the post that took a year to write

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Even if you only know a little about me, you probably should know how much I love dogs. I've had labs in my life all my life, and they've always been considered a family member in my home. Dakota, our white lab mix rescue, currently holds the honor. At just about 8 years young, she is treated to home-cooked meals of fish and sweet potato both to keep her trim and for her sensitive tummy, she has no less than four plush dog beds scattered about the house- round, platform, donut and a burrowing-style (for when the Maine winter blows in, and when she's not under the covers with us). She has a collar for every season, her own designated seat in the car and pouts when she doesn't get to visit the park or beach or go for a walk every day. If you've come to our office Dakota has likely greeted you, and if you like her, we like you. For a long while I was actually concerned that I had no business being a mother to a baby because I was so taken by four-legged ones.

Rewind to a few years back when J moved from California to Maine, and along with him came Destin, his shepherd/lab mix. Aging and in poor health, we were both surprised to see him thrive in the Maine air and gain not only a spring in his step but extra years on his life. One would imagine, given my all-encompassing love of pups (have I shared that I had a peanut butter cake overnighted from a favorite dog bakery in Washington, DC, for Dakota's second birthday party?) that I would have been thrilled with my new canine roommate.

Truth be told, it was a big adjustment. Both for the cramping of space in my already-small house at the time but also because Destin was, how do you say, a dog's dog (ie: how you might describe a guy's guy). I had never had a male dog before and was in for quite the surprise. He was, for instance, happy to relieve himself on my shrubs- and anything else- whenever he wanted, hump every dog he met at the park, and, hello! Can you say flatulence? Big change from my dainty Dakota. For four years that lovable stout lab drove me bonkers- throwing up on new carpets, tearing apart autographed and sentimental periodicals, and following that nose for food no matter if it meant destroying bedding or luggage to find it. He was s-t-u-b-b-o-r-n and frankly quite smelly.

He passed away a year ago today.

And you know what happened? I've been mourning him ever since. I didn't tell you about his passing last year because I was an honest to goodness mess. I still am, as I type this 12 months later. I miss that dog like crazy. Crazy, I tell you. There isn't a day that passes that I don't wish I had another with him, to grab that face and look deep into those eyes and tell him over and over how much I love him. Don't get me wrong, I did love him when he was alive and he knew that, but I have a hard time- in human terms- separating the love from the guilt over how much he pushed my buttons.

This first anniversary nearly passed me by, tho the chill in the afternoon air has reminded me of the nights last year about this time so I knew it was soon. A neighbor stopped me on the road yesterday as I walked with Will and Dakota and shared that her aging lab is ill and she is absolutely dreading what happens from here. I expressed my "I've been there" sympathies as I am not convinced there is much else that's worse than pet death, and stopped in my tracks when I recalled the autumn equinox was the last day of Destin's life. The last day of summer, so as to not dampen the start of fall, we decided when we asked the vet to come to our house last year- a glorious Indian summer day in the 80s- as the fall already boasts a hint of sadness and longingness as it is.

Huddled around him on our living room floor, and with Dakota just in the next room, our tears fell on him as our hands felt his last breath and the peace of no more pain washed over his 15 year old bones. Dakota bowed her head as she watched us carry him out and place him in the vet's car, lowering a blanket over his face.

The sadness of that moment stays with me still and has not softened with time. J lost his best friend that day. The bully who growled at little kids and- tho J may deny it- used my friend's guinea pig as a squeaky toy, was gone. There was an instant void made worse by the hormones of pregnancy. He would never meet our son. He wouldn't know our new house, as we had prior plans to put our old one on the market the very day after his passing. I'm not necessarily very religious, but I do believe there's a host of family, friends and pets who have gone before all gallivanting up above together, watching over us. Would Destin know to find us in our new house? What about the memories we shared at the old house, was it right to move away? My heart aches that he didn't live in our new house. He would have loved this property set among the trees with so many scents and spaces to curl up for a nap in the sun. But we knew that the stress of the move would have been too much. He was so sick, having to be carried outside to go to the bathroom and hardly eating (except for the shrimp he devoured as his last meal). He wouldn't have been able to navigate the wood stairs at our new place, as J had been sleeping on the couch next to him in the living room during those final few months when he couldn't make it up the stairs at our old house anyway. Sometimes I catch myself thinking I hear that familiar limp or wish that I would turn a corner and he'd be there, smiling that strangely awesome human teethy grin he used to show- and fortunately taught to Dakota- when we would come home. I so wish.

But all we have is memories now, photos and his ashes. And the reminder that life is fleeting.

This was one of the last happy (iPhone) pictures we have of Destin on a beautiful night at Ferry Beach in Scarborough, a place he loved and where he always lagged behind to see just how much seaweed he could snack on before we whistled for him to come.

I love you, Destin. RIP, good boy.


* The Inn at Ocean's Edge wedding of Kira and Patrick in Lincolnville, Maine

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photographers: J and Denise, emilie inc. photography 
venue: The Inn at Ocean's Edge, Lincolnville,  Maine
officiant: family friend
caterer: The Inn at Ocean's Edge
florist: Compositions
hair: Just Friends, Rockland
gown: Lea Ann Belter, Exquisite Bride, Princeton, NJ
invitations: DIY and Lee's Art Shop, NYC; printed by Designers Fine Press

We have been itching to photograph at the Inn at Ocean's Edge, the third in a trio of great Maine venues by the same owner (Black Point Inn in Scarborough and Migis Lodge in South Casco are the others). J and Denise had the lucky fortune of photographing here, situated just outside Camden in Lincolnville on the water, which boasts various lodging options (inn and private cottages), a modern restaurant and beautiful grounds. Channeling a sophistication of a time gone by mixed with the coastal charm of all who marry in Maine are attracted to, their lawn ceremony and tented reception was a sweet, spirited celebration.

How they met, in their own words:
Kira and Patrick moved to New York City within a month of each other in the blistering summer of 2005. They worked across the street from each other in Rockefeller Center, getting mocha lattes everyday at the same Pret a Manger, but never met. (Patrick worked in finance so his hours were earlier than Kira’s in the art world.) When leaving the City for business school in Boston four years later, neither expected the first day of orientation to be anything more than class schedules and campus tours. Needless to say, they were surprised. Upon walking into the room, she was drawn to the way he “held court” in a crowd of people. As a lifelong New York Yankees fan he was attracted to her white pinstripe pants. Their first date was a run between class and an accounting review session several days later.

Seventeen months after meeting, Patrick proposed on the ski slopes in Maine. Now they're graduating, planning a wedding and moving back to NYC, together (with bigger brains and lots of gear).

And the story of our proposal...
Patrick skied terribly the day he proposed to Kira on the slopes of 3D at Sunday River. He was terrified that the diamond might pop out of his Patagonia jacket and disappear down the mountain. Kira thought he was acting strange and skiing a lot slower than normal, but had no idea that THIS was the day. The right moment didn't come until the last run of the afternoon and Patrick's excuse for stopping mid-trail was there was something REALLY wrong with his binding. When Kira hockey-stopped next to him to check it out, he clipped out of his bindings and pulled the ring out of his pocket. "You'll have to forgive me for lying to you the other day when I said that that package was papers from work. It wasn't. It was actually this. I know I've told you this before, but I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?" Kira, beaming, said YES, ABSOLUTELY!!! Patrick didn't get down on one knee and Kira didn't cry. But it was perfect. They stood there for a while, a little stunned and very happy, staring at the double banded diamond until Kira's hand went numb and had to be pulled back into her mitten. Then they skied down, called their parents, and drove back to the lake to celebrate with friends, who, thanks to Patrick's clever planning, were arriving just in time.

Adorable.

published: Pink Initiative in Freelance Switch

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I was enormously flattered when I was recently approached by magazine editor Melanie Brooks for an article on Freelance Switch about Pink Initiative, the non-profit I started in 2008. The piece ran online today and I am republishing here for you to learn a bit more about why I feel it's so important to give back. Thanks so much for the honor, Melanie!


Welcome to Part III of our series on civic mindedness. Previously we’ve heard from the head of the Northwest Freelancers Association in Washington State and a freelance public relations manager in Ohio. Today we talk with a top-notch professional wedding photographer with a big heart.
 

A former photographer and photo editor for USA Today and The Washington Post, Emilie Sommer moved to Portland, Maine in 2003 to open her own wedding photography business called emilie inc. Her business has grown to include two additional photographers, videographer, graphic design artist, and photo booth.
 

In the ultra competitive world of wedding photography, Emilie Sommer stands out from her peers, not only because of her talent and business acumen, but because of a side project—Pink Initiative. Sommer started this nonprofit to bring wedding industry professionals and private donors together to fund awareness, outreach, education, and research for breast cancer.
 

You lost someone to breast cancer when you were 12. You’re in your 30s now. How do you sustain your passion? Especially when you are so busy with emilie inc?

I was very young when my mom’s best friend lost her battle to breast cancer. It was one of those pivotal moments in life—a memory I can recall as clear as day—that truly affected me as I grew up.

As that particular type of cancer became more wide-spread and talked about from my childhood into adulthood, and fundraisers such as walks and donating healthy hair for wigs, donating to breast cancer research was a no-brainer. When I started my business in 2003, giving back to the community in some philanthropic way was always a part of my business plan. I was raised to always give to charity as much and as often as I could. I wouldn’t say sustaining my passion for helping to fund a cure for breast cancer is ever an issue, it’s just a part of who I am. I have great hope we’ll see a cure in our lifetime.
 

How do breast cancer awareness and wedding professionals go together?

It’s far too common a disease to not try and bring awareness to an industry whose core is love and family. The statistics are staggering—one in seven women will be diagnosed in her lifetime.

I have photographed more than 300 weddings—the odds among my brides alone are depressing. I’ve photographed far too many weddings where either the bride or groom’s mother passed away from breast cancer and a special candle is lit in her honor, a chair left empty, a poem read aloud. It tears at my heart every time and just doesn’t seem right. As a new mother myself, I get ill thinking what if I weren’t, God forbid, alive to attend such a milestone in my own son’s life.
 

How has Pink Initiative affected your photography business?

I have always donated part of my income to breast cancer research, so that part hasn’t changed. There was never any other motivation other than an urgent need to want to do more. I adore the sense of community our non-profit has created around this particular issue and am bowled over by the love, generosity, and dedication our membership shares. When I shop, I am inclined to do so if I know part of what I am purchasing will support the greater good. Emilie inc. tends to attract clients who feel the same and are proud of what we do for breast cancer fundraising.


How long have you been working on Pink Initiative? What is your overall goal?

We have been in existence since October 2008. We simply want to bring breast cancer awareness to the wedding world and empower our membership to host grassroots events within their own community to spread our message even further. Members have organized golf tournaments, portrait marathons, networking cocktail parties, and more.

Each year we choose a different recipient to receive the funds we have raised during that calendar year. Last year we hosted a mobile mammography van day through the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Free mammograms were given to 35 women who otherwise couldn’t have afforded the test. Five scans showed abnormal results. FIVE. We potentially saved five lives that day. To me, though simple in scope, that was an enormously successful day.
 

Why should other people (freelancers, creatives) find a mission or organization to volunteer for?

Creatives are typically very passionate people, so finding an outlet to volunteer is a natural extension of their work, it is not forced. Giving and sharing of yourself beyond your occupation title provides a nice balance in an otherwise work-work-work centric lifestyle.

* Wentworth Lodge wedding of Meryl and Tim in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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photographers: Emilie and Megan, emilie inc. photography
venue: Wentworth Lodge; Cape Elizabeth, Maine
day-of coordinator: Heather Cuzzi, Cairn Events
officiant: family friend
caterer: Craig Williams, Churchill Caterers
florist: Lori Powell
cocktail musicians: Pan Fried Steel Drum band
band: Paul Hogu, The Pulse of Boston
cake: Gayle Forte, Let Them Eat Cake
hair/make-up: J Henry Salon, Portland

tent: One Stop Party Shoppe, South Portland
gown: Paloma Blanca, Spoil Me, Falmouth
bridesmaids: LulaKate
invitations: Gus and Ruby Letterpress, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
honeymoon: Maui

Meryl is the younger sister of Deirdre, who was a bridesmaid in Alisa and Coley's wedding that I photographed in 2007. She was also a bridesmaid in Daphne and Laurence's recent wedding. The daughter of the owner of a fabulous lighting store in Portland, I had a hunch this was going to be a perfect storm of a day (especially after their fantastic island engagement session earlier in the summer).

Light was most definitely the theme of this amazing September day. Bright and warm during the ceremony, soft and playful during portraits, then vibrant as the tent glowed in the night's black sky. Wentworth Lodge, if you don't know it, is part of the 32,000 acre Sprague Estate overlooking Higgins Beach. You have to know someone who knows someone to be approved to host an event here, or you can simply enjoy this awesome bit of earth by renting the rustic cabin for a week's vacation. I can say, without question, if I were to get married in Maine it would be here. Alas, I already did the wedding day thing so I was more than happy to photograph Meryl and Tim's special day and would love, love, love to go back there again and again. I imagine it's just as magical during the other seasons, too.

How they met, in their own words:
We met when Meryl was living and working in London after graduating college. Both of us were working for UBS and met when Tim was over in London for business. It was love at second sight! We did long distance between London and Chicago and then New York in Chicago. Finally after a year and a half of dating, Meryl moved to Chicago. 

On to the images!

The gentlemen started the day at the lodge, the ladies were at Meryl's parent's beautiful home in Falmouth.











I especially adore the little orange cufflinks.











Spectacular setting!












Love dad's socks.






































Waiting to enter the reception.


Was breathtaking to watch the tide move in and out, and sun set from the hill.













There's Alisa and Deirdre





There's Daphne.








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