Tuesday, May 5


Come on! Come on! We're moving!!! 

After three years at elliecoburn.com I have moved this blog to elliecoburnblog.com

I really, really hope you'll join me for new adventures and daily life rants in my brand new space!!

elliecoburnblog.com elliecoburnblog.com elliecoburnblog.com elliecoburnblog.com elliecoburnblog.com elliecoburnblog.com elliecoburnblog.com elliecoburnblog.com elliecoburnblog.com

I am celebrating over 2 million blog views in my time at elliecoburn.com - which makes my heart super duper happy. It's time for change, I hope you'll make the switch with me. 

Friday, October 31

Halloween Day in Photos

In spirit of the holiday - and my trip to Michigan to see family and meet the newest edition to our clan - I am raising this blog back from the dead to bring you Halloween Day in photos. 

My three favorite little ones (cousins) including my brand new sweet Stella are featured below. This was my first time meeting Stella girl. Her mom, my first cousin, and I have been close for as long as I can remember and now I get to celebrate with her as she grows her family. Such a joy. 

Beware - there's some cuteness overload below. Oh, and when you're traveling across the country for the weekend you put buns on top of your head, draw cat whiskers on your face, and call yourself a cheetah. We are ALL about easy over here at elliecoburn.com especially when you're a San Diego girl experiencing 32 degree weather and the first snow of the season. Enjoy. 

Saturday, October 4

Go your own way.

I think I am the worst blogger on the internet. 

Despite my failings to keep it updated this little space on the internet crossed the 1 millionth viewer threshold sometime in the last few months. Which is wow. I never would have thought. Just wow. 

Life is so incredibly good. I think that's the trouble with writing about it. 
It's SO happy here. 

I am keeping lots of stories and milestones to myself for the unfinished memoir that sits in an unfinished file on my cluttered desktop but I am coming to the realization that I may not get to that book until 2016. Okay so I'm not only the worst blogger but also the worst aspiring novelist ever. 

Those reading this have likely read my blog since the beginning because honestly who keeps up with a blog that sits dormant for months on end? So to review the last four years in short - 

I was fourteen and I had just lost my father and I wanted to write about it to anyone who would listen.
I was fifteen and I wanted to run an international non-profit. 
I was sixteen and I was spearheading Speak Now for young women empowerment. 
I was seventeen and I was drowning in a severe case of depression. 

I am eighteen and the only difference this year is that I can own the fact that I know nothing about anything. 

That knowledge in itself has allowed me to know who I am more than ever. I know what scares me and I know what does not. I know my shortcomings and I acknowledge where I have the potential to excel. I can look at the reflection of the last three years and say without hesitation "I really screwed up here, there, and there too." It's empowering to acknowledge your own identity completely separate of what small town USA wants you to think of yourself. 

In high school I felt so incredibly suffocated by the overwhelming concept of flowing into a traditional graduation followed by a four year university. I filled out the applications but the acceptance letters did not thrill me as they did others around me. I did not want to go to Virginia or San Francisco or Texas - but I fell asleep with the acceptance letters in hand singing false words to myself "I want this. I want this. I want this." 

I woke up in March and I wanted to be a photographer. Just as I had woken in February of 2011 wanting to own a non-profit organization. Just as I had woken in 2010 wanting to write a successful blog. I have a story to tell and when something wakes you in the early morning hours and presses on your soul - for me - that's my cue to go out and make something of it. 

Cue my month in northern California. The morning after my 18th birthday in March I left north in tears with a laundry basket of my things looking for more - hoping that those who lived between San Diego and the Oregon boarder would love me as their own. 

You don't realize in the moment that you are writing your story. 

You don't realize that you will remember the way your feet look swinging in the barstool in the mall food court in Sacramento as you wait to give your life's savings to a man from Craigslist who in exchange will give you your first professional camera. 

You don't realize that you will remember the way your cheek feels pressed to the glass window of your hand-me-down SUV at 2:30am trying to escape the aftermath of a horrible tragedy that hits your  soul nearly half a decade after your father dies. 

You don't realize that you are painting your story each time you meet someone. That between Starbucks and the bank you could meet your new best friend - or even the love of your life. 

You don't realize the power of a day. You don't realize the exceptional reward that comes with loving yourself until you wake up one morning and you just do. You just love yourself and your life and you don't care about anyone or anything except the life that you've chosen for yourself. 

I am at the local community college pursuing a psychology degree and I am saving lots and lots - so no I'm not living in a complete dystopia - but yes I am living my way. 

Today I'm a professional photographer - tomorrow I'll likely be in Uganda with a baby on each hip. Yesterday I ran a non-profit and next Tuesday you might hear that I've finally gotten around to finishing that unfinished novel of mine. I've learned not to care too much about tomorrow. Just focus all of your attention and love on the people and things right in front of you and just do your thing. I'm happier than I've ever been. This is truly the best season. 

Life update over. 

Monday, July 28

House on a hill.

Listen along - Life Ain't Always Beautiful, Gary Allan

There is a house on a hill and it smells very much like a combination of the night before my wedding and the top of my first born's head against my chest after bath time. A second house that has seen me once a summer every summer for my whole life and it smells like yesterday, today, and tomorrow because it is all of those things for me. 

There is a house on a hill tucked into a quiet neighborhood that hugs Lake Michigan where swim suits drip from a hook behind the bathroom door. A place that fills with the heartbeats of generations before and behind me each summer just to celebrate one another and the bond of family. A place where  happy looks perfect upon the faces of the sweet little girls who beat the word family into my fragile soul. 

There is a shelf in a house on a hill with a box that holds a dozen letters from a younger me. "Dear Ellie, I hope you...."  I hold the yellowing paper inked with words written by little hands and wonder - Am I everything I hoped for? 

Well let me tell you a secret - I'm nothing that I hoped for. I hoped for a cookie cutter life because as children that is what we are taught to hope for. I hoped for happiness that looks and sounds like everyone else's happiness and never in my wildest dreams could I have hoped for the girl I have become amongst all of my visits to the house on the hill.  

I am built from adversity - unique in every regard from my beliefs to my understanding of this precious world. I have watched life and death and the death of life humble my soul that once wrongfully sought after a success based on acceptance and praise. This summer home of mine has seen me cry real tears and demand real answers from a God who sits quietly on every hill in every nation with a plan beyond my deepest understanding of life. 

I am nothing that I hoped for but I am knit of everything that I am supposed to be. I don't know why we are who we are or why life is like it is and it's not always fair or happy but this home reminds me that life does not have to be fair or happy for it to be beautiful. There is a house on a hill and the people that gather here love me anyways. 


Sunday, July 6

for old time's sake.

There is nearly half a decade between today and the day that I lost my father.
Immediately following his death my family settled into a townhouse on the corner of second and the main street that stretches through the closest thing you'll find to small town USA on the Pacific Ocean. 

This is our home post tragedy. 
Where we rebuilt a life without a piece of our family. 

It is no secret that I didn't do well in this town and everyone that knows me promised that I would do better in a bigger city with open-minded progressive/spiritual thinkers. In March I up and moved to San Francisco for a month. I loved every second of my time with compassionate, progressive individuals and launching a photography company in northern California was a business venture that did wonders for my soul. 

I was at a farmer's market in the heart of this sweet city a few miles outside of San Francisco when I got to talking with an elder woman about my trip up the coast. After about a half an hour a small group of people had joined our casual afternoon chit-chat and had transitioned into a conversation about what it means to go home and what defines home. 

A few days later, at the end of April, I found myself right back at my little townhouse with the affirmed realization that we don't pick our home or where our heart wants to be and that we can go anywhere in the world but our happiness will always be codependent on our ability to accept ourselves. 

My heart loved San Fran and I cannot wait for many more trips all over the world but my heart wants to be with the people that I love. My beautiful friends, family, and mentors are here in this town and regardless of my desire to grow in ways that small town USA might not be built for - I love it here. I love the people and experiences that helped me build a home around a house and a life around a tragedy. 

Two weeks ago we packed up our little home and moved a few blocks over. 
Our new house is beautiful and lovely in every regard. 
But nothing hurts like saying goodbye to this little place of ours. 

It was saying goodbye to a more innocent version of myself. Here - the walls of my basement bedroom watched me grow in adversity, question the fundamentals of my spirituality, and redefine my understanding of kindness, compassion, and hope. 

At the end of the day that house saw me decide what I am and what I am not and therefore it will always be a part of me. It was a personal, hard goodbye but I'll carry the yesterday's had there with me wherever I go and its memory as a whole is a powerful reminder of what it means to grow up. 

I am forever grateful to our second street home and will miss it dearly. 

Friday, May 30

An open letter to my best friend


Two years ago it was a Wednesday morning.
My curtains were drawn, but the sun crept around the edges and dimly lit my bedroom. 

I believe it was sleepover number four in a row - our track record that year was impeccable. 
You were asleep and I was walking around the room trying to get ready for school. 

I answered a phone call from your mom and handed it to you. 

The phone call was short. Something was wrong. 
We didn't know what was the matter but we were instructed to get to your house straight away.
Twenty-four minutes later we were at your front door. 

We took stock of our surroundings. Your family was on the couch. 
There is no bigger heartache than doing a headcount of your family and coming up short. 

I willed it to be untrue just as you had spent countless hours willing my dad's death away from me. 
I willed your vibrant, humorous, compassionate brother back through the front door with all of my might. 

& then I cried. With you and for you and for him. 
For the reality that it is not in our will to save a life. 

Since that day we've gone through bad days and good days and celebratory days and rainy days and movie days and laughing uncontrollably days and silent days and really really sad days and suddenly life landed us here - on this day. 

Just a little bit older. Just a little bit wiser. 
Two years. 

I got off work early today and tears welled up in my eyes on the drive home. 
Two years. 
I needed to decide what I was going to say to you to begin to express my sadness for this day. 
Thoughts filled my head and then suddenly it occurred to me that it wasn't what kind of sadness I needed to express but rather what kind of hope. 

An open letter to my best friend. 
Two years later. 


I am so lucky to have you in my life. Of all the great losses I experienced in the last two years, your friendship has been steadfast. You continually remind me to stand by my understanding of the world and to love fiercely. Without you I am confident that I would be much less of a person and certainly much less of myself. 

Today on a day of remembrance I remember a strong, courageous, humorous boy who taught me the value of authenticity. I see bits of him in you regularly and celebrate them silently. To see him alive in you gives me so much hope. Aside from love, the adventures and tragedies of one's lifetime come to define their character. In the last two years I have seen a tragic death define you in all the best ways. Brilliant. Loving. Empathetic. Wise. Open-minded. Constant. Forgiving. Compassionate. Authentic. Optimistic. Kind. Always kind.  

A week before your high school graduation and on this day I wanted to take a moment to wish you a life of tragedy, adventure, and love. Without those things our lives would not progress fully. Our goodness would not be fully good. Celebrate today. Celebrate that with this inconceivable tragedy comes a new adventure for your brother's fearless, vibrant spirit. Moreover, celebrate that the love a brother has for his baby sister is not limited to a lifetime, a truth we have seen time and time again. 

In all of this, I have hope. Thank you for constantly giving that to me. 


Sunday, April 20


Naturally any opportunity for me to kiss babies and catch up with lifelong friends is a win.
Thrilled with the support and love in my life. 

A very Happy, Happy Easter from my family to yours 


Thursday, April 17

Day 21 - somewhere. not here.

Absolutely obsessed with San Francisco. I would spent all my time here if I could. 
Not much to say except I'm back in Northern California and that this city takes me by my soul. 

The bridge. Oh my gosh. The bridge. 

Saturday, April 12

only human.

Human // Christina Perri // If you have the chance, listen to this song before reading this post.

I'm not entirely sure who I'm writing this post to. A future self, I suppose. 
Six months ago the tragedy of tragedies rocked my world. Shattered. 

Tonight is senior prom. 

Due to undisclosed circumstances and heartbreak on a scale so incredibly vast I cannot even begin to express, I did not attend. As a matter of fact - I don't even attend high school anymore. I attend online courses and have spent the last few months building a career as a professional lifestyle photographer but my life as a normal high school senior was robbed many moons ago. I wage a war with many demons, both literally and figuratively. I have fought so incredibly hard for the sting of the pain of loss and heartache in my life to disappear but frankly, it is a piece of me. My identity is very much tattered and unique and uncut to the world around me. Beautifully, I have come to love myself amiss a season of tragedy and desperation. 

My best friends. My heart is heavy for the beautiful, humble, brilliant young women featured in the photo above. They see the war that wages within my soul, they hear me, they love me. They are unique and they are kind and they are generous on a scale unfit for the world around us - because they are truly that good. They have shown me grace and patience and unconditional respect throughout a season of struggle and confusion.

I am the one in the short sunflower dress (clearly not on my way to prom) On the left is my gracious best friend whom I stood next to the day I eulogized her eldest brother for a funeral that never should have been. On the right is the only person my age whom I wholeheartedly look up to for advice and wisdom that far surpasses that of the average lassie. In the long white dress - an old friend who taught me much about the art of screwing up and getting right on up again. Mostly though, about the art of redemption. In the teal/aqua blue, a spirit of love and light and encouragement. In the black, a darling dear who continually makes me laugh in spite of my shaken world. 

Our friendships are different now, unique from the simple years of boy gossip and water wars, weathered from the tragedies and disagreements, stretched with the winds of times as each girl grows into her own individuality, and torn from various dramas. Still though, I find that this group has an endurance that speaks volumes to the characters among it. I am grateful to have captured a picture together before I go off into this great big world. 

Immediately following my decision to snap a few beautiful prom pictures of my beautiful ladies, I headed off to shoot a family session on the beach. They went to prom. I went to work. Life is different. So here I sit, in my dark bedroom/office up to my nose in work and clients and for a moment a draft of melancholy somberness sweeps through my soul because for a moment I am thinking of all of the choices that I could have made differently in the last four years. I am mindful of the idea that it would have been lovely to go to the prom, but I am also conscious of the fact that it is not my place and that I have to allow myself to accept the fact that I am doing the best that I can in this one single moment. 

As a mentor once said, the worst day of your life is simply twenty-four hours. I am quick to remind myself that I am okay. That I am alive. That I am passionate and empathetic and creative. That I am different. That every past mistake or regret or notion that brought me to this very moment in time is the very substance by which my future is founded and the very notions by which I will raise my children and live my life. 

Cheers to a new season. Cheers to old friends and new beginnings. Cheers to where I am right this very moment. Cheers to celebration - because this life this beautiful, tragic, complex, heartbreaking, eye-opening life is very much something to be celebrated. & just because, cheers to this beautiful client that I had the pleasure of working with tonight: 

Girls, you have no idea how much it meant to tag along for prom pictures tonight. Thank you. For everything. 

"So I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them."
-Perks of Being a Wallflower

Friday, April 11

American Blogger Backlash

Considering that my space on the internet has turned into something of a diary for my extended family and mentors - I would like to note that I am writing this as a person, not as a blogger. While I may have had a few hundred people visiting my website each day once upon a time - those are very much my lost glory days and this little corner of the internet is continually filled with my daily life for my future children and not a spike in readership or advertising opportunity. 

Long story short - I don't promote my blog because I recognize that nobody gives a shit if I had a bad day or started a photography company or really need to rant about one of my many, many meltdowns about the fear of growing up.  So I write. For me. Amen? Amen. 


All of that said, I need to take a moment to hash out an issue that has presented itself virally in the last 48 hours: 

Casey Wiegand is a successful "mommy and lifestyle" blogger who has spent the last few years building a name for herself via social media. Her husband, Chris Wiegand, is a professional freelance cinematic artist. Summer of 2013 Chris traveled America in a converted airstream documenting the lives of fifty bloggers whom Casey had connected with over the span of her blogging career. 

I have followed Casey's blog for many years and saw her humble beginnings. Anyone that reads, actually reads, Casey's work would clearly see that Casey is a kind, gentle spirit who has been given an incredible talent to write beautifully and share herself fearlessly with the hopes of inspiring, uplifting, and empowering others all over the world. 

Really truly, she does make an impact. Tell me fancy writer over at your fancy review page that in one post bashes Casey's family into the ground - have you read Casey's post on the loss of her child Addison? 

Tell me commenter of mean things about the way that the beautiful (and ridiculously talented) Kelly Stamps describes her experience within the blogging community, did it feel good to call her a "Basic Pinterest Bitch" just because you're not comfortable with the fact that YOU don't know that the passion in her voice may not be equated to Pinterest at all but perhaps her two miracle daughters who are here on this earth by a grace larger than life. 

Today I was sitting at a stoplight trying to explain the situation at hand to a non-blogging friend. I told her quite simply - "You know Kels, I love the way the sound a guitar makes. So much in fact that I would love to teach everyone how to play guitar. Too bad I don't know how to play myself and I'm one person so I could never, ever teach everyone." After all, Casey is ONE person with ONE community that she has built through her ONE experience. Just because Chris was unable to capture the authentic diversity of the many, many different facets of American Blogging does not mean that the couple views themselves has some sort of an elite. The Wiegand's don't have access to the thousands and thousands of online bloggers in the American community who feel somehow excluded or misrepresented in this film and between raising their three children and balancing their normal life I would say it's pretty safe to assume that at no time was it ever an intentional goof to misrepresent American blogging as a whole simply because they felt inclined to capture some sort of a white, well-off cult of mommy bloggers with decent style. 

I happen to follow many of these blogs back to their humble beginnings and I can assure you that these women's struggles with divorce, infertility, cancer, down syndrome, mixed families with children that come from all over the world, anxiety, miscarriage, and SO much more are people with a hell of a lot of baggage just like you and just like me. You know what else I know? Most all of these women own a pair of sweat pants. 

You don't truly know these women and you don't truly know the Wiegands and while I can think of a million different ways that the film could have been done to be less offensive or more all-inclusive I can also think of a million different ways that I could have made the smoothie that I'm drinking right at this very moment just a little sweeter. 

Lesbian mommy blogger - I hear you. 
African American blogger - I hear you. 
Divorced blogger - I hear you. 
50+ bloggers - I hear you. 
Middle-aged men bloggers - I hear you. 

You all rock. All of you. I want a documentary on all of you because your lives, your beautiful lives, are touching and brilliant and awe-inspiring and you know what? I too wish that you had been included in the film on a larger scale. All of that said, don't you dare call these women uncultured or basic or shallow just because they're not you. Don't. You. Fricken. Dare. If someone asked to come to your home to film a documentary on your blog and your life - I bet you'd put some make-up on, get out of your comfy sweats, and stuff some of the kid's junk inside the kitchen closet too. What is this some sort of a backwards racist effort on a large scale? Just because someone is white with nice clothing they have no problems? Does two and two equal three? I don't think so people. 

In hindsight I can absolutely see why many, many "American Bloggers" felt truly misrepresented by this film and the lifestyle of its seemingly perfect subjects and I reconcile with the fact that their is so much more of America telling their stories through blogging. Rest assured though, these women are powerhouses of moving stories, inspiring movements, and tragedy and when you hear their tragedies, I promise you that you'll stop seeing their skin color. 

What all of this uproar doesn't and could never change is that those represented in the film are still unique, diverse, strong, and willful individuals with a story, their story to tell.

Just like you and just like me. 

Tuesday, April 8

Day 12

When is the other person right? In life, when is the other person right? This morning I was enraged at a certain situation. I cried myself to sleep last night over a certain situation. I'm reading a book titled Getting Past what You'll Never Get Over, over a certain situation. I stop advertising my blog publicly. I stopped promoting myself as a blog, over a certain situation. 

I'm absolutely drowning, over a certain situation. That's just a daily dose of frustration. Oh, and I'm back in San Diego from Northern California. It's a beautiful city. I missed home. 

Sunday, April 6

Day 8, 9, 10, 11 - Live Today.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday - where did you go? 
So this is life....
The part where you can't keep up with a day to day life blog because life suddenly becomes very "day to day" You're working full-time and rocking babies and meeting new, exciting, loving people and the nights come and suddenly you are too tired to possibly recount every memory from your day. 
My photography business blossomed overnight and for this I am grateful. I am also grateful for northern California sunsets, homemade brownies, deep conversations, facials, clients that I fall in LOVE with, and the opportunity to bless families impacted by children with special needs. 
Today is so good. Northern California is so good. 

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