mainly: we've been friends our whole lives and we're really weird. Shelby recently became engaged to Brian, and so I took some pictures of them! They are silly together and we had SO much fun, despite some fugly weather.




Love y'all, and congrats!!