Farewell and Happy Birthday… Until We Meet Again, Sweet Friend

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It’s late as I write, so I really hope to get this in before the day is done. But if I don’t, I can still say I tried and that most of this was compiled today… for a specific and meaningful reason. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Shalice, had a birthday today. Like ol’ Blue Eyes, she was put here on this day to touch the lives of many. {I call her Ese… thus the name I used on the photo above.}

She’s as bright and cheerful a soul as these sunflowers I shot in her yard last summer.

Before she became very well-liked and known for her fashion and the Instagram account that gives a window to many into her world of fashion, she was just an ordinary girl. Scratch that. She’s never been ordinary. She’s always stood out in a sea of women to me, because she’s always had height and beauty, style and class. But those were {and are} just the shell of the real person found underneath… any who know her would find some of those exact same qualities beneath the surface… height and beauty, style and class, but the kind of height, beauty, style and class that can’t be seen, touched or measured. Height of confidence, beauty of spirit.

As one of the couple of friends who entered into our most difficult hours with us, when our daughter was born {coming up on two years ago, actually… as of the 19th}, I hold her friendship so close to my heart.

So, yes… she’s an ever-rising star who’s getting more and more noticed by the day. But she’ll always just be my friend… the one who sat next to me in a meeting at work and made me realize we’d be fast and forever friends within just a few words. The one who, no matter how known or sought after she gets and no matter how high-end her look becomes, will still don one of my hand-me-downs from time to time {like my shirt dress from Target… or was it Kohl’s??… that no longer fits me or my wide, red vintage leather belt} and make me smile when I see it in her Instagram feed taking up real estate usually reserved for the clients/clothing companies she collaborates with…

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I debated about when to write and publish this post. When I found out on Thanksgiving Day that she and her family would be toting all their belongings with their selves in a relocation to L.A. {{the day after Christmas 😪}}, I figured I’d write this post as a tribute and farewell on or close to the day she moves. Well, actually, first I got a bit teary at the thought of her moving away. Then I began to think about when I would write this post. It wasn’t as if it was a brand new thought, anyway. I had wanted to write something along the lines of this post ever since last summer, when I had been given the opportunity to work closely with Shalice in the funnest way I could have ever imagined… where my world of photography would cross paths with her world of fashion when she asked me to be her photographer for her shoots every Friday.

But life got busy and I was going through some health issues. Then I got a full-time job outside the home {which I’ve yet to write about}, and life really got busy for me. So I never got around to this post. Now she’s moving, and I know it’s now-ish or never. But I also know how busy I will be closer to the holidays, so I figured I’d do my “farewell to an old friend” post today on her birthday instead.

As I said, I had the pleasure and honor of taking pictures of my friend for some of her scheduled jobs/shoots… photographs meant both for her blog and for her Instagram account. It was exciting for me, because she was going to be working with some pretty high-profile clothing companies… Anthropologie, Burberry, Free People, Mac & Mia, Talbots… even designer, Rebecca Minkoff, as well as Peter Som for Anthroplogie.

We ended up only getting to do three or four shoots, or rather days of shooting {at multiple locations in the city}, but there were several outfits involved. That first Friday shoot, I felt like we were just figuring out our stride of working together… getting to know each other’s styles. In fact, on that first day of shooting, I was working with a broken camera, as well as shooting on her iPhone {for Instagram}… something I was not familiar with at the time. So, while I had a blast following her around and shooting her looks, it didn’t feel like I was coming up with the best shots I could. However, by the third shoot when I had the pleasure of shooting her in Burberry, I was feeling a lot more in a stride. And so, of all the photos I’ve taken of her to date {including some from older shoots in previous years}, that was by far my favorite with her… and she had expressed that it was her favorite with me as well.

Not only was it exciting to shoot her in some well-known brands, but we got to go to some very interesting places that day in Chicago. The Athletic Club hotel was probably the highlight! I felt very much like a fish out of water, given that I am from a very small {comparatively} suburb. But I tried to set aside my feelings of “I don’t belong here… I don’t look the part.” I tried to savor the experience, striving to get the best photos I could. There’s a part of me, after having that opportunity, that wishes I could get into fashion photography. I’d love more and more experience and practice, and I’d love to be proficient in it… even sought after. Given how much I enjoyed doing the shoot with her that day, I know I’d enjoy pursuing it as a niche. But I wonder if that’s because I was photographing a close friend… as opposed to just fashion on some stranger or someone I barely know. Since I love people and love to photograph people, I wonder if it was more about the person and less about the clothes for me. If so, I wonder if I’d actually enjoy fashion photography as a career after all… especially if such a niche were to become stripped of the personal side and be all about business and selling. I tend to think I would enjoy it so much less at that point.

All I know is that I had a total blast taking pictures of my friend… fashion-related or not. Below are some of my favorites, each followed by a short slide show with other favorites from that shoot.
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So those were all the “professional” shots… as in, pictures I took for the purpose of or use in her profession. But of all the photos I got to take, candid photos like this were my favorite, because this is how I know her best…
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I’m not at all so naive as to think that the photos I have taken of her can be considered great or ground-breaking, nor unique or technically perfect for that matter. I’m not blind to how green I was in the world of fashion photography when I took them all. But I still have a sense of pride in the work I did, and was/am proud of myself for stepping a bit outside of my comfort zone. I mean, yes… it was for a friend, but there was some pressure there, too.

Our arrangement, in the long run, would not work out for both of us, so what I thought would be a long-lasting, one-day-a-week job turned out to be just a few-weeks gig. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I even got to bring Izzy with me, who was watched by my friend’s nanny along with her own kids so that we could go out and shoot. Izzy loves her kids, so it was a win/win. I got to hang out with a friend I’d only otherwise see every six months or so… making it a win/win/win!

Speaking of seeing her every six months or so… that is going to change very soon, I’m sure. I don’t see me {or her, for that matter} hopping on a plane every six months to connect us from Chicago to L.A., or vice versa. We’ll be lucky if that can happen once a year.

I’m sad to see her go, but I am so excited for what is ahead of her. L.A. is a happening place in the fashion world. So I think this will turn out to be an awesome change for her… as well as her husband whose job is taking them all there.

Still, I selfishly hate to see them go. It’s going on ten years now that I’ve known Shalice. I was in her wedding. I went to see her first two newborns in the hospital. She was always there for me when life got hard. And rarely did a phone call I made to ask for prayer about something get hung up on where she didn’t first said, “Let’s pray right now.” Like I said, she was there when my little girl was born, knowing it might be her only chance to say hello. Our kids have played together whenever we could manage their reunion, and Izzy loves her kids. These next several photos show just how much. They also show how much a mama can be stylish and all decked out and still have great fun with her kids {and her friend’s kid!}.
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She’s crazy busy at the moment, looking for a house in L.A., trying to pack up and rent the Chicago house, preparing for Christmas… her last one here… and trying to tie up loose ends before the move. So it will be a miracle if I get to see her before they move {especially since I am working full-time now}. If I do get to see her one last time, I know I’ll cry.

Oh, the laughs we’ve had… and the tears we’ve shared {not to mention the cups of coffee we’ve consumed}… the support we’ve given… and the strains our friendship has endured. It hasn’t always been a perfect one, but the mark of a true friendship is the one that stands up to the things that threaten friendships. And I’m so happy to say that when she moves, ours is a friendship that is in a good place and has come through all of it… the good, the bad and the ugly. Whew… there were a few moments I wondered. =)

I could just get on here and pretend it’s always been perfect. Maybe there are friendships that have never seen rocky moments. That’s all well and good. Personally, I treasure the friendship that has gone through rough patches and has come out better on the other side… one where I’ve learned a whole lot more about myself, others, friendship and forgiveness… and love. I like that I can send her off with a newfound respect for her as I look back over the past ten years.

Since this is in some ways a photography blog, I share what an honor it was to be her photographer… especially when I see how she continues to be a rising “star”. But the bigger honor is in being her friend… in being called “friend”. Just in knowing her at all.

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Happy Birthday… and A Fond Farewell, Shalice.
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{Look!… I was taking pictures of stylish you long before it was your job to look fabulous!… and this one is still one of my favorites!}

I’m realizing we didn’t take nearly enough photos of the friendship we’ve shared, but I treasure the ones we do have. We’ve been through so much… shared a workplace, shared in each other’s losses… as well as our blessings. Shared overlapping time of pregnancy with our boys {both our first boys… my only boy}. Shared time of pregnancies with each of our last children, too. A wedding. Career changes. Motherhood. Even death.

I’m so grateful that I saved every handmade card you ever gave me, because I’ll pull those out to read when I miss you most. Even the not-handmade cards will work, as they’ll still have that ShaliceNoel signature handwriting… like no other’s.

You are a unique one, my friend. A gem among gems. I know the saying is “gem among stones.” But you, as a fashion blogger where there are one in a million, each whose job is to be pretty, stylish or savvy with fashion and such, are a gem among these gems that shines brighter {in my eyes} than all the rest. And it’s not because you have the best clothes, shoes, body or hair. It’s because I know your heart. I hope it’s your heart that others will always see first. And I hope it’s a heart that never grows hard, even in the most cut-throat of places where fashion is king… I hope it’s your heart that shines brightest. Because if it’s the heart of that girl I met at Crossway ten years ago… a heart that was tender toward God and one that loves His word… then it will shine brighter than your star of fashion ever could.

It was an honor {and a blast!} being a part of this latest chapter of your life! I could take your picture all day long… you know that. =)

I hope you make it big and all your dreams come true. But I pray you’ll always be that tall, sweet soul in the green pants and espadrilles that I met all those years ago.

I sure am going to miss you. I love you, dear friend.

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