Sustaining Jennifer

Unbeknownst to me, over the past eight months, Daniel and Dakota have been working on a secret project. Using both of their musical expertise along with contributions from percussionist Jim Roberts, they created an amazing cover of the classic song "You Raise Me Up" by Rolf Lovland and Brendan Graham. This is Daniel's largest musical production to date, featuring hundreds of instruments. Daniel and Dakota are both musically gifted and their talent shines through on this amazing piece with Dakota playing the viola solos and appearing in the video. The video highlights my photographic work and special memories. All of this was done as a way to support me with the overwhelming costs of cancer treatment.

The goal was to create a product that could provide cash flow for years to come to support my current and future medical expenses. Needless to say, I was/am overwhelmed by this gesture and so grateful. Please visit the website below where you can purchase this song . Each version of the song is just $1.00 but you can give more or buy multiple versions if you wish to be especially supportive. 

Please share this link with the world! My love and gratitude to you all.

Mint Milkshakes



This journey (and, lord, how I have grown weary of that phrase and its haphazardous use), has been teaching me a lot of things and also strongly reinforcing things I’ve always believed. I am grateful for new perspectives. 

When I was a teenager and read the book She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, the quote that burned itself into my brain was: “Accept what people have to offer. Drink their milkshakes. Take their love.” For the context, I highly recommend you read the book (all of Mr. Lamb’s work, for that matter). 

Excellent life advice in one succinct sentence. No one person can be everything you need them to be. There will be things that I deeply dislike or disagree with in a person, but then they show up with a milkshake. And it helps me to understand that people are composed of more layers than the crust of this planet and while some of them are sharp and hostile, others are smooth jade. 

Recently, a woman I had just met asked if she could pray over me. I said yes, because I will never be so ungrateful as to not accept someone’s good wishes for me no matter how they express them. It’s not always easy because I experienced religious abuse as a child and I don’t like reliving those feelings. 

As she prayed, she said the usual things. She asked God to heal me, to give me the strength I needed to fight. Then she added, “But, we will accept whatever you have planned because you are our God.” 

I physically bristled. My shoulders went rigid and I loosened my grip on her hand. Everything inside me was silently screaming, No. Fuck that. 

I sneaked a tiny glimpse at her face out of my closed eye. She had tears in her eyes and her voice was cracking. “But,” she added. “What we seek is full healing.” Her face right then looked like she wanted it just as much as I do. 

So, I drank her milkshake. 

There is another section in the aforementioned Lamb novel that has the main character being told that there is wild mint growing in her backyard, but she has never found any. One day, during one of the lowest places in her adolescent life, she finally sees it. The line is: “I had just found the mint.” 

I remember how I teared up when I read that. The mint, for me, became synonymous with not only unexpected pleasures, but also revelations. For the last 20 years, I have said to myself many times, “I have just found the mint.”

My advice to you from someone who has come face to face with mortality and has zero plans of giving in even an ounce: always take the milkshakes. Always look for the mint. You will be better for it, and so will the world around you.

We Don't Deserve Dogs



There is never enough time. It doesn’t matter if it’s 87 years, 94 years, 38 years, or six. I have lost loved ones at all of these ages.

Sebastian came into my life when I had just lost my very first dog who was solely mine, Max. Max was a rescue and was a great dog to have around Dakota when he was toddler. He was protective, loving, and regal. I lost him to cancer. I begged him to guide me to another dog when the time was right, and I found my Bassy a week later.

I had no idea at the time how much I would come to depend on him. I had no idea the devastation that was ahead of me and how his spirit would sustain me when my world was pitch black. He always knew how I felt and what I needed.

I discovered early on that he had Epilepsy. I felt assured when the vet told me this was common in full blood Labradors and that it could be maintained with daily medication. And it did just that, for a long time. Every month or so, he would have one but we could manage them.

But on the Sunday of the week he passed, he was having grand mal seizures in rapid succession. Dakota and I rushed him to the veterinary ER and he was admitted and the plan was to put him on a strong I.V. drip of Phenobarbital and Kepra in an attempt to break the cycle. I went to sleep that night missing him but believing he would be okay because we’d had to do this before.

But it didn’t work this time, and he had suffered severe brain damage from the seizures. As with Max, I laid with him while he crossed over, telling him in his ear how much I love him.

Everyone tells me I’m strong, but I certainly don’t always feel that’s true. There are days when I can barely manage to stand up, and losing Bassy who had essentially become my therapy dog, was yet another crippling loss in the past three years.

Again, I asked Bassy to guide me to another dog who needed me and who could help me cope with losing him. Rescuing a dog after losing one is absolutely not an attempt to replace the passed dog. When I got Max, I needed his youthful exuberance to help me be a mama to little Dakota; when I got Bassy I initially needed him to mend my broken heart and then that turned into an even deeper connection as he nurtured and loved me through the loss of Amanda, and my cancer diagnosis.

And now, Finn is here. Finny. A Border Collie/Hound mix rescued from the SPCA, he is calm and grounding, lovable and funny. He shows me that Bassy is here with me still by giving me his paw, standing by the door in the same posture Bassy used when he had to go outside, and his eyes, his eyes. He has Bassy’s eyes. He is so content and is right by my side at all times. I’m so glad we found one another. I am so grateful for all three of my boys.

Bassy, you were the canine love of my life. I will miss you forever. I miss your Frito feet, how you’d bark like a maniac at the church-goers, how you would give me the best hugs whenever I asked for them, how you would stay in bed with me all day if I couldn’t manage to face anything, how you guarded our family with your ferocious exuberance, how you would hold my hand while we slept, our morning cuddles, your precious heart, your pure soul. I will never get over you. You will never be replaced. Wait for me.

NEW! Photoshop Actions & Brushes!

Hello, friends! I am excited to announce that I have created another set of Photoshop actions for Photoshop CC. These actions are ones that I have created specifically for my scanograph images. I am absolutely in love with scanography and I love how I can manipulate objects on my scanner that essentially creates my own “dark room” and gives these images a deep, moody, grainy, vintage feel. Therefore, it’s my opinion that these new actions, called Campfire, work best on dark images, dark scanographs, and still life. I have not extensively tested these images on portrait photography, as that is not what I created them for. I rely on my Lake Erie Summers action set for my portrait work (though they work great on all types of photography).

Campfire comes with eight original actions + one bonus action that you don’t get to see until you complete your purchase (surprises are fun, right?). Today, for election day, I am offering this complete set PLUS my Lake Erie Summers set PLUS a Photoshop Brush set that I have created. You get all of these for $40 for today only. That’s a total of 29 actions + eight brushes.

Below are some examples:


These actions and brushes may be used for personal or commercial use. Please visit this blog post to learn more about the Lake Erie Summers actions that are included in this amazing deal!

As always, thank you for the support and love!

you are fourteen

Dear Dakota/Dakofo/Baby Bear/Baby Boy/Monkey Toe/Peach Butt/Magic Bean/Tyke,

I had to include all your nicknames in there, right?

As I start this letter it is 4:53 pm on August 31, 2018. Fourteen years ago at this moment, I was sitting silently in our dark bedroom when we lived on Holly Ridge in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My eyes were closed and I was half meditating, half-praying. I was terrified. I was scared of the pain of labor, scared of the needles, scared of you getting harmed or being sick, scared of everything, and yet, I KNEW it was going to be okay. I just KNEW. Nana had been gone five months and I felt her presence so strongly and I knew she would watch over us.

I was also scared to be a mama, in general. So worried that I would hold you the wrong way, or feed you wrong, or not be able to breastfeed, or calm you, etc. I was (and still am) worried that I would fuck up everything and you’d be in therapy by age four, or that someone would hurt you or kidnap you or you’d smother in a blanket; the worries are totally irrational and endless! There is a quote: “Having a child is like having your own heart walking around outside of your body.” Nothing has ever been more true.

When I first held you and looked down at you, it was like looking into my own face and I felt a wave of sheer terror: your safety, development, and happiness depended on me now. You come first, then and now, and always. 

You were my shadow the first five years of your life. We were very blessed that I was able to stay home with you full time. Our early days were full of communing in the wee hours of morning, you latched on to eat, me rocking back and forth, rocking, rocking, endlessly rocking. For a long time I would just instinctually rock while standing even if I wasn’t holding you. We would look into each other’s eyes for hours. Those moments will never go away for either of us.

When you were a toddler, our days were filled with learning how to count, the ABCs, puzzles, books, reading, flashcards of words. I wanted to give you the best possible start, so we began “school” before you could even sit up by yourself. We would go outside and talk about plants and bugs and clouds and rain and everything was why, why, why? And in those days, those were the questions that were easy to answer. Now, it’s a bit more difficult.

You were born into a very broken world. And it’s going to take a lot of glue, baby. A whole lot of glue. The good news is all the pieces are still there. The pieces are composed of the good things this world has to offer us: our family and friendships, the generosity of the planet despite our abusing it, the humor, and the love. Most importantly, the love. Love is everything. Love is God. You need look no further. You can be the glue by spreading your kindness, understanding, patience, wicked sense of humor, and heart everywhere you go. Never let this world make you bitter or unkind. You are better than that.

I could never begin to tell you how proud I am of you. You have exceeded my hopes and dreams in every possible way. You light up a room with your gentleness and humor. You work so hard to be successful in school. Your artistic talent is staggering. You are responsible, disciplined, committed, and always so respectful. You have been a dream to raise. As always, thank you for choosing me to be your mama.

I can’t promise you that I will always be here for you, and that’s not because of my health, but because no one can make that promise to anyone. We have control over what we do and the choices we make, but we are also often victims of circumstance. Does everything happen for a reason? I don’t know. I think some things do, but I also think some things just…happen. It’s frustrating, I know. But I CAN promise you this: you will never be without me. No matter where I am, no matter where you are, we are joined in love. Flesh of my flesh, are you. I will always do everything in my power, in whatever time or space of universe, to protect you and show you how much you are cherished. I know you know this, but I am always on your side, no matter what. If you’re wrong, we’ll fix it, and you will learn from it. Either way, I will defend you to the death. You can share or tell me anything and I will always love you and support you.

Here are some handy life tips just because:

  • Always hold open doors for people, regardless of their gender; same goes for opening car doors.

  • Always be nice to your restaurant server or cashier or anyone in retail. These jobs are hard and people are dicks to them all day long. Don’t be one of the dicks. Ask them how their day is going.

  • Never be silent if you hear or see someone being bullied.

  • Respect everyone until they give you a real, solid reason not to. Then you may tell them to fuck off.

  • Speaking of that, watch your fucking language, for fuck’s sake. Know your audience.

  • Never go to bed angry.

  • If you love someone, tell them EVERY SINGLE DAY.


  • Please un-bunch your socks before you put them in the laundry basket because it makes them really hard to get clean in the wash.



I love you eternally,


© jennifer summer | 2018

© jennifer summer | 2018

Bobby | Summer Head Shots

This past weekend, I took some portraits of my mom’s dog, Bobby. He is a certified therapy dog and she often uses him in her work as a therapist, which means he was able to go out with us everywhere we went. He is perfectly behaved and so sweet. 






Hocking Hills Pow Wow for Veterans | August 2018

Hocking Hills Pow Wow for Veterans | August 2018

Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we 
share the Earth:-
Four-leggeds, two-leggeds, 
winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers, 
plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.

- Native American Elder

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Our Love is God | For Amanda

I just made a shirt that is very meaningful for me. The ideas/concepts for these shirts are flowing and I'm merely riding the wave. 

Growing up, like a lot of nineties kids, Amanda and I were obsessed with the movie Heathers (turns out, I DID end up "having a brain tumor for breakfast"). The amount of times we watched it was easily in the hundreds. We would quote it in almost every conversation. 

Our favorite quote was "Our love is God. Let's go get a Slushie." We just loved the marrying of the profound and the mundane. Of course, love is God. Why not celebrate with a Slushie?

As it turned out, ironically enough, the very last gift I ever gave Amanda guessed it...a Slushie. She was in the hospital, and I was sitting next to her holding her hand and she said that the commercials on television for local restaurants were making her crave a sweet drink. I told her no way was I smuggling in a daiquiri. She laughed a little and asked, "How about a Slushie?" Neither of us gave it a second thought, and I went directly across the street to the local convenience store and bought her a large cherry Slushie.

I sat by her side, holding hands once again, while she sipped her drink. "Ahhhh," she said, voice barely audible. A hand squeeze. Hard. A quiet "thank you."

Deb washed her face with a warm cloth. I brushed out her matted hair and put it in a fishtail braid. We freshened up her bed and I got as close to her as I could, with my head in her lap. She silently and instinctually stroked my hair as she had done for over 30 years. 

Our love. Our love WAS God. Our love IS God. Not just hers and mine. But you and yours. Everyone's. 

So, I made this shirt. It's our quote, in her favorite color. The background image is a scan of a flowery twig I found in my yard. I made one for me, but I feel like I want to put it out there to the universe in her honor. If you were ever a fan of the shenanigans we would get ourselves into, you totally understand why I had to make this.

As we always said: Planet Amandifer, bitches. 

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 10.06.04 PM.png

wedding bells and memories

I was so delighted to be Maid of Honor in my best friend's wedding this past Sunday. It was such a beautifully perfect day and I could not love her husband and his family and her family more. Everyone is so unique, kind, and lovable. 

When I arrived at the venue, I had an odd feeling and I couldn't figure out why. I stepped outside and walked around and when I saw the gazebo, my heart stopped. We were at the same exact location where my best friend Amanda had gotten married, nineteen years ago. I was her Maid of Honor, as well, and nothing about the landscape had changed. I was instantly thrust back into my twenty-one year-old self, walking slowly down the same stone path to join her and thinking to myself how we were both way too young to be doing any of this. Her toddler son, my first nephew, Pierce, squirmed and squealed and grinned during the ceremony. 

The realization that I was Maid of Honor twice, to two best friends, nineteen years apart, in the exact same spot, hit me like a punch in the face. As most of you know I lost my Amanda in 2016 and not a day goes by that I don't talk to her, think about her, ache with missing her.

I managed to keep myself together and focus on my Kristie and the joy of the day. Since my diagnosis, I strive and work as hard as possible to live in the moment. It's as easy as it sounds, ha. 

I have a small altar in my sitting room, aka my zen room. On it is a tiny photo of my nana hugging Amanda at her wedding. I got Kristie and Deb into the exact same spot and made a close replica of that image.



I didn't get it exactly, but it's close enough, and the spot where they are both standing is exactly the same. And now as I edit this I am just now noticing that Amanda wore a flower crown, and I too wore a flower crown for Kristie's wedding. I literally did not even put that together until typing this just now.

Believe in what you will. I believe my Amanda is with me always. I believe she was there with me giving me the strength to stand up in front of a large group and declare my love for my Kristie pie. 

Some friends and family members have asked me to give them a copy of the speech I wrote for the wedding (which is so humbling and amazing and I am glad they were touched), so I am including that here:

I met Kristie ten years ago when both of our sons, Dakota and Liam, went to Wise Owl Preschool. I would watch her walking every day with little Quinn in a stroller when she would drop off Liam. Our boys became friends over a fight for a toy truck. Kristie and I would make small talk at the school and I instantly liked her, but it wasn’t until our boys were in first grade that we really became friends.

Coincidentally enough, we both signed up for a program called Picture Person which involved us coming to our boys’ class (they were in the same first grade class) and talking to them about a specific artist and then doing a project with them in the style of that artist. When we both showed up at the same time, we joked about how we had chosen the same volunteer role and we were excited to work together with the kids. 

The first time I went to Kristie’s house, I couldn’t believe how alike we truly were.  Looking around, I saw my own style staring back at me.  We even had several of the exact same pillows, lamps, frames, and blankets, and this is something that would only grow stronger over the next ten years; we often find that we have purchased the same dress, or pottery, or even panties! We joked that we were almost like a singular unit, and that became our name for each other: Singular Unit, only we abbreviate to just SU or “Sue.” 

As our boys became best friends, so did we. Kristie and I are both empaths and we intuitively know when one of us needs the other. She is notorious for leaving love tokens on my porch; some freshly baked cookies, a candle, her famous homemade soup, sometimes even lip gloss and panties from Target. We give each other handmade cards, finish each other’s sentences, and raise our boys to know that we are family because the foundation of love that we share is the essence of all families. 

We have been a flicker of light for each other in our darkest moments. There are no secrets and no veils, only a sense of relief and joy that we have found one another to share our lives and our loves. We laugh until our abs ache, we can cry and wipe away each other’s snot and sadness, we can cuddle and giggle, jump up and down like happy children, make spontaneous trips to IKEA or flea markets, or just sit together in silence. 

Kristie is one of the most intelligent, capable, and driven women I’ve ever known. When life hands her something hard, she uses it to build something stronger. She parents her children with grace and ease, and I love that we are second mamas to our own flock. She never ceases to amaze me with how much she gives to her family and friends, her career, her dogs, and to the world as a whole.

Kristie is also the most supportive friend a woman could ever hope to have. I’m a photographer and one day years ago she took me to see a Herb Ritts (very prominent black and white film portrait artist) photo exhibit at the Cincy Art Museum. I was staring in awe at one of the black and white portraits when she came up next to me, laid her head on my shoulder and after several minutes, whispered, “You can do that.” I’ll never forget that moment. Her belief in me and her steadfast love keep my heart beating.

Hers was the last face I saw before I went into life-saving brain surgery. Her hand only left mine because they pulled my stretcher away and into the operating room.  She would spend days in my hospital bed with me, and we would color, and we would talk, and in those moments I felt a peace and a strong belief that I have way more to do in this life before I go.

One of my favorite movies reminds me so much of our friendship.  It’s called Frances Ha and I want to share a quote from it here that I have always associated with my girl, my Kristie pie, my SU.

“It’s that thing when you’re with someone, and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it, but it’s a party and you’re both talking to other people, and you’re laughing and shining and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes…but not because you’re possessive, but because that is your person in this life. And it’s funny and sad, but only because this life will end, and it’s this secret world that exists right there in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess.”

That is what we have, and I am so, SO happy that Chris and his family are here and part of our family. I knew immediately when I met him that he would hold my girl’s heart with only the gentlest of hands. He has shown me and my family so much love and support in such a short time. I couldn’t imagine having anyone else as an SU-in-law. I know that their love will endure all struggles and challenges that life throws at them.

In closing, to my Kristie, a poem by e.e. cummings:

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in

my heart) i am never without it (anywhere

i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

                                  i fear

no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)


Singular Unit | July 15, 2018

Singular Unit | July 15, 2018



Over the last week, I have embarked on a project that I did not plan to do. I was playing around with scanography and the concept began to unfold before me with very little cognizant control on my part. This is the first time I have really dug down to artistically express what it's been like to be in a battle with my own body. It's going to take some time but the drive and motivation are strong and almost intoxicating, but can be overwhelming and require me to step back for periods of time. The basic concept is prose and imagery, all images being the result of scanography as a companion to all the scans required when one has cancer and the intense anxiety that surrounds both the scans themselves and the anticipation of the results.

I've included here an image concept that will be in this collection with a written piece about losing my hair (yes, I keep my lost hair in a jar in my office). I hope you'll follow along on this journey with me and, as always, so much thanks to my family and friends for all the support and love you show me every day.


© jennifer summer | 2018

© jennifer summer | 2018