baby elephant walk | meeting mai thai

Anyone who knows me knows of my deep and abiding love for elephants. They were my Nana's favorite animal, so as I was growing up I came to also revere their gentle, majestic beauty. I was able to take a short ride on one at a wildlife park near Lake Erie when I was about eleven, and I ended up writing about that experience years later, as it didn't fully register with me emotionally as I was so young. I never thought I would get the chance to be near one of them again.

Fast forward to my 40th birthday a few weeks ago and Deb tells me she has a surprise planned for me on the 23rd. She had managed to keep it quiet since February, and I had no idea what was to happen.

Yesterday, we had a behind the scenes elephant encounter at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden! It was like being in a dream. When Mai Thai entered the room, all the wind had been knocked out of me. I got to give her a shower, scrub her with soap, rinse her off, throw some treats to her, pet her ears, and scratch and pet her sides. I took photos but not as many as you would think, as I really just wanted to be in the moment.

She also made a painting for me. Now, I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding this as this is a practice in other countries where they beat and abuse the elephants in order to force them to make detailed, specific paintings for tourists. That is horrific, and I in no way support that, of course. But Mai Thai has been taught, along with basic commands like raising her feet so they can groom her, to take a paint brush from them, wrap her trunk around it, and "paint" onto a canvas. She is not harmed or forced in any way, and she just rubs the brush all over the canvas. They had me choose two colors for this, and I picked blue and yellow. I felt at peace with this as being behind the scenes it is obvious how much these animals are loved, well cared for, and respected. Mai Thai's humans are very humbled to be her caregivers.

I got to spend nearly two hours with her, but it felt like two minutes. At one point, she "kissed" my shoe twice with her trunk. It was all I could do not to throw my arms around her and hug her, but I wasn't allowed to, unfortunately. Just being by her side was enough, though.

Like the elephants and their razor sharp memories, I too will never forget.


Mai Thai © jennifer summer 2018

Mai Thai creating my painting | © jennifer summer 2018

© jennifer summer 2018

© jennifer summer 2018

© jennifer summer 2018

© jennifer summer 2018


I had a wonderful 40th birthday. That number used to terrify me, but when you're thrust into facing your own mortality, it becomes a goal and a thing of beauty. I spent quality time with those I love the most, and it was a perfect transition from my thirties. I've loved every age so far, and I still feel twenty (who is actually in charge here?). 

One of my birthday gifts was a reading with a medium at the Psychic Festival the first weekend in April. This was a gift from my very kind stepfather and he also included a reiki session which I've never had, and was wonderful. I'm so grateful.

I am usually hesitant to share publicly about my experiences with those on the other side, because I have many people in my life who firmly deny an afterlife, which I respect. But my experiences have proven otherwise for me, personally.

The person I have always wanted to reach out to in the past for readings was Nana. She was the closest person to me that I had lost during those visits. Now my Amanda is gone, and I wanted to "speak" to her more than anything.

I had my reading done by Rev. Marjorie Rivera, a fellow cancer survivor. I always come to these tables with high amounts of skepticism and a bit of an attitude, even though every reading I've had has been astonishingly accurate. I also give them no information to go on; if they're connected to the other side, they should know why I'm there.

The session began with Rev. Marjorie telling me that an older woman - classy, elegant, a grandmother figure - was immediately trying to come through but a younger person was gently taking her aside and telling her that she needed to talk to me more. Rev. Marjorie told me this person had passed young, and I slightly nodded, still not wanting to give up any information. She said it was sudden. She said, "Tell me about all these tattoos," and, "She's been answering you when you ask, and she knows what's going on with you." And then I couldn't hold back the tears any longer.

She told me she was standing beside me, a pink aura, and that she rarely leaves me unless she is spending time with her children. I told her that the "answering when I ask" was in reference to a few weeks ago when I cried and begged her to give me signs and a photo frame fell over in the middle of the night, a book literally "jumped" off my bookshelf, and a drawer was open when I came home that was definitely not when I left. All these things happened in the same room of my house, the place where I cried and yelled for her to come back, just come back. Rev. Marjorie said, "She's laughing and said she's sorry if that scared you, but she wanted you to know she heard you."

I wear her ring almost every day. Now, the Psychic Festival has many vendors and there are literally thousands upon thousands of pieces of turquoise jewelry. At one point while Rev. Marjorie was talking, I started fiddling with Amanda's ring and she said, "Amanda says stop messing with my ring and pay attention." If Rev. Marjorie was not entirely sure that was Amanda's ring I doubt she would have taken the chance of saying that since I literally could have just purchased it, even if it just reminded me of Amanda. But Amanda told her point blank that it was her ring. Everything she told me was spot on and brought me more comfort than I've felt since I lost my precious girl.

For my birthday, Deb gave me Nana's favorite ring. She was never not wearing it, even if we were just going to a drive-thru. I've always adored its retro clunkiness and it is monetarily valuable, but I don't care about that. She used to let my co-workers try it on when I was a server, and once she was trying to impress someone and didn't realize she had a giant glob of mashed potatoes on the ring. Deb had the stone cleaned and the band dipped in sterling. I adore it so much and I feel empowered and peaceful when I'm wearing them both. I feel their strength from beyond, and that belief is enough to sustain my heart.



swimming free

So, this post is going to be quite the bummer.

Last Sunday, my mother helped me clean out my fish aquarium. I noticed that my filter was not working, like, at all, so I needed to go buy a new one. I got that and I also got the bottle of stuff you're supposed to put in the tank if you're starting out with a brand new aquarium and you want to add the fish the same day.

We cleaned it out really well, not with any cleansers, but just hot water and paper towels. I cleaned all their little houses and trees and statues, put the new water in, put in fresh gravel, made sure the temperature was right, and then put the fish back inside. We then left the house because Mom and Mike were driving back home, and I had to go back to the pet store because I had bought the wrong size replacement filter.

When I got back, both of my beautiful fish, AnaÏs and Henry, were dead, floating on top of the water like wilted lotus flowers. I screamed and sobbed and kept yelling, "Why? Why? Why?" (Kind of like Nancy Kerrigan did, but this is no time for jokes, dammit). I was truly devastated. I called Deb and was sobbing so hard I could barely get the words out, so she just rushed over. I took some photos of them and cried all over them and kissed them and made them a little casket. 

We went back to the pet store and told them what happened and they said the problem was that I had removed all the bacteria and the cleanliness was too much of a shock on their system. I just kept crying and crying, feeling like the horrific fish murderer I am.

They told me to let the filter run for a week and then the tank would be ready for fish again. June (my sucker fish) survived because they are apparently the cockroaches of the fish world and would survive a nuclear attack.

Anaïs and Henry brought me so much joy, calmness, and beauty. I am so sorry that my ignorance caused their demise. I hope they forgive me. I love you, beauties.


Anaïs (top) and Henry | April 15, 2018


"A luna moth emerges from its cocoon with not long for this earth. The average lifespan is a week, during which time they have no means to eat (no mouths). Their week (and life) goal is simple: to reproduce. To make love, the strongest of human emotions. Many observers believe this to be a reminder of the importance of seizing the day. Live and love to the fullest and enjoy every experience that gets thrown your way. That’s as the luna moth does."


luna moth | © jennifer summer 2018

luna moth | © jennifer summer 2018




eden floral boutique

Today I had an early photo session downtown, so I was able to stop by the charming Eden Floral Boutique.  I've never been so glad to have had my camera with me.  This place is like a magical fairytale come to life.  I felt simultaneously invigorated and calm.  I had a dear friend with me, so I caught some shots of him, as well.  The next time you venture into OTR, you definitely need to check out this place.

(all images © jennifer summer | 2018.  do not download, save, edit, or use photos without permission)


And they have a resident doggie!  What more could you want?!

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lake erie | revisited

You could safely say that last year, after my surgery, my brain was not performing to its full potential.  We went to Lake Erie as we do every summer, and I took photos as usual, but somewhere between taking them and today, I had completely forgotten about them.  I just popped in a memory card that was in my camera bag and saw these.  This is such a gift.  These show me that I survived and I am still surviving.

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edited with my action, High Tide


edited with my action, Moss


edited with my action, High Tide